Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cajun Smashed Fries for a Cause

Are you tired of French fries and looking for a different potato treat? Smashed fries are like a hybrid of French fries and home fries. If you like crispy, crunchy potato bits, smashed fries are for you.

The first time I had smashed fries was at Bacon and Butter, where they have become a signature side for them.  They are also a popular item on the Slightly Skewed truck where Rob adds Sriracha and a wasabi aioli.  

Smashed fries turn out to be quite simple to make and so I've chosen to make them with Tasteful Selections potatoes.

Many know that my charity of choice in Sacramento is the Food Literacy Center, which educates low income elementary school children on proper nutrition and to eat their vegetables. Well Tasteful Selections supports a charity that is another one geared to children and vegetables.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul Martin's Fall Menu is Here

Fall means a change in the weather, in the gardens, and therefore, on your plate. When the weather changes not only does our produce in the stores change, but so do our appetites. Fall means squashes, Brussels sprouts, and the beginning of braised meats. And in our new world of farm-to-table dining, the menus at your favorite restaurants change as well.

I haven't been to Paul Martin's American Grill in years. The main reason is that  I live about 30 miles away from the nearest one in Roseville. Recently I was invited to go and check out their fall menu and I figured it would be a good time to revisit them and to catch up with someone who lives out that way, my ex-husband.

Now as intriguing as that may sound, we're not here to talk about my cordial relationship with my ex. We're here to see what sorts of things are on the menu for fall.  I did not take any pictures because the lights were too low for good photos. These pictures were supplied by Paul Martin's PR firm.

One thing Paul Martin's does is have the server explain their motto = "Seasonal & Delicious". You are told that they try very hard to have everything be both seasonal and as local as possible. The meat and fish come from sustainable fisheries and from free-range and natural producing farms. The sauces and dressings are made in-house and the smoked fish and meats are also. This is definitely in line with Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork movement. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Filipino Chicken Adobo done Sous Vide

Almost two years ago I tried my hand at a sous vide cooking - McGuyver style. Using just an ice chest and water boiling on the stove, I managed to cook steaks to a perfect medium rare. The trouble is, the McGuyver method means you have to babysit your sous vide for the entire time. That can be a problem if you want to sous vide something for one or two days. That's when you need the real deal equipment.

Last month I was at the International Food Bloggers Conference and one of the sponsors was SousVide Supreme.  They are the ones who make water bath machines that are often used in restaurant kitchens and by professional chefs. They made a pretty sweet offer that I took them up on - a SousVide Supreme machine in exchange for some recipes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Escaped Room Ω

I'm not a gamer. I don't own a Playstation or XBox. I have no interest in most computer games. When I play games on my tablet they tend to be advanced solitaire card games or Rummycube with people online. The other kind I will play is adventure/puzzle games.

Twenty years ago we all had big ol desktop computers and having 1 gig of memory was a big deal. That's when Myst came out and was a big hit. It was a puzzle game that was famous for fabulous graphics and complicated puzzles.The puzzles were often quite complicated and ranged from visual to auditory, mathematical, logical, etc. I managed to get through it with the help of some hints along the way.

On today's tablets you can play similar games such as The Room, The Room 2, and Machinarium. But did you know that you can play LIVE versions of these kind of games?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thai Corn Chowder with Sriracha Popcorn Garnish

When I was in Seattle recently I ate at Michael Mina's RN74 and ordered the corn chowder.  It was poured for me tableside and in the bowl was some popcorn as garnish. I found that an interesting and sensible garnish, one I had not thought of doing before.  So I've taken that and twisted it into a Thai version.

For the Srirach popcorn might I suggest that you use coconut oil instead of butter?  This is how I now eat my popcorn because it is a healthier alternative than butter. For this recipe, I actually had about 1/4 of coconut oil left in a jar and so I just nuked the jar in the microwave to melt it to a liquid state and then added the sriracha, closed and shook the jar vigorously to mix the two together, and then used that to drizzle over the popcorn.  This is the first time I've made sriracha popcorn and I am now a fan.  It's important that you are able to vigorously shake the two in a container because trying to whip them together with a whisk was not enough to blend them.  The sriracha stayed in globules when I tried it that way.

As to popcorn, I have given up microwave popcorn and instead have a West Bend electric popcorn popper that I love. It will pop every single kernel and the texture is better than from the microwave.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top Fall 2014 Kitchen Items at Sur la Table

If you've ever been in a Sur la Table, it's downright overwhelming.  If you have a lot of time and money, you could spend plenty of both there.  I tend to be a tightwad and am easily overwhelmed by their abundance. Therefore, I don't venture in too often. (Plus there's none really close by.) But this weekend I was privileged to go to the new Sur la Table headquarters in Seattle, Washington and they successfully made me want some new great items.

Our host was Doralece Dullaghan, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations. Doralece has been with Sur la Table for many years, starting with opening their second store in Berkeley. We also met with the CEO, Jack Schwefel, who talked about his history in retail and where the company has been and is going. 

But it was Jacob Maurer, their top merchandiser, that got me really excited by introducing us to some of the key products for the fall of 2014. I also learned some interesting new tips along the way.

KitchenAid's new items

These days it is tough to stay competitive when everybody can sell the same items at competing prices. To combat this, Sur la Table has agreements with companies to be the sole distributor of certain products. They have such an agreement with KitchenAid to be the only one to sell the Pro Line series and certain colors. The Pro Line series is designed with a retro look with rugged, sturdy construction. All of their pieces are heavy to ensure there is no wobbling or crawling on your counter top while in operation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peruvian Find!!

There's a new Peruvian joint in town and it is worth a visit! Jimmy's Peruvian is a true hole-in-the-wall joint at 3032 Auburn Blvd. Be careful. You'll drive right past it, especially since it's signage says Taqueria. In fact, it's pulling double duty serving both Mexican and Peruvian menus.

I don't know much about Peruvian food, but I do know that since it has a huge coastline, there is a lot of seafood consumption. This is what you'll find at Jimmy's, with the focus on seafood.

Another Peruvian influence is Japan. In the late 1800s Japanese went to Peru after hearing stories of gold and great farming. The gold turned out to be a lie, but the farming wasn't. Many ended up settling there and thus a small ethnic minority of Japanese were now in  Peru.

I started with the ceviche. I love ceviche and will often make it at home because it is easy and super healthy.  I was really pleased with Jimmy's.  It was plentiful, the fish had great texture, and there was a good kick to it.  If you don't like spicy foods, you might need to steer clear. I found it interesting that they also added hominy corn as part of the vegetable component.  I didn't care for those as the texture was too close to lima beans. (yuk).  Overall, a great ceviche.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yay! Maggiano's Comes to Sac!

Years ago my then boyfriend and I went to the Winchester Mystery House for a Halloween night tour. Having arrived early, we were hungry and looked across the street at the Santana Row shopping/condo complex and ended up at Maggiano's for a fantastic Italian dinner.  It was so good, that even though I had no idea if they were independent or a chain or what, I remembered them.

Turns out they are a group of over 40 restaurants now and the latest one, and the fifth for California, has just come to Arden Fair Mall.

Here are some reasons Maggiano's is going to become your new favorite Italian restaurant.

  • They make all their pasta, sauces, and dressings, etc. fresh daily from scratch.
  • They have a new Lighter Take menu where they take some of your favorites and they lighten the calorie load. In my case, I ordered the chicken piccata and it seemed they reduced it by only giving a little fettuccine and instead added nice sauteed spinach. Loved it! 
  • They have gluten-free pasta.
  • They have a thing called On the House Classic Pastas.  You order a pasta dish to eat in the restaurant and then they give you ANOTHER one to take home!  Two for the price of one!  Update: They don't have to be the same!  I had Alfredo to eat and took home lasagna!
  • If you sign up for their e-newsletter you'll get a $10 coupon to your next visit. And if you complete your profile, you get a free dessert!
If these aren't enough reasons to try them out, plus the fact that Ms. Munchie loves it, then you can keep going to >>>>>> (I'll refrain from naming gross, low level chains and fast food.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gearing Up for IFBC

There really are no better conferences to go to than those that have some relationship to food.  In my case, I go to food blogger conferences. While there are a few different ones around the country each year, large and small, I can definitively say that IFBC, or the International Food Blogger Conference, is the best that I've gone to and, from what I've heard from others, the best overall in the United States. 

This year it is the sixth one held from Sept 19-21 in Seattle, Washington.  This is where the very first one was held and is where Foodista, the organizers, are headquartered. Since then I've been to almost all of them, including Portland and Santa Monica. It is getting a little bit more difficult for me now that we have Farm to Fork during the same period. 

A very important factor for many is the price. Active bloggers can register for only $95. This compared to other conferences that are in the $300-500 range. 

James Oseland
In past years they have had high quality speakers such as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, James Oseland (then editor of Saveur Magazine), Dorie Greenspan (one of my favorite cookbook authors), and Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer winning food critic).  

And, of course, there's the food. Top brands such as Rodelle, Bob's Red Mill, and Sahale Snacks stop by and supply samples either in our swag bags or via some of our included meals. I see that this year our own local California Endive will be there. So I guess I won't be surprised if I run into owner Rich Collins there. Also sponsoring, my friends from Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics

There's some great sessions this year, including how to self publish an e-book on and how to create good video postings. 

The very best reason to go - to make new friends from all around the country. 

If you are a food blogger and want the best experience with some of the best in the business, then IFBC is for you. And if you are new, look me up and introduce yourself!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

These Waffles Are Out of the Box

Korean fried chicken and waffles
We all know the phrase "out of the box thinking" whereby you think of new and innovative ways to approach a problem or idea. To say that Waffle Experience is out of the box definitely refers to their taking of waffles to a whole new level than just breakfast. It can also refer to the fact that we aren't talking about Eggo toaster waffles either.

No. At Waffle Experience the waffle universe has been expanded to a whole new level...even beyond just the savory and sweet distinctions. The owners are making you think of waffles in a new and exciting way. In fact, in a minor way, they want you to think of waffles as just a crater-filled piece of bread and, like bread, can be used in every meal of the day as a super versatile ingredient.

All this waffling started between two Marine veterans. Like so many military personnel, Jeff Belaski and Michael Donoho developed a brotherly bond that has stretched for 30 years. After their military stints, Michael started cooking and eventually ended up at the Waldorf Astoria in Boca Raton, Florida. He's even cooked alongside some famous names: alongside Iron Chef Morimoto, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, David Burke, Charlie Trotter, and Julia Childs.

Michael called up his buddy Jeff and sprang his idea - a waffle restaurant. But not some House of Pancakes type waffle place. No. Something bigger.