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Be a wine pro (or how to fake it)

Let me start this off with a little good news/bad news. The bad news is, no how-to article will teach you how to be a wine pro. The good news is, the only way to talk about wine & sound like you have a clue is to: 

1. DRINK MORE WINE. 

It is 100% true that whenever I taste a new wine I learn something. It can be anything from a new combination of flavors that I love, to ‘Oh wow, this wine compliments what I’m eating so well.’, to ‘OMG, I definitely never want to drink this again.’ 

You can read books about wine, and flavor profiles of different wines. A simple Pinterest search will bring you an info graphic that tells you that the flavor profile of a particular Cabernet has red currant notes with some tobacco on the back, along with a leathery mouthfeel. I’m here to tell you that the light will not go on until one day you experience that leathery mouthfeel. The bottom line: it doesn’t take a lot of work. Just drink. 

2. Listen to the guy at the store.

This tip will usually work if you’re buying your wine at a reputable place. In general, most serious wine drinkers will love to tell you about their favorites, recent finds, and what they would drink with certain meals. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for (i.e. a wine to go with some steaks I’m grilling, a good wine to take on a picnic) they will generally steer you in the right direction. Example: one summer I walked into my local spot looking for a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (if you’re looking for a refreshing summer wine, this is a great choice). My spot had 6 of them; so I asked the guy which one he would recommend. Without hesitation, he recommended Kim Crawford. I told him if it was terrible, I would be back to give him a piece of my mind. He laughed & told me I wouldn’t be. He was right. It was excellent & Kim still holds a spot in my summer wine rotation. 

3. Experiment 

Try different wines with different foods. It’s fun, and every once in awhile you will have a ‘there’s a party in my mouth’ moment. And it will be glorious. Many wineries and higher-end shops will offer hands-on events where they pair their wines with different foods. I once hosted one with aphrodisiacs that was outside the box, but a fun way to spend an evening.

4. Don’t follow the rules.

Are there “rules” for wine? Sure. But much like ‘don’t wear white pants after Labor Day’ you don’t have to follow them. Drink what you like. If you only like sweet white wine, then drink it with your steak if that’s what makes you happy. If you want to put a couple of ice cubes in your Chardonnay, ignore the side-eye and do it. Don’t like room temperature red wine? Chill that puppy in the fridge for a bit. 

For more wine, food, and snark follow my Pinterest feed! 

Bomb-Ass Kale

The last year has been a roller-coaster for me; I spent a year managing a chain restaurant. Long shifts and late nights aren’t really condusive to blogging & playing in the kitchen, so things I love doing fell by the wayside for awhile. 

Recently, I found myself in a new gig. It’s an unconventional gig, but many things I do tend to be a bit unconventional. I’m running kitchens for a convent & nursing home for nuns. No, seriously. It comes with a whole new set of challenges, but has some cool perks as well, one of which is a fantastic veggie & herb garden tended by the nuns. Recently, I’ve found myself with a lot of cabbage, kohlrabi, and KALE on my hands. 

A lot of kale. Like a laundry-basket sized amount to begin with. The heck do you do with that much kale? I have, in the past, expressed my disdain for the popularity of kale. I still don’t think it’s the be-all, end all of the vegetable world, and kale chips are still gross, but I found a way to make kale edible & delicious even to those who are non-green-eaters. 

I set to work cleaning & washing all that kale. The best way to prep kale for this application is to cut out & discard the vein/stem portion in the middle; leaving you with 2 long leaves. I tried this recipe with pre-cut, shredded kale, and ended up discarding far too many stems. 

Cut the kale into a chiffonade; stack several leaves on top of eachother, roll them up, then slice along the length of the roll. You’ll end up with long strands of kale you can roll on a fork spaghetti-style. Maybe I’ll do a little video on that down the road if anyone is into it. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds kale, stems removed, shredded into chiffonade
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the shallots and cook until soft, but not colored.
  3. Raise heat to high, add the water and kale and toss to combine.
  4. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a few shakes of vinegar for seasoning.

I had no plans to blog this recipe. Honestly, I thought my blog might be dead. But being in the kitchen & playing & talking about it online woke it all up again. I was tickled when my friend Jen (photo creds on the featured pic) made this recipe all the way in FL & Facebooked about it I knew it had to be a blog post. So I guess I’m back?

Cool-Mom Twinkie Pie

What do you do when it’s Pi(e) Day/Week & Spring Break & you’re a food blogger & cool mom? You make a Twinkie pie! This is not a pie with the flavor profile of a Twinkie, it’s a pie made with actual Twinkies. An entire box of them in fact! I found this recipe on Pinterest via Wine and Glue. I’m thinking it could conceivably be made with any un-iced snack cake. Stay tuned for ideas on that. I actually made TWO Twinkie pies (since I’m the cool mom) one with traditional Twinkies, the other with banana flavor. Fun fact: banana was actually the original flavor of Twinkies pre-WW2! I was out of vanilla extract, so I used almond extract. It worked out fine & I feel like you could change up different extracts depending on the snack cake used. Example: Devil Dogs with mint extract! The good news is the pies were delicious; the bad news is I only managed to capture one photo of the pies before they were devoured by teens on Spring Break! 

  
Cool-Mom Twinkie Pie

makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

  • one whole box of Twinkies, any kind
  • 9-inch frozen deep-dish pie crust
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (almond works too!)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Unwrap all your Twinkies and break them into about 4 pieces each. 
  3. Combine Twinkies, eggs, butter, vanilla extract, and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. 
  4. Mix on med-low heat until smooth. 
  5. Pour into pie crust on lined baking sheet. 
  6. Bake 35-40 mins or until top of pie is golden. 
  7. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. 


Truffle Shuffle Part Deux: Spicy, Creamy, Chili Truffles

Hot & sweet is my thang! When I embarked on my latest truffle journey, I couldn’t do so without trying a little something SPICY!! Remember awhile back when I made brownies with cayenne pepper? Not to toot my own horn, but these truffles are amazing! Toot! Toot! They start out sweet & creamy & then the heat slowly creeps in… And I’ve invented a topping: Cayenne Sugar! Another layer of hot & sweet!!

Sweet Heat Chili Truffles

makes 16-18 truffles

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 C heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dried chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 C milk chocolate chips
  • cocoa powder, sprinkles, cinnamon sugar, cayenne sugar (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over med-high heat, bring cream to a gentle simmer. 
  2. Whisk in chili flakes, cover, remove from heat & allow to steep for 10-12 mins.     
  3. Meanwhile, slowly heat a large pot of water for the double-boiler. I like to use my pasta-pot
  4. In a bowl large enough to rest over the top of the water pot, combine chocolate and cinnamon. 
  5. When cream has finished steeping, pour it through a wire mesh strainer into the chocolate & cinnamon mixture. Discard chili flakes. 
  6. Heat chocolate, cinnamon, and cream slowly over the double-boiler until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. 
  7. Refrigerate genache mixture 6-8 hours or overnight. 
  8. When you’re ready to roll the truffles, you will want to have clean, warm hands. I used my smallest Pampered Chef scoop, so my truffles were about 1/2 oz each. I spread a small amount of each topping on a plate so I could easily top each truffle in the topping of my choice. 
  9. Scoop out the truffle mixture, making sure to level-off your scoop. Quickly roll it in your hands to desired shape and while the chocolate is slightly melty from the heat of your hands dip it into the topping of your choice. Place finished truffle on a sheet pan lined with wax paper. Continue until all of the truffles are rolled & topped to your liking. 
  10. Chill truffles for several hours before serving or gifting. I like to freeze mine so they will keep their shape better & longer. Place each truffle in a mini-cupcake wrapper for adorable presentation!

Cinnamon Sugar (for topping)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C granulated sugar 
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 

Instructions:

  1. Combine sugar & cinnamon. 
  2. Toss to combine. 
  3. Store in an airtight container or an old spice jar. 

Cayenne Sugar 

My own invention! 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 

Instructions:

  1. Combine sugar & cayenne. 
  2. Toss to combine. 
  3. Store in an airtight container or an old spice jar. 

* I’m dying to give this a whirl in a cup of coffee!*


2 Muses

Today I am inspired to create 2 signature cocktails inspired by 2 women who are different, yet the same. My muses are Hadley Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald. Hadley and Zelda were contemporaries and acquaintances, but never friends. They had the same stomping grounds: Paris in the 1920s. Both women inspired their famous husbands, but I would not lessen them as women by using the old adage about “behind every good man” because they are every bit inspiring on their own.

Hadley’s cocktail is gin-based. Let’s face it, gin is the spirit that comes to mind for most when thinking about the 1920s and classic cocktails. It’s a spin on Gin & Jam (not Gin & Juice LOL)- simple and sweet like Mrs Hemingway Numero Uno, the schnapps a nod to The Hemingways best times on holiday in Austria, the lime for the less-than-sweet times that Hadley endured.

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“We ate well and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” ~ A Moveable Feast

As it happens with most things related to Zelda, her cocktail is a bit more complicated. Inspired by the Mint Julep, The Zelda packs a bourbon-based punch and a shot of Southern sweetness with peach simple syrup and a rim of brown sugar. The perfect cocktail for shimmying out of your stockings for a midnight splash in the city fountain!

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“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” ~This Side of Paradise

Peach Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C water
  • 2 C frozen peaches

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine water, sugar, and peaches. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and cover. Steep peaches in sugar syrup 30 minutes.
  4. Strain syrup to remove the peach bits and allow to cool thoroughly before use. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

For more on Hadley & Zelda, check out:

Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

The Paris Wife

My Pinterest board; Scott, Zelda, and Company

Shout out to my local purveyors of spirits S.D. Strong Distilling & Dark Horse Distillery

 

Test Post and Black Garlic Update

The “Happiness Engineers” (LOL) at WordPress are working on my Facebook problem. So far, so good, but I’m writing this post as a test to see if the steps they gave me to remedy the situation are working…

In other news, this is Day 5 of my black garlic fermenting away in my mini-crockpot. The moisture level is good, and the bottom heads of garlic are starting to get browned. Not black yet, but coming along. Look for a video of this later…

Cookbook Sneak Peek- Baby Greens Salad with Shredded Beets, Blue Cheese, and Runny-Egg Vinaigrette

I have this theory. Every food is better with a fried egg on top. I challenge you to think of a dish that isn’t better with a fried egg on top. You can’t because there isn’t one. In this recipe the runny egg-yolky goodness combines with a basic vinaigrette to form a creamy, tangy dressing for the veggies.

Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients:

4 to 6 large handfuls baby greens such as baby spinach or baby kale
1 medium beet, shredded
1/2 English cucumber (seedless), sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced
4 to 5 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lemon
about 1/4 C EVOO
4 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
2 eggs, fried, but with yellows runny

Instructions:

1) Arrange 2 handfuls of baby greens in each of 2 bowls.
2) Slice mushrooms and onion, peel and slice cucumbers, peel and grate beet and set items aside.

Whenever I make beets it gets all Dexter-blood-splatter in my kitchen.

Whenever I make beets it gets all Dexter-blood-splatter in my kitchen.

Here's my mise en place looking much neater and less murdery.

Here’s my mise en place looking much neater and less murdery. BTW, I had some cherry tomatoes from my garden, so I threw them in…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Arrange the above equally in each bowl, with grated beet on top.

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4) Top each salad with blue cheese crumbles.

Mmmm... bleu cheese crumbles...

Mmmm… bleu cheese crumbles…

5) Squeeze lemon into glass measuring cup, add an equal amount of EVOO (approximately 2 oz).

6) Whisk lemon juice and EVOO until combined, add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

7) In a small pan, fry eggs, until whites are translucent and yolks runny, about 5 minutes.

8) Top each salad with a fried egg, and drizzle with lemon juice/EVOO mixture.

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9) Before eating, stab egg yolk with fork, letting yolk combine with lemon juice/EVOO.

Apparently, I must be onto something, because the very next day this appeared in my Twitter feed…

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GMTA, eh HuffPost Taste?