It’s Worth Investing Time in Historic Old Sacramento

I was born in California and never made it to the state capital, until now. One crucial part of that oversight is missing out on the Historic Gold Rush Town of Old Sacramento. For those interested in avoiding the same mistake, it’s a good idea to invest some time exploring this spectacularly preserved piece of California History. A good way to start is by moving right in, with a stay aboard the Delta King Riverboat Hotel. This gracefully refurbished paddleboat floats on the Sacramento River adjacent to Old Sacramento State Historic Park and is the ideal home base to immerse oneself in the slower pace of mid 1800’s California.

First and foremost, don’t rush. Give yourself some time to explore because there’s a lot to see and do. Two days would be the minimum and try to include a weekend which preserves the opportunity to experience the underground tour.

Established in 1849, Old Sacramento is alive and well with the spirit and fervor of the gold rush. Handsome turn of the century buildings are well tended and house a variety of businesses you can explore. Traipsing through the streets and shops is a full day excursion in itself.

Rest assured if you need to revive anytime during your wanderings, they offer the illusive pineapple soft serve frozen treat, Dole whip, also available in mango. Unlike Disneyland, it’s self-serve here, so you can crank out as much of the icy concoction as you can handle, baring a serious case of brain freeze.

And of course no self-respecting gold rush town would be complete without an assortment of saloons. The River City Saloon claims to craft the best bloody Mary’s in Sacramento, but you need be the judge of that.

And Fanny Anns has to be one of the most captivating memorabilia stuffed bars in California. Stopping in for lunch, a cold one or just to browse the wild collection should be high on your to do list.

But the absolute highlight of Old Sacramento, is the California State Railroad Museum. This is a must see appropriate for the entire family.

Start you visit  with the informative movie which explains the back breaking labor and dedication that went into building the North American transcontinental railroad system. If you time it right, call first to be sure, the movie will be followed by a free half hour tour of the museum. No matter how you feel about trains, the amazing dioramas, restored trains, exhibits, dining car, heavy china display and simulation of a nighttime traveling sleeping car, are truly momentous experiences.

Recognition is paid to the workers who slaved through bone-chilling winters and blistering summers from 1863 to 1869 in order to make the dream of connecting the east and west coasts a reality.

Guest can pass through glistening trains of the era that look ready to hit the rails, reminding us of the romance and ease the railway system brought to U.S. travel.

Many cars are manned by costumed docents eager to share how their particular train was instrumental in facilitating everything from delivering mail to providing fine dining for guests.

Mannequin run kitchens and period china recreate the rigors and necessitates of a continually operational system of public transportation.

Be sure to search out the night train sleeping car simulation which is rigged to feel precisely like the real thing.

You can also hone your skills driving the same simulator used to train bullet train drivers. See how well you do manning the helm, followed by the challenging maneuvering of a speeding trains glide into the station.

The California State Railroad Museum is at the top of its game, being both technologically advanced, while also preserving their unique vantage point in the history of railroad travel and California’s involvement in its evolution.

We have to say that Old Sacramento offers such an inspiring glimpse into the past that we wouldn’t mind falling back in time over and over again.

The Quintessential Hostess Gift

While in Sacramento, we were introduced to Nothing Bundt Cake and we have to say it was love at first bite. The great news is that they are a nationwide franchise. That means you are most likely situated near a local shop.  But if not, you can always go online and have one dropped off right at your doorstep.  Or make life easy and have the distinctively shaped cake delivered to a very deserving friend as a house warming gift, Christmas present, birthday surprise, hostess thank you or any other event worth celebrating.  Wednesday sounds like a great reason for bundt cake to us.

The locations are charming and filled will all manner of inspiration. We sincerely hope you visit a bakery near you. Not only to sample the latest flavors (we love free samples), but also to get a gander at the exquisitely gorgeous cakes in a variety of sizes from bite-sized buntinis to personal sized bundtlets to 10″ full bundts serving up to 20 people.

We visited at Halloween when the Sacramento store was decked out with fun bundtinis all costumed and ready for little monsters to devour.

The shop addresses the confusing questions of how to honor someone at a major milestone. The answer is presented within a number of sumptuously designed displays that color coordinate their cakes with accessory options, making the gift even more special.

Of course the main reason to visit is to taste their supremely moist and flavorful bundt.  On our first introduction we were immediately taken with the birthday cake version, which is packed with a spray of multi-colored sprinkles nestled in classic vanilla cake. Another visit had us swooning for the Pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting. But if those don’t float your boat not to worry, they have red velvet, chocolate chip, lemon, pecan praline, cinnamon swirl and a long list of other delectable flavors to choose from.

We are tickled pink by Nothing Bundt Cake’s aesthetic, simple yet powerful design elements and cake shape which make for an impressive hostess gift sure to wow not only on presentation but throughout the savoring sure to follow. #IFBC17

‘Tis The Season for Gift Baskets

Yes, the holidays are definitely upon us.  Looking for a thoughtful gift sure to please everyone on you list? What could be easier than a  Melissa’s Produce gift basket?   Melissa’s Produce supplies the freshest seasonal staples and exotics.  Fruit, vegetables and fine wines can all be creatively arranged in any combination, from single stunning gift baskets to impressive monthly subscriptions. You choose whatever best suits your gift giving needs.

Vegans or vegetarians on your list? The baby vegetable medley is perfect for salads, roasting or soups.

And if you happen to find one of these bad boys in your fruit basket don’t be scared, it’s an  Ecuadorian dragon fruit and they are new to the US market. The uber sweet, soft inner flesh and seeds scooped out with a spoon are sure to tickle the palate and leave a lasting impression no matter which way your friends and family lean food-wise.

Melissa’s colorful gift baskets are perfect for everyone from the health conscious to those who have busy entertaining schedules through the New Year. The seasonal assortments are an impressive display that will always be appreciated as a lighter alternative to the holiday excess bound to occur.

Be sure to check out Melissa’s Produce Gift baskets for a carefree alternative to last minute holiday shopping.

Easy Fresh Bowls of Plenty

Meals in a bowl are all the rage.  It’s the new fast food model dedicated to filling a vessel with guests choice of their favorite ingredients for a personalized, satisfying mix that can be as healthy as one sees fit. Here in LA, it seems there’s a new poke bowl or ethnic bowl establishment on every corner. That makes Carolynn Carreno’s latest book, Bowls of Plenty right on point.  And if you’re a fan of this strongly established eating style, you can cut out the middle man and take charge right in your own kitchen.

Carolynn is a James Beard Award winning food writer and co-author of over a dozen acclaimed cookbooks. And now she has pulled together a collection of grain bowls that are completely customizable to suit ones taste, while being just as delightful straight from the undeviated page.

Chapters start with Equipment, Tools and Gadgets and evolve into an undeniably thorough exploration of grains, giving home cooks the basic information necessary to proceed with complete confidence. Starting with Breakfast Bowls, Carolynn delves into unique offerings such as Japanese breakfast or Pastrami and Rye Berry Hash, always showcasing as much diversity possible. What follows are salad bowls, main bowls and finally, yes, even dessert bowls,

We were treated to a buffet which allowed each diner to carefully choose their ingredients and we have to say we found it such a fun, with lots of suitable options for everyone. For those who don’t feel inclined to clean that many dishes, its absolutely acceptable to serve the bowls already assembled.

The key of course is fresh, quality ingredients prepared with care and love. And Ms. Carreno provides encouraging advice with that as well.

Bowls of Plenty is the book for bowl lovers and anyone who wants to simplify meal preparation.  Click through the red link above to go straight to Amazon. Bowl Appetite.

Deborah Madison Shares From Her Own Cozy Kitchen


When searching for answers to life’s questions we like to defer to the masters, and Deborah Madison certainly falls into that category. She was cooking from an enlightened perspective long before it was fashionable or even acceptable in many circles. From the San Francisco Zen Center to Chez Panisse, Madison has taken every opportunity to engage in the deepest examination of vegetarian cuisine.  And now a lifetime of expertise has been condensed into her latest book, In My Kitchen, a collection of favorite vegetarian recipes she serves at home.

We must start by highlighting the mouthwatering Romanesco sauce inspired by a trip to Spain. This deep, complex, sunny blend is oh so satisfying. We added a big dollop to soup, but honestly we want to slather this winner on everything in the kitchen including the roasted cauliflower recipe she pairs it with in the book.

A crisp, sweet, spicy citrus and avocado salad with lime-cumin vinaigrette atop shredded greens is the definition of invigoration and the ideal accompaniment to heavier dishes of beans or animal protein. Deborah is not interested in pushing lifestyle choices down anyones throat and is thrilled that in this day and age one can choose to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivore on any night of the week it calls to them.

That is not to say that vegetarian and vegan dishes can’t be supremely satisfying.  Their hardiness is clearly demonstrated in her potato and chickpea stew with sautéed spinach. It’s a memorable bowl sure to warm the hearts of all who dive in.

Deborah’s rubarb-rasberry compote couldn’t be easier and the tangy, tart, mildly sweet flavor is a winner served with cookies, over ice cream or as a side dish, transforming any weeknight dinner into a special occasion. It is beyond scrumptious and all we had to do was throw a few easy ingredients together, 3 to be exact. We made a triple batch and enjoyed it for a full week before finally scraping the bowl clean.

Worried Deborah’s healthy style will deny you sweet treats? No need, her walnut nugget cookies pair surprisingly well with the rhubarb and raspberry compote.

While encouraging readers to nourish themselves in the fashion that best suits their mood, Deborah makes the process surprisingly easy and we greatly appreciate that. Those ready to dive into a healthy dose of mother natures best would be wise to pick up Deborah Madison’s, In My Kitchen and transform their cooking with instruction straight from the cozy kitchen of one of the shining stars of the culinary world. Bon Appetit.

 

The Perfect Blend Is Just That

Tess Masters, also known as The Blender Girl, always delivers an engaging wealth of information on eating healthy.  So it’s no surprise that her new book, The Perfect Blend, keeps up the tradition with one hundred blender recipes designed to energize and revitalize.

One of our favorite dishes from her stunning, image-rich book is, Gentle Lentils. This sensational soup is impossible to put down. The addicting qualities radiating from the bowl are due in part to the incorporation of her Basil-Is-The-Bomb sauce, which helps forward this transcendent pairing. Try this soup!

Tess puts a new spin on everything. The book is broken into chapters titled for what they can do for you instead of a more traditional organization. You can look up instruction that will help promote detox, energy, immunity, weight loss, probiotic formation, and so on. We love knowing how our meals are benefiting us. Bravo Tess.

Raw Broccoli Brilliance, transforms raw broccoli florets into a panoply of textures that complement the bright, tangy, sweet and spicy flavors of her dressing. You’ll find this one in the protein chapter. Be sure to check out the chart on page 2 of the introduction to discover which categories ingredients fall under. Produce, spices, herbs, seeds and nuts all play into a number of benefits and readers are introduced to a basic understanding of how each supports stellar health.

Cauliflower rice is a base which can be doused with a vegetable rich melange, featuring sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and roasted almond butter in Sustenance Stew. Supremely satisfying.

Tess believes that the blender is the greatest tool we have for making delicious, beautiful, healthy, fast food. This book enables home chefs at every level of expertise to easily incorporate plant power and body revitalization into everyday meals. Look for lots of unique produce like Melissa’s fresh coconut water, where the sweet, natural nectar runs circles around bottled alternatives.

There are also treats, from Classic Cheesecake to Chocolate Mint Mania, lest you think eating healthy is out of alignment with a sweet tooth. The two come together beautifully.

The Perfect Blend, dishes out practical step by step guidance and health benefits of blending, combining and cooking hero foods. Be prepared for a focus on eating well and having fun. What’s not to love about that? The Perfect Blend can be purchased on Amazon through the title links in red. It is definitely time to dust off the blender and enjoy mother nature’s delicious bounty.

 

Sara Moulton Makes Life Easy

Sara Moulton is sharing her best tips, techniques and secrets with the goal of making all of us better home cooks through guidance from her latest book, Home Cooking 101.  The TV Chef superstar incorporates step by step instruction and photos, giving readers a visual manual that instils confidence and promotes efficiency.  Fans can easily follow along and craft dishes that make dining at home a pleasure.

She decodes the mysteries of the culinary arts that prevent many of us from achieving success. Pointers in the details, various preparations, flavor pairing, timing, equipment and how to stock a pantry make the magic accessible.

Interested in traditional dishes like fancy stuffed eggs? Sara lays out uncomplicated and enticing versions with advice on fashioning stunning presentations of the melt-in-your-mouth standard.

Moulton points out that King’s Hawaiian rolls are the perfect, comforting foil for her Beef Stroganoff Burgers. If your family adores substantial, meaty dinners, try these.  Not to worry if carbs are not your thing, she gives alternatives such as sour cream, dijon mustard and porcini mushrooms which replace the bread and top the burgers beautifully.

Spicy creamed corn is a swoon inducing dish, uniting summer’s freshest (in winter frozen corn can be used) with Serrano chilies for a zesty kick punctuated by fresh lemon or lime. This heavenly combination is a winning side dish that complements everything you serve.

Chef Moulton takes into consideration dietary preferences, with her omnivore focused book giving nods to vegetarians and vegans through blissfully versatile menus.  Dishes such as root vegetable bourguignon highlight the rich umami found in the original beef based dish without a trace of animal derived ingredients.

Something Sweet, the last chapter of the book, simplifies all those gorgeous desserts we thought were too difficult to even attempt. Now we can impress with the best of them.

Robert Schueller, produce expert and director of public relations at Melissa’s Produce let us know that colorful, prepackaged, simplified preparations of fruit and vegetables are what’s trending in 2017.  We think color and easy to use produce are philosophies that are here to stay and in perfect alignment with Moulton’s message of ease and joy in the kitchen.

If simplicity and grace are what you’re looking for, Sara Mouton’s Home Cooking 101, delivers expertly to those of us who lack the training but still embrace the desire to put out stunning meals for friends and family. Thank you Sara.

Dorie’s Cookies: the Guidebook for the Season

The holidays could aptly be named cookie season, as the tantalizing bites seem to pop-up everywhere this time of year. Which makes Dorie Greenspan’s new book impeccably timed. Timing is a trait highlighted in chapter one, The Perfect-Cookie Handbook. This entree into her world delves deep into techniques, ingredients and gear, exploring the secrets she has amassed over her renowned baking career and lovingly corralled into Dorie’s Cookies.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, these are not your standard cookie recipes. They span continents, ethnicities, cultures, occasions, creative expression, a myriad of textures, tastes, ingredients, the spicy, savory and of course the sweet. We were swept away by the Cocoa-Cayanne (pictured above) and couldn’t get enough of the brilliant Rosemary-Parmesian Cocktail Cookies (below).

The invaluable tips and tricks include achieving uniformity in your cookie size by using baking rings or placing them in muffin tins. Pretty clever in our estimation. Dorie is intent on making us all better bakers and on that she delivers big time.

Crisp French Vanilla Sables are simply divine and had us swooning at first buttery bite.

While Classic Jammers reminded us of grandma’s best.

A perfect holiday gift for all the talented bakers you know or those who aspire to be, Dorie’s Cookies guarantees superior treats for years to come. Check out the two day shipping opportunities at Amazon.com if you want to pick up a few copies of the best seller before the holiday weekend and be sure to luxuriate in the deliciousness of cookie season.

Rachel Hollis Makes Comfort Food Easy

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Rachel Hollis’ new cookbook, Upscale Downhome, is forcing us to come clean.  First, cooking is not one of our well honed talents and on top of that we love comfort food. So when the opportunity arose to witness Rachel’s cooking in person, we grabbed it and can honestly say we were amazed not only by how tasty everything was, but also by the abundance of short cuts she incorporates into her book. Upscale Downhome is just the home cooking cheat sheet we have been searching for.

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We found the charming presentation and vibrant pesto mayo of her BLT Bites (page 42) too adorable and delicious to refuse and admit to grabbing a few extra for the trip down memory lane they conjured. Perhaps a more seasoned chef would find a recipe for a BLT mundane, but we would proudly display and serve this particular version at all our festive gatherings for the delight they bring to everyone who sees and tastes them.

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One of the best features of this book is that each step is not only explained, but also clearly detailed in photos, so readers know they are on the right track all through the process, not just at the end when it is too late to make amends. Turkey Chili (page 105) puts the slow cooker to good use and we love dishes that practically cook themselves by simmering away for hours.

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Comfort food comes in all forms and there are plenty of produce based dishes to indulge in, including a snappy Fresh Green Bean Salad (page 121).

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But when we think hard core comfort food, we have to say we fell in love with Rachel’s Sticky Ham and Cheese (page 39) which combine the sweetness of King’s Hawaiian Rolls with salty and savory melted Swiss and ham slices. The enchanting miniature size of these beauties make them all the more irresistible.

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Creative ideas for pulling together a variety of festive events abound. Besides sections dedicated to dips, snacks, casseroles, slow cookers and dishes to bring to potlucks, Rachel also has a delightful dessert division. Her Cookie Pudding Pie (page 187) combines all our favorite sweets and serves them in divine, tiny canning jars.

For those interested in endearing recipes, party ideas and presentations for family-friendly comfort foods, Rachel Hollis’ Upscale Downhome is just the guide for you.