Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hello Fresh Review - Cherry Drizzled Pork Chops Recipe


This was the first recipe we tried from our Hello Fresh trial week (courtesy of my friend LC - thank you!). I was curious to test these recipes because LC said that I could control the salt content (you add your own to taste). That was certainly true of this recipe, which hubby and I both really liked, even though we're not huge pork fans. I might try this recipe again with chicken rather than pork.


The lovely thing about Hello Fresh is that they include all of the ingredients you need to cook excluding oil, salt and pepper (fine, because I prefer to use my own). 

The not-so-lovely thing about Hello Fresh and every food delivery service I've used is that there is an immense amount of packaging that accompanies the raw ingredients (necessary to keep everything fresh). This fact in itself cautions me against trying one of these services again. The other thing that cautions me against services like these is that while you add your own oil, salt, and pepper, the basic recipes are generally already very high in salt - one was at 75%+ recommended daily intake even before I added salt to taste. Not acceptable for a healthy diet. I try to keep my salt intake at 33% or lower for each of my three meals per day.


This dish did turn out beautifully and was very delicious. It was also one that came in close to 33% of the daily recommended intake of salt, which I truly appreciated. Will try again, but with a non-pork alternative.


Château de Annereaux Lalande-de-Pomerol 2010, Bordeaux, France - $20


     

This 2010 Bordeaux is so nice. It tastes of dark fruit with a leathery finish and strong, round tannins. Like!

From a neighbor - what a nice gift!


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Vegan Mushroom Soup - Recipe




Been looking for a Vegan Mushroom Soup recipe. I know being lactose-intolerant isn't as posh as being gluten-free right now, but it is my reality. The original recipe can be found on KitchenGirl.com. Here is my version:

Doubled recipe, used regular flour and cut amount in half, added peas.


Ingredients
  • 3 T. organic extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 organic onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 cloves finely-grated organic garlic 
  • 1/2 lb. organic bella mushrooms, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup organic flour (consider using whole wheat flour)
  • 1 T. dry red wine
  • 2 cups organic homemade veggie broth 
  • Pinch finely-grated organic nutmeg 
  • Pinch dried organice thyme 
  • Organic sea salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions

  1. Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high flame, and add EVOO. 
  2. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until slightly tender, 1-2 minutes. 
  3. Add mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned, 3-5 min. 
  4. Add flour and sauté/stir until veggies absorb it (longer saute = browner color).
  5. Add wine and sauté/stir until it evaporates, about 1 minute. 
  6. Whisk in small amounts of veggie broth until flour dissolves and clumps disappear. Add veggie broth, nutmeg, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to just boiling, turn heat to med-low, and gently whisk as needed until sauce thickens to desired consistency, about 7-10 min. 
  7. Once thickened, remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days. 
Enjoy!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bacon and Spinach Frittata - Recipe


I love this simple, satisfying recipe! Frittatas are so versatile - I make them in advance for early morning breakfasts, and also bring them to get-togethers.




Ingredients
  • 2 T organic extra virgin olive oil 
  • 6-8 oz natural bacon or turkey bacon, diced
  • 8 oz organic spinach
  • 6 organic brown eggs
  • 1 t organic sea salt
  • 1/4 t organic black pepper
  • 1 c yogurt or cheese, optional (Greek yogurt, grated Parmesan, or ricotta)

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. In a medium-sized pan on medium heat, fry the bacon in EVOO until well-browned.
  3. Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
  4. While waiting for the spinach to wilt, whisk eggs (and yogurt or cheese if using) with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the eggs to the pan when the spinach has wilted, using the whisk to evenly distribute the mixture in the pan.
  6. Allow the mixture to cook on the stovetop for another 90 seconds, until edges are set.
  7. Turn off the stove and move the pan to the oven.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Cool the frittata for 5 minutes before cutting.
  10. Slice into 8 pieces and serve.
  11. To reheat, microwave each piece on high for 30-45 seconds.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Château Lamothe-Bergeron Cru Bourgeois 2015 Haut-Médoc Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2015, France - $20


     

Last year I reviewed the 2010 vintage of this wine. While that vintage was supposed to be exceptional, I didn't feel that the wine drank like a true Bordeaux - it was too light for my taste.

In this post I'm reviewing the 2015 vintage, which is supposed to be another excellent year for Bordeaux. It tastes of dark fruit and cocoa, with cigar box on the finish. I found it very dry with strong tannins. This is an excellent representation of what I think a really nice Bordeaux should taste like. I appreciated it much more than I did the 2010 vintage.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Chateau Tessendey Fronsac Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2015, France - $15


     

Purchased this bottle of Chateau Tessendey Fronsac Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2015 at Austin Wine Merchant for $15. It is very similar in taste to the Château Roquefort Bordeaux 2015, but this one tasted a little hotter. However, upon checking the alcohol content, both are 13.5%. 

I personally feel that the better value is the Château Roquefort Bordeaux 2015, but this wine is a nice everyday drinking wine as well.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Veggie Ramen - Recipe


True confession - I've made fantastic fish broth at home - the kind that is so thick and rich with flavor that it gels when you refrigerate it, but my husband hates the way it makes our house smell. I have to admit it takes an extremely long time to rid the house of the fishy aroma with tons of airing out and scented soy candles. So be it. I'll just have to make ramen broth in a less invasive way. Enter dashi packets, which I purchase at Asahi Imports, a Japanese grocery store, here in Austin.

However, if you prefer to make your own dashi from scratch, check out this tutorial. Luckily for you, this particular dashi recipe requires no fish at all - it's made from a less pungent blend of ingredients - shiitake mushrooms and kombu (a type of dried seaweed). This page also includes a simple recipe for veggie ramen.



Here is my version of the recipe for veggie ramen:

Ingredients
  • 8 cups organic homemade veggie broth (I save all of my organic veggie clippings and then boil them for 2 hours to make my own broth)
  • 2 dashi packets, one kombu, one bonito
  • Organic sea salt and soy sauce to taste
  • 2 bunches organic baby bok choy, washed and chopped into 2-inch long pieces
  • 2 soft boiled organic brown eggs, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 bunches organic green onions, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 handful dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 1/2 cups of warm water and then sliced
  • 2 servings fresh Ramen noodles (you may also find these in the freezers at Asahi or another Japanese or Asian market - do not use dried noodles unless absolutely necessary)




Instructions
  1. Make the dashi using the veggie broth, dashi packets (follow instructions on packets), and salt/soy sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil the ramen noodles according to the instructions on the package.
  3. When the dashi has been brought to a boil, add the bok choy and mushrooms.
  4. Ladle the dashi with bok choy and mushrooms into large bowls, add the cooked noodles, eggs, and green onions, season to taste, and serve while moderately hot.


Enjoy!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Franciscan Estate Magnificat Meritage 2013, Napa Valley, CA - $50


     

This wine was a gift from a friend who visited our home.

This Franciscan Estate Magnificat Meritage 2013 is hot on the nose, but nice and chocolatey on the finish. Yum!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Duckhorn Goldeneye Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, California


     

Hot on the nose, light and dry on the tongue. Light cigar box finish. Not acidic - D loves it!

Brought to dinner by a friend. Thanks, RT!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Elouan Pinot Noir 2015, Oregon - $20


     

This one reminds me of Meomi. It is nice, but a bit too much wood for me. Purchased at Central Market for $20 a bottle.

This is a maybe for me, but those who like Meomi will like Elouan, too.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pho Please - Restaurant Review


Pho Please, let me count the ways I love thee. Your food is delicious, your restaurant clean, your service friendly and efficient, and your prices reasonable. I usually order one favorite dish at a restaurant, but with you there are so many, and I think I've fallen in love once again.

Enter your Mi Kho Dry Egg Noodles bowl. Lovely. Divine. How else can I describe the experience? Not your momma's bún or phở - this dish is made of is good old egg noodles and lots of fun stuff (shrimp, shredded chicken breast, fried shallots, garlic oil, sprouts, bok choy, red and white onions, cilantro, and green onions) with a side of thirst-quenching broth that you drench your noodles in. Yum.


Enjoy this dish, or try any of the others offered at Pho Please. You won't be disappointed!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pink Lady Champagne Cocktail - Recipe


The Bouldin Creek Cafe in South Austin inspired this drink. I had their version a couple of weeks ago and guessed at the ingredients and proportions.



Ingredients
  • 1 T rose syrup 
  • 4 to 6 oz Champagne or sparkling wine 

Instructions

  1. Pour the syrup into the bottom of a glass. 
  2. Fill the lass with about 4 to 6 ounces of Champagne or sparkling wine. 
  3. Adjust according to your own preferences. 

Enjoy!


Microwave Popcorn in a Brown Paper Bag - Recipe




A while back I stopped making popcorn this way because my microwave kept overheating. However, in order to save the hubs from having to wash yet another pot, I thought I'd modify the recipe and try this again. It turned out great with no overheating of the microwave!


Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 1 T organic olive oil or butter (optional)
  • Seasoning to taste -  extra fine organic sea salt, finely ground black pepper, truffle salt, etc.

Instructions
  1. If using oil, toss the kernels in oil in a small bowl (I omit the oil altogether).
  2. Place the kernels in an unused brown paper lunch bag and fold the top of the bag over twice.
  3. Turn the bag onto its front or back and shake gently to distribute the kernels.
  4. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, stopping it when the pops begin slowing to around 1 pop every 1 to 2 seconds. Stopping sooner is better than later to prevent burnt popcorn.
  5. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and season to taste. I like a light sprinkling of truffle salt.

Enjoy!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Natural Ways To Straighten Your Hair At Home - Recipes


Natural Ways To Straighten Your Hair At Home



I've only tried the first of these recipes, using aloe vera gel and coconut oil. It helped to make my hair just slightly straighter, and was definitely not a replacement for my flat iron. I'll eventually try the other methods, but for now, I'm still ironing my hair every morning.

The following recipes were excerpted from this website.


Aloe Vera and Coconut or Olive Oil

     Prep Time: 2 minutes
     Processing Time: 40 minutes
     How Often: Once a week

     Ingredients
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil/Olive Oil 
  • ¼ cup Aloe Vera Gel 
     Instructions
  • Warm up a quarter cup of either coconut or olive oil. 
  • Combine the oil with aloe vera gel and mix well. 
  • Apply this mixture to your hair. 
  • Leave it on for about 40 minutes. 
  • Wash the mixture out with cool water and a mild sulfate-free shampoo. 
     Why This Works
  • Aloe vera is packed with enzymes that help keep your hair smooth and soft while promoting hair growth. The ingredient penetrates your hair shaft, hydrating it and smoothing out frizz and kinks.

Eggs and Olive Oil
     Prep Time: 2 minutes
     Processing Time: 1 hour
     How Often: Once a week

     Ingredients
  • 2 Whole Eggs 
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil 
     Instructions
  • Whisk the ingredients together until they’re well combined. 
  • Apply the mixture to your hair. 
  • Leave the mixture on for about an hour. 
  • Wash your hair with cool water and mild sulfate-free shampoo. 
     Why This Works
  • Eggs are packed with proteins which help nourish and smoothen your hair while olive oil is an excellent hair conditioner. Combining these ingredients will give you soft, frizz-free hair.

Coconut Milk and Lemon Juice

     Prep Time: Overnight
     Processing Time: 30 minutes
     How Often: Once a week

     Ingredients
  • ¼ cup Coconut Milk 
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice 
     Instructions
  • Combine the coconut milk and the lemon juice and mix well. 
  • Refrigerate the mixture overnight. 
  • In the morning, apply the mixture to your hair, from the roots to the tips. 
  • Leave it on for about 30 minutes. 
  • Wash off with cool water and a mild sulfate free shampoo. 
     Why This Works
  • Lemon juice helps straighten your hair. In combination with coconut milk, it conditions your hair while giving your scalp a vitamin C boost. This mask will leave your hair feeling silky and soft, and you will notice that your hair is smoother right after the first treatment.

Hot Oil Treatment

     Prep Time: 2 minutes
     Processing Time: 45 minutes
     How Often: Twice a week

     Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Castor Oil
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
     Instructions
  • Combine the oils and heat the blend for a couple of seconds until it is slightly warm.
  • Apply the oil to your scalp and hair.
  • Once your hair is completely saturated with oil, massage your scalp for about 15 minutes.
  • Leave the oil on for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Wash your hair with cool water and mild sulfate free shampoo.
     Why This Works
  • Castor oil conditions and repairs your hair like no other ingredient. It helps control frizz while leaving your hair feeling soft and hydrated. Using this ingredient helps smooth out your hair and add shine.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, St. Helena - Restaurant Review


This place is so cute! Modern farmhouse - so my style. Apparently, the restaurant is located on a working ranch. We sat outside at a communal table and everything was just lovely!

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch 

Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, Anderson Valley, California     

This Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Rosé 2016 is from Anderson Valley, California, and retails for $54 a bottle at the restaurant. We all really enjoyed it!



Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - Warm Burrata
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - Warm Burrata
To start, we shared Warm Burrata with whole roasted garlic, estate olive oil, and grilled bread - $16.50. So yummy, and very rich!


Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - Grilled Wild King Salmon
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - Grilled Wild King Salmon
Grilled Wild King Salmon with summer squash, eggplant, Jimmy Nardello peppers, and bulgur wheat $34. Everything was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!


Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - "Big Easy" Beignets
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - "Big Easy" Beignets
“Big Easy” Beignets with bourbon caramel sauce - $10. These were simply heavenly - light and fluffy with a fun sauce!



And such a pretty drive on the way back to our hotel!

Thanks to Sauce Culinary Travel for this recommendation! Such a fantastic place to dine!




Merryvale Vineyards - St. Helena, CA


After visiting Provenance Vineyards, we still had a bit of time to kill before our dinner at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Luckily, right next door to the restaurant is Merryvale. Scott hosted us for the Reserve Tasting, which was $50 for five wines.

Merryvale Vineyards Silhouette Chardonnay 2014
Merryvale Vineyards Silhouette Chardonnay 2014
First was the Merryvale Vineyards Silhouette Chardonnay 2014, which retails for $65 a bottle. It tasted of exotic fruits and butter - too buttery for my taste.


Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Malbec 2013
Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Malbec 2013
Next we tasted the Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Malbec 2013, and to my surprise, I really loved it! It tasted of dark fruit and was dry with soft tannins. Yum! It retails for $75 a bottle.

Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2013
Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2013
This Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2013 was also extremely yummy! It was chocolaty and dry, but unexpectedly devoid of any vegetal flavors. I really liked it! It retails for $90 a bottle.

Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Chairman's Selection 2013
Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Chairman's Selection 2013
The Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Chairman's Selection 2013 is a Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Cab Franc and Merlot. It is super dry and chocolaty, and retails for $75 a bottle.

Merryvale Vineyards St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Merryvale Vineyards St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
The Merryvale Vineyards St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is super dry and chocolaty and retails for $110 per bottle. I didn't purchase any.

The staff at this winery is extremely accommodating. Even though we ventured in just as they were closing, they still allowed us to do a tasting and were very sweet throughout.


Provenance Vineyards - St. Helena, CA


As we drove into the property, we weren't actually sure that Provenance was open. Yellow caution tape was everywhere in front of the building. However, we saw a handful of cars in the parking lot so we entered.

Provenance Vineyards Tasting Room

Provenance Vineyards Tasting Room

Provenance Vineyards Tasting Room
Provenance Vineyards Tasting Room
Luckily, the tasting room was open! It was modern, cozy, and charming. I really liked the decor.

Provenance Vineyards Classic Tasting Menu
Provenance Vineyards Classic Tasting Menu
I chose the Classic Tasting, which was $25 for four wines. Our host's name was Eva, and she was a knowledgeable resource. She explained that the wines are made in a French Bordeaux style. Awesome - I love French Bordeaux!

Provenance Vineyards Malbec 2014
Provenance Vineyards Malbec 2014
The 2014 Malbec was chocolaty and dry with no tannins, and retails for $50 a bottle (or $40 for wine club members). It was fine.

Provenance Vineyards Malbec Rosé 2016
Provenance Vineyards Malbec Rosé 2016
I definitely wanted to try the Malbec Rosé as well - it was fruity and dry, and retails for $32 a bottle (or $25.60 for wine club members). It was good and I ended up purchasing a bottle of it.

Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014
Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014
Next was one my favorite varietals, Cabernet Franc. The Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014 was chocolaty and dry with a black tea finish. It was good, and retails for $50 a bottle (or $40 for wine club members). It was nice, but I didn't purchase any here.

Provenance Vineyards Wine Maker's Reserve 2013
Provenance Vineyards Wine Maker's Reserve 2013
Next was my favorite red of the tasting, the Provenance Vineyards Wine Maker's Reserve 2013. It retails for $65 a bottle but is offered at $52 a bottle to wine club members. It tasted of dark fruit and was so smooth. We purchased a bottle of this as well.

Lastly, we tasted a bottle of the Provenance Vineyards Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, which also retails for $65 a bottle to the general public, but is only $52 a bottle for wine club members. It was dry, chocolaty, and surprisingly tart. Okay, but not my favorite - I never prefer for my Cab Sauvs to be tart.

Visiting Provenance was nice but did leave something to be desired. The wines were okay, but most of them tasted really high in alcohol. Additionally, the yellow caution tape wasn't welcoming and was a little confusing. Hopefully they will work that out soon!


Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fire and Water Tour and Tasting


Stag's Leap Wine Cellars sends my heart aflutter like no other winery in Napa. Joseph Phelps comes in a close second, but when taken into consideration with their 1976 Judgement of Paris Cabernet Sauvignon win, SLWC has no competition.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Vineyards
The Vineyards
This is the gorgeous view walking in from the parking lot. The Artemis Wine Club members have this view during their patio tastings. I actually prefer this setting to the Cask 23 Wine Club member terrace, which is where we have our tastings and where there is no view.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Caves Entrance
Wine Caves Entrance
The tours always start at the reception desk with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, then proceed to the wine caves. The stone on the right is the type of stone that had to be blasted through in order to create the caves - it took several years and tons of dynamite to create the caves.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Caves Art
Wine Caves Art

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Caves Sconces - Comet Tails
Wine Caves Sconces - Inspired by Halley's Comet
The founder of SLWC is really into astronomy, so he had these sconces custom-made for the winery. They were inspired by Halley's Comet.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Barrel
Wine Barrel

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Barrel
Wine Barrel Label

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Wine Caves
Wine Caves
I LOVE wine caves! I love wandering through them thinking about all of the artistry that goes into creating each bottle of wine. I love the smell of the caves and the barrels. I love the discipline and order required for winemaking. I love reading the labels on the barrels and imagining the wine that will eventually come out of them. I love it all.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fire and Water Tasting
Fire and Water Tasting Food Pairings
From left to right: house-made sour pickle mustard seeds and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Goat's Milk Gouda,
macerated local strawberries and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Organic Nicasio Square,
Beehive Cheese Co. Barely Buzzed Cheddar-style cheese with a coating of roasted coffee beans and lavender and house-made anise meringues,
pickled local cherries and Il Forteto Bigio Sottecenere Pecorino covered in a later of vegetable and spice ash on house-made porcini shortbread biscuits
The Fire and Water tasting is truly magnificent, and costs $95 a person. In addition to four wines on the menu and a couple more that our host added at the end, we were also treated to these wonderful food pairings.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fire and Water Tasting Menu
Fire and Water Tasting Menu

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fire and Water Tasting
Fire and Water Tasting
Front Row: Arcadia Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Fay Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014,
S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Cast 23 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Back Row: Heart of Fay (Blocks 4 & 6) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, S.L.V. Block 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The Arcadia Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 retails for $65 at the winery. It tasted nutty and buttery with a caramel finish. Very oaky, and definitely not for my palate.

The Fay Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the alluvial side of the property, which means that it receives a lot of water. The 2014 is chocolaty with smooth tannins, and I really love it! It retails for $145 a bottle at the winery.

The S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the volcanic side of the property in rocky soil without much water. The 2014 is powerful with a hint of tobacco and a smooth finish. It retails for $145 a bottle at the winery.

The Cask 23 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of specially selected fruit from the Fay and S.L.V. Vineyards. It is leathery with strong tannins and retails for $275 a bottle at the winery.

The Heart of Fay is created from grapes from the Fay Vineyards Blocks 4 and 6. The 2014 tastes young and is silkier than the Fay Vineyard Estate Cab 2014. It retails for $145 a bottle at the winery. This might be my favorite wine from this winery.

The S.L.V. Block 1 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes exclusively from Block 1 of the S.L.V. Vineyard. The 2012 tastes of tobacco with smooth tannins. It retails for $145 a bottle at the winery.


Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1976 Judgement of Paris Cabernet Sauvignon Winner
1976 Judgement of Paris Cabernet Sauvignon Winner
The quality of the wines and the wine-tasting experience at Stag's Leap is simply superb! Walk-in tastings are $45 for four wines. Tastings and tours range from $75 to $125 a person. Highly recommended!