Monday, December 29, 2008

Waste Not

We've all been there.  Over one of your many holiday gatherings when friends and family graciously bring a bottle of wine to be shared, and you are left the next day with many half bottles of wine.  Normally, this is a problem I like to have...hiccup, because I get to have a small wine tasting the following day without reaching into the wine cooler.  Well, that is, unless you get a less than stellar bottle...

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Really, I have nothing against riesling, but I usually prefer a drier variety.  (Actually, I think I drank this in my early 20's when I didn't know wine from wine coolers.)   So, since I hate to waste anything, especially wine, I went to my fall back - cook with it.

This was a bit more challenging, because many recipes using white wine, call for dry white wines, where you wouldn't want a fruity sweet variety for fear or ruining the flavor of the dish.  So, after much thought, I decided to combine my love of fish with this wine.  This is a simple combination of ingredients, that really paired well and made a lovely main dish.   Enhancing the fruitiness of the wine, I topped the fish with mango, avocado, and a few strips of red bell pepper.  A little sea salt and fresh ground pepper is all you need to add to the final touches.

So here is exactly what I did for this fast and easy use of leftover white wine.

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For 2 servings:

2 mild white fish fillets - I used orange roughy, but tilapia, sole, cod, etc would work. 

1/2 cup white wine

salt and pepper to taste  (with mild white fish varieties, I would NOT use chardonnay as it would overpower the fish)

1/2 mango, sliced

1/2 avocado, sliced

few red bell pepper strips and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro or chives

Grill or broil approximately 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.

 

 

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The fish was delicious, and probably the simplest preparation I've ever done.  Also, it is low in fat and calories, which makes it the perfect post-holiday - tighten-the-belt type meal. 

Serve with a dry riesling or torrontes for a great pairing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meatless Mondays - Hummus Burgers

I first brought you Meatless Mondays last week, a commenter named Joey, informed me that there is a public health initiative in place, called Meatless Mondays.  According to Joey, "The Meatless Monday mission is to help prevent rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer- the four leading causes of death in the US; all preventable."  There is a website for recipes, tips, etc. accessible at www.meatlessmondays.com.  I am sure I will be trying many recipes in Mondays to come. 

For now, I am showcasing what I call, Hummus Burgers.  Named, because, the ingredients are really quite like making hummus.  Chickpeas, garlic, lemon, olive oil, etc.  I came up with this recipe by loosely following the popular Chickpea Cutlets, in Veganomican, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  I have changed so much compared to the original recipe, that I think I can call them my own.  First, I decided to make them higher in protein by skipping the bread crumbs and adding protein powder instead.  I also skipped the sage and thyme, to keep the flavor more neutral.  Instead, I add cilantro, parsley,or basil depending on my mood.  Because I like mushrooms, I also add a few sliced mushrooms. 

Just a disclaimer:  these are not meant to be a substitute for a hamburger.  I think if one has that mind set, you'll be disappointed.  In my opinion, that is why many people don't like some of the different variations of "veggie" burgers out there.  Instead, look at these as a delicious, meat-free sandwich filling rounded out with lettuce and tomato.  Or, how about slicing into strips and topping an Asian Salad in place of chicken?  Or maybe a healthy version of falafel stuffed into a pita with yogurt sauce? 

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Please forgive the boring picture.  I wanted to show a simple version of what these look like coming out of the oven.  I forgot to take "final" photos of the sandwich.  But, then, that can be a future post...    :-D

"Hummus Burgers"

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup plain flavored soy protein powder (whey protein powder is fine too.)

2-3 sliced mushrooms.

2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. paprika

herbs, as desired

In food processor, pulse chickpeas until no whole chickpeas are left.  Transer to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix together and "knead" a few minutes until well mixed and almost doughy in consistency.

Preheat oven to 375.  Bake on lightly oiled baking sheet for 15 minutes.  Flip patties, and bake an additional 8-10 minutes. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Cookies

 

This is the time of year when my sweet tooth is in heaven.  Brownies and blondies-mmm;  fudge and almond bark - sheer bliss; but, cookies - they are my favorite! 

Growing up, we always had the traditional frosted sugar cookie "cut-outs", fudge, 7 Layer Bars, Spritz, and my personal favorite, the Chocolate-Iced Bittersweets.  My mom has made these for as long as I can remember.  In fact, when I was really young, I didn't like them because they had coconut.  (What can I say, I was a picky eater as a child.)  These cookies only made their appearance at Christmas time, so we'd have to eat our fill, because after that they are gone for a year.  To this day, I still eat my fill every year when I go back to Minnesota for Christmas. 

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Well, this year Scott and I are staying in Arizona for the holidays, so my mom so graciously made us a batch of the Chocolate-Iced  Bittersweets while she was here over Thanksgiving weekend.    They are stashed away in the freezer, so that they would last until Christmas. (I may or may not have dipped in and "tried" one, or three in the past couple of weeks.)  I am excited to pull them out and add them to our cookie tray next week, as the non baker side of me, actually did make a few other types of cookies to add as well.  If you like coconut, chocolate and pecans, you will absolutely love these special cookies. 

By the way, I think this recipe is from a torn and tattered church cookbook, but if anyone knows a more specific source, please let me know. 

CHOCOLATE-ICED BITTERSWEETS

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups All Purpose or unbleached flour

FILLING:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp. vanilla

3 oz package cream cheese, softened

½ cup chopped nuts

½ cup coconut

FROSTING:

½ cup chocolate chips

2Tbsp water

2 Tbsp butter

½ cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, cream 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup butter, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Blend 2 cups flour into creamed mixture. Shape dough into balls, using a teaspoonful of dough for each cookie; place 2 inches aprart on ungreased cookie sheet. With thumb, make imprint in center of each cookie. Bake at 350 for 12-16 minutes or until lightly browned on edges. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.

In small bowl cream 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp vanilla and cream cheese until light and fluffy; stir in nuts and coconut. Fill each warm cookie with about ½ tsp filling.

In small saucepan, melt chocolate chips with water and 2 Tbsp. butter, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add ½ cup powdered sugar; blend until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. (5 dozen cookies)

Let stand to cool and set completely, then eat as many as you possibly can, before they are gone again until next year.  :-D

I'll leave you with a photo of Chase enjoying his big "cookie."  Wish my cookies were that big...

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Meatless Mondays

After weekends of increased eating out, holiday parties, and overall extra indulgences, we begin our week with "meat-less Mondays."  Actually, we probably eat meatless meals at least 3 times per week, but the only night it is a for sure, is on Monday.  For some, this may seem like a hardship, or a real sacrifice, but we love tofu, beans, veggie burgers, as alternative protein sources. 

Tofu is a soybean product made by curdling fresh soymilk.  Glamorous eh?  It is rich in protein, unsaturated fats and a good source of calcium, iron and phytoestrogens.  It can have a firm or silken (soft) texture, which adds to the versatility for cooking.  Tofu has very little flavor on it's own, but that's what makes it so wonderful to use in recipes.  It takes on the flavor of whatever you seasoning or marinade you choose. 

When using firm tofu as a meat substitute, I usually "press" it first, to get all the liquid out. ( How To Press Tofu ) If I'm in a pinch for time, I don't - it's not really necessary, but does help keep a sturdier texture.  Sometimes I will marinate tofu, other times, just add a seasoning blend and grill.  This particular time I made a glaze, a recipe I got off Bella Eats blog.  The glaze was so easy to throw together and was delish with the tofu.  When using a glaze, add in the last couple of minutes while tofu is cooking.  One of the other benefits of cooking with tofu is how fast and easy it is to use.  Tofu is something I can easily fall back on when we get home late, and didn't think to pre-thaw any meat, fish, etc.  This recipe took about 10 minutes start to finish. 

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Glazed Tofu from Bella Eats (and runs)

  • 1/4 cup veggie broth (or chicken broth)
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Mix the above ingredients and set aside.  Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, and a tsp. or so of canola oil.  Add tofu and let cook for 5-7 minutes, or until browned slightly.  Flip it and cook an additional 4-5 minutes before adding the glaze.  Let glaze and tofu cook an additional 1-2 minutes. 

Look for more meat-less main dishes in the coming Mondays...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two New 'Pours'

Or should I say Product Reviews? 

First off, contrary to what the blog implies, I do drink other beverages other than wine.   (Although, wine is probably my favorite!)

For instance, I couldn't make it out of bed in the morning without the thought of my beloved coffee.  (That could be another whole discussion in itself.)  But, mid afternoon, when I don't want caffeine, and I'm looking for something warm and cozy, I turn to tea.  Being, a dietitian, I know all about all the health benefits of green tea, and usually do enjoy various white and black teas as well.  Although, I'm somewhat of a purist, and like pretty plain flavors.  No orange essence, or mint, etc.  So, I was quite surprised when I was drawn to Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Holiday Tea.  I picked up a box at Whole Foods the other day and promtly made a cup when I got home.  (I am all for instant gratification!)  I was pretty skeptical that it would taste like a sugar cookie, but thought that it would be the closest to "plain" as anything else.  After letting it steep, and cool slightly, I took my first taste. 

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Mmm...just bringing the cup up to my mouth I could smell the aroma of sugar cookies straight from the oven.  The first taste gave me a nice hint of vanilla sugar cookie, and almost a hint of sweetness.  (Although, there are no sweetners or added sugars.)  It is a 100% natural, caffeine free, herbal tea.  As it continued to cool down, and sadly nearing the end of my cup, the taste of sugar cookie became slightly more intense.  It was addicting...I needed another cup immediately.  Not only that, I was on a quest to get more.  What if this flavor is gone after the holidays, what will I do the rest of the winter? 

So,back to Whole Foods I went to hoard more of this deliciousness.  Now, I can never go into a grocery store or market and get just what I went in for.  Somehow, I see something on my way to whatever I'm after, that I "need" or forgot to pick up last time, or is "on sale", etc.  You get the picture.  I'm in even more trouble if I have to pass the wine section. 

This being the case, I saw this magnificent display of $4.99 wine.  I know, it must not be any good for $4.99 right?  Well, there was something about the label, that drew me in, and I thought I'd pick up a bottle to use in my balsamic reduction.  (I love whales and dolphins!)

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That said, I poured myself a glass while I went to work on making the reduction, and it was surprisingly good.  (I also wanted to take a picture of my Christmas stems.)  Not knock your socks off good, but slightly jammy,  smooth, and easy to drink.   There wasn't a lot going on, but it was a decent cab/merlot blend from Australia, that seemed at least a step above Yellowtail. 

So now I'm staying out of Whole Foods for awhile - at least 3 days!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I've been a little neglectful of the Paws part of Paws and Pours lately, so here's a photo of Chase napping yesterday with his favorite Christmas ornament.  (It's never on the tree for more than 10 minutes, as he always finds it.)

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What is he dreaming about?  Every once in awhile, there will be a little whimper or growl in his sleep, so I know he's dreaming.  Could he be dreaming of being at the Dog Beach in Del Mar a few weeks ago?

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mmmm...a Little Taste of New Orleans

It has been at least 9 years since I've visited the Crescent City, but I can still remember the spectacular food of the French Quarter and beyond. Crawfish boils, red beans and rice, po-boys...holy yum! Gumbo, crawfish etoufee, bring it on! Now there are other great things about New Orleans, like the culture, the music, the people, etc., but the cuisine is definitely a highlight.

For the past year, my brother has been spending a lot of time in NOLA. You see, he is an architect, and has dedicated a huge part of his time working with teams to rebuild the lower 9 as well as parts of Biloxi. He spent some time living in a small apartment there for weeks at a time, and not only learned the great places to go from the "locals", but learned a few tricks in cooking the cajun cuisine himself. So, this past holiday weekend, he cooked us up a little treat during his visit. My favorite...crawfish etoufee!

While he based his proportions from a recipe off Allrecipes.com, he said he really learned this dish from a friend while he was staying in New Orleans. Whatever it was, he hit it spot on!

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Adapted from Allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional - we used it)
  • 2 tablespoons seafood seasoning (we used Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fish stock
  • 1 pound crawfish tails
  • 1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined (He used 2 lbs crawfish tails in lieu of the shrimp)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Gradually stir in flour, and stir constantly until the mixture turns 'peanut butter' brown or darker, at least 15 or 20 minutes. I use a large fork with the flat side to the bottom of the pan in a side to side motion. This is your base sauce or 'Roux'. It is very important to stir this constantly. If by chance the roux burns, discard and start over.
  2. Once the roux is browned, add the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the skillet, and saute for about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and fish stock, and season with the seafood seasoning. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Season the sauce with hot pepper sauce and cayenne pepper (if using), and add the crawfish and shrimp. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque.

We enjoyed this with the Claiborne and Churchill Dry Riesling and it was absolutely perfect! I really love their dry Gewurztraminer, but the riesling was great as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey Review

This wasn't my first year hosting Thanksgiving dinner and cooking the bird, but it was however, my first year brining the bird.  I have to say, brine is fine.  (OK that was cheesy.)  I am a brining believer now.

This recipe came from my boss, who claims it is from a very old issue of Gourmet magazine.  The only thing I changed was to add some fresh sage to the cavity and tucked in to a few places under the skin.  The glaze was amazing, this will definately be my new turkey recipe. 

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ALISON’S TURKEY RECIPE

This is for a 14 lb. turkey

FOR BRINE:

Mix the following in a LARGE pot:

6 quarts water

2 large onions, quartered

1 Cup Kosher salt

1 Cup chopped fresh ginger root

¾ Cup golden brown sugar

4 large bay leaves

4 whole star anise

12 whole black peppercorns

Bring to a simmer until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Rinse turkey and soak in brine overnight.

FOR TURKEY:

2 large oranges, cut into wedges

¼ Cup olive oil

2 Tblsp. oriental sesame oil

FOR GLAZE:

¾ Cup maple syrup

½ Cup white wine

1/3 Cup Dijon mustard

2 Tblsp. butter

Remove turkey from brine. Dry with paper towels. Place oranges in cavity. Mix oils and brush over turkey. Roast until almost done, covered with foil.

Last 45 minutes – bring glaze ingredients to a simmer in saucepan; brush over turkey 2 to 3 times until turkey temperature is 180 degrees.

Eat and Enjoy!

 

Did anyone else have something new you tried this year that turned out spectacular?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Persimmons!

Persimmons, oh how I love you.  Why does it seem your season is so short? 

Did you know that the persimmon originated in China?  The two main types that we find in around here this time of the year, are the fuyu and hachiya.  I prefer the fuyu, as it is non-astringent and does not have to be completely ripe to be tasty.

To showcase some of the lovely persimmons we picked up in Solana Beach last weekend, I threw together this fantastic salad as a starter to our dinner Saturday night.  I keep thinking that I want to make something more creative to show them off, but then usually resort back to a salad or a salsa. 

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Shown here is a simple side salad of arugula, squash blossoms stuffed with cranberry goat cheese, a little jicama and fennel, and of course, the lovely persimmon.  Dressed only in high quality balsamic and olive oil.  Holy Yum! 

While persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked, I usually prefer to eat persimmon in the raw form.  But, the next day I decided to try a couple thinly cut slices, roasted over tilapia.  It was a nice complement to the subtle sweetness of the fish.  Topped with few pomegranate seeds to complete the fall-ish flavor. 

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Persimmons are naturally high in beta carotene (hello- they are orange) and vitamin C.  Like the season they are grown, it is the perfect way to boost your immunity for the winter cold and flu season. 

As I said, I need to broaden my persimmon culinary adventures...so please share any of your favorite persimmon recipes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

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A special thanks to Lucy in St. Lou, who awarded Paws and Pours the Kreativ Blogger Award.  I am honored! 

The rules are that I am to mention 6 things that I am thankful for, as well as 6 blogs that I stalk.  Gosh, the only hard thing about that is narrowing it down. 

6 Things I am thankful for:

1.  My wonderful husband, and great extended family.  I am blessed to have them all in my life everyday.

2.  My job.  I have the best gig in town (in my humble opinion.)  I work part time - job share position, with a reputable pharmaceutical company.  This allows me to contribute to our wine and vacation funds, and still have plenty of time for cooking, wine shopping,dog walks, and lots of blog stalking.

3.  The best dog, Chase.  There is not one day that we don't laugh at his funny antics.  Whether it is the way he carries the flashlight in his mouth for the entire dark morning walk, or the craziness that ensues when he sees us get our running shoes on, he can bring me out of  any cranky mood. 

4.  A well stocked wine fridge.  What can I say?  I'm a wino, and having a fantastic glass of wine at the end of the day can also bring me out of any cranky mood.  :) 

5.  Good friends.  Since all of our family lives in the mid-west, our wonderful friends here have become our "chosen" family.  I look forward to every gathering, or just catching up on the phone.  They enrich my life in so many ways.

6.  My laptop.  How else would I be able to read all of your wonderful blogs? 

 

6 (of the many) "Kreativ" blogs I stalk:

1.  Noble Pig -  if you don't go for the fantastic recipes and stunning 'food porn' photos, go check it out for her fabulous wit and creative writing about food, wine, and life in general.  Love it!

2.  Culinary Adventures of a New Wife - I started reading this blog because I liked her title.  I could relate, because at the time, I was a newlywed myself.  I've been following it since, because she has drool-worthy recipes and photos, and I've had success with many of the recipes I've gotten here. 

3.  Greek Tragedy - Loved Stephanie Klein's book, Straight Up and Dirty, and have followed her blog for her stylistic writing, and open frankness about everything!  (She is also a foodie)

4.  Wine with Life Please- a new one for me, but she has some fantastic looking recipes and fun wine reviews. 

5.  Pinknest-  Love to read this foodie's adventures of living and eating in New York City.  She has exquisite taste and a knack for writing.

6.  Johnstone's Vin Blanc- Also a new one I've been stalking.  Great recipes and fun seeing a little bit of life in North Carolina.  (somewhere I've never been.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

MIA in San Diego

It seems my weekend trips have left me a little lacking in the blog posting.  I see I have been tagged for a few blog events and hope to get to those this week.  But for now, I want to share the Paws and Pours long weekend in San Diego. 

It all started the weekend before, when I was in Minnesota on a surprise birthday visit for my mom.  While it was a fun visit, freezing temperatures, snow and sleet are not what my Arizona blood had in mind for a weekend get-away.  So, on a whim we decided to take Friday off, pack up the paws and pours, and head to San Diego.   Mmmm....I heart San Diego.  We found a pet friendly Sheraton in La Jolla that was perfect.  (For you pet lovers, all Sheratons are pet friendly.) 

After a few stops and 5 hours of driving, we arrived and were walking the beach by 3 pm.  Somehow, this photo was taken of Chase and myself....didn't know we had the camera with us!

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With temperatures unseasonably warm, we all felt like we had died and gone to heaven.  Nothing on our agenda except to drink a lot of wine,take lots of walks on the beach, and, oh, have some great meals. 

Friday night we headed to one of our favorite spots, George's in La Jolla.  We sat on the deck overlooking the ocean and it was as amazing as always.  I wishI had brought the camera, because the sunset was spectacular!  I had a wonderful persimmon and endive salad with a gorgonzola vinaigrette to start, followed by the salmon with roasted beet aioli.  YUM!  Since it was a warm evening, I had the Vin Gris Cigare dry Rose with my salad.  I used to love this rose, and while it was still good, it was a bit sweeter than I remembered it being. 

Saturday was filled with fun festivities like the Dog Beach in Del Mar, followed by the Dog Wash in Solana Beach, a long walk along the cove in La Jolla to see the sea lions, and a relaxing picnic in Del Mar, overlooking the ocean.  We sat in the grass and ate, and drank (cheap mini bottles of Chardonnay from the deli,) and almost fell asleep to the sound of the tide rolling in.  Saturday evening was another night in downtown La Jolla.  This time we hit Jack's for the wine bar/grill to hear some live music.  Great wine and great music, this place had a fun vibe and a very chic atmosphere.  I started with the scallop appetizer, then continued my seafood theme by getting the pan seared opakapaka in a broccoli puree broth.  Sounds gross, but was muy delicioso!

Of course, the foodies that we are, we could not be in San Diego and not go to a Farmer's Market.  Sunday we went to the market in Solana Beach, and it was just as wonderful as it was when we were there in August.  I wanted to get more, (the strawberries smelled amazing,) but this is the loot that we could fit in our cooler to bring back.

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Pictured here are 2 kinds of kale,2 kinds of baby squash,(with squash blossoms!!) rainbow chard, lettuce, baby arugula, persimmons, gorgeous vine ripened tomatoes, and grapes.  Stay tuned to see what we make with our stash later this week. 

I am looking forward to being back in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Somewhat Southern Shrimp

IMG_1955 Ok, so it may not be all that southern, but I grew up in Minnesota.  Polenta, greens, Old Bay seasoning...they are the furthest things from any pantry in our small midwestern town.  

I came across some absolutely beautiful fresh prawns at the store the other day, and although I knew I had some shrimp in the freezer from Costco, these just were calling my name.  Having absolutely no idea how I was going to prepare them, I put them in the refrigerator and headed out to walk the dog. By the time I returned, we were all hungry, so I knew I had to come up with something fast.  I remembered I had some chard that needed to be used, and set to work on making something scrumptious with the fresh shrimp.  This is what I did...

1 lb jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined

small bunch of Swiss chard (or spinach or collards, or other green)

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

5-6 mushrooms, sliced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

Sprinkle of chili powder

1/2 cup quick cooking polenta

1 Tbsp light butter

2 tsp honey

2 Tbsp cojita cheese

Add olive oil to pan and heat.  Saute onion and celery a few minutes until tender.  Add shrimp and mushrooms and saute a few minutes, then add chard and seasonings.  Meanwhile, cook polenta as package says.  When polenta is thick, stir in butter and honey.  Plate polenta and top with shrimp and veggie mixture.  I sprinkled a little cojita cheese on because, well, everything tastes better with a little sprinkle of cheese. 

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We paired this with the 2004 Rutherford Hill Merlot.  It wasn't my first choice of what to pair with the shrimp, but it went rather well.  The sweetness of the honeyed polenta mirrored the jammy  berries and vanilla undertones.  It had just a hint of spice, which was complemented by the dash of chili powder that went into our meal.  While it was good,I'm not sure if we'd get this merlot again, as at the price point of $25, we were expecting a bit more. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A little Sushi-Inspired Salmon

If you are a wasabi lover like me, this recipe is for you.  I've been making this simple wasabi salmon dish for years, it's simple and delicious.  Last week, I decided to add the nori, and pretend I was out at my favorite sushi restaurant eating fresh sushi rolls and sashimi.  The result was fabulous!  Not quite like being at Zen 32, but at least I have a pretty good imagination. 

SALMON WITH WASABI VINAIGRETTE

2 Tbsp Wasabi Powder

2 Tbsp. water

3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp packed brown sugar.

1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

1-2 sheets nori (seaweed paper)

Combine the above ingredients and pour over 1 lb of fresh salmon.  Cut a piece of nori horizontally, into approx. 6 strips.  Wrap each salmon piece with a strip of nori. 

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Grill or roast salmon 8-10 min. (or until fish flakes easily with fork.)  Be sure to keep in a baking dish or aluminum pan if grilling, so you keep some of the yummy vinaigrette. 

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We enjoyed the 2007 Clay Station Viognier with this meal which was lovely.  Very floral with a definate aroma of honeysuckle.  I loved that there was just enough acid to not fade against the wasabi vinaigrette.  This was a steal for $3.99 at Trader Joes!! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wine Glass Fetish

Hi.  My name is Maureen, and I am a wine glass-o-holic. I seriously can't stop collecting wine glasses.

It started innocently enough in my early 20's when I had my first apartment and bought the cheap six pack set at Target.   Not long after, I realized they were white wine glasses, and I must have some reds as well.  So, I bought some of the larger size "all purpose" ones, like you see in restaurants and bars.  Years later, and more wine experience under my belt, I yearned for Riedels.  I was celebrating my 30th birthday, single, and thought "what the hell, I'm treating myself."  (I mean, who knew if I'd ever get married!?)  I started with 4.   After I was hooked, I had to have more. 

Fast forward a couple more years, and low and behold, I do get married!  We decided to register for some nice, but basic red wine glasses at Crate and Barrel for "everyday."  (A few to many broken riedels made us think maybe we were being to extravagant using those on a nightly basis.)  Then, there's the hand painted Christmas set for the holidays, the champagne flutes, the acrylic "picnic" set, etc. 

So, this picture represents one stem, out of all my sets.  I have at least 4 (if not 8) of all the glasses shown.  We have them in our cupboard in the kitchen, in our wine "bar," and in the formal hutch... 

I've run out of space to acquire any more...

I'm entering a 12 Step program tomorrow. 

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Flavors of Fall

Although afternoon highs are still in the 90's around here, it is fall.  How do I know that?  Well, for one, the evenings and mornings are cool and brisk and absolutely perfect for patio dinners and long walks.  Other signs of fall around here; spectacular sunsets and fall food favorites!  Honeycrisp apples ( I could do a whole post on these), pumpkin, cranberries, winter squash, and pomegranates.   Oh, and we are so backwards here in Arizona, that not only do we not do the time change thing, our Farmer's Market's are just ramping up for the season now.

  So, with all of the spectacular fall bounty, I have been craving a comfy fall flavored meal.  One of my favorites is stuffed acorn squash.  This is a dish that is versatile enough to be a hearty side dish, or add some protein and make it the star of the show.  I chose to add some pork to this and make it a main dish with a few other additions for added "fall flavor." 

I started with an acorn squash, halved, and seeds scooped out.  On our way out to walk Chase and catch the sunset, I put the halves on a baking sheet and stuck it in a 400 degree oven.  Perfect, because during the walk, I was able to come up with the combination of ingredients I would use to "stuff it."   Approximately 25 minutes later we returned and the house smelled of wonderful roasted squash.  I made a quick filling of pork, apples, shitake mushrooms, and seasonings.  After filling each squash half I topped with a generous sprinkling of blue cheese and pomegranate seeds. 

Ready to go back in the oven:

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The great thing about a meal like this is the ingredient combinations are endless.  I typically would stuff with a mixture of wild rice and and dried cranberries.  Use whatever fall favorites you have.

 

Pork and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash  (serves 2)

1 acorn squash

1 pork loin chop, cut into pieces

1 small chopped apple (best if it's a nice sweet fall apple like Honeycrisp, McIntosh, etc.)

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup sliced, shitake mushrooms

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

blue cheese to sprinkle on top

1.  Cut acorn squash in half and bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes

2.  On the stove top, saute onion, apple, mushroom and pork, until cooked through

3.  Add the thyme, salt and pepper and maple syrup. 

4.  Stuff the acorn squash with the pork filling and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and blue cheese.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

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I drizzled a little leftover pomegranate molasses/merlot reduction sauce on top - optional and only because there was some in the refrigerator.  (Also, is it just me or do my pomegranate seeds look a little anemic??)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lotus Root

On the never ending quest to try new foods and expand our taste horizons, I picked up some lotus root the last time I was at the Asian Market. 

It turns out that lotus root has a place on honor in the history of Egypt, China and India.  Images of the flower are a symbol of purity, perfection, and beauty.    And, interestingly, all parts of the plant are edible and used in different culinary creations in many Asian countries. 

I decided to try this interesting root in it's simple raw form to get an idea what it was all about.   So last Saturday, I was planning an Asian chicken salad for lunch and thought I'd add some of the lotus root.   Cleaning the skin, then delicately peeling it, the root is ready to be sliced.  I sliced some thin 'discs' of the root and decided it was to pretty and unique to be thrown into the salad, and instead wanted to use it as edible "decoration." 

The texture was very firm, actually hard.  A bit chewy, but in a crunchy way.  I'm not sure I'd buy it for the flavor, because there wasn't a whole lot.  But, it does make a unique addition to the salad doesn't it?

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This was my simple Asian chicken salad.  Basically I take ground chicken, and cook it with about 1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger, a couple teaspoons rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of brown sugar.  It tastes close to the filling for lettuce wraps at PF Chang's.

I put the mixture over a bed of mixed greens, added some broccoli slaw, and bean sprouts.  I also added my favorite non-homemade salad dressing.  Galeos Miso Ginger Wasabi. I usually NEVER buy bottled salad dressings, but seriously, this stuff is my crack!  And, know that it is low fat and made with simple natural ingredients makes it even more virtuous to top off a salad. 

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Let me know what you think of Lotus root if you've ever tried it. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

DogToberfest

Note: This is a guest post by the male side of PawsAndPours.

Its been a while since I did a beer review. A few nights back, one of our friends brought over some Bowser Beer. Now, this friend has known Chase since he was a puppy, so just seeing him is a treat for Chase. But when he brought over an even more special treat, he definitely moved to the top of Chase's "favorite visitors" list.

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I'm sure you are all dying to know....what exactly is Bowser Beer? Its the PawsAndPours way of sharing the pours with Chase. The Bowser Beefy Brown Ale is described on the their web site best:

"Put some party in your animal!! - Dogs are known to love beer and now their owners can treat them to their own festive, delicious brew. Why share when you have a better alternative? Hops and alcohol free, Bowser Beer is made with 100% American-made beef broth (made from real beef, not out of a can) and malt barley (good for their coats). Low in calories and fat, we have now added glucosamine! It’s a party in a bottle! Bowser Beer is a unique gift for the pet who has (almost) everything."

Note that we don't have a special drink bowl for Chase, but he is still anxiously waiting for it...Chase gives it two paws up! (Or is it bowl-licking good?)

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Now that Chase his his drink, time to figure out what I'll have. During a recent trip to Total Wine, I picked up a selection of seasonal beers. It seems that the craft brewers are following along the winemaker trend, and creating catchy labels with off-the-wall names. So of course like any good consumer, I looked for those. Tonight's selection: Dogtoberfest.

Dogtoberfest Marzen is made by Flying Dog Ales. The Dogtoberfest has a deep mahogany color with a caramel finish. Like most Marzen's, it has a malty finish. Not my favorite Marzen of all time, but definitely one that I would get again.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Paws and Pours at the Drive-In

We made it through another summer, and now we are rewarded with absolutely spectacular weather.  The days are sunny and warm, and the evenings are cooler and perfect for patios.  Or drive- ins!    So, this past Friday, we packed up the wine, and the dog and our comfy chairs and took Paws and Pours on the road. 

Here is what we saw on the way out.

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The best part of going to the drive-in instead of a theaters is bringing wine!  (Oh, and the dog.)  We packed a cooler with a bottle of white, and some sandwiches, for a little sustenance to get us through 2 movies.  Here is the first glass, just poured, sitting on the back of the SUV. 

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(Notice the glasses are are the acrylic ones from Crate and Barrel that I had picked up for our beach vacation.)  Turns out they work well for the drive-in as well, with the no-glass rule.

Chase had a great time to.  Not only does the drive-in mean not getting left at home, but he enjoys the attention from other movie goers.  I think he liked the big screen.

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I didn't get a photo of the wine bottle, as we were trying to be a little incognito with that and kept it in the cooler.  We enjoyed the Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling.  Riesling is the wine that got me "into" wine, if you know what I mean.   I rarely drink them anymore, but this dryer version went very well with our picnic food.  (aka sandwiches and chips)  It has that nice fruity aroma, but on the palate is not cloying. 

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We stayed for the second movie and a second glass of vino.  Cheers!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting to drink some great wine

This week I've been a bit absent from blogging due to a district meeting for work.  The week of meetings usually begins with 7:30 am breakfasts, and wraps up around 10:00 pm.  We do planning, product reviews, team building and all that good stuff.  On the last evening (Thursday) this week, my manager had our team over to her house for dinner.  It was a nice change from the dining out we had done most of the week.   Lucky for me, she and her husband are into wine.  OK, that's an understatement, they are into FINE wine.  (For example, they have 4 wine refrigerators in their house.)

So, after a few of us expressed interest in wine, the $25 dollar bottle of red got pushed to the side and Mr. Manager came out with a couple bottles of 2002 Seavey Cabernet.  He told us a little story about how they had visited the winery and went on a little impromtu tour and tasting with the owners.  While he was talking, we were swirling, sniffing, swirling some more.  When he finished talking, it was time to taste.  Wow!  A powerful cab, that had a rich mouthfeel and a lot of tannins.  Mmm... a few minutes later I noticed a little smoke, cocoa and of course, some oak. I asked for a full pour and continued to swirl and taste while waiting for dinner to start. 

 

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  This cab was so delicious and kept getting better through the evening.  Although there were some other spectacular wine brought out, I poured another glass of this and enjoyed the rest of the evening.  This definitely made up for the week of long meeting days! 

I don't think the 2002 is still available, but I can't wait to visit this winery on our next trip to Napa and try some of the more recent vintages. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicken (err Tofu) with Spinach, Pears and Blue Cheese

 

After 2 weeks of traveling, it felt good to be back in the kitchen.   My mom sent back some fresh rainbow chard and herbs from her garden so I while catching up on my favorite blogs this recipe from Joe over at Culinary in the Country, caught my eye.   The combination of the pears and blue cheese sounded like a perfect fall-ish flavor.  And, while it is still in the triple digits here in Arizona, being in the midwest where the nights were in the high low 50's definitely put me in the mood for fall.

Since I already had planned on substituting my mom's chard for the spinach, I didn't mind sub-ing tofu in, since I didn't have any chicken on hand.  I'm glad I did, this was a superb way to make an elegant main dish featuring tofu.  Using tofu, I was able to skip the step of baking and just kept the tofu warm while finish the chard/pears.   Whether you choose tofu or chicken, we thought this dish was a winner.  Scott gave it a solid 9 out of 10.  I concur, as it was also quite easy to prepare. 

 

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The wine for the evening was Dynamic 2006 Red Table Wine form Mendocino.  This is a certified biodynamic blend of merlot (55%), cabernet franc (15%), and cabernet sauvignon (30%.)   We bought a couple bottles of this on a whim while in San Diego.  Glad we did, it's fantastic!  Medium bodied, and velvety soft, it was wonderfully dry, with hints of cherry and chocolate.  It is produced by the Ceago winery and a steal compared to their regular label.  I wish I could find more of it, but upon asking a few local wine shops, it isn't distributed here in AZ. 

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Paso Creek Cab

 

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This past week we have been doing a bit of travel around the midwest.  One of the things I enjoy doing when I travel is seeing what the local wine shops have available.  I find it fascinating to look around and see what distributers and buyers choose to carry, because I always find some treasures that I simply would not be able to get in the Phoenix area.   

We started our trip visiting Scott's parents in Youngstown OH.  Most of the selection there was pretty generic, and something I would find at my local Safeway.  But, on the last evening, we tried a somewhat local wine.   Nittany Mountain White, from Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery in Central Pennslyvania.    This was an off dry blend that we served as an apertif while making dinner for Scott's folks.  Served extra cold, the complexity was not lost, but instead had a lovely bouquet, and was quite refreshing on this warm early evening.  We had it on it's own, but it would be delicious with a spicy Asian dish, or with appetizers like shrimp cocktail.  Don't you just love to go somewhere and find a local wine that's drinkable? 

From, there we flew to Minnesota, but not without a long layover in Philly (thanks to some effects of the hurricanes.)  Fortunately, we spent our time in the US Airways Club which had a few complimentary snacks and more importantly, a bar!  Unfortunately, the best red on the short list was the Yellowtail Cab Reserve.   Well, when traveling and dealing with flights, I look at it as "emergency wine" anyway, so we took it. 

On to the gem of the week...  Paso Creek 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our first night in MN, we hadn't yet had time to hit the local wine shop, so we depended on my dad's collection.  While he has a great cellar in the basement, it is usually very heavy in the French reds and whites.  We were looking for something a little heavier, and noticed this one.  I pulled it out, and thought, eh, if it's not great, we will use it in a reduction.  Well, it was a rather delightful surprise.  This was a big juicy red, with a lot of oak (although not cloyingly so.)  Smooth, with just the right amount of tannins, it had a nice balance.  It's not a Napa Cab, but could easily hold it's own with a much better price tag.  Looking it up, it retailed for approximately $15.99.  I only hope I can find it when I get back to Arizona.  For this price I'll buy a few.  

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Simple Sea Scallops

After a lot of eating out in the past couple of weeks, I was in the mood to make something light and healthy.  We started with a trip to the Phoenix Farmer's Market to see if there was anything inspiring.  Not. so. much.  August in Phoenix is just not conducive to growing much of anything.  BUT, I did find some heirloom tomatoes.  Score! 

Not quite knowing how I would incorporate them into our dinner, I used this recipe that we made a few months ago for inspiration.  Basically, all I did differently was to substitute the heirloom tomatoes for the asparagus.  I also drizzled just a hint of balsamic reduction over the tomatoes.  It was divine!   Even though we've eaten at some of the best restaurants around, we come back to our own little bistro quite often, and can sometimes impress ourselves.  :) 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shrimp Cakes!

In previous posts I've mentioned our obsession with crab cakes.    Well, this weekend, we took that to a whole new level with shrimp cakes!  In this recipe that I based loosely on a Cooking Light recipe and a recipe off of the Whole Foods web site a while back, raw shrimp is combined with some of the usual suspects, mixed up, chilled and then fried.  But what really makes this recipe special is the avocado and corn salsa that you serve with it.  I mean seriously, avocado...roasted corn... jicama... lime juice...what's not to like?   I was eating it by the spoonful before I even started cooking up the cakes.  I think it would be great over grilled fish tacos.   Hmm...maybe that will be something for next weekend.  But, back to the shrimp cakes.  While these were quite tasty, I don't think they will replace crab cakes in our house.  However, with shrimp being half the cost of fresh crab meat, they might show up more often than crab cakes.  :-)  Not a bad substitute. 

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Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn, Jicama and Avocado Salsa

Cakes:

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

cooking spray

¾ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

½ clove shallot, minced

¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 ½ tsp. Hot sauce

½ tsp. Sugar

¼ tsp salt (or more to taste)

1 large egg

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

½ cup panko (divided)

Salsa:

1 cup frozen roasted corn (I used Trader Joes)

½ avocado, diced

½ cup tomato, diced

½ cup jicama, diced

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 Tbsp. Red onion, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Finely chopped poblano pepper

1 Tbsp. Fresh lime juice.

¼ tsp salt

  1. Place shrimp in a food processor; pulse about 10 times or until finely chopped.
  2. Put bell pepper and shallot in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for approx 2 min. or until softened. Add the shrimp, green onions, and the next 6 ingredients – through egg, stirring well. Stir in cilantro and ¼ cup panko.
  3. Divide shrimp mixture into patties and dredge both sides into remaining panko. 
  4. Chill at least 1 hour.
  5. Heat pan over medium- high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add cakes to

Pan and cook 4-5 minutes per side – until browned.

For Salsa: combine corn and remaining ingredients, stir gently and serve immediately with shrimp cakes.

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We served the Crios Torrontes with our meal and it was spectacular. (Unfortunately, so spectacular that I forgot to photograph it.) This white wine from Argentina was the perfect accompaniment to the shrimp cakes. Spicy, light, and just a bit racy it is almost like a hybrid of gewurztraminer and viognier. Muy fantastico!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Andrew Murray Syrah

One of the advantages of having a wine fridge in the kitchen is the accessibility. Not so much how easy it is to get to the wine, but more seeing that there are empty spots in the fridge -- little "homes" calling out for more wine....which is something that I cannot pass up. So I end up buying more wine in a week than Scott and I can safely consume in a month. (Honestly, we could open a wine bar on the inventory we keep.) Luckily, we have friends to help us out on that front.

Now back to my point. The fun part of the inventory stockpile is finding those hidden gems that we forgot we bought, or that we were saving for a special occasion. The other night the special occasion was little more than "let's see what else is in the wine fridge", which was a perfect opportunity to pull out the Andrew Murray 2003 Estate Grown Syrah.

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And what a little gem it was. From the Santa Ynez Valley,with a a rich color and a full bodied feel, this fruit forward syrah was a perfect treat. With a little tannins, it was balanced and luscious. As the Andrew Murray store says, a great value wine that makes for an ideal "house wine". Here's to rediscovering good wines in your own fridge!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pascual Toso Malbec 2005

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I really love a good malbec, but oddly, I don't pick them up all that often.  Add to that, malbecs are not that well represented on wine lists at restaurants.  Most malbecs hail from Argentina and are a great value.  This one was no different.

The Pascual Toso 2005 had a delicious blackberry flavor, with just enough spice and smoke.  I don't like the real smokey wines, but just a slight nuance is perfect.  It was velvety smooth and easy to sip!  Not only that, but the medium structure held up well to the grilled salmon we had that evening.  We're looking forward to having another bottle of this again soon. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

The last of the Farmer's Market

OK, after this I will stop going on and on about those San Diego farmers' markets.  We managed to hit one in the afternoon on our drive back to Phoenix and nab a couple things.  Yes, some may stop and get T-shirts and post cards to remember their trip, while we break for fresh produce (or wine.)  To each his own, right?

A delicacy that we rarely find in the Phoenix area...fresh figs!  Most were consumed in the first few hours of the drive, but the ones that did make it home were a nice snack simply stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic syrup.  HEAVEN!

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Only having a few minutes to pick out a few things (the husband and dog were putting pressure on me to hurry,) I quickly selected more of the baby squash and some heirloom tomatoes.  These provided tasty side dishes for the next couple evenings after we returned home.   The squash and carrots were prepared by simply spraying and tossing with Kosher salt.  We were grilling them, but I put them on this grill pan to keep them from falling through the grates, as they were tinier than this picture makes them appear. 

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End product...

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Since the tomatoes were so flavorful on their own, we stuck with the simple theme.  Sprinkled with feta, and drizzled with some good olive oil and aged balsamic.  A little fresh basil and it is the perfect "sort of" caprese salad.  ( A few squash blossoms thrown in for good measure.)

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It was fun to enjoy the vibrant flavors of fresh produce.  Something that is hard to come by here in the desert in the middle of August.  We are already planning the trip next summer!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More San Diego Fun

A little look at more of what we ate on our week at the beach.

After our second trip to the Farmer's Market, Renee and I were inspired to cook up a nice Sunday night meal, using all fresh, local ingredients.  Even the fish was local and purchased at the Del Mar Farmer's Market! 

We started with a small salad of organic greens with goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, lemon cucumber and a bit of fennel.

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The main dish featured fish packets that had beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh chives, kosher salt and a splash of white wine.  We garnished it with some peach salsa that Scott whipped up with some of the juicy California peaches. 

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Unfortunately, I became to anxious to dig in, and forgot to photograph our side dishes which included grilled fingerling potatoes and grilled baby zucchini and pattypan squashes.  We felt pretty satisfied with our gourmet-ish meal using what was available, not to mention  a not very well-equipped kitchen.

One of the wines we started with (and used in the fish packets) was this unoaked chardonnay.  It is Chilean, and no, I did not have to much to drink, the label really is upside down.  For an inexpensive Chardonnay, we were really impressed.  It had a nice hint of green apple, a touch of citrus, and absolutely no oak.  Very light and refreshing, it was a nice apertif to get the evening started. 

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Here is Chase showing off his new bone while we enjoyed dinner al fresco on the patio.

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