So last Thursday was book club night. I needed to bring a dish that was gluten-free, meat-free and lactose-free (I'm the lactarded one). What could I bring? What could I bring? I pondered over the choices repeatedly until I settled on Japanese potato salad. I've eaten it a million times but had never made it before. The Japanese version of potato salad is a wee bit sweeter and much lighter in flavor, plus the veggies give it some crunch. I ended up tweaking a recipe I found on Little Creations of Yumiko and it turned out well. Next time though, I think I'll go with steaming the potatoes instead of boiling them.

Japanese Potato Salad


3 medium sized Russet potatoes

1/2 Japanese of English cucumber

1/2 large carrot

3/4 cup Kewpie (Japanese mayo, you can find this at your local Asian market)

2 teaspoons sugar

Salt & pepper


1. Wash vegetables & scrub potatoes well.

2. Peel potatoes and cut them into pieces that are little larger than bite size.

3. Boil potatoes for 15-20 minutes with 1/2 t of salt, until tender. (The original recipe said 10-15 minutes but I found that 10-15 left them a bit undercooked).

4. Drain potatoes and mash them. Lightly season the potatoes and let them cool down.

5. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise, de-seed if necessary. Then slice thinly.

6. Slice the carrot in half lengthwise, then slice thinly. Then place in boiling water (fresh pot) to cook for a minute or two until medium soft. Drain water.

7. In a large bowl mix the potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, Kewpie and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you'd like the potato salad creamier, add another 1/4 cup of Kewpie.

8. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
Next to a good juicy watermelon, Satsuma Mandarins are my favorite fruit. Given the opportunity, I could probably eat a dozen in one sitting. They're sweet, tangy and easy to peel. So when I heard about the upcoming Mandarin Festival in Auburn (November 19-21), I got pretty jazzed. Even better yet, I found out that if you buy your tickets online at and use code MMF10, you can save $2. Can you guess what Mr. S. and I will be doing mid-November?

( photo by SweetEventide )
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Hmmm...maybe. But at a less hefty of a price tag. ;)

My friend Lisa sent this pic to me and it was so cute I couldn't resist reposting it here on A Girl and Her Fork.  (click to enlarge)

In the words of Homer Simpson- "[The pig is] a wonderful, magical animal" and as I recently found out, local Chef Jason Azevedo does justice to it.

I'd heard about Azevedo's porkilicious products several months ago from a friend and immediately requested to get on his Testa Duro Salumi mailing list. Each month I kept meaning to order but kept getting sidetracked, but with the cold weather looming and BBQing season coming to a close I figured I'd better get on it. From his October offerings I went with the Nonna's Spicy Italian and the festive sounding, bockwurst. The Nonna's was delicious...I really liked the texture and it was just the right level of spiciness. The bockwurst (described as a spicy sausage seasoned with caramelized onions, cream, and coriander) came raw and at pickup Azevedo reminded me to poach it for about 15 minutes in beer first. The bockwurst came out great, both when Mr. S. grilled it and later when we threw the leftovers in some pasta sauce. It was a bit milder than the Nonna's but had a nice kick nonetheless.

If you're interested in getting more information, you can email Azevedo at or check out the Testa Duro Salumi Facebook page. There's a plethora of handcrafted sausage varieties to choose from and he often carries chicken sausage as well. At times, cured bacon and prosciutto are also offered on the menu. Yes, bacon! A man after our hearts!  Also, take note- if you don't feel like cooking the meat yourself, currently Stone House Bistro in Rancho Murieta is serving up some of his products.

I'll admit I'm not all gaga over tomatoes like most foodie people I know. I don't mind them from time to time mixed in something but you'll never see me chowing down on a plate of freshly sliced tomatoes, slurping a bowl of tomato soup or gushing over the heirloom varieties at the market. Not sure what the turn off is; maybe it's the acidity or maybe it's just heredity (my mom's not big on them either). Anyhow tomatoes or "pommes d'amour" (love apples)  as the French called them in the 16th century, are a fruit and a member of the nightshade family. They're easy to grow and super versatile when it comes to cooking. One of my favorite things to do during tomato season is to oven-dry small tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes). It's easy to do and you can keep them on hand to sprinkle on salads, throw on top of homemade pizzas or mix them with pasta.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes


2 to 3 lbs of bite-sized tomatoes (depending on how much you want to make)

olive oil

salt and pepper (optional)


1. Wash tomatoes and dry thoroughly.

2. Slice into halves.

3. Place tomatoes in a bowl. Drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.

4. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place tomatoes cut-side up on the baking sheet, in a single layer. Don't pile or crowd them.

5. Bake for approximately 3 hours at 225 degrees F. Check hourly to make sure they don't burn.

6. Halfway through flip them over with a spatula.

7. Remove when they look leathery but flexible. Allow to cool.

8. What you don't use right away, you can store in the fridge (just be sure to cover them in oil and place in an airtight container). They'll keep for a few days.
My friend Jenn at WovenSunshine is a generous soul, a talented gardener and an amazing baker. For my birthday this year, she baked me my all-time favorite dessert - Japanese Strawberry Shortcake.  Japanese Strawberry Shortcake is kind of like regular strawberry shortcake but much airier and not quite as sweet. Sounds good, huh? Well, Jenn's cake was definitely oishii! I'm posting a pic of her pretty cake and a link to her blog post:  "Who You Callin' Short?" so you can check it out (but be sure to wipe the drool from your chin first).

Thanks, Jenn!

* "Oishii"- (Japanese):  delicious, tasty or yummy.


Looking for a healthier alternative to the traditional buttered popcorn while catching up on your Netflix? Or are you just craving something new to nibble on while watching your favorite sports team kick some butt? Try roasted chickpeas. Sounds a bit strange, I know, but these crunchy little bites are high in fiber, filling and most of all - tasty. The cool part is that you can gussy them up with a spice (or spices) of your liking.  Garlic powder, garam masala, curry powder, smoked parika...experiment, be adventurous, go crazy---try them all! For mine, I went with a chili-lime version. They were absolutely addicting. I did have a small (and I do mean small) amount leftover and ended up tossing them on top of a salad for dinner...delicious!

* Just be warned if you've never cooked with cumin's quite odorific and your house could end up smelling like armpit for a day or two. Open some windows before placing your baking sheet in the oven...I learned the hard way.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
(Adapted from Willow Bird Baking's Chile-Lime Roasted Chickpeas recipe)

Yields: about 1.5 cups roasted chickpeas


2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) - drained, rinsed, and blotted dry

3-4 teaspoons chili powder*

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lime juice

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 teaspoons cumin*

*Note: start with the lowest amount of spice, then add more to taste.


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with PAM or mist with olive oil.

3. Combine olive oil, chili powder, lime juice, sea salt, and cumin in a bowl. Mix throughly.

4. Add chickpeas. Stir well.

5. Spread chickpeas out in a single layer onto the foil.

6. Bake chickpeas for 45-50 minutes, flipping every 15 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them to ensure that they don't burn. Take them out when they’re really crunchy.

7. Eat immediately.

5015 Stockton Blvd (Tirapelli Plaza) , Sacramento, CA 95820-5407.  (916) 452-3100

From the minute you set foot into Brenda Moore's Oh Taste & See, you'll feel like you've somehow been teleported to Great-Grandma Mabel's kitchen in the South. Sandwiched between a thrift store and an ice cream parlor on Stockton Blvd.; this small eatery is easy to miss but well worth taking the time to find. The interior is nothing fancy; it's painted a homey light blue, adorned with sheer white and blue drapes just like your granny would have and accented with a few framed photos depicting the "best of gospel." Simple, clean and bright. Seating's a bit limited- there are a few booths along the wall and a smattering of tables which seemed to be steadily occupied.  I'll get to the amazing soul food cuisine I ingested during my visits but first I'd like to point out the hospitable service my dining companion and I received upon our arrival. EVERY employee we came in contact with was friendly and smiling...and not in that creepy, gritted teeth retail zombie way either. They were just as sweet as the sweet tea I gulped down. The table we chose was immediately wiped down and dried, our orders taken promptly and we were checked back on often. And how can you not smile when the staff punctuates their comments by affectionately calling you "sweetie," "honey," and "boo"? I loved that we never had to ask for anything, it was just anticipated and brought out.

Now don't go thinking I forgot about the food. Oh Taste & See has a plethora of made from scratch choices on their menu. Each dish is named after a biblical reference such as Adam's Ribs, Blessed Faith (Fried or Smothered) Pork Chops and Judas Neckbones. And that's just the tip of the menu! You can also get snapper, catfish, fried or smothered chicken, hot links, BBQ, oxtails, chicken fried steak and meatloaf. On Fridays and Saturdays, Brenda also offers up chitterlings and gumbo. Are you salivating yet? Lunch items come with a choice of one side and fresh cornbread. Dinner comes with 2 sides and cornbread. The sides menu is just as heavenly sounding as the entrees: rice and gravy, mac and cheese, greens (collard or mustard), black-eyed peas, cabbage and potato salad.

On my first visit, I jumped into the fried red snapper with collard greens and some sweet tea. The batter on the snapper was perfectly brown and crunchy. I love that though the fish was fried; the inside was uber-moist and there was no oily mess oozing out. All I needed was a splash of Crystal hot sauce and I was ready to go!  My side of greens were seasoned nicely and there was no mushiness; I could have eaten an entire plateful. My dining companion opted for the fried catfish and sweet potatoes and she seemed to have enjoyed the eats as much as I did. I was pretty full by meal's end but I did sneak a bite of her sweet potato pie. One forkful and I could here Alabama's "Song, song of the South. Sweet Potato pie and I shut my mouth...." singing in my head. Delish!

Oh Taste & See was so 'slap you on the butt' good that I felt that I needed to return just a few days later, on a Friday to try their gumbo. Unfortunately, gumbo wasn't going to be available until the end of October so I went with the 2-way plate and got snapper and catfish along with some potato salad and collard greens (yep, greens again! I just can't get enough) and washed it down with some "Blood of Jesus" Kool-Aid. Just like the first time, everything on my plate was deee-licious! My lunchmate went with the 3-way and got snapper, fried chicken and ribs along with some fresh green beans...there was enough on her plate for lunch and dinner. In fact, things were so finger lickin' good; I placed a take out order because I figured Mr. S. and the kidlets would love some soul food for dinner. My waistband was cutting into me; otherwise, I would have had to indulge in some of their peach cobbler. Mmm-mmm-mmm!

Hey! Are you still sitting there? What are you waiting for? Get on over and GO SEE Oh Taste & See for yourself! They're open every day but Mondays and even have a special midnight to 4am menu that runs on Fridays and Saturdays.
Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you! ~Tommy Smothers

Diets be damned, sometimes nothing can soothe a foodie craving like a nice, juicy steak fresh off the grill. So last night, Mr. S. and I decided to enjoy some of this cool fall weather by grilling up some plump filet mignons from Taylor's Market. If you haven't purchased meat from Taylor's before, get in your car RIGHT NOW and go treat yourself...seriously, their meat department is amazing and their filets are melt-in-your-mouth tender. Now filets by themselves don't need much fiddling, but sometimes you just want to add a little "oompf" to your dish. So last night, we decided to try out a sauteed mushroom recipe by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I've made sauteed mushrooms before, but these were delicious (Mr. S. couldn't stop raving about them) and the recipe will definitely be repeated in the future.

(Ina's recipe calls for wild mushrooms, I did a mix of criminis and trumpet mushrooms purchased from the Mushroom Lady at the downtown farmers' market. The original recipe also called for parsley, I omitted it since we didn't have any on hand.)


2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, porcini, and portobello

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 cup chopped shallots (4 large)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)


1. Brush the caps of each mushroom with a clean sponge. Remove and discard the stems.

2. Slice the small mushrooms thickly and cut the large ones in a large dice.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large (11 - inch) Dutch oven or saucepan.

4. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent.

5. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until they are tender and begin to release their juices, stirring often.

6. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

7.  Sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.

Sacramento needs another Starbucks or Peet's like a fish needs a bicycle. There's already one on every corner.

Let's support our local businesses and bring an indpendently owned coffee shop to our airport.

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