Whenever the new year rolls around, I (like most of the world) am hasty to make a multitude of resolutions. Honestly- I always have the best of intentions but the majority of the time, my lofty resolutions (which usually have to do with exercise and eating healthier...big surprise!) end up being cast aside with that first giant bite of double chocolate cheesecake (gosh darn it!). Anyhow, I still like the idea of starting anew each year and this year in particular I'm ready for 2012 to wrap itself up. December has been a particularly rough month and I can't wait to dispose of it and start fresh. I've been feeling emotionally drained and conflicted for weeks on end and my stress eating has become reflected in some holiday pudge. I did get a tiny respite this weekend, when Mr.S. and I took a spontaneous weekend trip to SF. His kidlets were out of town and we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to have a romantic weekend getaway and just de-com-press!

We stayed at an adorable boutique hotel just steps from Union Square called The Orchard Hotel (super cute room and friendly staff), indulged in a delicious seafood dinner at Anchor & Hope with Mr.S.'s brother and did some fun touristy things like eating clam chowder at Pier 39 (I hadn't been in years), shopping in Japantown and taking a moonlit stroll to Union Square to see the ice skaters and holiday lights. It was a lovely trip and just what I needed.

Anyhow, my heart and soul haven't been into cooking for weeks but I was able to somehow muster myself into the cooking spirit for the big Christmas Day dinner. I made some spicy chorizo-lentil empanadas for appetizers and also a scrumptious corn casserole as my side dish. My friend Minzi had suggested a recipe by Paula Deen which gave me the idea to do a corn casserole. I liked the basics of Deen's recipe so I used that as my starting point and built from there. The dish turned out to be a big hit and almost all of it was eaten; considering how much food was out on the table, I was pretty impressed. Even the pickier eaters gave me compliments!

The recipe is listed below, give it a try in the new year and let me know what you think.

Holiday Corn Casserole


1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (*do not substitute frozen corn, use canned)

1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn

1 (8-ounce) package Jiffy corn muffin mix

1 small sweet yellow onion, diced

4 ounce can diced mild green chiles, drained

1 egg

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

5 slices bacon

salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

2. In a skillet, fry up your bacon. Place cooked bacon slices on a plate lined with a papertowel. Allow to cool. Then dice bacon slices. Next, in the same pan- fry up your diced onion. Then set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine: corn kernels, creamed corn, Jiffy corn muffin mix, onion, diced green chiles, 1 egg, sour cream, melted butter and 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix throughly.

4. Take a greased 8x8 glass casserole dish and pour corn mixture from bowl into dish. Spread so it's even.

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Then remove from oven. Sprinkle bacon pieces and 2 tablespoons of cheddar across the top. Place dish back in oven and cook for another 10-15.

6. Serve warm.

Happy Holidays!

Dear Readers,

Well, the world didn't end this Friday as the Mayans predicted, so I'll just assume you're all out there fighting your way through insane traffic and frenzied crowds at the shopping mall or (if you're smart) curled up next to the fireplace with a hot cup of Bailey's and coffee watching "Love Actually." I apologize that I haven't posted much in the past few weeks but I've been extremely busy, not "busy in the kitchen" busy but more like "life busy." My mom was recently diagnosed with an incredibly serious illness and I had to fly out to Kansas City at the drop of a hat. I'm home now but it's been nerve wrecking and we're holding our breaths and waiting day to day to see what develops and if I need to fly back out in the immediate future. So with all this going on, my cooking has been been pushed to the wayside.

I did get a small break from all the stress and worry the other night when Mr.S. insisted on taking me out to dinner. Afterwards, we drove over to Dovewood Court in Orangevale to see their holiday lights and decorations. It was crowded but fun. There was the Grinch, Spongebob and all kinds of other assorted characters from popular culture and Christmas tales. There was even an Xmas Margaritaville! It was nice to get away for a few minutes.

So in case, I don't get back on here before the new year, I'd like to thank you for reading A Girl and Her Fork this year and I wish you and your families a happy holiday!

Lots of love from my kitchen to yours,

A Girl and Her Fork

PS Here's a few photos I snapped while we were at Dovewood Court.

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Eric Ripert. That silver-haired French fox is turning up everywhere these days. He's popped up on "Top Chef," "Treme" and "No Reservations." Not to mention, he's good buddies with Bourdain, hosts his own PBS TV series “Avec Eric," and his restaurant Le Bernardin has garnered three Michelin stars and has upheld a four-star review from The New York Times for over two decades. Holy cow! Is there anything this culinary wizard can't do? Well in addition to making amazing seafood dishes, it turns out he knows his way around an avocado too. I recently came across this tweet of his and decided to give it a go.

There were no measurements listed so I played around with the ingredients in my kitchen. The resulting product- a decadent dish of fresh crab and warm, creamy avocado that only takes a few minutes and a few dollars to throw together. Deee-lish! 

Crab-Stuffed Avocado


6 oz. shredded fresh lump crabmeat

1 fresh avocado, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons Best Foods's mayo

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

fresh ground pepper

2.5 Tablespoons breadcrumbs

lime or lemon wedges (optional)


1. Set oven for broil. Slice and pit avocado.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil and place pitted avocado halves on sheet.

3. In a small bowl, combine crabmeat, mayo, mustard, Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice together. Mix well.

4. Divide the crabmeat mixture evenly into two servings. Using a spoon, fill each avocado cavity with a serving of the mixture. Top with some fresh ground pepper (to taste).

5. Sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs.

 6. Place in oven and broil for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on it if your oven's temperamental like mine).

7. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Lime or lemon wedges (optional).


2502 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 440-1088.

Mmmm, I love Caribbean food! The fiery heat of the Scotch bonnet peppers and the tang of the citrus in the jerk paste, all washed down with a ginger beer or a cold Jamaican Red Stripe. Pure bliss. So last week, I was pretty excited to meet up with a friend for a midweek lunch at the newly opened Negril Island BBQ on J Street. The weather had been a blustering mess and I was looking forward to eating some authentic Caribbean cooking. My tastebuds were looking forward to a cascade of spices that would excite my palate and transport me from the cold, wet streets of Sacramento to a warm beach in the South Atlantic. I was hoping Negril Island BBQ would knock it out of the park for me.

I arrived at the casual eatery during prime-time lunch hour to find only one other patron eating. (Not a good sign typically, but hey- it's a new place, maybe they're still getting established.) The trim dining room sported cute tropical-themed table wraps on each table and colorful island photographs adorning the walls, but the overall mood in the restaurant wasn't lively and warm like in other Caribbean restaurants I've been to. It was too quiet and slightly chilly in there. I stood at the counter a bit unsure what to do as there was no menu board to peruse. Luckily for me, a few moments later the owner ambled out of the kitchen. He was a friendly, upbeat gentleman and took my order quickly. I ordered the beef brisket with a side of potato salad and the beans and rice. When my dining companion showed up, she ordered a combination platter of the jerk chicken and the ribs along with a side of the potato salad. She had recently gone on a trip to the Caribbean and like myself had her heart (and teeth) set on some tasty, homey Caribbean fare. Service was quick. Our orders came out on disposable plates with plastic utensils. This would have been fine except my brisket was tough and dry and cutting it with a plastic picnic knife is akin to trying to saw a redwood with a butter knife. It's futile. The few pieces I was able to tear off had a slight smokey flavor but were extremely overcooked. The sides I ordered, however, were quite delicious. The potato salad tasted like it was made from scratch and the corn muffin was light and sweet. I enjoyed the red beans and rice, served with a dollop of the jerk sauce but my fried plantain slices resembled small, cold hockey pucks. My dining companion was kind enough to give me one of her ribs to taste. I thought the rib was well cooked and tender. I would have found it more appealing if there was some crispy char to it and if it had more of that sweet BBQ sauce but that just may be me...I like my ribs slathered in sauce. I didn't taste the jerk chicken but by the look on my dining companion's face and the largely uneaten portion left on her plate, I can guess it was a fail.

Overall, my visit to Negril Island BBQ was less satisfying than I hoped. I wish the proprietor well. It's a tough restaurant market these days and opening a new place is always a learning curve. I found the service at Negril Island BBQ to be welcoming and fast, but the food just lacks the deliciousness that I've had at other Caribbean restaurants. That incredible layering of flavor, that nice deep spicy, smoky taste that emerges from cooking in the fire pits or steel drum, the succulent barbecue...ahhhh! For me, the search will have to continue.
Happy Monday!

Can you detect my sarcastic undertone? Blech! No matter how much older I get, I still abhor Mondays. You'd think the beginning of the week would illicit feelings of unicorns and rainbows. No? Well in the very least a fresh beginning...but unfortunately, Mondays always feel like a giant buzzkill to me. It takes all my willpower not to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. Well, maybe this week I'll find some time to start a few holiday cooking projects. Anyhow, I hope while I've been MIA, you've been having some fun. Mr.S. and I had a great date night last week. We attended a performance at The Crest put on by Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla. It was a mix of discussion and debate covering everything from politics to parenting, followed up by a Q&A session.  I found the event interesting and had a good time even though my views on politics and religion differ quite a bit from the two speakers. Mr.S. loved it, he's a a huge fan of Carolla's podcast and tends be a bit more conservative than me in his beliefs. He must not be the only one in Sac because I'm pretty sure the show was sold was really packed in there! Luckily we were in the second row so we had some breathing room.

I also got new wellies (in dark red!) and got to break them in this week. I was quite excited to finally get to wear them. They're quite comfortable as well as fashionable...because you know you need to look fashionable when wading through a rainstorm. ;)

And don't worry, I did a little tinkering around in the kitchen too. I would have done more but I just couldn't get myself to go out in the foul weather to the grocery store. It's not the rain that bothers me, it's the crazy drivers! Anyhow, I was craving something rich and hearty to warm me up, so I threw together some chicken and mushrooms with a flavorful sherry sauce. If you love the taste of garlic and shallots (we do!), then you're bound to like this delicious recipe.

Chicken and Mushrooms in Sherry Sauce


3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast- cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup fresh shimeiji mushrooms

1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

3 shallots, minced

3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 1/2 cups no salt chicken broth

1/2 cup dry sherry

2 tablespoons cornstarch

salt and fresh ground back pepper


1.  In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes).

2. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside in a bowl.

3. Add olive oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, saute until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, stirring frequently until they soften.

4. Return chicken to skillet. Then add rosemary, thyme and white pepper. Cook for 1 more minute.

5. Add the chicken broth and sherry to the mixture.

6. Reduce heat the medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes.

7. Remove a 1/2 cup of sauce from skillet. Add cornstarch to the cup of sauce. Whisk, then return to skillet.

8. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.

9. Remove from heat and serve with with rice, pasta or by itself.


1800 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95811.  (916) 448-3898

We all want to eat healthier but at some point you get sick and tired of making kale salads and farro casseroles in your kitchen. Or maybe you're getting carpal tunnel syndrome from all that online holiday shopping and need some respite and a bite to eat? Then head over to Mangia!. I recently visited this cute little eatery with my friend Gretchen and I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty sandwiches and salads they're churning out. They recently opened shop next to Paesano's on Capitol Avenue, where a Java City used to occupy. They're right on the corner, you can't miss it- just look for the outdoor seating and the big windows.

Mangia! is open from 7am M-F and 8am on Saturdays, perfect for grabbing a breakfast panini on your way to work or popping over to nosh on one of their delicious sandwiches during your lunch break. They have about 15 specialty sandwiches on their menu, ranging from $7 to $9. The breakfast items (loaded bagels and fresh paninis) run from $4 to $6. They also offer soups, salads and fancy coffee drinks. On my visit there, I ordered their Atomic Meatloaf sandwich. Not exactly a calorie conscious choice, but how could I not? It was described as, "Bacon wrapped meatloaf served warm with jack cheese, red onion jam, housemade pickles and hot Mangia! fire sauce on an Acme roll." I bet your mouth's watering now, eh? Well, let me tell you- it lived up to my expectations. Total foodgasm. The hearty slice of meatloaf tasted just like Mom's (well, maybe not my Mom's but someone's mom) and the fire sauce/onion jam combo was quite simply- kickass. My only complaint? It would have been nice to have some chips come with it but I would definitely go back and order this again. My lunch date, Gretchen, who's a complete sweetie, offered me a nibble of her Bombay Chicken Salad sandwich, which I enjoyed as well. There was a spicy undertone (a mixture of jalapenos and red onion) which offset the sweetness of the curried mango mayo and plump golden raisins. It was no slouch in the yummy sandwich department. Mangia! smartly offers the option of ordering all their sandwiches sans bread. Instead you can have the fixin's over a bowl of crisp lettuce. I could see doing that with the Bombay Chicken Salad- it'd make a wonderful salad. Gretchen also ordered a side dish called, "Super Foods," which she excitedly told me I had to try. I'm glad she talked me into taking a taste- it was terrific. The Super Foods was a medley of quinoa, butternut squash, beets, blueberries, almonds and kale tossed with a light acai vinaigrette. I detected that there was a touch of cinnamon mixed in there as well. Now, now...don't turn up your nose. The Super Foods salad had a clean, invigorating taste that was delightful. I think I might try making this one at home. I really liked it and could see myself eating this healthy side a few times a week without tiring of it.

Since my visit, I've talked to a few friends about Mangia! to see their take on this joint. They all raved about the Hail Mary (house cured hot pastrami and melted gooey Swiss topped with Russian dressing and chipotle slaw on an Acme roll). I'm pretty sure a few of them were salivating while they were describing it. Also, one of my buddies who is gluten-free informed me that Mangia! offers gluten-free bread if you ask for it. (Nice! I like it when businesses try to be sensitive to their customer's dietary needs or preferences.) I think I might need to scoot over there soon and test out this Hail Mary. I'll let you know if it's a touchdown or not. In the meantime, the prices at Mangia! are on par with other casual eateries in the Grid, the sandwiches are bueno and the service staff is really friendly (they had an employee circulating through the tables checking in on patrons to make sure everything was to their liking). If you're in the area- pop over there and give them a try yourself, I would love to hear about your experience there.


Went back recently for lunch- it appears that Mangia! has changed their Super Foods salad. The old version was much better. The new version is complete rubbish, skip it!

Did you know there are only 120 or so authentic Jewish delis left in the country, while at one time there were 2,000 in New York alone? Sad isn't it? It's getting harder and harder to find a good, solid deli sandwich in the US. And if you think Subway makes a good deli sandwich- fuggedaboutit!

I think one of life's great pleasures is to bite into a warm, salty pastrami sandwich slathered with spicy brown mustard or piled high with tangy sauerkraut. It doesn't get any better than that! If you're curious what's going on with all the Jewish delis disappearing, check out this great documentary , "Deli Man," by Erik Greenberg Anjou.
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Hope you all had a great weekend and were able to stay dry. Something about dreary weather just makes me want to sloth out on the couch in comfy pajamas, with a big ol' mug of hot bourbon cider and a good book (I'm currently making my way through Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which is seriously pee-your-pants funny).

It was raining cats and dogs Friday, so I brought Pepper pup over to my cottage for some cuddling. He sure hates riding in the car to get here but loves napping on the couch! We had a lazy afternoon listening to the rain pelt against the roof until it was time to go meet up with Mr.S.

This weekend I also saw Ovation Stage's production of Kitchen Witches with my friend Michelle. Have you seen it? It was pretty good. The acting was smooth and they had quite the funny script. I absolutely loved Deborah Shalhoub's character, Dolly Biddle.
Photo Source: Ovation Stage

I also found a little time to dabble in the kitchen. I've recently turned Mr.S. onto squash so we've been taste testing several varieties to see which ones we like the best. So far we've made our way through delicata, sweet dumpling, kabocha and acorn. The last one I prepared was the acorn squash. It had a mild, sweet, nutty flavor that both of us liked. To fancy up the squash a bit, I made a batch of my winter quinoa which we stuffed the squash with and then topped with a sprinkling of goat cheese. Fantastic! It was so good that Mr.S. asked me to make more squash the next night. Isn't it awesome when you find something that tastes great and is nutritious? Can't go wrong there!

Super Stuffed Acorn Squash


2 medium sized acorn squash, each cut in half

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup quinoa ( I used Trader Joe's Organic Tri-Color Quinoa)

2 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. of your favorite breakfast sausage, chopped/crumbled  (I used Farmer John's Old-Fashioned Maple Sausage Links)

3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1/2 a small yellow onion, chopped

1 small Fuji apple, cored and chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 bunch of chard, ribs removed and torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

3 tablespoons of crumbled goat cheese (or 3-4 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan)

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cut each squash in half crosswise; scoop out and discard seeds. Coat squash with olive oil.

3. Place squash cut-side down on a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet.

4. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes.

5. While that's cooking, rinse your quinoa. Place the rinsed quinoa in a pot with the broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and continue to cook for however long the product's instructions say, usually 15-30 minutes.

6. In a large skillet, cook your sausage. Drain and set aside on a paper-towel covered plate.

7. In the now empty skillet, heat up some olive oil over med-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add your chopped onions. Cook until semi-translucent.

8. Add garlic, apple and chard. Cook until the chard becomes wilted.

9. Check your quinoa. If it's done (you can tell when it's done cooking because there be a little white ring that curls around it, this is called the germ), add it to your skillet.

10. Toss in your teaspoon of thyme, cooked sausage and dried cranberries. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook the whole shebang for about 3 minutes and then set aside.

11. Now take your roasted acorn squash and flip them over. The flesh should be tender and the exposed side should be a bit caramelized. Fill the holes with several scoops of your quinoa mixture and sprinkle some lovely goat cheese (or Parmesan) on it.

12. Pop the stuffed squash back in the oven (same temp) for another 5-6 minutes.

13. Remove from oven and serve immediately with a spoon.

(Note: The flesh of the acorn squash will be nice and soft and quite yummy- almost like a warm veggie ice cream. The skin on this particular squash is edible too but a bit tougher than say the skin on a delicata. I'm not a big fan of it but if you like it, knock yourself out.)


Looking for a fun weekend event that offers some tasty eats, benefits two great charities AND pits talented area chefs against each other in a friendly competition? Sounds like the Truck and Mortar Throwdown would be right up your alley! Sponsored by SactoMoFo, The SacTown Dining Collective and Whole Foods Markets this culinary showdown is happening on December 1st, so don't wait to purchase your ticket. The teams for the TMT consist of some of Sactown's finest restaurant and food truck culinary wizards:

  • Oliver Ridgeway (Grange) and Robert Ramos (Coast to Coast Sandwiches)
  • Mike Thiemann (Ella's) and Chando (Chando’s Tacos)
  • Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro & Restaurant Thir13en) and Donell Hendrix (Simply Southern Foods) 
  • Billy Ngo (Kru Restaurant) and Davin Vculek (Krush Burger)
  • Pedro Depina (Ettore’s) and Andrew "Drewski" (Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen)
The two main ingredients that all the teams have to work with? One gallon of honey and one whole pig, baby! It doesn't get an sweeter (or more savory) than that. So what are you waiting for? Get your ticket now.

A ticket ($45) includes 10 samples of delicious food (2 by each team), one Ruthstaller beer, one Broadacre coffee and assorted holiday appetizers served by Whole Foods. And best of all?  The proceeds go to Toys for Tots and The California Fire Foundation just in time for the holidays.

Which team do you think will win and claim the title of TMT champion along with the bragging rights?

* Tickets can be purchased online at:  Truck and Mortar Throwdown
($45 presale, $60 at the event)

1315 21st Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 441-7100

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of grabbing dinner and catching up with two girl friends. A bit of thought had to go into choosing where to meet up as it was a holiday (Veteran's Day, so some restaurants were closed) and we had one vegan amongst us. I had heard fairly good things about Bombay Bar and Grill next to Pieces Pizza on 21st Street; so in honor of Diwali, we decided to dine there.

The interior of Bombay Bar and Grill is quite impressive, you almost feel like you're inside a genie's bottle. The walls are done up in warm jewel tones and the windows are adorned with playful swags of fabric and fancy tassels. Upon entering, we were greeted with wafts of exotic spices coming from the kitchen then seated in a gold toned half-booth. I had heard that they had an extended happy hour that went from 2-7 pm, that was supposed to be a big draw; however, we were informed that the happy hour drink and food menu was reserved for the bar area. Really? The bar area looked totally dead, so we opted to retain our seats in the comfy dining room. We started out with a round of cocktails. Since everyone else was ordering specialty cocktails, I thought I'd give it a go and ordered a concoction called The Midtown Shuffle. Based on the description I was picturing a light refreshing drink but what I ended up getting was a glass of something that tasted akin to cherry NyQuil; this didn't turn out to be a big problem though, as after a few sips of the super strong beverage, I couldn't taste the drink anymore and had a nice buzz going.

We began our meal with the Himalayan Appetizer which was basically a pupu platter (a little of everything) of various fried Indian goodies. We received (4 of each) pakoras, naan strips, samosas and vegetable momos along with some chutney. It was one of the better sampler platters that I've had in town, for less than $10 you have enough bite-sized pieces to share for 3-4 people. It's easy to split up, everything is vegetarian and no one ends up feeling gypped. My only gripe was that the naan was a bit bland. For dinner, I decided to check out their chicken mushroom masala. You can either order this a la carte or upgrade to the traditional Indian Thali meal for $4 extra. The Thali meal is kind of their version of an "extra value meal"- it includes basmalti rice, raita, vegetable curry, dal and naan- all on a metal tray. (Raita is a type of mild yogurt dip and dal is similar to a lentil mash.)  My main dish was okay; boneless chicken cubes seasoned with garlic and sliced mushrooms mixed with a spicy, creamy sauce. The sauce had a nice layering of spices but it wasn't overly spicy (they ask you if you like it mild, medium or spicy when you place your order). If I could do my order over, I think I should have ordered my meal a la carte. I found my main course to be decent but the sides were pretty forgettable.

Service was a bit spotty. Our waitresses were polite but I found that every time they brought out drinks or dishes to our table they had to ask, "Whose is this?" I know I sound like I'm nit-picking but as an ex-waitress this drives me a bit batty when it occurs continuously through the meal and the conversation gets interrupted. A good waitress should have some sort of system in place so they (or the expediter) can place the food or drink in front of the correct diner without having to repeatedly interrupt. At one point the table next to us got the wrong check, they passed it over to us thinking it was ours (it wasn't) so we hailed down a nearby waitress and explained to her that the check must be someone else's. She flipped open the billfold and the first words out of her mouth were that the check didn't belong to her tables and then she acted as though she was doing us a favor by finding its rightful owner. I doubt my dining partners took much notice of this small exchange but I was slightly annoyed. Not to sound rude, but take the damn check and go deal with it...find the right table, go find the waitress it belongs to, whatever...I don't care, just don't tell me it's not your problem because it's certainly not mine.

My last impression of Bombay Bar and Grill was a favorable one though. Our waitress didn't seem to mind that we lingered a little longer than most diners post-dinner while we caught up on girltalk and as we exited, both our waitress and the front end hostess paused to call out friendly "thank you's" and "good night's." It was a nice way to close out our dinner. Overall though, I prefer the Indian meals I've had at Kathmandu Kitchen and Mati's (RIP). The meals there tend to be more flavorful, a bit bigger in portion size and less pricey. I did like the location and vibrant decor of Bombay Bar and Grill (love the deep fuchsia colored walls in the ladies room) but I don't think the food impressed me enough to make a return trip.

It's Sunday and Mr.S. is running around frantically trying to complete his weekend To Do list. Every so often he comes into the house to check the scores on the 9 million football games that are on. He winces more then he smiles at the scores and as he heads outside again to mow the lawn and rake leaves, he shoots me a version of the stinkeye that could give an old gypsy woman a run for her money. I love Mr.S. but he's one of those guys who always has to be busy with something- projects, repairs, a new exercise routine; whereas, I'm of the ilk that believes Sundays are for lazing about. Yep, buy me a one way ticket to Lazytown. Nothing makes me happier than what I affectionately call No Bra Sundays. My lady friends know what I'm talking about...those Sundays where you sleep in, drink a cup of coffee (or three) around 10 and then you just lounge on the sofa while sporting comfy yoga pants and no over-the-shoulder boulder holder. Yep, the girls are feelin' free and so am I. After munching on a lunch of a few "fun-size" candy bars and finishing Tina Fey's, "Bossypants," I'm ready for some human interaction, reluctantly...and it's only 3pm.

Anyhow, post No Bra Sunday (aka Monday), you'll need to get back with the Get Sh*t Done regime and to do that you'll need to eat something healthier than a bag of Doritos and leftover Thai takeout. Give this faux pilaf recipe a try. I know it sounds turbo healthy (which it is) but it tastes good as well. If it makes you feel better, you can eat it while wearing your yoga pants and watching an episode of "Revenge."

Mushroom-Asparagus Quinoa "Pilaf"


1 cup quinoa (I used Trader Joe's Organic Tri-Color Quinoa)

2 cups broth (You can pretty much use any kind. Chicken or vegetable work well. I had some leftover shiitake broth from another cooking project so I used that)

1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Rinse your quinoa. (I do this even if the package is marked pre-rinsed.) It removes the quinoa's bitter tasting coating called the saponin.

2. Place rinsed quinoa in a pot with broth.

3. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and continue to cook for however long the product's instructions say, usually 15-30 minutes.

4. In a skillet, heat up olive oil. Once it's hot, add mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Saute until asparagus is bright green (about 5 minutes).

5. When the quinoa is done (you can tell when it's done cooking because there be a little white ring that curls around it, this is called the germ), add it to your veggies.

6. Season with salt and pepper and you're ready to go!

Delicata's the Ryan Gosling of the winter squash family. It's hip, it's smooth and oh-so-cute! You can bake them, you can steam them, you can even stuff them...or my personal favorite- you can roast them. The best part is there's no peeling necessary, the skin's edible. Just slice the squash up into rounds, pop out the seeds and guts, season and throw the squash into the oven. In just 25 minutes, you'll have a plateful of delicious squash with a buttery texture that tastes just like a mild sweet potato (but much healthier). Packed full of dietary fiber and beta carotene, it's a great addition to your seasonal veggie line-up or as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Roasted Delicata Squash
(Feeds 2-3 people as a side)


2 delicata squash, washed and scrubbed

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Slice squash. Then pop out the seeds and squash goo in the center. You'll have small rounds of squash.

3. Place squash in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on. Toss with your hands and make sure pieces are evenly coated.

4. Season lightly with salt. Roast until tender (approx. 25 minutes, flipping the squash over halfway through the cooking time).

5. Remove from oven. Season with salt (to taste) and serve while it's still hot.

This past weekend, Mr.S. took me and the kidlets on an impromptu field trip to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery so we could see all the salmon jumping about. It was quite incredible...salmon, salmon everywhere, as far as the eye could see! We were all pretty much in awe. I even took a few photos while we were there:

If you get a chance stop by there. Kidlets will love feeding the fish in the "nursery" tanks and watching the fish jump up the fish ladder.

So to celebrate all the salmon in the American River, Mr. S. and I decided to cook up some salmon for dinner Wednesday night. Can you say yum?! (Salmon is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which is good for your cardiovascular health.)  I stopped by and picked up a nice big piece of fresh salmon at Sunh Fish and cooked it up in a no-frills manner: olive oil, a few pinches of herbes de Provence, lemon slices and a boatload of garlic (we love garlic!). We then tented it up in foil and chucked it in the oven. In less than a half hour, we had some wonderfully moist and flavorful salmon dressing up our plates. Keeping with the healthy theme, we also made some roasted delicata squash and a mushroom and asparagus quinoa pilaf...but more on that later this week. ;)

Oven-Baked Fresh Salmon


1.5 lbs fresh (wild) salmon - you can cut these into smaller individual fillets or roast it as one giant fillet

Extra virgin olive oil

Herbes de Provence

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

4-6 garlic cloves, minced

3 small lemons (2 sliced, 1 in wedges)

Aluminum foil


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil on it and spread it out.

3. Place salmon on the middle of the foil sheet, skin side down. Lightly coat the fish with olive oil.  Season with a few pinches of herbes de Provence, several minced cloves of garlic, some Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon across the top.

4. Place slices of lemon across the top.

5. Fold the sides of the foil upward and over, creating a small tent-like packet. Make sure everything is covered and all the sides are sealed tightly.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or more if you have really thick fillets), until salmon is fully cooked.
Tip: cook the fish 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

7. Use a spatula to transfer fillets to plates. Serve with lemon wedges.


This past weekend I was at a party and my buddy Eric and I happened to get in a conversation about food. He mentioned that he had been making curry chicken salad fairly frequently lately. My first thought was, "Curry chicken salad...yum! But ugh, I would have to roast some chicken...what a pain in the butt. Who has time for that?"  That's when he mentioned that he was using cooked rotisserie chicken from the market and my ears perked up. Rotisserie chicken? That sounds quick! Then my second thought was, "Oh, all that mayo! I can't eat that, I'm trying to lose a few pounds!" But where there's a will there's a way and on the drive home later that night, I started thinking about perhaps using yogurt (more specifically Greek yogurt, which has a nice creamy texture) in place of the mayo. I could cut the calories but still get my curry chicken salad fix. I know several friends who love subbing Greek yogurt into their recipes so I figured,"Why the hell not?" I tinkered around with the recipe on Monday and what I ended up with is listed below. I was quite pleased with the result and ate it for dinner last night and lunch today. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory for me.
* If you like spicy, add a pinch of cayenne, it adds a nice kick to the dish.

PS It's Nov. 6th! If you haven't already--be sure to vote!

Spicy Curry Chicken Salad


3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1 cup plain Greek yogurt  (I used Fage Total 2%)

1.5 tablespoons curry powder

1 medium Fuji apple, cored and chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red onion

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup almonds, sliced and roasted (optional)

pinch of cayenne (optional)


1. In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, curry powder, lemon juice, pepper, salt and a pinch of cayenne. Stir together.

2. In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken, chopped apple, dried cranberries and red onion.

3. Combine the ingredients from the two bowls. Mix together well.

4. Serve chilled. Tastes great spread on some soft lavash or place a scoop atop a bed of fresh salad greens.

Need a kidlet-friendly treat that you can throw together while your little ghouls and goblins are working on their jack-o'-lanterns? Here's one that you can't go wrong with- Peanut Butter Rice Krispie treats. It's easy to make and you can keep one eye on the kidlets and pumpkin guts while you stir the ingredients. No oven time required!

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars


3 T unsalted butter

4 cups mini-marshmallows

1/2 cup + 2 T smooth peanut butter

6 cups of Rice Krispies cereal


1. Take a 13x9x2 glass pan and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a big pan, melt your butter. Do it on a low heat so that the butter doesn't brown or burn.

3. Once the butter's melted, add your marshmallows. Keep moving them around until they melt down into a nice marshmallow fluff.

4. Turn off your heat. Add in the peanut butter and combine well.

5. Add in your Rice Krispies a cup at a time, while stirring.

6. Once the cereal is coated, transfer it to the glass pan. Using your fingers or the back of a spatula, press it down so it's even.

7. Let it cool down. Then cut it into squares and serve.


2500 Watt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825. (916) 482-2175.
Since 1959.

"Drink for the Thirsty, Food For The Hungry," is what the colorful stained glass that hangs over the middle of Sam's dining room proclaims...and fill us up with food and drink it did. Last night Mr.S. and I decided to hit up a movie for date night. I'd been interested in seeing "Argo," for awhile, so we headed over to Century to check it out. I'm not sure if it was because it was mid-week or because a zombie apocalypse was impending but the movie theatre was practically deserted. Our movie theatre maybe had eight people in there tops. The film which dealt with the rescue of six US diplomats from Tehran, back in '79 during the Iran hostage crisis was quite intense and riveting. I would definitely recommend it. After our movie, we were starving so we tried to head over to a local eatery by Mr.S.'s home for a bite to eat and unfortunately, it was closed. It was only 9 o'clock! Ok, this is one of my major pet peeves with Sac. I love my city but why does every blasted place close early in this town? Gah! Anyhow, as Mr.S. and I were trying to decide on a Plan B, somehow we started talking about Sam's Hof Brau. Seriously, I have no idea how it came up. Eventually the conversation steered to, "Hey, let's see if it's still open!" I was curious, especially as I hadn't set foot in the place in 15+ years.

We walked in and a cloud of warmness enveloped us. There's a homey vibe imparted there with it's out-of-date chandeliers, dark crimson walls and old-timey red leather booths. The place feels comfortable from the get go. Mr.S. told me the place is usually packed to the gills when it's dinner time but it was relatively quiet when we got there. We got in line and I just had to stare for a second at the incredible array of meats being showcased at the carving station. Mr.S. ordered a pastrami Reuben and since I was a bit chilly, I opted for the French dip thinking the hot au jus might warm me up a bit. The gentleman behind the counter got to work immediately cutting us some thick slabs of juicy meat. (There was some finesse to his style and I was pretty impressed that he never once touched the meat with his fingers.) Moments later, I was presented with a nice fatly stacked French dip and I also opted for a side of German red cabbage. Mr. S. was served up a freshly toasted Reuben stuffed with sauerkraut and a side of Thousand Island. We dropped our weary butts in the closest booth and got to work eating. For the first few minutes, it was like a mini-food orgy...all you heard were a lot of, "Mmmm's" and other various happy eating noises. The roast beef on my sandwich was well cooked and paired perfectly with the au jus soaked sourdough bread. It was a mini moment of bliss. My side order of German red cabbage was also a winner, it had a nice balance of sweetness and tanginess and wasn't mushy in the least. The highlight though, was Mr.S.'s pastrami Reuben. Good god! He gave me a bite and I had a moment where I seriously contemplating just shoving it in my purse and running out the door. I didn't want to give it back! The meat was nice and salty, with the middle moist and the outside cooked just a tad more- just the way I like my pastrami. Slathered with the thick Thousand Island dressing, it made my tastebuds do a little carnivorous happy dance. Although I really liked my French dip, I definitely had sandwich envy.

By the time I finished my last bite of dinner, my jeans felt a tad tighter and my body felt a ton happier. Embarrassingly, I had to restrain myself from patting my belly in satisfaction. It was a fun date night...a bit unconventional in our movie and restaurant choices but definitely fun. Now with the colder weather here to stay awhile, I definitely foresee myself going back to Sam's for some old school charm, friendly service and a pastrami Reuben of my own! Maybe I'll see you there?

October is party month: birthday parties, Oktoberfest parties and lots and LOTS of Halloween parties. Parties require party food. My favorites are cute-bite sized treats that your guest can pick up with one hand so they don't have to put down their tasty drink. No one likes to put their drink down at a party! A really simple finger food to make (and is vegetarian-friendly) are mini quiches. They look fancy and like you have mad cooking skills but in reality it's just you, pre-made pie dough and a biscuit cutter. 10 minutes tops to assemble! 
What's your favorite easy-to-assemble party dish?

[On an unrelated side note, a friend recently gave me a heads up that my blog's comment box has not been working correctly. Sorry about the inconvenience. The issue's been repaired, so feel free to comment away folks!]   ;)

Mini Cheesy Spinach Quiches
makes 48 tiny quiches


1 pkg. pre-made pie crust (I like Trader Joe's brand, it comes with 2 pie crusts)

1 (10 oz.) box of frozen, chopped spinach

2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese (you can find this where the shredded cheese is at your store)

1 (16 oz.) container cottage cheese

1 bunch of green onion, white parts only sliced

4 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and freshly grounded pepper


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Defrost frozen spinach. Then place spinach in a colander and press out remaining water.

3. Using a small biscuit cutter or lip of a shot glass, stamp out your dough.

4. Press each dough round into the hole of your pre-greased mini-muffin tin. (I usually give the tin a light squirt with some cooking spray.)

5. In a bowl, combine spinach, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, green onion, eggs, salt and pepper together. Mix well.

6. Using a spoon, fill each pie crust about 3/4 full.

7. Place tin in oven and bake 20-22 minutes, until edges are a light golden brown. Insert a toothpick in the middle of a quiche, if it comes out clean the quiche are done.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pop the quiches out of the tin with a paring knife.

Note: You can make these quiches to suit your taste by subbing in red peppers, bacon, mushrooms, Gruyere...whatever you like. They're very versatile.


Can you believe just Friday, I was running my air conditioning because the cottage was a tad too warm and here it is just a few days later- Monday and I had to turn on the heater to get rid of the morning chill? I'm quite pleased though. Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I love how the air takes on a crisp smell, the leaves turn a rainbow of colors and you get to wear all kinds of cute scarves and boots. On top of it all, the cooler temps open up a whole other world of cooking- cold weather food! Steaming bowls of soup, savory stews and pipin' hot loaves of bread all make their way out of my kitchen. Food that warms your soul (and your tummy)!

Today's rainy day inspired me to make another batch of mini cornbread muffins. I tinkered with an old Martha Stewart recipe and made some for a party recently and they turned out great but I made the mistake of making them ahead of time so by the time guests arrived, settled in and decided to nosh, the muffins had cooled down substantially. It was a bit of a bummer but it also gave me the idea to pair these bite-sized treats with a dish that stays hot. Since it was grey and wet out today I thought it'd be a good opportunity to pull the ol' slow cooker out and make a batch of Southwest Chili. The mini cornbread muffins tasted amazing dipped in the chili sauce and made a great vessel for sopping up the last few bites. I think I may be making these muffins often this season (maybe with a some diced jalapenos thrown in?). You know what? I bet they'd be great with some Crockpot Chorizo and Lentils! What do you think would be a good match?

Mini Cornbread Muffins

makes 3 dozen


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Lightly grease your mini-muffin tins. I used Pam spray. (Don't skip this step or your mini muffins will stick to the tin.)

3. In a large bowl, mix together your flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together your sour cream, egg and oil.

5. Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until combined.

6. Fill each muffin tin about three-quarters full.

7. Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-11 minutes. Muffins are done cooking when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn out muffins from tin.

9. Serve with softened butter and your favorite dish.


Several years ago, I dated a guy that had gone to cooking school. He constantly raved about how great of a cook he was especially when it came to Southern cooking. He went on and on (and on...) about how his red beans and rice was soooooo wonderful that I finally had to ask to taste it. Ugh, it tasted a lot like a cross between refried beans from a can and what I imagine Alpo to taste like. I ended up dumping it down the garbage disposal and just went on with life thinking I wasn't a fan of red beans and rice. That is until I had it at Taylor's Kitchen one night...I LOVED their red beans and rice and couldn't get enough of it! Since then I've had red beans and rice on numerous occasions- sometimes where it's been fantastic, sometimes when it's been mediocre but never as bad as that batch my date made for me. The lesson I learned from the "Red Beans Fiasco of 2008" is to always give food another chance before condemning it. It could be that you came across a bad batch, a bad recipe or just a bad cook. So in the spirit of my "Give It Another Chance" mantra I decided to give bean salad another whirl as well. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant. My experiences with bean salad were mostly of the supermarket deli variety- a strong vinegar smell, overcooked mushy beans and lack of anything resembling flavor. Yuck! So imagine my surprise when I prepared a batch of this Mexican Bean Salad from for a party and I really liked it. It's colorful, flavorful and it works great as a salad or as a dip. I made a few adjustments in the ingredients' list to cater to my personal taste preferences but it was still simple to make. I liked how the corn kernels gave it some crunch, the hot sauce and chili powder added a bit of a spicy kick and the lemon juice offered up some fresh zing to balance the dish out. This salad can be thrown together pretty quickly after work, making it a great choice to bring to a potluck. You can make it even easier to put together by doing all your chopping the night before.

Mexican Bean Salad


* Stick with using frozen corn which stays crisp when it thaws,  the canned stuff is a bit on the mushy side.

Every year, Mr.S. and I usually throw a big summer BBQ. This summer, however, somehow time got away before we could get one planned. So since the weather was still warm and my birthday was coming up, we decided to host a birthday fiesta. We obtained 20 lbs. of delicious carnitas from La Esperanza and served it up with rice, beans, various dips and fun finger foods. It was a food extravaganza! My friend Cate made an amazing orange-chocolate cake (that was to die for) and we toasted with sangria, hibiscus margaritas and beer. I'm pretty sure everyone had a grand time- kidlets were running amuck, old friends were catching up and new friends were getting to know each other. I couldn't think of a better way to bring in the next year of my life.

Amongst the multitude of tasty eats covering the tables was some Texas Love Dip.  Love Dip...I'm sure most of you are scratching your heads right about now, but if you've ever been to Texas' Central Market, you know exactly what dip I'm taking about. Central Market's Love Dip is unforgettable...and addicting. It's a creamy-tomato concoction with a spicy afterkick that'll make you swoon and become a lifetime convert after just one taste. Give it a go, I think you'll LOVE it   ;)

Texas Love Dip


12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup chunky fresh tomato salsa (I buy mine premade-a simple salsa of chopped tomatoes, white onions, cilantro and jalapenos at La Superior Market on Franklin)

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

dash of white pepper


1. Place the cream cheese, salsa, garlic, salt, tarragon and white pepper in food proccesor.

2. Process until it's mixed well and creamy.

3. Add in lemon juice, give the processor another whiz or two.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl. Place in fridge and allow flavors to meld for at least an hour.  Serve with tortilla chips, bread bites or your favorite veggies.

5. Tip: If you have a little leftover the next day, it works great as a sandwich spread also.


I remember once Mr.S. commenting that he loved that my friends were such amazing cooks...and you know what? So do I! I'm a lucky girl indeed. Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at my friend Lacy's new house. When I got there, I found out she had picked up some whole branzinos at Sunh Fish and was going to cook them in a salt crust. I was totally excited since I'd been dying to try this method for quite awhile. The technique turned out to be quite simple. The salt crust essentially steamed the fish and the fish came out amazingly moist (and not overly salty at all). I think I may have to do this one for Mr.S. soon!

Pesce al Sale


1 (3 lb. box) coarse Kosher salt
5-6 large egg whites
3 (1 lb.) fresh whole branzinos, scaled & gutted (leave the head and tail intact)
3 fresh lemons, 2 thinly sliced and 1 cut in wedges
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. In a large mixing bowl, incorporate salt and egg whites together. What you want to end up with is a sand-like consistency.


3. Rub the exterior of the fish down with olive oil.

4. Stuff the cavity of the fish with lemon slices, herbs and garlic (optional).

5. On a large baking sheet, evenly spread out a thick layer of the salt paste. You want it to be around 1/2 inch in thickness.

6. Place the fish on top of the salt bed. Then cover it with the remaining salt mixture, making a salt shell. You want all of the fish covered. Firmly press the salt mixture into the flesh.


7. Roast for 20-25 minutes. (Until thermometer reads 135 degrees.) The crust will turn golden brown and hard.


8. Remove baking sheet with fish from oven. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.

9. Tap the salt crust with the back of a heavy spoon. The mound should crack and come apart. Lift the larger pieces of salt crust off and brush away smaller pieces. Gently using a knife or small spatula, peel off the skin of the fish. Lift the exposed fillet off the fish and transfer it to a serving plate. Then lift the tail and pull upward, lifting off the bones from the bottom fillet. Extract the bottom fillet from the skin and place on plate.

10. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.