Holy moly, we're almost at the end of 2013! Can you believe it? This year went by so fast! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I spent Xmas with Mr.S.'s family. They do a big Christmas dinner at Mr.S.'s, everyone brings a few dishes and his parents make a delicious ham. This year I was in charge of lemon bars, sausage balls and green bean casserole (that last dish wasn't by my choice, it was requested). I was excited about making the sausage balls. I found the recipe last year in a magazine while at the hospital. It was a recipe submitted by the Voltaggio brothers (of Top Chef fame) for a Thanksgiving issue. It sounded intriguing so I took a photo with my phone and looked it up online later on. The recipe is quite easy to make (just a handful of ingredients), can be prepared ahead of time (just pop them in the oven right before guests arrive) and perfect for a holiday party finger food. I found that the sausage balls taste great when paired with a dipping sauce (honey-mustard, sweet chili, or even an aioli goes great with these). Also, the leftovers are fantastic when used in an egg strata the next day (just sub in the sausage balls for the bread and cook as usual). I threw in some leftover ham and cheese from the previous night's dinner when I made ours. Mr.S . and Kidlet #1 loved the sausage ball-strata.

Holiday Sausage Balls (adapted from Redbook Magazine)


3 cups Bisquick pancake mix
1 lb. bulk country or breakfast sausage (not in casing, crumbled)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

fresh out of the oven


1. Heat oven to 400°F.

2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper so that the sausage balls don't stick.

3. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a large stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and mix everything thoroughly.

4. Use your hands to form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on the parchment paper. Make sure the sausage balls are spaced out evenly.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes until they are puffed and a golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack or platter and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.


For those of you that have fruit trees going into overdrive currently- whether it be citrus, persimmons, kiwis, etc., please think of donating your extras to those in need. The Sacramento Food Bank accepts fresh produce donations in addition to the traditional canned or dry goods.

They are open :
Monday through Friday 8am-4:30pm, Wednesday 8am-7pm.

3333 Third Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 456-1980


2600 Fair Oaks Blvd. Suite 103, Sacramento, CA 95864. (916) 974-7467

I love the Temple Coffee by my cottage (the S Street location) but every once in awhile I'll stop by the one on Fair Oaks Blvd. when I'm out and about in Mr.S.'s neighborhood. This week while frantically running errands, I stopped at the F.O. location to pick up a cup of joe to go. As I walked towards the coffee shop,  I noticed a cute scooter parked in front of a new business called Villa Sicilia. Turns out it's a small shop dedicated to olive oil. Perfecto! I thought maybe I'd pop in and see if there were any cool Christmas goodies I could pick up as gifts. Most of my friends cook and I know a good olive oil is always appreciated.

Vroom! Vroom! ☺

The interior of the shop was quite nice. The left wall was equipped with several stainless steel tasting dispensers of olive oils and balsamic vinegars where you could pour yourself a sample to taste and smell. Each dispenser is labeled with the flavor and a brief description of the product. There was a variety of flavors; the ones that caught my eye were Ginger-Honey, Wild Mushroom and Sage, and Black Truffle. Mmm! There were also several fruit (such as apricot, lemon, peach) infused olive oils and vinegars. Once you found an oil or vinegar flavor you liked you could take the pre-poured bottle to the counter and the sales assistant would shrink wrap a seal on the top of the bottle for you. They can make gift baskets for you too if you ask. On the right side, the shop carried a smattering of imported pasta, jams and decorative serving plates. There were also a few jars of tasty sounding condiments like Calabrian hot pepper paste and pistachio butter. I also heard that Villa Sicilia may in the near future be carrying some cool Italian craft beers and wines.

Overall, my impression of Villa Sicilia was that it was a cute store with reasonable prices (the smaller bottles run about $8) and a varied selection. It's a nice addition to the Arden-Arcade shopping scene (which has always been a bit lackluster) and would be a great place to pick up a gift for a foodie friend or a last minute hostess gift. My only issue with the establishment was that the sales staff seemed especially enthusiastic to help the 45+ crowd (most likely because they think they'll spend more) but ignored other customers. I was in the small shop for over 25 minutes and not once was I greeted, asked if I needed any assistance or even given a smile until I went up to the counter to pay for my purchase (and the store wasn't that busy). The owner (I believe it was the owner--a brunette with long, dark, curly hair. She seemed to be running the show.) practically jumped on the patrons that came in after me but I was left to wander about on my own. I even made several passes around the shop to see if she would say anything, but...nothing.  I finally went and stood at the counter and waited to ask the cashier my question and it turned out she was new and had to ask the owner. The owner answered my inquiry but seemed slightly irked that she had to stop her fawning on another customer to answer a question about a product that I was interested in buying. The whole situation left me feeling a bit awkward and annoyed. It also reminded me of something from a job I worked at years ago. I worked for Raley's Corporate Office in their Shopping Services division. One of the big things we would evaluate the store employees on was a concept called the "5 Foot Rule." If a customer was within five feet of you, you needed to acknowledge them verbally somehow. It really personalizes the service and makes the customer feel welcome. As a small business, Villa Sicilia should embrace this concept. Considering there are plenty of companies to buy olive oil from in the area (Bariani, Lucero, Big Paw and Coldani; not to mention, there's another boutique olive oil store in town- The Chefs' Olive Mix in Old Sac); I would hope they would look into remedying the situation and extend friendly welcomes to all customers in the future whether they look like your typical specialty olive oil buying clientele or not.
New Year's is right around the corner and with it comes the tradition of making New Year's resolutions. Well good news, if one of your resolutions is to learn a new skill-- check out the Chinese Dumpling Making Workshops at UC Davis' Confucius Institute. My friend Mary tipped me off about this new program which had it's grand opening not too long ago in September 2013. The Institute is a partnership between UC Davis; Jiangnan University, one of China’s top research universities in food science and technology; and Hanban, part of the Chinese Ministry of Education. The institute offers free workshops to the community on the art of tea ceremonies, tea tasting, and dumpling making. If you're interested, the Confucius Institute is currently taking registrations for it's 2014 dumpling making workshops. At the workshop, you'll get a lesson on the history and culture of the Chinese dumpling before practicing dumpling wrapper-rolling and stuffing with a meat and vegetable filling. The workshop is hands-on and participants will be cooking and eating their dumplings.
Photo Source: Craftbag Designs

Registration (the January dates are currently full, but there is space open currently for Feb 21, Mar 7, Mar 21) :

Only a week into December and it's freezing! (Ok, by California standards) I hope despite the chilly weather, you've been able to get out and enjoy yourselves. Post-Thanksgiving, Mr.S and I took Kidlet #1 to the San Francisco International Auto Show at the Moscone Center. (Thanks for the tickets Grace and Lawrence!) Kidlet #1 loves sports cars, so he and his dad were gawking at all the cool rides and talking a bunch of auto gibberish that I couldn't comprehend. (I'm used to this, as they engage in the same car nerd talk when we watch Top Gear or Fast 'n Loud.) I'm not that into car shows but I did have a nice time perusing all the new vehicles (the modified street vehicles were my favorite) and afterwards we went to Japantown, where I stocked up on Japanese sundries and snacks at Nijiya Market and Ichiban Kan. Mr.S and Kidlet #1 were also very patient while I spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the aisles of kitchen gadgets at Daiso. As a trade-off, I didn't grouse when they begged to grab dinner at Fisherman's Wharf.

Here's a few photos from the car show:

 BLOX Racing- S2000

Nissan GTR R35 Titanium Premium Launch

Modified cars w/ hardwood floors in their trunks

Porsche 911, 50 Yrs Edition

Lexus LFA

Audi R8 V10

Ferrari 458 Italia

 Ferrari Testarossa

The "James Bond" Car, 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe

For some reason the SF trip spurred a cookie baking kick in me (maybe it was all the cute baking stuff at Daiso?) and I baked a TON of cookies the following week in the cottage's kitchen. Additionally, I chose to break in a cute tea towel  that a friend gave me as a birthday gift earlier this year. The tea towel is screen printed with a short poem by William Carlos Williams called, "This is Just to Say." I love plums and seeing that poem made me crave some juicy, ripe summer plums. Unfortunately, it's December so I was a bit SOL; however, I remembered that I had made a big batch of delicious rosemary plum jam this summer. I gave a lot of it away but I had a few jars still squirreled away in the cupboard. So in addition to the various other cookies I made, I also whipped up some fresh thumbprint cookies with homemade rosemary plum jam. Mmmm!

My thumbprint cookies have always been a crowd favorite - they're the perfect blend of savory and sweet. The trick is - I use Alice Water's sweet tart dough recipe paired with one of my own jams...strawberry balsamic, ginger peach, blackberry lime, etc. The rosemary plum is my favorite though. Plus it's super easy to make- I use a standard recipe for plum jam and just add in some fresh rosemary.

Rosemary-Plum Jam


3 lbs. fresh plums
a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
7 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin


1. Wash your fruit, cut in half, twist and remove pit. Chop. Place in food processor.

2. Wash rosemary. Remove needles from stem. Discard stem. Chop. Place chopped needles in with plums.

3. Give the processor a good pulse/chop or two. You want the processor to crush the fruit mixture (but not puree it). Alternately, if you're not too fussy - you can chop the plums finely with a kitchen knife and call it a day. It'll cook down.

5. Pour rosemary-plum mixture into a large heavy bottomed pot.  Add lemon juice then sugar. Place on high heat and bring to a full rolling boil boil. Stir constantly while the softened fruit and sugar meld.

6. When it gets to be a full rolling boil (rolling boil-= boiling so hard it can't be stirred down, it keeps bubbling), add the pectin in quickly. Keep stirring the entire time.

7.  Return to full rolling boil for exactly 1 minute. Check to see if the jam has set. If it has, remove it from the heat. Skim off any foam.

8. Ladle the jam (while it's still hot) into hot, sterilized half-pint jars. Leave a 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, secure the lids and finger tighten the rings. Then follow the procedure for processing in a hot water bath.

PS This jam is also amazing when paired with roast pork.

How to sterilize jars and lids
How to hot water bath/can your jam