Friday, July 30, 2010

Wine of the Week - Grape Juice for Grown-Ups


Part of my haul from Solvang, this concord was actually produced in Oregon. A bit of a bitter aftertaste, as compared to the previous concord I tasted. Still an enjoyable wine for the right occasion, with juicy grape and berry flavors.

11% alcohol

Concord wines are very sweet and straightforward, and can be enjoyed even by people who think they don't like wine. Makes a great dessert or an easy-sipping drink for larger gatherings - very crowd-pleasing, a good choice for beginners.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Spicy Tomato Soup

Tired of the same old tomato soup over and over again? I figured out a cheap and quick way to spice it up a notch.
Based on a recipe from PostPunkKitchen to serve two.

1 can Campbell's tomato soup
1/2 frozen sweet corn
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup tomato-based salsa of your choice
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp basil

1. Prep soup as directed.
2. Throw in the corn (frozen okay) and the salsa.
3. Bring to boil for about 5 minutes. Add lime juice.
4. Add seasonings and mix.

Serve with shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, whatever your stomach's desire.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fiesta Corn

Another great TexMex dish from

2 cups corn
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 med green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 med red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 green chiles, diced
1/2 tsp paprika
A dash of salt


1. In a medium pan, saute onion and peppers in olive oil or a splash of water until tender.
2. Add corn, chiles, and liquid as needed and heat thoroughly.
3. Add spices and serve!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tomatoes, Peppers and Feta with Rice

Sorry for the not-great image. Had to use my camera phone for this.

I often have problems using leftovers before they go bad. So when I saw I had a half cup of saffron rice left, I knew I should eat it ASAP. I decided to add some chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers (from a jar), and chunks of herb-covered feta from a local-to-me family business. Together, this was a delicious mixture of flavors than made for a lovely afternoon snack.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wine of the Week - Yellow Tail 2008 Shiraz-Grenache blend


Citrus flavors up front that give way to an overall tart and hollow mid-palate. Not much of a finish, but an enjoyable party wine.

13.5% alcohol

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fajita time!

What's a simpler meal than a Make-Your-Own-Fajita bar?

Empty your fridge of your fave Tex-Mex necessities: Meat, beans, peppers, salsa, cheeses, sour cream, guac, onions, tomatoes, etc.

Grill up your meat and veggies (as I don't have a grill, I broil them for about 10 minutes). Warm your tortillas in a pan, about 2-3 minutes each side. Throw your ingredients on top, wrap, and eat!

And, if you can't see from the pic, I usually use: green peppers, red peppers, shredded carrots, mashed pinto beans, rice, and cheese.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Arizona Skillet

A quick and yummy TexMex meal from

1-2 cups elbow macaroni
2 diced tomatoes
1 can white kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 med onion, diced
1/2 med green pepper, diced
1/2 med red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook noodles in a large pot until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Saute onions, peppers and garlic in oil in a large skillet. Add seasoning (make as spicy as you like), and more oil if needed. Mix.
4. Add tomatoes. Add corn and beans. Simmer for 3-5 min.
5. Mix noodles with the skillet mixture.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pasta and Broccoli

Today, a new recipe from guest contributor Paula...

Here's a quick and easy dish to take to a picnic. It can be used as the main dish (for us vegetarians), or as a good side dish. It doesn't really have a name, it's just something I made up.
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 - 10 oz pk frozen chopped broccoli
  • olive oil
  • grated cheese
  • several cloves of garlic (or one clove Elephant Garlic)
Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain. In the same pan, heat up some olive oil and saute garlic cloves. I cut them up to get more flavor. I also like to use the Elephant Garlic...I really like garlic. When the garlic is soft, add the chopped broccoli and cook until tender. Put the cooked penne in the pan. Mix all together. Add more oil if necessary. Add grated cheese to taste - about 1/4 cup. Toss. Serve hot. Like I said, quick, easy, and always a hit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home-cooked Take-out

This dinner has evolved several times over the years and it keeps getting better. It started as a simple bean burrito and we kept adding in deliciousness until it could barely be contained by a tortilla. This is the current incarnation:

Black Beans a la Real Food Daily (Saute chopped onion and garlic until soft, add some chopped basil and then the black beans. Cook until heated through.)

Rice, which has been vastly improved by this recipe, although we used brown rice and 2 cups of water.

Sliced avocado


The hubster added some greens to his, as well. But I didn't, so you don't get to see it.

I usually eat one burrito and then go for seconds without a tortilla in a creation I call the "bowl-rito." No joke, I really call it that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

What's a better treat to have in the summertime than applesauce?

I attempted my own batch of applesauce and it came out spectacularly. And it was super easy to make.

I used the recipe found at (but without the lemon peel):

* 3 to 4 lbs of peeled, cored, and quartered apples.
* 4 strips of lemon peel - use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths
* Juice of one lemon, about 3-4 Tbsp
* 3 inches of cinnamon stick
* 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
* up to 1/4 cup of white sugar
* 1 cup of water
* 1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
2 Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels. Mash with potato masher.
Ready to serve, either hot or refrigerated. Delicious with vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt.

Freezes easily, lasts up to one year in a cold freezer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wine of the Week - Sort This Out 2009 "Suited" Muscat


From my trip to wine country...

This is a pleasantly sweet dessert wine with notes of honey. A little too watery for my taste, but some may find that that very aspect makes for a more easygoing drinking experience.

9.5% alcohol

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rice Cakes

The first time I made this recipe, found in a Hot & Spicy cookbook, I didn't have most of the ingredients listed. But I liked how it sounded, so I decided to improvise. Which, in case you haven't noticed, is generally the way I like to cook. I've made this recipe several times now, and the only time I didn't like it was when I followed the recipe in the book! So I'm going to try to give you my recipe (though it changes every time I make it and I never write anything down).

You'll need:
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh or candied ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp lemon or lime or key lime juice
  • 1/2 cup (as measured when uncooked) long-grain rice
  • Several handfuls of sesame seeds and cornstarch
  • Several pinches of dried basil or Italian spice mix or oregano
  • Several pinches of salt, sugar and paprika or chili powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Or whatever sounds good to you, really....

After cooking the rice, use a food processor to process the garlic, ginger and turmeric.

Then add the sugar, salt, soy sauce, chili powder, paprika and juice.

Add three-fourths of the cooked rice and process until it is smooth and sticky. Transfer the rice from the processor into a bowl and mix in the remaining rice. Like this:

The next step is to divide the rice mixture into small portions and roll them in the sesame seeds, cornstarch, and the remaining spices. I use cornstarch because I'm not a huge fan of the seeds being all over the outside of the rice cakes. Plus, then I can mix in more spices and add additional flavor. I mix these roughly with my hands on a plate, then spread it out evenly.

Use a bowl of water to keep your hands damp, because otherwise the rice will stick to your hands. You'll have to re-wet your hands for each rice cake. So, you'll wet your hands, pick up a small amount of rice and roll it in your hands, then on the plate. Set the completed balls aside for frying:

After you've balled up all the rice, fry or deep-fry them in vegetable oil. I drop them in the skillet, flatten them slightly and then flip when they've browned a bit.

We've had these with soy sauce and ketchup before and both worked pretty well. It's a fun snack to eat, or a nice change from the typical plain rice side dish.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dad's Favorite Biscotti

Back in, oh, let's say 1995, I REALLY liked the show Friends. So much so that I bought the official cookbook. Yes, the show was so big it had a companion cookbook. I've only made a handful of the recipes in it, but this one was a huge hit with my dad, so from time to time I like to pull the book out, dust it off and throw a batch of these together for him. It's by no means a perfect recipe - the cookies are incredibly dense for my taste and there's more almonds than I'd call necessary, but overall the little cookies turn out pretty tasty.

I'm pretty sure the book is out of print now, so I will share the recipe without guilt:

Italian Almond Biscotti
3/4 cup whole almonds with skin
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs (I use Ener-G Egg replacer for 2, leaving the last one out)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp almond extract, because I had some on hand)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the almonds out on a large baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes. Cool the almonds and then chop them roughly.

2. Stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Use your hands to make a well in the dry ingredients. Crack 2 eggs [or pour egg replacer] into the well. Add the vanilla and use a fork (and then your hands) to mix well. If the dough seems wet, knead in some more flour [Mine was actually really dry this time, so I added some water]. When the dough is smooth (it should be fairly stiff and dry), work in the nuts with your hands.

3. Grease and then flour a large baking sheet. Turn the dough onto a floured counter. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a log that measures about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between the longs.

4. Beat the remaining egg with a fork. Brush the beaten egg over the logs. (This will give them a shiny coating when baked.} [Or skip this step entirely and have dull-looking cookies.] Bake the logs until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Wearing an oven mitt or other protective gear to hold the logs in place, use a serrated knife to cut them crosswise on the diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick cookies.

5. Lay the cookies on one side and return the baking sheet to the oven. Toast until the biscotti are crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool the biscotti on racks and store in an airtight container for weeks.

6. [This step I created all on my own - you're welcome] Melt a handful or two of chocolate chips over a double boiler. Dip cooled cookies into chocolate. Lay chocolate-dipped cookies on a sheet of waxed paper and cool in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


One thing I miss since I've become a vegetarian is meatballs. I used to be all about meatballs. Couldn't have pasta with meatballs, and meatball subs were a great lunch/dinner to cook up.
I then found frozen fake meatballs, which were all well and good. And held me off for awhile. But I've really been trying to wean myself off of the processed junk, and that includes meat impostors.
And then, in a beam of light, I found this recipe a recipe in the Veganomicon. I won't have to go meatball-less again!

Here's my beanball recipe, altered a bit from the original:

1 can of white kidney beans
3 tbsp spaghetti sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme

1. Mash the beans in a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork.
2. Once thoroughly combined, roll into balls - smaller balls will hold their form better.
3. Place on a greased baking sheet (I usually use aluminum foil). Coat with a bit of olive oil spray. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.
4. When browned on the bottom, roll the balls over and bake for another 10 minutes.
5. Pour about 1/3 cup of more spaghetti sauce on top and roll the balls around. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Can be served immediately, or freeze for future meals!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wine of the Week - Smoking Loon 2008 Pinot Noir

So it turns out most of the wines I've profiled on this site have been purchases from Trader Joe's. This isn't particularly fair, since a great many readers don't have a Trader Joe's nearby. Moving forward, I'm going to make an effort to profile more broadly-available wines. Starting with this week's selection...


...Which I didn't really like. Blackberries on the nose, and flavors of dirt and tomato on the palate. The taste of alcohol was a little too present. It also lacked that bacon-y flavor I've come to expect from pinots. That being said, this wine does pair perfectly with sharp cheddar, so keep it in mind for wine-and-cheese gatherings.

13.5% alcohol

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pretzel Sparklers

I've recently become addicted to Martha Stewart's website. While browsing one day, I came across her 4th of July ideas and just had to do this one!

And it's so easy to make!

Melt some chocolate chips.
Cover the end of pretzel rods with chocolate. (Not too thick though b/c gravity will take it's toll!)
Roll in festive sprinkles.
Refrigerate for about 5-10 minutes standing up until chocolate hardens. I stood them up in mugs, but made sure they weren't touching each other so they didn't harden together.

Have a happy 4th!