Monday, May 30, 2016

Swedish Meatball Noodle Soup - Recipe

Sassy Wine Belly - Swedish Meatball Soup Recipe
I found some Swedish meatballs in the freezer this weekend, and thought it would be fun to make something unexpected with them. I found this recipe for Swedish Meatball Soup, but altered it to fit our needs. Here is my recipe for the soup, using already-made mini-meatballs:

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 organic red onion, sliced
  • 4 T organic flour
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 12 cups of low sodium organic chicken stock
  • 3 cups mini-meatballs (already prepared and cooked)
  • 3 cups of organic whole wheat pasta
  • 1 lb frozen organic peas
  • 1 T coarse sea salt
  • 100 twists of freshly ground pepper from a pepper grinder

  1. Pre-heat a 6 quart Dutch oven on medium heat.
  2. Add olive oil and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the stove to low.
  4. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes, until pasta is tender.
This recipe is quick to make if the meatballs are already made and cooked, and in total the recipe yields around 8 servings. Yummy!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

2010 Bordeaux Wine Tasting for Two

I've thrown several wine tasting parties for larger groups, but thought it would be fun to treat my love to a private one just for him. He was so surprised, and we had such a great time!

It was difficult to choose which wines to try out of the five 2010 Bordeaux in our wine fridge. All of them were purchased at Costco for $17 to $20 a bottle. We ended up choosing just two bottles of Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux 2010, both from Haut-Médoc, France - one from Château de Villegeorge and the other from Château Duthil.


For the tasting, I served turkey meatballs, roasted veggies (multi-colored rosemary potatoes, organic garlic green beans, and baby zucchini), a cheese and meat platter (multi-grain crackers, Manchego, dry salami, and a drizzle of honey), and organic tomatoes with homegrown basil drizzled with lemon olive oil and aged Balsamic vinegar.

The Château de Villegeorge Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux 2010, Haut-Médoc, France was very nice. It's the one we called "the wine on the left" because we kept this glass on the left as we tasted. Deep fruit and a bit of cedar, tannic with a dry finish. At $20 a bottle at Costco, it's an okay value, but I prefer less of the wood flavor in my wines.

The Château Duthil Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux 2010, Haut-Médoc, France was the winner of the evening, the one we called "the wine on the right." It was concentrated with flavors of bitter cocoa and an extremely tannic finish. Really nice at just $20 a bottle from Costco!

Creating a wine tasting for two was so much fun - we'll be doing it again very soon!

My first brunch at True Food! - Restaurant Review (5th for True Food Kitchen)

This is the first time I've had brunch at True Food, so I was excited to try the items that aren't on their regular menu.

I ordered the Vegan Chorizo Burrito (with tofu, turmeric, quinoa, anasazi bean, and pico de gallo - $10) with a side of sweet potato hash. It came out hot to the touch and was very spicy, which I loved! I did have to ask for another serving of pico for the other half of the burrito, which I actually couldn't finish because it's a lot of food!

Hubby ordered the freshly-squeezed orange juice ($3) and Organic Egg Sandwich (with smashed avocado, Manchego, smoked turkey, grilled seeded toast - $11). He really enjoyed his sandwich, and was able to finish the rest of my burrito as well. The juice was some of the best fresh-squeezed I've ever had - very sweet.

This was hubby's first visit to True Food, and I think he's as much a fan as I am!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Judgement of Paris, AKA The Day that Shook the Wine World!

Forty years ago is week, the world of wine was shaken to the core as French judges chose two Californian wines, one white and one red, as the winners in a blind tasting with several top French wines. Read about that incredible day here.

If you'd like to see a dramatized version of the event, check out the movie Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman. Wine lovers will find it entertaining.

I'm not a huge fan of wines from California. Most tend to be rich and jammy with high alcohol content (14%+). However, I always enjoy visiting Napa and Sonoma to see how CA wines continue to evolve.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lunch at True Food - yet another Restaurant Review (#4)!

If you've read my previous posts you know that this is currently one of my favorite restaurants! Today I went with a friend who had only tried it once and wasn't sure about it.

We ordered Roasted Heirloom Carrots (with za’atar, pistachio, greek yogurt, dill - $7) to share. They were caramelized and so sweet.

She then ordered the Shitake Mushroom Lettuce Cups ($10), which is still my favorite True Food dish even though I'm trying to branch out. She found them tasty but extremely messy to eat!

I wanted to try the Kale Guacamole ($9) again because I love kale and guacamole, and I'm absolutely obsessed with these super-tasty cracker-chips that they serve it with! I love this guac so much that I've made my own version using mandarin oranges instead, and omitting the cheese on top.

As always, the dishes were tasty and I would order and eat any of them again!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tazo Passion Iced Tea Concentrate - Recipe (sort of!)

This Tazo iced tea concentrate is the best! Instead of having to prep hot tea and refrigerate it for hours before we can enjoy it, this concentrate is instant gratification in one of my favorite flavors of tea!

The instructions say to mix equal amounts of water and concentrate. Try it with sparkling mineral water - so refreshing!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Titaya's Thai Cuisine - Restaurant Review

Finally took my love here for date night, and it was awesome! The restaurant is modern and clean, and the service is friendly and attentive.

We started with a Leafy Shrimp Roll ($5), a bottle of Singha Beer ($4.50), and a glass of Pinot Noir ($9; I think it was Nobilo). The order came with two rolls that were cut in half. The peanut sauce was refreshing, and the very nice waitress left it with us just in case we wanted to use it with the rest of our dinner.

We ordered the Pad Thai with Shrimp ($11.50) and the Pad Ka Prao with Chicken Breast ($10). They were served with one order of white rice, although we needed another to finish dinner. Both dishes were fresh and delicious. The shrimp were plump and perfectly cooked. All of the flavors were fantastic together.

There was just enough food for dinner and we were both very full! No leftovers, but we also didn't order dessert. For all three dishes and two drinks each, the bill was just over $60 including tax and tip. Highly recommend!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Quinoa and Kale - Recipe

I love kale and keep finding different ways to serve it - roasted, stir-fried, mixed into other dishes such as guacamole. I also love quinoa, and the combination of the two seemed like a fun way to replace rice in a meal. I was sold after my mom served this for dinner one night - yum!

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound kale
  • 3 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups organic low sodium stock or filtered water
  • sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

  1. stir fry the kale in the olive oil until it is wilted and bright green
  2. separately, prepare the quinoa (if the ratio of liquid to dried quinoa is different than above, follow the instructions on your package)
  3. combine the two and season to taste with the salt and pepper

Since I was serving this with teriyaki Mahimahi I added some of the teriyaki sauce to the quinoa and kale to give it a little more moisture and a complimentary flavor.

This recipe made at least 6 large servings. Enjoy!

Grilled Shishito Peppers - Recipe

Sassy Wine Belly - Grilled Shishito Peppers Recipe
I admit that I purchased this Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan specifically to make these peppers! It's a versatile pan so I'm sure I'll use it for tones of other recipes!

I picked up a 6 ounce bag of Shishito Peppers from Trader Joe's for $1.99. They are already washed so all you have to do is throw them on the pre-oiled grill! Cook them for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, then sprinkle them with salt flakes. The stems make the perfect holders for the peppers - just toss them after you've noshed!

The fun thing about these peppers is that most of the time they are sweet, but every once in a while you'll get a hot one. It's like playing culinary roulette!

Friday, May 20, 2016

VNTJS Pinot Noir 2015, Monterrey, CA - $7

I discovered this fun wine last summer, and have been really looking forward to the current vintage!

This VNTJS Pinot Noir Rosé has clear citrus aromas, and is crisp and acidic on the palate. Good with leftover paella. 

I purchased this wine at Trader Joe's for $7 a bottle. Such a good deal!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

La Vis Simboli Pinot Grigio 2014, Trentino, Italy - $15

I purchased this La Vis Simboli Pinot Grigio for those who preferred white wine to go with the Amatriciana dinner on Saturday night. It's light, fruity, slightly honey-flavored without being cloying, and easy drinking. It went well with the spicy pasta dish.

It's priced at $15 at Central Market, and comes from Trentino, Italy. Very low alcohol at 12.5%.

I'd definitely purchase it again, and our guest who prefers white wines liked it a lot!

Turkey Soup with Kale and Potato - Recipe

Tonight I had just 30 minutes to throw together something for dinner before heading back to work. I found some leftover turkey breast in the fridge, as well as kale and potatoes. I searched for a soup recipe that included all three ingredients, and voila - I found one!

Food & Wine's original recipe called for turkey sausage, but I used oven-roasted turkey breast instead.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound natural or organic turkey breast, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 organic onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 1 quart organic low sodium chicken stock, or homemade stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 pound organic potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large pinch dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pound organic kale, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the onion and stir occasionally until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the turkey and garlic to the pan and stir for 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the broth, water, and salt, and bring the soup to a boil. 
  5. Add the kale, potatoes, and red-pepper flakes, and bring back to a simmer. 
  6. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes and kale are tender, about 10 minutes longer.
  7. Add the black pepper.
Makes enough for 4 servings, enough for dinner and lunch for two the next day! So good!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Paella Night and Three Spectacular Rosés!

Our friends EG and AG invited us over for paella night and it was SPECTACULAR! Here's a photo of the seafood paella. They also made a chicken paella with tons of veggies. And they chose the perfect wines to accompany these fabulous bites!

First, the magnum of Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne "Perle d'Aurore" Brut Rosé. It was light, bright, and delightful! I think it costs around $40 a magnum.

Second, the Famille Bougrier “Rosé D’Anjou” Gamay-Grolleau 2015 was perfectly refreshing for a warm and humid day.

Last was the Jacqueline Leonne Methode Champenoise Rosé, which surprisingly is made in Albequerque New Mexico. It was also a keeper, especially at around $15 a bottle. Fruity but not sweet - just lovely!

Thanks to EG and AG for a fantastic paella night!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Roasted Asparagus and Sweet Mini-Peppers - Recipe

I made this fabulous veggie side to go with the Amatriciana that I served for dinner tonight. Here is the recipe:


  • 1 bunch organic asparagus, white ends trimmed off (I leave the rest of the stalk intact, although you can also cut them into shorter sections as the photo above illustrates)
  • 8 oz organic sweet mini-peppers, stems removed, cut in half, and seeded
  • organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp fleur de sel (gourmet sea salt)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

  1. preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit
  2. cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. lay the trimmed asparagus stalks on the parchment
  4. sprinkle the sweet peppers between the asparagus stalks
  5. drizzle with olive oil to cover the vegetables
  6. add the garlic, fleur de sel, and freshly ground pepper
  7. roast the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes so that the asparagus is bright green, crisp, and tender
This dish is beautiful AND yummy, and goes well with Italian foods!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bucatini All'Amatriciana with or without Meatballs

The first time I ever experienced Bucatini All'Amatriciana was at L'Artusi in NYC. I was smitten! I found a recipe online by Giada De Laurentiis, and I've modified it for my tastes. It's so wonderful! You can find the original recipe here.

First, make the meatballs.

  • 1 small (6-ounce) onion, minced
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 large organic brown egg
  • 2 tablespoons organic ketchup
  • 3 organic garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound natural or organic ground turkey
  • extra virgin olive oil as needed
  1. In a large bowl, combine everything but the turkey. 
  2. Add the ground turkey. Using your hands, combine all ingredients gently but thoroughly.
  3. Shape the meat mixture into 3/4 inch diameter meatballs.
  4. Fry them in 1/4 inch of olive oil in a cast iron 6 quart Dutch oven, 1 minute on each side or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
  5. Remove from heat and put aside (or in fridge/freezer if you're not using them that day)
Now for the sauce.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces natural or organic turkey bacon, diced
  • 2 organic onions, finely chopped (I prefer sweet, but you can use yellow, white, or red)
  • 4 organic garlic cloves, minced
  • A few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans of organic crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. In a large heavy 6 quart Dutch Oven, heat the oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the bacon and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. 
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve. 
  4. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. 
  5. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  6. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and the cooked bacon and meatballs. 
  7. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. 
  8. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the pasta
  1. Bring a 6 quart pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. 
  2. Add 1 pound fresh bucatini pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally (I usually subtract a minute from the cooking instructions on the packaging). If bucatini is unavailable, substitute with another long pasta such as linguine or fettuccine.
  3. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Add the meatballs and sauce. Toss gently and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.
  4. ENJOY!
  • I try to make the meatballs and sauce a day ahead to allow all of the flavors to come to their full potential by the time I serve this dish. Yum!
  • This dish is also great without the meatballs!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lasagna Soup - Recipe

It's weird that they call this Lasagna Soup, especially because it's never turned out as a soup for me! It's more like a hearty pasta dish. It is incredibly scrumptious! 

Here is the recipe with my modifications - please note that I've doubled it. You can find the original recipe here.

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 organic onions, chopped
  • 1 lb natural or organic ground turkey
  • 1 T sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 pinches dried red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves organic garlic, chopped
  • 1 T dried organic oregano
  • 2 T organic tomato paste
  • 8 C low-sodium organic chicken broth
  • 2 15 -ounce can organic crushed tomatoes
  • 2 C water
  • 1 lb organic whole wheat fusilli from Whole Foods
  • 2 C organic spinach, chopped
  • 1 C chopped fresh basil, plus thinly sliced leaves for topping
  • 1 C grated parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling, optional)
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the onions and stir until softened, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the garlic, measure out the tomato paste, and open the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes.
  3. Add the turkey, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. As you cook the mixture, break up the turkey with a wooden spoon. Cook until the turkey is browned, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir until darkened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and water. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  6. Uncover and cook until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the noodles and cook for 2 minutes less than the package recommends.
  8. Add the spinach, basil and parmesan; simmer 2 more minutes.
  9. Top with sliced basil and more parmesan.
Easy and filling. Makes about 6 servings. This one's a keeper!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Live Butter Leaf Lettuce (Central Market, $3/plant) and Trader Joe'sSweet Onion & Bacon Vinaigrette ($3)

I am completely obsessed with these live Butter Leaf Lettuce plants that I get at Central Market ($3). This is my second plant. They are so easy to take care of! Just place in a shallow plate or bowl, and add 1 cup of water every 5 days. When you're ready to eat some salad, just harvest 2 large leaves per person, and you're set! They grow some new leaves, but usually you'll finish the plant off before it can completely regenerate.

My favorite salad right now? Butter leaf lettuce, fresh organic tomatoes, and Trader Joe's Sweet Onion & Bacon Vinaigrette. Yum!

True Food Kitchen - Restaurant Review (yes, I know it's the 3rd review)

Yes, I know this isn't my first review of True Food Kitchen. Would it surprise you to know that I'm here at least once a week? Love this place!

I brought CC here for his birthday. It was great! For drinks, CC ordered the Pomegranate Limeade (lime evaporated cane, pom chia - $4), and I ordered the Sparkling Antioxidant Tea (green tea, pomegranate, lemon verbena, soda - $4). We also ordered the Lacinato Kale Guacamole ($9) as our starter. As yummy as I remember it to be, and a great way to get extra greens in without really noticing (although I love greens!). And again, I LOVE this crispy cracker thing that accompanies the guac - yum!

For our entrées, we split the Spaghetti Squash Casserole (spaghetti squash, organic tomato, caramelized onion, zucchini, fresh mozzarella, and chicken sausage - $17) and the Grass-Fed Burger done medium well and wrapped in lettuce instead of in a bun (mushroom, caramelized onion, mayonnaise, arugula, parmesan, umami, flax seed bun - $16). TFK were so sweet to half everything for us.

The casserole was awesome - I loved it! I'll have to make it at home sometime - super easy and healthy! The burger with kale salad and sweet potato hash was really good! CC didn't like it as much as I did. I thought it was cooked perfectly (pink, no blood), and I loved that they used delicate butter lettuce for the wrap. He thought it was just okay, not worth $16.

Another fantastic meal at TFK!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Domaine Houchart Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France - $12

I'm officially obsessed with this Domaine Houchart Rosé from Côtes de Provence, France! Luckily for me, the Austin Wine Merchant, my very favorite wine store in town, carries it. I am buying it by the case until they run out! LOVE!

Just in case you haven't read my previous review of this wine - it is so aromatic it's ridiculous. It's light and smooth on the palate, dry with no hint of bitterness. Its fragrance reminds me of flowers and lychees.

I am so in love!