Friday, December 13, 2013

The One Where We Eat California (Part 3 of 3)

We've reached the final edition of our California Food Tour.  (See parts 1 and 2 here and here.)

I've covered all of our Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives visits, but we had some other really great food experiences, too.  The Mexican food in California was amazing.  If you know me or have been reading for a while, you know how I feel about Mexican food.  I think we had three Mexican meals while we were out there, and they were all awesome.

One of the places we went was a place called Rigoberto's Taco Shop.  The nachos there were kind of ridiculous.

I had a crazy low blood sugar, and that's why there are so few pictures, but take my word for it. . .epic nachos.

Next on the list was In N Out Burger.  I'd never been to one (since they're strictly West Coast), but we stopped at one while we were out there.  (That was one of only two fast food stops we did.  The other is a fast food place we have in North Carolina, but I think there's only one, and it's like 2 hours from here -- Jack in the Box.)

Yum, you guys.  SO good.  I think part of the reason their stuff is so good is because they have so few menu items, they get good at the stuff they do make.  In celebration, here's a picture of me stuffing my face.

This next restaurant, we did not stop at.  I just took a picture because it was amazing.

Next is a cupcake ATM on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Yes.  A cupcake ATM.  Because why not?

(That's not me.  You can tell this mainly by the fact I do not wear shorts.  Ever.)

One other food-related place we stopped that was not a restaurant was in Gilroy, CA -- the Garlic Capital of the world.  (Seriously!)  You can smell the place coming from a couple miles away, and it was such a nice little town.  We found the most amazing thrift/antique store ever there, and I bought a vintage cookbook set that I'm sure I'll be cooking out of eventually.

(This is not the thrift store, just the first big garlic place in the town.)

There were two donut shops we went to in our time out there.  The first one was in Los Angeles.  The only reason we stopped here was because we'd had amazing donuts at this other store in San Diego (which I'll get to shortly) and we wanted to relive that experience. 

Unfortunately, the donuts at this place:

...were not as good.  Also, I got tricked into buying a cronut.



I ordered a cinnamon donut of some sort, and the lady was like, "Oh, no no," and then gave me some reason why I needed to buy this other one, and I had a hard time understanding her, but she was very persistent, and that's how I ended up eating a cronut.  It was way more expensive than a ring of fried dough should have been, and it wasn't even very good.  I ate it, though.  Because, obviously.

The hand coming out of the side of my face is the lady who tricked me into buying the stupid thing.  I don't understand why these were such a big thing and why people were waiting in line for hours for them.  If any of those people had been at California donuts, I would have gladly handed mine over.

The best donuts in the world, however, were at this place in San Diego:

You guys?

Best donuts in the entire world.  I'm not even exaggerating.  We went here twice because they were so amazing.

The second time was on our last night there, and I got a little ambitious and bought too many, and then thought, "Sarah, they're never going to let you through security with those things."  So then I had a choice to make.

The correct option was, obviously, to stick them in our checked duffel bag and pray that the deliciousness did not get crushed out.

It did not.

Finally, we stayed at a Red Roof Inn in San Francisco, and there was a 24-hour restaurant/diner attached to it.  It was here that I had the most amazing home fries I've ever eaten in my life, and I've eaten a lot of home fries.

So that ends our Food Tour of California.  Thanks for reading, and I'll be back soon with some big news!  (Yeah, I'm going to tease it like a jerk.)  (No, I'm not pregnant.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The One with a Black Friday Giveaway!

42 blogs are bringing you an amazing giveaway to get your holiday season underway! We're hoping to make the holiday season easier for one of our lucky readers, $500.00 worth of easier that is! 

The winner will be able to choose from an XBOX 360 Kinect Nike+ Bundle, a Kindle Fire HD 8.9", or a KitchenAid 5 Quart Stand Mixer in the color of your choice! Oh and to top it all off, we're going to give you the difference in an Amazon gift card to make your grand prize total $500.00

For example, if you choose the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" as your prize, it's $229.00. 
$500.00-$229.00=$271 Amazon gift card. 
Amounts based on price at time of shipment.

Sounds like something you'd like to win, right? Well, without further rambling, on to the giveaway! Good luck!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The One Where We Eat California (Part 2 of 3)

Here's part two of our California Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives adventure.  (Part 1 can be found here.)

(If it's been so long you've forgotten, when Dennis and I went on vacation to California at the beginning of October, we hit several Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives restaurants.  I'm also going to talk about some other CA food we had, not DDD related.)

Restaurant 4

(Formerly Taylor's Automatic Refresher)
644 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 224-6900

When this place was on DDD, it was called Taylor's Automatic Refresher, but apparently, they've recently gone through a rebranding.  (I did a little Googling, and it turns out the name change is a huge deal.  There are lawsuits and fighting and all that jazz.)

Dennis had seen the Ahi Tuna Burger on DDD, and he wanted to try that, and I wanted to try the Western Bacon Blue Ring burger, a burger topped with blue cheese and. . .an onion ring.  Why not?

Why not, indeed?

We also got some weirdly delicious garlic fries. . .

And I had a glass of Riesling (my favorite!)

Dennis liked his burger (although he was a little put off by the ginger in it), and my burger was awesome.  I may need to start topping all my burgers with onion rings.

Restaurant 5

4201 30th St.
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 282-6044

This place was really hard to get a good picture of, so you get it from all angles!

Interesting thing about this stop.  We had spent the better part of the afternoon at the rental car place after having been rear-ended by a hippie in San Francisco.  (That's a whole other story for a whole other time.)

After we left the rental car place, I looked up "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives San Diego" and we were originally going to go to some pizza place. 

Then Dennis was like, "What else is there?"  So I looked again, and we found this place. 

Best change of mind ever. 

The atmosphere in this restaurant was fun.  They had a bunch of weird artwork on the walls, cool servers, and a wall of beer choices.

They have all these weird types of burgers, including ostrich, gator, and kangaroo to go along with all the beer.  (Sorry for the glare!)

Dennis got a regular beef burger, but I ordered the kangaroo burger.  (Anything with horseradish sauce is OK with me!)

While we were waiting for our food, I also had some kind of cherry beer that I've since forgotten the name of.  I looked it up while we were out there, and it's not available in North Carolina anyway.  Bummer.

And then there was the burger. 

You guys?  Best burger ever.  I don't know if it was the meat itself, or the sauce, or the restaurant's atmosphere, but this was one of the most amazing burgers I've ever had. 

As it turns out, our waitress, who was super cool, knows Dennis' brother's wife, and also knows Dennis' brother's work.  (He's a tattoo artist.)  Small world.  She also knew another DDD place that was really good, so that's where we ended up going for dinner.

Restaurant 6

3667 India St.
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 497-0914

That picture of the sign ended up looking like a floating sign, so I had to include it. 

I'm not sure how we went the entirety of our vacation (9 days) without eating at a seafood restaurant until this point, literally the last night we were there. 

Our waitress at lunch had told us this place was really good, really fresh, all the things you want in a seafood restaurant, so we checked it out. 

She was not lying. 

Dennis is a big fan of fish and chips, so that's what he ordered.  I'd never seen the fish part of fish and chips be such a large chunk of fish.


I had the Buffalo Sandwich, which was snapper topped with chipotle marinade, blue cheese, Pepper Jack, and avocado.  AMAZING.

Oh, man.  It was super fresh, a little spicy. . .basically everything I could have asked for in a fish sandwich.

That's it for our Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives adventure.  Every single place we tried was fantastic, and I hope to someday go back and try all the rest of them.  (As a point of reference, there are 108 DDD restaurants in California.  Holy cow.)

I've got one more post planned for our California trip -- non-DDD foodstuffs.

I'm planning to pick back up with my cooking the books on a regular basis in the new year.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm still going to be posting, but there's a lot going on at the moment which will make it difficult to get any sort of regular schedule.  Stay with me, though!  Sarah Cooks the Books isn't going anywhere! 

Thanks for hanging in with me, guys.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

MasterChef Cookbook: Smothered Chicken with Bacon Brussels Sprouts (Sponsored Post:

(This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.)

Oh, you guys.  You've been waiting for the second and third installments of our Big California Food Adventure (see the first one here!)  It's been over a month.  I know, and I'm sorry.  We've had BIG THINGS happening around our household recently, and as soon as I'm allowed, I'll share with you.

(Spoiler alert:  I'm not pregnant.)

This is my first sponsored post, and I'm pretty excited about it, actually.  I was sent a pre-paid debit card from, and I decided to use it to make a schmancy meal out of the MasterChef Cookbook I picked up in Pigeon Forge, TN, last time Dennis and I were there.

I picked out my card from, and they had a ton (thousands, apparently) of different patterns to choose from.  I went with the book nerdiest of all the ones I could find:  Nancy Drew.

Cool, right?  It's not a gift card, but it's a re-loadable debit card.  When I got it, it was super easy to set up, and Jen at added some cash to it so I could test it out.  It also came with really clear instructions for use, including how to set up direct deposit if you wanted to use this as your primary card.  

There is a monthly fee to use the card, but I really liked the fact that if you have a $0 balance on the card, they don't charge you the monthly fee.  The only trouble I ran into was the girl at Earth Fare thought it was a gift card and tried to run it as such, but when I explained it was a pre-paid card, it was cool.

(More details after the recipe.  If you're interested in signing up for one of these pre-paid debit cards, please use the links provided in this post, like right here:

On to delicious, delicious food. 

This recipe was ridiculous in its deliciousness.  Only recently, and thanks to my BFF Andrea, have I been willing to eat Brussels Sprouts, and if you're trying to talk someone into trying them, this would be a good way to ease them into the Land of the Sprouts.

Smothered Chicken with Bacon Brussels Sprouts
Serves "4" ; adapted from the MasterChef Cookbook 


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. rinsed and patted dry
4 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth 
Rosemary needles from 2 sprigs, chopped
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced
Mashed potatoes for "4" (I used instant.  You can also use rice.  Or make real mashed potatoes if you're ambitious.)

Combine the  flour, paprika, cayenne, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a dish.  Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and dredge the chicken through the flour mixture.  Shake off the excess.

Coat a skillet with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and warm over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken.  Brown 3 to 5 minutes each side, and then remove to a plate.

Add 1 Tbsp. oil and the onion to the drippings in the pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the onions begin to brown.  Pour the broth into the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Prepare the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the brown ends and removing stray leaves.  Cut them in half lengthwise.

Coat another pan with the remaining oil and place over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the shallot is caramelized.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and shallot to a side bowl.

Now would be a good time to make your potatoes, or to start your rice.

To the drippings in the pan, add the sprouts and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Once they begin to brown, toss and cook for about 10 minutes until tender.  Season with salt and pepper again, if you'd like.

To serve, pile some potatoes (or rice!) on each plate and put a piece (or two!) of chicken on top.  Ladle the sauce onto the chicken and scatter the Brussels sprouts around the plate.  Sprinkle the bacon and shallot mixture on top.

Holy crap, you guys.

Holy crap.

This meal was made possible by the ingredients I bought using a pre-paid debit card.

Some more info:

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This card is not a gift card, so you can’t give or receive the card as a gift - It's better than a gift card because you don't just use it once and toss it, but instead get to replace your boring bank-issued debit card and show it off over and over.

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Disclosure: I received $25 on a pre-paid debit card from in exchange for writing a review, and I used it to buy ingredients. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.  The information above in pink was provided to me by the sponsor.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The One Where We Eat California (Part 1 of 3)

I've been remiss again, but this time, I have a good reason -- Dennis and I took a 9-day trip to California over the last couple of weeks!  He's from there, but I'd never been, so it was an awesome, awesome trip.

Rather than go into detail about the whole trip, I'm going to just focus on the most important part:  the food.  Obviously.

Since we live in North Carolina, in a region that is sadly lacking in restaurants featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I decided that my goal for our California trip was going to be to go to as many DDD restaurants as we could manage between San Diego and San Francisco.  The final count was 6.  Not bad.

I'm going to break this up into three parts:  Part 1 will be the first three restaurants, Part 2 will be the second three, and Part 3 will be other non-DDD-related food I came across.  And then, yes.  Yes.  I promise I will finish off my recipes from What Katie Ate and continue down the road of cooking all my books.

On to the restaurants!

Restaurant 1

El Indio
3695 India St.
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 299-0333  

I'm not sure if you guys know how I feel about Mexican food.  I love Mexican food.  Love it.  Dennis makes the best Mexican food, having lived in Mexico for a stint, but I also love restaurant Mexican food.

One of the most vast differences I noticed between East and West Coasts was the Mexican.  People out there take their Mexican food very seriously, it seems, and this place was so good.

Dennis, having never had fish tacos before, got those and some nachos.  (I shared some of the nachos.)  He pretty much wolfed the tacos down, and I didn't try them, but I think it's a fair assumption to say they were muy bueno.

I had, as is my custom, cheese enchiladas.  (Here's their menu.)  They were excellent.  Enchilada sauce is always hit or miss, but they hit it with this stuff.  I was full to bursting with food, but I couldn't stop eating them.  The rice was also killer.

Olives are, of course, the devil, but in this case, I just picked them off, rather than complaining about how olives are, in fact. . .well, you know.  El Indio also had a salsa bar, which was great, because I'm always a fan of variety.

Restaurant 2

(There are 3 locations, but we went to:)
5010 Newport Ave. 
Ocean Beach, CA 92107
(619) 224-4623

This place was so weird.  Also rad.  Hodad's was probably the best atmosphere of all the restaurants we went to.  It was a tiny place, and we sat in a VW bus.

You heard me.

The menu, which I linked to above, is a basic burger joint menu, but the burgers are excellent.  Also, they're huge, so I was, yet again, pretty stuffed by the time we left.  Dennis and I both had the single bacon cheeseburger, although I got mine with fries (which were more like potato wedges) and he got the onion rings.

And, to carry on the tradition of pictures taken of me at these places with my mouth open:

Restaurant 3

524 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 623-8301

I'm not fully sure why I don't have a good picture of the exterior of this place.  I got the interior, though!

We stopped in L.A. for lunch and to see my friend, Nick, who moved out there a couple years ago.  This restaurant had a completely different vibe than the other two we'd been to.  I don't know if that was an L.A. thing or the staff or the diner itself. . .I'm not sure.  But we continued our trend of the food being amazing.

I had the BLTA, which was an arugula, bacon, tomato, and avocado sandwich.  Delicious.  It also had a side salad, which I'm exaggerating in saying was the best side salad I'd ever had, ever.  I'm not sure what was in it, but it was fantastic.

I don't have a third mouth-agape picture, but I do have an unflattering, awkward one where I'm striking a pose.  Does that count?

Actually, upon second viewing, my mouth does seem to be open.  I'm 3 for 3!

That's it for Part 1 of our DDD eating tour of California.  Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!