Studio Movie Grill on Urbanspoon

For ages I have been wanting Sacramento to get one of those theaters where you get to dine while watching the movie.  I was thinking more like the eclectic places like Foreign Cinema in San Francisco or Five Star Theater in Glendale. The new Studio Movie Grill has taken the concept mainstream and is opening up theaters across the country. Ours is in Rocklin at I-80 and Sierra College Blvd. 

The VIP event was last night and I was lucky enough to be invited. My first surprise upon entering was to NOT see the usual popcorn/snack bar. In fact, there is no snack bar at all.  What you do see is a full bar.  There's booth tables and bar seating for hanging out and socializing.

We were served drinks, appetizers, and there was a small 2-man band playing. Then there was the ribbon cutting with local movie-loving celeb Mark S. Allen. 

My friend and I chose to see Night at the Museum and got our seats early to snag good center seats. You can see the tables in the top picture that swing out. Each has a "call" button for service.  What I really liked was the seating.  The seats are large, comfy, and with lots of arm room.  There's no fear about knocking elbows or fighting for the armrest with your strange neighbor. There is also a lot of legroom. This is because the servers need to be able to walk to serve you without much danger of tripping over feet or purses.

I was also impressed with the menu. It was quite extensive and reasonably priced. A woman next to us summed it up well-- you normally get a large popcorn and a couple of sodas and you are at $12-$20 already.  Here you can order a burger for about $10.  I'd rather have the burger. 

The menu had appetizers (and this is where you order the popcorn, btw), salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees, and desserts (where candy falls under). We were allowed to order an appetizer and entrees.  

We selected the ceviche lettuce cups for the appetizer and received 3 loaded lettuce cups. The ceviche was fresh tasting and good and the iceberg lettuce was super crisp. I really liked it. I also liked that it and our drinks arrived very quickly - like under 5 minutes.

The movie started and it was a much longer wait for our food. For some reason ours seemed to be one of the last served although we were close to the beginning of ordering.  I had bbq ribs and fries. Good, but I'm now thinking finger food such as lettuce cups and ribs is kinda touchy for in the dark. My friend ordered the pork chop and ate with knife and fork.

My assessment of the food is that it's on par with an Applebee's or a Chili's.  It's good, made to order, and a good value. It's nothing fancy, but what do you really expect from a movie theater?

early seaters
I had wondered how it would be to hear people eating around me, but that was a non-issue, at least this time and with these neighbors. You could end up with some slob seated next to you.  I also wondered about the servers coming through while the movie was showing. They have to crouch low and do a lot of squatting, but it turned out to not be too noticeable either.

As to Night in the Museum? It was nice and cute, but for a comedy, I didn't laugh once. 

Overall, I'm excited that Studio Movie Grill is here, just that for me it's too far away. Hopefully they'll open another close by someday. I think it's a great option for having the same price movie ticket, better and more food options, and for comfortable seating. Go check them out. 

Never heard of Brunswick Stew? Maybe because it's a Southern dish and not seen on many menus. It's a stew filled with vegetables and lots of meat. In fact, that's the major distinguishing factor, lots of shredded meat, making it really thick. It's also a great recipe because you can do it in a slow cooker. 

Another interesting fact is that it was often made with small game such as squirrel, rabbit, and possum. But for those not into game, you can use chicken and pork. For the one pictured here, I used a rabbit and some chicken together. You can also alter the vegetables and the type of beans. I don't like lima beans and so I used cannelini beans instead. 

This recipe was perfect for me to use another bag of Tasteful Selections ruby red potatoes. They are the perfect size for this stew.

Tasteful Selections is sponsoring Katie’s Krops once again for another growing season. Katie’s Krops is a non-profit organization that empowers youth across the country to grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities, one vegetable garden at a time.

Tasteful Selections  potatoes can be found at Whole Foods, Nugget, Raley's, and Bel Air markets.

Brunswick Stew

1 teaspoon of oil

1/2 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
3 pounds of boneless chicken (thighs, breasts or both)
1 can of cannelini beans
1 can of corn
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
1 pound of baby new potatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons of fish sauce
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth 

On a plate mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat them. 

Add the ingredients to the slow cooker in this order:  oil, dredged chicken, vegetables, then the fish sauce, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and finally the broth.

Set your slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. 

Optional: This stew should really have shredded meat, so it pays to take the time to pull out the chicken, remove the bones, shred and then put back into the stew and stir. 
I'm pleased to announce this recipe won FIRST place in the Krusteaz Blogger Gluten Free Bakeoff!

While some people eat biscotti year round, I tend to associate it with the holidays and gift giving. Now that it's December, biscotti has been on my mind. Couple that with the cold weather, you also start to think about traditional comfort foods for cold, rainy days, like chili. That's why savory biscotti came to mind.

Disclosure: Krusteaz sent me some of their gluten-free mixes to try out and this recipe is an entry in their BLOGGER GLUTEN FREE BAKE-OFF CONTEST.

I decided to break out the Krusteaz Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread Mix. I had half a block of leftover cheddar cheese and some frozen jalapenos from the summer. I figured that would make the perfect biscotti to eat with a bowl of chili.  Of course you can switch the cheese, perhaps use a jack instead. It's all up to what you have around. 

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Biscotti
prep time: 10 mins
baking time: 45-50 mins
difficulty: easy
yield: 10-20 biscotti

1 box of Krusteaz Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread Mix
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup of butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the cornbread mix, cheese, and jalapenos into a food processor and pulse to mix. 

Add the cold butter cubes and pulse a couple of times to cut in the butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil. Add to the cornbread mixture in the processor and pulse several times until the mixture is thoroughly mixed and comes together.  

Remove mixture from the processor onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Form the mixture into a rectangle of about 3-4 inches wide and about 10 inches long. 

Bake the biscotti for 20 minutes or until it feels firm and the outer surface turns a pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

After it has cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the biscotti into pieces 1/2 inch thick. 

Take the slices and lay them cut side down onto fresh parchment paper lined baking sheets. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Turn each biscotti piece over and bake an additional 10 minutes. 

Remove from oven and cool on racks.
Plateful of Christmas CookiesImage via Wikipedia

I've been seeing cookie exchanges being mentioned a lot lately. I've been hosting them on and off twenty years now and so I definitely have a set of rules that I think work out really well.  Most of the time I've done these at my workplace where you can have as many as 20 people participating. It can get a bit unruly. Sure, there are plenty of ways to host, but this is what works for me.

The Two Basic Rules

1) Your contribution must be homemade, made from scratch. Shortcutting it with brownie mixes or slice and bake cookies just won't cut it in my world.

2) Festive cookies only. Which really means... no chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, or rice krispie treats allowed. I'm not interested in a cookie that I can get any time of the year at any bake sale or coffee counter. It should be something you only make once or twice a year that is associated with the holidays or special occasions.

How It All Works

I divide people into teams of eight people. That means that each person must make a total of four dozen cookies. You can vary the team sizes, but you want to keep it manageable for the participants. You don't want to ask them to have to bake eight dozen cookies - they wouldn't want to do it!

They make individual gift plates or bags with six cookies in each. They can provide the recipe if they wish, but it is not required. Some people do have their special, family recipes, so I don't push it. I've also asked people who want to to submit their recipes to me a week in advance by email. That way I can put together a little cookie book to give everyone the day of the exchange.

On the day of the exchange, each team swaps plates/bags so that you go home with eight different kinds of cookies. Now this does mean that you have one that is your own submission. Most of the time we take our own plates and donate them for eating there, on the spot. That way people can sample cookies from other teams.

Other Methods

There are other methods of doing cookie exchanges. For instance, everyone brings their plate of cookies and you set them out buffet-like. Each person goes down the line and takes one or two of each cookie. The reason I don't like this style is that people often want to go home with their cookies to share with their families. If there is only one of Sara's Kris Kringle balls, then my spouse/child won't get to try it or there could be fights among siblings.

Cookie exchanges are a lot of fun and the rules can be altered to fit your agenda. With holidays and cookies paired together, you can't help but be in a festive mood.

I'm not well versed in my own heritage regarding Filipino food. I know the basics: lumpia, adobo, and pancit.  This recipe for Caldereta is one I did not grow up on, but have had to discover on my own as an adult.

For those unfamiliar with Filipino dishes, there is a complexity of flavors in each dish. Filipino food is not spicy, but instead relies of the blending of salty, sour, sweet, and umami in rather unique combinations. Vinegar is used a lot to give a tang to the dish. 

Another fact is that Filipinos love offal. They have no problem eating nose to tail including the oink. In this dish, there is a liver pate added in which definitely adds that liver taste, but this can be optional for those that don't care for it. 

Use whatever vegetables and meat you like. The stew's background is to be made with goat meat, but you'll most often find it this days with beef.  But you can use pork and even chicken if you choose. 

Usually the stew is simmered for 2 hours to tenderize the beef. I started by tenderizing the beef first by cooking it sous vide, and then assembling the rest of the ingredients.  The beef was wonderfully tender and the flavors didn't suffer from the difference in cooking methods. 

Check out the Cyber Monday SousVide Supreme special:


1.5 pounds of stew beef cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup of vinegar
6 whole peppercorns, crushed
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons oil
1 8 ounce can of peas
3 ounces liver spread/pate

Marinate the beef in the vinegar, peppercorns, and garlic for 2 hours. Drain.

Fill the SousVide Supreme with water and heat to 130F.  While it's heating up, place marinated beef into a food pouch, vacuum and seal.  Cook in the water bath for 3 hours. When done, remove from the water bath.

Heat a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium high. Saute the onions until soft. Add the cooked beef to the skillet and add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, salt, sugar, and hot water. Bring to a simmer. 

Add red and green peppers and hot sauce. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add liver pate and green peas. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve over rice.