Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Watermelon cookies

I saw this recipe online and I couldn't pass it up.

They were fairly easy to make, except my dough was a bit dry - a few tablespoons of water did the trick. I also mistakenly used regular chocolate chips rather than miniatures, but that made the cookies surprisingly chocolaty.

For the full receipe, visit AmandasCookin.com.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wine of the Week - Sort This Out 2007 "Zin City" Zinfandel


The next entry from my trip to wine country...

As already noted, I was surprised by the excellence of Sort This Out's Merlot. But as regular readers know, Zinfandel is my grape of choice. Sort This Out comes through with an excellent old vine Zinfandel. Full flavors of tomato and earth, especially in the mid-palate, with the typically spicy aftertaste Zinfandels provide. Highly recommended.

13.5% alcohol

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yummy Mummy Meals

I hope in the name of all that is good in this world that by the time anyone reads this I will have my baby in my arms and no time to cook. In preparation for this trying time in my life, I have prepared what I like to call "Yummy Mummy Meals." Over the past few weeks, my freezer and pantry been filling up with easy-to-reheat and easy-to-cook meals and ingredients.

So far we have:
Two Baked Zitis, cut into individual servings

One batch of Banana Muffins

One batch of Bakery-Style Berry Muffins from Vegan Brunch

One batch of Corn Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

One batch of jam-filled bran muffins (some raspberry, some strawberry), also from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

One batch of Blueberry Pancakes with added flax for added yumminess

One batch of Cinnamon Rolls (although they're kind of sad, because the yeast didn't do it's thing... pretty sure I accidentally killed it)

Ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough (Is it possible I've never blogged about my famous chocolate chip cookies? I'll rectify that soon enough, but suffice it to say, I made a big ol' batch of dough, rolled it into cookie-sized balls and froze said balls. Plan is to pop a few in the oven when I'm in the mood for a cookie.)

Tons of veggie broth (My "recipe": 1-2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks all roughly chopped, 2-4 cloves of garlic, dill and any other spices that seem good at the moment with as much water as my biggest pot can hold. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for at least an hour.)

A variety of cooked beans

Homemade pizza dough (I currently have enough for 4 pizzas)

Lentil Soup

Pita bread, tortillas & bagels (store-bought)

Three pints of my grandma's delicious veggie soup.

And my pantry is filled with pasta, dried beans, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, cous cous, rice, flour and all the usual suspects.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Potato and Greens Soup

Love potato soup? Try this spin from the Veganomicon:

Serves 2:

4 baking potatoes - baked and cooled
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
3 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of salt
2 cups kale, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup milk

Potato wedges:
1 tbsp cornmeal
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 paprika
1 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil

1. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Set aside 2 halves for the wedges. Slice the rest of the potatoes into 3/4" chunks.
2. In a pot, saute the garlic, thyme, sage, and salt in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add a bit of veggie broth to it doesn't burn.
3. Add the chunks of potatoes and the rest of the broth. Cover and bring to a low boil. Add the kale. Cook covered for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, on a plate, combine the cornmeal, garlic, and spices.
5. Slice the potato halves in half again so you have four long slices. Dip each side into the cornmeal mix.
6. Lightly coat a pan with oil and cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes on each side. Add more oil as needed.
7. Once the soup is done cooking, mash up the potato chunks. Add the milk and mix.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Pasta Salad

I made up a recipe for pasta salad that included:
-red peppers
-chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
-shredded carrots
-hard boiled eggs
-diced tomatoes
-shredded basil leaves
-balsamic vinaigrette dressing

While it was tasty, next time I'll also add:
-mashed avocado
-cheese or nutritional yeast

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wine of the Week - Black Mountain 2009 Pinot Noir


My first non-Santa Ynez pinot noir since my trip to Solvang. I'm now certain that this is a grape I shouldn't have been ignoring for so long.

A commonality I'm finding in pinots noir is this smoked bacon flavor on the palate. (Safe for vegans - no pigs were harmed in the making of this wine.) This one also had flavors of honey and cherries... great timing for summer!

As a 2009, I probably cracked into this a little early; but it was still very good. Will probably be even better in a year. At around $6, a great value.

12.5% alcohol

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Udon noodles with shiitake in miso broth

Let me preface this by saying I don't like mushrooms. Now, let me tell you that this is one of my favorite new recipes. That's how good it is.

From Veganomicon.

Cook up a pack of Udon noodles (I think soba would be great, too... might try that next time). Meanwhile slice (or cut smaller, like me) a bunch of shiitake mushrooms and a red onion. Cook 'em up for a few minutes, add garlic and ginger. Add 2 cups of water and a few tablespoons of miso, bring to a simmer. Add a head of chopped up kale and let it wilt. Then, add the drained noodles and let it all cook together for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little bit of soy sauce and serve. Yum!

Oh, and don't let the word broth make you think it's a soup. That was a mistake I made, but the broth is really just a thin sauce for the noodles and veggies.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Breakfast potatoes

Waking up one morning, I really had no idea what to have for breakfast. So I just threw together some items I had in my fridge, and the result was actually extremely satisfying:

My Ingredients:
A few potatoes
Cubed firm tofu (but I'm sure ham or bacon would have gone just as well)
Chopped green bell pepper
Chopped red onion
Ripped pieces of kale
A bit of chopped garlic
A splash of pepper
Olive oil

1. Slice the potatoes into large pieces and boil for about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Chop into large cubes.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan and cook the potatoes until brown.
3. Add tofu, pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook until tofu starts to brown. Add more oil if you need it.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 5 more minutes.

And serve!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wine of the Week - Sort This Out "Even Money" 2006 Merlot


The first wine I'm profiling from my recent trip to the Santa Ynez Valley. I gifted this wine to my neighbor as a thank you for keeping an eye on my cats while I was away. She was gracious enough to share it with me on the night she opened it, so I got to taste this excellent wine a second time.

Full, deeply fruity and flavorful, with an amazing chocolate-y aftertaste. I love this wine! Although the word "merlot" scares some people off, I give this my full endorsement. Buy it if you can.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Personal "Pan" Pizzas

My BFF, Ariel, came over to my apartment for the first time and I decided to make it a pizza party. And since one big pizza was never going to satisfy the tastes of all three people, I decided we would do personal pizzas.

I used my go-to dough recipe, which makes enough for two regular pizzas. So I put half in the freezer for another time and split the remaining half into three equal pieces.

My pizza was topped with cashew ricotta from Veganomicon, spinach (which had been sauteed in garlic and olive oil), onion and portabello mushroom. And tomato sauce, of course.

Ariel's pizza was 1/4 green pepper, 1/4 onion and 1/2 cheese. She gave it several thumbs up.

And my hubby's pizza was "all dressed," as they say in Montreal - onion, mushroom, green pepper and cheese.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creole Stuffed Peppers

A mighty fine veggie side from the Veganomicon. Make as spicy as you like!

Serves 2:

1 Large bell pepper
Olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp paprika
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 can black-eyed peas, drained

1. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and gut. Boil for about 5 minutes, and rinse to cool.
2. Heat some oil in a skillet. Saute the onion, jalapeno, and carrots for about 10 minutes until brown. After 5 minutes, add the garlic.
3. Add the herbs/spices, tomatoes, and peas. Stir and cover, and cook for about 10 minutes.
4. Fill the pepper halves with the veggie mix. Bake in a greased casserole dish for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees and serve.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wine of the Week - Rendez-Vous 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau


Holy cow, did I NOT like this wine! The alcohol is overpowering, and the taste is an unpleasant array of citrus fruits. Best served as cold as possible, to damper the taste. AVOID! 12.5% alcohol.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Several Simple Salads

I like eating salads, especially when it's hot & humid outside like it is right now here in Kansas City! Here's four versions of salads I've made lately, all quick and easy to prepare:

Baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, roasted sunflower seeds with red pepper vinaigrette.

Romaine with chickpeas (from a can), nutritional yeast flakes and red pepper vinaigrette.

Baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, corn off the cob, roasted sunflower seeds and red pepper vinaigrette.

Baby spinach, chopped tomatoes, nutritional yeast flakes, chopped avocado and balsamic vinaigrette.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lemon Bars

And now for the finale of my Picnic series (see Part 1 and Part 2)... dessert!

I got the recipe for these lemon bars from The Joy of Vegan Baking, a cookbook that I love but often forget about. I was deciding between this recipe and one from one of my many cookbooks by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and this one won because it didn't contain agar, which I didn't think I could source from my neighborhood grocery store.

They came out super yummy and sunny, which was just what we needed at the end of our picnic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Adventures in Grapeland

Like so many others, I loved the movie Sideways. And also like so many others, it influenced me to take my interest in wine a little more seriously.


Last month, Helby and I took a weekend trip up to Solvang, the setting of Sideways. We stayed at a nice little lodge in a touristy part of town modeled as an old Danish village. There are lots of shops, restaurants, bakeries and, of course, a concentration of wine tasting rooms. Helby also booked us on a wine tasting tour which took us to four vineyards. Over the course of 48 hours, I tasted 38 different wines from seven different producers.

Lucas & Lewellen - The first tasting room we went to on our first night in town, and a great start to a weekend of wine. This is a good producer. I did a tasting from their Reserve List and, while I'm sure you'd be happy with any of their wines, I particularly recommend the 2005 Pinot Noir Goodchild "Hilltop."

Bella Cavalli Farms & Vineyard - Our first stop on the wine tour, and one of my favorite producers from this trip. I enjoyed both their 2008 Pinot Grigio and their 2005 Pinot Noir. Being a red person, I'd particularly recommend the latter. It had a spiciness, and tastes of tomato and mango.

Rusack - I'm afraid that a not-so-great presentation may have negatively colored my opinion of these wines. We visited this room in the mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and they were slammed with business. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to give these wines another chance. That being said, they had the best Rosé I've ever had (in my limited experience with Rosés).


Saarloos & Sons - Probably my favorite producer from this trip. This is a small, family owned operation. I loved all their reds, but none moreso than the MRS Pinot Noir. Thick, rich and balanced, it had tastes of honey and golden apple against red berries. It also happens to be $52/bottle. If I had lots and lots of money, I'd have lots and lots of bottles of this. But I couldn't bring myself to cough up the money at the time and, being a small producer, they'll probably run out soon which means I'll never get to taste this wine again. And that makes me sad. But this is a producer I'll be keeping my eyes on for a long time.

Sunstone Vineyard & Winery - Our final stop on the wine tour didn't blow me away, but had an interesting 2006 Merlot Estate with tastes of chocolate. Also a good 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Rather pricey for the quality, however.

Sort This Out Cellars - Back in town, we stopped at a couple more tasting rooms before our weekend was over. Sort This Out is one of the few rooms in town that's actually open at night. (Yes, Solvang encourages you to do your drinking during the day.) This is a fun little rockabilly joint with a gangster and pinup theme, and live music. Their cellared wines are also very enjoyable. They have a 2009 Viognier and a 2008 Grenache that both taste like candy. But I walked away with their "Zin City" 2007 Zinfandel, while Helby picked up their 2009 Suited Muscat.

Royal Oaks Winery (no website) - Our final tasting room on our way out of town. I took their dry wines tasting, while Helby took the semi sweet. I picked up a 2006 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, while Helby bought both a Niagara and a Concord.

So, that was our first trip to wine country. The overall experience of tasting these wines in the heart of the region that produced them reminds me of visiting Hershey, PA in my teens. Yes, chocolate is always good, but the pristine freshness of experiencing it just off the line is like nothing else. Likewise, there's a special spark to these wines when you're enjoying them in wine country. Not to mention the beauty of the region.

Keep your eyes on this site. In the coming weeks, I'll post more detailed write-ups on the wines purchased during this trip.

In summary:
If you remember anything about Sideways, you probably remember how much the main character Miles loved pinot noir. After seeing the movie, I tried some pinots noir and wasn't particularly impressed; the pinots I tried were perfectly fine, but didn't stand out to me as a grape worth obsessing over. One thing I learned on this trip was why Miles loved pinot noir so much. The Santa Ynez region clearly excels at producing it. I'll be paying more attention to it in the future.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy my recommendations. Most of the wines mentioned here are available for purchase online, so check out the websites and leave your comments below.

Note about shipping wine between states:
Many states have laws in place that prohibit direct shipment of wines from producers to consumers. These unfortunate laws serve to benefit distributors and other middlemen, and are a disservice to both the wine producers and the consumers. If you live in a state that restricts direct shipment, you may not have access to the wines discussed above. Most of the websites for each wine producer have listings of where their wines may be available in your area.

If you live in a state that restricts direct-to-consumer shipments, you can help Free the Grapes! Visit http://www.freethegrapes.org/ and click on your state for information about contacting your representatives.

Finally, if you're planning a visit to the Santa Ynez Valley and are interested in booking a wine tour, I can heartily recommend Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours. They have great relationships with the area's wineries, clean and comfortable tour vans, and affable driver/tour guides who will show you a good time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tangy Veggie Sandwich

A quick, simple, and yummy sandwich that's great for lunch or dinner. And don't forget healthy!

Slices of:
Red Pepper
Shredded or sliced Mozzarella cheese
Greens (I used arugula)
1-2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Your fave bread

Roast the veggies for 5-10 minutes to your liking. Throw everything in between bread slices and enjoy!