I've been a bit over quinoa for some time now. Don't get me wrong, it tastes good and is healthy as heck for you but I'm a little burned out on grain salads. But sometimes you just don't know what to bring to a party (and you're feeling lazy) so you fall back on something that's tried and true which is what I did on Sunday...sorta. I made a quinoa salad....but not my standard Mediterranean quinoa salad. Since Ross and Beth's BBQ's theme was "Tiki Shindig" I decided to go with a mango-quinoa salad recipe I had read about in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's vegan cookbook, "Veganomicon." I had most of the ingredients in my kitchen already so it was a snap; I did jazz it up a little by throwing in a chopped avocado (I like to live on the edge like that). The only item I had to journey to the store for was the mango...I'm not big fan of mangoes, so I was pretty glad when the produce guy at Raley's came forth and suggested the honey mangoes (there were 3 different kinds at the grocery store) and even picked me out a ripe one. The only thing I didn't count on with the recipe was how slippery mangoes are once you peel them, mine kept trying to run away when I trying to chop it up. In fact, the mango's escape attempts made me think of a cute picture I saw awhile back on my friend Kerry's Facebook page (see below). Now it makes sense.... Anyhow, the party was fun and Mr.S. let me drink all the tiki punch I wanted but he fought me over the bacon trail mix that some amazing person brought (oh yes, I said BACON trail was magical--kind of like a hippie and a pig had a love child. I most definitely plan on trying my hand at it, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Mango-Avocado Tiki Salad


1 mango, peeled and diced small

1 red pepper, seeded and diced as small as you can get it

1 avocado, peeled and diced

1 cup chopped scallions

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled

1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed (a 15-ounce can)


1. Combine the mango, red pepper, scallions, avocado and cilantro in a mixing bowl.

2. Add the red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, and salt and stir to combine.

3. Add the quinoa and stir until everything is well incorporated.

4. Fold in the black beans.

5. Serve immediately or let it sit for a bit for the flavors to meld.
What a busy weekend! I went on a fancy date night with Mr. S. on Friday, swung by the gorgeous Berryessa Gap Vineyards on Saturday and attended a tiki-themed BBQ on Sunday. When I wasn't running around town, I was learning how to make tasty macarons and delicious homemade jam from friends. I want to tell you about these fun Memorial Day weekend adventures; although I feel guilty that I'm not caught up with my posts from the past month and a half. Doh! This Girl and Her Fork needs to hunker down this week and be a Girl and Her Laptop...seriously. While I get my scribblings  in order, I thought I'd share a few photos from Saturday's trip to check out Berryessa Gap's 6th Annual Springtime in the Vineyard. A friend of mine was kind enough to put up with my awful driving (I have no sense of direction whatsoever) and head out to Winters with me. We got a tiny bit lost, but thanks to her handy phone GPS we were able to find our way there eventually. It was a bit chilly so we enjoyed our wine (their Tempranillo is fab!), munched on some yummy carnitas and shrimp and wandered around the beautiful vineyard...then we skedaddled out of there before the grey skies moved in. On the way back we stopped at the T&Y Strawberry Patch in Woodland and purchased some juicy strawberries and blackberries to make jam with. Behind the stand was a colorful sweet pea garden and my friend was able to get some gorgeous photos before the rain started to fall (I snapped a quick pic of her when she wasn't looking).

Labels: , 0 comments | | edit post

It's spring, so why have we Sacramentans been repeatedly saddled with May gray? Where's the sunshine, I ask you?

After a pleasant but wet (the patio roof was leaking) lunch at Tuli's yesterday with the amazing Michelle, I came home to a chilly cottage. Ugh! Instead of cranking up the heater (afterall, I was just running the AC only a week before) I decided to warm things up by getting all June Cleaver and baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Donning a girly apron and blasting the Juno soundtrack made the pie-making all the more fun. And it did the trick! The cottage warmed up and the kitchen smelled all sweet and pink like Barbie's Dream House.

This yummy recipe was lifted from a vintage cookbook: Sunset's Kitchen Cabinet Recipes, Vol. 3 (1944).

(click to enlarge)

"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." ~James Beard

Growing up, my dad was in the USAF and was gone on TDY (temporary duty) a lot. Whether he was in the Phillipines, Korea, or even Arkansas he always brought me back a souvenir. I received everything from a mini bouzouki from Greece to an Oklahoma Sooners sweatshirt during his time traveling, but one of my favorite gifts he brought back had nothing to do with the destination. Upon return from one of his trips, he brought me back the first book in a girl detective series called, "Trixie Belden." The series was founded in 1948 and centers around the title character, Trixie Belden, and the secret club she belongs to called the Bob-Whites of the Glen. In true Scooby Doo-esque fashion, the Bob-Whites stumble upon various mysteries and solve them effortlessly just in time for dinner. Anyhow, I think it was this series that fostered my love of "secrets." Now that I'm an adult, I revel in planning surprise parties and vacations and I surround myself in the company of secret bakers, underground butchers and now...clandestine dinner clubs. True, the secrecy and hush-hush of it all is fun but ultimately it comes down to good food and the one I attended this Sunday, simply known as Tree House, delivered. Invitations are issued via email and the location of the dinner is disclosed the night before. Diners make a "donation" to cover the cost of the ingredients, labor and this case a 7-course dinner of local fare complete with wine pairings. The renegade chef turned out to be a friendly young fellow clad in a black chef's jacket and cargo shorts, a local boy who's worked his way up in some of the area's top restaurants. Despite his boyish looks and impish smile, Kevin O'Connor definitely knows his way around the kitchen and made no qualms about showing off his culinary chops. There was no silly themes or gimmicks, the night was all about showcasing the food. Every course that came out from behind the swinging kitchen door was impeccable-- both aesthetically and in flavor. The chef, himself, came out and provided brief descriptions of the locally-sourced dishes and the accompanying wines, preceding each course and never once did anything feel rushed. In fact, the dinner from start to finish ran about six leisurely hours...allowing me plenty of time to get to know the other dinner guests at the communal table. I think all eight guests would agree that the dinner was unpretentious and we all ate exceptionally well. After the last course, both guests and staff intermingled on the porch and closed out the night with some scotch. A few of us guests even joined the chef in the kitchen and got a "behind-the-scenes" glimpse while the chef shared a few funny stories of the night's mishaps. It was a nice evening of connecting over food...if you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending a Tree House event. It's a welcome addition to the burgeoning food scene in Sacramento.

The amuse bouche was a play on Eggs Benedict. Toasted bread crumbs and crispy prosciutto joined by a fried quail egg with a bit of hollondaise.

A crisp salad of snow peas, snap peas, english peas, and micro sorrel served with a pickled ramp aioli and a spring onion top oil on the plate.

Sturgeon tartare consisting of smoked Passmore Ranch sturgeon, radish, herbs and some sour cream and onion bubbles.

Beef heart carpaccio, olive oil, Himalayan salt, seared beech and king oyster mushrooms, fried chicken liver, and a parsley/celery leaf salad.

Pig trotter/bacon lardon terrine accompanied by white beans in a bbq gastrique, sous-vide maple nantes carrot, and pork fat.

A triple creme d'Affinois cheese from France, paired with coriander poached cherries and German walnut bread

Revolution Wines...the Malbec in particular was delicious. Craig Haarmeyer, one of the winemakers, even stopped by to give us an impromptu talk about the various wines we were partaking in.

Dessert was macerated strawberries and blackberries with oat and walnut crumbles and Douglas Fir cream.

Mignardise was fresh chocolate chip cookies, a glass of colostrum and some Temple coffee.


“Fish in the hands of a skilled cook can become an inexhaustible source of gustatory pleasures.”
~Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

I'm always looking for food recipes where I can get Mr. S.'s kidlets interested in food, so imagine my delight when both kidlets expressed an interest in what I was cooking last Wednesday. What drew their interest to my fumbling in the kitchen? Banana leaves. They were enamored with the idea of cooking with them. Although banana leaves can be found at pretty much any Asian market in South Sac, for two kidlets growing up in the suburbs and eating mainly mainstream American food; the idea of cooking with banana leaves seems exotic. So once I had the sauce whipped up, I enlisted their help in wrapping up the fish in the leaves. Now if you've never cooked with banana leaves before, they're great for steaming or grilling fish. The leaves keep the fish moist and tender. Now while cooking, the leaves impart a green tea-like wafted about making the kitchen smell wonderful!

Thai Fish Baked in Banana Leaves ( from )
Yield: Serves 2-3


• 2-3 fillets fish (I used fresh pink snapper from Oto's)

• 1 pkg. banana leaves (if frozen, thaw for at least 1/2 hour)


• 1 shallot

• 2 cloves garlic

• 1 thumb-size piece ginger, sliced

• 2 tsp. ground coriander

• handful of basil leaves

• 2 Tbsp. fish sauce

• 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk

• 2 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into slivers with scissors, or 1 tsp. lime zest

• 1 fresh red chili, sliced & seeds removed

• 1 tsp. chili powder

• juice of 1/2 lime


1. Place all marinade/sauce ingredients in a food processor and process well.

2. Place fish fillets in a large bowl and add 1/2 the marinade. Reserve the rest for later.

3. Slather the marinade over both sides of the fish, then let it sit in the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes.

4. When fish is done marinading, spread a banana leaf approximately 1 foot square on a working surface (you will have to cut the leaf). Place one fillet in the center of the leaf.

5. Fold both sides of the leaf over the fish, then fold both ends to create a square "packet". Turn it seam-side down to keep sides from opening (or secure with a skewer, like I did). Do the same for the other fillets.

6. Place packets in a glass casserole dish or pie plate (to catch the drippings in case packets leak) and bake for 15 min. at 350 degrees, or longer depending on the thickness of the fillets.

7. After 15 minutes, open one of the packets. Insert a fork into the center of the fillet (the thickest part) and gently pull back. If inside flesh is opaque and no longer transparent, the fish is cooked. If not, return to oven for another 5-10 minutes.

8. Over low heat, warm up the reserved sauce/marinade.

9. To serve the fish, scoop several spoonfuls of rice onto the side of the fish. Spoon some of the sauce over the fish, then add a sprinkling of basil and/or garnish with diced red/yellow/green bell peppers.


"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast." ~ John Gunther

5701 Broadway, Suite B, Sacramento, CA 95820. (916) 456-2679.

Warm, flaky and with a buttery outer layer that just melts in your mouth? Sounds good, right? Well, you if love a well-made croissant as much as I do, I suggest that you mosey yourself down to the family-owned Café Lumiere. Just down the street from the DMV and DOJ in an inconspicuous but well-kept strip mall you'll be able to satiate that croissant jones.

Café Lumiere, owned by Geoffrey Matsuyama and Peter Kuo, opened up quietly in Tahoe Park just over a year ago but has steadily gained popularity with the local neighborhood residents and area workers. The cafe's design is simple and the service friendly. I found the mango and banana colored walls to be warm and welcoming and enjoyed reading past-issues of Dwell and Atomic Ranch while waiting for my order.

The breakfasts at Café Lumiere are what draws the crowds. I decided to pop in last week and try one of their much-talked about breakfast sandwiches. I love that they aim to please the customer and allow you to choose your bread, meat, cheese and how you want your eggs cooked. I went with some sliced ham, scrambled eggs and provolone cheese served on one of their handmade croissants. It was served open faced, freshly made and was quite delicious. Simple but perfectly-executed.

Café Lumiere also does lunch (a juicy Angus burger, fresh salads and sandwiches) and offers various tasty pastries (I was drooling while checking out their display case). My only disappointment with the joint is that they serve Java City coffee (ugh!), which I'm not a fan of. I'd love to see them carry one of the other local roasters like Temple, Old Soul or perhaps Chocolate Fish. With a good cup of joe, I'd definitely be there more often. By the way, I know everyone's pinching pennies these days because of the economy but Café Lumiere's prices are reasonable, they do take plastic and even better-- they offer a 10% discount to state, federal and UCD employees.

Sometimes you want things for no other reason than that they are just so cute.


Stoneware egg cups atop of tiny little duck feet. Set of 4. Dishwasher safe.
Waddle on over to West Elm's website. They are currently marked down from $20 to $6.97 plus free shipping.

My good friend Misa, who listens patiently as I babble about food all the time and bravely tastes my cooking experiments, recently turned me onto a quirky web series called, "Cooking With Dog." Now before you get all PETA-crazed on me, let me explain that this series is NOT about cooking a dog...rather, it's about cooking with a dog. "Cooking With Dog" is a super adorable internet cooking show narrated by a cute gray poodle with an accent and wild hairdo, named Francis, who talks you through how to make various Japanese dishes (his trusty assistant does the actual food preparation). Francis' instructions are easy to follow and they have some pretty good Japanese recipes posted. You can check out the series on You Tube or you can click on the screens I've posted below to watch an episode or two.


I'm not much for eating ginormous meals early in the morning and I'm even less known for cooking early in the morning. Lucky for me, every once in awhile Mr. S. (who IS a morning person...damn him) will take it upon himself to whip up some gorgeous omelets, fluffy pancakes or other tasty breakfast treats on a weekend morning. He knows that nothing lures me out of bed eventually than the smell of crispy bacon strips and a cup of good, strong coffee. That said, I do love me some breakfast food at odd ball times of the day, like for "linner" (the time between lunch and dinner). Now this isn't a recipe post, mind you, I just wanted to give a shout out to the yummilicious coconut toast at 99 Ranch. I bought a loaf of their coconut toast (essentially a fresh loaf of coconut bread) from their bakery department and have been snacking on it. It's delicious in it's own right but I decided today to use it for making french toast. Oh-em-gee. Get some, make it into french toast (add a little bit of vanilla extract to it), pour some REAL maple syrup on it (none of that fake junk) and tell me that it doesn't make your toes curl. I dare you. It's INSANELY good.

5530 H Street, Sacramento, CA 95819. (916) 452-TACO (8226).

My first job out of college was as an office manager at a athletic mentoring center for youths called CORE. Pretty funny when you think about it since I'm about as nonathletic as they come (my friends and family can attest to this). Anyhow, the daily work involved with the job was pretty mundane but I always loved talking to the students that came in. There was one high schooler, Aaron, that used to come in that was friendly and had impeccable manners. In addition, he always brought the staff these giant chocolate chip cookies that were absolutely divine. Now when someone brings you delicious cookies; good manners dictates that you just say, "Thank you," eat the cookie and be grateful but one day curiosity got the better of me. Nosy Nelly that I am, I broke down and asked where he was getting these wonderful cookies. Turns out his parents owned a small eatery in East Sac called Nopalitos Southwestern Cafe and he was ganking them from there. Armed with this knowledge I was bound and determined to visit the source of these magical cookies. So over the years, I tried on multiple occasions to stop into Nopalitos but as luck would have it, it was always closed. Turns out the restaurant is only open for breakfast (630-1045 am) and lunch (11 am-230 pm) on weekdays, not exactly conducive for serving the working crowd.  But now that my daytime schedule is much more relaxed, I've been able to scoot over there a few times. To date, I haven't been able to get over there for lunch but have had the pleasure of eating breakfast several times there and it's definitely worth rejecting the snooze button and getting up early for.

The restaurant, located by East Sac Bikes, is nothing glamorous but it radiates a warm and cozy feel; which has made it popular with local residents. Don't let the line dissuade you, the counter service moves fast as it's cash or check only (and many people are just there for takeout). You're given a number and your order's delivered to your table when it comes up. During crowded periods, table sharing is encouraged. Now one thing that I love about Nopalitos is that it doesn't suffer from what I call "Target Syndrome." You know, where you're shopping at a Target and there's a million red-shirted employees milling about but there doesn't seem to be anyone available to help you when you need service. Not at Nopalitos. There's one lone busser working the crowded floor and he's on top of it. Coffee's refilled regularly and plates are cleared promptly. Note: If I could make one small change to the service though it would be that the counter staff be as friendly to newbies and infrequent guests as they are to the regulars.

For breakfast, I've had the Little Cactus Special which consists of tortilla chips, eggs, cactus, corn, and cheese scrambled together, and topped with cheese, mild salsa, sour cream and your choice of ranchero sauce or green chili sauce. I went with the green chili sauce and it was quite tasty. I've also had their french toast (which is made from whole wheat-walnut sourdough bread) and their huevos rancheros...both were excellent and the side order of bacon I requested was cooked perfectly. I hope to be able to pop in there for lunch soon and try one of their fat, smothered burritos or maybe their much talked about tamale bowl. Not to mention that those incredible cookies are available at lunchtime!

So if you have a weekday free, throw some clothes on and head down to Nopalitos for a morning bite. Your gullet will thank you- the food is fast, fresh and tasty and there's even several dishes for your vegetarian friends to choose from. In addition, you would be supporting a local small business (gotta love that!).

It's spring and things are shakin' up...mark your calendars for these upcoming changes:

- East Sac favorite, Formoli's, is moving to a new location (complete with patio) on Tuesday, May 31st. Check out their news digs on 3839 J Street (former site of Gonul's).

- Yasushi Ueyama's popular ramen-ya, Shoki, will be opening up a 2nd location at 1201 R Street on May 3rd. Shoki II will be open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.

I'm back! Sorry for pulling a Houdini but April was a hectic month - the parental units came for a visit, I had some stuff that needed addressing in my personal life and then total klutz that I am - I fractured my foot. Anyhow when life gets complicated, it's best to let your food be simple and that's exactly what I did. After a particularly rough week, I decided to indulge myself a bit (calories be damned!) and whip up some creamed morels on toasted brioche...mmmm! Afterall, life is short and so is morel season!

Creamed Morels on Toasted Brioche (adapted from Orangette's Creamed Morels on Toast)


1/4 lb. fresh morels

3 T crème fraîche

2 T unsalted butter



1. Slice morels in half and clean gently with a dry pastry or basting brush. (You can give them a quick rinse in some warm salty water but don't soak them.)

2. In a skillet, melt your butter at medium-high heat.

3. Add the morels and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to release some water.

4. Reduce the heat to medium, let the mushrooms reabsorb their juices, and continue cooking until they are nearly dry.

5. Add the crème fraîche, season with salt to taste, and stir over the heat for a minute or two.

6. Slice the brioche and toast it in the broiler. Serve alongside the morels.