Monday, February 13, 2017

A New Area to Explore, Wine Tasting in Lodi

The rain finally left us for now so it was time to get out in the sunshine.  Saturday was a beautiful day so we started with breakfast at Bills and then it was off to Lodi for a day of wine tasting.  Now that I know I can get there in the same amount of time it takes to get to Napa we will go often.  I wasn't sure what to expect, didn't know anything about this area and flooded roads was not on my radar even though CA is drowning.  Once we made it off of the freeway and through some flooded roads we hit our first winery, Durst.  There was an event going on this weekend but we decided to just do some tasting on our own.  Lodi is what Napa use to be, more like Livermore.  The tasting we did were $5 each and free with a purchase.  The service was personable and laid back, not touristy.  This is what all wineries should be.  I understand the days of free tastings are over but when a bottle is purchased your fee should be waived and when wineries charge you over $25 what is the point of a tasting if the bottle is $50.  The wines were also reasonable, about $25 per bottle.  We ended up with 6 bottles from 3 wineries.  We only went to one winery we didn't buy a bottle.  They were OK but more pricy and not as good as the other three we went to so we didn't do a guilt purchase.

So this is the start of our review of ALL Lodi wineries.  I can't wait to continue this adventure.
  • Durst:  R4.5.  We were greeted by the wine maker who was chock full of stories, very passionate about wine making and extremely attentive.  She even said if it wasn't the event she would sit with us outside and talk to us for several hours.  We started with the whites which are normally not my favorite but the nose was scrumptious, the flavors light and crisp, not too sweet so that was purchase number one and for that we chose Sauvignon Blanc 2016 which wasn't even on the list and then we tried the reds and found another purchase, Amada Mia Red 2014 (pix from here). 
  • Bokisch:  R5:  Loved ALL the reds, purchased Gracianio and Tempranillo), the view, the server, the chairs around an unlit fire pit (only because it was so nice heat wasn't needed) and the beautiful views of the oat trees and vines.  These were Spanish grapes which I don't know a lot about but I am willing to learn.
  • Harney Lane:  R3:  We didn't purchase wines here because we didn't find a stand out when comparing them to the previously two wineries and we were now in the thick of the event so the place was very crowded so they couldn't be as personable.  Because of this we will return another day to make sure we made the right call.
  • D'Art Wines:  R4:  This was our final stop and two more bottles were purchased (Dog Day Red and Zinfandal 2012). 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 Winning Superbowl recipe, Stuffed Mushroom Dip

This years winning Super Bowl 2017 recipe was the stuffed mushroom dip.  I put all the cheese in the dip vs. saving half for the topping along with panko part accident and partly because I thought the topping was additional cheese but I also didn't want it to have a hard top.  For the party I served it with fresh bread slices, today I baked the second dish and had it with baked baguette slices.  This was excellent, creamy, flavorful and cheesy.  The mushrooms were half of the Costco container and the sausage was from Sprouts Farmers market, it was a bit over the half pound at .7 lbs but that is not required since the mushrooms come across as meaty.  It is chock full of goodies.  This dip couldn't have been better.  It is a definite repeat offender. Offender because it is hard not to eat it all and my scale may be offended tomorrow.  Original recipe came from The Chew, Clinton Kelly.

I also made BBQ'ed pork (OK but dried out in the crock pot after hours), the Coney Island Chili sauce was better than my first attempt, more spicy but when people need to assemble there food it seems to not go over great.  I made it to go along with the Nacho/Tacho bar.  The Spicy Queso was a thick blob of cheese, tasted good but the texture wasn't right, way too thick and not smooth.  I wanted a pourable sauce to put on the Tachos along with the sour cream sauce, and pickled jalapenos.  I also made baked ham and cheese sandwiches, spicy pretzels, Caramelized Onion dip (an old favorite), guacamole (good but less cumin), cheeseburger muffins (better next day dipped in ketchup but otherwise I sausage balls are better, more flavor and less doughy)

Drizzle of EVOO
½ lb. Hot Italian sausage
1 lb. button mushrooms, chopped
½ onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated
1 T. fresh thyme, leaves pulled
4 oz. cream cheese
½ C. sour cream
2 C. Gruyère, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large saute pan, drizzle with oil and cook sausage until brown and cooked through.  Finely chop the mushrooms and onion.  Add to sausage, cook another 5 minutes to brown mushrooms and soften onions.  Add garlic, cook another minute.  Remove from heat, add thyme, cream cheese, sour cream and Gruyère.  Stir.  Transfer to two buttered 5x5" casserole dishes or one large.  Bake 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate till ready to bake.  Serve with baguette slices, fresh or drizzled with oil , S&P and baked in the oven till golden brown.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lemon Cheesecake Mousse

Mousse is my latest favorite dessert to try, this one was my third.  First it was blueberry then peanut butter and now lemon curd.  When made small they are great for travel, parties, to keep your portion size down, and in this case it felt light and refreshing even though it was cream cheese, lemon curd and whipped cream.  The lemon curd dominated but the whipped cream did lighten it up.  It was good but I'm thinking I would like it a bit more tart and a bit less sweet so the next time I reduced the powdered sugar in the whipping cream from ⅓ C and removed the ⅔ C. from the mousse all together and instead of lemon juice and water I used 4 T. fresh OJ vs. 2 ½ lemon and 1½ water because I didn't have lemon juice and I added the salt. Originally I only used 2 T. butter so the graham crust stayed loose which was OK but not expected when I added 3 it was a bit more together but more isn't needed. I did however double the amound of graham crumbs in order to make more small cups. I froze two to see how this works and I also put them in the 2 oz. disposable cups, great for a party.

1 ½ C. crushed graham crackers (12 full sheets)
4 T. sugar
6 T. butter
⅛ t. salt
Whipped Cream:
1 ½ C. heavy cream
2 T. powdered sugar
4 T. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ t. unflavored gelatin powder (½ t. shy of full pkg.)
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
10 oz. jar lemon curd
⅔ C. powdered sugar

With a muddler or the back of a large wooden spoon, crush graham crackers in a small bowl. Add sugar, mix. In another small bowl, microwave butter for 30 seconds. Pour butter oven graham crackers and stir. Spoon 1 tablespoon of crumbs into each 2 oz. dessert cup, press. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix lemon juice and water. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over top. Let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile in a stand mixer whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, whip until stiff but not lumpy. Scrape whipping cream from bowl and move to another bowl. To the mixer (no need to wash) add cream cheese and whip until smooth and fluffy. Add lemon curd. Mix until smooth. Heat rested gelatin mixture in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Whisk for 1 minute to thoroughly dissolve gelatin, let cool 3 minutes (no longer or it may start to set leaving you with a lumpy mousse). While mixing cream cheese, slowly add gelatin and blend to combined. Gently fold in ⅓ of the whipped cream into cream cheese, then fold in the rest. Spoon or pipe 1 T. of mousse into dessert cups over graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to 1 day ahead to set or freeze. Serve cold. Makes 40 (2 oz.) servings.

  • Use boxed graham cracker crumbs instead of crackers. It's a smoother texture, good but I may like the broken crackers better.
  • Instead of lemon juice and water use all freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • For more tartness try all lemon juice and no water

    Do Ahead: Make and freeze. They thaw quickly so it is a perfect make ahead treat and good for travel.

    Mousse: Mousse incorporates air bubbles to give it a light and airy texture. It can range from light and fluffy to creamy and thick, depending on preparation. A mousse may be sweet or savory. Dessert mousses are typically made with whipped egg whites or whipped cream flavored with chocolate, coffee, caramel, puréed fruits or various herbs and spices, such as mint or vanilla.

    Thursday, June 30, 2016

    Zucchini Rice Pie

    Recipe names fool me.  I put it on my weekly menu, head to the store to purchase ingredients based on the name and once I read the entire recipe and start to make it I realize that it is similar to something I have made before or it is not what I thought it was going to be based on the recipe name. Sometimes that's a disadvantage and sometimes it works out.  I made a Taco Salad this week and it was really a salad with a Lime Vinaigrette with a few Mexican additions.  Don't get me wrong it was good but Taco Salad speaks to me and this was was speaking a different language.

    I wanted to try this recipe because I wanted to try this method of cooking instant rice in the oven, I had garden squash to use up, I thought it was healthy, "Zucchini Pie" and here is where I didn't pay attention.  It was high in fat, 17g per slice.  The calories were not bad at 257 but when you eat two slices the fat doubles making something bad even worse.  What I will say about this recipe is that it was easy, quick, tasty with a touch of heat but it is more of a rice pie topped with zucchini hence the new name.   Then as I look at my other so called zucchini pies I realized that they all are more zucchini topped and they had a cheese filling so I'm going to give this one a break and I will make it again but next time I'll serve it with a big salad so I only eat one slice and I'll look at changing up the mayo into something more healthy.  Original recipe came from Cuisine at Home, #117, May/June 2016 pg. 46.

    2 zucchini or yellow squash, thinly sliced
    1 egg, beaten
    1 C. dry instant white rice
    1 C. chicken broth
    1 C. sharp Cheddar, shredded
    ⅓ C. mayonnaise
    ½ t. red pepper flakes
    4 T. unsalted butter, melted
    ¼ C. Parmesan, grated
    1 t. dry Italian seasoning
    ¼ t. Kosher salt

    Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl add egg, beat, add rice, chicken broth, cheddar, mayo and red pepper flakes.  Stir.  Grease a 9" shallow pie plate.  Pour rice mixture into plate.  Top with thinly sliced zucchini, in circles, starting with and outside circle and working towards the middle with smaller circles.  Pour butter sauce over top.  Bake 25 minutes.  Serve.

    Note:  One change I'll try next time is to melt the butter, add the salt and pour that over top then sprinkle the spices and Parmesan over that.  As you can see in the pix when it is all added to the butter it clumps on the top of the pie, that is what the dark brown lumps are it is the spices and Parmesan.

    Friday, June 24, 2016

    Oriental Chicken Salad

    This recipe had been in my cookbook for year but I can't remember making it and I don't know where it came from.  Since I also didn't have a picture of it I had to give it a try to see if it was worthy of remaining in my cookbook.

    What I liked about it is that I could do the rice salad part ahead of time and then before I served it I chopped up one romaine heart which equaled 3 C. of lettuce and tossed it with.  I sort of felt it needed maybe something sweet or something more but in the end I kept it the same and loved it.

    1 (4.9 oz.) pkg. Rice a Roni chicken and broccoli
    2 C. chopped rotisserie chicken
    1 romaine heart (3 C.), chopped
    1 C. shredded carrots
    1 C. fresh pea pods, halved
    ½ C. mayonnaise
    1 T. liquid aminos or soy sauce
    ¼ t. ground ginger
    ⅛ t. crushed red pepper flakes

    Prepare Rice a Roni mix as package directs; cool.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix well chill. Makes 8 servings.

    Note:  Original recipe called for 2 C. shredded lettuce, but since romaine lettuce is heartier it doesn't wilt as quick and it is also the lettuce I always have on hand because it lasts.

    This Chinese Chicken Salad has been a favorite prior to 2006 and I'm surprised I didn't see it posted already so I'm adding it here.  This one is even better because it tastes great and you have to make it 24 hours in advance so it lasts longer in the fridge if you are not sharing.   I got this recipe from Karen, a girl I met at Masses.  It wasn't till 8/7/2014 that I finally made it myself and I should have made it sooner.  She used 17 oz. of coleslaw but my package was only 14 oz. and that was fine so use the amount you find. 

    2 pkg. beef ramen soup, noodles crushed
    14-17 oz. package coleslaw mix
    ½ C. sunflower seeds
    ½ C. almonds, sliced
    1 bunch green onions, sliced
    ¾ C. oil
    ⅓ C. vinegar
    ½ C. sugar
    1 ramen flavor package, from soup package

    In a large glass bowl, layer crushed noodles, coleslaw, sunflower seeds, almonds and green onions.  In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, sugar and one ramen flavor package.  Pour over salad.  Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.  


    • Crush noodles into tiny pieces.  If you leave large chunks they will not get as soft but a few small chunks are OK.  Best way it to break it in half and rub each piece against each other.
    • The first time I made this I forgot to add the flavor package to the dressing so before I tossed the salad I sprinkled one of the packages on top, tossed and let it sit 15 minutes to combine flavors.  The next time I used both packages in the dressing and finally I did what it said.  I couldn't seem to get it right but it is a very tasty salad any way

    Variation:  Add 2 C. fresh broccoli florets.