Monday, May 9, 2016

Still Cooking and Tasting Wine, AND I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!

It's a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, upgraded from my dearly loved SX20.  The zoom on this camera, coupled with the Image Stabilization feature, is phenomenal.  See attached photo of the MOON at 9:05 a.m. one morning a week or so ago.
As for cooking, I've been dabbling in vegan cookery, since my daughter and her boyfriend are vegans and I have to make SOMETHING besides spaghetti when they come over.  Vegan cooking isn't as scary as it sounds.  It appeals to the side of me that will read a recipe, realize I don't have all of the ingredients and I'm too lazy to go out for them, but instead will find pretty decent substitutes.  VEGAN THINGS I HAVE LEARNED:

Cashew creme rocks, but you really need a better blender than mine to make it perfectly creamy.  The texture and taste is lovely anyway, especially with a little almond milk, coconut sugar, maple syrup and coconut oil in it.  Yum.

You can make your own chickpea flour from dried chickpeas but you will be pretty deaf for a few hours afterward.  Plus, it takes forever.  Better to buy Bob's Red Mill.  Add equal parts flour and water, and 1/4 part olive oil.  Cook like pancakes and top with whatever you like.  Last time I sauteed mushrooms and garlic in olive oil with leftover roasted potatoes and put that on top, then added homemade pico de gallo and a sliced avocado.  It was delicious and very filling.

Most of the veggie dishes I make are vegan anyway.  Yay!!

Trader Joe's has yummy vegan options, so it's a good thing my daughter works at one of their stores.  Oh, and they have a really nice Trader Joe's Reserve Pinot Grigio for under $8 that I can highly recommend.

My rosé of choice this summer -- and last summer too, for that matter -- is Chateau de Cornemps, from Total Wine.  Absolutely amazing, with just enough body to keep it from tasting bland or like straw, but still dry and refreshing.

Speaking of wine, I joined a non-traditional wine "club,", and I HIGHLY recommend their wines as well as their membership.  It is a wonderful business model.  Plus, I have enjoyed every bottle of wine that I've received from them.

That's it for now!  More recipes and wine recommendations will follow! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Great Vodka Experiment, Or, How I Got Tipsy In The Name of Scientific Research

I dearly love pomegranate martinis in the summertime -- cool, refreshing, just sweet enough . . . yum.  However, a few years ago, after an unfortunate encounter with a drink that was made with Everclear, I suddenly and alarmingly found myself unable to tolerate vodka.  Even the slightest swallow of it would make the room spin and send me straight into the Room Of The Great Porcelain God for a few intense hours.

Okay, fine, I'm stubborn but not stupid, so I quit drinking vodka.  For a while I was content with my Cruzan rum and juice, and gin martinis (dirty, please), but the idea that vodka had triumphed over my hitherto hard head just bugged me.  I wanted to know WHY.  And I wanted a pomegranate martini.

I did some research and found out that not all vodkas are created equal.  Some are made with grains, some with corn, and some with potatoes.  Perhaps, I thought, a change in ingredients would be the ticket.  Most popular vodkas are grain-based, so I set out to find a potato vodka.  Tito's, a VERY good Texas-made vodka, is potato-based, but since this was an experiment, I wanted to keep the cost down in case this didn't work.

One of the specialists at Total Wine helped me out, though not without a few furtive and puzzled looks.  We read labels and finally landed on Luksusowa, which is potato-based and reasonably priced.

Tonight was the big night:  I had a shot before dinner (after a glass of Running With Scissors cabernet sauvignon sipped slowly and appreciatively while watching the sunset), and waited to see what would happen.  I made dinner.  I ate dinner.  [Cue Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."]  YEAH!  This may have worked.  I felt a little tipsy, but not dizzy.

Bring on summer!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Comme approche de l'été, Rosé . . .

Okay, so this isn't my most brilliant photograph, but it's informative, and that's what I'm aiming for today.  Summer approaches!  (See title in Most Impressive French Translation.)  That means I am thinking of hot summer days and chilled French Rosé.  Sigel's at Lovers & Greenville in Dallas had a French Rosé wine tasting last night, and I marked it on my calendar, gave The Bosses fair warning, and managed to extricate myself from work in time to get there.  No mean feat.  It meant last-minute "wait, send me [X] before you go!" exhortations and navigating through sodden streets after a spring "shower" that dumped 5" of rain and blew with gusts of 65-70 mph all afternoon.  Our downtown office building was literally shaking to the point that we, on the 47th floor, were getting vertigo.  Lights were out en route to my destination, but, dammit, I got there!

It was, of course, worth the trip.  I sampled 10 wines from various regions of France, settled on three favorites, and bought five bottles for a total of $55, which was my ballpark budget for this trip.  And, as always, I learned a few things.

Taste the wine, determine if you like it, and then look at the price -- you may be surprised.  The wine I enjoyed the most was actually one of the cheaper offerings.

I am intrigued by Cabernet Franc, because it is used so often as part of a blended wine instead of on its own.  I've had a few bottles of cab franc and enjoyed its peppery assertiveness, so I was looking forward to trying the cab franc rosé, and I was surprised that I found it disappointing.  The one note was curiously flat in the lighter wine, and since my favorite rosé is a Bordeaux, which is a blend of several grapes, I decided that lighter wines must benefit from blending different types of wine into one glorious symphony of taste.  Which made sense considering which the three wines I ended up purchasing.  You'll see my notes in the photo, if you can read my handwriting!  (Don't worry -- it's already been thoroughly analyzed by Sheila Lowe, Graphologist and Mystery Writer Extraordinaire, and she assures me that I am reasonably well adjusted and not likely to go on a shooting spree after being served a glass of inferior wine.)

Cheers, y'all!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Halcyon Days of The Pool, The Grill and Crepes

I see that I haven't written anything since November, but I quit feeling bad about it last month, because this is supposed to be a fun thing for me and not a "have to." Life is too full of have to's to be adding one more to the list. Since November I've been concentrating on keeping my nose above the financial maelstrom of my bank account, working WAY too many hours at my job, and, of course, COOKING! My interest in cooking ebbs and flows depending on how tired I am, and lately I've been REALLY tired, but I've had spurts of wild creativity. This week is one of them, so under advice of a Fellow Cook (who is far more organized than I), I'm going to share this really great and easy shishkabob thing I did this past week so that I can remember it too. 'Twas the week before payday . . . which means I look around the pantry, refrigerator and freezer for weeknight dinner inspiration so I don't have to spend money that I don't have. This week I found half of a turkey tenderloin that I'd stuck in the freezer. I cut it into chunks, threw it into a marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Cavender's Greek Seasoning, and in a separate bowl of marinade added mushrooms and onions. While that sat around for a few minutes, I made tabouleh salad, cut up some cauliflower, lit the grill and started warming up the oil in my deep fryer. TIP FOR THE DEEP FRYER: My daughter has complained that when I fry anything, the heavy aroma of the oil lingers in the house, so she suggested that I do it outside. Well, there's an outlet right next to the grill, so it's easy to just plug it in out there. Smart kid. I threaded the shishkabobs and put them on the grill for about 5 minutes each side. The cauliflower went into the deep fryer for 3 minutes (no more than that!). Once out, pat with a paper towel and sprinkle with Kosher salt -- it's a delicious way to eat cauliflower! I was amazed at how flavorful the turkey was, even though I'd only marinated it for less than half an hour. We had very few leftovers but I saved them anyway, because . . . I made crepes the next night! This was my first time and I was really pleased at how delicious they were (I got the recipe from "The Big Book of Breakfast": 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cups milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt -- zip it up in a blender for about 30 seconds, being sure to scrape the sides so everything is combined, and then let it rest for about an hour or however long you have). For the filling, I sauteed spinach in a little oil with chopped garlic, Kosher salt and gentle squeeze of lemon. In a separate pan, I cooked chopped shallots, more garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil, then added white wine, reduced it, added the chopped leftover turkey and added a dollop of cream and a pat of butter to make a nice sauce. Oh yeah, salt and pepper too. As the crepes came out of the pan, I put spinach and the mushroom/turkey mixture in each, rolled them up, and topped with the rest of the mushroom/turkey mixture. Total perfection, no waste on the turkey, and you get leftover crepes to be made later into dessert crepes or breakfast crepes -- let your imagination take off!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pasta Primavera and a Wine Tasting Evening

Last week was rough. By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready for comfort food and down time.

My comfort food is spaghetti with some type of olive-oil/butter based sauce. I chopped up shallots and garlic and mushrooms and sauteed them in olive oil, then added vermouth and simmered it down, finishing with a pat of butter. I swirled the cooked spaghetti in the sauce and topped it with shaved parmesan/reggiano cheese and a chiffonade of fresh basil. It was awesome, exactly what I needed.

Saturday night was reserved for a wine tasting at a friend's house, hosted by Premier Wines of Plano ( I was very impressed, both by the wine selection and by the presenter, Luke, who really knew what he was talking about.

We tried 13 different types of wine, and there was plenty of opportunities to ask questions and throw in comments. It was informal and informative, and a lot of fun (not just because we all swallowed the tastings instead of spitting like professionals -- silly professionals!). My favorites were two by Dante: their pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. At $22 a bottle, they were out of my post-divorce price range, alas, but it was still really fun to try them all out.

Good friends, good food, good wine = good life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Old Soul and Scrambled Eggs

This is a tribute post, only incidentally about food. Littleman was a little Yorkie, 2.4 lbs., with the heart of a lion, a HUGE personality, and a very pronounced sense of self. He was 10-12 years old. I wasn't sure and he wasn't talking. He had no teeth, which allowed his long pink tongue to flap in the breeze like a piece of ribbon bubble gum. It gave him a rakish appearance, like he always knew what the joke was before anyone else. He had not been neutered, which gave him a swaggering testosterone edge on Murphy, who had parted company with his balls before he knew what they were for. (Sorry, Murf.)

Lack of teeth did not deter Littleman from eating, laying claim to any food in his vicinity, begging for food, or stealing food from Murphy. He was also able to figure out how to get Murphy to dump the kitchen garbage on the floor so he, Littleman, could take care of the leftover muffin that the humans had shockingly and inexplicably thrown out.

Littleman's favorite food, however, was scrambled eggs. His little body would simply vibrate with excitement when he saw them being prepared, and he would dance and tell whomever was eating said eggs that he would quite enjoy a bit, please. Eggs were savored and enjoyed and not a scrap was wasted.

I truly enjoyed his sassy, cheerful company all summer (the photos show his Texas summer haircut), and I'm so glad he spent some time with me and got to know Murphy, the swimming pool (a little TOO close the first day -- I had to fish him out), the squirrels, and the neighborhood bark-a-thon.

One reincarnation belief states that to be a dog is the last stop before Nirvana and, when I see the look of bliss when a tummy rub is administered, I can believe that Nirvana really is THAT close. Dogs know how to appreciate every moment, they love unconditionally, and they find wonder and happiness in ordinary things. We can learn a lot from them.

Littleman passed away from us at some point between Saturday, November 5 and Sunday, November 6, after a brief illness. He was with the person he loved best, and he will be missed by far more than just one. I hope the reincarnation thing is true, because that means he is in a place that makes him feel as happy as scrambled eggs, with endless tummy rubs. And, really, who could ask for more?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box . . . and A Gratuitous Parrot

I like the parrot. It was a wedding present, given by a witty pair of Brits who told me "we didn't know what to get you, so we're giving you this." My ex was never fond of it; I adored it, as well as the sentiment that brought it into my life, and I have displayed it prominently in every place I've lived since 1983. I love the unexpected, the departure from the road most traveled, the random synapse of the brain that caused someone to say "I'm buying this as a wedding present."

I tend to cook that way too. Rarely do I have ALL of the ingredients in my house for whatever recipe I'm trying to achieve, and I'm either too lazy or unable to run out and get whatever I need, so I "make do." I've always admired the innovative cooks of The Great Depression, who made "apple pie" out of Ritz crackers and otherwise made sure their families had something GOOD to eat. (I'm reading "Grapes of Wrath" right now, too -- great book.)

So yesterday I set out to make homemade Caesar salad dressing from "The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook" -- if you don't have this, you ought to consider getting it, because the recipes are really good. This week I'm beyond broke, and I couldn't spend money (that I didn't have) for anchovies or egg substitute for the Caesar salad dressing, as I usually do. I don't use egg substitute for anything else EXCEPT Caesar salad dressing, and I didn't see myself having a large Caesar Salad Party anytime in the future, so decided to throw caution to the winds and use a Real Egg. I don't sky dive, ski, or do any other sports that would earn me a higher personal insurance payment, but I will live life on the edge with food. Find me a sushi chef with blowfish, please! I have a 3-day rule on keeping leftovers in my fridge, but raw egg? steak tartare? NO PROBLEM!

I thought I'd try the dressing recipe without the anchovies which admittedly were "optional," according to the recipe, but the finished product didn't have the wonderful snap of flavor of a true Caesar dressing. Inspiration hit: MARMITE! Do NOT turn up your nose at this: it WORKED! The salty punch of flavor of the Marmite perfectly replicated the missing anchovies. I didn't add much -- a little Marmite goes a long way -- just enough for the salty full flavor to give the added kick that was missing from my salad dressing. I am amazed and pleased, and probably won't bother with the anchovies anymore (except as pizza garnishes . . . mmmmmm).

However, the tale does not end here. I had some salad dressing left over when I started dinner. I made scalloped potatoes (from Julia Child's cookbook), chicken breast stuffed with Havarti cheese, and spinach quickly wilted in a little olive oil with chopped garlic, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and lemon juice. Usually when I make stuffed chicken breast, I make an egg/lemon juice/cornstarch wash to dip it in before rolling it in Italian style bread crumbs. Last night I decided to use the Caesar salad dressing as the wash (well, it DID have a Real Egg and lemon juice in it!), and it was pretty damned awesome. No waste of the raw egg dressing (or another egg and another lemon), and a very delicious chicken breast.

This morning I used some of the leftover potatoes in scrambled eggs with green chilis, topped with Mexican cheese and salsa. I may try using the rest of the leftover potatoes to make fish cakes, but more on that later . . . . I'll turn that around in my mind for a while. It might just work!

I'll ask the parrot.