Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “cheese

Mason Partak Takes the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge

A few weeks ago when I interviewed Mason Partak about his Chopped Junior experience and some of his future plans, I asked him to participate in a little something I call the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge.

See, Challenge Butter (and Cream Cheese) sponsored my cookie exchange last year and sent me coupons for more butter and cream cheese than I could ever possibly use. Of course, the butter coupons I made very good use of and currently have about 15 pounds of butter in my freezer. However, cream cheese is not primal or paleo, so I sent the remainder of my cream cheese coupons to Mason Partak and asked him to come up with a recipe that I could publish on my website.

He gladly accepted the challenge, as he is such a great sport and takes advantage of most opportunities that come his way. I present to you his recipe for the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge:

MM Cheese Ball
Challenge Cream Cheese Balls

2 pkg Challenge cream cheese
1 med yellow onion
1 sm red onion
1 lg head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 springs of Rosemary
1 pkg chives
1 C Italian blend grated cheese
1.5 C fresh grated parmesan
1 C chopped or sliced nuts (we used almonds)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Quarter the onions and top the head of garlic. Create a wrap around the garlic with foil so it sits up, it does not have to be closed up. Drizzle the onions and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings. Isn’t itway fun how they pop right out?

Finely dice the chives and place them in a bowl, set aside. Dice the sage leaves and Rosemary. Once your roast onions and garlic are cool (don’t have to be cold, just not hot), place them in the food processor and pulse until they are almost a paste consistency – not quite though. Add the cream cheese, Italian blend, 1/2C parmesan, sage and rosemary and process unit it is all completely mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to scrape your food processor bowl and mix again to be sure you don’t have cream cheese lumps. Turn the whole thing out on to a cookie sheet being sure to scrape all the cheesy goodness out of your processor.

Form the cheese into four logs or balls and roll in the chives. When you start to run out of the chives, add the other cup of parmesan and coat with that. Do the same with nuts if you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with a French baguette and crackers, it’s delicious!

Mason says if you have leftovers, it adds a delicious layer of flavor to casseroles. The Partaks have also added it to their white chicken chili, it was so good!

Thanks so much for the recipe, Mason! I will be following up next week at some point with my stuffed sweet potatoes (also featuring Challenge Cream Cheese). You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.



Legends of Wine Returns September 17th, 2015


It’s been Farm-to-Fork insanity here at headquarters! Andy and I are scheduled to attend so many events and dinners in celebration of this very special time of year in Sacramento. One of my favorite upcoming events is Farm-to-Fork’s Legends of Wine. I’m am thrilled that my mom will be coming out to visit during that week and will be going to Legends of Wine with us.

Legends of Wine provides the unique opportunity to sample and discover more about some of the region’s most celebrated varietals, as selected by two of Sacramento’s internationally recognized culinary powerhouses—Darrell Corti and David Berkley. Set against the backdrop of California’s majestic State Capitol, guests will sip a wide array of award-winning wines paired and presented with artisan cheeses and local delights.

If you’ve never attended Legends of Wine, here’s a brief look at last year’s event—some of my favorite wineries, along with some pictures of the impressive fruit and cheese arrangements we enjoyed.

First up is Bokisch Vineyards! They caught my attention at the first Legends of Wine in 2013 with their Tempranillo (one of my favorite varietals), and last year they served an Albariño.

capay wines
I was very impressed with Capay Valley Vineyard’s line up—their sparkling viognier was my favorite. 🙂


Another notable winery was Casey Flat Ranch—their Estate Red Wine is excellent.


Aaand… always a favorite of mine… Matchbook. Their entire flock of wines are both affordable and delicious. Maybe this year they will bring their Arsonist Chardonnay?
michael david
Here’s one of Andy’s picks from last year: Michael David’s Sauvignon Blanc. Looking forward to trying more from them this year, and perhaps they will bring their Inkblot Tannat! 🙂

Along with the wines, there were fabulous displays of fruits and cheeses for the pairing:

fruit cheese 1 fruit cheese 2 fruit cheese 3


random crowd shot 3
This year’s Legends of Wine is September 17th from 6:00-8:30 p.m. on the west steps of the State Capitol. Tickets are $59 each. To purchase tickets, head over to the Farm-to-Fork website here. See you there!

To keep up with all the delicious Farm-to-Fork events, click here, “like” Farm to Fork on Facebook here, or follow them on Twitter here.

Vegetarian Recipe: Saag Paneer featuring Karoun Dairies

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On Saturday night, Andy and I stayed in for a change and I made another vegetarian meal with some products that were sent to me by Karoun Dairies. I decided I was in the mood for Indian cuisine and the Yanni grilling cheese I received from Karoun on Friday was the perfect thing to use in my own little version of saag paneer. 🙂

For fun, I added some boiled potatoes and parsnips into the finished stew and I also made the cauliflower breadstick dough (from a few posts back) into a thick sort of naan bread. Phenaanamal!! 😉

4 cups baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound Yanni grilling cheese, sliced or cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs fresh ginger
3 Tbs crushed garlic
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup Karoun Kafir lite cheese
3 parsnips, cut into half moons
2 potatoes, cubed
salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook spinach in the boiling water until wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Puree until finely chopped. Set aside.

Cut potatoes and parsnips into uniform pieces and boil them until they begin to soften. Do not overcook. Stay on the firmer side, as they will do their last part of cooking in the finished stew.

Next, sauté the onion and mushrooms together until the onion is translucent/cooked through. Add the tomato and the tomato sauce, along with all spices (ginger, garlic, tomato, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne pepper). Allow to simmer on low to medium heat so that the tomatoes will break down.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the Yanni cheese, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Return to the tomato sauce, and stir in the spinach purée. Salt to taste. Cover and cook for about 5-10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Lastly, stir in the Kefir cheese to thicken the sauce. Then add the boiled parsnips and potatoes and coat them with the spinach and tomato sauce. Heat through and make sure the potatoes and parsnips have fully cooked through. Serve the fried Yanni on the side (to retain the cheese’s crispy edges!) 🙂 Happy to report I did not miss meat that night! Thanks to Karoun Dairies for the great product samples!

To find Karoun products, you can enter your zip code in the store locator here.
You can find Karoun Dairies on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Recipe: Veggie February, Redwood Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

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For our first seafood & vegetable dinner this weekend, I made stuffed mushrooms and used three different products I picked up or were sent to me from vendors at the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show.

Redwood Hill Farm sent me three different products to taste, and one of them was a goat milk cheddar cheese. I was instantly intrigued because I love cheddar cheese. I had bought a few dozen crimini mushrooms earlier in the week, and needed to use them. So, I thought I could use the cheese somehow to make stuffed mushrooms. Another important element I used was a gluten-free seasoned coating mix from Hodgson Mill I also brought home from the food show. The final result was amazingly good, and I didn’t even use any eggs as a binder. Andy sautéed some shrimp (a wonderful departure from red meat) and I made a big salad to round out the meal.

My recipe for the stuffed mushrooms is below. I’d like to thank Redwood Hill Farms for the cheese samples and for the coupons for some of their other products that were sent to me.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Redwood Hill Farms Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese

12 medium to large crimini mushrooms
1 diced onion
2 Tbs crushed garlic
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 block of Redwood Hill Farms Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese (finely grated)
1/4 cup Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Seasoned Coating Mix
2 Tbs Karoun Dairy Lite Kefir Cheese (Labne)
1 Tbs olive oil or butter
cracked pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 385°F. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely. Lightly oil a 13×9 pan and place mushroom caps gill side down on the pan. Roast the mushrooms while you are preparing the stuffing filling (10 minutes once oven has come to temperature.)

Then heat a pan with your oil of choice and sauté the onion with the mushroom stems. You probably won’t need any salt in this dish because the seasoning mix and the cheeses are salty enough on their own. Cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have cooked through. At this point, the mushroom caps should be ready to take out of the oven. Remove the caps from the oven and flip them over, allowing them to cool as you prepare the rest of the mushroom filling.

Add the crushed garlic, almond meal and the seasoned coating mix to the mushroom stem/onion mixture and coat evenly. Then add the kefir cheese and stir until well combined. Lastly add about 3/4 of the shredded goat milk cheddar (save 1/4 of it to top the mushrooms once they’ve been filled). Add a little bit of cracked pepper to your mushroom filling and then fill the caps. I find it is easier to pick up the caps and scoop filling into them rather than trying to fill them with a spoon. Then once I have scooped some filling into a cap, I dip it into the extra shredded cheese so that the cheese sticks to the top of the mushroom rather than a bunch of cheese ending up on the pan.

Once you have filled the mushrooms and topped them with cheese, return the pan to the oven and bake at 385°F for about 25 minutes. The cheese will turn a nice golden brown on top and the mushrooms will develop an even more roasted flavor. I was so happy with the way they turned out and I hope you will give them a try!

For some fun cheese and wine pairings, you can go to Redwood Hill Farms’ website here.

You can find Redwood Hill Farms on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Whole Foods Market Davis Opens Today, Oct. 24th!

Here’s some information on the new Whole Foods in Davis opening today at 10am:

Whole Foods Market will open its fourth Sacramento area store at 500 1st Street, in the Davis Commons, today, Oct. 24. Store leadership and Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza will be on hand for a bread-breaking ceremony at 9:45 a.m. and doors will open at 10 a.m. The opening day ceremonies will also include a check presentation to the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science to help launch the Honey and Pollination Center at the UC Davis Campus.

“We are looking forward to being part of Davis’ vibrant food and wine community, as well as building lasting relationships with local vendors, the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, students, residents and everyone in between,” said Cyn Leo, store team leader, Whole Foods Market Davis. “And we’re very excited to announce that we were able to bring over 100 new jobs to the Davis community!”

The 19,741-square-foot store, located in the former Borders location in the Davis Commons, features unique décor elements including reclaimed bicycle parts seen throughout the store; a beautiful mural by local artists Lacin/Christophel Mural & Design and indoor atrium cafe seating area. Green store design elements include reclaimed Douglas fir, used for various fixtures and wainscoting; glycol refrigeration system and LED lights, including track lighting and all case lights.

Additional highlights include:

Local Vendors – a wide range of products from within 100 miles or less of Davis will be featured:

  • Riverdog Farm, Fully Belly Farm, Capay Organics and Wildboar Farms will offer a variety of items throughout the year including apples, tangerines, stone fruit, row crop vegetables, tomatoes and greens.
  • Honey from Sola Bee Farms in Woodland
  • El Dorado Roasting coffee from El Dorado Hills, Temple coffee and Old Soul coffee from Sacramento
  • Baked goods from Grateful Bread Company, Sugar Plum Vegan and Sacramento Baking Company from Sacramento and Natural Food Works gluten-free baked goods from Davis
  • St. John Family Farm pasture-raised eggs from Corning
  • Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 olive oil from Oroville
  • Drinkwell Softers lacto-fermented soft drinks from Eatwell Farm in Dixon

Meat – large meat counter with special offerings including local Panorama organic grass-fed and grass-finished beef and Country Natural grain-finished beef from cattle that have never been in a feedlot. Also available will be grab-and-go seasoned and marinated meats, stew and pot roast kits, house-made sausages, locally-raised Field to Family air-chilled chicken, local Pozzi grass-fed lamb and Diestel Ranch turkeys.

 The store offers the best-tasting, freshest and highest-quality meat available that meets the company’s strict quality standards, which include that animals are raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones.* All beef, pork, chicken and turkey carried in the fresh and pre-packaged cases at all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. comes from farms that are rated according to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating program.

Artisan Bakery – featuring Whole Foods Market artisan hearth breads, brownies, cakes, fresh baked pies, cookies, cupcakes and gluten-free, raw and vegan treats. Also not to be missed are treats from local bakeries including Grateful Bread Company, Sugar Plum Vegan, Sacramento Baking Company and Natural Food Works.

Seafood – large seafood counter featuring a vast array of fresh and frozen selections, as well as all the marinades, sauces, seasonings and herbs to complete a meal with seafood as the centerpiece. New to the store are Dungeness crab offered year-round, gravlox, cold smoked wild sockeye and rope hung cold smoked salmon. Whole Foods Market also offers a large selection of sustainable seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and rated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

 Prepared Foods – featuring an extensive selection of foods made by a team of talented, in-house chefs. Specialties include a daily selection of house-made soups, an extensive salad bar and a full-service burrito bar as well as sandwiches, pizzas and charcuterie. A wonderful array of healthful and tasty lunch options will be available on a daily basis, including a variety of nutrient-rich items like quinoa, brown rice and kale.

Beer and Wine – A large wine and beer selection featuring local and international offerings.

Bulk Section – The department will feature over 200 bulk food items including grains, flours, nuts, spices, oils and vinegar.  To cut back on packaging waste, customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable containers.

Coffee Bar – features freshly-brewed espresso and coffee daily from Allegro®.

Nut Butters – grind-your-own organic peanut and almond butters.

Whole Body – an extensive array of mineral make-up and premium quality facial care, organic apparel & sustainable accessories, best-selling health books and healthy eating cookbooks and an extensive variety of natural immune support for the upcoming cold and flu season.

Store Dining and WiFi – Free wi-fi and dining space inside in the atrium and outside.

Store Tours – shopping tours tailored to special diets such as gluten-free living and store tours for parents, as well tours themed for how to shop on a budget, are available. Private tours can be arranged by request for organizations such as schools and senior centers.

Whole Foods Market Community Giving Days — at least four times a year, Whole Foods Market sets aside a day on which five percent of the day’s net sales is contributed to a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The first Community Giving Day will be on Dec. 5 and benefit Davis Farm to School.

Nickels for Nonprofits – when customers bring in their own bags for groceries they have the option of receiving a five-cent refund (per bag) or donating the money to a selected charity. The first non-profit beneficiary is Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum.

Donations Out the Back  perishable products that aren’t sold during the day are donated to those in need. Whole Foods Market Davis is proud to work with Yolo County Food Bank.

 Kid’s Club – children ages 2 through 8 are eligible to complete a scavenger hunt to receive a free treat.

Parking & Entrances – there are two entrances into the store, one facing downtown and the other facing west, towards the parking lot. There is free two hour car parking; 40 bike parking spots are available.

Store Information
Whole Foods Market Davis, 500 1st Street, Davis, CA 95616
Tel. 530-750-2266
Hours: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily
Store Team Leader: Cyn Leo
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Special thanks to Whole Foods, Jennifer Marples and Charaighn Sesock of KOA Communications for arranging the tour, and to Andy Harris for the photos.