Jan 23 2015

SusieCakes makes Sac a little sweeter!

I had the wonderful opportunity of joining fellow media professionals and bloggers at the new SusieCakes Sacramento location in the upscale Pavilions Shopping Center for a special preview event.  We had the opportunity to meet the face behind SusieCakes, founder – Susie Sarich. I was really impressed by her story, her business model, and her interest in our own personal stories.

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SusieCakes is an all-American, homestyle bakery specializing in a variety of dessert favorites. From their cakes to their cookies, all items are made by in-house bakers, offering one-of-a-kind – made from scratch, treats. 

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Susie grew up with fond childhood memories of baking alongside her two grandmothers, Mildred and Madeline. She shared with a few of us that her bakery’s “Susie Blue” signature color was actually inspired by the color of her grandmother’s Pyrex bowls. Pretty sure we had the same blue set in my house, circa 1970. I love that she cherished her kitchen time with her grandmas and that some of their recipes still remain a huge part of her bakery today.

I know I too cherish the hours spent at the bar stools in my Mom’s kitchen watching her prepare meals. As a working mom, she had everything down to a science – at times she’d leave instructions, and as I got a little older, I’d start dinner before both of my parents got home from work. I too have a wooden box filled with family recipes. My grandmother’s Kitchenaid sits proudly on my kitchen counter and is a reminder of how the role of family and cooking/baking traditions have continued to fuel my own passion for spending time in the kitchen and enjoying good food.

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Susie opened her first location in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles back in 2006. The bakery became an instant neighborhood hit. Susie’s husband shared that their customers return again and again to celebrate important family events – from birthdays, baby showers and weddings, to customized sport themed cupcakes – SusieCakes became part of others’ family traditions and that meant a lot to them. 

Their Carlsbad and Laguna Niguel stores will be the next two to open. Carlsbad is slated for March 2015 and Laguna Niguel will follow in May 2015. For my Willow Glen peeps – Susie shared that they were looking at Lincoln Ave. as a possible new location – so hopefully that happens, because I think this type of bakery would be an excellent fit. Raviolis at La Villa, followed by dessert at SusieCakes – sign me up!

Other Northern California locations include Greenbrae (Marin), Chestnut Street (San Francisco Marina), Menlo Park, Lafayette and San Carlos.

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I couldn’t get over the cuteness factor of the store’s decor and the employees that worked there. It was a little slice of retro heaven. From the Susie Blue painted walls to the cherry and floral fabric on the white metal bar stools – I loved all of the store’s design details. The merchandise for sale was very Pinterest worthy and totally “my thing” – I had to refrain from buying enough candles to light up a year of birthdays. 

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Susie took a few of us at a time through the kitchen where we got to see the employees working. They were decorating custom cookies with logos from businesses all over Sacramento. The bakery has big glass windows that customers can see all the bakery action through. 

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We were each given a tasting plate of cake. We sampled seven different cakes while sipping champagne. The cakes are all made from scratch. No mixes, artificial preservatives or trans fats are used. What they do use is European-Style butter, Scharffen Berger Cocoa, Ghirardelli & Callabaut Chocolate and Tahitian-Bean Vanilla.  

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We sampled the Carrot Cake, Tropical Coconut Cake, Vanilla Celebration Cake, Classic Marble Cake, Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake, Famous Southern Red Velvet Cake, and the Luscious Lemon Cake.

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My favorite was the Vanilla Celebration Cake, six layers of vanilla cake with confetti, covered in Susie Blue colored vanilla buttercream frosting. It was like butter on a spoon. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was – frosted butter :). 

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My second favorite was the Luscious Lemon Cake, followed by the Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake. The fresh lemon curd is also used in their lemon bars. 

We were sent home with a box of treats – a giant chocolate chip cookie, a whoopie pie, a heart shaped iced cookie and a 7-layer bar cookie. I will be diving into those as soon as my sugar coma subsides. 

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SusieCakes Sacramento family-friendly grand opening celebration is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, January 24 from 1-4 p.m. Guests will be treated to complimentary mini desserts, photo ops in a classic car, face painting, a balloon artist, and a coloring contest for the kids. The kickoff celebration continues all week long with special promotions – a cupcake happy hour and two-for-one slices of cake, just to name a few.

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A big thank you to Susie and her husband for hosting such a fun evening and to Jairo at Bouchard Communications and Jessica with SusieCakes for inviting me to the special preview event. I had a wonderful time and look forward to placing many customized cake and cookie orders in the future. This design girl was sure impressed and energized by this new addition to Sacramento. 

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Cheers to Susie and her newest Sacramento location!

SusieCakes – Sacramento

564 Pavilions Lane
Pavilions Shopping Center
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 865-2250
Mon-Sat – 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10307

Jan 07 2015

The Perfect Wedge Salad

I really enjoy a good wedge salad and order them on occasion at a few popular chain restaurants – BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Outback Steakhouse and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Not sure what side of the steakhouse vs. steak house fence I reside on, I just know that nothing beats a good, crispy wedge salad on a chilled plate. Whether there is a space or not between “steak” and “house” doesn’t get me all fired up. Just bring on the wedge.

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I started searching for copycat recipes online and found a couple and tweaked the ingredients to my liking. I’ve not always been a huge blue cheese fan. I’ve come to realize that there is a HUGE difference between blue cheeses and paying a little extra for quality is worth it. I am strangely also not a fan of blue cheese dressing on my wedge salads – I’m a simple gal that prefers ranch with chunks of blue cheese sold separately :).

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I braved Costco 2 days before the holidays to score some Point Reyes Original Blue™ and it was totally worth dodging pumpkin pie toting holiday shoppers to get some. The above wedge was just under $15.00 – sorry I forgot to note the actual weight. I know I was able to use it in several other recipes as well. An additional bonus to braving Costco was scoring two awesome dog beds for the fur kids. 

I was first introduced to Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese at a Foodbuzz festival in San Francisco. It was being served at one of the sponsored parties I attended. It was velvety smooth and had more of a medium to strong flavor punch compared to some that tend to overwhelm your palate. I have also tried their White Cheddar and would love to try their Point Reyes Toma.

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My next wedge salad ingredient find was this Limited Edition – Wright Brand – Honey Bourbon Flavored Bacon. I found it at a Walmart Neighborhood Market for $8.99. This is SCREAMIN’ good bacon. I baked it on parchment paper in the oven and it crisped to perfection, while still leaving me with a center cut – meaty texture – easy for crumbling onto my salads. I’ve since gone back to stock up – I’ve got a package in the freezer and another one ready in the fridge for random BLT delights. Dan is a big fan.

The one thing I like about Outback’s wedge is their use of a balsamic reduction. I knew I needed to recreate that in my own version, so I ended up using that portion of one of the copycat recipes I found on Pinterest via Lexie’s Kitchen and Living blog.

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Balsamic Drizzle Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/8 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce – quartered
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Medium Sized Red Onion – finely diced
  • 1-2 Medium Tomatoes – seeded and diced – could also use grape or cherry
  • 8 Bacon Strips – 2 per salad
  • Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese
  • Ranch Dressing – I made a pack of Hidden Valley Original Ranch

Directions

  1. Chill plates for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
  2. In small sauce pan, bring Balsamic Drizzle ingredients to a gentle simmer and reduce to a thick syrup.
  3. Make ranch dressing and chill. Could also use pre-made/bottled.
  4. Cook, crumble and set aside bacon. Note: I baked mine in the oven at 350º F. on parchment for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cut lettuce into four wedges and place on chilled plates.
  6. Drizzle with ranch dressing and then add tomato, red onion and crumbled bacon to each wedge.
  7. Top salads with balsamic glaze drizzle and blue cheese crumbles and serve.

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The Perfect Wedge Salad
Delicious "Outback" like wedge salad with ranch and balsamic drizzle, bacon, tomato, red onion and blue cheese crumbles.
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Balsamic Drizzle Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  2. 1/8 Cup Honey
  3. 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Salad Ingredients
  1. 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce - quartered
  2. 1/4 to 1/2 Medium Sized Red Onion - finely diced
  3. 1-2 Medium Tomatoes - seeded and diced - could also use grape or cherry
  4. 8 Bacon Strips - 2 per salad
  5. Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese
  6. Ranch Dressing - I made a pack of Hidden Valley Original Ranch
Instructions
  1. Chill plates for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
  2. In small sauce pan, bring Balsamic Drizzle ingredients to a gentle simmer and reduce to a thick syrup.
  3. Make ranch dressing and chill. Could also use pre-made/bottled.
  4. Cook, crumble and set aside bacon. Note: I baked mine in the oven at 350º F. on parchment for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cut lettuce into four wedges and place on chilled plates.
  6. Drizzle with ranch dressing and then add tomato, red onion and crumbled bacon to each wedge.
  7. Top salads with balsamic glaze drizzle, blue cheese crumbles and serve.
Adapted from Lexie's Kitchen and Living
Adapted from Lexie's Kitchen and Living
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/

I made the salad several times over my holiday break and know that it will continue to be a “go to” recipe for me. I also stopped in at an Outback just to try theirs again and I like being able to control the amount of dressing used – they get pretty generous. I prefer it on the lighter side, especially when used in combination with the balsamic drizzle. Sure, I can ask for dressing on the side, but it’s all about how things are layered my friends… the ranch goes first, always FIRST. :)

In other news… I had a fabulous Christmas/winter break and I’m pretty excited to see what’s in store for 2015. It’s definitely time to get back in the kitchen. I took advantage of easy dinners and tried some new restaurants with friends, but I also started the new year off right by getting back to my usual Sunday meal prep for the week. Now I just need to get back to exercise, baby steps… baby steps. 

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Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10275

Dec 10 2014

Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad

I’ve been obsessed with variations of this salad ever since I made it last month. I am the queen of croutons and my favorites (Marcy’s Gourmet – Slightly Spiced Croutons – made with Calabrese bread) are no longer sold at my local grocery store. So because of this recipe, I started making my own and now I pretty much eat bread salads, ha ha.

Quinoa and Sourdough Salad

I like a heartier salad during the fall/winter months and this delivered. I haven’t been too adventurous with recipes lately, I’m sticking to soups and salads for the most part. Hoping to try a few new things over the holidays when I will have more time while on staycation. 

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The Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup of Quinoa
  • 4 Slices Sourdough Bread
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil – plus extra to brush onto the bread
  • 1 Container of Mixed Tomatoes – could also use 4 medium size or 1-2 cups of grape, cherry or sunburst tomatoes
  • 1 Large Cucumber – peeled – I used an English cucumber
  • 1 Avocado – rough chopped
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion – thinly sliced
  • 4 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Chopped Mint
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Dorat Garlic Cubes – 2 small, crushed garlic cloves if using fresh
  • Sea Salt and Ground Pepper – to taste

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 Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the quinoa in a saucepan and cook per package instructions.
  • Brush the sourdough bread with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15  minutes, turning them over halfway through. The bread should be completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down, then cut or rip by hand into different-sized pieces.
  • Chop up all of the herbs (cilantro, parsley and mint) and set aside to add later. 
  • Cut the tomatoes in half if using grape, cherry or Sunkist tomatoes – or to roughly 3/4-inch dice if using medium size. Place in a mixing bowl.
  • Cut thick cucumber slices into halves or quarters. Thinly slice the red onion and roughly chop the avocado.  

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  • Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper together to create the dressing
  • Add all salad ingredients, including the quinoa and croutons to a big bowl and then add the dressing. Stir gently until everything is mixed together. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

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I was pretty sloppy with the olive oil – creating arrows on 3 of the pieces. I ended up using a little more than shown in the above photo because it soaked into the bread so fast. I did end up coating both sides before adding sea salt. 

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I decided to go for slicing the bread over tearing it – I think either way would be fine. 

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And now I present to you – my new obsession. Since this recipe I’ve tried different spices on my croutons – garlic salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, thyme, crushed rosemary – I am a crouton making machine. I even just pop the bread in the toaster when I’m in a hurry and brush oil on it after I remove it. One piece of bread per salad is my rule. Trust me, I could do more. If using the toaster, you may have to cut the single piece in half – seeing as most sourdough pieces are too large for a regular size toaster.  

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The original recipe from [the nest] didn’t include avocados, but I knew I wanted it in my version. I also knew that I wanted grape and cherry tomatoes over sliced larger tomatoes. I now start off my Sunday evening by making a big batch of quinoa for salads. For those that feel quinoa tastes “too earthy” – a salad is the perfect way to incorporate it into your diet, it absorbs the dressing and sticks to other salad ingredients creating a nice texture.

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 The fresh herbs really made the other ingredients pop. The mint and cucumber were fabulous together. 

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Feel free to omit any of the three herbs if you aren’t a fan. I know people either love or hate cilantro – Mint and cilantro are very potent – so you may need to scale back on the amount if you are sensitive to that.

Remember, it’s a salad – there are no rules and it’s pretty hard to screw it up.  I just play around until I find the right combo. For instance, I like my croutons to be warm when I place them into my salads. I also like to use organic baby spring mix because the warmth of the croutons wilts it perfectly. The croutons give me crunch and I’ve also started adding garbanzo beans for additional fiber and protein. 

Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad
A heartier salad - perfect for fall and winter months
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 Cup of Quinoa
  2. 4 Slices Sourdough Bread
  3. 1/3 Cup Olive Oil - plus extra to brush onto the bread
  4. 1 Container of Mixed Tomatoes - could also use 4 medium size or 1-2 cups of grape, cherry or sunburst tomatoes
  5. 1 Large Cucumber - peeled - I used an English cucumber
  6. 1 Avocado - rough chopped
  7. 1/2 Small Red Onion - thinly sliced
  8. 4 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro
  9. 1 1/2 Tablespoons Chopped Mint
  10. 2 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley
  11. 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  12. 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  13. 2 Dorat Garlic Cubes - 2 small, crushed garlic cloves if using fresh
  14. Sea Salt and Ground Pepper - to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the quinoa in a saucepan and cook per package instructions.
  2. Brush the sourdough bread with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes, turning them over halfway through. The bread should be completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down, then cut or rip by hand into different-sized pieces.
  3. Chop up all of the herbs (cilantro, parsley and mint) and set aside to add later.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half if using grape, cherry or Sunkist tomatoes - or to roughly 3/4-inch dice if using medium size. Place in a mixing bowl.
  5. Cut thick cucumber slices into halves or quarters. Thinly slice the red onion and roughly chop the avocado.
Notes
  1. Recipe yields 4 servings.
Adapted from [the nest]
Adapted from [the nest]
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/
I made wedge salads for Thanksgiving and will post that recipe soon. Until then, it’s Christmas all up in my house. I’m decorating, watching my Hallmark, Up and Lifetime Christmas movies and loving every minute of it. 

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