Friday, December 19, 2014

Finally! Dinner at the Movies - Studio Movie Grill

For ages I have been wanting Sacramento to get one of those theaters where you get to dine while watching the movie.  I was thinking more like the eclectic places like Foreign Cinema in San Francisco or Five Star Theater in Glendale. The new Studio Movie Grill has taken the concept mainstream and is opening up theaters across the country. Ours is in Rocklin at I-80 and Sierra College Blvd. 

The VIP event was last night and I was lucky enough to be invited. My first surprise upon entering was to NOT see the usual popcorn/snack bar. In fact, there is no snack bar at all.  What you do see is a full bar.  There's booth tables and bar seating for hanging out and socializing.

We were served drinks, appetizers, and there was a small 2-man band playing. Then there was the ribbon cutting with local movie-loving celeb Mark S. Allen. 

My friend and I chose to see Night at the Museum and got our seats early to snag good center seats. You can see the tables in the top picture that swing out. Each has a "call" button for service.  What I really liked was the seating.  The seats are large, comfy, and with lots of arm room.  There's no fear about knocking elbows or fighting for the armrest with your strange neighbor. There is also a lot of legroom. This is because the servers need to be able to walk to serve you without much danger of tripping over feet or purses.

I was also impressed with the menu. It was quite extensive and reasonably priced. A woman next to us summed it up well-- you normally get a large popcorn and a couple of sodas and you are at $12-$20 already.  Here you can order a burger for about $10.  I'd rather have the burger. 

The menu had appetizers (and this is where you order the popcorn, btw), salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees, and desserts (where candy falls under). We were allowed to order an appetizer and entrees.  

We selected the ceviche lettuce cups for the appetizer and received 3 loaded lettuce cups. The ceviche was fresh tasting and good and the iceberg lettuce was super crisp. I really liked it. I also liked that it and our drinks arrived very quickly - like under 5 minutes.

The movie started and it was a much longer wait for our food. For some reason ours seemed to be one of the last served although we were close to the beginning of ordering.  I had bbq ribs and fries. Good, but I'm now thinking finger food such as lettuce cups and ribs is kinda touchy for in the dark. My friend ordered the pork chop and ate with knife and fork.

My assessment of the food is that it's on par with an Applebee's or a Chili's.  It's good, made to order, and a good value. It's nothing fancy, but what do you really expect from a movie theater?

early seaters
I had wondered how it would be to hear people eating around me, but that was a non-issue, at least this time and with these neighbors. You could end up with some slob seated next to you.  I also wondered about the servers coming through while the movie was showing. They have to crouch low and do a lot of squatting, but it turned out to not be too noticeable either.

As to Night in the Museum? It was nice and cute, but for a comedy, I didn't laugh once. 

Overall, I'm excited that Studio Movie Grill is here, just that for me it's too far away. Hopefully they'll open another close by someday. I think it's a great option for having the same price movie ticket, better and more food options, and for comfortable seating. Go check them out. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Brunswick Stew and a Giveaway

Never heard of Brunswick Stew? Maybe because it's a Southern dish and not seen on many menus. It's a stew filled with vegetables and lots of meat. In fact, that's the major distinguishing factor, lots of shredded meat, making it really thick. It's also a great recipe because you can do it in a slow cooker. 

Another interesting fact is that it was often made with small game such as squirrel, rabbit, and possum. But for those not into game, you can use chicken and pork. For the one pictured here, I used a rabbit and some chicken together. You can also alter the vegetables and the type of beans. I don't like lima beans and so I used cannelini beans instead. 

This recipe was perfect for me to use another bag of Tasteful Selections ruby red potatoes. They are the perfect size for this stew.


Tasteful Selections is sponsoring Katie’s Krops once again for another growing season. Katie’s Krops is a non-profit organization that empowers youth across the country to grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities, one vegetable garden at a time. In honor of the partnership, Tasteful Selections has given me some gardening sets to give away. 

Although they gave me several, I'll be giving away one for this blog and the rest I'll donate to my friends at the Food Literacy Center so that some of the children can learn to garden their veggies. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post or on my Facebook page about your favorite potato dish. Not only will you win what you see in the picture, but also a couple of bags of potatoes. This contest is open to United States entries only.

Tasteful Selections  potatoes can be found at Whole Foods, Nugget, Raley's, and Bel Air markets.

Brunswick Stew

1 teaspoon of oil

1/2 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
3 pounds of boneless chicken (thighs, breasts or both)
1 can of cannelini beans
1 can of corn
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
1 pound of baby new potatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons of fish sauce
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth 

On a plate mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat them. 

Add the ingredients to the slow cooker in this order:  oil, dredged chicken, vegetables, then the fish sauce, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and finally the broth.

Set your slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. 

Optional: This stew should really have shredded meat, so it pays to take the time to pull out the chicken, remove the bones, shred and then put back into the stew and stir. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Krusteaz Blogger Bake-Off - Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Biscotti

While some people eat biscotti year round, I tend to associate it with the holidays and gift giving. Now that it's December, biscotti has been on my mind. Couple that with the cold weather, you also start to think about traditional comfort foods for cold, rainy days, like chili. That's why savory biscotti came to mind.

Disclosure: Krusteaz sent me some of their gluten-free mixes to try out and this recipe is an entry in their BLOGGER GLUTEN FREE BAKE-OFF CONTEST.

I decided to break out the Krusteaz Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread Mix. I had half a block of leftover cheddar cheese and some frozen jalapenos from the summer. I figured that would make the perfect biscotti to eat with a bowl of chili.  Of course you can switch the cheese, perhaps use a jack instead. It's all up to what you have around. 

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Biscotti
prep time: 10 mins
baking time: 45-50 mins
difficulty: easy
yield: 10-20 biscotti

1 box of Krusteaz Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread Mix
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup of butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the cornbread mix, cheese, and jalapenos into a food processor and pulse to mix. 

Add the cold butter cubes and pulse a couple of times to cut in the butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil. Add to the cornbread mixture in the processor and pulse several times until the mixture is thoroughly mixed and comes together.  

Remove mixture from the processor onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Form the mixture into a rectangle of about 3-4 inches wide and about 10 inches long. 

Bake the biscotti for 20 minutes or until it feels firm and the outer surface turns a pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

After it has cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the biscotti into pieces 1/2 inch thick. 

Take the slices and lay them cut side down onto fresh parchment paper lined baking sheets. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Turn each biscotti piece over and bake an additional 10 minutes. 

Remove from oven and cool on racks.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cookie Exchanges - 20 Years and Counting

Plateful of Christmas CookiesImage via Wikipedia

I've been seeing cookie exchanges being mentioned a lot lately. I've been hosting them on and off twenty years now and so I definitely have a set of rules that I think work out really well.  Most of the time I've done these at my workplace where you can have as many as 20 people participating. It can get a bit unruly. Sure, there are plenty of ways to host, but this is what works for me.

The Two Basic Rules

1) Your contribution must be homemade, made from scratch. Shortcutting it with brownie mixes or slice and bake cookies just won't cut it in my world.

2) Festive cookies only. Which really means... no chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, or rice krispie treats allowed. I'm not interested in a cookie that I can get any time of the year at any bake sale or coffee counter. It should be something you only make once or twice a year that is associated with the holidays or special occasions.

How It All Works

I divide people into teams of eight people. That means that each person must make a total of four dozen cookies. You can vary the team sizes, but you want to keep it manageable for the participants. You don't want to ask them to have to bake eight dozen cookies - they wouldn't want to do it!

They make individual gift plates or bags with six cookies in each. They can provide the recipe if they wish, but it is not required. Some people do have their special, family recipes, so I don't push it. I've also asked people who want to to submit their recipes to me a week in advance by email. That way I can put together a little cookie book to give everyone the day of the exchange.

On the day of the exchange, each team swaps plates/bags so that you go home with eight different kinds of cookies. Now this does mean that you have one that is your own submission. Most of the time we take our own plates and donate them for eating there, on the spot. That way people can sample cookies from other teams.

Other Methods

There are other methods of doing cookie exchanges. For instance, everyone brings their plate of cookies and you set them out buffet-like. Each person goes down the line and takes one or two of each cookie. The reason I don't like this style is that people often want to go home with their cookies to share with their families. If there is only one of Sara's Kris Kringle balls, then my spouse/child won't get to try it or there could be fights among siblings.

Cookie exchanges are a lot of fun and the rules can be altered to fit your agenda. With holidays and cookies paired together, you can't help but be in a festive mood.

To see my post from my cookie exchange in 2008, click here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Filipino Caldereta (Beef Stew w/ Liver Sauce) done Sous Vide

I'm not well versed in my own heritage regarding Filipino food. I know the basics: lumpia, adobo, and pancit.  This recipe for Caldereta is one I did not grow up on, but have had to discover on my own as an adult.

For those unfamiliar with Filipino dishes, there is a complexity of flavors in each dish. Filipino food is not spicy, but instead relies of the blending of salty, sour, sweet, and umami in rather unique combinations. Vinegar is used a lot to give a tang to the dish. 

Another fact is that Filipinos love offal. They have no problem eating nose to tail including the oink. In this dish, there is a liver pate added in which definitely adds that liver taste, but this can be optional for those that don't care for it. 

Use whatever vegetables and meat you like. The stew's background is to be made with goat meat, but you'll most often find it this days with beef.  But you can use pork and even chicken if you choose. 

Usually the stew is simmered for 2 hours to tenderize the beef. I started by tenderizing the beef first by cooking it sous vide, and then assembling the rest of the ingredients.  The beef was wonderfully tender and the flavors didn't suffer from the difference in cooking methods. 

Check out the Cyber Monday SousVide Supreme special:


1.5 pounds of stew beef cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup of vinegar
6 whole peppercorns, crushed
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons oil
1 8 ounce can of peas
3 ounces liver spread/pate

Marinate the beef in the vinegar, peppercorns, and garlic for 2 hours. Drain.

Fill the SousVide Supreme with water and heat to 130F.  While it's heating up, place marinated beef into a food pouch, vacuum and seal.  Cook in the water bath for 3 hours. When done, remove from the water bath.

Heat a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium high. Saute the onions until soft. Add the cooked beef to the skillet and add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, salt, sugar, and hot water. Bring to a simmer. 

Add red and green peppers and hot sauce. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add liver pate and green peas. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve over rice. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

It's not worth it to drive Lyft and Uber in Sacramento

As if I don't have enough to do, I decided in August to start driving for Lyft. Not because I need the money, but because I need a social outlet on the weekends. I'm plenty busy during the week, but often get bored on the weekends. And if you haven't figured out by now, I like to stay busy.

I started Labor Day weekend and fell in love with the driving and the socializing. And the money was nice too! Then I went to Seattle for the weekend and when I had returned, Lyft had lowered their rates in Sacramento by 35%.  What once might have been a $150 week went down to $97.50.  So I got pissed and joined Uber.  All was good for a while again until a month ago they dropped their rate by 25%.

Yes, the low rates are great for the consumer and if I was wanting a ride, I'd be loving it. But for the drivers, it's a horrible situation.

During these few months I've met a lot of fellow drivers for both companies and learned that many of them actually drive as their means of support. Some have been unemployed forever due to the economy. Some feel unskilled for anything but driving. There are many other reasons as well, but the meat of the matter is that they depend on driving as a living and the rate cuts have severely impacted that income.

Lyft and Uber both look at drivers as totally disposable.  Grind em up and spit them out and then take on a bunch of newbies.  They don't look at drivers the way they should - as assets that are the faces of their companies. Drivers are who the customers see, not the corporate suits. Happy, good drivers are better than grumpy, crappy drivers. 

And it's not a price war that will find a victor in this war.  It's customer service and marketing. Guess what?  The first person for customer service is the driver!

Both Lyft and Uber keep recruiting drivers.  I often meet people who say, "Oh, I was thinking of signing up too!"  So here are a bunch of thoughts for consideration before driving in Sacramento. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Best Covered Bridge in the World is Near Us

Forget about the Bridges of Madison County, the longest covered bridge in the United States is nearby in Nevada County.  This weekend my BFF and I took a day to go shopping in Nevada City and then headed to check out the covered bridge on a beautiful fall day. 

The Bridgeport bridge is located at South Yuba River State Park, a few miles off of Highway 20.  You can either go to Lincoln and take Highway toward Grass Valley or go to Grass Valley and head back toward Lincoln.  The park is closer to Grass Valley - 16 miles away.

In the 1860’s this bridge was constantly abustle day and night, with passenger and commercial traffic beating a path to the silver mines of Virginia City via the Henness Pass. Today at 229 feet, David Wood’s bridge is the longest single-span wooden covered bridge still in existence in the United States.

The bridge is in need of restoration funds and it's definitely a historical building worth saving.  Consider donating to the cause. 

This barn stored the horses and equipment along the Virginia Turnpike. "The Virginia Turnpike was a crucial link between the port in Marysville and the Henness Pass, which was passable more months per year due to its relatively low altitude."

If you are looking for a nice day trip to do with a bit of hiking or picnicking thrown in, then take a drive up to South Yuba River State Park

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thai Beef Stew

If I was stranded on a desert island and only given one type of food I could eat for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food. I love the flavors of the spices and fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, lime, peppers, and coconut milk. 

This is actually one of my go-to dishes that I can easily whip up when I'm too lazy to think of anything else to cook. I make sure to always have a can of coconut milk in the pantry.  The flavors of this are Thai, but putting potatoes and carrots into it is rather Western. 

Still, it's a hearty meal. One that is perfect as we start moving toward winter. It also seemed a good choice for me to use Tasteful Selections ruby red potatoes. They are the perfect size for this stew versus my usual method of chunking out a large potato.

Tasteful Selections supports a great charity, Katie's KropsKatie's Krops was started by a 9-year old Katie Stagliano (she's now 16). The mission of Katie's Krops is to start and maintain vegetable gardens of all sizes and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, as well as to assist and inspire others to do the same. Once a year, Katie's Krops hosts an annual grant cycle where youths, ages 9 to 16, apply to receive funding to start a Katie's Krops vegetable garden in their community.


From now through January, when you buy a specially marked package of Tasteful Selections potatoes, a portion of the profits will go to the non-profit to help maintain current 
Katie's Krops grantees and gardens and provide funding for a new grant cycle.

Tasteful Selections  potatoes can be found at Whole Foods, Nugget, Raley's, and Bel Air markets.

Thai Beef Stew

1/2 T vegetable oil
2-3 T Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 lbs of beef, in 1/2 inch cubes
2 cans of coconut milk
2 T fish sauce
2 T brown sugar
6 oz of pearl onions, peeled (peeling instructions)
1/2 package of Tasteful Selections Ruby Sensations Potatoes, cut in half
1 large carrot, sliced 1/4 inch slices

In a large saucepan, heat up vegetable oil on medium high heat.  Add curry paste and let sizzle for about a minute. Add beef. Stir and cook until beef is seared on all sides.

Pour in coconut milk, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Stir to blend. Add onions, potatoes, and carrots. Turn heat down to simmer and let cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Serve.

Disclosure: Tasteful Selections sent me the potatoes and is paying for the recipe submissions. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sriracha Corn in the Sous Vide Supreme

Here's a quick and easy recipe for those Sriracha lovers out there.  What I love about this recipe is that the Sriracha gets into all the crevices of the corn. Soooo good.

Sriracha Corn on the Cob

2 pieces, corn on the cob, shucked
1/2 cup of Sriracha
1/2 tablespoon of butter
Parmesan cheese (or your favorite cheese), shredded

Fill and preheat the SousVide Supreme water oven to 182F/83.5C

Take each corn cob and use a basting brush to coat the corn all over with Sriracha sauce.

Place coated cobs into a vacuum seal bag with the butter.  Vacuum and seal.

Submerge in the water bath and cook for 30-45 minutes.  Carefully remove from the water bath and remove the cobs from the bag.  Sprinkle the hot cobs with cheese. Serve hot. 


Check out this holiday deal - Retail $1500 is on sale for $999!

From SousVide Supreme:
  • (1) SousVide Supreme Water Oven
  • (1) SousVide Supreme VS3000 Sealer (includes 12 pouches)
  • (4) boxes sous vide cooking pouches (100 pouches)
  • (1) box of two sous vide cooking pouch rolls (approx 40 - 60 pouches)
  • (2) sous vide cookbooks
    • Sous Vide for the Home Cook 
    • Sous Vide : The Cookbook
From Lone Mountain Wagyu:
  • (2) 100% Wagyu beef filet mignon steaks
  • (2) 100% Wagyu ribeye steaks
  • (2) pounds 100% Wagyu ground beef
  • (3) pounds 100% Wagyu brisket flat
  • (1) 100% Wagyu chuck roast
From Gunter Wilhelm Cutlery:
  • (6) steak knives
  • (1) Butcher's cleaver
  • (1) 7-inch Santuko knife

Disclosure: I was given a SousVide Supreme Demi and vacuum sealer in exchange for recipe development. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Steamed Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Pudding done Sous Vide

We are fast approaching the holidays and so it made me think of what I could make in my new SousVide Supreme that was holiday oriented. Last month I had made Filipino chicken adobo, a dish I grew up with from my Filipina mother. This month I'm going with my dad's British side and making a steamed pudding.

In the United States puddings mean soft, creamy, usually cold desserts. Chocolate pudding being the most popular. But in the United Kingdom, puddings are steamed cakes.  You make a cake batter, put it in a crock that you seal with foil, put it in a giant, covered stockpot, and steam for a couple of hours. Then you serve it with a sauce, oftentimes a boozy one. 

That's why it was a no-brainer to use the sous vide machine to make a steamed pudding. You can put the pudding into the machine and leave it without having to worry about monitoring it like you would a pot on a stove. 

Steamed puddings come out wonderfully moist and dense. This one did too. It was a very successful recipe and I look forward to trying other steamed pudding recipes in my SousVide Supreme in the future. 

Steamed Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Pudding 

1 cup dates, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups of pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Find a glass or ceramic bowl that will fit inside your SousVide Supreme.  Butter the inside walls and set aside.  

Place the low rack into the Sous Vide Supreme and add about 1 inch of water.  Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 90 degree Celsius. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Stir in the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir in the dates. Gradually stir in the flour mixture just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared mold. 

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size to cover the top of the bowl. Butter one side and place the butter side down over the top of the bowl. Cut a piece of foil large enough to cover the bowl and seal around the sides. Take a piece of cooking twine and tie it around the edge of the bowl, sealing down the paper and foil tightly. Cut another piece of cooking twine large enough to tie under the bowl up the sides to the top. You are creating a twine handle to be able to safely lift the bowl out of the machine at the end when it will be very hot. 

Carefully lower the bowl into the SousVide Supreme. The water should come up the sides of the bowl, but be an inch shy of the top of the bowl. Place the lid on the Sous Vide Supreme and let cook for 3 1/2  hours. 

Using the twine handle, carefully remove the bowl and check the pudding; it should feel set to the touch, yet slightly moist. A cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

Allow the pudding to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it upside down onto a plate. Serve warm with the salted caramel sauce and/or whipped cream. 

Salted caramel sauce

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the sugar and water together. Let boil until the sugar mixture starts to turn a nice caramel color. Remove from heat and carefully add in the cream and butter. When fully incorporated, add butter and mix in the sea salt. Serve warm over the steamed pudding. 

Recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining
Disclosure: I was given a SousVide Supreme Demi and vacuum sealer in exchange for recipe development.