“…nothing in life is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”

You’ve gotta love Julia Child.  What a character she was – not only in the kitchen, but also in life.  I can very much relate to this quote of hers in My Life in France.  This week, everything took a turn for the best.  I was a crazy-woman this week.  We drove from PA to VT on Monday, moved stuff from the condo into the car and then to B+S’s that evening.  Then came Tuesday when I unpacked and reorganized the kitchen.  Tuesday night we celebrated Brittney’s 23rd birthday with Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells served with Garlic Bread and a Tossed Salad with a Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert.



Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells (adapted from myrecipes.com)

  • 24 Jumbo Shells
  • 15-oz. container ricotta
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach (chopped)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 26-oz. pasta sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F
  2. Cook the shells according to the package.  Then drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. While the shells are cooking, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, egg and all spices.
  4. Spread sauce to just cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  5. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture.  One heaping T per shell.   
  6. Set the stuffed shells in the pan.  Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with remaining cheese. 
  7. Cover the pan with foil and cook for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for 1o more minutes. 
  8. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes and serve. 

TIPS:

– This recipe can easily be made gluten free by purchasing gluten free shells.  I couldn’t find GF large shells, so I used GF lasagna noodles, spread the cheese mixture over the noodles, topped with additional Parmesan, a second layer of noodles, more sauce, then mozzarella on top.  Fantastic!


Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Add the water to a sauce pan on medium heat. 
  3. Add the sugar and salt to the simmering water.
  4. Whisk constantly until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely in the water.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Using a double boiler (I use a glass bowl set atop a sauce pan), melt the chocolate. 
  7. Once melted, remove from heat.
  8. Add the butter in pieces to the chocolate, using a hand mixer to blend the chocolate and butter together. 
  9. Beat the eggs together, then add to the chocolate mixture.
  10. Add the sugar water to the chocolate and mix.
  11. Pour the batter into a greased 9 X 9 pan.  
  12. Place the pan into a bath of boiling water (one pan set in a second pan that is filled with about 1″ of boiling water).
  13. Bake in the water bath for 45 minutes.  The top will still look wet.
  14. Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes and then refrigerate overnight. 

I only helped to create this birthday meal.  The real credit goes to Spenser and the Birthday Girl.  Spenser found these delicious recipes and worked with Brittney to create them.  The pasta was great and the cake to-die-for.  We even ate the cake warm (we couldn’t wait until the morning) and it was delicious served with vanilla bean ice-cream.   So simply, yet so complex.

The next night was my turn for meals.  The sunshine inspired a grilling session, so Honey Maple Chicken and Roasted Potatoes found their way to our plates.


Honey Maple Marinated Chicken

  • 2 T Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 t ground pepper
  • 3 splashes apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken thighs or breast
  1. Mix together the mustard, maple syrup, pepper, vinegar, and oil. 
  2. Pour  over chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours
  4. Grill chicken, turning only once until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.


Maple Garlic Roasted Potatoes

  • 4 medium red potatoes, quartered, then cut crosswise into 1″ cubes
  • 3 gloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 1 T Oil (vegetable, canola, or olive)
  • 1/2 t McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning
  • 1/2 t Seasoning salt
  • 1 t coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 t sea salt
  • Two 14″ long sections of tin foil
  1. Cut the potatoes, garlic, and onions.  Toss together.
  2. Add the oil.  Toss to coat completely.
  3. Sprinkle on each of the 4 seasonings. 
  4. Toss once more.
  5. Divide into 2 and place each half on the tinfoil sections. 
  6. Wrap the foil to enclose the potatoes.
  7. Place foil on grill and cook until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes on medium-high grill heat).  

I served the grilled chicken with the potatoes and steamed green beans.  The maple flavor was present, but not overpowering.  The potatoes were so soft and tender; they melted away in your mouth.  This is one of my first meal creations that wasn’t adapted from  other recipes or that followed a cookbook.   Try it out and let me know what you think!

With two great meals in a row, it’s hard to imagine a third dinner turning out equally spectacular, but low and behold, it happened. Brittney suggested a recipe she learned of through Eating Well Magazine.  Sesame- Ginger Pork Patty.  She chose to modify it to her own liking and used turkey burger and a spinach salad with edamame instead.



Sesame-Ginger Bunless Burger

  • 3 T GF soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 4 pineapple rings (if grilling) or a can of chunks (if using a George Foreman-like grill indoors)
  • 1 lb turkey burger
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bag of edamame (enough to serve 4)
  1. Mix together the soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and 1 t sesame oil.
  2. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the ground turkey. Mix until the meat is moisten (don’t over-mix).
  3. Form the meat into 4 patties.
  4. Grill the patties.
  5. While the patties cook, add the rice vinegar and remaining 1 t sesame oil to the leftover soy sauce mixture. 
  6. Add the pineapple rings to the grill -brown on each side. 
  7. Place a handful of spinach on each place.  Place one pineapple ring or several chunks on top of the spinach.  Place the grilled burger on top.  Spoon 1/4 of the sauce over each burger. 
  8. Serve with a side of edamame. 

I was happily surprised by how tasty these burgers were. The sauce seemed so scant I expected the burgers to be nearly flavorless and bland.  I was proven wrong.  They were oozing with flavor.  The pineapple nicely complements the dish.  I generally can’t stand pineapple, but I gobbled them up with this burger.  We are definitely adding this to our dinner repertoire.

So there you are, 5 recipes that will successfully feed a family of four for three consecutive evenings and for many lunches in between.  They are each succulent, flavorful, and nutritious (ok, maybe not the cake… at least it’s got some antioxidants, right?).  Each meal is fairly simple – easy enough for the working parent to whip up.  The results, however, are far more complex and will have your kids, significant others, friends, and coworkers raving about your kitchen skills and asking for more.

I promise you they’ll turn out like they should, and when they do, you’ll realize it really wasn’t much trouble at all.

Adding “Sustainable” to Our Biographies

We’re still in the process of moving.  Life’s hectic.  Our “stuff” is everywhere – the car, the condo, the boxes, the bags, the bedroom – just everywhere.  What does that mean for you?  1) Limited posts as I try to unpack, organize, clean, and complete hw assignments.  2) No photos.  I have my camera.  I do not have my camera charger.  Dead cameras don’t take great pictures.  3) No Wednesday Wines this week once again.  Wine costs money.  Money I have not.  So wine I do not have.

But wait! Before you wander off, sad and depressed with my lack of photos, posts, and wine updates, you might be interested in learning about some major changes we’re making to our living arrangements.

Dustin and I have made the decision to move in with our dear friend Brittney and her fantastic boyfriend, Spenser (he’s my cousin, too!).  Now, if any of you know Brittney, you know that she LOVES being in the kitchen.  She has many wonderful cooking plans and makes delicious, hearty meals.  We recently discussed how we both have grandiose plans that are never carried out.  We blame this on our living situations – it’s so hard to make big meals and fabulous desserts when you’re a family of 2.  But the tides are turning.  No longer are we 2 families of 2, but a family of 4 (and 5 actually, since Brittney’s brother lives with her as well)!  What does this mean??

Cooking! Lots and lots of cooking.  We have ideas up the wazoo, and they’reactually going to happen.  Here is a list of ideas we’ve recently talked about:

  1. Healthy, hearty meals, every night of the week.  We’re talking Braised Whole Chicken w/ Stuffing and Pureed Vegetable Sauce, served with Sauteed Garlic Asparagus and Herb Potato Gnocchi; Roasted Halibut w/ Potatoes, Lemon, and Thyme served atop a bed of greens; Grilled Porter-soaked Short Ribs w/ a Maple-Rosemary Glaze served with a Quinoa and Brown Rice blend and Sauteed Green Beans w/ almonds.
  2. Creating a sustainable household.  What does that mean?  Limiting our use of electricity, hanging laundry out to dry, leaving the lights off during the day; using mason jars to store our goods and bringing our own bags and jars to the grocery store; growing our own vegetables; purchasing locally raised, grass fed beef and free-range chicken, cage-free eggs from local farmers, and crops we can’t grow from farmer’s markets.  These are the things we can easily do to limit our impact on the environment, so we’re going to make the effort to actually do them.  You should do your part too!
  3. Growing our own produce and herbs- tomatoes, potatoes, corn, lettuce, carrots, onions, radishes, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, basil, thyme, and rosemary.
  4. Making our own foods that could easily be store bought – tomato sauce, salsa, pesto, corn tortillas, bread, cookies, cereals, soups, and stock.  These lists are certainly not all-inclusive.
  5. Limiting our trash.  Have you ever heard of trash free living?  Check it out.  While we know going completely trash-free is nearly impossible, we do want to limit the number of trash bags that we fill.  You might be wondering how one goes about decreasing the amount of trash produced.  Here’s what we’re thinking of doing:
  • Buying bulk foods- not BJ’s kind of bulk, rather co-op bulk… almonds, cashews, peanuts, granola, oats, flours, baking soda/powder, beans, pastas, etc.  You can purchase the amount you need, rather than buying two, three, or four boxes/bags/cans of needed items.
  • Using our own mason jars to collect the bulk items.  Many of the natural food stores around will tare jars and bags that you bring in so that they may be used to transport dry goods back to your home.  This eliminates the plastic bags used to purchase items from bulk bins, as well as the plastic, cardboard, metals, and resins used to package canned and bagged goods on the shelf.
  • Bringing our own cloth bags to the store – many grocery stores even give you bag discounts if you bring your own.  3 cents off per bag is an easy way to save a few pennies here and there.
  • Bringing reusable coffee mugs to the coffee shop – this could be gas stations, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Bruegger’s, the grocery store.  Think about it: one cup of coffee / day at the gas station on the way to work means approximately 250 cups, lids, and straws (if applicable) thrown out every year on your behalf.  With a reusable mug?  Zero cups, lids, and maybe 250 straws.  Eliminating the straws? Zero cups, zero lids, zero straws = zero waste.  Yes, you will still have your sugar packet scraps if you use them.  But! The packets are paper and can be recycled.  Don’t just throw them in the trash! Recycle them!
  • Going without – do we really need soda?  Absolutely not.  If we do, we don’t need 12 aluminum filled cans of the stuff, that’s for sure.  Maybe we want a root beer float.  Sounds delicious.  We’ll go out and purchase some good old-fashioned, glass-bottled IBC or some locally brewed Vermont Root Beer.  These beverages are packed in glass bottles that can be recycled or reused as flower vases or craft projects, with labels made of paper that can be recycled.  There are some goods that we may just go without.  Oreo cookies packaged in plastic trays wrapped in more plastic?  We’ll pass.  We may just go without Doritos and Lays.  Is this really a big deal? Nope.  Think about how many calories and preservatives you’re protecting yourself from.
  • Shopping at farmer’s markets.  You can purchase so many great items from these events – fruits, vegetables, meats, soaps, baked goods, honey, syrup, greeting cards, crafts and the list goes on.   Why not support your local honey maker, rather than the guy from Illinois whose bottle was shipped across the country to arrive in your local store, and then your kitchen.  Chances are, the individual selling the honey at the market is the beekeeper herself.  So not only do you know that the honey was produced just down the road, you can actually speak to the woman who collected it, packaged it and who is now selling it to you.
  • Composting.  We will soon begin collecting our food scraps (except meat – you don’t want to be composting rotting meat) and then composting them in a bin in the backyard.  With a charcoal filter compost pail for the kitchen, the stink stays in the bucket and not the air.

Of course there are things we’ll keep on doing, even though we probably shouldn’t.  I really enjoy the convenience of K-Cups.  But talk about wasteful! Nothing is recyclable… not the plastic, not the foil film.  I do hope that soon Green Mountain will change their production ways.  The Vue cups are already one step ahead, with a part recyclable cup.  I only just purchased my Keurig, though, and can not yet afford a new Vue Machine.  Please GMCR, make K-cups more environmentally friendly very soon!

On the topic of sustainability, there’s one more thing I’d like to throw out there that I just got wind of: Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging program.  Amazon is working with manufacturers to eliminate the additional packaging that comes with products… think all the plastic ties holding the item to the cardboard and the impossible to open plastic casing – gone!  Well, Amazon’s helping make that happen.  Not only does this eliminate the frustration customers experience trying to get into the packages, but also eliminates the additional materials used to get the items from the factory to you.  Neat!

Earth’s resources are limited and we’re doing our part to help make them last longer.  My goal for you: try to take one of these ideas – any one, it’s up to you – and implement it into your life.  Maybe you’ll use a reusable mug once a week.  Maybe you’ll stick bags in your car to use at the grocery store when you remember them. Any step in a sustainable direction is a good step forward.

Wednesday Wines…on Thursday?

I know, I know… I neglected to post a new wine last week.  Please forgive me.  With one already missed, I HAD to post this week.  I was so eager to.  We opened up a new bottle last night, sat down to taste it, take notes on it, and then enjoy it together.  I had my computer open to the blog page with the notes sitting right there in front of it.  Then, of course, I got distracted.  And tipsy.  The bottle was empty, it was after midnight and I was getting sleeping.  So, clearly, Wednesday Wines was postponed once again.  I sincerely apologize.  But! I am here, writing about Wednesday Wines on Thursday for your enjoyment.  So please read on and learn about one delicious wine we were lucky to try.

Gascon

Type: Malbec

Vintage: 2010

This wine was gifted to Dustin as a graduation present.  What a great pick.  Wine is always a gift-able product.

What did we think of the wine?

First thoughts: Smooth.  Mellow, but tasty.  Awesome.

Full-bodied without harsh tannins.

Light on the nose – scents of fruit, rather than the oak we’re used to.

Tastes of berries and subtle hints of cherry.

Cherry lingers for a while on the tongue.

Final thoughts:  A really nice wine.  Very easy to drink.  Lots of flavor, full-bodied mouth-feel, but mellow sensations on the back of the throat.  We will definitely be trying this one again.

You can read more about Gascon’s Malbec here.

If you’re grilling up some tasty red meat or having a pasta party anytime soon, I suggest you try out this wine.

I will try very, very hard for a Wednesday Wine next week.  Really.  I will start posting these things on time.

Until then, godetevi il vostro vino!

Springtime Beauty

What events mark the movement into Spring for you?

Sitting here today, I am reminded of the season by the bird families nested in the trees beyond the window, chirping songs back and forth.  So pretty.  The fields of dandelions scattered along VT’s Route 2 are hard to beat as far as memories of Spring.  The fields become overwhelmingly yellow, a welcome change, however from the mud brown the melted snow leaves behind.  With the last few rain showers, the trees have blossomed and the flowers bloomed.  The area has brightened incredibly.  Today I am reminded of the beauty Spring is capable of.

What does one enjoy on a lovely Spring afternoon?  Well, a fruit smoothie of course! I rarely make smoothies.  Why?

  1. There’s rarely fruit in the house other than apples and bananas and frankly, I don’t enjoy apples or bananas in my fruit drinks.
  2. My blender is wonderful, but huge.  Cleaning the monstrosity takes much more effort than I’m usually willing to put in to a smoothie.
  3. I really enjoy picking up smoothies made by others – at the Co-op, the mall, the farmer’s market – they’re delicious without the hassle.

But, today I had fruit.  Dustin graduated college this past weekend (Yay, Dustin!) and of course, a party followed.  What will you find at my parties?  Fruits and vegetables.  I am a nutrition major after all.  I had hollowed out a watermelon for a certain adult cocktail and had half a watermelon worth of fruit scraps.  I couldn’t serve the watermelon that came out of the bowl in the shape it was in (I basically tore it out with my hands and a fork).  What are you supposed to do with a bunch of scraggly looking watermelon pieces?  I froze them.  I also froze the leftover strawberries and raspberries.

We’re in the process of moving, so post-graduation we packed up our bags and all the perishable foods in the house  and headed to my friend Brittney’s for the week.  Today I discovered that Brittney has a  Bella Cucina blender that very much resembles a Magic Bullet (we’re talking blenders here).  Hmmm…. frozen fruit and a small, manageable blender.  Guess what comes next?

A mix of watermelon, strawberries, blueberries and raspberry, blended together with cranberry juice and flax seed.  Delish.


Super Fruit Smoothie*

  • 1/4 cup frozen watermelon chunks
  • 2 large frozen strawberries
  • a handful of frozen blueberries
  • a few frozen raspberries
  • 1 T ground flax seed
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice
  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender. 
  2. Blend until smooth.

* all measurements are approximate

Tips:

  • Fresh fruit may be substituted for any frozen fruit, but will result in a more liquid smoothie
  • This smoothie came out VERY thick, so more juice may be desired
  • Any fruit juice can be substituted for the cranberry juice – try what you like!

With Spring here, and summer very near, I’m making it a goal to blend up smoothies more often.  Like this one, they’re generally simple, healthy, and delicious.  Too good to ignore.

If you read through the recipe, you’ll notice I used flax seed.  I’ve never used flax seed in any of my meals before so I was unsure what to expect.  The seed provided texture, substance, and flavor.  One tablespoon worked perfectly.  The smoothie acquired a bit of a fibrous flavor, but wasn’t gritty.  Overall, a success addition. 

What out-of-the-ordinary ingredients do you add to your smoothies?

Winnie-the-Pooh and Maple too!

As a little kid, I LOVED Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends, especially Eeyore.  In fact, I still love them. Today, I’m sharing Pooh with you because he’s a cheerful guy.  On a gloomy, drizzly, gray day, I felt everyone could use a spark of cheer.  If it’s sunny where you’re at, I hope Pooh can still bring a smile to you.  As I sit here wrapped in a sleeping bag, coffee in hand, he certainly got a giggle out of me.

Now that you’re smiling and we’re on a happier note, I want to apologize for my lack of entries last week.  What a hectic week – homework, graduation, parties, chores, house-hunting, and the list goes on.  I was a caffeine-filled, crazy woman, running around with my head cut off.  I had so many post ideas, and even started typing on several occasions, only to be drawn away by the hands of time.  So forgive me if today my post is sporadic, chaotic, and just plain all over the place.  There are so many things I want to say crammed into my head and they’re all coming out in one big mess.

For starters, I really want to talk with you about maple syrup.  Vermonters pride themselves on the sweet treat just as they pride themselves of the mighty maples responsible for bearing the delicacy. If you’ve never experienced real Vermont-made maple syrup, shame on you. The “Vermont Maid” stuff in the grocery store? No way. That stuff does not even compare to the real deal. Trust me, you’ve gotta try the real stuff. As a student, funds are minimal, so real syrup rarely makes its way into the house. This year, however, we hit the jackpot.

This year, my brother worked at a sugaring operation and sent me a mason jar full of sweet, amber goodness. Thank you god.

But wait!

My grandma then gifted me a bottle of Peterson’s Maple Syrup, a family-run operation that just so happens to be operated by my uncle and his sons.

But there’s more!

I then got a box in the mail filled with maple candies. Woo wee!

I keep telling myself as I pour the syrup into cookies and onto sandwiches and over waffles to use it sparingly. Yeah, right. I can thank my Grampa C. for the candy. Before that package I hadn’t had a maple sugar candy in years, not since the last time I was at The Big E. Boy was it tasty. As soon as the sugar hit your tongue, it melted away back into that pure maple syrup. Who’d have thought that a little tree sap, heat and time could make something so spectacular. Genius.

Talk of my Grampa C. brings up another point of interest.  We have exchanged letters (yes, actual snail-mail, hand-written letters) since I started college. Recently, however, our letters have become more frequent. I love the unexpected letter in the mail. I enjoy writing down my day to day life – what’s new, what’s old, where I plan to be in the future – those sorts of things. It seems every week I’m getting a letter from him – yellow lined paper, folded in three, placed inside a hand decorated envelope.  Soon enough, I’m placing a stamp on my own decorated envelope filled with the stories of my previous week to send back.  Pen pals are totally worth the effort.

My assignment for you: get yourself a pen pal.  Take out that pen, find yourself some paper, and write to a friend you’ve lost contact with, an aunt you rarely see, a lonely grandparent, or maybe just a note to yourself, one to tuck away for the future. 

I swear you’ll feel refreshed.  You’ll totally make someone’s day when they open up the mailbox to find that unexpected letter.

Go ahead.

Start writing.

 

A Red Pepper Friday

Today is not my day.  I woke up at noon.  I know… what a waste.  Then came breakfast.  What a catastrophe.  I guess I should have known better.  I mean, you can’t have a whole week of good cooking without a slip here or there, right?  Right.  Yesterday I made pancakes for Dustin.  There was leftover batter so I thought, hey, why not make waffles today?  Maybe it was oversleeping, maybe it was the gloomy weather, but for some reason, I chose to just throw the batter on the waffle iron.  Just as it was – pancake batter.  I should have been thinking, “Um, Emily? It’s called pancake batter.  What, you think you can just pour that into the iron and presto! waffles?  I don’t think so!”  No, instead, I was thinking, “I want waffles.  Why white flour?  I should have made gluten-free ones.  *Sigh*”  So, rather than pay attention to the task at hand; rather than think logically; I was selfish.  What happened to these pancakes turned waffles?  Well, the smell was amazing.  Wafting through the house, awakening the senses.  The result?  Terrible.  Rubbery.  Wet in the middle.  Burnt on the outside.  Separated layers.  I drenched them in fresh maple syrup and handed them off to Dustin.  He ate them.  I don’t think he enjoyed them.  To go with the “pan-affles”, I melted some dark chocolate in a pan, and added it to a cup of Keurig brewed hot chocolate.  The only problem?  The Keurig malfunctioned and sent all the chocolate powder into the cup with barely any water.  So I basically had a cup full of chocolate mixed with chocolate powder.  I added water, but the result was a sweet, too sweet warm chocolate.  *Sigh* It’s just not my day in the kitchen.

So rather than dwell on the negative, I want to share with you some FABULOUS foods I made this week!

First off, Thursday breakfast – a mix of potatoes, carrots, onion, bacon and spices.  Delicious.



Emily’s Breakfast Medley

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 carrot 
  • 1/4 onion*
  • 2 slices bacon
  • sea salt
  • pepper**
  1. Add olive oil to pan and heat on medium.
  2. Dice the potatoes (medium to large dice).
  3. Add potatoes to pan.
  4. Slice the carrots. 
  5. Add carrots to pan.
  6. Slice the onion. 
  7. Add the onion to the pan.
  8. Cut bacon into tiny pieces. 
  9. Sprinkle the bacon among other ingredients in pan.
  10. Let cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.  
  11. Stir up the vegetables to allow to cook on all sides. 
  12. Let cook for another 10 minutes untouched.
  13. Stir up again and let cook some more.  
  14. Continue until potatoes are soft (a fork will easily slide through them).*** 
TIPS:
* I used a red onion here.  Vidalia onions work well, however.  You may choose to add more if you like onions, or omit if you don’t!
** I added coarse ground peppercorn.  You may use regular black pepper.  Add red pepper for heat.  
*** A smaller dice will cook faster.   
Add spices or herbs you enjoy – cayenne pepper, garlic salt, thyme, rosemary, etc.
I added pea shoots to the finished product and served in a bowl. 

 Really, any leftover vegetables can be thrown into this dish to create an easy, hearty breakfast.  Try serving with fresh greens – spinach, romaine, mesclun mix, sprouts, etc.  Add some garlic and more onion for added flavor.  Try adding sweet potatoes, yams, celery, or mushrooms.  There are so many ways to easily make this dish your own.  Go ahead, explore!

Earlier in the week – Kung Pao Chicken with peanuts.  This was a recipe adapted from the Kung Pao Chicken recipe in Grace Young’s cookbook, “Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge”.  I know I’m always referring to her book.  You should really check it out.  Before her book, I NEVER ate stir-fry’s.  Now?  They make up dinner at least twice a week, some times more.

We threw together ginger, garlic, red bell pepper, peanuts, scallions, and chicken, mixed with the stir-frying essentials – soy sauce, rice wine, salt, cornstarch, and sesame oil. The balsamic vinegar and sugar addition to this particular stir-fry works wonders.  We always stir-fry with peanut oil.  The flavor is wonderful.  The aroma is even better.  Clearly this would not be the recipe for you if you have peanut allergies.  We’ve found a perfect gluten-free soy sauce to use: San-J Organic Tamari.  Apparently, tamari sauce is the term for wheat-free soy sauce.  Who knew?  The San-J organic Tamari comes in a gold-label, and is inexpensive.  There is also a non-organic version, a low sodium option, an organic low sodium choice, and travel packets available.  Oh how I love the internet.  Information at your fingertips, 24 hours a day.

Red peppers have been gracing many of our dishes lately.  the Kung Pau Chicken, Hoisin Pork with Peppers, and Sichuan Pork with Peppers and Peanuts (once again, Grace Young is to credit for them all).

I do love red peppers.  Much more so than the green ones.  As I was slicing through this pepper to prepare the Hoisin Pork, I was taken aback by the beauty the red pepper holds inside.  I wish I was a photographer, with one of those oversized, “I take perfect pictures”, cameras. I would have captured that intimate moment to share with you .  The rich, deep reds; the glossy finish; the smooth, but textured surface – I felt as if I had sliced a masterpiece in two, a work of art now laying in pieces upon my workspace.  I grew an even greater appreciation for the fruits of the earth, the items we take for granted, the things that fuel us and fill us.

With art and food in mind, I will leave you today with the words of British celebrity chef, Keith Floyd:

Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.

 Ciao! 

Wine, Oh Wine, You’re So Divine

I love wine.  Real wine.  Not box wine.  Mostly red wine.

Maybe it’s my Italian genes.  Maybe it’s the mouthfeel of a full-bodied merlot.

Whatever the case may be, I love wine.

So, to honor the beloved drink, I am starting a wine post – Wednesday Wines.  Today marks the first post of my weekly wine review.

This is a joint review, boasting opinions from myself as well as from Dustin, my partner in crime.

What wine is on review today?

The Frenchhouse

Type: Syrah

Vintage: 2008

We (Dustin and I), buy our wine at the local Shaw’s.  I’m not a fan of Shaw’s, but they do have a good wine selection, surprisingly.  The wines that have earned Wine Spectator points and other distinguished awards are tagged with the points earned and award won.  We tend to purchase these wines.  When we’re looking to splurge on a bottle (splurge = greater than $15), we’ll buy the top shelf bottles with vintage 2005 to 2007.  2007’s under $20 are hard to find these days.

What drew us to the Frenchhouse Syrah?  The 85 point Wine Spectator tag.  The vintage 2008 earned 85 points and Silver Medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition.

What did we think of the wine?

First thoughts: Smooth.  Very smooth.

Medium-bodied, full mouthfeel without the harsh notes at the back of the throat.

Hints of herbs.  Slightly peppery.

Bottle says “notes of currant, dark chocolate and wild herbs…”  I’m not so good at picking out individual flavors yet.  I did taste raspberry flavors (stemming from the currant?).

Final thoughts: An excellent choice.  A great hanging out wine (not so sure I should be admitting that I hang out with wine).   A perfect wine for cheese.

You can read more about the Frenchhouse Syrah here.

Be on the lookout for Wednesday Wines next Wednesday, May 2.

Until then, godetevi il vostro vino (enjoy your wine)!

Ciao!