It's Tuesday night, Girls' Night and I'm hosting at the cottage. I need something easy to make and also vegan and gluten-free. If it was summer, it'd be no problem to meet my guests' dietary restrictions...I could throw together a simple salad, but being as it's late fall I need to make something hearty, heavy and substantial...or do I? Why not make an autumn salad? Maybe something with pears and candied pecans? Sprinkled with a few plump golden raisins? We can save our calories for dessert. ;)

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
(adapted from a recipe by the Gluten-free Goddess)

Ingredients for Salad

1 cup organic quinoa

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves- washed, drained

1 large ripe Bosc pear- washed, stemmed, cored & cut into pieces

1/2 cup chilled chickpeas, rinsed & drained

2 T chopped fresh parsley

sea salt & pepper, to taste

1 handful golden raisins

1 handful candied pecans

Ingredients for Maple Vinaigrette

4 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T white balsamic vinegar

2 T pure maple syrup


- Place the quinoa in a saucepan. Add 2 cups fresh water or vegetable broth. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

- Move quinoa into a salad bowl.

- Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.

- Add the baby spinach, pear, chickpeas, chopped parsley, raisins and candied pecans to the quinoa and fluff/mix.

Saturday, December 3, 11 am - 6 pm rain or shine at the W Street Farmers' Market location (8th & W Streets, under the freeway).

No tickets, no fees, just lots of delicious food!

*** This is also a winter food drive for the Sacramento Food Bank and the U.S. Marines Reserve's Toys for Tots, so please bring canned or packaged dry goods and new unwrapped toys to donate.
Santa will also be available for photos with both little and big kids for a small donation to a local children's Christmas charity. ***


If you're anything like me, you were probably still reveling in your post-Thanksgiving food coma on Friday. People were coming up to me, rubbing my temporary buddha belly and cheerfully asking, "Boy or girl?" My response, "Turkey, with a heapin' side of stuffing." Yep, I ate A LOT. I like stuffing. Nix that, I love stuffing. Anyhow, I'm chalking this year's Turkey Day in the "win" category since I didn't shiv anyone for driving me crazy (although I got mighty close). I also am counting this appetizer in the win category since everyone seemed to love it. What?!?! You've never had devils on horseback before??? Get to the store right now, get the ingredients and make this recipe ASAP, you can thank me later. They are delish and so simple to put together, a monkey could make them. Seriously...a monkey could make them!

Devils on Horseback


12 Medjool dates

12 roasted almonds

goat cheese

6 slices of bacon, cut in half


1. Preheat oven 400 degrees

2.  Cut lengthwise slit in date and remove pit.

3. Fill with goat cheese and 1 roasted almond. Pinch closed.

4. Wrap each stuffed date with a half piece of bacon.

5. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Set each bacon wrapped stuffed date on the wire rack.

6. Place dates in oven, bake 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, turning dates over halfway through. Remove when bacon looks crisp and cooked.

7. Serve warm. (Share with the monkey, if he helped you cook.)

I think I may have to pass on this one, but for those who are fans it looks like the Queen of Butter, Paula Deen will be visiting the City of Trees, Feb. 3 at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. Tickets go on sale Dec 2nd and are priced $44.75 to $100.

Read more at: Sac Bee Appetizers - Paula Deen
103 Sacramento Street, Auburn, CA 95603.
(530) 823-2233.

Recently, Mr. S. and I snuck away to Auburn to do some small town exploring and while we were there a tiny wooden sign caught our eye..."Award Winning Coffee," it touted. Being big fans of Temple Coffee in Midtown, we just had to check out this ballsy little coffee shop and it's so called award winning coffee. Well, Tsuda's did turn out to have award winning coffee---we loved also turned out that they serve Temple coffee. Ha! How's that for a kick in the pants?

I wish we lived closer to Tsuda's. The charming little coffee shop exudes a laid back vibe and the counter help is super friendly (the kids running the front kind of remind me of the guys from Clerks). They also make the tastiest (and biggest) coconut macaroons I've ever come across, which we enjoyed as we lounged in the comfy chairs and people watched out the picture window. It was nice and quiet in there...plenty of room to relax and nary a laptop or hipster in sight! Definitely, a little oasis in all the hustle and bustle.


When it comes to November most folks look forward to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie but me...I look forward to one of my favorite fruits making it's yearly reentrance--the satsuma or as it's known in Japanese, the mikan. I love how it's relatively seedless, peels readily and is oh so sweet! I can usually eat two or three in a sitting. This Saturday, Mr. S. and I decided to check out the Mountain Mandarin Festival up in Auburn where they showcase the Owari Satsuma along with other varieties of mandarins. We weren't sure what to expect but it actually turned out to be quite fun (and a lot more crowded than we thought it would be). There were many mandarin growers, vendors and cooking demos to check out along with some live music. In the food court there were numerous mandarin goodies ("Mandarin milkshake anyone?") to nosh on along with a plethora of non-mandarin choices ranging from lobster rolls, gyros, catfish, beignets, clam chowder, to even Hawaiian lunch plates. We decided to grab some grilled chicken and rice from Sonoma Teriyaki because the aroma was positively mouthwatering and it turned out to be absolutely delicious! The best part of the festival for me though was stumbling across a tent for Lucero Olive Oil, a company from Corning, whose products I've been curious about for awhile. Lucky me was able to taste several of their oils and vinegars...all of which were lovely. I ended up buying a large bottle of their Mandarin Balsamic Vinegar (made especially for the festival) and a small bottle of their Chocolate Olive Oil (which they sell on their website). Can't wait to play around with them in my kitchen!

Finally! About time! I know, I know....Part 2 of the Foodbuzz Festival :

The second day of the Foodbuzz Festival started early (well, early for me--I'm not a morning person). I met up with Debby from A Feast for Your Eyes and we cabbed it over to the Federated Media Headquarters for some blog workshops. The first one I had signed up for was a featured panel discussion by five bloggers. Oddly enough, even though I write a food blog I don't follow a lot of what I would call the "popular" food blogs, so I had only heard of one of the five panelists.
The topic for the discussion was "Taking Your Blog to the Next Level," and the panelists talked about how to make your blog unique, the importance of good photography and connecting with your readers. It was informative. Several of the panelists also talked about book deals and selling their photography but that part didn't really interest me since I just do blogging as a hobby. Afterwards we divided into smaller groups and I attended two sessions 1) The DSLR-Free Zone led by Greg Henry (Sippity Sup), Angi Chau (Rice and Wheat) and Chuck Lai (Foodgawker).
They talked about how you can use point & shoot and cell phone cameras to get great shots instead of lugging around your DSLR. They also talked about working with natural lighting, ways to work around not using a flash and different post processing apps. I picked up some cool tips from Chuck of Foodgawker that I'm going to try out soon. 2) Introduction to Adobe Lightroom: How to Make Good Photos Great led by Marc Matsumoto (No Recipes).
From there we were bussed over to the Metreon for the Tasting Pavillion. This was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so much fun (and this year they allowed you to bring someone so my friend Jenny who lives in the city was able to join me). In a nutshell, they set up this giant room with all sorts of gourmet food and beverage vendors (and a couple of big name sponsors) and all you do is walk around and taste samples and network with the reps for 3 hours. We had a blast. Some of the vendors even gave us full size products to take home, like this Vanilla Bean Syrup by Sonoma Syrup Co.. I can't wait to try it out in some of my holiday baking, it's so delicious!
The other product that I fell head over heels for was the Black Truffle and White Cheddar Popcorn by 479's gluten-free and kind of like popcorn crack...super addicting. While were wandering around tasting red onion confit, sampling goat camembert and sipping gin and tonics; Tyler Florence slipped in  and signed a few autographs and posed for some photos.
Now I think I mentioned earlier how I don't really follow a lot of food blogs, well I do follow one popular food blog based out of SF...The Tomato Tart. Anyhow, I ran into Sabrina of The Tomato Tart randomly at the tasting and she's just as sassy and nice as she is in her blog (and was kind enough to take a photo). I was pretty stoked about that!
Some of us were so pooped afterwards that we went and sat outside and enjoyed the view for awhile. The Metreon had this cool wall of succulents on their balcony that I loved. Maybe I could get Mr. S. to build me one?
Here's a few more shots of some of the stuff we sipped and tasted that I liked.
cute edible printed gnome icing sheets by ticings
Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer by 21st Amendment Brewery

Bellwether Farms (a-mazing cheeses!)
Gourmet Cupcakes from Mission Minis
Stuffed to the gills, I waddled back to the hotel and took a nap to prepare for what else...dinner! I'm not kidding, Foodbuzz had a cocktail reception, a cooking demo with Tyler Florence and a gala dinner on the evening's lineup. Jeebus! Since Alexia Foods was the sponsor of the gala dinner, the cocktail party was stocked with fries from their "Reinvent a Classic" Challenge....a contest where several bloggers had to come up with a new flavor. My favorite flavor was the dill flavored ones. Funny I only hit the fry line once (the fries were kind of lukewarm) but the Alexia photographer somehow photographed me and I found this photo of me online:  
  (photo by Ryan Anson/AP Images for Alexia Foods)

Our dinner time entertainment was watching Tyler Florence...or as I will forever call him now, Ty-Flo, cook up some fat Flintstone-looking pork chops, braised red cabbage and herb spaetzle with a mustard and crème fraîche sauce while we munched on hors d'oeuvres. I've always liked Ty Flo's recipes prior to this demo but had never been much of a fan of the chef himself but after watching and listening to him at the dinner, I have to admit his frat boy/dad personality kind of grew on me. The guy's likable.  
  Ty-Flo letting us know, "Color = Flavor"
Once he was done, it was dinner time. Dinner was...meh. Being that it was a dinner for food bloggers I was thinking the food would be more...well, tasty...especially after all the amazing eats we had at the Tasting Pavillion but quite honestly, the food we had kind of reminded me of hotel food and it very well could have been as the event was being held at the Grand Hyatt. We started with a Bibb Lettuce Salad with Honey Roasted Pears, Glazed Pecans and Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette. (There was way too much dressing on my salad, so much so that when I was done there appeared to be a pool of it on my plate with bits of pecan doing the backstroke in it.) The main course was a Brandt Beef Farms Filet Mignon and Meyer Lemon Roasted Prawns served with Heirloom Carrots, Celery Root Puree and Peppercorn Demi-Glace. Sounds fab, right? The prawns were really overcooked and neither the meat nor the shrimp had a lot of flavor. Pretty disappointing. In fact, I kind of wanted to chase after Tyler and grab that dish of herb spaetzle out of his hand and have THAT for dinner. Mmmm!

Dessert was a "San Francisco Trio" of Sourdough Bread Pudding, Cowgirl Creamery Cheesecake and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Mousse. I thought it should have been called the "frio trio" because mine tasted like they might have still been frozen. All three were really hard. I pushed my hockey pucks around the plate for awhile and decided to pass. Luckily I was still full from the giant feast I had indulged in at the Metreon earlier in the day.
Although there was a farewell lunch scheduled for the next morning, I decided to pass and meet up with a friend in the city and do a little shopping before heading back to Sac. Overall, I enjoyed myself at FBF'11...great food, friendly people---a fantastic time. Next year though I'll know to start exercising a few months prior in preparation for the calorie-fest. ;)

"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast." ~John Gunther

5340 H Street, Sacramento, CA 95819. (916) 736-3333.
Brunches- Sundays only

Knowing that I love to dine out and do it often, I'm frequently asked the question of, "Do you know of any good brunch places in Sacramento?" and for a long time I dreaded that question because quite frankly--there weren't. But lately, there's been some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes around here. This Sunday after making our W Street farmers' market haul, my friend LB and I decided to check out the Sunday brunch being held at Selland's Market. Now I've been to Selland's Market numerous times at lunchtime and am a big fan of their warm meatloaf sandwich and friendly service but I had never been to their Sunday brunch. First of all I liked that their brunch hours ran late giving late risers (or people who liked to hit the farmers' market) time to toddle in there at a leisurely pace but more important was that the food was REALLY GOOD. This wasn't just your Grandma Edna's flapjacks and a side of overcooked bacon, there were fresh quiches, eggs benedict, casseroles and all kinds of fancy breakfast pizzas to choose from. In addition, they were rockin' some yummy looking mimosas and bloody marys. I decided to go with the crab cakes benedict which came with fried potatoes. I also ordered a side of brussels sprouts with bacon...I couldn't pass them up, I'm pretty much a whore when it comes to brussels sprouts. There's not one bit of advice I could offer Selland's in regards to this dish, except maybe to offer home delivery. The crab cakes were cooked perfectly and not overly fishy tasting. I loved the toasted levain that became the perfect softness as it soaked up the hollandaise...and the hollandaise had a hint of lemon zest flavor that really set it off. My friend also gave me a bit of her prosciutto breakfast casserole...delish!  Nice and airy...I might have to get that next time.  She did comment that the bloody mary could have used a tad more was on the weak side. (I didn't taste it as I abhor tomato juice, but as a bartender she knows her mixology.) Anyhow, in additional to the extensive brunch menu they offer, Selland's also runs a $20 Brunch for 2 Special that changes weekly. The day we were there it was 2 plates of Huevos Rancheros paired with 2 Bloody Marys. (You can check their Facebook page if you want to see what it is before popping in, they're usually pretty good about posting their specials.) So, if you're looking for a good brunch spot skip the stuffy buffet lines and give Selland's a whirl, I think you'll find it worth leaving your warm toasty bed to brave the cold for.
Mountain Mandarin Festival this weekend.
Nov. 18- 20

1607 F Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 441-2372.

I know I promised to tell you more about the Foodbuzz Festival and I will, I promise...but we're about to take a teeny tiny diversion today because I want to tell you about Sampino's Friday Night Dinners. Why? Because I'm pretty sure they have healing powers. Really, I think they do. So, ugh, yesterday...yesterday was one of those days where I would have been better off staying in bed all day with the down comforter pulled over my head. Mainly because I felt craptastic. I woke up about 2am from a dead sleep with a migraine that I can best describe as feeling like I was getting the bejesus squeezed outta of my head. Like "curl up in the fetal position-clench your teeth-and squeeze your eyes shut tight" kind of nuclear pain. None of my prescribed migraine medications were working and all I could do was try and ride it out. Unfortunately that didn't come until almost dawn and even then my sleep was minimal. I got about 3 real hours of slumber in before my phone started ringing and the landscapers started leaf blowing outside my window. Time to start the day. Gah! My body ached anytime I moved an inch and my head was pounding (maybe from the barometric pressure drop?), yet somehow simultaneously I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. Have you ever had that feeling? Pain and exhaustion going through you at the same time? I kept taking the migraine meds and drinking cups of coffee and by midday I felt slightly human. Thinking I had to do something productive, I figured I would go to Home Depot and purchase a specialty light bulb I had been meaning to buy. So I rolled off the couch and threw on a fleece and headed out looking like something the cat dragged in. Found the light bulb. Score...check one to-do item off my list. On the way out, I decided to hit up IKEA...giant bad move. I had forgotten it was a holiday, the place was busy. The coffee began to wear off rapidly, the drumming in my head began to increase tenfold. The dishtowels I wanted turned out to only be available as breadbasket liners (really?!!). Nausea was starting to set in. I ran into some people I knew. Trying to exchange polite pleasantries when you feel sick to your stomach is pretty awkward (I guess you could just always puke on them and explain later). Then I couldn't find a catalog anywhere in the lighting department. The drumming was turning into a full blown Riverdance pounding. Okay, maybe getting these errands done wasn't so important after all. I just wanted out of the IKEA labyrinth. Ahhhh, fresh air--gulp!Gulp! So I finally got home and laid this point, I was in a bit of a quandary...I had dinner plans with friends. Dinner plans at a restaurant we booked weeks ago...dinner plans at a restaurant that's full and has been turning people away. What to do? I decided to choke down some more migraine meds, drink some more strong coffee and take a short nap.

Dinner time rolled around, I was still feeling achy and my head was thumping like the bass in a T.I. song but I put on a smile and head over to Sampino's. The place had been transformed from it's usual daytime deli into a small, quaint trattoria and though the eatery was a bit congested (tables and chairs are literally squeezed in there back-to-back), you're greeted with a feeling of friendliness and family when you walk in. Dinner is one seating (6pm), so everyone's arriving all at once. They give you time to exchange hugs and hellos then everyone settles in and gets down to business.  We started out with some fresh baked foccacia and zesty antipasti (assorted olives, pickled vegetables and pepperoncinis).

Once our tastebuds were whetted, we're presented with a delicious zuppa- a Venitian white bean and sausage soup...our table much like the others around us at this point is busy yakking and laughing and that's when I noticed it, my migraine was slowly dissipating and my nausea had all but subsided.

Next for the primi, a slice of timbale is brought out to each of us. As I dug into the multiple layers of pasta, marinara, salami, cheese and other assorted goodies I look up and notice that "The Big Night" is quietly playing on a small TV in the corner...I find myself grinning at the subtle bit of humor.

At this point we're getting pretty full and we haven't even gotten to the main course. We get a brief intermission from stuffing our faces when the large dinner party next to us, whom are celebrating grandma's birthday, perform a toast and have one of their younger guests sing "Happy Birthday" and a song in Italian. At this point it truly feels like we are attending an actual Italian family dinner. (I'm just waiting for a drunk cousin Giovanni to pinch my butt and then it'll be truly authentic!) Next up from the kitchen is is a creamy plate of risotto (tre formaggi and leek)...delicious! My migraine at this point has completely disappeared (possibly because the tightness of the waistband of my pants has cut off the blood supply to my upper body).

The main course (the secondi) is presented then, half of our dinner party has the braised veal shank with roasted vegetables in a red wine reduction, the other half- a garlic and herb marinated snapper on a bed of onions and bell peppers with sauteed asparagus. I take a few bites of my snapper and immediately ask for a box (it's tasty but my stomach's about to explode from food overload).

To cleanse our palates we're given a fresh mixed green insalata tossed with dried cranberries and a vinaigrette (no photo...a side salad's, a side salad folks). The evening concludes with my favorite dish, the dolce--a pumpkin gelato parfait set atop an eggnog custard and glazed with a chocolate ganache. I can attest that pumpkin did not die in vain---that gelato was sheer bliss on my tongue.

Driving home last night I was tired but amazed at how much better I felt...maybe the belly truly does rule the mind and body. After a night of deep sleep and dreams of meatballs and cannolis, I woke with still no migraine or nausea. Of course I'll take it easy (I'm not crazy)...but I really think there's something to that Sampino's place and their hearty Italian fare. ;)

* Friday night dinner $25-$30 pp.
* Reservation only.
* Beverages,Tax & Gratuity not included.
* Sampino policy requires credit card information to hold a reservation, 50% fee will be charged for any no shows.
So this weekend I had the pleasure of heading down to SF and attending my first Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. I wish I had some juicy stories of illicit hazing where they made you eat vast amounts of uncured bacon or branded you with a secret Ancient Roman culinary symbol to share but it actually was just a fun-filled weekend of bloggers and lots and lots and LOTS ---did mention lots?---of food.

Although this was the first Foodbuzz Blogger Festival I've ever attended, it's actually the 3rd annual festival that's been held by Federated Media, Foodbuzz' mothership. Anyhow, I arrived at my hotel Friday afternoon and met up with Debby from A Feast For the Eyes, whom I had been blog buddies with for sometime now (and was staying at the same hotel). She turned out to be just as pretty and sweet in person as she is online. My room was cozy but super cute; in fact, my only beef were the über amorous pigeons right outside my window. Although it was a bit funny at first, the pigeon porn went non-stop during my stay; the only thing missing was the bow-chicka-bow-bow soundtrack in the background. I'm telling you, pigeons have stamina!

Anyhow, once I was unpacked Debby and I walked over to the Grand Hyatt so I could get registered. At registration we were given cute name badges and a reusable Foodbuzz Festival bag filled with all kinds of goodies (Godiva coffees, an OXO peeler, gourmet chocolates, a DIY Cocktails Recipe book, a tumbler and lots of other cool SWAG).

While in line I met several bloggers, including the super adorable Josh from Just Eat! who joined us for drinks at the top of the Hyatt. After cocktails, Foodbuzz bussed us over to the Terra Gallery in the SoMa district for a welcome reception, blogger award ceremony and dinner. Rumor was that at last year's festival a lot of bloggers were snooty and cliquey, I found the ones I met to be the complete opposite. Everyone I spoke to, whether it was on the bus, the cocktail party or the dinner was super friendly (but I could see if how if you're not an extroverted person how difficult an event like this could be). What I didn't anticipate was that there were going to be so many kinds of bloggers there- male, female, mom bloggers, single bloggers, vegans, ethnic food bloggers, and lots of bakers! Some people like Julie from Willow Bird Baking came from far away (she had flown in from North Carolina!) and others like Dorothy from Crazy for Crust turned out to live in my hometown. There also seemed to be a good mix of festival "veterans" and newbies.

Photo of me chatting with Josh from Just Eat! (borrowed from A Feast For the Eyes)

Debby from A Feast for the Eyes with Julie from Willow Bird Baking

For the first part we mingled about, ate delicious hors d'oeuvres sponsored by Sabra and enjoyed plenty of wine. Then we moved upstairs for a dinner hosted by Electrolux. Dinner was set up in a buffet manner and there was an open bar (my favorite kind!).

It was a bit crazy with everyone clamoring to take photos but somehow the lines seemed to move forward. My two favorite dishes were from the "small plates action station."

Glazed Marin Sun Farms Pork Belly over Broccoli Puree, Wood Roasted Florets, Pickled Shiitakes and Chile Morita Vinaigrette

Pan-Seared DayBoat Scallops served with Grapes, Capers, Wood Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Parsnip Puree and Verjus

They look yummy, right? Although to be honest everything was tasty...well, everything maybe except for the Tuscan Beef Stew with honey cornbread, I wasn't wild about that dish---and I noticed that I wasn't the only one who left their bowl of stew on the table. It didn't taste like tasted like some sort of weird vegan concoction (no offensive to my vegan friends out there). Once the dinner portion was over, it was dessert time!

Heirloom Pumpkin Tarts with a Gingersnap Shell

We were presented with an incredibly long table of tasty treats, selected by Top Chef Just Dessert Winner Yigit Pura, in an array of colors and shapes--tarts, macaroons, cheesecakes, pâtes de fruits, ...well, you get the idea. I called it the Gauntlet of Sugar; however my ever-expanding hips called it, "Danger! Danger!" I have to admit though the 'Creamy Italian Nougat and Valrhona Chocolate Ganache Bites with Marcona Almonds," was quite divine. Okay, I ate three...and that was me restraining myself. Oh yeah, with all this talk about food you're probably wondering...didn't you say something about awards? While we were dining they did give out a few blog awards, but we were sitting at a table right next to the stage so everything sounded like that teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons (do you know which one I'm talking about? If not click on the link youngster) so I had absolutely no idea what the featured speakers were saying so I just clapped politely whenever everyone else did. I did take a look at the list of nominees and winners later though. At around 9:30, with full bellies and heavy lids, we were bussed back to the Hyatt. It was a fun evening and as I walked back to my hotel, I was excited to start Day 2 of the festival!

More to come...

Being that it's Wednesday already I should be blogging about the fab weekend I just had at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco but to be honest I'm still quite wiped out and adjusting to being back home and not ready to tackle the task of sorting all the photos I took. I missed Mr. S. while I was gone and since he's about to take off for a few days for a trip to Sin City, I wanted for us to share a meal together...and to be honest, after all the decadent food and booze at the festival, I was kind of craving some home cooking. Since the kidlets were eating with us, I opted to go with some no frills comfort food...individual chicken pot pies. I made some alterations to a delicious sounding Barefoot Contessa recipe- mixing in some wine and garlic with the broth, throwing in some creminis and going with a premade puff pastry crust---the end result was fantastic! Now I would have gone with a made from scratch crust but Call of Duty: MW3 had just came out that day and the boys were anxious to get to playing the video game STAT...and by "boys," I mean the kidlets and yes....Mr. S. too *rolling my eyes*. Anyhow, Kidlet #2 never even noticed all the onions I snuck in there (and he hates onions). I love it when I can get him to eat healthy veggies...with this dish he ate onions, mushrooms, peas and carrots all without a peep---woo-hoo! Plus, I served the pies up with some Asiago-Rosemary rolls from Trader Joe's and everyone was happy as a lark. Win-win! Of course, I couldn't resist doing my David Cross imitation during dinner.

Chicken Pot Pie


1 package puff pastry (2 sheets)

4 whole chicken breasts

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup white wine

2 chicken bouillon cubes

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups medium-diced carrots

1 1/2 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen small whole onions (optional)

5-6 cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1 egg (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and massage them with some olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes or until cooked through.

3. Remove from oven, set aside to cool. Cut the chicken into a large dice.

4. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and wine and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the mixture.

5. In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

6. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.

7. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper and the heavy cream.

8. Add the cubed chicken, mushrooms, carrots, peas, pearl onions and minced parsley. Stir well. Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

9. Spoon into individual oven-safe baking vessels (ramekin, bowl, mug).

10. Place onto oven-safe tray. Slide tray into oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

11. Cut circular dough "lids" for your baking vessels that are about 1/4-inch larger than the top of the baking vessel. Add a few vent holes in the middle (or one giant one, if you're clumsy like me). Place on top, pressing gently along the edge to make it stick. Brush with egg wash, if you wish.

12. Pop that sucker back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

13. Rally the troops for chow time!

* TIP: If you have leftovers of the filling, put it over rice to get a second meal out of it. It's delicious and a great next-day lunch!
When one of your nicest friends asks if you want to come to her annual birthday dinner at her family's vineyard to suck back wine and make something called CHEESE BUTTONS, what do you do? You immediately pull on your pants with the stretchy waistband and pack enough Lactaid pills to outfit a world-class army and respond, "You betcha, what time?" Turns out my friend Cate's family has a tradition of making the Volga German delicacy of Kase Knoepfla (aka "cheese buttons") every year in celebration of her birthday. Everyone helps out with making the cheese buttons, even the tiny nieces.

(Miss Taylor, Neal, and Cate hard at work making cheese buttons)

When it was time to eat, Cate's mom served the big group of us up the cheese buttons (which look more like pillows or raviolis than buttons) in two manners- 1) boiled, topped with breadcrumbs and sour cream and 2) fried also served with breadcrumbs and sour cream. After all, can you ever go wrong with breadcrumbs and sour cream? If you don't have any dietary restrictions, go for the me, the fried cheese buttons are so unbelievably and savory on the inside, the perfect crunchiness on the will won't be able to control the corners of your mouth from turning up in a huge smile. For our dinner, the cheese buttons were served up with delicious sausages and homemade beer mustard, perfectly cooked cabbage and a refreshing cucumber and dill salad...and lots and lots of wine!

(I apologize that my final photo came out a tad fuzzy due to the steam radiating off the dish, but had I waited for the dish to cool all of the cheese buttons would have been gone...and that of course would have been no bueno.)

Cheese Buttons (aka Kase Knoepfla)  (recipe courtesy of Cate Schmiedt)
serves 6-8


2 cups warm water

1 tsp salt

3 eggs, separated

6-7 cups flour all purpose

3 cups Farmer’s cheese (very small curd dry cottage cheese)

Bunch green onion tops chopped into small pieces

Loaf of bread torn into small chunks

LOTS of butter

Sour cream


1. In a bowl add the warm water and salt. Gradually whisk in the 3 egg whites.

2. Add flour a cup at a time until the dough is not sticky but still quite soft. Knead a little if the flour isn’t incorporating well. Make sure the dough is not too stiff and dry.

3. Put into lightly oiled bowl and let it rest for two hours.

4. While dough is resting mix together cheese, onion tops, egg yolks and salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the Buttons

1. Before assembling, start a large pot of generously salted water to boil. 

2. Take a goodly handful of dough and roll on well floured surface. The dough should be springy and you want to roll it quite thin, but not too thin. A little more than 1/8 inch. The dough usually doesn’t want to roll out all that well, but it will! After it’s rolled, cut into pieces about 3x5 inches. (According to all the little old German ladies, this must not be pretty! Cheese buttons aren’t for looking, they’re for eating.) Just slice up the dough with reckless abandon.

3. Take a heaping spoonful of cheese mixture and place on one side of the dough and with your finger wet the edge of the dough to make a ‘glue’ and fold over sealing the edge. Be careful not to tear through the dough. Then crimp edges with a fork. Lower into boiling water...I let it set on the spoon for a few seconds to kind of cook the top a little and then flip it cooked side down, because otherwise if you just toss them in they WILL stick to the bottom of the pot and then tear and you’ll have all sorts of cheese floaties in your water and not in your buttons (where it belongs!).

4. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Sometimes they float to the top, sometimes they don’t.

5. Drain in colander and then place into oven safe baking dish and drizzle with melted butter so the next layer you add won't stick.

6. Keep warm in oven on low setting while you cook the other buttons. If you do get cheese in the water, you might have to replace it after a while (we usually have two pots going at a time)

7. While boiling the buttons melt butter in cast iron skillet and add torn up bread. Fry the bread up until it’s nice and toasty. Try to not eat all the bread while waiting for the buttons (it’s hard not too). After all your buttons are cooked you can either eat them boiled topped with breadcrumbs and sour cream OR fry them up in more butter and serve with bread and sour cream.


I really dislike reality competition shows except for one...Top Chef. It's one of the few times you'll see me glued to the TV. However, I'm not a fan of it's craptastic spin-offs like Top Chef Masters and Just Desserts. I've tried getting into them but a couple of episodes in and inevitably I just lose interest. With Masters, it's just boring watching the pros puff out their chests and egos whilst waxing on about their laundry list of accomplishments. And Just Desserts...I tried to like it but Sweet Baby Jesus that show is a train wreck- even heartthrob Johnny Iuzzinni (who for some reason reminds me of Vicki the Robot from Small Wonder with his stilted speech at the judges' table) couldn't save that show for me. One episode in and I could give a rat's ass what's going with that bunch of pastry drama queens. But the original Top Chef with Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and Gail Simmons captivates my attention each season. I've watched all the regular seasons including the All-Star and holiday seasons (it's a bit of an addiction, I know). This season takes place in the Lone Star state, Texas...and yes, I'm excited! I went into the season stoked that someone from my hometown of Sacramento was going to be on it, until I realized what a pompous DB the guy was. Geez, way to represent Mr. Stone. Confidence is one thing, douchebaggery is another. Glad they sent him packing in the first five minutes. Anyhow, looking forward to another season of slicing, dicing and competitive cooking---like they say in Texas: Go big or go home!
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