Author: simmerandsauce

“Changemaker” Series: MPCSD School Superintendent Erik Burmeister And His Peruvian Lomo Saltado

“Changemaker” Series: MPCSD School Superintendent Erik Burmeister And His Peruvian Lomo Saltado

Erik Burmeister is my featured Changemaker this month. Most in my local community already knows this dynamic community leader: Erik is the Menlo Park City School District‘s young and progressive Superintendent.  His vision for our schools is creative and thoughtful.  I had the pleasure of meeting Erik a few years ago when he was still a middle school principal, and I have  been impressed by him since day one.

Erik has degrees from Stanford, Ohio University, and San Jose State. Don’t let his youthful appearance fool you: Erik has been active in the field of education for years.  At the age of 15, Erik knew he was destined to work in education. Before joining the MPCSD, Erik was a Principal in San Jose and in Campbell, both in California.  Before moving into administration, Erik taught high school English and Speech/Debate.

In 2012, Erik became Principal at Hillview Middle School here in Menlo Park, where he quickly received national recognition for his forward thinking. In 2012 Erik was named “Multiplier of the Year in Education,” an award given to leaders who “multiply the capabilities of people around them,” according to the sponsor of the award, The Wiseman Group, which conducts leadership training workshops.  I think that award reveals a lot about Erik, who is an incredible motivator.  The accolades don’t stop there. Among other recognition, the Association of California School Administrators named Erik “Middle Grades Principal of the Year.”  During his tenure at Hillview, Erik lead Hillview to a 2015 prestigious California Gold Ribbon School Award, which honors public schools that demonstrate exemplary achievements in implementing state standards in priority areas.

In his Superintendent role, Erik leads to create a culture of possibility and innovation in MPCSD. Erik is focused on two major priorities. The first is “ensuring that race, family income, and native language are not predictive of school success in Menlo Park–a lofty goal, but one that MPCSD is committed to pursuing.”  The second is “increasing student engagement in meaningful learning experiences.”  Some of his top priorities include the opening of a district-led preschool called the Early Learning Center, scheduled to open Fall 2018. His commitment to raising the achievement of all students includes efforts to “use real-time learning data to inform instruction and to seek to ensure that all students (1) come ready to kindergarten, and (2) graduate from 8th grade (MPCSD’s final year, as it a K-8 district) at or above grade level in reading, writing, and numeracy“.  Erik believes in communication and strives to keep his district informed. To do so, Erik takes time to write a monthly blog at that provides insight into parenting, education, and community.

With his charismatic and outgoing demeanor, Erik is a local Changemaker who makes an impact on thousands of children and families.  Below is a personal message from Erik about his favorite food a wonderful classic Peruvian dish called Peruvian Lomo Saltado and why it (and Peru) are so  meaningful to him.

Peruvian Lomo Saltado
Erik, his wife, Alisa (a high school teacher), their adopted son Juan Gabriel and two young sons, ages 7 and 3.

At 30 years old, I took a leave of absence from my job as a high school vice principal to volunteer in a developing country and learn Spanish. As fate would have it, I ended up spending a year in the beautiful country of Peru. I fell in love with Peruvian cuisine which has quickly become one of the premiere cuisines around the world. I stay quite connected to Peru because during my time volunteering at an orphanage there, I connected with a young kid who later joined our family as our son. Today he is 27, a police officer in Peru, and one year away from graduating with his culinary degree. One of the “staple” dishes that Peruvians are known for is my favorite; it’s called Lomo Saltado or “seasoned steak.” It’s easy, hearty, and delicious. The real secret to a good Lomo Saltado is the yellow chili pepper native to Peru called Ají . I have found it nearly impossible to find fresh Ají in the Bay Area, but it is possible to find them preserved in a jar (whole or pureed, both shown below). If you get a chance to travel to Peru, I highly recommend the Lomo Saltado, as well as the Papa Rellena and/or Ceviche as an appetizer, Picarones as dessert, Chicha Morada as a non-alcoholic beverage, and a Pisco Sour as an adult beverage; there’s just nothing like enjoying this complete meal in its country of origin.”Peruvian Lomo Saltado

This recipe for Peruvian Lomo Saltado is not Erik’s recipe, but one that he says is authentic and I absolutely love it.  I have adapted the recipe only slightly, the original one can be found here.  I myself was unable to locate fresh Ají chili peppers, but after speaking with a chef at a local Peruvian restauranteur me I was told the peppers are available in both a pureed paste and jared form (see above).  The paste is much hotter so be mindful of that is using it.  I prefered the jarred Ají  peppers much more, but both with can work. If you have difficulty locating the jarred Ají  in a store near you, Amazon does carry them.  This is an easy and tasty dish and one my family absolutely loved.

Peruvian Lomo Saltado

February 17, 2018
: 4
: 30 min
: 10 min
: 40 min
: easy


  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak, cut into thin slices
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 sweet mini peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced lengthwise and cut into 8 eighths
  • 1-2 large jarred Ají Amarillo chili peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Step 1 Season the sliced beef generously with, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with minced garlic.
  • Step 2 Place a large saucepan over very high heat. Add the oil and when hot, but not smoking, working in batches, add the meat in a single layer. Cook for about 2 minutes. Place the cooked meat on a plate and set aside. Cook the rest of the meat and reserve.
  • Step 3 Place the sauté pan back over a medium flame and add the peppers, cook for about 1 minute to soften slightly. Add the onions and cook an additional 1 minute.
  • Step 4 Add the tomatoes, aji chili pepper, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, beef stock and the cooked beef. Mix well to incorporate and cook 1 minute to heat through.
  • Step 5 Remove from the heat and divide among serving plates. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

I would like to thank Erik for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me, share this recipe and for allowing me to feature him in my Changemaker series.  Erik is an inspiration and role model to us all and I am honored to call him a friend.

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A Refreshing Blueberry-Rosemary Lemon Mocktail

A Refreshing Blueberry-Rosemary Lemon Mocktail

Not everyone drinks alcohol.  I know many people who won’t touch the stuff, including because of personal preferences or health reasons (including allergies).  Whatever the reason, there are now an increasing number of flavorful “mocktails,” as cocktails without alcohol have been cleverly named.  Mocktails are one of the hottest food trends from the past few years and I have my husband to thank for introducing me to them. With enticing flavor combinations and beautiful hues that remind you of a summer sunsets, mocktails are quickly becoming a go-to for costumers over their boozy cocktail cousins.blueberry-rosemary lemon mocktail

This recipe is Simmer + Sauce’s first mocktail recipe and this blueberry-rosemary lemon one is a winner.  Loaded with blueberries and fresh lemon juice with just a touch of fresh rosemary, this effervescent mocktail is light and refreshing.  Not a rosemary fan?  Trust me, try it anyway. The flavor is mild and complements the blueberry exceptionally well.  The true beauty of mocktails to me is they offer an easy, tasty, make-ahead option for dinner parties and family gatherings.  A kid-friendly alternative to water, they can be low sugar as well.

So if you are a mocktail lover already or are trying one for the very first time, I want your feedback.  Drop a comment and let me know what are some of your favorite flavor combinations and what kind of mocktails you want to see on my blog.  Cheers.

blueberry-rosemary lemon mocktail

Blueberry-Rosemary Lemon Mocktail

February 13, 2018
: 1
: 5 min
: 5 min
: easy


  • 10 fresh blueberries, plus additional for garnish
  • 1 rosemary stem, stripped
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 ounces sparkling mineral water
  • rosemary sprig for garnish (optional)
  • Step 1 Using a cocktail shaker, add the blueberries, rosemary leaves and agave. Muddle for 30 seconds.
  • Step 2 Add the lemon juice and stir. Strain the syrup into a preferred drinking glass.
  • Step 3 Add a good amount of crushed ice. Add the mineral water and give it a little stir.
  • Step 4 Add fresh blueberries for garnish and a rosemary sprig if desired.

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Easy Dulche De Leche Fudge That’s Perfect For Valentine’s Day

Easy Dulche De Leche Fudge That’s Perfect For Valentine’s Day

Fudge reminds me about a few things: Judy Bloom, my grandmother, and Valentine’s Day.  But not necessarily in that order.  Fudge is a delicious old school confection, one that sometimes gets overlooked if you ask me. But all fudge is not created equal.  Fudge is a true decadent treat and a perfect match for Valentine’s Day.  A little bit of this chocolatey goodness goes a long way. But to indulge in this confection, it needs to be great, at least in my eyes. I think this recipe is great.dulche de leche fudge

No one seems to know for sure who actually first created fudge.  But many believe that it is an American creation, caused by a botched–or fudged–recipe for caramel.  Culinary discoveries often happen unexpectedly, in-fact, that’s how brownies were discovered. Whatever the back story on fudge, it’s a real treat and one that often pops up during holidays. Traditional fudge is rather tricky to make.  My recipe is not.  dulche de leche fudge

My recipe for fudge should qualify as “foolproof.”  Years ago, foolproof recipes using condensed milk or corn syrup became more common. The use of these ingredients prevents undercooking, which can interfere with achieving what’s called a “soft-ball” state.  (Overcooking or insufficiently stirring fudge is equally bad, and can lead to crystalized fudge.)

dulche de leche fudge

In my recipe, I use sweetened condensed milk as my secret ingredient.  This allows for a perfect, creamy consistency.  There are countless variations to fudge, but I don’t stray far from classic in terms of flavors.  I simply add a swirl of dulce de leche on top, adding even more richness to this American treat. dulche de leche fudge

Dulche de Leche Fudge

February 11, 2018
: 16pieces
: 10 min
: 10 min
: 2 hr 20 min
: easy


  • 1 pound good quality semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, heated slightly
  • cooking spray or oil, for the pan
  • Step 1 Line an 8×8 baking square with parchment paper leaving overhang on both sides. Note: the easiest way to do this is to cut two strips of parchment paper and lay one across the other. Lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Step 2 Fill the bottom of a double boiler or medium saucepan halfway with water, place over high heat and bring to a boil.
  • Step 3 Place the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and vanilla extract in the top of the double boiler or alternatively in a small saucepan and place on top of the hot water. Reduce the heat to low. Stir occasionally until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove form the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Using a rubber spatula, gently even out the chocolate mixture. Set aside.
  • Step 4 Gently warm the dulce de leche in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds until spreadable. Carefully pour the dulce de leche over the chocolate mixture. Using a tablespoon, make large swirls in the dulce de leche mixture so the bottom fudge layer is also visible.
  • Step 5 Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours to set.
  • Step 6 Slice into small pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Can be kept for 1 week.

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