Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Triple Food and Merlot Tasting #MerlotMe #WinePW

0Did you know that October is Merlot month?  No?  Don't feel bad, I didn't either until my friend, Jeff of  Food Wine Click, and our leader at Wine Pairing Weekend told us all about it and wrote this great post about it.  As you can see if you read this post, Jeff not only informed us that it was Merlot month he managed to have the participating wineries to provide us with bottles of Merlot to try.

I received four bottles of wine to pair with foods and share my opinions with you. Two bottles of Merlot from J Lohr, a Napa Valley Merlot from Duckhorn and a Sonoma County Merlot from Decoy. We are not normally Merlot drinkers so #MerlotMe is aimed at those like us, red wine drinkers that walk right past the Merlot and head for the Cabernet for heavy meals or the Pinot Noir for lighter meals.  Let me tell you, having #MerlotMe to bring attention to this neglected wine, worked perfectly on us.

I am not going to compare these wines as they were all very good in their own way.  I am going to tell you how they worked with the food with which I served them.  We did not drink these wines together but on three separate occasions with three separate meals.  While I appreciate our sponsors, I never write anything that is not 100% my own opinion and 100% truthful.

The first bottle we opened and tasted was the J Lohr.  We are very familiar with J Lohr and often buy their Cabernet Sauvignon which we always enjoy.

J Lohr sent us a fact sheet along with the wines giving more information about Merlot Wine that I found very interesting.  Did you know that Merlot is the second leading variety grown in California? Or that it is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine?

Also included on this fact sheet were some food pairing ideas that included Cheese Tortellini or Herb Roasted Chicken.  Now normally if I were going to serve a red with pasta, I would choose a Chianti and I normally serve Chardonnay or another white wine with chicken.  I was intrigued with the thought of serving Merlot with chicken as Frank really prefers a red wine over a white wine and I knew that he would be happy if we found a red wine pairing that worked.

I served this wine with a Chicken and Eggplant Casserole.  It paired, if not perfectly, then at least very well.  I am anxious to try Merlot the next time I make Roast Chicken and I think it may become a regular on our family table.  In the future when I reach for a bottle of J Lohr it will not necessarily be a Cabernet Sauvignon although that still remains one of my favorite bottles.

The next pairing we tried was the Duckhorn Merlot that I served up along side a Filet Mignon with a Chocolate Port Sauce.  The Duckhorn Merlot was very smooth and heavier than I expect when drinking a Merlot.  This may well become one of my new favorite wines.  I liked it just as well as some Cabs and better than many Cabs.  I cannot express enough how pleased I was to be given an opportunity to try this wine from a winery of which I was unfamiliar.  I am anxious to try their other wines.  If they are all to the same standard as this bottle, I may have found a new favorite.  You can find my recipe for this steak here.  It was a perfect Wine and Food pairing and is going down as one of the best meals we have enjoyed this year.

The final pairing was a Decoy Merlot from Sonoma.  I love Sonoma wines.  My brother lives not too far from this area and I have spent many an enjoyable day touring the wineries and tasting all the great wines they have to offer.  I served this wine up with a Cheese Ravioli Lasagna that I am sharing with you today as well.

 Decoy is another wine that I have never tried before.  It is made by the same company as Duckhorn and it too was heavier than most Merlots I have tried.  It was not as heavy as the Duckhorn but it was just as smooth and very delicious.  Had I tried these wines, with their full mouth feel and their silky smoothness before finding Cabernet, I might be writing this same article with Cab being the wine with which I was less familiar.  I think this little experiment made a Merlot lover out of me.

This Decoy Merlot paired very nicely with the pasta that I served up with it.  This was a new pasta recipe for me.  I got the idea for this dish from Cuisine at Home but I changed it up quite a bit to make it my own.  I used my homemade marinara sauce, ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese, oregano paste instead of dried, and fresh Swiss Chard instead of frozen spinach.  I also added mushrooms and onion to the dish.

It was delicious and made for a beautiful presentation which was one idea that I did keep from the original recipe.  You should really try this easy peasy and delicious recipe.  It is perfect for a busy weeknight meal.  When you do make it, please reach for a bottle of Merlot to enjoy with it.  You won't be sorry, I promise.

Ravioli Lasagna
inspired by Cuisine at Home

1/2 (1 qt)  jar of Marinara Sauce, store bought or your favorite recipe
1 T. olive oil
1/2 of a small onion, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
leaves from one bunch Swiss Chard, roughly chopped
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 t. oregano paste or 1 t. dried oregano
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 (12 oz) pkg fresh, refrigerated cheese ravioli
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over med high heat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until onions are softened and translucent.  Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times, until coarsely chopped.

Spray 4 (10 oz) ramekins with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Combine ricotta, mozzarella, egg, oregano, nutmeg and chard mixture in a large bowl.  Put a layer of sauce into each of the ramekins.  Place 3 ravioli on top of the sauce.  Layer 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top of the ravioli.  Top with remaining ravioli and cover completely with sauce.  Spray 4 pieces of aluminum foil with cooking spray and tightly wrap each ramekin.  Place the ramekins on the baking sheet into a preheated 375* oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit, covered for 15 minutes.  Turn each ramekin onto a plate and top with freshly shredded or grated Parmesan cheese. Print Recipe

Let's see what the others thought of the Merlot wines they were given to try

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Celebrating Saturday with #ChoctoberfestwithImperialSugar

It is hard to believe that our great Choctoberfest is nearly over just today and tomorrow to drool over all the lovely chocolate recipes we are sharing.  Of course, if you start to suffer withdrawals you can always shoot over to the pinterest page and drool til your heart is content.  Before you do that though, stop and enter to win some great products so you can replicate all of the great recipes you find on the pinterest page.

In this post I would like to do a shout out to Imperial Sugar who provided each of the bloggers with a full case (40 lbs) of sugar.  Imperial Sugar has been around since 1843 and is proud to use cane sugar that is non GMO.  They have coupons on their website for you as well.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find Imperial Sugar here in Michigan but if you live in the Eastern States you should be able to find it at your local grocers.

Make sure you scroll all the way down past my recipe to all the other great chocolate treats that are being shared today.

I have a wonderful, decadent treat to share with you today.  

Let's start with a layer of shortbread.

Add a layer of Almond Fudge.

Sprinkle on some toasted Almonds.

Refrigerate until the fudge hardens, then cut into serving pieces.

Sit back, pour a cup of coffee or a glass of milk and YUM!!

Almond Fudge Topped Shortbread
from Hershey's Classic Recipes

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. flour
1 (12 oz) pkg semi sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t. almond extract
1 c. sliced almonds, toasted

Beat butter and sugar together in the large bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.  Add the flour and mix well.  With floured hands, press mixture evenly into a greased 13x9" baking pan.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 20-25 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.  Spread evenly over the baked, cooled shortbread.  Sprinkle with almonds, pressing down with the back of a spoon.  Chill 3 hours or until firm.  Cut into bars.  Store covered at room temperature.  Print Recipe

Here are all the other great treats being shared today.

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Night Cocktails...#ChoctoberfestwithImperialSugar

Woohooo we made it through 5 days of Choctoberfest but we are not done yet....we are going right through the weekend.  That means 7 full days of Chocolatey Goodness.  And that, my friends, is a very good thing as Martha Stewart would say.  That means you only have 3 more days to enter to win some great prizes from our wonderful sponsors.  You can read all about our sponsors and enter the giveaway in my Welcome to Choctober post.

Because it is Friday and because we have been having so much fun I decided to celebrate today with a wonderful, Almond Joy Martini.  Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that it is Frank and not I that creates the cocktails around here.  He created this one as well.  I tell him what I want, he experiments, I taste, he experiments, I taste and then when it is perfect I write about it and I take all the credit.  It's called marriage people!!  Okay, maybe there was a little too much tasting going on and I am a wee bit punchy LOL.

I told Frank we were celebrating all things chocolate this week and would he please create for me a cocktail that would fit the bill.  Now Frank makes a mean Chocolate Mint Martini and an absolutely delicious Milky Way Martini but those have been previously discussed here so I needed something new.  So, Frank being the wonderful, loving husband that he is pulled out all of my favorite alcohol. Ciroc Coconut, Disaronno Amaretto and Godiva Chocolate Liquor. Then he announced that he was creating for me an Almond Joy Martini and asked for chocolate syrup and coconut with which to rim the glass.  Unfortunately I had no coconut.

So he made do without and instead of rimming the glasses he added a ring of chocolate to mix in with the drink itself and......It is heaven in a glass.  If you are an Almond Joy junkie like are going to love this drink.  May I offer a toast to the ladies from the PinterTest Kitchen, who have worked so hard making this event a success!

Almond Joy Martini

1 jigger Coconut Vodka
1 jigger Amaretto
1 jigger Chocolate Liqueur
Chocolate syrup and Coconut if desired

Place the liquors into a Martini Shaker.  Fill the shaker with ice and shake to blend.  Strain into martini glasses that are rimmed with chocolate syrup and coconut.  Print Recipe

Let's see how the others are starting off their weekend

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Filet Mignon Au Poivre with Chocolate Port Sauce #ChoctoberfestwithImperialsugar

My name is Wendy and I am a chocoholic.  I dream about it, I crave it, I sneak it when no one is looking.  I will eat chocolate for each and every meal and for snacks in between.  Sometimes I will even grab a spoon and eat some Sander's Hot Fudge right out of the refrigerator.

It is a sickness I tell you....I have no control over it. Nor am I sure I want to control it.  Chocolate is very high in antioxidants and the darker the chocolate the healthier it is for you.  Now you may think that chocolate is only for dessert but you would be wrong.  Chocolate works very well with savory dishes. The Mexican culture has long used chocolate in their wonderful Mole sauces.  Today I am sharing with you a wonderful, decadent Chocolate Port Sauce to serve with a Pepper Encrusted Filet Mignon.  I promise that you are going to LOVE it.

I adapted this recipe from one that I found on  The recipe has been changed quite a bit but the essence of it remains the same.

Filet Mignon au Poivre with Chocolate Port Sauce
adapted from

2 (5 oz) Beef Tenderloin Filets
kosher salt to taste
1 T. freshly ground pepper
1 T, olive oil
1 small leek, white and light green part, minced
1/4 c. port wine
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. beef stock
1/2 oz fig chocolate bar (I used Picari)

Season the filets with the salt and pepper, pressing into the meat on both sides.  Heat the olive oil in skillet over med high heat until it starts smoking.  Add the steaks and sear for 4 minutes.  Flip and sear for 3 minutes longer for med rare or until steak reaches desired temperature.  Remove to a plate and let rest while making the sauce.

In the same pan from which you removed the steaks, add the leeks and cook briefly.  Pour in the port and balsamic vinegar, lower heat and simmer until it reduces to the consistency of syrup. Whisk in the beef stock and the chocolate until smooth.  Pour a pool of chocolate sauce onto the plate, place the steak on top of the chocolate sauce and drizzle a little over the top.  Print Recipe

Go Here to enter to win over $350 in products from our sponsors.

Let's see what other great chocolate creations we have!

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pork and Apple Pie for Foodie Extravaganza

October is a great month!  The leaves start changing, the apples and pumpkins are ready for picking, people are passing out candy and decorating their houses with ghosts and witches, my daughter, nephew, 2 nieces, and sister in law celebrate their birthdays.  Then, to make things even better......They go and make it National Pork Month.  I am squealing with delight!  Oh c'mon, it wasn't that corny....well, I guess it was.

I just want you to know that I am not the only one who is excited to celebrate National Pork Month. There is a whole group of us who are going to share fantastic Pork recipes with you today.  We all belong to a group that we call Foodie Extravaganza.  Each month our host chooses on of the many food holidays that are celebrated during that time period and tells us what it is.  We all get busy in the kitchen and at our computers and present our dishes to you on the second Wednesday of each month.

I decided to share a recipe that I found on for Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust because.....I had to wipe the drool of my chin when I read it. I kept pretty true to the original recipe except that I used my food processor when making the crust and used olive oil instead of vegetable oil when cooking the onions and pork. I also used panko bread crumbs. 

This is not the easiest recipe I have ever made nor is it the hardest.  It takes a little bit of time as the crust has to refrigerate for a while before you roll it out but you can always make that a day or two ahead of time. The crust is very stiff and took some muscle when I did roll it out.  It is more like a shortcrust than a pie crust. And it ended up being a very rustic looking pie which is what I would think a Pork and Apple pie should look like.

I put it together and stuck it in the oven with a little prayer since I had never made nor eaten a Pork and Apple pie and I had gone and invited company over for dinner.  What the heck....if it doesn't turn out there is always pizza....right??

When you are ready to assemble the pie, roll out the bottom crust and place in a deep dish pan.

Next, layer in the seasoned pork and onion mixture that has been pulsed in a food processor.

Then you are ready for the apples that have been slightly pre-cooked.

Top with the second crust, coat with an egg wash and put it in the oven.

It turned out beautifully!

And it was delicious.  I will be making this again. 
The flavors were lovely and the spices in the pork mixture were perfect.
What I will do differently the next time I make this is prepare some gravy to go along with it.
Gravy would have made this very good dish, awesome.

Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust
as found at


2 1/2 c. flour
2 t. dried sage
1/2 t. table salt
2 sticks of butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
3 oz. white cheddar cheese, finely grated (I used Cabot)
6-8 T. ice water
1 egg blended with 1 T. water

Place flour, sage, salt and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the mixture looks like cornmeal with pea size pieces of butter remaining.  Add the cheese and pulse once or twice.  Remove to a bowl and sprinkle with 6 T. of water.  Mix with clean hands until the dough starts to come together adding the additional 2 T. of water if needed.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, only 3 or 4 times.  Divide in half and form 2 balls one slightly larger than the other.  Place both balls onto sheets of plastic wrap, cover and press into discs. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


6 large apples, combination of sweet and tart, cored and sliced 1/4" thick.
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 lbs ground pork
1 T. firmly packed brown sugar
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground allspice
3 1/2 T. panko bread crumbs

In a large dry skillet, over med low heat, cook and gently stir the apples just until they start to soften, about 5 minutes or so.  Remove to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the olive oil and raise the heat to med high.  Add the onions, pork and spices. Cook and stir, breaking up the pork, until the onion is softened and the pork is lightly browned. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

With a slotted spoon remove pork and onions from pan into the bowl of a food processor, leaving behind any drippings from the pork.  Add the bread crumbs to the food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times until the it resembles fine sand.

Preheat the oven to 425*.  Roll out the larger amount of pie dough, between two pieces of parchment paper, to approx 13" and place in the bottom of a deep dish pie pan.  Add the pork mixture and press down with clean hands, top with the apples.  Roll out the top crust between the parchment paper and lay over the apples.  Fold the bottom crust over the top and crimp edges.  Brush with the egg wash and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375* and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until crust is golden.  Allow to set for 25 minutes before cutting and serving.   Print Recipe

Let's see what other creations were made to celebrate National Pork Month

Foodie Extravaganza

Posting day is always the first Wednesday of the month. If you are a blogger and you're interested in joining in the fun, visit us at our Facebook Foodie Extravaganza page. You can also visit our past party submissions on our Pinterest Foodie Extravaganza board .

Thanks for joining us this month and hope you come back to see what we're celebrating next month! 

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Fudgey Mint Cookies featuring Barleans for #ChoctoberfestwithImperialSugar

Welcome to day 3 of Choctoberfest.  As part of the celebration we were lucky enough to have wonderful sponsors who provided us with great products to use and to give away to you, our readers.
If you haven't entered to win yet, you can do so in my first post from this week.

Imperial sugar supplied all of us with enough sugar to use for any recipe we had.  You can rest assured that any time sugar is listed in any of our recipes during this event that it is Imperial sugar that was used.  Another sponsor who provided some of us with product is Barleans, featuring products rich in Omega 3's.  Barleans was kind enough to send me a sample of  Chocolate Silk Greens and Essential Woman Chocolate Mint Swirl. You can learn about these products by clicking on their name. I want to make very clear that while I love getting free product and I appreciate the sponsors I never write anything that is not 100% truthful when I use them nor would I promote their product if I were not pleased with it.

I originally was going to make a chocolate mint frozen yogurt but when it was complete I was not happy with it.  It was sour and left a chalky feel in my mouth.  I needed to add less greens and more sweetener.  I didn't feel like running out to the store to get more yogurt so I decided to change gears. I have made a chocolate fudge cookie in the past that was delicious and that I thought would do well with the addition of the Barleans products.  So I made them up and I was wrong.  It didn't work well, it worked great!!!  

A friend of ours stopped by as I was taking these out of the oven.  He tried one and his exact words were "These are too good" as he grabbed two more and headed out the door to go shooting with Frank.  Give them a try.  I am sure that your friends and family will react the same way when they try them and you can feel good knowing that you are sneaking some additional nutrition into them.   Should you choose to make them without the Barleans simply omit those products and add some mint extract to the batter.  

Fudgey Mint Cookies

6 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli's)
2 T. butter
2 T. Barleans Chocolate Mint Swirl or 1 t. mint extract
1 scoop Barleans Chocolate Silk Greens, if desired
2 eggs
1/4 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. baking powder

In med heavy saucepan over low heat melt chocolate, butter and mint swirl.  Remove from heat, add remaining ingredients and stir until completely incorporated.  Drop by rounded tablespoons full onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated *350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj #ChoctoberfestwithImperialSugar

Welcome to Day 2 of Choctober, hosted by the lovely ladies of  PinterTest Kitchen.  It is amazing to me how much people love chocolate.  There is evidence of chocolate drinks dating back to 1900 BC according to Wikepedia which also tells us that the Aztec's used Cacao as currency.  That, my friends, is a long and true romance with chocolate.  We use chocolate to express our love and desire for someone. We give it to mom's and teachers to express appreciation.  We go out begging for it on Halloween. Our sponsors are giving it to our readers.  It is clear how much we love chocolate when a group of over 60 bloggers are joining together for a full week and sharing nothing but chocolate recipes.

Image result for the history of chocolate

We love dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.  We bake with it, we cook with it, we garnish with it and we eat it plain.  Chocolate is perfect for sweet dishes but also works well in savory presentations.  You will be amazed at all the different ways that you see chocolate used in recipes this week.  Thanks Pintertest Kitchen for gathering us all together, arranging great sponsors and planning this wonderful event.

Today I am using chocolate in a dish that might surprise you, Baba Ghannouj.  Baba Ghannouj is a MiddleEastern dip made from eggplant and tahini.  When I found this version on I knew that I wanted to make it for this event.  The smokiness of the eggplant and paprika melds so beautifully with the white chocolate. 

This dip is easy peasy and delicous.
It comes together quickly once the eggplant and garlic are roasted.
Throw everything into the food processor, pulse until smooth and you are ready to serve.
This dip is perfect with toasted pitas, crackers or fresh vegetables.

This is truly an addicting dip.
  I challenge you to make it and put it down before it is all gone. 

White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
adapted from

2 eggplant, slice lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled with paper shell removed
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 c. tahini
2 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Ghiradelli chips)
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. paprika
Kosher salt and Freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped Parsley for Garnish

Place the eggplant, flesh side down onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Place the garlic on the same sheet and place under a broiler set to high heat.  Broil, turning the garlic occasionally, until brown all over (about 20 minutes).  Remove the garlic cloves and broil the eggplant for another 20-30 minutes until charred all over and tender.  Squeeze the garlic into a food processor.  Peel and seed the eggplant and place the flesh in the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse to incorporate and then run the processor until the mixture is pureed.  Place into a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley for garnish.  Print Recipe

Here are the other Chocolicious Offerings for today

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.