During college I worked in a gourmet pasta shop in Portland. I learned all about fresh pasta and sauces and ate well for a college student. It was at this shop that I had my first experience with panforte.

Panforte is Italian for 'strong bread', yet it's not a bread at all. The best description is that it is an Italian fruit cake, although it is really closer to a candy than a baked good. It's so rich that you only eat a sliver at a time. Like all those jokes about fruit cakes lasting for years, panforte will last a long time. It was because of this that it was often carried by travelers in the Middle Ages. You can store it in a cupboard, no need to refrigerate, for weeks.

Recipes for panforte vary as much as each region of Italy. Every family can have their own closely guarded recipe. The beauty of it is that you can put all sorts of stuff into it depending on what you have or what you like. There will always be nuts, usually almonds and hazelnuts. The nuts are kept whole and not chopped up. The varying ingredients could be: raisins, dried figs and/or apricots, and candied citrus peel. There is also a lot of spice, so this is another area where you can doctor to your tastes. Some even it get to be spicier by adding pepper.

The addition of chocolate didn't apparently start until the 1800s. In Italy you will find versions with and without chocolate. Myself, I've only ever had the chocolate version.

Because the flour in a traditional panforte recipe is only used to help bind the ingredients, panforte is perfect for gluten-free adjustment. If you choose to make this with regular flour, just put 3/4 cup flour instead of the tapioca and coconut flours.

Finally, panforte is usually done in a springform or round pan. I was testing this panforte for another project and so I did it in a shallow cookie pan.


1 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus

1/2 cup tapioca powder
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 ounces of semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup honey
1 cup sugar
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Generously grease a springform pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the nuts and fruit together. In a small bowl, combine together the tapioca and coconut flours with the cocoa powder and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the fruit and nuts and mix together to coat the nuts and fruit.

Put the semisweet chocolate pieces in a small, microwave proof bowl. Microwave for a minute at a time, stirring each  minute, until the chocolate is melted.

Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Keep heating until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add the chocolate and mix together.

Take the hot chocolate/honey mixture and add to the fruit/nut mixture. Mix quickly until incorporated. Quickly pour into the springform pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for about 35-45 minutes or until the top starts to blister and bubble. Remove and cool on a rack. When it is cooled but still warm, remove the sides of the springform pan. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Let cool completely before serving. 
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How does a grocery chain celebrate its 30th anniversary? They open their first store in California. Today The Fresh Market opens at 9 a.m. with a Parmesan wheel breaking. Located at 2030 Douglas Boulevard (near the Macaroni Grill), it is on a busy thoroughfare where many will surely stop on their commute.

I apologize for the horrible photos. I forgot my good camera and had to use my smartphone. 

Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, The Fresh Market stores are mostly east of the Mississippi. After this first store in Roseville, the second will be in Palo Alto, then Santa Barbara. The company's focus is on bringing the best in perishable (fresh) products to their customers with the best customer service.

This recipe comes from Allrecipes.com. I needed a dessert for a work potluck and I had just bought a lot of mochi rice flour. It's also the holidays. Combo all that together and I found a pumpkin mochi recipe.

Mochi has become more common and known about here on the west coast. It's found a lot in the new Japanese, tart style yogurt shops that are the latest trend. But Mochi happens to be centuries old to Asians. Basically it is glutonous rice flour that is shaped and used in different applications and called by different names depending on the culture. Mochi is a Japanese term. It is often shaped into little cakes and can be stuffed with red bean paste or other fillings. It's also become quite popular filled with ice cream. Think of Bon Bons with mochi around the ice cream instead of chocolate. The texture is a bit chewy. In the yogurt shops the mochi usually comes cubed like croutons.

For those unfamiliar with it and who stumble upon it at a potluck, they'll be confused about this boring looking item. Mochi can be very tasty and rich and the chewiness can be an acquired taste. Some might pass by it out of ignorance, but for those that try it, you'll find converts.

Pumpkin Mochi

* 2 1/2 cups mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 2 cups white sugar
* 4 eggs
* 1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
* 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
* 1 cup butter, melted
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Sift together the mochiko, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Mix together the eggs, pumpkin puree, condensed milk, butter, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the mochiko mixture. Pour into the prepared dish.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Allow to cool before serving.


Until about 15 years ago I was a Canadian and so I couldn't vote here in the United States. I successfully ignored politics for that reason. But now I'm an American citizen. I'm still not well versed in politics and so I tend to avoid political discussions. This post is not going to be preachy. I'm just going to lay down a few of my thoughts on why I will be voting YES on Prop 37.

Prop 37 is the one that requires labeling food that contains a Genetically Modified Ingredient (GMO). GMO's are when scientists take the DNA of an organism and tweak it for what they think is for the better. Some examples would be making grains more drought tolerant or pest resistant. 

Now I'm also not a religious person, so regardless of messing with God's creations, I certainly am against tweaking with Mother Nature. I don't think we have any business messing with DNA. That's how we get zombie/vampire viruses and deadly pathogens that are going to wipe out the human race. Even if that's an exaggeration, I still think it's dangerous. Just because you tweak one gene to be more pest resistant doesn't mean it isn't also related to some other function you aren't aware of.

That aside, if you are going to tweak with my food, then I have right to know it! That way I can avoid it. It's a basic human right - freedom of choice - and I choose to know what I'm putting into my body.

Now those that are against Prop 37 will say it is flawed and that's why shouldn't pass it. Guess what?  Most laws that get enacted are flawed and end up getting tweaked later to correct an error. I'd rather we pass the law now and then worry about cleaning up the loopholes or messes. You have to move one step at a time and step one is labeling the foods that contain GMOs.

update: now Davis Creamery 

Honey Lavender, Maple Bacon, Avocado Coconut, Dark Chocolate with Orange Zest. These are not flavors you will find in your supermarket freezer. You can find them relatively close by in Davis, at Sugar Daddies on E Street. They, and about 130 other flavors, are all made by Davis Creamery. And how good are they? Well, they put the Ben & Jerry's down the street out of business.

I met with Jesse Sahlin, a partner in both Sugar Daddies and Davis Creamery. It should be noted that Sugar Daddies also sells Cupcake Cravings, and so it was no wonder that my first questions were about this bit of identity crisis. 

Jesse explained that Sugar Daddies was started eight years ago by David Robert. Sugar Daddies is the store, while Davis Creamery is the ice cream label, both owned by Robert and Sahlin. Sahlin actually joined the business earlier this year when he had started working on a new website for Robert. Robert had been looking to sell the businesses and so Sahlin started by buying 15% of the business, then 51%, and by the end of the year he will finish buying out the last 49% and be sole owner. 

Asked why he wanted to go into ice cream, Sahlin said, "It keeps life interesting and I think it helps me keep creative and motivated both with the ice cream and with my other business."

Did you know you can eat watermelon rind? As typical with a lot of Southern recipes, watermelon rind recipes were born out of the necessity to use every bit of food, especially by the slaves on old plantations. The rind can be used in everything from pickles to pie. I tried a watermelon rind pie a few years ago but was unimpressed. But watermelon rind pickles made sense to me.

Basically, after you've finished enjoying the lovely red flesh, you skin the rind and cook in liquid until it is nice and tender. Where pie failed, pickles succeed. These come out tender and, with the jalapeno, a little spicy as well.

Certainly one of the best things in Sacramento is our beloved American River Parkway. We are so blessed that someone had the foresight 29 years ago to maintain this wildlife swath along our American River for generations to enjoy.

Unfortunately, tough economic times effect all aspects of civil services, including Parks & Recreation. Funding for maintaining the Parkway has been severely cut and so it falls to volunteers and charitable organizations to try and pick up some of the slack. The American River Parkway Foundation is the main group and they rely on the help of the public in the form of fundraising.

Think of all the things that the American River Parkway provides us:
  • Bike trails
  • Picnic areas
  • Rafting
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Running trails
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Bird watching

And let's not forget the most important of all - preserving the flora and fauna or our area. Coyotes, turkeys, and even mountain lions deserve it.

On Saturday, October 13th, the American River Parkway Foundation will be hosting Truckin on the River. This first time event will take place at William B. Pond Park at the end of Arden Way in Carmichael from 11-5.  There will be things for the whole family: bounce houses to beer garden to bands.

With all of your favorite food trucks gathered on the American River come enjoy their delicious treats or try them out for the first time. On top of the food trucks you'll also be able to enjoy a beer garden, a mainstage with local music, children's activities, and much more. All of that with the beautiful backdrop of the American River Parkway...what more can you ask for!

Did we mention that you will also be making a difference on the American River Parkway as you enjoy your food and festivities? Proceeds raised from this event will directly benefit the Parkway through the preservation and restoration work of the American River Parkway Foundation.
You will find over a dozen of Sacramento's finest food trucks from the California Mobile Food Association, better known as Foodmob. The music will be provided by Sacramento's own Jerry Perry Presents, who represents some of the best bands in the city. 

Chelsea Hughes: 11am - 11:30
The Bell Boys: 11:40-12:40
KB & The Slingtones 1:00-2:20
Kepi Ghoulie - 2:40-3:40
Musical Charis - 4:00 - 5:00

It is highly recommended that you use the bike trails to get there! There will be bike valet available. Overflow parking available, but there is Parks & Rec fee of $5.

Tickets are $5 in advance, $8 at the gate and go to preserving this gem of a Parkway. So buy them in advance. Truckin on the River tickets

Food purchases are separate.

Do you have a kickass cookie sandwich recipe that's worth $25,000? Then you need to enter the annual Scharffenberger Chocolate Adventure baking contest, this year's theme being Sandwich Cookies. 

As a pre-cursor to the start of the contest on October 1st, Scharffenberger hosted another bakery crawl in San Francisco for the media. I was lucky enough to be invited again. This year each of our four stops supplied us with a cookie sandwich using Scharffenberger chocolate products and one of the Adventure Ingredients.

Miette's Macarons
We started at the Scharffenberger store located inside the Ferry Building. After gathering our group we took less than 20 steps down the aisle to Miette.
Last year Miette was our last stop and we had to grab our desserts and run because we were behind schedule. Today they were our first stop and they had made for us Chocolate Macaron with Sumatra Coffee Ganache Filling. Even though I'm not one for coffee flavored anything, I LOVE a good macaron and these were delicious. 

Once again we climbed aboard a streetcar to continue on our trip. This year I stayed on the inside part of the streetcar since the sun never really came out and I'm too used to Sacramento heat. Brrrr!

Goody Goodie Cream & Sugar Dessert Salon & Cafe was our next stop. I had never heard of it. It was a small little place located in SOMA not too far from the SOMA Streat Food Park. This was a rather unusual cookie sandwich, with savory elements, super thin wafers, and just an overall odd combination that worked out well. The "Goodywich" was an Oil Cured Olive and Cacao Nib Wafer Sandwich with a Preserved Lemon and Basil Cream Filling. It reminded me of Giada Pamela De Laurentiis' panini with brie, chocolate, and basil. An unexpected combination that surprises you with how well it works.