Fitness, Food, Wine & Travel

Posts tagged “cooking

SunBasket Offers a Healthy and Convenient Solution for Weeknight Meals

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day at the office is go to the grocery store (after sitting in traffic for almost an hour), wade through the aisles, figure out what to make, shop for the ingredients, wait in the checkout line, then actually COOK a full meal after all of that.

Now, if I didn’t work full time with a giant commute, I would be planning out multi-course menus for the week, shopping for the freshest ingredients and taking my time with all the preparations. I would be all about making every night’s dinner an event to remember.

But, for most of us, that’s just not a reality. Enter Sun Basket. The product that delivers a weekly box equipped with 3 meals for 2-4, and inside the box includes everything you’ll need to make them.

With Sun Basket there are easy and delicious recipes that YOU choose weekly for 2 to 4 people at $11.49 per meal. You can customize for a Paleo, gluten-free, or vegetarian diet. All recipes are created by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly and approved by a nutritionist.

The Sun Basket kits are certified organic and sustainably sourced. All the ingredients are pre-measured which is less hassle and creates less waste. You can feel free to skip the grocery store and enjoy the best seasonal ingredients. You might even enjoy an ingredient that is hard to find or you have not tried on your own!

Sun Basket delivers weekly right to your door. The ingredients are shipped in an insulated box so they stay fresh and the packaging is recyclable and reusable.

So what did we enjoy in our Sun Basket? We chose strictly Paleo options for the week and ended up with the 1. Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, 2. Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, and 3. Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad.

Here’s what it all looked like!

Meal One: Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, recipe HERE.


Of all the meals in the Sun Basket, this was the smallest in portion size, and could be eaten as an appetizer if you are both really hungry. That being said, I enjoyed it the most because of the several levels of flavors with the pickled vegetables, fish sauce, maple syrup, etc. And, there were cashews in there, too, another favorite ingredient of mine. 🙂

Meal Two: Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, recipe HERE.


And meal three: Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad, recipe HERE.




If you’re a big eater, then perhaps you might choose the 4 person serving to feed 2 people. I like that the calories and nutritional information is all right there on the recipe card, as well as detailed instructions on how to prepare each dish that is in the box.

One of the best things about Sun Basket is that you can order when you want and skip when you don’t. There is no commitment to order week after week, but you’ll want to order repeatedly once you discover the convenience and taste of the box contents.

You can find Sun Basket on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here, Pinterest here and on Instagram here. To place an order, you can visit

Meet Mason Partak, Winner of Chopped Junior!

CJC Headshot
Meet Mason Partak! He’s a 12 year-old culinary mastermind from Auburn, California and a winner on Food Network’s Chopped Junior! You might have seen Mason on TV before doing cooking demos on Good Day Sacramento or in person at the California State Fair.

I have known about Mason and his cookery for a very long time, as I am friends with his mom, Kathy and have watched Mason grow up and mature into the bright, talented pre-teen he is now.

Last month, Mason’s parents invited their friends (including me, YAY) to Pistol Pete’s for a viewing party the very first time the Chopped Junior episode that Mason appeared on aired. None of the guests knew what was going to happen, but we all showed up to see it on the several big screens in the bar. For me, I was just thrilled that someone I knew was going to be on a nationally televised program. I didn’t care win or lose, I was going to show up and support Mason. I would want the same kind of thing from my friends if I ever appeared on TV. I have appeared on local TV segments before and did a pretty good job, but remember being a ball of nerves. I can’t imagine having the chance to be on Chopped or how it felt.

I emailed Mason some questions after the viewing party, and he emailed me his answers. So fun! 🙂


Cavegrrl: How did you get on Chopped and what is the audition process like?
Mason Partak: I think I got selected to audition for Chopped Junior because I was the alternate for Rachel VS Guys season one. They cast 8 kids and I was their number 9. Food Network sent a culinary producer to my house and everything, so they knew who I was. I did have to do a Skype audition for CJ and it was my worst audition ever! I had a terrible day at school and I said cray things, my mom was wondering who the heck I was?! When the call and email came that I had been cast, I was totally surprised.

What was the ingredient (in any of the baskets) that you were the most happy to see?
MP: Totally the Wagyu skirt steak! I had already decided that if I got beef, I was making a taco and that is just what I did. It turned out that my spicy street taco was the best dish of the competition and Max’s in Auburn has it on their menu for the month of January.

12491956_1000307446709285_6120754580802289838_oAbove: Mason’s street taco dish.

CG: What did you learn from being on the show?
MP: I need to salt my food properly, which means a little more than I think I need. I also learned how much video gets shot and not shown when you make a show for TV.
CG: When did you get started and find your love for cooking?
MP: I’ve been in the kitchen with my mom and dad my whole life, they both cook. My mom let me help stir and mix cookies when she baked cookies and then she started to teach me to decorate them like she did in the bakery. When I was four, I wanted to chop things so she taught me how to properly use a knife. When I was eight, I was allowed to do my first live cooking demo and I loved it! I loved performing and cooking and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I loved that people liked watching me cook and teach them how to make recipes.

What is your fondest memory in the kitchen?
MP: Baking sugar cookies with my mom. She has taught me how to decorate sugar cookies to look amazing and finally, I’m getting really good. We open the cookie factory right after Thanksgiving and decorate hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies for Christmas gifts. My dad makes different flavors of truffles and those are the Christmas gifts we give our friends and neighbors.


CG: Do you have any favorite tools/appliances when cooking?
MP: My chef knife. Kitchen tools and gadgets are fun and I love to ask, “What the heck is this thing for?” on my You Tube channel, but really, all I need is my sharp knife.


CG: What is your signature dish and why?
MP: I have several award winning recipes, but I love to make fried chicken. I have become very good at getting it just right, crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside and I love to get creative with how I season it. It can be seasoned using a store bought seasoning packet or my own concoctions, no matter what, it’s always really good.

CG: Please tell me about the company you have started, Mason Made.
MP: Mason Made Products is a line of sauces, marinades and caramel. Asian Fusion, Organic Citrus Ginger, and my BACON Chipotle Barbecue are a few of the flavors that I love. You can marinate, use in conjunction with other seasonings and spices, and you can even use some of them with a bit of olive oil on salad. When I won Chopped Junior, I told my mom I thought it would be cool to start a business, the sauces are the start, but I am also working on a cook book and I am thinking about making copies of the learn to cook card game my mom created for me to practice cooking.

CG: Any future appearances/plans in the works?
MP: Right now, I’m excited about my spicy street taco being on Max’s menu (110 Grass Valley Hwy Auburn, California) for the month of January and my cooking demos in Auburn, Roseville, Sacramento, Napa, and Petaluma are already excited to have me back as a Chopped Junior Champion. I’m also working on a cream cheese recipe for There is one other thing, but my mom said I can’t share yet, but as soon as I can, I will email you the details, sound good?

Mason, yes! It all sounds incredible and I will be posting your recipe here sometime this week, as well as the recipe I made with Challenge cream cheese. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

419027_1367561061.8837Vintage Mason picture!!


PS: Alta Vista Community Charter School needs some help finding a sponsor or donations to buy groceries for the kids at the school to learn to cook. This is the same school that Mason helped raise $25,000 for a total kitchen remodel for the children to have access to proper culinary classes. Well, now they need the food with which to cook. Shallots, butter, olive oil, you name it. They need to raise $1,000 for the end of this school year and hopefully they can get a sponsor for next year. If you can help, email me at misscavegrrl at and I will put you in touch with the right people! Remember, even five bucks can help a budding chef!


You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Thank you Mason for sharing your experiences with! Check back in for Mason’s recipe later in the week! 🙂


OMG That’s Paleo? Cookbook Preview & Recipe: 5 Ingredient Avocado Pudding


Today’s recipe for 5 Ingredient Avocado Pudding is brought to you by PaleOMG’s Juli Bauer and her new cookbook, OMG That’s Paleo?

It was actually Andy who found Juli’s site PaleOMG and brought it to my attention when he saw her recipe for Chocolate Waffles, sent me the link and said, “Let’s make THESE!”
I started following Juli and really liked her down-to-earth personality and writing style. (Which actually encourages me to write more like myself and not so formally.) I especially loved her cooking videos. It takes a lot of courage to be on camera like that! 🙂

Some of her instructions on the website make me snicker (because I sometimes feel like writing them in my own recipes), such as this line in a recipe for Easy Chicken Dinner in 1…2…3:
“Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Not sure if it’s totally cooked through? Cut it open and look. Duh.” 😛

A year later, and Juli has an entire cookbook! I have flipped though it and am looking forward to making her version of the popular Canadian dish poutine, as well as Bacon Chicken Alfredo. I especially appreciate the book’s 5 Ingredient Meals section (in which today’s recipe is included).

There is even space below each recipe to make notes if you change something in her recipes to suit your own tastes. The recipe for the Avocado Pudding is below, though since I was making it for dessert for both Andy and myself, I doubled the recipe. Also, it can be made vegan by sweetening the avocado with maple syrup or stevia drops (to taste) instead of honey.

Thanks to Juli for sending me a copy of OMG That’s Paleo? for review. You can buy it on Amazon here.

5-Ingredient Avocado Pudding
Prep time:  3 mins
Total time:  3 mins
Serves: 1
1 avocado, mashed
3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbs + 1 tsp raw honey
2 teaspoons sunbutter (or other nut butter)*
pinch of salt
dark chocolate chips (optional, but rather necessary in my case) 😉Procedure:
Mash up the avocado.
Add in powder, raw honey (or syrup), sunbutter, pinch of salt and mix thoroughly.
Top with dark chocolate chips. Yes, please.

*TIPS: I used a pistachio nut butter in the recipe. Trust me on this. It’s gooood. Also, for best results, use a food processor to purée the avocado and remaining ingredients. Refrigerate before serving. Top with chocolate chips just before serving.

You can follow Juli on twitter here and like PaleOMG on Facebook here.

If you’d like to see Juli herself prepare the above recipe, her video tutorial is below:

Wordless Wednesday: Paleo/Primal Meals at Home

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OK, maybe I’ll write a few words. 😉
The above slideshow are shots of a few meals Andy and I have had so far in 2013. All we need is a monster salad, a slab of meat and perhaps some root vegetables. I often enjoy these dinners more than dining out because we control all the ingredients, portion size and the cost of our meal. I even made parmesan “chips” to go on our salads in one of the photos. 🙂

Do you have a favorite Paleo/Primal meal? Please share in the comments section below! I found this recipe for cauliflower breadsticks, and I am thinking of trying them tonight!

We Conquered the Big Rib at the California State Fair!!

OMG! We conquered the big-*ss Rib Steak!! It was soooo good. We were able to order it right off the grill & medium rare without extra sauce! It costs about $16 and it feeds 2 people. It was perfect for the caveman and the cavegrrl… I am pretty sure we were the happiest couple at the fair sharing that big old hunk of meat! 🙂

And we landed in the wine garden (big surprise! ;)) with a mini picnic sponsored by one of my favorite food booths at the fair (conveniently located within the Wine Garden) Pignotti’s!! This year, they’re serving up my favorites again… the fruit plate, the salami plate, and the cheese plate. There’s also a meatball with pesto sauce that you should try.

Of course, we didn’t eat the bread on the plates, but I am showing you what you will get on the plate when you order. You can probably ask them to leave it off your plate entirely if you want. 🙂 Here’s a little slide show of the must haves (especially when you are sipping those California State Fair Medal winners!!):

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Come out and see me tomorrow, (Friday, July 20th from 5-7pm!) In the California Food Building (where the permanent exhibit buildings are located).

I will be making bacon wrapped dates and a cocoa hazelnut spread served with bananas! And you will get to taste test them for FREE!! And maybe by tomorrow I will have figured out a catchy name for the hazelnut spread!

You’ll also get to meet my partner in crime, The Running Bum aka Andy aka caveman, and we’ll talk about Paleo, what we eat, our staple kitchen ingredients, and other fun recipes!!

And since we’re talking about food, here’s the latest press release with the 2012 Cooking Competition Results:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (July 19) – The California State Fair announces winners of its California’s Kitchen challenges and competitions for adults, children and professional chefs.

Best of Show:
Jams & Jellies Show: Claudine Kelly of Orangevale, for Blueberry Pomegranate Jelly
Kidz Jams & Jellies Show: Ashley Olson of Kingsburg, for Strawberry Balsamic Thyme Jam
Soft Spreads & Fruit Show: David Conrad of Stinson Beach, for Bearss Lime Curd
Pickles, Relish, Sauce & Salsa Show: Joan Edelsohn of Moraga, for Blackberry Barbecue Sauce
Kidz Soft Spread, Fruit, Pickle & Sauce Show: Matthew Silvera of Sutter, for Pickled Green Beans

King Arthur Flour Cookie Contest in Kidz Kitchen:
First place: Lincoln Marks of Rancho Cordova, for Kettlecorn Cookies
Second place: Catherine Gallagher of Sacramento, for Almond Strawberry Tea Time Cookies
Third place: Kaitlyn Ripley of Carmichael, for King Arthur’s Cookies

Poppy’s Baby Cake Contest in Kidz Kitchen, sponsored by C&H Sugar:
First place: Lindsey Abernathy of Sacramento, for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Second place: Madilyn Ripley of Carmichael, for Poppy’s Baby Cakes
Third place: Jamie Grgich of Elk Grove, for Marzipan Ladybug Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Awards of Merit – Aysia Seals of Citrus Heights, for Aysia’s Rainbow Vanilla Cupcakes;
Demetrius Marshall of Sacramento, for Demetrius’ Out of this World Triple Chocolate Cupcakes;
Esther Ambrose of Galt, for Flower Power Poppy Baby Cakes, and
Evangeline Gardiner of  Loomis, for Rainbow Cupcakes

Professional Chef Challenge
Preliminary rounds winners, who will compete in the finals 4-6 p.m. July 29:
Chef F.J. Villalobos, of 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
Chef Evan Elsberry, of Evan’s Kitchen
Chef Cecil Rhodes II, of Bella Bru Café Carmichael

2012 California State Fair – July 12-29 – 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Admission: $12 general,  $10 ages 62-plus, $8 children 5-12. Children under 4 free. Parking: $10. For more information:
You can follow them on twitter here and find them on Facebook here.