I went house hunting recently. Not for myself, but for my future chickens. As of November 1st, urban chickens (three per household, no roosters) are allowed in the City of Sacramento.

I really didn't do much in the way of comparison shopping because once you've seen the best, that's all you can focus on. I had gone to the Eat Real Festival in Oakland last month and came across some hen houses that were attractive and the right size for a handful of fowl. Looking more closely, I could see that these were well-made coops that would last for years.

This is in contrast to my original thought - to have someone (handyman) build one in my backyard. I soon realized that this idea wasn't such a good one. They would probably slap something together without any real experience of what a coop should be. And quality would cost money.

No free products or discounts were given for this article.

That's not to say that Holland Hen Houses are cheap, they're not. The thing is, these are sturdy structures made by someone who not only has his own chickens, but grew up raising them as well. It's the classic tale of "you get what you pay for". Even better for us chicken newbies, Mario Klip shares his knowledge with you as he sets up the houses.

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Quick reminder that I'm the host for the November challenge, so check the Daring Bakers site and join up before then.

Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few. Family recipes, and the secrets on how to roll the bread so thin, was passed down through generations of families. However, the tradition of baking this type of bread has become somewhat of a dying art form.

This recipe actually reminded me of a Pampered Chef recipe we demoed years ago. Being that it was PC, it included a short cut of using Pillsbury bread dough, rolling it thin, and then spreading a similar topping and rolling it to create the swirls like this one does.

GF Note: For those unfamiliar with my blog, I do not have any dietary reason that I need to eat gluten-free. I choose to bake gluten-free within my home because I have an interest in all the other types of grains and flours that have been used by cultures for centuries. Why is America so wheat focused? I figure I can get gluten filled products everywhere else outside my home.

Cranberries are something that I didn't really grow up with. Being in the Middle East as a child, we only had the standard canned cranberries and jellies for the holidays. Since it was relegated to holidays only, I had no reason to understand the attractiveness of the sweet tartness of cranberries and how they could add anything to savory dishes and never really came across them in desserts. Since then I've learned to appreciate how cranberries or raisins can add that special little sweet bite to a savory dish. 

My sweet tooth, though, always turns to baking. Last year I bought a bag of fresh cranberries determined to do something with them. Thrown into the freezer, here it is a year later and I've finally gotten around to it.

The east side of Sacramento County must be antsy with anticipation for the new Whole Foods (WF) opening on October 26th. Located on East Bidwell at the new Palladio mall and close to Highway 50, this location is set to be the granddaddy of them all. The largest one in our region, it will boast 45,000 square feet filled with items. But more importantly, over 200 local suppliers from the surrounding Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, and Amador counties will benefit.

The grand opening is Wednesday, October 26th at 10 a.m. The first 250 customers get reuseable bags filled with products.

But tomorrow, Saturday, October 22nd, there is a special Folsom Street Market pre-opening event. Folsom residents are invited to celebrate the opening. This event will be held in the parking lot and feature over 60 local vendors sampling their yummy products, community partners, live music, sneak peek store tours, beer and cider tasting (which will require a small donation to a charity), hay maze and pumpkin patch for the kids and a variety of DIY food workshops.

Ciara shows us the store
I was invited to attend a special, private event at the new store last night. We were given a tour and here are some of the things that make this store worth visiting.

If you are a home beer brewer, then you will love the new brewing station at the back left corner of the store (or head straight back from the main entrance). It has all the supplies and ingredients you need to brew beer, including hops, yeast, etc.

I believe that it is truly difficult to find a bad Thai restaurant. It might be mediocre, but to find one you would actually rate as bad (food-wise) is hard. There are so many flavors layered and blended in Thai food that they generally will mask over other flaws. Even a drive-thru Thai place works for me when I'm in a hurry or low on funds. Luckily I've learned a few Thai dishes so that I can quickly throw a Thai curry together or a Thai salad.

Earlier this year I had my dinner group challenge and this year's theme had been to draw a famous chef from a hat. I drew local star, Mai Pham. In one of her cookbooks she had a recipe that they use at nearby Lemon Grass, a kind of fake green papaya salad - a spaghetti squash salad. 

Green papaya can often be hard to find even in our town that has plenty of Asian groceries. It can also be pricey. Mai Pham's chefs discovered that they could cheat by using spaghetti squash instead.

The final home game of the Sacramento Mountain Lions was a doozy. Tied scores throughout the game, they were down 13 to 20 with 29 seconds left on the clock and fourth down. They pulled it off and tied the game to go into overtime! They pulled off the win in just five minutes.

Before the game we had a small tailgate party of Twitterati. Since it was a simple tailgate and I wanted something that could be eaten cold and with fingers, I chose tangy chicken wings. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what type.

I decided to use the Jalapeno Apricot Jam I had made earlier this summer. What a great choice! Easy and delicious.  I'm sure you can use any similar jam, but it's so much better when it's your own.

Tangy Chicken Wings

1 4 lb bag of wings
1 8 oz jar of jalapeno apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet/pan. Lay out wings evenly across the rack. Bake for 30 minutes.

Place jam in a bowl. Remove hot wings from oven and transfer batches into jam and toss them to coat them in jam. Return to rack. Place back into oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Baste with jam again. Cook 5-10 minutes more until glaze is nicely thickened and sticky. Remove and serve hot or cold.

My inner voice told me that I should wear shoes that I wouldn't care about getting dusty/dirty and so I selected some boots. It turned out that was a smooth move because the event I was going to was hosted at an indoor horse riding facility. I was attending Trailfest, a fundraiser for the Central Valley Rails to Trails Foundation (CVRTF) and Project R.I.D.E. (Riding Instruction Designed for Education). Not only was I attending, I was a judge!

Trailfest was a dinner fundraiser organized by Betsy Hite of Elegant & Easy Gourmet Catering. Part of the evening included a Chef's Challenge featuring six chefs from some great area restaurants: Bret Bohlmann of Boulevard Bistro, David Hill of The Chef's Table, Ian MacBride of Lucca, Billy Ngo of Kru, Adam Pechal of Tuli and Thir13en, and Alwin Santiago of Clark's Corner. Their challenge was to present a final entree to six judges using fish from Passmore Ranch.

What is your favorite chocolate treat? Cake? Cookie? Pie? Ice cream? Do you have a go-to recipe that you make all the time or that has been passed down? My go-to chocolate recipe is brownies because I like the moist density of them.

Every year Scharffen Berger chocolates holds a chocolate recipe contest. The last few years it was Chocolate Adventures, where you had to use their chocolate and a couple of unusual ingredients from their adventure list. I entered it two years ago with my peanut butter filled chocolate mochii. This year they decided to change things up and the contest is Elevate a Classic Dessert. The idea is to take a classic chocolate recipe and pump it up somehow to make it something truly new and outstanding.

As a kickoff to the contest, which was posted to their site on October 1st, Scharffen Berger invited a bunch of food bloggers and media to a San Francisco bakery tour. We visited four bakeries that use Scharffen Berger chocolate in their products. Each bakery created a new recipe just for us. After the tour we then returned for a cooking class with Top Chef: Just Desserts winner, Yigit Pura.

Recently a food blogger friend of mine proclaimed on her Facebook page that she hated the term "foodie". I had to wonder to myself (with a shrug), "What's the big deal?"

It made me think of the same debate amongst Star Trek fans, which I am proud to admit I am one (Classic vs TNG, btw). The term "Trekkie" has been hated by some fans who think it belittles them and their reverence for the show. The Trekkie has been stereotyped to be the overzealous, trivia filled, costume wearing convention goer. They are the ones who can quote every line from every episode and will endlessly debate scientific arguments regarding the space-time continuum. Trekkies were famously lampooned in the William Shatner sketch on Saturday Night Live where he told them, "Get a life!"
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my first borscht
I'm not a beet fan. It's probably because I didn't grow up with them except for seeing the canned type. As an adult I've taken opportunities to try new produce and have learned to like spaghetti squash, jalapenos, and figs. But beets, although I've tried them, are not something I will order at a restaurant. And I didn't this time either. Suzanne did.

We were at Firebird Russian Restaurant in Carmichael. I had bought a half-off deal a while ago and Suzanne agreed to go with me since she's never had Russian food before. Myself, the last Russian restaurant I had been to had been a hole-in-the-wall sort of place in North Highlands. 

We drove up to find Firebird pretty much near the corner of Manzanita and Fair Oaks. The restaurant is located in a strip building but occupies most of the footage. At one end was a sign saying it used to have a deli/store, but it was now completely empty and it looked like they were converting that end into a dance floor for a night club.