Monday, January 15, 2018

Last night we attended a wine and dine at the Springbrook Inn in Prudenville, MI.  The Inn puts on these dinners 6 times a year and we go as often as we can.  

Our friends, Bob and Cathy, live in the neighboring town so it is always fun to join them for the evening.  We start with cocktails at their house, have dinner, return to their house for after dinner drinks and laugh....laugh....laugh  the night away.

This morning they made us two wonderful casseroles for breakfast one savory and one sweet.  The savory casserole is going to make an appearance on this blog in the near was delicious.  The sweet casserole was delicious as well.  It was a French toast casserole and I have shared many of them with you already.

Back to the dinner:

The tables are always beautifully set.  The chef works hard to offer food different for each event.  As you can imagine, this gets harder as time goes by.  This is their 3rd year hosting these events and he has yet to duplicate a dish.

We started off with a Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc from Australia.  This was paired with a goat cheese spread flavored with black pepper and honey with a fig compote.  This was my  favorite bite of the evening.  The pairing was very nice.  The Sauvignon Blanc was reminiscent of biting into a grapefruit.

The second course paired a Blackened Salmon with a Pinot Noir from Meiomi Vineyards in California.  The sommelier explained that Meiomi wines are made from wine grown in several different areas of the Coastal Region of California.  The same vineyards that supply the grapes for their Caymus label.  

Next we were served another wine from the family that gives us Caymus.  This Merlot from Emmolo was paired with Beef Burgundy.  Emmolo Winery is ran by Jenny Wagner in Napa Valley.  This wine was deep, rich and smooth.  We quickly ordered ourselves a case.

Dessert was an amazing Avocado Ice Cream paired with a Cristalino Brut out of Spain.  Sparkling wine is always a good choice with dessert and this was no exception.

We headed out shortly after breakfast because there were weather advisories for snow storms and we wanted to get home before they got here.  I had originally thought we would be stopping for dinner on the way home but we were home well before dinner time. 

This worked out just as well because I had half a slab of ribs in my refrigerator that needed to be used.  The other half had been turned into a Cassoulet that I will be sharing with you later this week.  

Besides the ribs, I had half a head of cabbage, 1 green apple, half a package of mushrooms, half an onion and about a cup of chicken broth in the refrigerator.  These all got thrown into the Instant Pot and an hour later we were enjoying dinner.

After nearly two months of feasting on fancy, fussy foods my body and soul are now craving homey, rustic, casual foods as is evident by this Roasted Veggie Tart that I shared with you on Saturday.

Pork and Cabbage in an Instant Pot

1/2 slab of meaty spare ribs
1 T. olive oil
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
1 green, tart apple, peeled and diced
3-4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 c. chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Turn the Instant Pot to the saute setting.  Divide the ribs into individual pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in the Instant Pot until browned on both sides.

Add the cabbage, onion, apple, mushrooms, broth and garlic to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Hit the cancel button to stop the saute cycle.  Place the lid on the pot, ensuring that the steam vent is closed.  Press the Meat/Stew button and allow to cook for the preset time of 35 minutes.  Let steam naturally release for 10 minutes when cooking cycle ends before using the quick release method.  Print Recipe

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Celebrating Sonoma #WinePW #SonomaStrong

Today we are going to look back to that horrible period in October when the wildfires raged over northern California.

See the source image

These fires dealt a terrible blow to the tourism industry that supports this area.  Not only did many people lose their loved ones and their homes, they also lost their jobs and financial security.  While the fires are contained the devastation continues.

See the source image

You can read about how all these fires affected the economy and jobs of all those who live and work in the wine industry which is huge in that area in this article

Our friend, Jill of L'Occasion , invited all wine bloggers to join the members of our Wine Pairing Weekend group this month to honor this area's winemakers and join in the relief project known as #SonomaStrong.  You can read her invitation and get more information here.  Should you be interested in helping with this cause you can make a donation through United Way Relief and Recovery Fund.

The folks over at Geyser Peak Winery decided to show their appreciation and offered their support by sending some of us 2 bottles of their wines to sample.

"One of California’s oldest and most renowned wineries, Geyser Peak Winery was founded in 1880 by Augustus Quitzow, a pioneer in Alexander Valley winemaking, Geyser Peak has flourished as an award-winning winery for more than 130 years. Quitzow chose the original winery site in Geyserville for its vantage point of the famed Geysers Geothermal area. The white steam that billowed from the geysers along the mountain slopes provided the winery with a spectacular ‘view of the clouds’. Today, Geyser Peak pays fond tribute to its past roots in Alexander Valley as it sets forth on a new path into the Dry Creek Valley Appellation where the winery has recently relocated. Although the address is new, the commitment to the highest quality artisan winemaking is not. Geyser Peak will continue to “Reach For Peak” for many years to come."

I have enjoyed Geyser Peak wines in the past and was excited to create a meal with which we could enjoy these bottles.  All opinions and thoughts in this and all of my posts are strictly my own.  Purchasing wines from this area is another great way to help get the economy in that area back on stable footing and offer support to the people affected by this disaster.

I tried to make sure that over the holidays all bottles bought as gifts were from this area.  Just my little way of saying "I got your back".  It was easy for me because, as a California wine lover, I know that a label from Napa and/or Sonoma are sure to contain a quality wine even if I'm not familiar with the winery itself.

I served the Sauvignon Blanc with Chicken Alfredo Lasagna last Saturday. This was the entrée for our last Dinner party of the Christmas season, shared with our family who lives up north and was bringing our great niece back down for the next semester of University.

I wasn't sure how this wine was going to be.  You see, we are in the middle of a deep freeze here in Michigan.  Indeed, throughout most of the Midwest and Eastern States of the Country.  When my wine was delivered, this bottle was partially frozen and slushy.  Luckily the bottle was still intact.

As it thawed, the color of the wine looked fine and I wondered if, perhaps, we often buy wine that has frozen during transport and then thawed in the store without ever realizing it.

I opened the wine and took a taste while I was making dinner.  I was pleased that it tasted exactly as I expected.  It was citrusy and bright with hints of grass.  I used it to deglaze my pan while making the sauce with the chicken breasts.

The crispness and brightness of the wine cut through the richness of the lasagna making it a wonderful pairing that we all enjoyed.

I served the Cabernet Sauvignon on a Meatless Monday with a Roasted Vegetable Tart.  Say what?!! Cabernet Sauvignon and no meat?  Yes, folks, I did it and it was amazing!!

If there is a better pairing than blue cheese and Cabernet Sauvignon, I have yet to find it.  This tart has just a hint of blue cheese that gives the perfect flavor to the sweet earthiness of the roasted veggies.  

And my crust....that rustic, homely crust......was the flakiest most tender crust I have yet to make.  That adage not to judge a book by it's cover was certainly true in this case.  

This recipe was inspired by  this one found in Food and Wine that recommended pairing a Roasted Veggie Tart with a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  

The wine, a 2014 Walking Tree, was aged for 21 months in small oak barrels.  It is smooth and full bodied.  I think it would complement a nice juicy steak or black and blue burger as well as it did this recipe I am sharing with you today.

Savory oven roasted veggies covering a blue cheese sauce and enfolded in a flaky, tender all butter crust, this Rustic Tart makes a perfect Meatless Monday or Vegetarian Dinner.  Paired with a full bodied aromatic wine it made a great casual dinner.  The recipe could easily be doubled or even tripled to serve at a dinner party.

Please stop by and visit the other members of our group who are supporting Sonoma during this terrible disaster.  They will have additional options available for those who want to assist in this endeavor.

Rustic Roasted Vegetable Tart
inspired by Food&Wine

1 1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
10 T. butter, well chilled and cut into 1/4" dice
ice water
6 (1/4") slices eggplant
1 portabella mushroom cap, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 of a Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick moons
1/2 of a  red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. gorgonzola cheese
2 oz. Neufchatel cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 t. parmesan 

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until crumbs are pea sized.  Add 2 Tablespoons of the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times until incorporated.  Add 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing after each until the dough holds together when pinched.  You do not want it to turn into a ball in the food processor.  As soon as it holds together, turn onto a floured counter and form into a ball with your hands.  Press into a disc shape and wrap with plastic wrap, covering completely.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Unwrap and place on a floured work surface.  Let rest for about 10 minutes so that it warms up enough to be pliable.

While dough is resting, toss the eggplant, mushrooms, onion, zucchini and pepper with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicone mat.  Place in a preheated 450* oven and roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring once.  Remove from the pan onto a plate and set aside.

Mix together the gorgonzola and Neufchatel cheese until smooth.  Beat in the egg and parmesan cheese.

Roll the dough into a round, you don't need to worry about trimming the edges or making it look pretty.  Place the round onto the same lined baking sheet that you used for the veggies.  Spread the blue cheese mixture on the crust, leaving a 2" border.  Arrange the veggies over the cheese mixture.  Fold the dough up partially covering the veggies.  Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Print Recipe

Let's Keep #SonomaStrong by visiting the others' posts

Friday, January 12, 2018

Wining this Weekend and the Weekly Menu

Yay for Friday!!!  I don't normally get excited about Friday's because when you are retired every day is the weekend but this weekend is different.

Tonight, we are going over our daughter, Amy's, house to celebrate Doug's birthday.  Tomorrow I will be sharing a post I wrote for Sonoma, California wineries that are suffering due to the wildfires that engulfed the area.  I will be sharing some great wines from that area not only tomorrow but later in the month as well.

Then, on Sunday, we are heading north to join our friend's, Bob and Cathy, at a Wine and Dine.  These Wine and Dine events are held at the Springbrook Inn and are limited to a small number of guests. You can read about a past Wine and Dine we attended here.  I am looking very forward to this event that has the theme "Black and White".

We will spend the night at Bob and Cathy's and head home on Monday.  We will probably stop for dinner en route.

The rest of the week is routine.  We will pick up Melody on Tuesday.  Wednesday I have food pantry.  Thursday is choir and Friday we are going to try, for like the 10th time, to have a date night.  Last May we were given gift certificates for massages and also a gift card to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Both are located about an hour away from us so we are trying to plan a date when we do both.  Something else always seems to come up before we can make our reservations.  Perhaps I should make the reservations now so that it doesn't get shoved to the back burner again.

So here is my Weekly Menu. Please stop by each day as I share recipes, photos and a bit of my life here on the farm.

Soup Saturday

Black and White-Wine and Dine

Dinner out on the way home

Toddler Tuesday
Thai Inspired Noodles

Burritos made with Leftover Chili

Mushroom Pie

Date Night

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ginger Garlic Shrimp #ImprovCookingChallenge

Our theme for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife,  is Ginger and Spice.

I was so overloaded with sweets during the Holiday season that I almost sat this event out.  Then, when I was creating my menu for Christmas Day, inspiration struck.  I knew I was going to serve ham and chicken marsala.  I also like having a fish or seafood dish and decided to make shrimp.  That's when I remembered the theme for this month's challenge and knew that I was going to use ginger and spices in my shrimp so I could participate.

This is so easy and quick that it hardly seems like a recipe at all.  I can see me making this again and again throughout the year.  It is lowfat, healthy and delicious.  It can be adapted to serve a crowd or just one person, simply adjust the amounts.

I served this as part of a dinner buffet but I will be making it again for dinner served with stir fry veggies and steamed rice. It will be perfect.

Ginger Garlic Shrimp

2 lbs. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact
2 T. olive oil
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1 T. garlic paste
1 T. ginger paste

Heat the olive oil and crushed red pepper in a wok over med high heat.  When shimmering add the garlic and ginger.  Stir into the oil.  Immediately add the shrimp.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, being careful not to overcook as they will become tough. Print Recipe

The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.You can also read more about the event on our our home page
If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna #ComfortFood

Oh My guys are going to be so happy when you try this fabulous Lasagna recipe that I'm sharing with you today!!

This recipe was served up on Saturday at my last dinner gathering of the Christmas Season.  We celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas so the parties continue right up to Epiphany or, what we like to call, Little Christmas.

My friend, Cindy of Cindy's Recipes and Writing, invited the members of our Festive Foodies group to share Comfort Food recipes today.  This recipe is PERFECT!  If you are a fan of Fettuccine Alfredo you are going to be doing a happy dance.

It is perfect for a crowd or a dinner party on a cold winter's night. It can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it in the oven.

I used oven ready lasagna but you can use regular lasagna noodles or homemade lasagna noodles if that is more your thing.  I adapted this recipe quite a bit but the original idea came from my Cuisine at Home Magazine published in 2004.

I served it up with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma. You can read more about that and join in the efforts to help those suffering from the devastation of the wildfires next Saturday.

I sautéed up some chicken breasts that I had thinly sliced into strips but this would also be a great way to use leftover chicken.

It is a little disconcerting when you assemble using oven ready lasagna sheets because there is so much empty space in your baking pan. 

Not to worry. Once it is baked, everything expands and melts together to make a perfect lasagna.  Look at all those layers of cheesy, comforting goodness.

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna
inspired by Cuisine at Home, Issue #43

1 lg. chicken breast (about 2 lbs) sliced into thin strips
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. olive oil
1 lg. leek, white and light green, well cleaned and sliced
1 (12 oz) pkg mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 T. garlic paste
2 t. dried basil
1 t. oregano
1 t. thyme
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small onion, diced
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch nutmeg
1/3 c. flour
3 cups milk
1 pkg (5 oz) Boursin Cheese
3 oz. Neufchatel Cheese
1 bunch baby spinach leaves
1 egg, beaten
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pkg. oven ready lasagna sheets

Season the chicken and saute in a large skillet over med. high heat, until no longer pink on the outside.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Add the leeks and mushrooms to the same skillet, adding more oil if necessary, and cook until softened.  Stir in the garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and thyme.  Cook and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the white wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the chicken broth and lemon and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Return chicken to pan, remove from heat and set aside.

 In a large saucepan, melt the butter over med high heat.  Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent.  Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.  Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth and cook until thickened.  Add the Boursin and Neufchatel cheeses, a little at a time, whisking until melted.  Add the spinach leaves, in batches, stirring after each until wilted.  Return the chicken to the mixture, remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Whisk in the beaten egg.  Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

Spray a 9x13x3 baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/3 cup of the béchamel (white) sauce onto the bottom of the baking pan.  Lay 3 pasta sheets across the bottom of the pan and cover with another 1/3 cup of the béchamel.  Spread 1 cup of the chicken mixture over the pasta, add some of the mozzarella slices and sprinkle with parmesan.  Add 3 more pasta sheets, 1/3 c. of the béchamel, 1 c. of the chicken, mozzarella and parmesan.  Repeat until all pasta is used.  Top the final layer of pasta with the reserved béchamel and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 400* oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly and top is browned in spots.  Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.  Print Recipe

More Comfort Foods

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Beet Slaw #KitchenMatrixCookingProject

Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Kitchen Matrix Cooking Project.  A few of us, under the direction of Cam from Culinary Adventures with Camilla, are cooking our way through Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix cookbook this year.

We kicked it off last week with appetizers, specifically Party Dips.  I shared my take on Bittman's Potted Shrimp that I shared during a Christmas Cocktail Party.

The dish I am sharing with you today, was also served at a Christmas party.  My last of the year, when we celebrated Little Christmas or Epiphany with our family that lives in Traverse City, about 5 hrs. north of us.

Our theme for today was Raw Beets.  Bittman shared a recipe for a Borscht Salad.  My niece, great niece, Frank and I are beet lovers so I knew it would be a welcome addition to the meal.  

This is more of a slaw type salad.  I loved the dill flavoring and the hard boiled egg but thought it needed a little more oomph.  So I added more sour cream and some chopped bacon to the leftovers and took it to Roz and Ron's when we went to celebrate Little Christmas at their house on Sunday.  The bacon added the oomph for which I was searching.

As Frank said when I asked him what he thought of the idea of adding bacon...."Everything is better with Bacon in it".  I am adding the crumbled bacon addition to the recipe below.  Feel free to add it, or not, as the mood strikes.  This entire cookbook is all about taking a basic recipe and making it your own.

You will find how the others used Raw Beets in the links below this recipe.  Enjoy. 

Beet Slaw
adapted from Kitchen Matrix

3 small beets, peeled 
2 c. shredded cabbage
1 egg, hard boiled
5 strips bacon, cooked crisp and cut into small dice
1/3 c. sour cream
2 T. fresh dill fronds, minced

Cut the beets into chunks and place into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely grated. (You can use any method you like for grating but this is the easiest I had found and it keeps your fingers from turning red.)

Place the beets in a large bowl with the cabbage. Chop the egg and add to the bowl along with the bacon bits.  Toss all ingredients together.  Add the sour cream and the dill weed. Fold into the ingredients until well coated.  Print Recipe

Here is what the others created with Raw Beets

Pretzel Sticks #BreadBakers

Robin, of A Shaggy Dough Story, is hosting our Bread Bakers group this month with a theme of Pretzels.

I found this recipe for Pretzel Sticks by Grant Achatz in the December 2006 issue of Food & Wine.  I live in a small town in Michigan bordered by equally small towns.  The Achatz family hails from my neck of the woods.  They are famous for their quality homemade soups and pies.  Grant took the skills and knowledge that he learned from his elders and struck out for Chicago where he has opened restaurants and been named Rising Star Chef, Best Chef in the USA and has been inducted into the James Beard Hall of Fame.

I was thrilled to make one of his recipes to start off the New Year.  I modified it to only make 12 large pretzels and I used kosher salt instead of Maldon as it was available in my cupboard.

They were amazingly delicious.  Better than those soft pretzels that you get in the mall.  I served them up with some yellow mustard for dipping.  I had to force myself to stop going back for nibbles.  They were that good.

These chewy, salty sticks are perfect for snacking on and hearty enough, that if given to the kids when they come home from school famished, will stave off starvation until dinner time.

Pretzel Sticks
adapted from Food&Wine

1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. water
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 T. vegetable oil
3 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. baking soda
1 egg beaten with 1 T. water
kosher salt

In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with dough hook, dissolve sugar into 1 c. warm water (110*), sprinkle with the yeast and let stand about 5 minutes, until foamy.

Stir in the oil and 1 1/2 cups of the flour.  Gradually add another cup of flour until incorporated into the dough.  Add remaining half cup of flour, as needed, if dough is too sticky.  Knead on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until dough is silky.

Place into an oil lined bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and place onto a floured counter.  Knead lightly and flatten the dough.  Cut into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a 9" roll about 1/2" thick and place half an inch apart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.  Set aside for half an hour until puffy.

Fill a 3 qt. skillet with 2 qts. of water and the baking soda.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Reduce heat to med high and parboil the pretzel sticks in batches for about 30 seconds, flipping once.  Remove to paper towel to drain.  Return the drained sticks to the baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and bake in a preheated 450* oven for 10-13 minutes, until richly brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Print Recipe

More Perfect Pretzel Recipes


#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ham Salad Pate a Choux #BakingBloggers

You guys!!!  I was so excited with my first attempt at Pate a Choux.  I was always under the impression that they were difficult.  I am so glad that choux pastry was chosen as the theme for this month's Baking Bloggers group, led by Sue of Palatable Pastime.

I would never have tried these had they not been chosen by the group for our January project.  I decided to make savory appetizers instead of a dessert.

I served these at a Cocktail Party on December 29th.  I had tons of leftover sweets from Christmas and leftover ham that needed to be used so going savory was a perfect solution.

These gorgeous Pate a Choux made a great addition to the appetizers I had placed on a buffet for my guests.

I took the large chunk of ham from the bone to make the filling and then the bone got put into the soup pot.  I'll be sharing the soup recipe later this month.

You can fill these with any savory filling that you would like.  You will find my recipe for ham salad here but they would be equally delicious with Chicken Salad, tuna salad, crab salad or even thinly sliced roast beef piled inside.

I used this recipe from Alton Brown and it will be my go to from now forward.  I will be making Pate a Choux again and can't wait to try the sweet version for cream puffs.  Now that I know how easy it is the possibilities are endless!!

I halved the recipe as I was only having  4 couples at the gathering.  Had I known how well they were going to turn out I would have made the full recipe.

Savory Pate a Choux
slightly adapted from Alton Brown

1/2 c. water
3 T. butter
1 t. salt
3 oz. flour
2 lg. eggs + 1 egg white

Place the water, butter and salt in a small pot over med high heat and bring to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and stir in flour.  Return to heat and mix until all flour is incorporated and mixture is in the form of a ball.  Place into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and let cool for about 5 minutes.

With the mixer on the low setting, add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Place dough into a pastry bag fitted with the round tip.  Pipe onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat.  Each piece should be about the size of a golf ball and spaced 2" apart.

Place in a preheated 450* oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350* and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and pierce with the tip of a small paring knife to release steam.  Print Recipe

Let's take a look at what the others baked up!

Choux Pastry

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Happy Little Christmas

photo from Bing

Today, in the Christian world, we celebrate Epiphany.  Also called Three Kings Day, Theophany or, as in our home, Little Christmas.  It is the day that our Lord was revealed as the Christ.  Our Lord and Savior.  God made man.

It is our final day of Christmas.  We will celebrate with one final family dinner being hosted by Frank's sister, Roz, and her husband, Ron.  The Christmas lights will shine for their final night.

Tomorrow, life returns to normal.  The decorations will start coming down.  The Christmas décor removed, the winter décor put in it's place.  It is going to be a short "normalcy" this year.  Our Lenten season begins February 14th with Ash Wednesday.  Yes, our season of atonement begins, this year, on St. Valentine's Day.  

Photo provided by Bing

Thus will start our 40 day journey to prepare ourselves for the resurrection of our Christ.   Easter, more than Christmas, is the holiday that is the most important to me in my faith life.  It is by His death and resurrection that I see Jesus as the Christ.  Had He not risen from the dead, Jesus would have just been another great man.  It is this resurrection that proved Him our Lord and our God.

Photo from Bing

Easter this year falls on April 1st.  Yep, Easter is on April Fool's Day this year.  I'm sure some of my agnostic and atheist friends will have a riot with that one.  It's okay....our God has big shoulders.

photo provided by Bing

Lent will not be completely solemn though.  The 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays.  Sundays are set aside to revel in our Lord's goodness.  So our Chinese New Year celebration will take place on Sunday, February 18th.  

This is the year of the dog.  It officially begins on Friday, February 16th. The characteristic word this year is Action...that is a very good word.  I have decided that it will be my word and goal for this year.  My birth year is in the year of the dog....the prediction is that this will be a very good year for me but also an exhausting one.  THAT will be a switch LOL.

Each year, since Tingting became our daughter, we have celebrated Chinese New Year.  We first would go to a restaurant that had a celebration each year, including dragon dancers, fortune tellers and fireworks along with traditional foods.  They stopped doing this several years ago so I continued the tradition by preparing dinner and having a party here at home.

The final day of the Chinese New Year is celebrated by releasing lanterns that had been used as decorations for the homes in which the celebration was held.  These lanterns were provided by our friends, Linda and Greg, the first year we celebrated at home.

Last year we celebrated the Year of the Rooster, with a family dinner.  The previous year we also celebrated Nicole's birthday and Valentine's Day along with Chinese New Year.  In 2015, Chinese New Year fell on Ash Wednesday so we moved our celebration to the following Saturday.  The first year, that I had this bash, we celebrated on Super Bowl Sunday.  I gave the most in depth account of the festivities and posted a lot of photos in this post.

I am looking forward to this year's celebration.  I will spend the next few weeks planning my menu and finding the decorations to make this a special day for our Chinese daughter and granddaughter. 

Happy Little Christmas everyone!!!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Primitivo and Pasta from Puglia #ItalianFWT #BudgetMeals

So last month I told you all about a new wine group that I joined, Italian Food Wine and Travel, and shared a recipe for Orecchiette with a Pork Ragu that I made in my Instant Pot.  I had not gotten to the store to pick up a bottle of Italian wine with which to pair it so I paired it with a California wine.

Little did I know, when I wrote that first post, that this month we were exploring the area of Puglia.

See the source image

As you can see the Puglia area is located in the heel of the boot and is surrounded by water.  Cuisine plays an important role in this area.  Indeed, as it does throughout all of Italy.  This area is known for growing olive oil, artichokes, eggplant and tomatoes.  It is also where the "little ear" pasta, orecchiette, was developed.

Half of Italy's olive oil comes from this area but it also is becoming known for it's wine making, as it's location, surrounded by water, makes the perfect location for vineyards.  

I learned that most wine from this region is red, full bodied and pairs wonderfully with any number of dishes.  The most popular of these wines are Salice Salentino and Primitivo according to the article by Wine Folly.

I live in a pretty rural area and my local grocer does carry some decent wines but the selection is not huge and is pretty much limited to the popular labels that are well known by all.

We do, however, have a wonderful Italian Marketplace about an hour's drive into the City.  We were heading to my brother in law's on New Year's Day and left a few minutes early so we would have time to stop and see if they carried a wine from this area.

Imagine my delight when I found a bottle of Primitivo from Layer Cake for less than $15.  Primitivo is known here in the USA as the varietal, Zinfandel.  This made me very happy because I love Zinfandels that I find are normally peppery and dry.  I couldn't wait to try this one.

I was not disappointed.  It is dry and fruity with hints of pepper and chocolate.  I enjoyed a glass while preparing dinner.

I love that this wine is, according to the label, "One hundred percent hand crafted".  I also loved this tribute to Jayson Woodbridge's grandfather;
"My old grandfather made and enjoyed wine for 80 years.  He told me the soil in which the vines lived were a layer cake.  He said the wine, if properly made, was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha, and chocolate, hints of spice and rich, always rich.  'Never pass up a layer cake', he would say.  I have always loved those words."

Of course, being the pasta lovers we are....I was going to go with the Oreccehiette even though I had just posted a recipe with it for this group.  Pasta is so versatile and wonderful that we can all use more recipes.

This recipe I am sharing today is adapted from one I found on my friend Sarah's blog over at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes.  I don't know how authentic it is to one you would find in Puglia but it does contain tomatoes, olive oil and orecchiette so I went with it.

And I am so glad that I did because it is not only scrumptious but it paired wonderfully with the wine.  That, my friends, is a very good start to this New Year.

This month's theme was chosen by Katarina of Grapevine Adventures.  You can read her preview post here.  Please join us for twitter chat today at 11 am ET following #ItalianFWT.

We are also sharing Budget Meals today in our Festive Foodies group.  This pasta dish is perfect for those on a budget.  You can feed an entire family for less than $10 (less than $30 if you include the wine)!

Orecchiette with Roasted Tomato Sauce
adapted from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes

1 pt. cherry tomatoes
1 t. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. orecchiette pasta, cooked per package directions, 1/2 cup cooking water retained
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. Italian Sausage, casings removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
2-3 oz. field greens
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese + more for serving

Toss cherry tomatoes with 1 t. olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place onto a baking pan lined with a silicone mat and roast in a preheated 400* oven for 10-12 minutes, until they burst.

While tomatoes are roasting, heat the 2 T. of oil in a large skillet over med high heat.  Add the sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until crumbled and brown.  Add the onions and garlic.  Cook and stir until fragrant and softened.  Add the wine.  Cook and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, for 3-4 minutes, until the wine evaporates and pan is deglazed.  Add the chicken broth, roasted tomatoes and field greens.  Cook and stir until greens are wilted and tomatoes are heated through.  Stir in the cheese and the cooked pasta.  Cook and stir until pasta is warmed and coated with the sauce, adding the reserved pasta cooking water, if needed.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed.

Serve with additional cheese for sprinkling.  Print Recipe

More Wining and Dining in Puglia

More Budget Friendly Meals

Enjoy these tasty, easy on your budget meal ideas from Festive Foodies!