Winesday de Mayo

I have to admit…I have a real addiction to cheese. I’m not kidding. I’ve been trying to give it up and get it out of my life for quite some time now, but I physically need to have a little bit everyday. It’s not exactly healthy, often lacking any real nutrients and loaded with saturated fats, and it’s not exactly a good path to take when you’re still hoping to be a vegan someday (these are dreams I have along with becoming a yogi master and running a marathon…but often, I’m too busy watching my DVR-ed shows and eating cheese and crackers and drinking wine to accomplish these goals…). Anyway, it’s hard to resist the rich, smoky flavor of smoked cheeses like Gouda or the slightly salty taste of mild cheeses like Fontina, and as it turns out, cheese actually does have addictive ingredients, like morphine and casein…so, see? I’m not lying, it’s a legitimate problem. I need to work on it.

Well, one particular cheese, brie, actually makes me smile. :-) Sick, isn’t it? I love brie-on anything: brie on a Ritz cracker, brie in a sandwich, brie with some jam baked in some pastry…and I’m feeling hungry all over again. This past Winesday, my friend Amber decided to combine two recipe ideas into one and came up with our entrée for the week-brie crostini with roasted grapes and thyme. Ridiculous. See the recipe below.

Another successful yet overdue Winesday.

The Wine

  • San Sebastian Rosa. If you’re not aware of my wine obsession, please check out what I gave myself for my birthday. San Sebastian produces delectable wines from a small variety of Florida-grown grapes, and their Rosa is one of my favorites. It’s sweet and fruity with a slightly dry finish and goes well with just about anything, other than chocolate, which is a shame really…

Image from b-21.com

The Entrée

  • Brie crostini with roasted grapes and thyme. Although roasting grapes may seem like an odd way to treat them, they were actually incredible. By lightly covering them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh sprigs of thyme, you create a more savory jam. When the grapes are roasted, they soften and burst slightly, making it easy to eat them on crostini.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A large loaf of Ciabatta bread, sliced-we always use Chabasco, which is an incredible Ciabatta bread that comes in five varieties (roasted garlic is the most delicious) and is sold in many supermarkets in the bakery section
  • 8 oz package of good-quality brie that can be sliced
  • 1/2 pound-1 pound red grapes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Baking sheets

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Line the slices of Ciabatta bread across a baking sheet lined with foil, and brush them with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Lightly toast the bread in the oven until the slices just begin to brown. Remove from the oven, and place 2-3 thin slices of brie on each slice of Ciabatta bread. Set aside.
  3. Toss the grapes with a tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl, and then line them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Dust them with salt, and lay several sprigs of fresh thyme across the top. Roast for 20 minutes or until the grapes begin to soften and burst. Remove from the oven, and set aside.
  4. If the brie hasn’t melted completely on the Ciabatta, toast the slices for a few minutes longer in the oven.
  5. Serve with warm grapes on top of each slice of bread. Enjoy-I guarantee you’ll go back for seconds and thirds! :-)

Recipe adapted from TasteSpotting and Alexandra’s Kitchen.

The Dessert

  • Double Feature Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting. Another one of my favorites. I consistently get good feedback on these cupcakes when I make them. As in, they’re gone within a few minutes, and people are taking seconds when they’re available. They’re in the range of 400 calories per cupcake so I usually try to have just one at a time, but it can be hard. Be warned-they’re more suited for a lighter meal because they’re so rich and spicy. You’ll enjoy them more if you’re eating them with little else.

A Final Winter Winesday

Well hello there. Happy Winesday. It appears that it’s finally spring in Connecticut, so yay! The menu below is for a final winter Winesday that had a nice, hearty selection, but now that the weather is (finally) getting warmer, I can only assume we’ll be indulging in slightly lighter fare…maybe.

The Wine

  • Erath Quail Run Pinot Blanc. This 2010 Oregon wine is a combination of bright, fruity flavors like cantaloupe, pineapple, and citrus with subtle spicy vanilla notes. The lingering finish has more of an apricot and toasted almond taste. The grapes are fermented in new French oak, but there is very little oak taste to the wine. It’s a unique white wine that pairs well with bold, spicy foods or creamy pastas.

The Entrée

  • Butternut squash stuffed shells. It may sound odd to combine squash with pasta that’s traditionally stuffed with cheeses and tomato sauce, but once you alter the main ingredients, the result is heavenly. Butternut squash has a strangely comforting quality to it, and when it’s served inside pasta with a creamy bechamel sauce, “comforting” doesn’t begin to describe its effect. Below is the recipe for a less-than-traditional delight, but be warned: you’ll definitely go back for seconds…and thirds.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 servings

For the Shells

  • 20 jumbo shells
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 10 oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 10-15 fresh sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried sage

For the Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the butternut squash in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and flip the pieces of squash. Place back in the oven, and roast another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and use a food processor or large spoon to mash the pieces.
  2. Cook the shells according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, saute the spinach in a little olive oil, and set aside.
  3. Saute the garlic and shallots in a large separate pan with two tablespoons of unsalted butter. Continue to whisk until small bits of brown appear in the butter, and then add the pureed butternut squash, cream cheese, and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese to the pan. Remove from heat, and mix in the spinach.
  4. Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the butternut squash mixture, and line the pan with the filled shells.
  5. Make the bechamel sauce by heating two tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it begins to sizzle, whisk in flour, and cook until the mixture is golden brown with a slightly nutty aroma. Whisk continuously, and add the milk and parmesan cheese. Let the mixture come to a simmer, and once it begins to thicken, stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper. It should be similar in texture to alfredo sauce when you remove it from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture over the stuffed shells, and top with additional parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and sage. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

The Dessert

  • Milk chocolate strawberry cream cheese cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Wow, that’s a mouth full, literally.  I don’t normally make cakes for Winesday because they take so much time and I’m often trying to get the Winesday dessert done on Tuesday night, but I was seriously craving chocolate cake for this. It was a pretty sweet ending to the final Winesday of winter to have warm, comforting pasta followed by layers of rich, creamy chocolate. If only the approaching swimsuit season could be so sweet…

Winesday of the (South) West

I have to say, this was one of my favorite Winesdays. Two days before our midweek dinner, we decided to do a Southwestern/Mexican theme, and we all came up with creative pieces that made for one fantastic (and extremely easy) meal. The only thing we slacked on was the wine. :-(

The Wine

  • Prosecco “appletinis”. We’d all put so much thought into the foods we wanted to contribute that we’d forgotten to select a wine contributor. I know, very foolish and irresponsible. So we mixed a few things we had on site and came up with these-Prosecco “appletinis”. It was mostly Prosecco with a small addition of Sour Apple Pucker and a maraschino cherry. It went well with the spicy foods we were eating because it was light and fruity, but I wouldn’t rush to swirl them up again. The drink looks pretty though. :-)

The Salad

  • Michelle creatively mixed fresh iceberg lettuce with black olives, stewed tomatoes with chipolte, pepperjack cheese, seasoned tortilla strips, and a spicy chipolte ranch dressing to create this southwestern salad. It took her under ten minutes of preparation, and it was fantastic. If we’d added some avocado and tofu (or grilled chicken if you’re not a vegetarian) to it, it would have easily been a complete meal with a nice spicy kick to it.

The Entrée

  • Avocado grilled cheese sandwiches. Out-of-this-world delicious. Did you know that avocados are loaded with potassium and healthy fats? Did you know that they’re mostly grown without the use of strong pesticides (in CA), that avocado orchards can reduce the possibility of flooding, improve water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife? And that they freakin taste like a little slice of heaven? Oh yeah, I’d say that’s nature’s perfect little fruit. Well did you also know that grilled cheese sandwiches are so much more delightful when they’re smothered in avocado? They are. By using cheddar cheese, spicy mustard, avocado, and a really spectacular bread (Rye Everything), Amber created a hearty and fulfilling grilled cheese sandwich from a recipe she found on Pinterest. She used two thick slices of bread, two slices of cheddar, and a whole avocado for each sandwich. Yes, a whole avocado…and it was amazing.

The Dessert

  • Spiced chocolate doughnuts. I wanted a dessert that had a slight spice to it but nothing overboard. The doughnuts were a comforting chocolate treat, especially when we enjoyed them with peanut butter chocolate ice cream.

Why isn’t it Winesday Evening Yet?

Oh, Winesday. I’m feeling drained and overwhelmed on this Winesday because my work week has been so busy, today in particular, but now it’s finally nearing the end of the (work) day. The real Winesday is approaching, and it’s almost time to enjoy nothing but food, wine, and good company. And it’s an amazing New England Spring day…even though it’s February. So if you’re anything like me and you’re beginning to drag at work, just remember, it’s a short length of time away until you’ll be glass-in-hand-food-on-plate relaxed. Whoo whoo.

Enjoy this for a potential menu.

The Wine

  • Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay. And Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. And Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio. Whoops, we drank a little more than usual, but in defense of that statement, two of the bottles were already opened and needed to be finished while the third was brand new and still needed to be finished. The third bottle was Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay, which comes from a vineyard in Washington State and offers a slightly sweet, citrus taste with just subtle notes of oak. Apparently, grapes grown north of California are afforded more sunlight, which encourage the fruit to ripen more. Often, wines from this region of North America will have better flavor development because of this. While I’m not particular to Chardonnay, this wine had a decent citrus flavor and tasted as though it could pair well with many foods. The winemaker suggests it be paired with ginger, lemon, tarragon, thyme, crab, poultry, salmon, or scallops, but I believe it’s subtle enough to be paired with a variety of foods.

The Entrée

  • French Onion Soup. This has been part of my Winesday posts before , but I didn’t give many details other than the recipe. Below is a different recipe with a few adjustments, and keep in mind that a good French onion soup is a process. It will take several hours to really caramelize the onions, and the soup’s flavor will enhance if you wait a day or two to serve it.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions, halved and cut in crescent-shaped slices
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cartons of vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, or approximately 1 Tbsp dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 small baguettes
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • Port and Marsala wine for deglazing
  • A large soup pot or Dutch oven that can go into the oven
  • Ramekins or small bowls that are oven-safe
  • Baking sheet & aluminum foil

How to Do It

  • Adjust the oven rack to a lower-middle position, and preheat it to 400 degrees F.
  • Spray the inside of your pot or Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray, and place the butter sections into the pot. Add the onion slices and 1 tsp of salt. Cook, covered, for one hour.
  • Remove the pot from the oven, deglaze with port and Marsala wine, and stir the onions. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven, covered but slightly open, and continue to cook for another hour. Repeat this process until the onions have cooked for approximately four hours and are soft and dark.
  • Remove the pot from the oven, and place on the stove over medium-high heat. Cook the onions by stirring frequently, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Continue to deglaze the pan as the onions cook, every 6 to 8 minutes. When the onions are very dark, stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the vegetable broth, two cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Increase heat to high, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf and thyme if you’ve used fresh sprigs, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
  • While the soup is simmering, slice the baguette into small pieces, and brush each piece with a little olive oil. Arrange them on a single baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees F until they’re slightly browned and crisp.
  • Adjust your oven rack so it sits six inches from the broiler, and preheat the broiler. Arrange the ramekins or oven-safe bowls on a baking sheet, and fill each 2/3 of the way full with soup. Put one to two slices of the bread in each ramekin, and cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly around the edges.
  • Serve with a salad and a cold glass of vino.

Recipe adapted from the blog Cookography.com

The Dessert

  • Slutty Brownies. This was the perfect dessert to serve on a Winesday when I didn’t have much time to prepare anything, and it’s fitting to serve to a group of your girlfriends. It takes under 15 minutes to throw together, and under 40 minutes to bake. It also takes less than a minute to consume…so be careful.

Every Classy Girl Should Treat Herself

This isn’t a post about dessert, but more about treating yourself to something delightful every now and then. As you know, I think wine and dessert are two of the most wonderful indulgences in life, and I think that every classy girl should know what her favorites are of each. Are you more of a rich, sinful dark chocolate vixen or a fluffy French vanilla fox? Are you a bold, spicy red kind of girl or a light and fruity white kind of lady? It’s important to know these things, especially if you’re over 25 (which I’m not…I swear…) because at this point in your life, you should have enough life experience to know your general likes and dislikes. Perhaps your specific preferences for certain fermented grapes will evolve in the next few years, and they will certainly continue to improve throughout your life. So it is with great pleasure that I show off my most recent birthday present to myself from myself…

24 bottles of the Greatest Wine on Earth

I discovered the Greatest Wine on Earth when I was 25 and living as a single girl in South Florida, and my mom came to visit me so we could do a mini road trip around the state. One of our stops was in St Augustine, the country’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s just south of the Georgia border so it’s filled with people who have a combination of southern hospitality and charm and the laid back Florida attitude. The city walls are bordered by nature preserves and Atlantic beaches, and the city itself sits on the edges of the Matanzas River, which is as turquoise as the ocean. It has a rich, and often tragic, history of British, Spanish, and American rule, and these influences are still present in the design and culture of the city. Several prominent historical tourist attractions, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the Fountain of Youth, the Old St Johns County Jail, Flagler College, and the Lightner Museum, exist there, and there’s even an inexpensive trolley that you can take from spot to spot. One of these spots included what’s become my favorite winery, the San Sebastian Winery, and it’s these city landmarks that inspire the names and tastes of the wines offered here.

Photo from Yelp.com

The grapes are grown in Clermont, a central Florida town, and the wine is made in St Augustine on the coast. You can take free tours of the winery and do free tastings seven days a week. I’ve been to 18 vineyards in Connecticut, and not one offers a tasting for under $7, let alone a tour. This just adds to reasons why San Sebastian is the Greatest Wine on Earth.

Photo from StAugustineInns.com

On my last trip to Florida last July, I bought 13 bottles to give out as gifts or take home with me (they’re also sold in the grocery stores there), but I’ve been wanting to order bottles to be shipped to my home in CT. However, you can only order by the case (12 bottles), and the shipping is around $25 for each case. I thought $150 was maybe a little too much to spend on myself for 12 bottles of wine that I know I could finish quickly, so I waited. On the weekend of my birthday, the Gods of Wine must have been smiling down on me, because San Sebastian had a “buy one get one” case sale…that’s 24 bottles for the price of 12. Holy Dionysus, I couldn’t resist that. So I treated myself to two cases of the Greatest Wine on Earth, which I’ve described in detail below.

  • Vintner’s Red-unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, it’s a sweet, chilled red wine made mostly of the Muscadine grape and has several berry notes. It’s best with pasta with red sauce, pizza, and barbeque. It can also be used in chocolate recipes and makes an amazing red sangria. It’s, without question, my favorite wine in the world. I’m afraid to open a bottle because I know that will be one less that I’ll have…
  • Vintner’s White-similar in sweetness to the Vintner’s Red, it has a very fruity taste, but it’s made of the Carlos grape. It also makes a delicious sangria, and it’s best served with spicy foods, especially spicy chicken (if you’re into eating that kind of thing).
  • Rosa-a rose wine that blows any other rose wine you’ve ever had out of the water. It’s sweet, but not sugary and artifical like many white zinfandels, and it’s light, but not dry like many rose wines. It’s incredibly smooth and easy to drink.
  • Blanc du Bois-similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, this is a semi-dry white wine with a slightly sweet finish, and it’s great with spicy foods and pastas with cream sauces.
  • Reserva-a slightly drier white wine with just a small hint of oak but a crisp finish. It’s somewhat similar to a chardonnay, and it’s best served with seafood or shellfish.
  • Castillo Red-this is for the occasional full bodied wine cravings I have, but it’s mostly for Brendan, my boyfriend because it goes well with meat. It has a small hint of oak and a spicy little kick to it.

I highly encourage you to stop at the winery if you’re ever in the area of St Augustine, pick up a bottle at Publix if you’re anywhere in Florida, or treat yourself to an entire case through the mail. All of San Sebastian’s wines can be found on their website, SanSebastianWinery.com.

Winter Winesday

I apologize for the delay in this week’s Winesday post-I had technicial difficulties so it had to be delayed! Enjoy!

 

Another week, another Winesday. Except that this is the week of my birth, so I will actually be celebrating this week’s Winesday on Thirstday, but I’ll be happy to update you on another (almost) vegan-friendly Winesday plan. I’ll introduce you to one of my favorite go-to wines, talk about a delightful risotto dish, and revisit one of my most irresistible desserts so far. So enjoy, and eat, drink, and be merry! And don’t forget that my birthday is tomorrow.

The Wine

  • Cupcake Red Velvet. This is a versatile and fabulous wine, but you have to enjoy red wine to love it. It’s initially dry when you take your first sips, but it leaves an irresistibly sweet, chocolatey finish with several dark berry notes. Kind of like a red velvet cake…weird, right? It’s not at all what you’d expect from Cupcake Vineyards and certainly not what you’d expect with a title like “Red Velvet”, but it’s perfect for enjoying with rich chocolate desserts. Like I said before though, if you’re not fond of red wines, you may not be fond of this. The sweet finish is wonderful, but you have to endure a more bold, dry taste first.

The Entrée

  • Butternut Squash Risotto. Who doesn’t love butternut squash meals when it’s cold outside? Late fall and winter seem to be the perfect time to enjoy this vegetable because it’s in-season, and it’s so fulfilling. This dish was warm and comforting without being heavy, and it’s made of (mostly) healthy ingredients.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 servings

  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine-1/2 cup for the meal, 1/2 cup to sip on while you’re cooking
  • 1 10 oz pkg frozen butternut squash puree, thawed (1 1/2 cups). You can also use fresh if you feel like doing the work to get it.
  • 2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped or 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (omit if you’re trying to make it vegan, or replace with vegan-friendly parmesan shreds)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Medium & large saucepan with covers

How to Do It

  1. Heat the vegetable broth in a medium sauce pan until hot but not boiling. Reduce heat to low, and cover to keep warm.
  2. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until softened but not browned, around 6 to 8 minutes. Add the rice, and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine (not the one you’re drinking of course), and simmer for two minutes, stirring constantly until absorbed.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth. Simmer the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed. Continue to add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, and allow each addition to absorb into the rice before adding more broth, approximately 30 minutes.
  4. When all the vegetable broth has been incorporated and the rice is tender, mix in the squash, sage, most of the cheese, and the salt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowls, and top with remaining cheese.

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens excerpt from Ellie Krieger, “Comfort Food Fix”.

The Dessert

  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares that I could not stop eating. These go wonderfully with a meal that isn’t heavy because they’re so rich, so a light grain dish or salad are just perfect. You’ll never be able to eat just one…unless you don’t like peanut butter and chocolate, in which case, what’s wrong with you?

Vegans Love Winesday Too

Happy Winesday! It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve written about a Winesday, and it’s a new year, which means a whole new range of possibilities for Winesday meals. The evenings are becoming quite a bit cooler here in Connecticut which makes me crave more hearty, comforting meals. This has been a bit more of a challenge while trying to stick to my veganism resolution…but lucky for me, things like peanut butter and pasta (my two ultimate favorite comfort foods) are animal product-free. Yipee.

The Wine

  • Yellow Tail Moscato. Ordinarily I may not have chosen this wine, but when I stopped at the store (which, ironically, said WINES! across the top of it), I had very little to choose from in the already-chilled section. I wanted something white and subtly sweet, but I found the choice difficult when I had nothing but Chardonnays staring back at me. I asked the clerk for a recommendation, but he pointed me in the direction of a dry Riesling…nope, still not cutting it. So I had to settle for a blatantly sweet Moscato. Sweet is never a bad characteristic in wine for me, but on that evening I was hoping for something slightly more mild. This wine isn’t that. It has very strong peach and apricot flavors, and a sweet citrus nose. It’s fruity and delicious with such a sugary taste that it slightly resembles a sparkling wine. That might sound odd, but very sweet wines always remind me of sparkling wines…Anyway, it’s much sweeter than most Rieslings, and it’s best served with fruit, cheeses, and to balance spicy foods.

The Entrée

  • Rustic Pasta by Alicia Silverstone. This is absolutely my favorite pasta dish. I could eat it for a week straight and not be sick of it, and what’s perfect about it is that it’s HEALTHY and satisfying and doesn’t make you want to take a nap after dinner. It’s a combination of flavors and textures that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of piecing together either-like carmelized onions, soy sauce, tomato sauce, and crunchy cabbage. Even thinking about it is making me drool a little bit…just a little though. It’s warm and comforting and versatile and healthy. What isn’t there to love about it?

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb whole wheat angel hair or spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 6 Tbsp marinara sauce

How to Do It

  1. Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain, and put aside. Whole wheat pasta cooks faster than white pasta so be sure not to overcook it.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok, and saute the onions for 7 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, and cook another 3 minutes or until the onions are transparent and browning.
  3. Add the celery to the pan, and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sea salt, and garlic powder, and mix thoroughly into the ingredients already in the pan. Add the cabbage slices and saute for another 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and marinara sauce to the pan, and toss the ingredients together. Cook for another 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat until the ingredients are heated through.

Tip: Thinner slices of cabbage will cook more easily, and they’ll be delicious in the pasta. They’ll give a slight crunch to the dish, which will add the different textures, but they won’t be too stiff.

Extra Tip: This dish is exceptionally delicious with white wine. The Moscato mentioned above was good, but try something a little drier, like a Sauvignon Blanc, to really get the best of all the flavors.

Recipe adapted from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.

The Dessert

  • Cherry Chocolate Almond Strudel. This dessert was light enough to serve after a hearty pasta dish, and it was sweet enough to serve in small pieces. Oh, and it’s warm, gooey, and chocolatey, which is perfect for a cold evening.

Boozeday, Beans, & Gingerbread

Instead of celebrating on the usual Winesday this week, my girlfriends and I celebrated on Tuesday (Boozeday)…which is always lovely, but when Winesday comes early in the week, it throws me off for the rest of the week…and now it really is Winesday, and I have nothing else to look forward to this week. Oh, except for Christmas. I suppose that’s exciting.

The Wine

  • Layer Cake 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon California. Normally, we choose a white wine or a spunky red wine for dinner, but this wine was chosen by Michelle’s boyfriend as a gift for us. He said it reminded him of us because of the name-Layer Cake. The combination of “Layer Cake” and wine speaks volumes to us, and this wine had a range of flavors to listen to. It’s a very soft Cabernet that has subtle notes of blackberry, cherries, and cedar. It’s very complex, and has a fresh, lingering finish that isn’t heavy and doesn’t have an oak taste the way some Cabernets do. It comes from vineyards near Mt. St. Helena, which adds to its slightly earthy taste, and it would be lovely with a dark chocolate or dark berry dessert. We had it with gnocchi and gingerbread instead. Oops.

The Entrée 

  • Gnocchi with White Beans, a recipe adapted from Tasteofhome.com. We’ve enjoyed this meal before, but it never gets old. It’s very hearty and comforting, but it’s loaded with healthy ingredients. We always go back for seconds!

Stuff You’ll Need

Serves 5-6

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) potato gnocchi
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) fresh spinach
  • 1 15 oz can of white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5 oz can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • A large wok or skillet

How to Do It

  1. In a large wok or skillet, heat the olive oil, and saute the garlic for 1 minute. Add the gnocchi, and cook for 5-6 minutes or until they begin to brown.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes, and pepper, and continue to cook until heated through. Add the spinach, and cook until the spinach has wilted.
  3. Sprinkle the mixture with cheeses, and cover the pan. Remove from heat, and let stand 3-4 minutes, or until the cheeses have melted.

Tip: Draining and rinsing canned beans is super easy if you use a colander. I used to try to drain and rinse them in the can until I figured out how much easier it was to put them in a colander. They can be drained, rinsed, and held for your recipe all in the same bowl.

Extra tip: The original recipe states to throw the spinach into the pan earlier than the beans and tomatoes. Spinach cooks very quickly if the pan is heated enough so there is no need to throw it in early. It takes longer to heat the tomatoes and beans, and the spinach can remain slightly crisp if you add it to the pan last.

The Dessert

  • Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I was in the Christmas mood when I was planning a dessert for this Winesday (Boozeday), and I loved the recipe when I used it last year for gingerbread. I would have made a change to the frosting by adding orange zest or extract if I had realized how delicious the combination of orange and gingerbread is, but I’ll save that for next time.

Double Holiday Whammy

This is not a post about food…shocking I know. It is, however, about wine, which makes it less shocking, but since it’s the holiday season and everyone scrambles for gifts at the last minute, I wanted to post an idea for gifts that I love. It’s called Cork for a Cause, and it benefits 10 different causes, including my personal favorite, animal rescue. According to the website, each bottle sold “helps provide free mammograms, preserves rain forest, feeds a family in need, rescues animals, helps veterans in need, provides health care for children, and provides emergency relief around the world”. How cool is that?? You can buy a bottle of wine for someone (or yourself) for the holidays and also support their favorite cause. The bottles are $19.99 plus shipping (no tax!), and if you buy 6 bottles or more, shipping is only $.99 a bottle.

A bottle of red wine from Washington state will fund 56 bowls of food for rescue animals? I’m sold. Who are we kidding? I was sold at the mention of the wine; helping the animals is just a bonus :-) Happy holidays!

Joyeux Winesday!

Happy Winesday in French! It’s always good to broaden your horizons and learn a new language though I don’t think they’ve figured out how to translate “Winesday” in French yet…but it can’t be that far off.

For the most recent celebrated Winesday, my book club had a meeting after reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (fabulous, but heartbreaking, book by the way), and we collectively decided to dedicate the meeting to a French culinary theme. This included French wines (of course), a brie pastry, French onion soup (not really French, but still delicious), and macaroons and pots de creme. I loved everything about this evening-the company, the discussion, the wine, and the amazing food. Mix those things together and voila! Joyeux Winesday!

The Wine

  • 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. A deliciously tart chilled red wine from Beaujolais, France. The initial taste is much drier than the fruity finish, which has notes of red currant, blackberries, and strawberries. There is a bit of acidity in it but nothing that shocks your palette, and it’s much lighter in tannins than the average red wine. A new label for the bottle is added each year, and the wine is only available during the holidays.

The Appetizer

  • A brie pastry assembled and baked by Emily. To make the pastry, get a brie round and cut it in half horizontally. Place a large dollop of jelly in the middle (strawberry or raspberry work best), and then place the other half on top. Divide a can of Pillsbury puff pastry into large square sections. Roll it out and press the seams together. Put one section on the bottom of the brie and wrap the corners around the top (you may need to rip the corners off depending on how big the brie round is). You can also use cookie cutters to create shapes out of the remaining pieces the way Emily did with the hearts (for the love theme in The Paris Wife). Next, take the other half of puff pastry and place it on the top of the round while wrapping the corners around the bottom. Melt a little butter and brush it on the top as well. The crust will brown nicely, and you can stick cutout shapes on there more easily. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let it cool slightly before serving with crackers or by itself. It’s very, VERY hard to stay away from.

The Entree

  • French onion soup complete with delicious bread and melted cheese. Amber used a mix of recipe ideas, a friend’s advice, and her own culinary skills, but I’ve added a similar recipe below. She used vegetable broth to be kind to us vegetarians, but French onion soup is traditionally made with beef broth. If you want to be healthier (and kinder), use the veggie broth!

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8 servings

  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 7 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 loaves of a somewhat-stale French or Italian bread
  • Any combination of cheddar, Swiss, or Parmesan shredded cheeses
  • A slowcooker or large pot
  • Ramekins or small oven-safe bowls

How to Do It

  1. Mix sliced onions and butter in a 3 1/2-6 quart slow cooker or large pot
  2. Cover and cook on a high heat setting for 30 to 35 minutes or until the onions slightly brown around the edges.
  3. Mix flour, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and pepper. Stir mixture and the vegetable broth in with the onions. Cover and cook on a low heat setting for 7 to 9 hours. You can shorten the time to 3-4 hours by cooking on a higher setting, but be sure that the onions are very tender before removing it from the heat.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Pour the soup into individual ramekins or oven-safe bowls on a cookie sheet or flat pan, and top each portion with a thick slice of bread. Cover with a combination of shredded cheeses, and broil until the cheese has melted and browned.

The Dessert

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