I originally planned to make Scotch eggs during the summer. In Britain they are considered the equivalent of our fried chicken - perfect picnic fare. They are also good to take on hikes because they are small and high in protein. But it was one of those things that I never got around to until now. I was going through the freezer and found the Italian sausage I had bought for the project. Thawed it out, cooked some eggs, and finally got down to it.

Scotch eggs are traditionally made with a breakfast type sausage or get ground pork and season it yourself. You encase a hard boiled egg with the sausage, roll in bread crumbs, and deep fry it.

I used turkey Italian sausage and rolled them in the panko crumbs I got as swag at the Foodbuzz Festival. Quick and easy.

Easy Scotch eggs

1 lb of sausage of your choice
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
bread crumbs

Encase the hard boiled eggs in sausage. Roll in bread crumbs. Deep fry in oil until sausage is cooked, about three minutes per egg. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli were another dessert that I had very little experience with. A true cannolo has a filling of primarily ricotta, and that just never sounded as good to me as good ol whipped cream in a cream puff. But I had had one really good cannolo at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. So I had enough of a naive curiosity to want to participate in this challenge.

My pre-cooking research took me to Sampino's where I had heard they had good cannolis. I wasn't too impressed, but at least I had a glimpse and a taste. Next I headed to the restaurant supply store in search of cannoli forms. I was floored to find them trying to sell a set of six for $60!!! $10 each for a metal tube? No way! Luckily I was able to borrow forms from Dennis of The Hidden Kitchen. Further preparation included the purchase of a pasta rolling machine with the thought that this would ease the work of rolling out the dough. Lastly, I made a batch of homemade ricotta.

The making of the dough was pretty easy. But, unfortunately, I found that the pasta machine was not so useful after all. The dough was pretty elastic and so I found that I had better success rolling it out with a pin, cutting out a circle, then rolling the circle out again right before wrapping it around the form. Then it was into the hot oil to fry.

Later I learned that some were more creative than I in making forms.
Moja kuchnia w Irlandii
made forms out of disposable aluminum pans. I'll remember this for the future so I don't have to buy or borrow.

I was pretty proud of my first attempt. I made 16 tubes and had two that failed and came undone in the oil to end up as discs. The leftover dough I cut into tiny bits and also fried up as scraps. The tubes were made on Sunday and stored until Thanksgiving Thursday. To perk them up I heated them in a 350 oven for a few minutes. I then dipped the ends in chocolate and chopped pistachio. Final assembly was done after Thanksgiving dinner. I had already made the filling and transported it in pastry bags so that I just had to quickly pipe it into the tubes.

You see the final product in the topmost picture. Pretty successful. I was very happy with the outcome of this challenge and can see myself making some more in the future. Below are the recipes for the shells and the pumpkin filling.

2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.


1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells

1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).
Who knew making ricotta cheese was so easy?! All you need is milk and, in this recipe, buttermilk. The recipe I used is from 101 Cookbooks. I chose it because I didn't want to get all complicated with adding lemon or vinegar like some recipes call for. This just called for a gallon of whole milk and a quart of buttermilk.

You heat the milks until they reach 175 degrees. That is when the curds form so that you can separate them from the liquid whey.

I scooped them into a cheesecloth that I had folded in layers over a colander.

Then I hung the whole thing up so that as much liquid as possible would drain away. And here is the final product...

For me, Brussels sprouts are a tradition food. We only had them at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and were a favorite of my father. They held special occasion status because we lived overseas and only got them as frozen.

Now I can go down the street to the weekly market under the freeway and buy them super fresh - still on the stalk. And, it turns out, that you can keep them like a bouquet of flowers or fresh herbs. Cut off the end and set it in a vase of water. It will continue to live until you are ready to use them.

When I was growing up we boiled them. Now I know that there are much better ways to prepare them. Best of all - roast 'em.

The first thing to do prep-wise is to clean the sprouts. Take off the dark outer leaves to get to the more tender leaves underneath. Then you can halve or quarter them or do what I did below, slice them to create shred.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss prepared sprouts in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Do not use too much. A little goes a long way. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1-2 crushed cloves of garlic. Toss to coat the sprouts. Spread on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve hot or cold.
There are the Twitter lovers and then there are the less techy who don't understand the use/benefits of Twitter. I've been learning the benefits more and more over the last few months and thought I'd share some of my insights for those unconverted folks.

First I do believe that there are two user types with a fuzzy line between them. The first are the Tweeters. More on them in a moment. The second I call the the Followers. Followers are average folk who will follow tweets from the Tweeters, but don't really tweet much themselves - usually because as an individual Joe/Jane, they don't need to. After all, as an individual Joe/Jane there really isn't much need to tweet about going to get your tires aligned and other mundane life happenings.

Tweeting I personally see more as a marketing tool for celebrities and companies. The most common examples are when companies tweet about a sale they are having or some major announcement. After all, the Followers of Tweeters are usually people who already love the brand/celebrity. I'm certainly not gonna follow Sarah Palin because I'm no fan and I could care less about anything she has to say. But I do follow Ellen Degeneres, Pee Wee Herman, and sites that I know post free stuff/giveaways on a regular basis.

Another great marketing example is street food vendors. There's been a huge increase in popularity and quality of street food vendors. These new gourmet trucks/carts have been featured on news programs and in various articles lately. You can even check them out on blogs such as VendrTV and Food Cruisers. But what's great is how the street vendors use Twitter. After all, they're mobile and sometimes, depending on the jurisdiction, have to move every few hours. So how do their fans know where to go? By Twitter! The vendor will send out a tweet saying "We're at 5th and Main from 1-4. Cya there!" By the time they park their truck, they've already got customers lined up.

But lately I've been amazed at responses to my own tweets and what's come from them. The first is just a goofy example in that I had a road rage issue that happened to me. My tweet says it all - "Wacko road rage bitch nearly ran me off freeway! CHP pulled her over. LOL" Anyway, I get a response from a total stranger tweeter who suggests I post my road rage story on their road rage website. In another case, I posted a tweet about an extra ticket for sale and it got retweeted by a Tweeter who specializes in For Sale announcements.

How did they find me? They apparently use the Search feature to look for key words/phrases. So now let's take that and expand it into how a company turns that into customer service.

As of this writing I am almost 48 hours without home internet service. Comcast has been working in my area and I lost service. I called tech support twice and they couldn't get me back on. So they sent out a tech, for which I had to wait around in my house for a lovely three hour waiting period. He didn't get me back on either. I tweeted my frustration. Lo and behold, I get a response to my tweet from a Comcast customer service agent. Apparently they search for Comcast being mentioned in tweets. So now ComcastBonnie is researching and assisting and we are tweeting back and forth. Now I'm not a happy camper - yet - but I sure am impressed with this proactive use of Twitter.

So, as my title implies, I'm finding more and more interesting and intriguing uses of Twitter. I already knew of its use as a marketing tool, but had never considered the use for customer service - and Comcast has. It's companies like Comcast that are forward thinking enough to embrace new technology and use it to their advantage. As I come across new examples, I'll be sure to share them.
My father has been featured in Koi Carp magazine for his koi slates. In order to read the article, click on the image. If it isn't clear enough, click it again and you should see a magnifying icon that you can click on to get it even bigger/clearer. This works on IE.

I've been wanting to make coconut cupcakes for a while now, but had been disappointed in all the recipes I saw. Pretty much all were cake mix doctoring of taking a white cake mix and throwing in some coconut milk. I wanted a cake from scratch. So I decided to just fiddle with Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I didn't adjust it much. I just substituted the coconut milk where the buttermilk should have gone.

Coconut Cake Batter

2 1/4 c cake flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c coconut milk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 c sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 t vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
Whisk together the egg whites and coconut milk in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl beat together the butter and the sugar until they are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and 1/3 of the flour mixture at medium speed. Beat in half of the egg/milk mixture, then another 1/3 of the flour mixture. After those are mixed in, add the last of the egg/milk mixture and, finally, the last of the flour. Beat for another two minutes to mix and aerate the batter thoroughly.

I made cupcakes this time. But if you want to make a cake, be sure to butter your cake pans and cut a parchment liner for the bottom of the cake pan. Bake until the tester comes out clean.

Coconut Frosting

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp
3-4 c powdered sugar
1/3 c coconut milk
1/2 t vanilla

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add half of the powdered sugar and blend well. Beat in coconut milk and then add additional sugar until desired consistency is reached. Add vanilla and mix well.

I toasted some coconut flakes to sprinkle on top.

Coconut Milk

Last week Simply Recipes won the Foodbuzz Blogger Award for Best Recipe Blog. SR has repeatedly been awarded and rated highly for being one of the top recipe blogs on the internet. That's pretty impressive - the whole internet! And it is based right here in Sacramento. I've met Elise, the site creator, at a Sacramento food bloggers' potluck last year. And favorite Vanilla Garlic blogger, Garrett, often guest writes for SR as well. And yet somehow I managed to never run into Elise last week at the conference.

And, surprisingly, I've never made a SR recipe - until now. I often look at the site and admire some of the featured recipes, but just never got around to making any. But this week I wanted to make something I've never cooked before, oxtails. I looked up recipes and saw that there was one on SR and so I decided this was the one to try.

The Oxtail Stew recipe was super easy. WOW! I was blown away at how yummy this was! Considering a 500+ pound steer, that little tail is mighty flavorful. But all that taste comes from the loads of fat. It just drips of grease. Plus I made the mistake of breaking apart the meat before straining the fat, thus making it very difficult to separate. Next time I will stop fiddling with it, pull out the tail pieces, strain off the fat, and then return the meat to the pot and break it apart.

Still, I cooked the stew over two days and so the flavors were all condensed down to super potency. Each biteful was heavenly. I'll definitely be making oxtails again. What a winner!

Over 200 bloggers from across the country (and some foreign countries) showed up for a three day event. And the beautiful part? If you are a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher, it was all free!

Since I am close enough, I opted to join in on Saturday, thereby missing the Friday opening events. Apparently I missed some great food. Friday night had a special Streetcart feast held at the Ferry Building. We aren't talking about roach coaches. We are talking about higher quality street vendors with specialties such as pasties, barbecue, etc. Based on what I heard, I dare not miss opening festivities when I go next year.

Saturday had a small breakfast of pastries and coffee at the Ferry Building again. The place was bustling because it was an absolutely picture perfect warm day for S.F. Truly lucky for the out-of-town visitors. We have a fantastic farmers market in Sacramento, but the one there is pretty outrageous. Below are some shots I took from my wandering around the market.

The morning included seminars on olive oil tasting, cheese tasting, and the topic of Farm to Table. I would have loved to get in on the tastings, but I got word too late and those were full. But I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion at Farm to Table. It was led by the chef from Americano at Hotel Vitale (host site) and from the general manager of Hearst Ranch of the Hearst publishing empire. They raise grass fed cattle on the San Simeon property around Hearst castle. His beef is more expensive but delicious because they are free range living a stress free life. He sells to some of the top California restaurants and online as well. Discussion was on what is involved in the background costs and all the middlemen in the food industry chain. What he and others would like to do is to go more directly from farm to table without all those middlemen. It adds cost and delays.

He also started to sell 'shares' of beef instead of the traditional method of ordering a case of steaks or 100 pounds of ground beef. Instead you get a 1/8, 1/4, or even 1/2 a steer which means a variety of cuts. The traditional method says that you buy steaks at, say, $12/lb and ground beef at $3/lb. But if you buy shares, you average out the cost so that you get a variety of steaks, cuts, and ground for an average cost of, say, $8/lb.

I asked the winning question of the session - what kind of discount are you offering us? He hadn't prepared any at that point but quickly offered 30% off and free shipping for anyone who uses the coupon code 'foodbuzz'. This offer is open to anyone, so look into it and share the offer with your friends.

For the afternoon we moved to the top floor of the Metreon for samplings from about 50 food vendors/providors. There were breweries, wineries, confectioners, etc. Most have partnerships with and support the Foodbuzz website. They understand the importance that bloggers now have in spreading the word as marketing for their products. We got a lot more freebies and tasted all sorts of items.

One table that I'd like to share was Foodzie.com. They serve as a 'grocery' site for independent producers. For instance, let's say you decided to start a gourmet pot pie site for selling your unique pot pies over the internet. You have your own website, but you need to reach out even more. You can join with foodzie and they will also market your pot pies for you, along with other folks' chocolates, jellies, cookies, etc. Definitely a great site to check out if you are looking for unique gifts to send to people.

The biggest sponsors of the festival were Nature's Pride breads and Bertolli. We, as bloggers, can sign up to be testers with Foodbuzz and so sometimes I get free things shipped to me. So far I've gotten Quaker oat bars and two loaves of NP's breads. They ask that if you like their product you spread the word. They also ask that food bloggers try to create recipes with their product. In the case of both Bertolli and NP, submitted entries were whittled down to finalists that we all voted on. Then they presented their recipes in demos. That is the picture above. LK, from Healthy Delicious, used a Bertolli sauce to make a cioppino.

I think this way of partnering with food bloggers works. Especially since I had heard bad things with the Blogher festival last month. Bertolli also sponsors that as well and got a lot of flack for serving packaged pasta and sauce to the Blogher food bloggers. Apparently there was kind of a "food bloggers expect fresh and better quality than packaged food!" But I think it was probably a case of how the arranged partnership worked with that group. Ours worked better because they challenged our bloggers to be creative with their product.

Saturday night was a great dinner held at the Greenleaf Produce warehouses in South San Francisco. At the end of the evening they announced the winners of the Food Blogger Awards that had all been nominated and voted upon by us, other food bloggers. Jen, the Leftover Queen, was the presenter. Dinner ran late, so they were read off rapidly.

Well, I'm back from a weekend of making new friends from across the country who love food and write about it in blogs. The first annual Foodbuzz Festival was a huge success and went off flawlessly, at least to my participant eyes. I will write about it over the next few days, but thought that I would start with special mention of new friends and ask that you check them out too. There were over 200 blogs represented with people coming from as far away as Australia and the U.K.

One of the special people I met had an indirect connection to my starting this blog. That would be Jen from The Leftover Queen. You see, two years ago I came across her Foodie Blogroll (see my connection over on the right side). Back then it took a few days, but I could go through all of the foodie blogs and check them all out. Today there are so many that it's impossible to keep up. Anyway, that's when I said to myself, "hey, I can do as well as some of these folk!" So I started Munchie Musings and asked to be connected to the Blogroll. So it was nice to meet Jen in person. (Oh, that's an "I love Foodbuzz" tattoo on my cheek. I got into the spirit of the event.)

Locally I met Kimberly from Poor Girl Eats Well, who stumbled through the weekend on her crutches due to a sprained ankle. Turns out she's a neighbor and I'll be cat sitting for her soon.

Close by in Northern California are Mike in Livermore from Gastronomic Musings, Joel in SF at Six by Ten Tiny Kitchen, and Kate in San Jose at Something We Dreamed. John in SF won Best Video Blog for his Food Wishes.

From Florida came Peter and Christey at FotoCuisine. From Los Angeles were Krissy and Daniel at The Food Addicts. And others included Christina at The Wayward Chef, Bill at Eggs in Purgatory, Joan at FOODalogue, and Tracy at Shutterbean.

Now to my contest. Above you see all the free stuff I got over the weekend. A few things I'm keeping, but really, I don't need more gadgets. After all, I sell Pampered Chef and have plenty. So I'm gonna give it away to some lucky winner (continental U.S. only due to shipping). The deadline to enter will be noon on November 16th. All you need to do is tell me what your favorite Thanksgiving dish is. Be sure to leave some way for me to contact you if you win.

Good luck!