Warm, sweet, chewy, spicy gingerbread... What's not to love? Learn how to make Paragary Bakery's classic gingerbread cookies to share with friends & family this holiday season.

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Recipe by Laurel Sanders-Melchor for Paragary Bakery

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Ceviche is a seafood dish that is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next fiesta! Typically, it consists of raw fish, or shrimp, marinated in citrus juice, and mixed with avocado, tomatoes, onion and cilantro.
The recipe below adds some sweetness with mangos to combat the spice of the habanero chiles. Habanero chiles are well known for their heat but are sometimes underappreciated for their floral perfume and exotic, tropical flavor. This is a ceviche with the flavors of the Yucatan.

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Ceviche with avocado, mango, & habanero chiles
Author: Kurt Spataro, Executive Chef for Paragary Restaurant Group
Recipe type: appetizer, side dish, entree Cuisine: mexican, seafood
Prep time: 2 hours 30 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 2 hours 50 mins

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fish or shrimp (choose the freshest fish you can find, one that’s suitable for serving raw)
  • ½ cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • ½ cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • 2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, sliced into ribbons
  • 1 habanero chile, seeded, deveined, and minced (wear latex gloves if you have them)
  • ½ ripe avocado, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 small, ripe mango, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Trim fish of any bloodlines or skin.
  2. Cut into ½" cubes and place in a small mixing bowl.
  3. Mix the juices together and pour enough over the fish to completely cover, reserving 2-3 Tbsp.
  4. Let the fish marinate for about 2 hours.
  5. Drain the juice from the fish and return it to the mixing bowl.
  6. Add the reserved juices, onion, cilantro, salt (to taste) & about ¼ of the minced habanero chile.
  7. At this point, taste for salt, lime & heat.
  8. Add as much chile as you like.
  9. Add another squeeze of lime, if necessary.
  10. Gently fold in the mango, avocado, and olive oil.
  11. Serve with chips, or romaine leaves
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We have all heard of the common grains like wheat, rye, barley, rice, and corn (yes, corn is a grain, not a vegetable!). Maybe it is just because we all have a hard time pronouncing it, but ‘Quinoa’ (hint: keen-wah) is one grain that has taken the back seat to more commercially grown and processed grains, at least until now. With the rise of the big gluten controversy, quinoa is gaining popularity because, in addition to being naturally nutrient dense, it is also a naturally gluten-free grain. Whether you have a gluten intolerance or are just looking to pack as many nutrients into one sitting as possible, you should be taking notice of what the ancient Incas referred to as the “Super Grain of the Future”.We have ...

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In celebration of Sacramento Bacon Fest this week, we’re sharing some bacon curing and smoking tips from Chef Scott Ostrander at Esquire Grill!

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What is bacon?
Bacon is a meat product prepared from the back and sides of a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a wet brine or in a dry cure; the result is fresh bacon. Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, or it may be boiled or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon is typically cooked before eating. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but may be cooked further before eating.

What’s the difference between a dry cure and a wet brine?
A dry cure is comprised of salt, sugar and pink curing salt. To dry-cure pork, you’ll need to press the dry cure into the pork and then let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for about 5-6 days. Dry cures are ideal for pork belly and a drier finished product.

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A wet brine is basically a dry cure that is boiled with water. Once the wet-brine has cooled, you submerge the pork into the mixture and let it soak for about 3 days in the refrigerator. Wet brines are ideal for pork shoulders and a moister finished product.
To add additional flavors and aromatics to your pork, Chef Scott recommends that you add a variety of herbs and spices to the dry cure or wet brine. Peppercorn, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, and juniper berry are some of his favorites.

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Can I smoke my bacon at home?
Smoking bacon inside your home is dangerous and will leave your house filled of bacon-scented smoke for days. The ideal place to smoke bacon at your home is outside in a covered barbeque. Once the pork has cured, rinse it and let it dry for 24 hours. Depending on the size of the meat, it will need to be smoked at 180 degrees for at least one hour. Remove the wire grill rack and place hot coals and wet wood chips on one side at the bottom of your barbeque. The combination of the hot coals and wet wood will produce smoke immediately, so quickly replace the wire grill rack and place the meat on the grill rack. Make sure that you place the meat on the opposite side of the coals/wood so that the meat is away from direct heat. Once the meat has completely smoked, let it cool and enjoy!
Bacon Curing & Smoking Tips & Tricks
For saltier bacon, increase the amount of salt in your cure
For sweeter bacon, increase the amount of sugar in your cure
For alternative sweeteners, try using molasses, honey, maple syrup, pomegranate juice or orange soda
To add more aroma to your bacon, try using different types of wood chips. During the summer, peach and nectarine chips are great, and during the winter, apple, citrus and hickory chips are best. For more complex aromas, try soaking your wood chips in fruit juices rather than water.
I want to make my own bacon. Where can I buy fresh pork in Sacramento?
Try visiting your local Farmers’ Market for fresh, local meats. Also, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op sells pork from Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, CA.

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It’s been many years since the proverbial torch was passed on to me to host the Thanksgiving family dinner. Each year I get a shot at the big bird and an opportunity to perfect my skills at cooking the feathered beast. I’ve probably tried the same recipes everyone else has and I’ve had my share of successes and failures. These are some of the things I’ve learned and the things I always come back to year after year:

  • It pays to procure the best bird you can afford. No matter where you live, there’s probably a turkey ranch or grocer that sells fresh, unadulterated, naturally grown turkeys.

  • Brining your turkey has become trendy but not necessary if you have a good bird. Seasoning the turkey with salt and freshly ground pepper a day or two in advance (very important!) is simpler and will produce a tasty, succulent turkey. When you return the turkey to the fridge after seasoning, leave it uncovered. This will allow the skin to dry out which helps it to crisp while it’s cooking.

  • Always take the turkey out of the refrigerator several hours before you plan to start cooking. This will drastically reduce the cooking time and produce a juicier bird. If you plan to stuff the turkey, do so just before it goes in the oven.

  • I always season the cavity with salt and pepper and place a few sprigs of thyme in as well.

  • Before the turkey goes in the oven, massage it with soft butter and, if you like, some chopped sage or thyme. To go one step further, separate the skin from the breast meat. Start near the neck and wishbone area using your fingers. Rub soft butter directly on flesh under the skin. If you like you can add a clove or two of pounded garlic, chopped herbs, etc.

  • The greatest challenge in cooking turkey is to get the leg and thigh meat cooked enough before the breast becomes dry. I always turn the turkey breast side down during most of the cooking. Start with the breast side up for the first 30 minutes or so, then using washable oven mits, turn it breast side down. 20-30 minutes before it’s done, turn it breast side up and baste frequently to brown and crisp the skin.

  • I start the cooking at 425 to get the juices flowing. After 30 minutes or so, I turn the oven down to 325. If your oven has a convection setting, use it. It helps crisp the skin.

  • Most recipes suggest a cooking time between 12-15 minutes per lb. In my experience, it’s almost always less than this, especially if you’ve allowed your turkey to come to room temperature before it goes in the oven. Start checking well before the allotted time.

  • Remember that the internal temperature will continue to rise after the turkey is removed from the oven. And the bigger the bird, the more carry over there’ll be. Plan on 10-15 degrees of carry over cooking.

  • Letting the turkey rest before carving is essential. I’ve waited an hour or more before carving and have never had a problem with cold turkey.

  • When making gravy, I always pour off most of the fat and add some flour to the roasting pan to make a roux. I add turkey stock that I’ve made from the neck and wing tips and, for added depth, I add some dried porcini mushroom liquid. To make this, place a few dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add hot water to cover. Let soak for 20-30 minutes, then strain.

  • I make gravy that’s on the thin side. That way I can sauce the carved turkey that I’ve plattered without it getting goopy or having a skin develop on the surface. I like to garnish the carved turkey with something just picked from the yard: branches from one of our Japanese maple trees, fresh herbs, a branch from the kumquat tree, oak leaves….

Happy Cooking!

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Each fall when the leaves change color and the air is crisp, the flavors of autumn entice us as we anticipate the smells of cinnamon and pumpkin cooking in the kitchen. And next to our entrees, we look forward to that fresh side of spinach, sweet potato or apple compote on our dinner plate.
It’s time to reintroduce nature’s bountiful autumn harvest back into our diets again. If you are ready to savor these flavors, visit a Paragary Restaurant Group location today. I recommend Cafe Bernardo’s Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad with spinach and walnuts or the flavorful Kale Caesar Salad for that earthy flavor only autumn foods can offer.

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Take advantage of the abundance of super foods California farmers will grow these next couple months and benefit from their nutrients. And visit your local farmer’s market to capture a true farm to fork experience with the fresh produce they sell.
If you would like to know more about the benefits fall’s super foods can have on your health, read on.
I have compiled a short list of some seasonal super foods often found on fall menus that are nutritionally dense, rich in phytonutrients, and just plain good for you.

Apples: This fall fruit is abundant in nutrients, and the skin contains Quercetin, a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is only found in the apple skin, not the flesh. Apples are delicious freshly sliced or sautéed with a little butter and cinnamon.

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Dark Leafy Greens: Uber super foods, from kale, to chard and spinach, are leafy greens rich in polyphenols, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and contain iron, vitamin C and E and a host of other nutrients. Bottom line – eat your greens every day. The nice thing about leafy greens is that you can eat them raw, steamed, grilled or added to soups and other dishes. They are quite versatile.

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Eggplant: Eggplant is rich in potassium and fiber and low in calories. The dark purple color of the skin offers phytonutrient compounds, anti-inflammatory properties, and contains nasunin, a natural cholesterol-lowering nutrient. Always eat the eggplant with the skin, either baked or grilled, rubbed with olive oil and garlic.


Pumpkin: This fruit is rich in fiber, high in beta-carotene and low in calories. Just because the pumpkin grows to maturity in the fall doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this super food year round (canned). Bake it and serve sliced with a little butter and nutmeg. Save the seeds, season them and bake.


Sweet Potato: Like the pumpkin, the sweet potato is also rich in carotenoids. Baked sweet potato is so flavorful that it only needs a bit of butter, salt and pepper to enjoy. If a restaurant offers sweet potato fries, try them. They’re delicious.


Walnuts: These super nuts, which are harvested in the fall, are rich in plant-derived omega-3 fats. Walnuts also have antioxidant properties, vitamin E, folate, and fiber. Grab a handful for a snack or add to salads.

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Courtesy of Chef Erika Atkins, Cafe Bernardo/KBAR

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(esquire grill)

(centro cocina mexicana)