Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's Good about Murphy-Goode?

We heard through the blogging grapevine that one of our grocery stores was having a killer sale on some good wines. Sale + Good wine = trip down to our local Safeway to check it all out. Turns out that the grapevine was right -- Murphy-Goode Cab was on a good sale.

While the thought of instant gratification crossed our minds, we decided to save the bottle for a bit, which means we didn't open it for a couple of nights. What to pair with our steak tonight? Why the Murphy-Goode 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon of course!

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What sounded like a pure varietal turned out to be a blend: 91% Cab, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, and 1% Malbec. The wine has flavors of black cherry, with a a smooth velvety finish reminiscent of vanilla. As the Murphy-Goode web site says: "the 'king of varietals', Cabernet is a wine that always pairs well with one word - meat. Any kind. Apologies to vegetarians." The Cab was very good, but not great. We enjoyed it, but were glad we picked it up on sale. But maybe next time we need to age it more than a few days...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mudslide Pie

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In honor of National Ice Cream Day,(which is July 20th for all of you that missed it,) we decided to celebrate with an ice cream pie.  Ice cream pies are the perfect dessert for me to make, because although I have a huge sweet tooth, I don't enjoy baking.  Oh, I will occasionally bake some cookies, or a banana bread, but it's not a process I enjoy.  There is simply to much chemistry to it.  So, other than my other speciality (Rice Krispie treats), I have another in my repertoire. 

This recipe is a variation of a Grasshopper Pie that was in Cooking Light many years ago.  I had made it often and decided to start playing around with the top layer of flavor to do something other than mint.  I call this Mudslide Pie because it reminds of those yummy mudslide drinks.  Either way, it is the perfect dessert for the warm July evenings and a great way to celebrate National Ice Cream Day! 

MUDSLIDE PIE

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

3 Tbsp. butter

Mix the butter and crumbs until moist.  Press firmly into a 9 in. spring form pan.  Chill in freezer until hardened.

3 cups light vanilla ice cream, softened

1 jar marshmallow cream

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tub light or fat free cool whip

1 1/2 Tbsp. cream de cocoa

2 Tbsp Kahlua

In a medium microwave safe bowl, combine marshmallow cream and milk.  Microwave on high 1 minute, stirring once.  Fold in cool whip to marshmallow mixture.  Add the liquor and blend well. 

Spread softened ice cream over the cookie crust.  Top with the marshmallow/cool whip mixture and freeze for at least 6 hours - or until firm. 

ENJOY

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Veggie Night

At least once a week we try to do a vegetarian night. Sometimes it coincides with pizza night, as many of our homemade pizzas are all veggie, and other times we do something creative with tofu and lots of great fresh vegetables. Made from soybeans, tofu is a great protein food to add as a stand in for the typical meat main dish. A light, healthy meal that is a great way to detox after a weekend of indulging. (In fact, it is so healthy and virtuous, it affords you an extra glass of wine.) Tofu itself really does not have much flavor. But, that's part of the beauty, it can be seasoned/marinaded to whatever you so desire. As with everything, I tend to go with Asian flavors as my first thought. Many times doing a soy sauce or stir fry marinade. Tonight was something with a tropical flair. I had a cup of orange juice left in the refrigerator, so to use that up, I combined it with with a few chunks of fresh mango, coconut rum (yum!) fresh grated ginger and a dash of soy sauce. I let it marinate for about 6 hours, before we grilled it. Luckily I reserved the marinade and reduced it, as it made a delicious finishing sauce.

We tried a new grain with this dish...amaranth. This whole grain reminded me a lot of polenta or grits as it had a similar texture. I didn't add anything to it, and next time I think I'd stir in a little parmesan or goat cheese to spruce it up. A few pieces of grilled squash and eggplant on the side round out "veggie night."

We had a disappointing Pinot Grigio with this that I'd rather not talk about, but I did take the extra glass none the less. ;)

Tropical Tofu

1 lb extra firm tofu

1 cup orange juice

2/3 cup coconut rum

1/4 fresh mango (pineapple would be great as well), chopped finely

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced

Cut, the tofu into approximately 6 rectangles. Mix the rest of the ingredients and add tofu to marinade. Marinade 6-8 hours, or overnight. (the longer it marinates the better flavor you will get.)

Grill or broil, reserving marinade to reduce and use as a finishing sauce.

UPDATE on FOOT/ANKLE

Here are the photos 9 days after the sprain and fracture. Still hobbling around enough to cook!IMG_1537

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Chase Enjoys Sundays

A couple of weeks ago, we took a Sunday drive up north to the lake.  Chase needed some exercise, and it's to hot in Phoenix to run or play frisbee.  IMG_1220

Swimming to fetch is something this dog can literally do for hours.  Chase had a ball swimming and then shaking off his water on us. 

 

Once home, he had a to relax with his favorite "pour" in the background...refrigerated tap water! 

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Not long after drying off from his post-lake-swim-bath, did we find him resting up...on our bed!

 

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Obviously, we don't have kids yet...so the dog is SPOILED! 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Different Kind of Lettuce Wrap

A few weeks ago, I had lunch at Fez, in downtown Phoenix.  Such yummy decisions to be made on this fusion Mediterranean style menu.  After some deliberation, my dining companion and I decided to get the Fez Lettuce Wraps and one of the kisras. 

Both of these were amazing, and both my dining companion and I were mentally taking notes, as to  how we might prepare those lettuce wraps at home.  We loved the addition of dates, which gave a nice sweet surprise.

  Well, that was a few weeks ago, and I kind of forgot about it...that is until this past weekend.  I needed an appetizer to bring to a dinner party and originally had something else planned.  But, after noticing some chicken breasts in the refrigerator that  needed to be used ASAP, it immediately came to me.  FEZ. Lettuce. Wraps.  Done! 

I played with a the pomegranate molasses and a few other things to get just the right taste of the pomegranate vinaigrette.  Mmmm...just as I remember it to be, tangy, with a hint of sweet.  Perfect! 

Romaine leaves are used rather than iceberg.  I like the difference, as I think it creates a prettier presentation, and easier "wrap," and slightly better nutrition.  I didn't feel like running out to the store, so I substituted a dried fruit mixture that I had in the pantry for the dried pears and cherries.   I always have dates on hand, so they were added in as  well.  Although, I do want to make these again and try the pear/cherry fruits. 

Thanks to Scott for grilling the chicken breasts for me.  I forgot to mention, I sprained my ankle and fractured my foot earlier that day.  We made the appetizer in between spending time in Urgent Care.   This is a Public Service Announcement;  exercise is bad for you.  :)

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FEZ LETTUCE WRAPS

1 – ½ cup grilled chicken, diced

½ cup jicama, diced

1/2 cup dried fruit trail mix (or dried pears and cherries)

½ cup (8-10 dates) slivered

sliced almonds

1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce

Pomegranate vinaigrette

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp. Red wine vinaigrette

1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. Honey, or more – to taste

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix chicken ingredients together and add ½ of the vinaigrette. Stir to combine. Lay out romaine lettuce leaves over plate. Add chicken mixture and leave extra at bottom of leaves. Cover with slivered almonds and drizzle remaining vinaigrette.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday Dinner

No matter how busy the week gets, one thing I usually keep routine, is cooking on Sunday.  Sunday is not a night for leftovers, or frozen pizza, or a Sandra Lee recipe.  No, it is a night where the meal and wine are planned ahead, and depending on my mood, a homemade dessert is also made. 

This past Sunday, we decided to try a recipe my friend Renee has been raving about.  I love pork tenderloin, and it seems I haven't made it nearly enough lately.  So, when I finished making homemade chocolate chip cookies, I whipped up the simple 3 ingredient marinade.  Threw the pork and marinade in a large ziplock freezer bag and headed out to run errands. 

Narrowly missing the quick monsoon that hit the valley on the way home, we waited out the rain with a glass of red, and a good book .  Mmm...love Sunday afternoons as much as Sunday dinners!

After the storm hoopla had died down, we started the grill.  While the pork and veggies were cooking, I whipped up the mustard sauce.  (And, if you must know, had another glass of red. ;)

Scott carried in the contents from the grill, just as I was finishing my last sip. Perfect timing.  Oh, and look, perfect pork!

 

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I finished mashing the potatoes, while Scott sliced the pork.  This was the juiciest tenderloin I've ever had.  Kudos to the grill master.

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With the addition of the mustard sauce...

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Now, I must say, when I have my expectations high after lots of great reviews, whether it's movies, recipes, restaurants, or wine,I am sometimes disappointed.  I was wondering if this would really live up to the hype. 

The verdict...

Spectacular!  We both thought this dish was worthy of being in our top 3 pork tenderloin recipes.  It was a cinch to prepare, perfect for entertaining or summer  BBQ's. 

 

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH MUSTARD SAUCE  (? original source?)

1 (2-3 lb) pork tenderloin

1/4 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. bourbon

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Place the pork in a glass or pyrex dish.  (I put in a large ziplock.)  Combine the soy, bourbon, and brown sugar and pour over pork.  Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.  Return to room temperature and place on a rack in a shallow pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour or grill, basting frequently with the marinade.  Slice and serve with the mustard sauce.

Sauce:

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 T. Dry mustard

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar

S & P to taste

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Willamette Valley

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We jump at any chance we get to escape the heat of summers in Phoenix. After nearly 3 weeks of 110+ degree highs, spending the 4th of July weekend in the Pacific Northwest sounded like a perfect escape. What better way to add to the enjoyment than to add some vineyard tours to the mix? After spending much of the weekend with friends in Seattle, a single stellar bottle of wine had us nearly convinced to check out the wine country in eastern Washington state. However, we decided to stick with our original plan of visiting Oregon wine country.

We knew there were a lot of vineyards in Oregon (and specifically in Willamette Valley), but didn't realize just how many there are (see OregonWineCountry.org for a map). So many choices, so much wine, so little time...the biggest decision seemed to be what vineyards to visit.

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First up, we knew we wanted to check out Adelsheim, one of our favorites from Oregon (blogged here). Adelsheim is located at the base of the Chehalem Mountains just to the southwest of Portland. The tastings were great, all from a selection of the various Pinot Noirs and Estate Pinot Noirs. Our favorite is still intact -- the plain vanilla Adelsheim.

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With the late start on the tours (after driving down from Seattle), we settled for vineyards that were nearby. Next up was the adorable ArborBrook Vineyards. A relatively new vineyard (first planting in 2001), the tasting consisted of a duet of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The 2007 Ana Vineyard Pinot Gris had a good hint of citrus with a soft texture and a clean finish. The 2007 Oregon Pinot Gris was very similar, however with 100% stainless steel aging this one was cleaner still, with no hint of oak.

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Now onto the reds: The 2007 Pinot Noir Estate 777 Block has a great black cherry and currant nose, with a velvety finish. Finally, the 2006 Vinter's Select Estate Pinot Noir had a similar taste and texture, with a touch more smoothness and a richer fruit taste. All were very good -- the vineyard has some great character, and Dave- the owner's willingness to talk about wine and the area (and make some recommendations) was very worthwhile.

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With a few of the recommendations already closed for the day (Dave said most would already be sampling their wines), our choices were somewhat limited. But we managed to find Aramenta Cellars, another boutique vineyard in the valley. The same family has owned this land since the turn of the century, originally growing nuts and fruits and turning parts of the land to vineyards in the early 2000s.

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As we pulled up the drive, one of the owners (and her grandson aka "the next generation") came out to greet us. Aramenta has working tasting room, with barrels of wine being aged before your eyes.

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Our tasting consisted of 3 wines: the 2006 Chardonnay; the 2005 Pinot Noir, and the 2006 Pinot Noir. The best way to describe these is that the vineyard had character, while the wines did not. Wine is an art -- sometimes the mastery of viticulture is very different than simply being able to grow grapes. But regardless, we had a good time.

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That finished up our quick tour of the Willamette Valley. We know we'll be back for more when we next get a chance!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Enjoying Willamette Valley

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Sorry, no real post.  We are still enjoying the long holiday weekend in the Pacific Northwest.   Looking forward to blogging about some of the great wines, and fantastic food we've enjoyed.