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?