My favorite meat is pork. I love it in all its delicious fatty forms. It is so versatile and I really can never tire of all the different ways it is prepared. It was no wonder that I wanted to go to Cochon 555. "Cochon" is French for "pig" and the 555 means - 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 wineries. What could be better?
2012 is the fourth tour of Cochon. It was established as a way to support family farms that raise heritage breed pigs. The tour stops at 10 U.S. cities where the five chosen chefs compete to make the best dishes from their heritage pigs. The winners from each city then go on to compete in the Grand Finale at the Aspen Wine & Food Classic. If you like what you see in this post, then consider going to the final Cochon event in San Francisco scheduled for May 20th.

Selland's Market Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

As much as I love the Selland Restaurant's Ella and Kitchen, it may surprise some that I've never eaten at Selland's Market Cafe. Yes, I've been in the East Sacramento location on occasion, but I never bought anything and sat down to eat it. My first meal at a Market Cafe ended up being the brand new location in El Dorado Hills, which opens tomorrow, January 30th.

A few years ago I hung out in EDH a lot because my long term boyfriend has a house up there. As often happens when you haven't been somewhere in a while, you notice all the changes. There are new shopping complexes and a new giant Target store. There are also a lot of closures.

I drive up the hill and enter the well known EDH Town Center complex and notice what's still there and what isn't. Past the original Town Center buildings is the newer building in which the new Selland's Market Cafe is located. The building has a French Quarter feel with lamps and wrought iron fencing all around. Selland's has a choice spot - the corner with lots of patio space overlooking the man-made lake and fountain.

In keeping with the architecture, the interior has a bright and cheerful bistro feel. If you love wine, you'll find there are plenty of brands to choose some off to the left of the entrance. I'm sure that this new Selland's will also host the weekly 2 for $25 special which includes entree for two and a bottle of a paired wine.

My sweet tooth and eye are drawn to the pastry cases where there are choices from brownies and cookies to cheesecake and panna cotta.

My BFF and friends have become addicted to sausage stuffed jalapenos. Seriously, every time I've been over there during the last three months I've eaten some. BFF can easily buy out a jalapeno farmer's crop. I won't complain though. They are damn good.

Normally the sausage stuffed jalapenos are stuffed with a pork sausage. Thank goodness BFF realized some changes needed to be made and so she at least switched to turkey sausage and cut down on some of the cheese. She likes to use smoked gouda versus the parmesan so often called for in the recipes.

I wanted to see if I could make it even healthier and so I made a vegetarian version using tempeh. If you want to go completely paleo, I would mix in a whipped raw egg to hold the tempeh together as you stuff the jalapenos.

When I told BFF that I was making a vegetarian version she tipped up her nose. BFF is a picky eater - no seafood, no mushrooms, no meat other than pork, beef, and chicken. I explained to her that it's the jalapenos and the cheese that are the most important elements, not the sausage. In fact, I don't notice a "meat" difference when I use the tempeh. But she will have none of that.

I'm supplying you with the original version found all over the internet and then my vegetarian version. You can choose which way you wish to go. I do use cheese in my vegetarian version. I also wanted some more flavor since I wasn't using an Italian sausage like BFF does, so I added some vegetables and spices.

If you have ever had the problem of cutting jalapenos and then burning your eye when you touch it due to the jalapeno juice, then be sure to watch the video to see how I avoid it. It also shows you how to keep your jalapenos from being too hot taste-wise.

Regular stuffing:

    1 pound ground pork sausage
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Place sausage in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until evenly brown. Be sure to break it up as much as possible. Drain the grease.
In a bowl, mix the sausage, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese.

Vegetarian stuffing:

1 t olive oil
1 pkg of ground tempeh. I use Smart Grounds.
1/4 c minced onion
1/4 c minced red/green bell peppers (optional)
1/2 t Italian seasoning
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 c shredded cheese of choice (I used Monterey Jack)

Place a skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. When it is hot, add the onion and bell pepper and saute until tender. Add tempeh and Italian seasoning. Cook until heated through. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add cheeses. Mix thoroughly.

Stuffing and cooking the jalapenos

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Slice the stem end off of the jalapenos. Slice them in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes (see video for a great technique). 
Take a spoonful of the stuffing mixture and press together in your hands so it will hold together and then press into the half of the jalapeno.
Repeat for all of the jalapeno halves, placing them on a baking sheet, mixture facing up.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until jalapenos are tender.

starting another batch w/ starter on the right
About 15 years ago my mom-in-law started drinking this concoction made with this juice from a mushroom. Yuck! Now I've discovered kombucha and when I asked her if it was the same thing, she said, "yes".

First you need to understand that I consider my mom-in-law a hippie. She's actually my ex mom-in-law, but as my ex sis-in-law says,  "You divorced my brother, not me." Anyway, Tina is mom-in-law and she really has been sort of out there, hippyish for most people. Is it even OK to call people Hippies in 2012? I guess today you would say she's into a healthy, natural lifestyle.  She's successfully battled cancer using alternative medicine along with regular medical techniques. She's a vivacious free spirit who has WAY more energy than I do and she's 20 years older than me! I cannot keep up with this woman.

Years ago she starts making this mushroom tea stuff that is supposed to be really good for you. All I needed to hear was the word "mushroom" because I hate mushrooms. And all I needed to see was this glass jar filled with tea and this nasty looking mushroom floating around in it. I ignored it all as some disgusting hippie experiment.

I am a Classic Trekkie. That is, I prefer the original Star Trek over all the incarnations that followed it. In fact, when I was a preteen, I kept a binder with listings of all the episodes, books, and photonovellas that were out. Yes, I am a geek.

This was back in the late 70's. I was still living overseas and was excited yet disappointed when the first Star Trek movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out on December 7th, 1979. I remember the day exactly because of my birthday, but I was half a world away and would have to wait to finally get to see it.

In that movie the Indian actress/model Persis Khambatta played the bald headed alien, Ilia. She was gorgeous even without hair. Even though the movie stunk for overall quality, it was still a hit and Khambatta's role was unforgettable. It was then that I first had a curiosity over what I might look like bald. Enter the 80s and now we had people like Sinead O'Connor and Grace Jones. Later on you can add Natalie Portman, Demi Moore, and most recently, Britney Spears. Certainly if they could do it, I could too.

In my opinion, bundt cakes and pizzas have something in common. They originated in another country, but Americans have made them all their own. No one does pizza in more variations and better than Americans (yes, Italian style is good in its own right),  and no one has created an entire world of bundt cakes like we have. Americans love bundt cakes because they are easy, decorative, and delicious. It's no wonder that a new successful franchise, Nothing Bundt Cakes, has been opening stores nationwide while other businesses are closing.

I first came across Nothing Bundt Cakes last May when I was at my reunion in Dallas. I was staying with a childhood friend and noticed a gift certificate they had on their counter. Later I came across the actual storefront when I was driving around their suburb. I quickly looked up the website and found that it was offering franchise opportunities. I almost even participated in one of their recruiting conference calls.

Someone else who was busy looking at the Nothing Bundt Cakes opportunity was Cameron Diviak. Diviak and his partner, Greg Leuterio, were in banking and looking for something new to go into. They visited the closest stores to us, in the Bay area and Reno, and then met with the Nothing Bundt Cakes founders at corporate headquarters in Las Vegas. Everything they heard and learned was encouraging and in December they opened their first store in Roseville with hopes to open another in Folsom soon.

Over the last couple of months we got some new food trucks on the streets of Sacramento. One of them is Fuzion Eatz, which started out in the county last July and hit the City of Sacramento streets around Christmas.

Business partners Jeremy Lopez and Nathan Sawyer see the truck as the road to one or more brick and mortar restaurants. Like many truck owners nationwide, they use the trucks to build brand recognition and customer loyalty before getting into an actual physical location. Sawyer and Lopez decided that they wanted to go with a fusion idea where they could mix flavors and foods together. 

It was at SactoMoFo3 that I first tried their food. The truck serves a selection of gyros and a couple of burgers on their standard menu.

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

Considering the poor economy it's always refreshing to hear of a business that is actually expanding and therefore bringing new jobs. Such is the case of Black Bear Diner. I was first introduced to Black Bear Diner about 8 years ago when on a romantic getaway with a boyfriend.

Each area of the country has their chains. The freeway diner/restaurant chain in the Midwest and South is Cracker Barrel. For the west, it's Black Bear Diners. A decade ago there were only about ten in California. Now there are 28. It seems that a bunch of them have come on-line over the last couple of years. Here in Sacramento, we finally got one about a year ago. It's located by the truck stop at I-80 and West El Camino.

This year I used a couple of Groupons to try out the Sacramento location, one for brunch and one for dinner.

Black Bears serve breakfast through dinner and are famous for their fruit cobblers. My first visit was for brunch. If you are a brunch person, you can't go wrong with Black Bear Diners. They serve generous portions so that you won't leave hungry. I chose Eggs Benedict since I hadn't had them in ages. I opted for the country style potatoes versus the hash browns.
No, I'm not drinking woody, low lying plants. I'm drinking cocktail mixers called vinegar shrubs. Here's the alternate definition for you:"any of various acidulated beverages made from the juice of fruit, sugar, and other ingredients, often including alcohol."

Now many of you know that I don't drink alcohol because I'm allergic to it. This really limits what I can drink at bars. I love it when I find a bartender that knows how to make good mocktails. Just as food has gone through a renaissance over the last twenty years, so is mixology now. The cocktail scene is changing, or rather, returning to the past. The trend behind the bar right now is a return to bitters and shrubs. These two bartending staples were used for centuries but have gotten lost over the last fifty years. They are now starting to enjoy a revival.

Bitters: "a liquid, often an alcoholic liquor, in which bitter herbs or roots have steeped, used as a flavoring, especially in mixed drinks, or as a tonic." You can see from the definitions that bitters and vinegar shrubs are closely related, but bitters tend to be alcohol based and vinegar shrubs are not. 

As we begin a new year I choose to look forward. After all, 2011 was just an eh year. But I did notice that I hardly cooked at all and I really slacked off on restaurant reviews and so those will be a couple of focuses for 2012.

This will be a changing work in process.

Restaurants on my To Do List:
A lot of these have been around and I just haven't been to them. Others are new.

Grange - new chef
Green Boheme
Flaming Grill
Shoki Ramen House
Pork Belly Grub Shack
Waterboy - love it, just have never reviewed it

Manresa in Los Gatos ($$$$ have to save up for that!)
Incanto in SF

Foods I Want to Make or Use:

Kombucha (making my first batch now)
Mesquite Meal
Angel food cake from scratch, not a box
authentic Red Velvet cake