I really like Swagbucks- let me count the ways. So far I have earned enough to get the following over the years:

  • FIVE $25 Itunes gift cards that I use for my nephew and godson
  • TWO $50 Southwest Airlines giftcards
  • a $10 Barnes & Noble giftcard
  • Dings to cover/protect my notebook pc and Droid phone
  • a heart rate monitor watch
And now you can earn $6SB for every $1 spent on Amazon.com!

What is Swagbucks? It's a website that rewards you with Swagbucks for doing simple things like searching the internet, shopping, playing games, watching videos, answering surveys, etc. Swagbucks have a sort of cash value. For instance, you might earn $11 SB just for Googling "black garlic". And I say Googling on purpose. Once you put their toolbar on your browser and search via the toolbar or from their webpage, it is actually using the Google search engine. You will get the same search results, so why not get $SB for it? You get a $SB for answering the Daily Poll and you can get $SBs for watching  videos. It's all good.
    You can also use your $SB to enter raffles for prizes like giftcards, game systems, Kindles, and more.

    And yes, you get $SB for referrals. So all the Swagbucks links I've provided do have my referral code in them.  But here's a bonus for YOU - if you decide to join, use the code NOVEMBERSB (by Dec. 1st) and you'll get an additional $80 SB instantly.

    Here's a breakdown of all the ways that I know to earn $SB:
    • Searching the internet via their toolbar or website
    • Shop Amazon.com!
    • Daily Poll
    • Take surveys
    • Daily Deals - such as Groupon, Froobi.com, etc
    • Shop via their associated partners including such big sites as Overstock, BestBuy, and more
    • Print coupons for groceries, etc and get $SB for each one printed
    • Watch videos
    • Play online Flash Games
    • Sign up for special offers like newsletters or subscriptions
    You can also grab $SB from special codes that show up in Twitter, Facebook, code hunts, etc. There's Twitter Trivia and other fun contests where you can win $SB.

    So....Why not sign up for Swagbucks?  You're gonna search the internet and shop on Amazon anyway, so why not get paid for it?
    I recently teased my brother, "Why can't you date women without any dietary restrictions?" His ex-wife is vegetarian. Others have had allergies. His current girlfriend is allergic to gluten and eggs and she was joining us for Thanksgiving.

    Now I'm pretty used to cooking gluten-free now, but I have avoided doing the whole vegan thing. Not that egg allergies make you a vegan, but eggs are such an important part to baking, that I wasn't sure how well my recipes would do without them. 

    I ended up making two desserts for her. One was this version of the sticky toffee pudding I had made a couple years ago.  It came out just as dense and moist as the original. My second recipe also came out well. Vegan baking isn't so hard after all!

    Gluten-free Vegan Sticky Toffee Pudding

    Cooking Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a springform pan and set aside.
    2. In a small bowl, mix together flax seed and water. Let sit to gel.
    3. Put the chopped dates, cinnamon sticks and water into a high-sided saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
    4. In a mixing bowl, use a hand blender to cream together the sugar and Earth Balance spread. Add the flax seed mixture, xanthan gum, and GF flour and blend until smooth.
    5. By now the dates should be nicely softened and the water thickened. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add the baking powder and be aware that it is going to foam up. Mix together and then pour the whole date mixture into the batter. Blend them together well.
    6. Pour batter into springform pan. Bake for about 30 mins or until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean. Poke holes into the cake using a skewer.
    7. Take 1/2 c of toffee sauce and pour over cake so it will soak into the holes.
    8. Cut and serve warm with additional toffee sauce on top.

    • 100 grams light corn syrup
    • 200 grams light brown sugar
    • 150 grams vegan margarine
    • 100 ml soya cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    Cooking Directions
    1. To make the sauce: melt the syrup, margarine, sugar & vanilla essence in a small saucepan & simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Leave to cool slightly & then stir in the soya cream. Prick the pudding all over & pour half the hot toffee sauce over the pudding.

    Enhanced by Zemanta
    Samosa Garden on Urbanspoon

    There are those restaurants where you have your favorite item so that you order it every time - even though you might be missing out on other great items on the menu. You are narrowly focused on this one dish that you know and love. The same can be said about places. You make a trip to a town you go to infrequently and you just have to go to that special spot. It's like you are drawn to it by a giant magnet.

    When I go to Berkeley the restaurant I  am drawn to is Vik's Chaat. Sometimes, for better or worse, I just can't go because of the hours they keep. But if they are open, I'm there to either eat or pick up items I can take home to eat later.

    Chaat refers to Indian street food. When the sun goes down, the people come out and stroll the streets socializing. All along the streets are vendor carts selling all kinds of street snacks. Before or after a show or movie, people will stop for bites to eat.

    Vik's Chaat is definitely a find, but what about Sacramento? Where can one find chaat here? I found out recently when Maneeza and Suzanne took me down to Florin & Stockton to a small place called Samosa Garden.

    Samosa Garden is one of those hole-in-the-wall kind of finds in a dreary strip mall. You enter to find a display case filled with Indian sweets (which I wanted to take a picture of but forgot). After that is a buffet table. They do sell lunch/dinner combos of food, but this place is known for the chaat and that's what we had for our lunch. With three of us we ordered five items totaling about $17 and we still had leftovers. I was impressed.

    As someone who is not all that knowledgeable about Indian food, I won't get terribly critical about the dishes. I will say that this was good food, but not great food. But there's a time when one has those cravings and if you have a craving one day for chaat, then here is where you can find it locally.

    All of our items were vegan, as is typical of a majority of Indian food. I forgot to take a picture of our three samosa, large and filled with chunks of spiced potato. It was served with a cilantro chutney and a sweet chili sauce. They were tasty, but I've had samosa with much flakier pastry.

    This is the Pani Puri. You open a hole in the puffs, fill it with the chickpea/potato mixture and sauces and then eat it down. I prefer the pani puri at Vik's Chaat better. The tamarind water just wasn't as nice here.

    The Aloo Paratha. Aloo refers to the potato filling. This was my favorite item of the day. It's similar to an Afghani bolani in that it is their flatbread with a filling that you then can add a topping smeared atop. Here you see it with yogurt.

    This is the Bhel Puri and is Maneeza's favorite. It has different sort of crispies, onion, spices, and then a tamarind sauce. I liked it because I liked the addition of onions.

    We also shared a Masala Dosa. It was also filled with a potato filling and had mint and tomato chutneys with it.

    As I think about places I'm drawn to when I'm in certain areas, that would usually be Huong Lan at Stockton & 65th for banh mi sandwiches. But now I've got another place that might pull my attention on occasion - Samosa Garden.

    Enhanced by Zemanta

    Fennel is a new ingredient for me. I recently got a bulb of it in my CSA box. I also had a couple ears of corn that I had forgotten about in my refrigerator. Thus I wanted to combine the two. I happened to have a blood orange infused olive oil that worked great for this. I also had some lemon salt to sprinkle atop the serving. All in all, a great, refreshing salad.

    Fennel Corn Salad

    1 bulb of fennel, sliced, core removed
    1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
    1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, chopped
    1/4 cup red onion, chopped
    kernels from 2 ears of corn, cooked
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    3 Tablespoons lemon juice
    freshly ground pepper to taste

    Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to thoroughly coat apple and vegetables with the oil and lemon juice. 

    Enhanced by Zemanta
    CF Cheng Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

    Update 4/9/13: A regular customer friend has told me that the entire staff has turned over, including the chef. The food is no longer as good. This review is now outdated.

    Typically when you want to go out for great, truly authentic ethnic food, you go where the natives eat (so to speak). For Chinese, that usually means somewhere in the south area, maybe on Stockton or Freeport Boulevards. These will be the places where they have taped up photos of the dishes on the wall for the non-Chinese customers because the menus will all be in Chinese and the servers don't speak English. The tables will be filled with Chinese patrons eating dishes made with jelly fish, strange vegetables, and parts of animals that most Americans would never consider eating.

    Recently I was taken to "the best Chinese in town" by my new co-worker, Flora. She is a Chinese immigrant and has recently moved here from Los Angeles and it soon became apparent she was a foodie. She's been making friends among the Chinese community in town and they are the ones who told her of CF Cheng's...in Natomas. After trying it herself a couple of times, she agreed and took me to treat me to dinner.

    CF Cheng's is located off Arena Boulevard not far from the arena itself. It's in one of those complexes where there is also a Massage Envy and a Mel's Diner. The style is Cantonese. The restaurant itself is small, clean, and new.  It is only able to seat about 40 people. My coworker had called to make a reservation for two, something I thought a bit odd for a small Chinese restaurant. But, she says, it is often packed with a long wait and she figured she better call to see if they would take a reservation.

    Habesha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

    The first time I had Ethiopian food I was in college in Portland and didn't care for it. As far as I was concerned, it demonstrated the poverty of the country to me as it was all mush. Not a good first impression.

    But one does grow older and wiser. Add to that the fact that people just rave about the Ethiopian food found in Sacramento at Queen of Sheba. I have yet to dine there myself, but recently did venture to another spot, Habesha on Fair Oaks Boulevard. I had bought a half-off coupon that was about to expire and so I invited Suzanne to join me for dinner.

    Habesha is tucked away at the back corner of a strip mall behind Ettore's on Fair Oaks Boulevard. It's a casual place that has a counter and they sell everything from breakfast fare to smoothies. Apparently it had been a gyro cafe in a former life. We found a table and quickly noticed that the owner had printouts of the favorable Sacramento News & Review review under the glass of every table. Before I had arrived I had checked out the Yelp reviews to find them a mixed bag with most complaints about service. No such troubles were to befall us.

    We decided to stick with the easy way out and ordered the combination platter shown at top. But to start, I couldn't pass up the lamb samosas. I prefer my samosas with meat versus vegetarian and these lamb ones were fantastic. They were filled with finely ground lamb that had a good amount of spicy heat to them. They were served with a cucumber sauce to cool your tongue down. This worked very well as they were the perfect counter to each other.