Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red Door Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir

Red Door Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir
When I first started this blog I thought that I'd have more wine review posts than food posts. Boy was I wrong. My lifestyle has changed since February. Shawn and I have been training hard for Bend's annual Pole Pedal Paddle race and I've found that the fitter I've become, the less alcohol I drink. I just don't seem to like drinking a glass of red while cooking dinner any more. Ice water with lemon is much more appealing. So as you can see my wine posts are just barely once a month now instead of one a week like I had hoped.

I think a change is in the air however. The race was last weekend and we did super awesome. Although we've already started training again for next year, our pace will slow down a bit. We are also getting married next week and I foresee many celebratory gatherings in the future. I've also re-discovered white wine and I've fallen hard for it...sorry red! All of these things (I hope) mean more opportunities for drinking and reviewing some excellent bottles of vino.

Now enough with the excuses and on to the review!

Willamette Valley Pinot's are world renown for their excellence. I've done a tasting tour of the Willamette and I would agree with that statement. However...they originally were not my favourite. When Shawn and I were looking to enter into the wine industry I did ALOT of tasting and learned to (as best as I could) objectively judge a particular wine, removing my personal preferences from the glass, so to speak. We needed wines that most people would enjoy, not just me. And just because I like a wine, doesn't mean its a particularly good wine. (Case in point - Charles Shaw White Zinfandel)

So when I say Willamette Pinot's are not my favourite, then that most definitely does not mean that they are bad. Willamette Pinots have light, floral quality to them that California Pinot's lack. California Pinots are rich, powerful and very fruit forward. Basically the opposite of a Willamette Pinot. I used to ADORE California Pinot's. But that was when I liked my red wine bold. Now my taste buds have mellowed out for the time being and I'm rediscovering Willamette Pinots.

We bought this bottle of Red Door Cellars, 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir last summer. I pulled it out to celebrate our Pole Pedal Paddle result; I was looking for something different and refreshing.

This wine hit the mark.

Red Door Cellars 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Tasting Notes:


Bouquet: Light, slightly weak. I really had to get my nose in the glass. It presents immediately with a classic Pinot Noir bouquet of red berries and Willamette Valley floral notes. I'm a little rusty right now and I had trouble specifically distinguishing the different aromas. Vanilla was present probably from the oak barrel aging process.

Taste: Smooth with low acidity levels. The taste is true to its varietal and has mellow, oaky undertones. This is a lighter, more easy drinking Pinot, very classic Willamette Valley which lacks the fruit forward boldness characteristic of California Pinot Noirs.

Colour: Deep raspberry. Opacity is semi-young; the colour fades to a brownish red to clear along the edges.

Score: 88%

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beer of the Month: Deschutes Brewery - Black Butte Porter




Deschutes Black Butte Porter
We always have a few bottles of Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter tucked away in our pantry. I love to use it when cooking all kinds of cuts of meat in my slow cooker. One of my favourite applications of this porter is for Pulled Pork...yum!

Every once and awhile I'll reach for a bottle of it on the top shelf and find that there are none left. This is because Black Butte Porter is not only lovely for cooking with, its also one of Shawn's fav beers to drink.

This will be the pick for May's Beer of the Month. Its basically been a horrible spring here in the northwest so I think I can getaway with a porter for a spring pick ;-)

I'm not a fan of rich dark beers so Shawn helped me out with some of the tasting notes...

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Deschutes Brewery - Black Butte Porter
-Tasting Notes-

Aroma: Coffee, hint of dark chocolate, malt.

First sip: Crisp beer with earthy tones. The texture is thicker than expected.

2nd-3rd sip: Taste is bitter with a slight metallic tang and heavy roasted malt undertones.

Aftertaste: There is a bite at the back of your tongue. There is a lingering flavour of slightly over-baked crusty bread or even slightly burned chocolate cake. The malt flavor is also present.

Comments: After awhile the flavours mellow out and the carbon becomes more pronounced. Shawn thinks this beer would be better on nitrous as opposed to its natural carbonation. For a rich heavy beer this is easy drinking, allowing you to have several of them. Overall, it's good for drinking and cooking :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parmesan Basil Orzo - Lazy Risotto

Parmesan Basil Orzo... 

...the lazy lady's risotto
I love the bulk food section of Winco. It's one of my happy places. After I gather my necessities I love to wander among the rows of bins and look for something unique to take home and add to my repertoire. It's all so cheap there that I can afford to have fun and try something new. This last trip I spotted the orzo. I've never bought it because I joke that its just fancy rice. But this time, with some room in my budget, and at like 30 cents a pound, I convinced myself I needed it...for the blog. After all, all good bloggers need to branch out and try new ingredients in order to expand the skills and recipe boxes of their readers.

So I bought a GIANT bag of it and headed home. Super smug.

Shawn was surprised, "You don't eat pasta. Orzo is pasta. You bought a giant bag of it. This seems weird."

**Sigh**

I don't know why I like it. I just do. My dislike of pasta is kind of a texture thing for me. Lasagna noodles are the worst with angel hair pasta on the edible side of my pasta spectrum. Orzo must just be so small and rice-like that it doesn't bug me. When cooked in broth and mixed with Parmesan its practically risotto.

I guess that's why I love this recipe so much. In 20 minutes you have a delicious side dish that could pass for risotto. No stirring and heaps of butter. Just canola, broth, parmesan cheese and basil. Yum.

I recommend making it exactly as stated and then trying it and branching out with more ingredients. Next time I'll be adding fresh diced tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms. It makes a perfect side dish or light meal for one to two. I also recommend doubling the recipe if you are cooking for more than two - its that good!

Parmesan Basil Orzo - Lazy Risotto
inspired by Allrecipes

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp of canola oil
  • 1 cup of uncooked orzo pasta
  • 15 oz of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 tbsp of dried basil
  • salt and pepper to season
Directions:
  1. In a medium sized deep skillet heat the canola oil and add the orzo. Stir until the orzo begins to brown.
  2. Add the chicken broth to the orzo and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover with a pot lid, and let the orzo cook until the liquid is absorbed. Approx 20 mins.
  3. Watch carefully during the last 5 minutes of cooking time as the orzo can begin to stick.
  4. Once the broth is absorbed and the orzo cooked. Remove from heat and add the parmesan and basil. Stir until the parmesan is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maple Orange Ginger - Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Maple Orange Ginger - Mashed Sweet Potatoes
We love sweet potatoes! They are so yummy and good for you too.

I've been in a bit of a rut in preparing them though. I've been so focused on fine-tuning my sweet potato fries recipe that I've been using up all our sweet potatoes for that task. I just recently bought a new box and decided to take a break from fries and try some good'ole mashed sweet potatoes. I found this awesome recipe while perusing foodgawker and had to try it! I was so pleased with the results. The maple syrup, orange juice and ground ginger made this dish refreshingly different and super delicious. We finished the whole bowl and licked our plates too!

This is a perfect side dish for steak, grilled chicken, turkey or roast meat of any variety. Definitely don't make this if you want a platform for some gravy though...me thinks that would taste pretty nasty!

So whip this dish up and serve it now, remembering you don't need to wait until fall to cook some sweet potatoes.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
from Slice of Feist

Ingredients:

  1. 3 sweet potatoes 
  2. 4 tbsp butter
  3. 1 tsp orange zest (I omitted this as I had no oranges)
  4. 2-3 tbsp of maple syrup
  5. 1/4 cup milk (I used soy)
  6. 1/4 cup orange juice
  7. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  8. salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Cook the sweet potatoes. I scrub them, pierce them with a fork all over and then cook them on my potato setting in my microwave. I then remove the potatoes and slice open their skin length-wise to let the steam escape. After they are cooled enough to handle I peel off the skin. If the potatoes are cooked properly the skin pulls right off!
  2. Add your peeled potatoes to the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment. Mash up the potatoes (I use my mixer because they mash easier but you can do it by hand). 
  3. Add all the ingredients to the still warm, mashed sweet potatoes and mix. Add the salt to taste.
  4. My mixture ended up getting a little cold by the time I had mixed and added all the ingredients. So right before I served it I warmed in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti Squash Casserole
This recipe will change your life.

No kidding.

For all of you trying to stay fit and healthy by exercising and eating right...which I think is basically everyone I know...this recipe is a godsend and will make that 'eating right' part, a walk in the park.

I love carbs and I am a strong proponent of the 'everything in moderation' motto, so don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those anti-carb people who eat their burgers without a bun, I love bread. Thankfully I'm not really in love with eggy, floury pasta. But I know a lot of people are, and I don't judge, but I have just the recipe for you...

...Spaghetti Squash Casserole.

Spaghetti Squash strands waiting to be sauced, herbed, and baked!
It is golden, delicious, tender strands of spaghetti squash baked with tomato sauce, an abundance of italian herbs and a lovely, delicate crust of parmesan and panko breadcrumbs.

It's not spaghetti but it's a close, almost carb-free substitute. And with a few glasses of wine downed while waiting for it to bake, I'm sure you could easily convince yourself it is in fact pasta. ;)

Spaghetti Squash Casserole prepared and ready to be baked.
Spaghetti Squash Casserole - Let's eat!


Spaghetti Squash Casserole
from Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:
  1. 2 small or one large spaghetti squash
  2. 1 can of plain tomato sauce
  3. 1 tbsp of olive oil
  4. 1 tsp sea salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
  6. 1 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  7. 1 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  8. 1 tsp of thyme
  9. 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes *optional
  10. 1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese *optional
  11. 1/4 to 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs *optional
  12. *feel free to add fresh spinach or chopped proteins
Directions:

1.  Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer. Add the whole spaghetti squash and cover with a lid. Simmer for 30 minutes flipping the squash over at the 15 minute mark. After cooked, remove from pot and let it cool. Do this step in the morning before work or, if you have time, a  few hours before you want to bake the casserole.

2. Once cooled, cut the squash in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. With large metal spoon scoop out the strands of squash, moving length wise and scooping from side to side. If you've never prepped a spaghetti squash, this slightly confusing process becomes clearer once you open the squash and see the strands for your self. Place those golden strands into a large bowl.

3. Preheat your oven to 425 F.

4. Add the tomato sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper and dried herbs to the squash, toss to coat evenly. Add more salt or herbs to taste. Place squash mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs evenly over top of the squash mixture.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes and serve! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Favourite Whole Wheat Buns

Favourite Whole Wheat Buns
Grilling season is fast approaching and so I think it's time to finally post my Favourite Whole Wheat Buns recipe.

Stuffed cheeseburgers to grace my Favourite Buns
I've been using this recipe for a year now and although it calls for white AP flour, I use whole wheat AP flour with no problem. The recipe is also super easy and the dough rises quickly allowing you to make these the day of your BBQ if you want. They also freeze excellently allowing you to make them ahead of time too!

These buns are soft and light. They stand up to a burger and all those condiments without being too firm and causing your ketchup to squish out...don't you just hate that! I make these year round, mostly for pulled pork and sloppy joes in the cold months and burgers in the warm months. I also use this recipe for hotdog buns and hoagie buns for philly cheese-steak sammies! Yum!

So dust off that BBQ and go make some buns!

Favourite Whole Wheat Buns
from Allrecipes

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Combine the milk, 1 cup of water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from   the heat and let stand until lukewarm. I do this in the microwave. I always tend to let the milk boil over...it just happens so quickly!

2. In a large bowl, stir together 4 cups of the flour and the yeast. Pour in wet ingredients and stir until the dough starts to pull together. Add more flour as needed. You may need all 5 1/2 cups or only 4 1/2 like me sometimes. Knead in stand mixer for 8 minutes or by hand for 10. Dough should be smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover in plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour.

3. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions. They should be a little larger than a golf ball. I make 10 larger balls. Make tight balls out of the dough by pulling the dough tightly around and pinching it at the bottom. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. After the rolls sit for a minute and relax, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until it is 3 to 4 inches wide. Set rolls aside until they double in size, about 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Mix together the egg  and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup or small bowl. Brush onto the tops of the rolls and sprinkle with sesame seeds for fun! 

5. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the rolls from the oven and return them to different shelves so each one spends a little time on the top. Continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top and bottom.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potato
So sweet potatoes are back at Costco! We don't buy regular potatoes anymore preferring the orange or whitish goodness of sweet potatoes instead. And those little buggers, while super healthy, are also super expensive in regular grocery stores. So I'm always super happy when I see them at Costco; can't beat 10 lbs for $6.99. That's 0.70 per pound! When I can get them for that price I don't worry about saving them for special dinners.

Seeing them at Costco made me remember a yummy way I like to eat sweet potatoes...

Baked!

You can dress them the same as regular baked potatoes with sour cream, chives, bacon bits etc. But because they are sweet potatoes you have even MORE options! How about maple syrup, cinnamon and pecans? Or a sprinkle of chili powder, garlic and cumin topped with black beans, sour cream and salsa? You have so many possibilities!

Baked Sweet Potato with scallions and cottage cheese

I love the chili powder/black bean combination. But I also love plain and simple sliced scallions with cottage cheese. It's a healthy snack or light dinner, that tastes good and you can feel good about eating.

And at .70 cents a pound, it's a dinner that's easy on your wallet too!


Baked Sweet Potatoes
by Kaitlyn Vriezen

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
  2. Scrub desired amount of sweet potatoes and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
  3. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes. The orange variety take less time in the oven. The white variety are firmer and closer to a classic potato in texture. They will probably require the full 45 minutes. 
  4. After cooked, remove from oven and slice open the skin length wise. Let the steam escape for a few minutes while you prepare your chosen toppings. 
  5. Once the potato has cooled a bit lightly mash the inside flesh with a fork a few times. Add toppings, seasonings first - mixing into the flesh. Then add everything else with syrup, sauces, cheese, or sour cream last.
  6. This is great pared with a crisp side salad.
  7. Grab a fork and dig in! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thin Crust Pizza - Roast Beef

Thin Crust Pizza
It was Pizza Night last night! (FYI: we have no set day for pizza night, any night we have pizza is Pizza Night!) We have always been fans of the thicker crusted 'pan pizza's' but I decided to shake things up a little. During one of my epic days of baking, where I just keep going and going, I had made a thin crust pizza dough and put it in my freezer for one of those days that you want pizza but don't want to make a mess of your mixer. I pulled it out in the late afternoon and then left to do errands and a Costco shop. I arrived back at the house just before 8pm and within 15 minutes, the first pizza was in the oven! Gotta love that! 


Pizza dough is one of my canvases for leftovers. You can literally put any type of food related leftover on it. Add your sauce of choice, some veggies, roasted garlic, and cheese and you have a gorgeous meal that rejuvenates those leftovers into something special.

My leftovers last night were: roast beef, half an onion and one old red pepper than needed to be used sooner rather than later.

Thin Crust Pizza toppings
To compliment the roast beef,  I chose to saute the onions with the garlic cloves before putting them on the pizza. My layers were, from bottom to top: marinara sauce, thinly sliced roast beef, garlic onion mixture, red pepper slices, cheese (parm and cheddar), and a sprinkling of dried oregano, dried basil, and red pepper flakes for some heat.

Bake in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes and you have thin crust pizza perfection!

**Recipe Note: I thawed my dough but didn't wait long enough for the dough to fully enter its second rise. Don't do this if you want a thicker crust. Let the dough start to fully rise before you begin cooking it. It also helps if you don't roll it out very thin ;)


Thin Crust Pizza


Basic Pizza Dough (I used this for thin-crust pizza)
from Food Network

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, stirring to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing with the beater attachment of your stand mixture until smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. When the dough starts to get thick, switch to the dough hook attachment.
  3. Knead the dough with your mixture or by hand for 3-5 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still tacky.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place into a large oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. About an hour.
  5. At this point you can freeze your dough - just punch down, form into pizza disks or simply a ball, wrap and freeze.  Or shape as desired, place on greased baking sheets, wait 30 minutes for the dough to start rising again, top with toppings, and bake.
  6. I prefer a 500 degree oven and a baking time of 10 minutes. Your oven and taste may vary. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Best Ever Fudge Brownies

Best Ever Fudge Brownies
So I feel like I've tried every single fudge brownie recipe known to man in the last month! Shawn challenged me a few weeks ago to find or create the best ever brownie recipe. Since then I've made brownies with 5 eggs, brownies with 2 eggs, brownies without eggs, brownies with cocoa powder, brownies without cocoa powder, brownies with brown sugar....and every other combination you can think of. I now think that the challenge was a little more self-serving on his part rather than being a way to expand my knowledge of baking. He had an endless supply of brownies coming his way!!

In spite of the challenges and all the possible combinations, I finally managed to strike gold! This recipe was the last one I tried. I had found an awesome recipe 2 weeks prior and failed to bookmark it. I spent 3 days of going through page after page of brownies on foodgawker and google trying to find the long lost recipe. I never did find it. I tried a few others and none of them came close. I was at my wits end when I found this recipe while randomly surfing the web. It's annoying how you look, and look, and look for the perfect couch, jeans, shoes, brownie recipe etc... and you finally find it when you are not even trying! Sheesh!

Well I found it. I will search no more.

These brownies are rich, dense and oh so chocolately!


**Recipe Note: I did not line my pan with foil and I will NEVER do that again when preparing this recipe. Those brownies are fudgy and sticky. Just the consistency I crave however this makes these brownies horrendously difficult to remove from even the most heavily buttered non-stick pan. Line your pan people! And if you don't have foil use parchment paper :) (See image below!)



Best Ever Fudge Brownies - they are so dense they stick to even well greased non-stick pans!

Best Ever Fudge Brownies

from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 oz) butter
8 oz dark chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13×9 inch metal pan with foil and grease the foil.

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Add 1 cup of the sugar to the hot chocolate mixture. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.

Whisk in remaining 1 cup sugar and vanilla and then the eggs 1 at a time. Whisk in salt and cocoa powder, then add flour and stir until it disappears (do not over-mix).

Spread in pan and bake until a pick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature then chill for an hour or more. Lift from pan, peel off the foil, place on a cutting board, cut into squares.




Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Healthier Mongolian Beef

Healthier Mongolian Beef
I first fell in love with Mongolian Beef at Yan Can in Santa Clara, California. It was sweet, tangy, and spicy...yum! I looked online for recipes to replicate it but I wasn't happy with the high amounts of sodium and sugar used. From what I could tell it was a pretty unhealthy dish. So Mongolian Beef remained off the menu in our household.

Until I found this cute little food blog that has made over recipes for "Take-out at Home". One of the revamped recipes was Mongolian Beef. I had to try it.

Boy am I happy I did. It's PERFECT! The recipe uses only a few teaspoons of canola oil, 1/3 cup of low-sodium soy sauce (which I reduced more) and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Served with on top of brown basmati rice with steamed broccoli; this is a meal you can feel good about eating.

**Recipe Note: I highly recommend using a high quality cut of beef. I used organic, grass and grain fed sirloin steak.  Remember to trim all the fat and remove any connective tissue before slicing the beef. Our beef was so tender we could cut it with a fork! :)

Mongolian Beef
from Handle the Heat

Ingredients:

  • Premium, high quality flank, tri-tip or sirloin steak. Cut against the grain.
  • 2-3 tbsp of cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons of canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce (I reduce this more by 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1/3 cup of water (Plus add a tablespoon for every tablespoon of soy sauce you removed)
  • 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
  • slightly heaping 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (use less if you don't want it too spicy)
Directions:
  1. Remove excess moisture from sliced steak by blotting with a paper towel.
  2. Toss the steak with the cornstarch adding 1 tbsp at a time until well coated. Shake off excess cornstarch.
  3. In a measuring cup add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and powdered ginger. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 
  4. Add the canola oil to a heated wok. Add the chopped garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. With a spoon removed the garlic while leaving the canola oil in the wok. Add the garlic to the soy sauce mixture. 
  5. Add the beef to the wok and brown. 1-2 minutes.
  6. Pour the soy sauce mixture on top of the beef in the wok and simmer for about 5-6 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. 
  7. Serve on top of brown rice with steamed veggies.