Filled Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake, a gorgeous brioche-like dough rolled jellyroll style around a whipped meringue and various fillings, shaped into a wreath and baked. "The cake is light and fluffy, barely sweet, the meringue miraculously melts into the dough as it bakes leaving behind just a hint of sweetness and adding to the perfect moistness of the cake."

One thing that is nice about the Daring Bakers is that there is a forum where people post their finished products for others to see and get advice. By mid-month a good many of the bakers have theirs done and it is good to scroll through to see what people chose to fill their versions with. Some really follow the instructions, so go way off on their own, but all help to give you ideas of the possibilities out there. 

Yes, I am a chocolate snob.  You will only see me buy a chocolate bar out of desperation.  If I need a quickie chocolate fix, I’ll reach for a bag of peanut M&Ms.  But if I have the cash and a good quality chocolate is in the vicinity, I’ll pay for it.  This isn’t to say I never buy American.  I will buy/eat See’s or a chocolate shop’s chocolate. I should say that I’m talking milk chocolate, since I don’t care for dark chocolate.  I just have a real preference for European chocolate.

Why?  It turns out that most American companies just don’t take the time and care to make quality chocolate.

Brunswick Stew
Rating: 5/5

This week I am featuring a recipe from my friend, Ann, over at Sacatomato. Ann has a cookbook out called Hands-off Cooking. Now if you are following these crockpot posts then you are probably looking for easy recipes that require the least amount of effort possible. Ann's cookbook is perfect for you. Although they are not all done in a crockpot, many of them could be. But only two in the book specifically say they are for the crockpot. 

I've made quite a few of the recipes and there are definitely some I come back to time and again. One of them is the Lentil Soup with Greens and Sausage. I like to use a hot Italian sausage and kale in mine. That makes it zesty and full of nutrients. One that really surprised me was the Pork Chili with Sweet Potatoes. Not tomato based and made with a bit of maple syrup, this chili will make you realize that you can really think 'out of the box' to use ingredients not normally associated with chili.

Roxy Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Updated Post:
I’m at Roxy with BFF again. This time it is girls’ night out with another friend and we are here for dinner on a Friday. It’s 6 p.m. and the place is packed. It’s been a few years since my last visit and I’m a bit shocked by the obvious popularity. After a half hour wait we are finally seated. 

No pictures this time. I will tell you the food was fabulous! So that’s why it was so bustling!

We started off with the Roasted Piquillo Peppers - stuffed with braised beef, Laura Chenel goat cheese, roasted tomato ancho chile sauce and toasted pumpkin seeds. YUM!  We received three good sized peppers in a bed of sauce. Inside there was luscious, rich shredded braised beef and then the ends were plugged with the goat cheese, which was melting from the heat. The melted cheese gave a creaminess to each bite with a tang and a bit of heat of chile. BFF was practically licking the plate clean of sauce.

We each chose different entrees and they were all fantastic. I had the braised short rib which in hindsight was not the best choice after just eating some of it stuffed into the peppers. But I received a nice sized portion that was oh-so tender. It was served with some roasted veggies and a bit of mashed potato.

You might have taken the Capitol Corridor train to the Bay Area, but taking an   Amtrak train to a distant destination is a much different experience. I endured such an experience in January a couple of years ago when I decided to take the train to Salem, OR instead of drive. Based on that trip, I can see why Amtrak is always in financial trouble. America will never embrace train travel if it stays the way it is now.
Delays are the number one issue that needs to be overcome. Trains are much worse than airlines for staying on time. My departure from Sacramento was an hour late. That was a good day. Often times it can be a lot worse. I was supposed to leave at midnight and ended up leaving at 1 a.m.  When I woke up the next morning, we had apparently lost another hour. The reason for most of the delays...freight trains. Amtrak leases the tracks from Union Pacific. That means they have to give way to freight trains whenever there is a right-of-way issue. Freight trains are LONG and SLOW. We lost more time along the way. My arrival changed from 3:30 to 5:30. I was lucky. The next day’s train apparently broke down in the middle of the mountains and sat for eight hours! It was so late that instead of going to Seattle, it stopped in Portland and bussed the people to Seattle (and the reverse) so that the next day’s train could be on schedule if it departed from Portland. Lucky for me because that was my return train home!
The second problem with train travel is it is boring. They need to have airline type seats with the monitors in the seatbacks and some movies. On my way home I had finished my knitting and reading. It was pitch black, outside so I ended up taking a sleeping pill and going to sleep at 8:00. Luckily there were no further delays and we arrived on-time at 6 a.m.
There are some good things. The observation car is nice during the day to look at the scenery. On the way up some volunteers got on at Klamath Falls and gave trivia and history of Oregon all the way to Eugene. The snack bar was O.K. It offered snacks that went up to microwaveable pizzas, etc. The dining car was nice too. I only tried breakfast, so I don’t know the quality of the entrees, but they did include things like lamb shanks and Angus burgers. The coach seats recline really far and there is plenty of leg room and a leg rest that flips up. 
One tip I got from the papers and from another passenger—if you want to get a sleeping cabin, don’t book it in advance. Instead, get on board and then inquire after departure. Sometimes you can get them at a discount. The guy I talked to got his for just $50. But I think it depends on if you get a nice conductor or not. When I inquired for my return trip he told me $129, so I passed. 
In my opinion people should have priority over freight. Who cares if a load of lumber is two hours late? If they could take care of that and add some entertainment on the trains, people would be more willing to use the trains to travel.
Pho Bac Hoa Viet on Urbanspoon

Pho Bac Hoa Viet - pho w/ steak, flank, and tendon

I only learned about six months ago that Pho is pronounced as Fuh. Don't ask me how to pronounce the rest of the name. But that's not what is important when you judge a restaurant. It's the food that matters. 

Located in Rancho Cordova just off the freeway at the Bradshaw exit, Pho Bac Hoa Viet restaurant is large. On a Sunday night it was pretty busy with patrons with big bowls in front of them. We took a seat at a booth and perused the lengthy menu. There are plenty of versions of pho, or soups, but there is also a large amount of both Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. 

Pho Bac Hoa Viet - shrimp spring rolls and strawberry lemonade

I started with a request for strawberry lemonade and was thrilled to receive an excellent one. This wasn't just a lemonade filled with a strawberry syrup. This was real strawberry puree so that there were bits of strawberry that sank to the bottom. 

I also asked to try the shrimp spring rolls. The menu says two, but they are two cut in half so that you actually have four large rolls to dip into the peanut sauce. These rolls were big and filled with lettuce and rice sticks. I was just a bit disappointed that the shrimp were little and sliced in half. I like my protein and would have liked whole pieces.

I was here for the signature item, though, and went with a pho with rare steak, flank, and tendon. I just couldn't do tripe since I've never experience tripe that I like. The server asked me if I wanted the small or large size. I opted for the small and am I glad I did. The bowl that arrived was large in my book and was filled with ingredients. A noodle soup should have noodles and this one did. There was an abundance of them, tender and chewy, long and thick. There were plenty of the meats and veggies as well. I found the broth a bit on the bland side so I spiced it up with a bunch of pepper oil. There was also a side plate of more things to add to the soup - mushrooms, sprouts, and herbs. 

I couldn't finish my small and wondered about a large. But if you are into food challenges, they recently had one to eat a giant bowl in an hour. It was 2 lbs of noodles and 2 lbs of meat and if you ate it it was free and you got your picture on their wall of fame. There are plenty of pictures up there, but only a handful that are in the successful section. 

There is a second location of this restaurant in Folsom at 602 E. Bidwell Street.
Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
If you watch the Food Network than you probably know who Guy Fieri is. If you don't watch it, then you'll know him as the spokesperson for TGI Fridays. Anyway, I've never been impressed by him. As far as I was concerned, he was all showman and no substance. He's got that appearance and personality that makes him perfect for TV, but I really didn't give him much credit in the chef category. He calls Northern California home and has two restaurants here. One, Tex Wasabi, has mediocre food and reviews and so I haven't even bothered to go there. His newest, Johnny Garlic's, just opened in Roseville and so I will have to trek out there some day to check it out. Haven't seen any reviews on it yet.

So...the most interesting pork chop recipe I came across was Guy's Cuban pork chops. The recipe looked good and so I decided to give it a try. IT WAS THE BOMB! I will be keeping this recipe and doing it again because it was so delicious and pretty easy and straightforward to do. I also used his side dish of Sofrito Mashed Potatoes. They were also good but made so much that I've got a huge amount still left over.

The pork chops are marinated in orange/lime/vinegar for a few hours. Then you coat them with a spice blend, sear them, and then make a sauce from the pan drippings, onions, and more juice and wine. The mixture of the citrus and the spice blend was so zesty and flavorful. Then add the high quality pork that I had and it was a superb meal all around. Highly recommended.

Because it was a birthday dinner I didn't think quick enough to take pictures before we devoured it. I also served steamed green beans and then flan for dessert. Everyone raved and wished there had been more. My huge pork chops I thought were going to be too much and instead we ended up wanting seconds! I will be making this again soon.
Sandra Dee's Barbeque & Seafood on Urbanspoon

My boss is from Louisiana. His wife is from the same place that Sandra Dee hails from. Needless to say, we go at least once a month to SD's for lunch. It's the closest thing to home for him. Not perfect, but close enough. For the rest of us, it's pretty good and we aren't going to be so picky.

Thursdays the special is their fried chicken. For years I always ate ribs and hot links and my coworkers raved on the chicken. I finally tried it and was astounded. So moist on the inside, and coated with a great coating with a bit of zip. Just goes to prove that even if you have a favorite item on a menu, you've got to try something new once in a while.

The choices were varied. Here is a picture of the above mentioned fried chicken. The same coating was used on the shrimp as well. Everyone agreed it was spicy and delicious. We even had a couple more Southerners in the group who were very happy with their food.

Jeni chose a shrimp po-boy. This is a sandwich that my co-worker always orders and is another item I need to try. Like the chicken, I'm sure I'll be a convert.

I was in the mood for ribs. I always have to get the hot BBQ sauce in the side and carefully take tiny dips. It is just way too hot. The ribs are a little on the dry side and so you do need sauce. I always get the spicy corn and mac and cheese as my sides.

If you are a hot links lover, then these are for you. I don't know how Al could eat them with the hot sauce poured all over the top! HOT! I love their hot links except for the fact that they slash them before grilling, so the juices are all gone and they are on the dry side.

Mary, our Southerner for the evening, was very happy with the hush puppies. Overall everyone seemed satisfied, after the food finally arrived...

One thing you should definitely know about SD's is that service is slow. Especially if you order the fried chicken. You better be patient. It's often a problem when we go for work lunches. Don't go here if you have a time crunch.

No, I'm not ready to show you pictures yet. Mostly because I forgot to take the camera with me to my follow-up appointment. I'll have to get a friend to take them for me. But also because I'm still not reveal-ready yet.

Last time I left you on this topic, I was just a couple of days out from the actual surgery. I can tell you that I stopped taking any pain medication (Tylenol) after day 4. I just didn't have a  need for it. Yes, I was still tender and sore, but it was never anything that was unbearable to me. And excessive use of Tylenol is bad for your liver (any drug is, but Tylenol has significant documentation).

Even after two weeks I could already see that my side muffintop was gone. That alone is great. But even today, at week 5, I'm still a bit swollen in the abs and still slightly tender. I'm a bit surprised by how long the tenderness is lasting, but not concerned. Again, it's bothersome, but not unbearable. 

The second biggest side effect is the osmotic-edema.
With the tumescent technique, there is always a certain amount of blood-tinged anesthetic solution which remains beneath the skin where the fat has been suctioned. This blood-tinged fluid causes bruising and the post-operative swelling known as "osmotic-edema". 
Basically the fluid that was left in your body and didn't get drained out needs to be reabsorbed and flushed via your lymphatic and circulatory systems. Until it's all reabsorbed, it sits there and creates firm lumps. The reason for using compression garments (which must be worn for several weeks) is to force the absorption of the blood-tinged anesthetic solution into the body's blood vessels. 

So I've had these lumps for weeks. When I went to my one month appointment the nurse said I needed to drink more water, massage the area, heat it with a heating pad, and come back for a Velashape treatment to help loosen those lumps for absorbtion.
VelaShape™ features the combination of Bi-Polar radiofrequency (RF), Infrared Light Energy, plus Vacuum and Mechanical Massage. The combination of these energies increases the metabolism of stored energy, increases lymphatic drainage and reduces or shrinks the size of the actual fat cells and fat chambers.
In this treatment the nurse took a paddle that vacuumed up and then treated the area. It was a bunch of quick thumps as she moved along my abdominal area. Because of my sensitivity, it was a bit uncomfortable. But it only took about 15 minutes and I was done. I was told to continue to drink a lot of water. This may be part of why it is taking a while for me - I'm not a big water drinker. It's a lot of effort for me to even remember to drink. 

I'll give you all another update in about another 6 weeks. By that time I should be flattening out and really seeing the results. My next follow-up, though is not until the six month mark.
This week I was asked to do a guest post for my friend Kimberly over at Poor Girl Eats Well. She’s in the middle of moving and needed a bit of a break from blogging duties during the move. Welcome to her readers. If you want to see past Crockpot Wednesday posts, do a search for crockpot in the search bar (left column).

I wanted to keep consistent with Kimberly’s theme of easy meals on a budget. I decided that I would share with you a few quick, even desperate, recipes that I learned from my 13+ years selling Pampered Chef. After all, PC says that homemade doesn’t have to mean made from scratch, it just means it is made at home! PC is known for doing what that Sandra Lee chick does way before she showed up on TV. They take shortcuts cooking by using grocery products.

For instance, this week’s recipe comes from my friends, Scott and Michelle.  I was over for poker night (I’m the only woman cleaning out the guys) and they had made pulled pork sandwiches. Thing is, all they did was put the pork butt into the slow cooker with a bottle of good quality root beer.  Then when you served it you poured on some BBQ sauce. So simple and yet delicious!

That was when I remembered all the other PC shortcut recipes. Sodas are great to have on hand for desperation cooking. Colas, in particular and like the root beer, have the acidity and carbonation to tenderize the meat but also the caramel/molasses flavor used in so many recipes. The key to making the recipes great is adding the veggies and extra spices you want.

Here are some examples:

Pot roast = can of cola + can of cream of mushroom soup (even better, add a package of onion soup mix)
BBQ = can of cola + 2 cups of ketchup
Baked ham = ½ liter of coke

I don’t have children but know it often happens that a child tells their parent at the last minute, “Mom, it’s my turn to bring cupcakes to class tomorrow.” No problem if you have a box of cake mix and a can of soda lying around. You don’t need to do anything else but mix those two things together. The carbonation gives the batter extra lift for a nice fluffy, moist cake. Think about the combos:

Chocolate cake + cola
Chocolate cake + cherry cola
White or yellow cake + lemon lime, grapefruit, or orange soda
Spice cake + Dr. Pepper

For the frosting you can blend together 4 cups of powdered sugar + 6 T butter + 3 T soda

So those were brief descriptions of what is possible when you are either low on cash, ingredients, time or all of the above.  Having staples in your pantry including some cans of soda can really come in handy.  For those who want a little extra information with doctoring up the above mentioned combos, here are more detailed versions:

6-8 lbs pork butt
1 can/bottle of root beer

Place ingredients in slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. Remove pork and set aside. Save 1/3 cup of juices and toss the rest. Using two forks, carefully shred the pork. Return to slow cooker to keep warm on warm setting.  Serve on buns with BBQ sauce and cole slaw.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
2 c. catsup
1 can cola
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. Mustard
2 T. Vinegar
Saute onions and garlic in oil until translucent. Add remaining ingredients.
Simmer 30 minutes until thick.

3-4 lb. roast, cheap cut
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cola
1 pkg. onion soup

Put on low for 8 hours. If you want it thicker, when done stir in a tablespoon of flour.

1 ham
1 can cola or cherry cola
Cloves (not powdered)

Put ham in deep pan on aluminum foil. Pour Coke over. Pierce the entire ham with clove spikes about ¼ inch apart. Bake at low temperature (300 degrees) for 2-2 1/2 hours. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Coke will turn into syrup.

P.S. I wanted to add that I found these great new Earth Gains Thin Buns. They are only 100 calories each and reduces all that bread. I really liked them.

I decided that it was the perfect time to try my hand at a baked cheesecake. I had the wine/cheese party (above) coming up and I certainly didn't need an entire cheesecake in my frig. Although I would love every bite, I'm sure my scale would not. So here was my chance to bake one and share it for an event.

I chose a raspberry cheesecake recipe from Cooking Pleasures magazine. It was pretty easy, although I didn't have any raspberry jam. I cheated and put a bit of black currant jam on the bottom - which didn't spread well. So then I gave that up and just poured the cheese mixture on top. I paid attention to every cheesecake tip sheet out there and took it out of the oven when it was still a little jiggly. I'm proud to say it came out perfectly and was a hit.

Raspberry Cheesecake

1 (5.3-oz.) pkg. pure butter shortbread cookies, crushed (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup raspberry preserves, melted

1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed
3 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Wrap outside of 9-inch springform pan with heavy-duty foil. Combine crushed cookies and melted butter in small bowl; press into bottom of pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly darker in color. Cool slightly; gently spread preserves over crust.

2. Puree thawed raspberries in food processor or blender until smooth. Strain through medium strainer, pressing with spatula to remove seeds. Reserve 1/2 cup puree. (Save remaining puree for another use.)

3. Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter at medium-low speed until smooth. Beat in sugar and flour just until blended. Beat in sour cream, reserved raspberry puree and lemon juice. Beat in eggs one at a time. Pour over crust.

4. Place springform pan in large shallow pan. Add enough hot tap water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until edges are puffed and top is dry to the touch. Center should move slightly when pan is tapped but should not ripple as if liquid. Remove cake from water bath; remove foil. Cool completely on wire rack. Refrigerate overnight.

5. Garnish with raspberries. Store in refrigerator.

16 servings
Suzie Burger on Urbanspoon

Ever have one of those restaurants where the first time you go you think it's OK. Then you go again and you like it a little more. Basically it grows on you until you become a regular and really like it. That happened to me the first time I went to In-n-Out Burgers because I ordered a single. Later I learned that you need to order a Double Double at In n Out.

I bring this up because Suzie Burgers also grew on me. And myself and many others often compare them to In n Out. But it took me a couple of times to really appreciate how they are better.

Now granted, this review is only talking about their burgers because that's all I've tried. They sell the hot dogs and the cheesesteaks, but I fell for the burger and just keep going back for more.

So... the biggest difference is the meat patty itself. In n Out has the thin, mass produced patty. So thin that you have to have the Double Double to really feel like you are getting your burger's worth. Suzie's forms their own burgers and they season them. So you are getting a burger closer to something you will create for your own backyard BBQ. The two burgers were so thick that they didn't stack on each other well, thus the sloppy burger in the picture. Then you got the cheese and the toppings. Suzie's tops with chopped lettuce and onions, no pickles or tomatoes. That suits me fine since I don't like pickles or tomatoes. Keep in mind they give you pickles and baby carrots in a baggie on the side as their signature. I would rather have rings of onion versus the chopped onions because it's like the onions aren't even there. Then you can doctor up the burger as you like. You've got choices of jalapenos (my choice), chili, pastrami, sauerkraut, even an egg.

The picture above doesn't give it justice. The patties were thick and the cheese stuck to the paper. It reminds me of the old Carl's Jr. (I believe) commercials where they talk about the cheese paper. LOL. At first I complained that Suzie's was the same as In n Out, just more expensive. Now I appreciate the difference and happily pay for it.

Suzie's is located at P and CapCity Freeway downtown.
Max's on Urbanspoon


My friend, Paul, picked a winner this month. I have my Dining Out Meetup group, but Paul has had his Epicurean group for over four years now. This month his choice was La Flor - a place that serves both Mexican and Salvadoran foods. Paul had set up his event for a Salvadoran experience. He arranges with restaurants for a set menu and thus a set fee.

While we waited for everyone to arrive we snacked on chips and salsa. Finally the first plates of appetizers came out. The first one was Fried Yucca Root with chicharron and pickled cabbage (chicharron=deep fried and seasoned pork). Also on the plate was a pickled cabbage slaw mix and some pico. The yucca was cut like large fries and were so tender that they were just like eating French fries. We all wanted more.

The second plate was of fried plantains served with beans and sour cream. I'm not a plantain fan, but these were nice and sweet ones.

They sent out another plate loaded with their version of empanadas. I'm used to meat filled ones, but these were sweet ones. The exterior was made from mashed plantain. One was filled with a custard and the other was filled with a sweet bean. These were deep fried and sprinkled with just a little sugar. It was a little odd to get this sweet dish before the entree, but I think they were also trying to give us something because the entrees were taking a while. Each were wonderful, although different. The custard one was obviously moister than the bean one. But the bean was not dry because of the moistness of the plantain casing.

The entree plates consisted of a pupusa, a Salvadoran tamale, a Salvadoran pastel, with rice and beans. A pupusa is a tortilla that has been filled with cheese and maybe something else. We were given choices of pupusas and I chose the cheese/chicken one. I then topped mine with some of the slaw and the salsa. The pastel was what I normally think of as an empanada, meat and potato filled and deep fried. I've also never been a fan of tamales, but I had a nice pork one on my plate. I couldn't even touch the rice and beans because I was so full from all these items. Everything was delicious.
About a year and a half ago Paul, of the Sacramento Epicureans , and I had discussed getting knowledgeable guides to take us through ethnic markets to point out unfamiliar foods. Paul has better contacts than I and was able to take the idea and pull it together. Today he sponsored a guided tour down Stockton Blvd. to stop at different ethnic markets. He recruited Linda, the owner of Boon Boon Cafe, to be our guide. He did a great job of putting it together by offering a $10 lunch at Boon Boon, $10 for the tour, and then $25 for an hour foot massage at the end. He took time to give us note paper and pens with names and addresses of where we were going and did a run through with Linda beforehand.

We started with a noon lunch at Boon Boon where we selected off of the lunch menu. I had the Spicy Basil Beef. Basil chicken is my favorite Thai dish and so I was interested in trying it with ground beef. I had a very generous portion of it with steamed rice, a small salad, and a drink. It was nice and spicy and I was well stuffed before we started off.

I got to carpool with Linda in her car. Boon Boon has been open for several years now and Linda explained that she's gotten to really know the different markets and which ones are better for prices, produce, meat, and seafood. Not one market is good for all. She's also frequented many of the other Stockton Blvd. businesses to save costs on such things as signage, printing, and other items.

Our first stop was to a Hispanic grocery - La Superior at 4940 Stockton Blvd. Paul explained that this is a great location to buy your Hispanic ingredients such as chilis, avocados, and spices.

I agree that these markets are always a better deal for getting many spices. When we buy Spice Island or McCormick spices in those little bottles, we pay a premium. And, if you didn't know, spices have a short shelf life. Many spices should not be kept for more than a few months. That's why I prefer to buy these smaller packages of cheaper spices. (Guess we pay for those bottles vs. these plastic bags.)

Here's a great example. This large bag of cinnamon sticks is $9 at La Superior. A couple of weeks ago I got six sticks at Raley's for $3 in the Hispanic foods section (not the spice/baking aisle). Glad I know where to go now.

Check out the size of this avocado! Only $.99 at LS. At Safeway you get a smaller avocado for $1.50-2.00 each.

There is an extensive butcher counter which includes all those great parts like tripe, ears, pigs feet, etc. I found the ox tails were $4.99 a pound. I got a two pound package at Winco, which is a cheap grocery, for $12. I'll be coming here in the future. They also have these pre-seasoned meats so that you can quickly cook up tacos or fajitas when you get home.

And, of course, there is the pasteleria for all those baked goods.

Our next stop was Gold Star at 5815 Stockton. Linda said that this was a very good store to get your seafood at - and nothing else. We went through quickly and I did notice it was also a good place for duck legs at $2.99 a pound. I want to make some rillettes from the recipe on Hank's website and so now I'll come over here to get the 12-24 duck legs needed.

We continued down to 6105 Stockton and Vinh Phat grocery. Linda said that this location was particularly known for it's deli.

They had good BBQ duck here and other pre-made foods. I noticed that they had 35 pound roasted whole pigs for $155. (A detail to keep in mind for a future party I'd like to throw.)

I was surprised by this little find - duck tongues. When I had them on a salad at Mulvaney's (see review) I had wondered where you got them and the poor tongueless ducks. Now I know where they are should I decide to spring these on my gourmet dinner group.

We walked by Wing Wa market and Linda commented that the only thing you need to know about it is that they are the place to buy rice - lots of varieties.

We had a small tasting at JJ Bakery. Paul said it was one of the best Asian bakeries for bao. He had stopped by earlier in the day to buy some for us to try because they sell out of bao by early afternoon. The bakers brought out a tray of his bao sliced so that we could try some. I chose a coconut one since I had always had BBQ pork before.

We also stopped here at A&A Supermarket at 6545 Stockton. Linda said that this was the store you wanted for everything besides fish and meat. In other words, get your pantry and frozen foods and non-food items here.

Linda buys some of her cookware here, even for the restaurant. A couple of folks were interested in woks and other kitchenware.

I noticed that these large pineapples out front were three for $5! You'd probably get just one at Raley's.

Our last stop was SF Supermarket at the corner of 65th and Stockton. This may be the largest Asian grocery store in Sacramento and certainly has the largest seafood and meat sections. There are many large tanks of live fish...

and plenty of bins of frozen fish. If you buy your fish here or at any of the Asian markets, be sure to tell them to clean and trim your fish or they'll just bundle up the whole thing for you. Some of them also offer free frying.

Certainly this is a good place to buy your lobster or crab. By the way, an Asian market not on this tour with a great seafood reputation is the one on Broadway and 11th. In the market is Sunh Fish and they are known for supplying fish to many of the sushi restaurants in town.

Another tip for shopping in these markets is to be picky. Asians are picky shoppers and will pick out the choicest fish or the ripest fruits. But if you are not Asian and just ask for a fish, they might try to give you a lesser quality one. Speak up and point out exactly which one you want. Don't be afraid to barter as well. If you want more than one of something, see if you can cut a deal.

Here are a couple more Stockton Blvd. tips Paul and Linda pointed out.

There is an education center at 5451 Lemon Hill Ave. that has a computer science department where you can get your computer repaired for cheap. It's considered a learning tool for the students.

If you need to replace a tire or want a full sized spare, there are tire places that will sell you used-but-still-good-tread tires for as little as $10. Wish I had known that last month when I had to buy a new $89 tire cuz I blew one out.

And lastly, to Huong Lan Sandwiches, around the corner of the building from SF. We didn't stop there for our tour because we were out of time. Now that we were done I was in the mood for a bubble drink and so I headed over to take the pictures and get a mango shake with tapioca pearls. HLS makes the best Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches. A banh mi sandwich will cost you about $2.75.

But there are lots of grab n go food items as well.

It's my hope that either I or Paul will be able to organize another guided event where we can find a Vietnamese person to explain and sample some of these items in the future. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to organize an event at a Filipino grocery, bakery, and restaurant with my Filipina friend Marie.
Boon Boon Cafe on Urbanspoon
I find my biggest problem at food blogging comes from restaurant reviews. You order your food, it arrives, and you are so eager to eat it, you forget to take the pictures. So this is another review without pictures.

My dad and his new wife requested Thai. One I like is pretty distant for the rainy weather we were having, so I decided to go to Boon Boon Cafe. After all, although I've eaten there a couple of times with the Epicureans, I had never gone on my own for dinner. We arrived to find a large birthday party and a few other tables. Luckily there was one left for us. What a surprise to then see another table was occupied with none other than Epicurean Paul, out for a night with his son and little brother. We also saw Linda, the owner, who I had ridden with when she led the Stockton Blvd. tour.

We ordered four dishes including Thai fried rice. We did not know that the dinner entrees each came with a big side of rice as well. This I expected for lunch specials, but I was surprised that it was an automatic for a dinner entree. After all, we were thinking of family style dining and sharing all the dishes between us. Anyway, keep this in mind when you order. The rice, though, is excellent on its own. Linda had said that she always serves 100% jasmine rice while many restaurants save money by using a rice blend. This rice was nice and sticky, fragrant, and delicious.

Our first dish had been recommended by Paul. The Praram Chicken came with broccoli, carrots, and spinach and was topped with a peanut sauce. Unlike other dishes with the sauces mixed in, this had the veggies and chicken piled and the peanut sauce ladled on top. Cooked/wilted spinach is not a veggie you often expect with such a dish, but I liked it the best. The sauce was mildly spiced.

We had also ordered two of the night's specials. The first was a pumpkin red curry. It had chicken, scallops, shrimp, and pumpkin in a red curry sauce. Red curry lends itself well to working with pumpkin because it is a bit sweeter than the other color curries. It's also hard to mess up curries. We enjoyed this one and my dad liked the change of having the sweet pumpkin added.

Our last entree was our least favorite. It was a shrimp and asparagus dish that also included some carrots, peppers, and eggplant. The sauce was done with a yellow bean paste and was thin and salty from the fish sauce. It was OK, just not great.

It was nice to know where the ingredients come from since I had learned where Linda shops. She knows where to pick up the best produce and the freshest seafood and then prepares them with proper attention to cooking time - shrimp was tender and the veggies still with crunch. Boon Boon deserves the attention that it has gotten.
 I actually wrote this in 2003 and came across it. (Jeff is long gone.) Thought it was still worth sharing on a blog post.
You might have seen Balut on Fear Factor last year.  It’s the best known Filipino delicacy.  To Westerners, though, it’s gross.  Who in the world thought of eating a partially formed embryonic duck?  Of course they had to justify this decision by declaring it an aphrodisiac (yeah, right).  In fact the hawkers used to sell them outside the brothel near my grandfather's house in Manila. It’s also very popular as a bar food – to eat while out drinking.  (Probably need the extra fortification.)

Balut is derived from the egg of an itik duck (native to the Philippines).  The eggs would normally hatch after a 28 day incubation. The eggs are collected and kept warm for six days.  At this time they are looked at by the candling method (holding up eggs to a strong light to be able to see through the shell). If the egg is fertilized it is sorted out.  Unfertilized eggs are sold as fresh.  The fertilized eggs are allowed to continue developing to the 14th day.  At this time they are examined again to see how they are doing.  If they are developing slowly, they are pulled out and sold as another delicacy – pinoy.  Pinoy are cooked and are similar to hard boiled eggs.  If the embryo is dead, they sell the rotting eggs as another delicacy – abnoy (double yuck). The eggs that are developing properly are kept up to the 18th day. By this time the embryo has grown and there is an embryonic sack. These are now separated out as balut. The egg is cooked in the shell and then eaten.

I had heard about balut my whole life.  My mother is known to like them and other stuff Westerners would consider gross.  (She had to eat the sheep’s eye at an Arab banquet in Saudi Arabia once.)  I’ve been raised very Americanized, so I have a mental block when it comes to ever wanting to eat one. My boyfriend, Jeff, said he had wanted to try one whenever he got the chance.  His 10-year old son, Tyler, wanted to also.  When I told my coworker, Ray, I was going to get some he said, “get me two!”

Another coworker pointed me in the right direction to a store off Florin Road that specializes in Filipino and Asian groceries.  I went down on Sunday and asked which eggs were the balut.  I was pointed to a stacking of egg flats.  I was told the eggs were still raw and would have to be cooked.  A guy came over to help and told me I should pick the whitest eggs.  He lifted up a couple of flats and selected four eggs for me.  Unfortunately he had a little mishap and dropped a flat. Yick!  Luckily I didn’t see more contents than some really orangey yolk!  He then said I would need to cook the eggs for 45 minutes.
I had called my mother to find out the proper way to eat it.  I also found a couple of websites that gave detailed instructions.  I was told that the balut had to be warm and so I heated them up and then called the guys.  Tyler came bounding up.  He was so excited that he was finally going to get to eat it.  Jeff, on the other hand, took the bar-food statement to heart and cracked a beer. 
First, they had to peel away a small hole at the bottom of the egg where the air pocket was.  There was a membrane inside that needed to be pulled aside.  I told them to add a dash of salt and then they were to down the liquid inside.  “It’s salty,” proclaimed Tyler.

The next step is to peel away about half the shell so that you can take the first bite.  My theory – they don’t want you to get a close look!  Anyway, the guys peeled away some shell and each took a bite.  Tyler was excitedly peeling away, dissecting, and examining the contents.  Jeff was trying not to look.  Tyler tried to gross out his two sisters by showing them the contents.  “Look!  There’s an eye!”, he cried before finishing it off.  What was left was a hardened white that is not supposed to be eaten.  Both Jeff and Tyler cheered their accomplishment and Tyler ran off to call his mom.

“So, what was it like?”, I asked.  Jeff answered with the typical response, “like chicken”. 

I was very proud that they were able to eat it, especially Tyler.  Filipinos say they are delicious, but I’m still not gonna eat it!

Chilly Day Chili
Rating: 5/5

Recently I was contacted by the folks at They wanted me to try one of their beef recipes for February which, apparently, was I ♥ Beef Month. Sorry. Didn’t quite make it. I made the recipe in February, but it’s posting in March.

When we had the crazy, cold, stormy weather last week my thoughts turned to stormy weather comfort food – stews and chilis. I checked out their website to find that they have a lot of excellent stuff on it. There are, of course, plenty of recipes that can be sorted by ingredients or even by cuts of beef. There is a nutritional section discussing what benefits there are from beef protein, a section explaining beef grading and labeling to help you when you are shopping, and cooking lessons to discuss different techniques of marinating, preparing, and cooking.

I searched through the recipes and found what I was looking for – a chili that was simple that I could do in the slow cooker. It was even aptly named – Chilly Day Chili. With only nine ingredients that you just throw in the slow cooker and walk away from, what could be easier?

The recipe calls for the beef to be cut into ½ inch pieces. Instead I went to La Superior supermarket on Stockton Boulevard. Ethnic supermarkets can often be cheaper than regular ones. They also often have more variety of cuts and types of meat. As luck would have it, La Superior had chopped beef on sale and it didn’t look bad either. I expected to see a lot of fat and gristle as they chopped up the worst bits of leftover beef carcass. Actually, there were few signs of fat and gristle and I was rather impressed by the look of it. This would be perfect for the chili.

For such a simple chili it is definitely hearty and flavorful. When I first threw the ingredients in the pot I was a little worried since it looked heavy on beans and light on tomatoes.  But the finished product came out great and I really enjoyed it. I like that the chopped beef gives it more meatiness and chew than ground beef.

Chilly Day Chili

2-1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck or round, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cans (15-1/2 ounces each) black beans, rinsed, drained
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) chili-style tomato sauce with diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup prepared thick-and-chunky salsa
Toppings: Shredded Cheddar cheese, diced red onion, diced green onion, diced avocado and dairy sour cream
Combine all ingredients except salsa and toppings in 4-1/2 to 5-1/2-quart slow cooker; mix well. Cover and cook on HIGH 5-1/2 to 6 hours, or on LOW 8 to 9 hours, or until beef is tender. (No stirring is necessary during cooking.)

Just before serving, stir in salsa; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Serve with toppings, as desired.

Orange Blossom Cake

As we approach spring I am already in anticipation of the fragrant air in my backyard. You see, I have an enormous grapefruit tree and very large lemon tree. I’d say that they have both been there for a good 30+ years. Every spring I get about a month’s worth of lovely, bright perfume from the millions of blossoms covering the trees.
I’m sure there must be some uses for these fragrant blossoms commercially, but you never hear about them. Even a Google search didn’t reveal much. Orange blossoms, on the other hand, are definitely used to make orange blossom water, an ingredient used in Middle Eastern cooking. It has been used increasingly in Western cooking, primarily in desserts.  I use rose water often, but had never used orange blossom water before.
When we were at the Fancy Food Show in January I stopped at the Nielsen Massey booth. They are best known for their vanilla, but I noticed that they had rose and orange blossom waters. The orange blossom water is made from Seville bitter orange from Spain and the Middle East. It complements vanilla, almond, and, of course, citrus flavors.
I searched the internet and found this recipe from a BBC site. It reminds me of my Rustic Lemon Cake, except this one is not gluten free. This recipe does use metric measurements


  • 200g self-raising flour , sifted
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs , beaten with a fork
  • 250g Greek yogurt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 1 zested lemon


  • 150ml water
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 orange , juiced and 2 strips of zest
  • ½ juiced lemon
  • 5 crushed cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp orange flower water
  • icing sugar and crème fraîche or Greek yogurt, to serve 
  1. To make the syrup, put the water, sugar, rind, citrus juices and cardamom into a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Bring to the boil and simmer for 7 minutes. It will thicken and become syrupy as it cools. Cool then strain and add the orange flower water.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter or oil a 20cm spring-form tin. Put all the dry ingredients for the cake in a bowl with a good pinch of salt and make a well in the center. Put all the rest of the ingredients in the well and stir with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating the wet ingredients. Spoon into the tin and bake for half an hour. A skewer pushed into the middle of the cake should come out clean, if not give it a little longer.
  3. Leave for 10 minutes to cool in the tin, then turn onto a plate. Pierce all over with a skewer and, while the cake is still warm, slowly pour over the syrup. Leave to soak in. Dust with icing sugar just before serving - the sugar just disappears into the syrupy top otherwise - and serve with crème fraîche or yogurt.