Brussels Sprouts Actual

After testing a Brussels Sprouts recipe last week I opted for a standby for Thanksgiving dinner.  It has veggies, fruit and nuts.  Had made it a few times and it’s quick, easy and delicious and would be better for Turkey Day.   What do you need?  Can’t ask for many fewer basics:

-Brussels Sprouts
-Dried apricots, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
-Pistachios, coarsely chopped — if you even want to (about 1/3 cup)
-olive oil


Have some fun getting those apricots ready.


Cut the Brussels Sprouts in half.


Blanch the Brussels Sprouts for 3 minutes and rinse.


Heat some olive oil in a pan, throw all ingredients (Brussels Sprouts, apricots, pistachios, S&P) on top.

IMG_2284Heat for about 5-7 minutes until nice and browned.  Serve and enjoy.  I love them and there sure weren’t many leftovers.


International Pinot Noir Tasting

For Thanksgiving we opted to do an international Pinot Noir tasting.  Since the varietal is one that has been rumored to pair well with turkey, we thought it  would be fun to see how different country’s respective grapes compared.  We went for three continents — get everybody to join the party!


Hob Nob, 2011, Languedoc, France:  Smooth, oh so smooth.  I could taste chocolate.  Not a great pairing for turkey, but we took one for the team and still enjoyed it!  Hand me some chocolate covered pretzels and this wine…oh yes! Very reasonable — about $10-$12.

Nobilo Icon, 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand:  More acidic than Hob Nob, much better pairing for turkey, traditional Pinot taste.  I say that as nothing jumped out about it but still very nice.  About $15.

Schug, 2010, Carneros, California:  Same as above…more acidic than Hob Nob, much better pairing for turkey.  Taste of cherries then a bit of smoke at end.  About $17-$20.


Definitely a fun element to add to Thanksgiving dinner and it was great listening to all the comments at the table on people’s specific tastes, likes, distinctions, characteristics they took from each wine.  Go Pinot!

Let’s Get Crack(er)in’

Pre-dinner, appetizers, crackers.  Go to store, reach for X box.  Get home, open cardboard then bag (or just rip open the bag of pita chips — don’t lie).  Why must we always do this?

I am crafting ideas for an event in a couple weeks and wanted to do a test pilot recipe for homemade super crisp crackers.  Did some googling and an Alton Brown recipe came up on Food TV‘s site.  How can you go wrong with Alton?  I used the basics and threw in some lemon zest and vodka to complement some of the fish I aim to serve the crackers with.

5 ounces whole-wheat flour
4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
<used all whole wheat because I was out of regular!>
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 1/2 ounces water
<used 1.5 ounces vodka and 5 ounces water>
added 1.5 teaspoons lemon zest
I went with the awesome Penzey’s dry lemon peel for my zest that I wanted to add.   Add water, 15 minutes later, voila!
Then, you just mix the dry ingredients, blend in the wet ones, knead a few times and break into 8 small balls of dough.
You let them sit for 15 minutes then roll them out to desired thickness, based on what kind of cracker you’d like.
Put the entire piece of dough in the oven.  You’re supposed to flip them half way but I love baking stuff on oven-proof racks to avoid the flipping need.  After 6-15 minutes, depending on what you choose (based on Alton’s specs), take the crisps out of the oven, let cool, then break into desired size of crackers.
The recipe (online) got rave reviews.  I think my effort to put my own flavor into it altered it a bit in an off way (the vodka made them a bit ‘soggy’) but they are still darn edible.  I just always love tweaking things.  But, give them a try!  Very easy to make and a fun alternative to store-bought crackers.

Wine Notes, continued

There were more great tips in the wine notes I found from my class years ago.  These were on Basic Flavors.  This is something I (and could likely do a generic ‘we’) often think about when selecting a wine to pair with food.


  • Salty
    • Works well with crisp, dry white wines
    • Trick: adding salt to food reduces the tannic impression of some red wines
  • Spicy
    • Reduces the sweetness of wine, making some dry reds taste astringent
    • Works well with ripe fruity wine
  • Sour (e.g. lemon, vinegar)
    • Generally very hard to pair with wine
    • Rely on crisp, acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc
  • Savory (e.g. mushroom, soy, umami)
    • Red wine, preferably full bodied
    • Rarely works well with white wine
  • Smoky (e.g. smoked meat, smoked fish, even some smoked cheeses)
    • A bit of sweetness will work, like in Sherry of Gewurztraminer
    • With smoked fish or pork, German Riesling
    • With smoked meat, try spicy Zinfandel or (Australian) Shiraz
  • Sweet
    • Sweet foods make the wine taste drier than it truly is
    • With desserts, wine should always be sweeter than the food, otherwise the lose their body and often taste sour

And some side scribbles:

White before red
Young before old
Simple before complex
Dry before sweet
Temperature – 20 minute rule – need to remember the exact specs, but I think it’s put a red in the fridge for 20.
Cork does you no good for testing
Crystals on the cork are no problem
Price a bottle of wine between the cost of 1-2 entrees
The wine doesn’t have the match the main ingredient on the plate
Red fish = red wine
Short cooking time = white wine
Soft cheese = white wine
Hard/veined cheese = red wine

Brussels Sprouts Test

One of my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner is a brussels sprouts dish. So when I was attending a party last night, I took that as a test-run for a recipe I’d been eyeing.  I was from a recent issue of Bon Appetit — Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Chanterelles.  It looked simple yet complex so it had to be made!

Ingredients are pretty basic (and I of course made some substitutions):

1½ pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved — they didn’t have any (whole ones) at the store so I grabbed the shaved ones at Trader Joe’s
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise ¼” thick — went with prosciutto
12 ounces chanterelles or crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved or quartered if large — baby bellas at TJ’s, oh yeah
1 large shallot, chopped
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry Sherry — white wine because I had it
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


The recipe, as named, aims to have the brussels sprouts grilled but I didn’t have the option.  So went with the alternative…5-8 minutes in a skillet over medium high heat.  You take them out when done then cook the bacon (or prosciutto here) until crisp, then remove.


Throw the mushrooms in there, cook for a few minutes, the get the shallot and garlic going, t00.IMG_2260

Throw everything else in there, stir, salivate, taste, stir, taste some more to be sure everybody will be just as happy as you.  Oh, then I guess share/serve.  Great option for Turkey Day!


Double Magnum

We normally go get our bottle of wine — nice 750ml.  Sometimes when we need a bit more we might buy the magnum, two bottles worth.

When at a tasting last week there was a raffle for an even bigger bottle and one of the people I was with was beyond lucky and was the winner of a DOUBLE magnum.  It’s one of those bottles that you just see but never think about ever drinking from (and might sometimes wonder if there is even wine in it).  It holds 4 regular bottles worth of wine.  So, she is now the proud ‘owner’ of a double magnum of Bogle Phantom — nice stuff!

Here’s a comparison picture of bottle size, double magnum vs. regular.


Wine Notes

I was flipping through my recipe binders last night searching for something to make for a gathering this weekend and what do I come across?  Notes from a wine class I took in 2004.  Hmmm…I knew nothing about wine back then.  I remember drinking that bright blue bottle of super sweet Riesling and other quality stuff.  I never sank so low as White Zin, though, fear not.  I loved reading over some of this info.  Lots of good notes to keep in mind.


Basic Rules (per the instructor):

-Drink what the locals drink — ‘when in Rome, …’

-Drink what you want to drink, not what somebody else tell you is the ‘right wine’

-Beware that some pairings will clash (like spicy Shiraz with angelfood cake)

-Main ingredient is important but…

-Accents in the sauce and seasonings are the focus of the flavors

-Time of day is important:
-afternoons – maybe whites or roses work best
-evenings – fuller-bodied whites and reds are more satisfying

-hot summer afternoons
-cool to cold winter evenings
-instructor deep thought — air conditioning was probably invented so that red wine would taste better in the summer.  Nice!!

-cold dishes need cold wines, usually lighter wines
-warm/hot dishes need bolder flavors and bigger wines

-Length of time cooking:
-short cooking (stir fries, seared, etc) suggests lighter wines
-longer cooking suggest heartier wines

-What else is on the plate?:
-one bottle for an entire meal presents problems
-some meals, think Thanksgiving, offer a wide range of flavors that are tough to match

-Pick wine that matches the weight and ‘size’ (bigness of flavor):
-simple, fragile wines with simple, fragile flavors
-robust wines with hearty dishes

-best example of texture in wine is sparkling wine (or beer) with spicy Asian food
-consider this range of texture:  filet of flounder, lobster tail, steak

-Cooking with wine:
-easiest rule:  serve the same wine
-therefore:  never cook with cheap wine

-Sweet wines are tough to match with main dishes, but not impossible:
-Americans are used to drinking sweet drinks (soda, iced tea) — why not sweet wine?
-the secret is in balancing sweetness and acidity

Great wine (vs food) for thought when hitting the stores this weekend and deciding what to pick up.

Pinotage…from CA not SA?

When at the store the other day something came up about South Africa, the word Pinotage came about and then next thing I knew we were being led to the California section?!  Yes, oh yes.  Apparently some vintners are trying to get that amazing grape over here.  So we of course had to buy a bottle, from McNab Ridge Winery.  It was quite unique.  Not as smoky as South Africa, but still darn good.  And when it finished, it was creamy, super creamy on the back on the mouth.  Definitely worth trying!  It was mid-high teens, dollar wise.


Wine Class #3

And I go back a class.  In the third week we bounced around a little on what we learned about, but some of the main points I took home were:

-the ‘parents’ of Cabernet are Sauvignon Blanc and Cab Franc

-high tannins and acidity are the base for Bordeaux

-Cabernets and Chardonnays adapt to climate

-Syrah=crowd pleaser

We tasted quite the range of wines that night, darn!

2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, about $13


2011 Willm Geurztraminer, Alsace, France, about $16


2009 Chateau les Grands Marechaux (Merlot), Blaye Cote de Bordeaux, France, about $24



2012 Milton Park Shiraz, South Australia, Australia, $9 — definitely lived up to the price


2012 Punto Final Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, about $13 — almost ‘raisin-ed’


2012 Clos Le Vouvray (Chenin Blanc), Loire Valley, France, about $20


2011 Chateau de Chasseloir Muscadet, Loire Valley, France, about $12 — pair with salt


2011 Tres Picos Garnacha (Grenache), Borsao, Spain, about $18 — love this one!


2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany, about $18


Tired of Mashed Potatoes?

As I was going for new dishes this weekend, I came across a recipe that sounded delicious that I had to try.  With Thanksgiving around the corner, I like testing recipes and/because my family definitely doesn’t stick to conventional dishes during the holiday.  This recipe could definitely replace mashed potatoes!  I found a Cooking Light recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing.  What a blend of flavors.  From a little sweet to a bit of heat.

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup water

2 teaspoons honey
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkinseeds) — I used almonds because I couldn’t easily get pepitas
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves


1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a large jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes.


3. Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil, cranberries, water, and honey in a saucepan. Remove 1 or 2 chiles from can; finely chop to equal 1 tablespoon. Add chopped chipotle and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce to pan (reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use). Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher or fork until chunky.

4. Place pepitas in a medium skillet; cook over medium heat 4 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan frequently.

5. Combine potatoes, pepitas, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture to bowl; toss gently to coat.


Great, great recipe!  Will totally make this again and it will likely be on Turkey Day.