I actually took a great picture for once!
Sometimes cooking is like gambling. If you are trying a new recipe, you don't know if you will like it or not, if it will turn out ok or not, if you're adaptation or tweaking of the recipe will work or not.

I play poker about once a month with a group of guys. I'm the only gal in the bunch. Sometimes I have to choose between poker with the guys (who are mostly husbands) or skip it because the women are going to do girls' night. Most of the time I pick poker. After all, any chance to win a few bucks, especially toward the end of the month, is worth it. And in the two years this group has been playing, I'd say I'm well ahead for amount of money invested.

We rotate hosting and so I volunteered for June. This requires something for dinner. Everyone brings their own snacks and drinks. Unfortunately for me, June turned out to be costly. With the price of dinner and not winning either tourny, I was in the red. Oh well. Better luck next time.

I adapted this recipe from one I found on Allrecipes.com. I was looking for a baked bean recipe for poker night and this one is good and spicy according to the reviews. The original also has a pound of browned ground beef, but I was going to serve this with tri tip and so I decided to leave out the beef. It should be noted that the you can choose to hold back the hot sauce and let people add it at the end, on their own. There's already a bit of kick from the chilis and the chili powder, but for additional heat you will want the hot sauce. So, I guess, the gambling in this recipe is - how hot can you take it?

2 large cans of Bush's Baked Beans Original
1 4 oz can of diced green chilis
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons hot sauce

Mix all together in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. 

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

That's right. She wanted us to make phyllo dough from scratch!  Phyllo dough, that thinner-than-paper dough used to make flaky pastries. In order for me to do this, I had to go over to Sacatomato Ann's house to use her Kitchenaid. The dough required considerable kneading with a dough hook (versus about half an hour doing it by hand). I then took it home and spent over an hour rolling out the paper thin sheets.

Recently I won a Facebook contest with Savor California. Their site features gourmet specialty foods from around California. On their Facebook page they do a weekly contest and if you win, you get a shipment from that featured contest company. I happened to win the week of Bella's Confections

Bella's is actually made close by in Yuba City. They offer an assortment of cookies, jams and jellies, and toffee. But their signature item is their fudge, based on Grandma's recipes. Interesting (and important to note) is that the company actually shuts down during the hot summer months, so their website says they are closed until mid September.

I like my ceviche with avocado

I like ceviche, but until recently had never made it. Amazing considering I have a ceviche making abundance of lemons and grapefruits in my back yard.

The opportunity arose this weekend when I went to a friend's party. Her husband is a fire chief on an American air base on Ascension Island. Ascension is a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic, thousands of miles from anywhere. It took her husband 38 hours to get from Ascension to Sacramento. His luggage - two coolers filled with fish. He's on a month's leave and since he has clothes at home, he just brought fish back.

The fish he brought was grouper and tuna. Last week he had gone on a fishing trip with his firemen and caught a 150 pound yellowfin tuna. He also got a giant grouper last month. Since Ascension is so isolated, it is pretty much virgin fishing waters. Marie was kind enough to give me a package or each. 

I used the grouper first for some ceviche. So easy, so good. I tweaked the recipe from Simply Recipes in that I used grapefruit instead of lime juice and I didn't have any tomatoes. But I'm not a big tomato fan anyway.

adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 2 cups of any firm white fish, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, completely deboned
  • 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoons of salt
  • Dash of ground oregano
  • Light pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate for four hours, stirring every hour. Serve with chips, tortillas, or on salad.

I think that strawberries may be my very first fruit memory. I've always loved berries of all sorts, but strawberries seem to be one of my oldest childhood memories. Snippets from here and there. I remember going to small farms where you could go and pick your own. I remember that you could always tell my father's picks versus my brother's and mine because my dad insisted you had to keep the stem cap on the berry or all the flavor would escape the berry. Strangely, that's true. His berries were always sweeter than the ones we had picked, missing their caps.

And I suppose it's because I grew up in the Middle East that I have this love of rose flavoring in food, especially sweets. My favorite pairing has always been with berries and/or cream. Even better, the three together! But this year I decided to put it in some strawberry jam. The results? Fabulous! The best jam yet!

I buy my rose water from the Middle Eastern stores throughout town. My favorite is the one at 1547 Fulton Ave. A bottle is only about $3 and lasts a long time because you only use a little bit. They also, by the way, get Arab bread delivered daily. There is nothing better than fresh pita/Arab bread. I can't stand the stuff sold at regular grocery stores that is stale like cardboard.

I should mention that I've been having mixed results with jam making when it comes to getting it to the right thickness and using pectin. A friend of mine has been coaching me with from Kansas. Sue's been canning for years and she never uses packaged pectin. She's the one who is encouraging me to use more apple to get the pectin I need since apples have the highest amount of natural pectin.

Strawberry Rose Jam

3 pint baskets of fresh strawberries
5 cups of sugar
1 t of fresh lemon juice
2 green apples
3-4 t of rose water

Clean, destem, and cut the strawberries. Core the apples and set the cores aside. Mince the rest of the apple. Add the berries, apple, core, lemon juice, and the sugar in a medium saucepan and cook on medium until it comes to a soft roll. Cook for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat. Remove apple cores. Stir in the rose water according to taste. Immediately scoop into sterilized jars, cap and cool.

As a follow-up to my recent post Be Groupon Shopping Savvy (which talked about companies going bankrupt after a half-off deal), I thought I would point out a law that some people don’t realize California has. Gift certificates/cards cannot have an expiration date. 
(CA Department of Consumer Affairs FAQ on Gift Certificates). For other State and the Federal rules, check here.

Basically, if you paid cash for a GC, then it is not allowed to have an expiration. This does not apply to a GC that you received as a promotional offer from the business. If they awarded you a card as a prize or you got it from them free somehow, it can have an expiration date. 

Suede Blue on Urbanspoon
The best dish of the night

These days I venture out to Roseville only about once every two months. Ever since I left my husband to move downtown, the Roseville/Rocklin area has been an unwelcome reminder of a marriage lost. We had a good marriage that lasted 9.5 years until it fell apart. Gone went the relationship, a great house, and another life. Now when I go out to Placer County I see something new every time. Growth has slowed down, but there is still so much more in terms of businesses and shopping areas.

Suede Blue has sat prominently on a hill by the Roseville Automall for some years now. I knew it to be a ritzier restaurant and one that would require an occasion to make me go there. The opportunity arose when I got a half-price deal for them. I used it to take my ex-husband to dinner. We are still friends after an amicable divorce.

Upon entering the foyer I noted that the furnishings were on the expensive side. There were beautiful leather sofas with brass nails and lots of pillows for d├ęcor. I was distracted thinking how good they would look in place of my current cat-shredded sofa. A group of hostesses greeted us and we were promptly seated. The setting definitely does emit a fine-dining atmosphere with a dark interior, leather booths, and fine fixtures.

Jalapeno Apricot Jam

I went to the Davis farmers market because I was out of some of the toppings for my Bolani. If you read my post about Bolani Afghani bread, you know they have a selection of toppings for their stuffed flatbreads. I went to get the cilantro pesto and the jalapeno jelly, but later it occurred to me that I could probably make my own jalapeno jelly instead of paying $6 for a jar of theirs.

I found a recipe that had apricots and so I bought a bunch at the farmers market along with some beautiful jalapenos from the store. Later I realized that the recipe actually calls for dried apricots, not fresh. Oops. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and use the fresh apricots. The jalapenos turned out to be very potent and so I knew my jam was going to be hot.

The last two Wednesdays I was on vacation in Dallas or traveling. I've come home and realized that I am not liking the pressure of Crockpot Wednesdays.

I should only share good recipes with you and the fact that I'm under pressure to publish something every Wednesday has turned me off. If a recipe doesn't work out, I feel pressured to do something else quickly. Now add the fact that I'm financially strapped lately, the pressure is too great. As a State worker I get paid once a month and by the 5th I'm usually broke again. So the thought of having to go to the store to get ingredients just so I could post something didn't sit well with me.

My intention now is still to do an occasional Crockpot Wednesday when I happen to have something to share - not on a weekly basis. Thanks for understanding.
 Update 6/13/11. See end of post.

At the beginning of the year I was tempted by one of the half price deals offered for Slocum House. After all, over the years I’ve had some very good meals at the Fair Oaks establishment. It was always known for good food and romantic ambiance, as well as the chickens wandering the patio.

I don’t know which company offered the half price deal first, but I had recently put myself on restriction from buying these deals. I had a file envelope full of deals I had bought that I needed to use first. Being single, finding an appropriate time/person to use them with has been rarer than I would like.

I thought I would do a quick update on how my recovery from laser lipo is going. I still have some lumps in my abdomen that I am having to deal with. I went for a check-up and they say that I'm not drinking enough water to flush the material out of my system. It is going down now. I guess I will be one of those that takes the full six months for my final results. 

I'm still not willing to share a photo, but here is a drawing I  made demonstrating the before and after. Before, I had muffin top and so I always wore my shirts untucked. Yes, it looked like I had a waist, but it was high up. Now I can tuck in my shirts because all that muffin top is gone. Yay! My waist is back down where it is supposed to be!  

So now all I need is for the last bit of front, abdomen stuff to whittle away. And even if it doesn't, I'm satisfied with my results.