March 27, 2013
QVC's Venable tweaks tradition with Easter ham glaze

hamglaze.jpg Tired of the same old ham? QVC host and cookbook author David Venable ("In the Kitchen with David: QVC's Resident Foodie Presents Comfort Foods That Take You Home") likes to mix it up with some tweaks to traditional favorites.

"Like most holidays, Easter menus tend to be very traditional and filled with dishes deemed 'family classics,' " Venable said. "I love classics -- especially if they're any sort of comfort food classic. But every once in awhile, it pays to try a new recipe."

February 28, 2013
Kale-potato salad one more way to learn to love this green

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kale and Potato Salad.jpg Love it or hate it, kale is catching on everywhere. Suddenly, diners and cooks are discovering this ancient green veggie, a descendant of wild cabbage.

Kale haters complain that the curly leaves are bitter (or worse) and hard to clean.

These detractors still could be converts. Tuscan or dinosaur kale has milder flavor and flatter leaves. And kale's high nutritional value makes it worth learning to like.

Chef Katie Cavuto Boyle came up with this flavorful kale and potato salad for the United States Potato Board. It mixes curly green kale with another late winter/early spring favorite - asparagus - plus roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, scallions and walnuts. (Tuscan kale could be substituted for curly.)

Gorgonzola cheese and balsamic dressing give it extra zing.

For more on kale (and more recipes), see our In Season salute at

Kale and Potato Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

1 pound petite Yukon Gold potatoes, halved

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 shallot, halved and sliced

3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

7 cups (1-inch pieces) green curly kale (tough ribs and stems removed)

1/2 cup fresh scallions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 ounce smoked or traditional Gorgonzola cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. with rack in upper third of oven.

Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, half the shallots, salt and pepper and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes then add asparagus to baking sheet; roast for 10 minutes more or until potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Puree remaining olive oil, shallot, vinegar and yogurt in a blender or small food processor. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

While the vegetables are cooking, place 1 inch of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil then add kale; cook for 1 minute or until kale is bright green and lightly wilted, tossing constantly with tongs. Drain excess water.

Toss kale with potatoes and scallions and top with walnuts and Gorgonzola. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving:

Calories: 260, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2.5g, Trans Fat:0 g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 210mg, Potassium: 509mg, Carbohydrates: 29g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 9g, Vitamin A: 250%, Vitamin C: 190%, Calcium: 15%, Iron: 20%

January 30, 2013
How to build your own Snackadium for Super Bowl Sunday

23520_SnackadiumAngle2r_1.jpg Who's counting calories? The Snackadium scores!

Pillsbury's creative staff came up with this striking 7- by 10-foot centerpiece for its display at Saturday's Taste of the NFL "Party with a Purpose" in New Orleans as part of Super Bowl weekend.

The crowd-size Snackadium uses eight dozen Italian super sub sandwiches (made with Pillsbury's refrigerated crusty French loaf bread dough) for the walls. The cookie sheet field is coated with a layer of guacamole, striped with sour cream yardlines. The red and gold end zones are chunky salsa and cheese dip.

Created out of disposable aluminum pans cut to size, the stands are filled with an assortment of Pillsbury favorites: Mini Crescent Dogs, Pepperoni Pizza Slices, Bacon-Cheeseburger Calzones, Bacon-Cheddar Pinwheels, Crescent Pizza Pockets, Totino's Pizza Rolls Snacks, Bugles, Green Giant Veggie Chips, Pillsbury Baguette Chips and Chex Mix.

It's the extra touches that make this foodie project stand out. Cherry tomatoes and black olives became players' helmets. Atop breadstick posts, the "pennants" are cone-shaped Bugle snacks and sliced fruit roll-up snacks.

Pillsbury has detailed instructions for how to build your own Snackadium, down-sized for smaller gatherings. Some of the variations include a "retractable" bacon dome with beer-can blimp and a veggie version with broccoli and baby carrots in the stands.

See for yourself at

January 28, 2013
Ice cream inspiration for Super Bowl, Valentine's Day

product_shots-peppermint.jpg Sample ice cream in January? It's cold work, but somebody has to do it.

I recently had the pleasure of helping the experts at Crystal Creamery choose new seasonal flavors for summer. With production in Modesto, the company currently has 31 flavors in its year-round ice cream portfolio, so picking something that wasn't already on that frozen dessert menu wasn't easy.

Instead of more candy bar-inspired combinations, fresh fruit flavors appealed most to my taste buds. (Crystal will reveal the winners in late spring.)

Meanwhile, production is wrapping up on another seasonal favorite: Monday Nut Football ice cream. It's vanilla base with football-shaped chocolate cookies, chocolate-covered nuts and a fudge swirl. How's that sound for Super Bowl dessert?

For winter, Crystal also released Peppermint Blizzard, a very minty red and white ice cream. Although its target market is December, that combination would look great in Valentine's Day desserts, too. I can imagine an ice cream cake with that flavor as its base.

Crystal used Peppermint Blizzard as filling for whoopie pies - a perfect Valentine's Day dessert. Find the recipe at

Such flavors make ice cream sound appealing even on a freezing day in January.

January 10, 2013
PBS searching for healthy soul food recipes

pulled-pork-list.jpg Can soul food be healthy? PBS is looking for examples.

In conjunction with the upcoming broadcast debut of Byron Hurt's "Soul Food Junkies," PBS is asking viewers for their revamped recipes of traditional favorites.

"Soul Food Junkies," which will air in Sacramento on "Independent Lens" at midnight Jan. 21, explores the rich culinary tradition of soul food and its relevance to black cultural identity. Viewers also can watch the film (after Monday) and trailers now online at

Hurt's examination was spurred by his father, who stuck to his traditional soul food diet in the face of a health crisis and ultimately died at age 63.

In its healthy soul food makeover, PBS offers online seven revised recipes for such favorites as pulled pork sandwiches (shown here) and black-eyed pea fritters. But the network wants one more from viewers to complete its set.

The winning recipe will be featured on a printable (and post-able) recipe card. To submit an original recipe, send it to or fill out the form online. (Just follow the links from the "Independent Lens" home page.) Deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

January 9, 2013
Toast National Pizza Week (and big game) with beer dough

PRINT_5x7_300dpi_NewOrleansPizza_LowAngle_1296.jpg.jpg.jpg.jpg.jpg Here's a toast (and a twist) to National Pizza Week! (Yes, it's pizza week, now through Saturday.) Instead of beer and pizza, how about putting the beer IN the pizza?

Pizza expert Mark Bello of New York City's Pizza a Casa Pizza School ( perfected this recipe for The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Pizza, of course, is a popular pick for Super Bowl parties. The Big Game is Feb. 3 in New Orleans. So, Bello offers a twist on the classic Italian Margherita pizza with a spicy New Orleans' Big Game Pizza.

January 7, 2013
Pillsbury Bake-Off mixes up its $1 million recipe contest

thumb_pillsbury.gifThat venerable cookoff classic, the Pillsbury Bake-Off radically revamped its recipe for 2013. It's simpler, more diverse and ultimately more democratic.

For the first time, the public will determine all 100 recipes that will vie for the grand prize, Pillsbury announced Monday. The creators of those recipes will compete Nov. 10-12 in Las Vegas for more than $1 million.

"We're excited to roll out changes to the ever-classic Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest," said Jann Atkins, Bake-Off kitchens manager. "We know consumers crave recipes that are delicious, yet easy to make, so adding an ingredient limit allows us to provide inspiration for even the busiest families and novice cooks. And with voters selecting all 100 finalists, we hope to rally excitement and friendly competition across the country as people choose their favorites."

Recipes will be limited to seven ingredients (not counting table salt, black pepper or water) and must take less than 30 minutes to prepare (not counting baking or cooling time).

Home cooks will have more chances to win with three separate recipe categories and three entry periods:

- Amazing Doable Dinners: This category is open now through Feb. 7.

- Simple Sweets and Starters: Entry period runs from April 4 to May 9.

- Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts: Entry period runs from July 4 to Aug. 8.

For full details, click on

December 19, 2012
Find Sterling caviar at Raley's, make buckwheat blini

caviar.jpg More proof that local caviar is going mainstream: Raley's supermarkets - along with sister Bel Air and Nob Hill stores - are now offering Sacramento-grown Sterling Caviar.

During the holidays, the chain's meat departments will take orders for Sterling, ready for in-store pick up with three days notice. Get your Christmas and New Year's Eve orders in now.

It's only fitting; Sacramento is now America's Caviar Capital. (Read more at:

Traditionally, yeast-raised buckwheat blini - little Russian pancakes - are the perfect platform for caviar. (Blini is plural; one little pancake is a blin.)

Accompanied with a dab of creme fraiche or sour cream, blini and caviar pair deliciously with dry champagne or sparkling wine - ready to toast the holidays and New Year.

Buckwheat blini

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg, separated

In a large bowl, mix all-purpose and buckwheat flours, salt and instant yeast. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in warm milk, mixing until smooth. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Melt butter and let cool. Stir the melted butter and egg yolk into batter. In a separate bowl, whisk egg white until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. (Melt a little more butter in the skillet, if desired.) With a tablespoon, drop quarter-size dollops of batter into the pan without crowding. Cook for about 1 or 2 minutes or until bubbles form and break across the top of the batter. Turn and cook for another minute.

Remove blini from heat, cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with caviar and your choice of creme fraiche, sour cream, cream cheese, finely chopped egg, finely chopped red onion or chives.

Note: Blinis also can be made with just all-purpose flour or a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flours; substitute equal amount for buckwheat.

Makes 24 blinis.

December 12, 2012
Persimmon explosion leads to holiday cookies

persimmon.jpgPersimmon season is booming - literally. Our backyard Fuyu is fully loaded.

We picked about 60 pounds of fruit, many as big as heirloom tomatoes. (Here's a photo of one big cluster.) There are many more near the top of the tree, out of reach.

But not out of range for squirrels and birds. It's their annual holiday treat. The critters bite or peck into the super-ripe fruit, which falls from the tree - creating a hefty blop!

During a recent wind storm, it sounded like a water balloon fight. Knocked down by gusts, exploded persimmons littered the lawn beneath the tree. (They're now in the compost bin.)

Although I hate wasting any home-grown edible, I already have my hands and kitchen counter full of ripening persimmons. A lot of them will find their way into cookies, a holiday favorite.

I usually use my great-grandmother's recipe, which I posted online as part of The Bee's Holiday Recipe Cookbook. Search for "persimmon cookies."

Ripe persimmons also can substitute for canned pumpkin in other cookie and dessert recipes. What pulp doesn't get baked will go in the freezer for later use - when this season's persimmon "bombs" are just a memory.

December 11, 2012
How to make grenadine, pomegranate molasses

pomegrante2.jpg pomegranate1.jpg

Pomegranate season brought a red explosion to my kitchen. Our little backyard tree - an aptly named Wonderful pomegranate - produced more than 60 huge red orbs.

They were the biggest pomegranates I've ever grown. Several were as large as softballs and just as round. One weighed 24 ounces.

Inside each fruit were hundreds of plump seed sacs. They seemed to be unusually dark this winter. Instead of crimson, the juicy sacs glistened like black garnets. They produced jelly and grenadine with the same, rich color.

And the flavor is outstanding - which is why I scrambled to preserve it for later enjoyment.

My favorite method is home-made grenadine. It's easy, quick and flexible depending on how much juice you have available. In a stainless steel saucepan, add one cup sugar to every cup of pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer one minute until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool.

That's it. Store the grenadine in a jar and refrigerate; it will keep at least three months. Or freeze it for a year (or more). Grenadine adds color and pomegranate flavor to drinks, desserts, glazes (try it on pork) and other dishes.

Pomegranate molasses, a popular ingredient in Middle eastern cuisine, is similar to grenadine, but not as sweet. It also takes more time to make. For molasses, put 2 cups pomegranate juice in a heavy saucepan. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Bring to boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour, until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. (It will reduce to about 3/4 cup.) Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

For more ideas on enjoying pomegranates, read Chris Macias' story in Wednesday's Food & Wine section in The Bee.

December 3, 2012
Darrell Corti, 'Skyfall' and herbal wine meet over cocktails

There's a connection between Sacramento grocer Darrell Corti - an internationally recognized food and wine expert - and "Skyfall," the 23rd James Bond adventure now playing in theaters.

Some context: First there was the Vesper cocktail, the classic "shaken, not stirred" mega-martini that James Bond favored in "Casino Royale." That was the title of the 1953 Ian Fleming thriller that became the 2006 movie that introduced Daniel Craig at Agent 007, in which the Vesper found new cachet.

Inspired by "Skyfall," the head mixologist at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London - Erik Lorincz - decided to "refresh" the ingredients of the Vesper and create a special cocktail called the Skyfall. This is what he came up with; note there are just about 30 milliliters in one ounce:

October 30, 2012
What were Hemingway's and Ephron's favorite dishes?

Under the heading "cool food-related websiltes," add this one:

Journalist-foodie Nicole Villeneuve maintains, where she reveals the favorite dishes of famous authors (recipes included).

For instance, Agatha Christie liked fig and orange scones with Devonshire cream - very tea time in the drawing room. Contrast that with Ernest Hemingway's manly go-to of bacon-wrapped trout with corn cakes, maybe his lunch after a morning of fly-fishing.

Other pairings: Nora Ephron and frozen key lime pie; Jack London and baked bacon-tomato risotto; John Steinbeck and pork-filled posole; Salman Rushdie and lamb korma; Willa Cather and spiced plum kolache. The list goes on, and includes some authors' favorite cocktails. Now head for the kitchen.

June 27, 2012
Classic pisco punch gets a new twist from an old company

The "adult beverage" part of many Fourth of July celebrations is bound to be there. But let's not forget conventional wisdom: Don't drink and drive. Plus: Moderation in all things.

That said, your backyard barbecue party could move beyond the standard beer and wine offerings to include the overlooked potent brandy called pisco. It's made from muscat grapes and is the national drink of Chile and Peru.

Pisco was the rage in the bars of San Francisco's Barbary Coast during the gold rush. Lore tells us that it was there, at the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon, that the famous pisco punch was concocted by owner Duncan Nicol. For aficionados, there's even a book about it: "History of Pisco in San Francisco: A Scrapbook of First Hand Accounts" by Guillermo Toro-Lira (CreateSpace, $24.99, 100 pages).

Now the 180-year-old family-owned Marnier-Lapostolle company is reintroducing pisco with its Kappa marque ($34 for a 750 milliliter bottle). The distillery furnished these recipes. Note there are many variations on the classic pisco punch.

Pisco punch
1½ ounces pisco
½ ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce lime juice
2 dashes bitters
½ ounce fresh orange juice
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Pisco rico
1½ ounces pisco
1 ounce Grand Marnier
¾ ounce fresh lemon or lime juice
¼ ounce simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Pisco grapefruit fizz
1½ ounces pisco
3 ounces grapefruit juice
1 ounce bottled soda water (or lemon-lime soda)
Pour pisco and grapefruit juice into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water (or lemon-lime soda) and garnish with a lime wedge.

April 12, 2012
Grilled cheese, smoke point and how to make clarified butter

h7TPh.St.jpgPicking up on Chris Macias' excellent, lip-smacking story on grilled cheese in Wednesday's Bee, I noticed that Drewski's likes to use clarified butter to grill the bread. The story mentions that clarified butter can be pricy. But it's also something you can make at home. I often use clarified butter for making omelets, since regular butter browns at a lower temperature.

In the excellent book, "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient," author Jennifer McLagan devotes an entire chapter to butter. The chapter is called, not surprisingly, "Butter: worth it." In it, McLagan talks about clarified butter and shows how to make it. Butter is actually an emulsion of ingredients, including water, butterfat and milk solids. The procedure involves separating the ingredients and leaving behind the butterfat.

February 16, 2012
By popular demand: Joshua gives us his how-to on short ribs


I wrote a story in Wednesday's Bee taking a look at the trend of buying meat in bulk from local farms. One of the subjects in the story, Joshua Lurie-Terrell, was pictured cooking up some very tasty-looking short ribs, which came from High Sierra Beef as part of bulk purchase with several families.

Lots of readers couldn't help themselves and were eager to fire up some short ribs, too. They called and emailed looking for the recipe. We didn't run it in the paper, so I asked Lurie-Terrell to weigh in. One of the signs of a true foodie is a willingness to share -- whether its ideas, leads on restaurants or recipes. He didn't hesitate and replied promptly with the recipe.

February 10, 2012
Try this technique for scrambled eggs

eggs I.JPG
Ever since I came across the technique in the January 2012 issue of "Food and Wine," I've been tinkering with a new way to make scrambled eggs.

I'm referring to the illuminating article about Coi's Daniel Patterson and Rene Redzepi of Noma, considered by many to be one of the greatest restaurants in the world. They recently spent time at Patterson's house in Oakland collaborating on ways to come up with new flavors.

This is something for which Redzepi is particularly renowned. His rather mesmerizing book, "Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine" has scores of recipes using ingredients plucked right from the land, sometimes while strolling through the woods, traipsing across a meadow or walking along the seashore.

This scrambled egg dish is much more accessible. And it's a pretty cool trick.

eggs II.jpg

Partially fill a pot with water. The pot should have high walls because you'll be stirring the water very briskly. My first go-round, the water tumbled over the top, so I switched to a taller pot.

eggs IV.JPG

Once the water is boiling, take a large spoon and stir vigorously (but carefully), creating a vortex. You will have already beaten your eggs. Stop stirring and immediately pour the beaten eggs into the vortex. Quickly cover the pot, turn down the heat and cook for about 40 seconds (for four eggs, slightly less for two eggs).

Carefully pour out the water into the sink, holding back the eggs with a slotted spoon. Then pour the eggs into a colander or strainer. The magazine suggests straining for 10 seconds. I found it needed longer than that; otherwise, you'll have watery eggs.

eggs V.JPG

In no time, you're looking at plump, perfectly cooked eggs - something between scrambled and an omelet. They're good enough to eat just like that, with a pinch of salt, maybe. But the Redezepi/Patterson article has a nice goat cheese sauce to add to the eggs.

You'll do this ahead of time: Take 4 ounces of fresh goat cheese and whisk with a ¼ cup of warm water. Then 2 ounces of shredded aged hard goat cheese (maybe gouda), 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan and stir into a pot with ¾ cup of simmering water. Stir until melted, then whisk in the fresh goat cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the eggs into bowls (1 or 2 eggs per bowl), then spoon the cheese mixture on top. Drizzle olive oil over that and adjust the seasonings to suit.

It's a great new dish. And an entertaining way to get there.

If you're looking for more advanced recipes from Redzepi, you'll certainly enjoy his book, which is loaded with beautiful photographs. On page 275, for instance, there's a poached egg recipe (but not scrambled and poached), that includes radishes and verbena sauce. The entire dish is then covered with heated sea lettuce, creating an opaque window over the eggs and radishes.

October 26, 2011
On salt and salting: A must-read book for your foodie library


If you're really into food, the new book "Salted" by Mark Bitterman (not Mark Bittman) is a must read. Here's my story in today's food section.

Recently, when my girlfriend and I traveled to New York, we stopped by The Meadow, Bitterman's shop in the West Village. The photo above is the wall of salt. Pretty amazing selection. The salt is also available online here.

Locally, the best places I have found for buying salt are the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Corti Brothers, and Taylor's Market.

October 6, 2011
Great advice for dealing with those late-season tomatoes


Elaine Corn just filed a really good piece at on what to do if you're lucky enough to be saddled with too many cherry tomatoes. The award-winning cookbook author, public radio reporter and gardener must not live close enough to me, since I haven't tasted a single one of those incredible little Sweet 100s she's writing about (that's her photo above). Nevertheless, I am including her story and recipes here for your edification. With this cold, rainy weather we're having, it'll be more fun to be in the kitchen than out in the garden.

Corn insists she'll be picking her cherry tomatoes until Thanksgiving. I'm assuming she doesn't mean Canadian Thanksgiving, which means I'll have plenty of time to improve my schmoozing (posting a link to her story is a start!) and maybe get my hands on a few of those Sweet 100s. I'm eager to make that sauce and those cherry tomato "raisins" myself.

August 22, 2011
The Cowboy Steak: It's what's for dinner

Steak1 (17).JPGI recently received an email from a reader who wanted to know a couple of my favorite places to get a good steak. I cut right to the chase: Walk to the back of Corti Brothers, peer through the glass at the various cuts of beef, and pick out something called the "Cowboy Steak." You won't have to look hard -- it's humongous. If you cook that thing properly, all two pounds of it, it will blow your mind. Covered wagon, Gatling gun and open flame are optional.

August 11, 2011
Central Valley blueberry bounty yields bevy of fruity delights

FOOD_BLUEBERRIES_3_FR.jpgLove blueberries? You're in luck.

The California Farm Bureau Federation reports that is could be a bumper crop year for blueberries.

San Joaquin Valley blueberry farmers are harvesting their crops right now, which could be the best quality and size in recent history.

The blueberry harvest happens three or four times throughout the summer, since blueberries on the same plant can ripen at different times, the farm bureau reported in its weekly e-newsletter.

Consumers should expect increased supplies - and lower prices - at markets now. Prices were highest when the harvest season began back in mid-May.

So what can you do with a bounty of blueberries, beyond the obvious smoothies or muffins? Try a mesclun salad with blueberries, goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. Put a spin on bruschetta and top toast points with blueberries, basil and lemon zest. Top sugar cookies with a thin layer of mascarpone and blueberries.

Or just kick back with this blueberry bourbon recipe from Serious Eats.

Photo credit: Eric Paul Zamora/Fresno Bee

August 5, 2011
From the test kitchen: Biba's Bologna-style ragu

sauce3.JPGBiba Caggiano has a nice new book, "Spaghetti Sauces," 129 pages of spaghetti sauce recipes of all kinds, from basic butter sauces ready in 10 minutes to seafood sauces and and meat sauces like the one I have simmering right now -- simmering for 2-plus hours.

The latter recipe is for Bologna-style ragu. Bologna is the city in Northern Italy where Caggiano was born and raised. She then moved to the U.S. and eventually opened one of Sacramento's most respected restaurants. Click on the pictures to make them bigger; apologies, but there is no aroma feature with this software.

This sauce builds flavor slowly, beginning with melting butter and then cooking minced carrots, celery and onion.

sauce2.JPGThen you add ground beef, pork and veal, along with small cubes of pancetta. This cooks at high heat for about 10 minutes.

Next, I poured in a cup of red wine and cooked that down until most of the wine had evaporated. More flavor (and the kitchen smells great).

Then comes time for the classic ingredient -- a 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes. The book says to puree them in a blender. But I went with doing it by hand the way they do in Italy -- squeezing the tomatoes until they were pretty much liquefied. Then the tomatoes are added to the pot and simmered -- and simmered -- for two-and-a-half hours.

sauce1.JPGIt thickens and the flavor deepens over that time. I will be writing a short story on the book, along with a few recipes in the upcoming Food and Wine section on Wednesday

July 20, 2011
Four cooks nab National Beef Cook-Off category wins

AsianBBQSkirtSteak.jpgFour home cooks been named category winners in the 2011 National Beef Cook-Off, one of the most prestigious cooking contests in the country.

The four category winners, who were each awarded a $3,000 cash prize, showcased simple preparations and cooking techniques with beef, great flavors and healthful ingredients, organizers announced in a news release today.

The cookoff, which boasts a $25,000 grand prize, is second only to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in terms of prize money. The National Chicken Cook-off, which used to offer a $100,000 purse for the grand prize winner, has since shuttered.

The Cook-Off category winners are Tedd Smith, of Mount Vernon, N.Y, for his Asian Barbecued Skirt Steak (shown at left); Peggy Calhoun, of Portland, Ore., for her Steppin' Up Beef Fried Rice; Edwina Gadsby, of Great Falls, Mont., for her Asian Beef Sandwiches with Slaw; and Ellen Verdugo, of Gloucester, Mass., for her Flash in the Pan Stir-Fry. Click here to see all the finalists and recipes.

July 6, 2011
Homemade cooking helps extreme couponer save scratch

So how do extreme couponers use up all those ingredients they score for next to nothing? They get creative.

Jen Freeman certainly does.

The Las Vegas mother of two and extreme couponer, who recently was featured at two extreme couponing events hosted by The Sacramento Bee and on TLC's "Extreme Couponing," said she stocks up on fruit and vegetables in season in order to save money, then creates recipes around her ingredients. I wrote about Freeman and her extreme couponing method in today's Food & Wine section. Click here to read the story.

Follow the link below to get Freeman's recipe for homemade strawberry preserves and a homemade strawberry preserves and poptart.

June 29, 2011
This praiseworthy pop a tempting treat for the over 21 crowd

Frozen pops are all the rage, and they also appear to have taken over my brain.

I wake up with ideas for new flavors and textures. Go to bed craving the frozen treat. I think I've gone to the cold side.

My latest quest - create an "adult" pop to be enjoyed after the children are in bed. The result is a Nutella and Frangelico pop that is worthy of praise. The key is to go easy on the hazelnut liqueur (too much and the pop won't freeze). And be sure to keep these pops out of reach of the kids.

For more on frozen pops, click here to check out my story in today's Food & Wine section. Follow the link below to get the recipe for spiked chocolate hazelnut pops.

May 12, 2011
Chocolate, yeast bread entries sought for State Fair baking contests

cookie bar1.JPGDo you have a fabulous chocolate or yeast bread recipe? It could be worth hundreds of dollars.

The California State Fair is looking for contest entries for its Ghiradelli Chocolate Championship and Fleishmann's Yeast "Bake for the Cure" Contest. Registration deadlines for both contests is June 3.

The chocolate competition is looking for the bakers with the best treats, cakes and desserts featuring at least one Ghiradelli baking product (think chocolate chips, bars or cocoa) among its ingredients, according to a news release.

Prizes are, in order of first to fourth place, $500, $250, $125 and $50. Winners and one randomly selected participant also will take home Ghiradelli gift baskets.

May 9, 2011
Cookbook swap, food chats abound at FoodTalk@Cafe Bernardo

Here's a great idea for those who have too many cookbooks gathering dust on kitchen shelves - swap them.

FoodTalk is holding a cookbook sale and swap from 10 to 3 p.m. June 25 at Cafe Bernardo at 28th and Capitol in Sacramento.

Participants can meet several Northern California cookbook writers, peruse hundreds of new, used and rare cookbooks and swap up to five of their own cookbooks, according to an event e-mail.

FoodTalk, a forum for foodies interested in all things food writing, is sponsored by MatrixArts, a nonprofit that works in the realm of visual, literary, performing and culinary arts and provides art and design education programs, the organization's website states.

May 6, 2011
Last minute meal ideas to celebrate mom

scones.jpgFor those who don't want to leave the comfort of their home on Mother's Day, here are some ideas and recipes that'll help create the perfect celebration for mom Sunday.

(And for those who do want to venture out, click here to read our Things to Do blog post on Mother's Day events in the region.)

Brunch and Mother's Day seem to be synonymous, but don't torture mom with burned toast that the kids made. Layer yogurt, granola and fresh berries in a see-through cup or bowl to make an instant, beautiful parfait. Serve with pastries, such as this recipe for fruit and chocolate scones. A fresh cup of coffee - served in the lovely china that mom rarely uses - is all you need to complete the meal.

March 30, 2011
Fanciful cookie cutter kit, recipe delivers

Not only did Williams-Sonoma deliver with its spring and Easter-themed cookie cutter set, but the good folks in the WS Kitchen also provide a great cookie recipe.

The cookie cutter kit was among a handful of kitchen gadgets reviewed in today's Food & Wine section. Click here to get the story.

And yes, of course you could use the cookie recipe with other cutters, but considering the cute factor of the Williams-Sonoma kit (what's not to love about a basket cookie cutter complete with a stamp that makes a basket weave pattern?) and the reasonable price, why not give it a try? We did, and we haven't stopped using it since.

March 7, 2011
Stymied on how to cook with soy? Tips on tofu and more

House Foods Tofu Enchilada.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

The Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines now includes soy products and soy beverages, but the recommendation can leave some home cooks quivering like a block of silken tofu at the thought of trying to incorporate soy in daily life.

But soy - and what to do with it - has come a long way in the past 20 years. And given the health benefits - the plant protein is low in fat, high in calcium and rich in vitamins - we might want to give it the old college try. The Soyfoods Association of North America is lobbying for now, of course, or at least in April, when it's National Soyfoods Month.

Patricia Greenberg, a nutritionist and chef who serves as spokeswomen for the association, relayed some advice for soy virgins and aficionados alike.

January 31, 2011
Two great recipes for any Super Bowl party

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

Speaking of the Super Bowl, I had a little Super Bowl déjà vu Sunday when, on a whim, I decided to make ribs. Specifically, I made the ribs from the can't-fail recipe in the timeless cookbook "Joy of Cooking," And no, I wasn't hosting a Pro Bowl party.

This delicious meal actually comes together with two recipes - one for the barbecue sauce and one for "country-style ribs baked in barbecue sauce." I had been thinking about the Super Bowl and recalling that these were the same two recipes I used for the first Super Bowl party I attended in Sacramento (January 2000) after arriving from the East Coast the previous June.

The party was at the apartment of Matthew Barrows, who started at The Bee two weeks after I did and sat across from me in the newsroom. We were both general assignment reporters. Matt went on to become the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers, and now he pretends he doesn't know who I am. But back in 2000, all I knew about his interest in football was that he was a fanatical Redskins fan (he grew up in the D.C. area) and that he couldn't throw a tight spiral if his life depended on it.

Anyway, the ribs were a big hit at the party - incredibly tender, full of flavor from the meat and the sauce cooked into it, and most importantly, they weren't greasy. There are lots of fancy cookbooks these days, but this is a recipe that would be hard to improve. Best of all, you don't need a big outdoor smoker and thus, you don't have to wake at 3 a.m. to light your big smoker. The ribs are actually baked in your oven - very slowly over four hours.

Here's what you do:

First the sauce. If you have the "all new" edition, the recipe is on Page 90. There are plenty of ingredients required, but no technique. Dump everything into the pot and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes over low heat.
1 ½ cups of ketchup
1 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used the latter)
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar (scoop sugar into a measuring cup and gently push down until it is level)
2 tablespoons dry mustard
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 slices of lemon

Now you've got an excellent all-purpose sauce. Next, you need some ribs. Pretty much any kind of ribs will work. The way you choose will depend on personal preference and, to some extent, the nature of the occasion. I went with country-style pork ribs because they are very meaty. I bought them at the excellent meat counter at Taylor's Market, where they cut them to order. These are actually boneless, which is even better. But if you're looking for traditional rib eating, where you gnaw on the bones to your heart's content, go for spareribs or baby back ribs.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the ribs in a large baking pan. Mix 1 ½ cups of the BBQ sauce you just made with 1 cup of orange juice. Place the ribs in the pan, then pour in the sauce mixture, turning the ribs to coat. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Bake for three hours. Remove the pan from the oven, take off the foil and spoon sauce onto the exposed ribs so they don't dry out. Return to the oven uncovered for 1 hour, for a total of four hours. Check on them a few times in that final hour and spoon more sauce onto the ribs or turn them over. The sauce will cook down and thicken.

By the time you're finished, you will have ribs so good and tender they will be a big hit at whatever Super Bowl party you attend.

A couple of tips:

Plan ahead. This takes four hours of baking, plus more time to make the sauce. So you will want to start at least six hours before the party.

The baking pan will be tough to clean, so it might be best to line the bottom and sides with aluminum foil.

Finally, if you're going to eat these ribs, don't wear a white shirt.

January 28, 2011
Del Paso Boulevard hosting free veggie food fair Saturday

By Niesha Lofing

The Del Paso Boulevard Partnership is hosting a free food fair Saturday, but one thing is not exactly welcome - meat.

VegFest Food Fair 2011
will feature vegan, vegetarian and raw cuisine, purveyors, exhibits and cooking demonstrations.

The fair, modeled after a similar event in Seattle, was initially intended to drive traffic to Del Paso Boulevard and showcase restaurants and catering businesses thriving in the area. But given the intense interest they've received already, organizers are considering holding VegFest twice a year.

"To be really honest, it's taken off," said David Plag, the partnership's executive director.

Several businesses will be at the event, including The Green Boheme, Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery and Happy Go Lucky Veggie Cuisine.

About 300 to 400 people are expected to attend.

The event will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Artisan Building, 1901 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento.

For more information, go to

January 5, 2011
Deadline for peanut butter recipe contest drawing near

By Niesha Lofing

Last call for entries in Jif's Holiday Spread Recipe contest, a recipe competition offering two $10,000 kitchen makeovers as its top prizes.

Contestants may enter one of two categories, savory or sweet, and recipes must use at least two tablespoons of Jif Peanut Butter (any variety).

The contest deadline is Jan. 17.

For more information, check out Jif's contest website.

January 3, 2011
California kiwi a popular, nutrient-packed fruit

Couscous.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Kiwi is quite the popular little fruit.

California kiwifruit farmers reported a larger crop and stronger demand at the end of their harvest season, with farmers having sold nearly 9 million trays of the fuzzy fruit last year, about 2 million more than in 2009, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Weather in other Northern Hemisphere countries hurt kiwifruit production, but California's crop escaped most damage from frost and rain, leading to an increase in demand for California kiwifruit, the bureau's Food and Farms News report stated.

And if you're like the millions of others resolving to eat better this year, you may want to add kiwifruit to the mix.

Consider this: each serving of kiwifruit is fat free, has more potassium than a banana and about 2 1/2 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and is a good source of antioxidants, the California Kiwifruit Commission reports on its website.

It's also high in fiber - two kiwifruit contain more fiber than a bowl of bran cereal.

California kiwifruit season runs through May.

For tips on selecting kiwifruit and ideas on how to use them, check out the commission's website.

Follow the link below to get a recipe for Mediterranean kiwi couscous.

December 3, 2010
Holiday cupcakes, recipes abound

Festivus for the Restivus.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

Sweet tooths rejoice - Saturday is cupcake day at Ginger Elizabeth in Sacramento.

The midtown chocolatier is offering four flavors: real red velvet, salty caramel, gingerbread and Opera, a rich chocolate cake filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache and frosted with coffee buttercream, according to the shop's website.

Cupcakes are $3 and pre-orders are available for six or more cupcakes.

Ginger Elizabeth, located at 1801 L Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Don't want to leave the house? Check out these holiday-inspired cupcake recipes we received from The Stuffed Cupcake Place, a New Jersey cupcakery to the stars and celebs.

Click here to get the recipes for The Festivus for the Restivus cupcake (shown at left) - a gingerbread cupcake with nutmeg custard filling and spiced cream cheese frosting - and they're Peppermint Twist cupcake, red velvet and vanilla cupcakes with peppermint cream filling and vanilla frosting.

November 26, 2010
Ideas, recipes for your leftover feast

turkey.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

It's the day after Thanksgiving - do you know where your leftovers are?

And perhaps more importantly, how you're going to prepare them?

While reporting our Thanksgiving food stories, I came across these handy tips for holiday leftovers.

Blue plate specials: If you're a traditionalist and simply want a replay of that fabulous meal you slaved over, Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian advises folks to make their plate and then cover it with a moist paper towel, which will help leftovers taste fresher.

"The trick there, and this is my Grandmother's, is to heat everything up and the last 30 seconds, toss on the turkey," d'Arabian said in an interview from her New York home last week.

For more of d'Arabian's ideas on how to reinvent leftovers, check out my story from this week's Food & Wine section.

Cold weather = hot soup: Don't throw that turkey carcass away. Use it to make the base for soup, suggested Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research and a food safety expert at UC Davis.

Cut all the meat up and boil the carcass down, making a delicious broth that can be used for turkey soup or as the base for a rich, heart split pea. Just add carrots, onions, ham hocks and split peas.

"It's wonderful for cold weather and turkey stock has such wonderful background flavor," she said

Appetizing appetizers: Home cook Valerie Reynoso Piotrowski, of El Dorado Hills, loves using her leftovers to make little appetizers in the days that follow Thanksgiving. She uses Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough, and rolls out squares large enough to hold a small dollop each of stuffing, peas, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Then she wraps them up like little bundles, brushes them with melted butter and bakes them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

"Fabulous!" she said.

November 22, 2010
Help is here! Bee live chat on holiday survival today

Thanksgiving is just three days away and for many of us, that means plotting, planning and, in some cases, panicking.

Never fear, The Bee's holiday experts are here!

We're hosting a live chat at noon today on all things Thanksgiving, from cooking that holiday meal to dinner conversation ideas.

The Bee's Niesha Lofing, food and family writer and author of Mom.Me, a parenting column, and Debbie Arrington, Home & Garden guru and food writer, will host the chat. Jessica Williams, a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento and Jodie Chavious, a pastry chef at Taylor's Restaurant and Market in Sacramento, also will be on hand to answer questions. Sacramento Connect blogger Ann Silberman, who writes "Breast Cancer? But Doctor....I hate pink!" also will be joining the discussion to talk about cancer and the holidays.

Join us and chime in with your pressing Thanksgiving questions at 12 p.m. today:

November 8, 2010
Citrus Heights boy a finalist in Red Robin burger contest

By Niesha Lofing

An 8-year-old Citrus Heights boy's jalapeno cornbread chili burger recipe has been chosen as one of 10 finalist entries in the "Red Robin Kids' Cook-Off" contest.

Dominic Staiti's gourmet burger - which includes a beef patty, crispy jalapeno rings, crispy onion straws, pepper jack cheese, barbecue sauce, chili con carne and a drizzle of honey on a cornbread bun - was chosen from thousands of entries submitted by children throughout the country, according to a news release by the restaurant chain.

Staiti will head to Denver next month, where he'll make his burger for panel of Red Robin judges and Colorado-based culinary experts on Dec. 9. If Staiti wins, his burger will be sold at Red Robin restaurants next summer, with proceeds benefiting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

It isn't the first time a local youngster has captured the attention of Red Robin officials. Eric Moore, of Roseville, had his recipe for a blackened avocado bacon burger included among the 50 recipes by 6- to 12-year-old chefs chosen or the fourth annual Red Robin Kids' Cookoff Cookbook, released this summer on the company's website. Click here to read more about Eric Moore's recipe.

Staiti's recipe is already guaranteed to make it into the cookbook based on this year's contest, which also will include safety tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, will be published online in summer 2011.

Grand prize for this year's contest includes a family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort and a one-year supply of Red Robin gift cards, the release states.

Staiti and the other finalists also have a chance to be named "Fan Favorite" at the December event. Starting Nov. 15, supporters can vote for their favorite young chef by logging onto The winner will receive a $100 gift card to Toys "R" Us and a $200 Red Robin gift card, the release states.

Fans also can watch the cook-off, which will be streamed live Dec. 9 on the cook-off website. The winner will be announced live around 12:15 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time)

Good luck Dominic!

November 2, 2010
Calling all cooks: Are you a traditionalist on Thanksgiving?

Experimenting with cooking technique or recipes has its place, but for many, the time is not on Thanksgiving day.

Many of us stick to the beloved, time-honored recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation or adapted to perfection from classic cookbooks.

We want to hear from you, dear reader, about your favorite dishes. What are the ones you turn to year after year? How long have you been using your recipes? Have you ever dared to stray from tradition and what was the result?

E-mail your name and contact information to The Bee's Niesha Lofing at or call her at (916) 321-1270.

October 13, 2010
More free recipes for insatiable cooks

rice.JPGBy Niesha Lofing

In our Food & Wine story about recipes and food branding today, the California Rice Commission was noted as one of the many organizations that's working hard to make sure consumers know how to prepare delicious dishes using its signature product.

What we didn't have room for, however, were recipes the commission provides on its website. Many are submitted by well-known local chefs, like the following recipe for a brown rice and sweet potato dish from Chef Mai Pham, of Lemon Grass Restaurant.

Click the link below to get her recipe. For more, check out the commission's website.

October 6, 2010
Call to readers: Where do you turn for recipes?

Where do you get your recipes? Do you turn to food company websites like McCormick or Foster Farms for dinner inspiration? Have you ever tried the recipes included in the owners manual of your favorite appliance?

I want to hear from Sacramento area home cooks for a story. Email me at or call me at (916) 321-1270.

Thanks and happy cooking!

August 27, 2010
Oroweat teams up with Food Network host for recipe contest

By Dan Berget

Chef Claire Robinson of the Food Network's "5 Ingredient Fix" is teaming up with Arnold and Oroweat bread brands for the "Spin on Thin" recipe contest.

Readers and food lovers should submit their best recipes.

One Grand Prize winner will receive $2000 and an all-expenses-paid 3-day, 2-night trip for two to New York. Four finalists will receive $1000.

The contest runs through Nov. 29 and includes five different themes. The first theme, called Simply Delicious, lasts until Monday. Click here to get more information and to view official rules at the contest website.

Call The Bee's Dan Berget at (916) 321-4100.

August 27, 2010
Spinach, lemon chicken dishes soar in Foster Farms' contest

By Niesha Lofing

Two California cooks are one step closer to $10,000 after their dishes were ranked the best in the Foster Farms West Coast Chicken Cooking Contest's regional finals, held today at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento.

The first annual contest, open to cooks in California, Oregon and Washington, garnered 2,000 recipes. The pool of entries were narrowed to 15 - five from each state - and regional finals were held to determine the top two dishes.

The final competition is scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.

I was among three of the judges who had to taste all five and decide which two would move on the final round. Adrienne Bankert, of KCRA, and Georgeanne Brennan, of The San Francisco Chronicle, also served as judges.

Hard day eh?

lemon chicken.jpgIt was difficult to settle on just two winners, but in the end it was the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous salad by Rebekkah Leber of Hayward (pictured at left) and spinach stuffed chicken breasts by Alexandria Boswell of La Jolla (pictured at right) that emerged victorious.

Brennan, of Winters, said the spinach chicken breasts were her favorite of the dishes we tasted. A spinach lover, Brennan enjoyed the fresh dill, cheese and spinach stuffing and the striking color contrast of the greens against the white chicken meat.

Thumbnail image for spinach chicken.jpg"It just put it all together for me," she said.

The other semifinalists from California included Megan Bailey, of Monterey, for her pumpkin seed and wild rice chicken fajitas; Sandra Keefe, of Fullerton, for her black orange pekoe chicken breasts and Vee Lark-Williams, of Los Angeles, who submitted a recipe for crispy feta chicken croquettes with a mandarin orange sauce.

Leber and Boswell will receive $1,000 and will get a free trip to St. Helena for the final round.

The grand prize is $10,000 and a year supply of fresh Foster Farms chicken.

The contest is hoping to fill a void left by the National Chicken Contest, the nation's premier chicken cook-off. The contest was suspended in 2009 due to the economy.

The contest, along with the Pillsbury Bake-off and the National Beef Cookoff, boasted one of the most lucrative purses in the country.

Click here to get Leber's recipe for the panko-crusted lemon butter chicken with Israeli couscous. Click here to the get Boswell's recipe for spinach stuffed chicken breasts.

August 26, 2010
Local cookbook generates so many sales that it gets 2nd printing

soup.jpgBy Niesha Lofing

Looks like eating locally grown, in-season food is growing even more popular.

The "Placer County Real Food" cookbook is now in it's second printing, author Joanne Neft told The Bee this week.

'I'm awestruck," Neft said in an e-mail.

Neft recently attended a writer's conference and learned that some 500,000 books are printed each year in the U.S., but only about 5 percent of those end up selling more than 2,000 copies.

"And here we are in our fourth month and we've sold 9,000 (copies)," she said. "Who would have thought this could happen?"

We did. The cookbook not only supplies readers with recipes for delicious, rustic cuisine, but is arranged in a way that winds readers through each of the four seasons, providing tips and hints for using in-season ingredients along the way.

Neft and chef Laura Kenny, who co-authored the book, spent one year hosting a weekly dinner party and cooking meals with ingredients procured from the local farmers markets. The Monday night meals, held at Neft's Auburn home, became some of the most sought-after culinary events in Placer County (cinderella squash soup, pictured above at left, was the first course at one of the dinners in November. Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.).

The cookbook is available at the Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Tahoe City farmers markets, as well as at many retailers throughout the region. Click here to see the list of retailers.

August 24, 2010
Sacramento cooking class caters to halibut enthusiasts

By Niesha Lofing

At upwards of $16 per pound, halibut can be more of an investment than dinner.

So when it comes to preparing halibut, knowing what you're doing is key.

Enter local chef Pajo Bruich.

Bruich, of Pajo's Boutique Catering, is hosting a cooking class Aug. 31 dedicated to teaching home cooks about the delicious flatfish.

Participants will learn how to select halibut and other fresh fish, the differences in fish's fat content, flavor and texture, how to cook various fish, how to properly sear and roast halibut, and how to pair local wines with fish, Bruich said in an e-mail.

Brand Little, of Wild Little Fish Company, is sourcing the fish and will be one hand during the class.

Participants also will feast on a halibut dinner (the menu is posted below), paired with local wines following the class.

Cost is $59 per person. Gratuity is not included. Reservations are required and can be made by clicking here. The class is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at Steel Magnolia Kitchen in Sacramento.


Salad of Heirloom Tomato
Basil panna cotta, lemon verbena gelee, green zebra gazpacho, compressed cucumber, liquid buratta spheres, Lucero olive oil sorbet, marinated heirloom tomatoes, balsamic reduction.

Pan Seared Wild California Halibut
Local sweet corn, potato croquant, applewood bacon, red pepper relish, garlic pudding.

Chocolate and raspberry dark chocolate gateau, raspberry gelee, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate sorbet.

August 16, 2010
Woodland firefighter nabs spot in cooking contests final round

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels is flying to New York today for a chance to win $10,000 and some serious bragging rights.

Daniels, 32, is one of two finalists in the "Live with Regis and Kelly" show's Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off. She learned early this morning that her smokin' pear salad recipe helped her secure a spot in the final cook-off, which will air on Friday's show.

"I'm so excited," Daniels said in a phone interview while driving to the airport. "I was at my station when they called and I got to jump up and down and scream with my coworkers."

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa will announce the final two contestants during today's show. Daniels will be competing against Ross Signorino and his "Rossome Ribs."

If she wins, Daniels will come home with the cash prize and her recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The recipe, which pairs grilled chicken and pears with blue cheese, glazed pecans and butter lettuce in a salad dressed with a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette and is served with a side of buttery grilled garlic bread, is easy to prepare, an attribute Daniels thinks helped her excel in the competition.

"It takes like 20 minutes," she said.

The dish has been well-received among friends, community members and her fellow firefighters.

"My coworkers who don't like vegetables very much like it," she said.

Click here to get the recipe.

August 5, 2010
Woodland firefighter to dish on "Regis and Kelly" Friday

Woodland firefighter Tara Daniels has made it to the final round of the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" firehouse cook-off contest and will appear on the show Friday.

Daniels is a finalist in the show's "Chicken Part 2" category of the Coast to Coast Firehouse Cook-Off, the city of Woodland's website states.

Daniels' recipe for smokin' pear salad - a combination of pears, blue cheese, candied pecans, chicken and balsamic vinaigrette - impressed the show's production staff and apparently her hometown, too.

Appetizers recently wrote about Daniels' attempt to garner enough votes to make it to the final round. Click here to read the story.

The city's website attributes her final round victory to her recipe, video, "supportive co-workers and an unbeatable combination of friends, family and our Woodland community."

Daniels' segment airs at 9 a.m. Friday on KCRA.

The studio audience and hosts will rate the recipe on taste and the top five studio audience-ranked firefighters will be eligible for an online vote. The two top semi-finalists may be invited back to New York for a televised cook-off at the end of the month.

The winner gets $10,000 and the recipe will be published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the contest rules state.

Follow the link below to get Daniels' recipe.

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