Monthly Archives: July 2013

Killington Wine Festival

Last weekend we went to our 3rd Killington Wine Festival I guess you can say when we set our minds to do something we kind of go all out.  I mentioned our quest to like wine in my initial post; what better way than to go to a wine festival where they have over 200 wines and over 40 vendors.  I must admit I am enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio while writing this post.

Invited by our very good friends who have a condo at K-ton; and now a home close by and them knowing we were wine virgins but we were on a mission; we went to our first wine festival and let’s just say since they are not wine virgins, they had a game plan as they have been to this festival several times before.

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When you arrive you get a bag with a small wine glass, pen and booklet with all the wines and vendors listed with a space to make notes. Our first year our veteran wine friends were going to start with all the whites and then walk around tasting all the reds.  Rich and I came up with our own plan since he likes reds and I like whites.  I would try all the whites and he the reds.

Things started out well. We used the usual wine terms fruity, dry, bold, peppery etc.  Also listening to our friends you don’t have to drink all they pour; they do have a place to pour out what you don’t drink. This is a very valuable lesson if you take nothing else away from this post. About halfway through, I think, we started to use what the wine industry would probably cringe at for descriptions. One I particularly like that I wrote was “Yuck” the women apparently looking over my shoulder thought that was hysterical and wanted to know which one I thought was yucky!  Side note about the yucky wine, we went to a friends house a week or so after and the “yucky” wine was on their counter, I being polite gladly drank a glass or two.  It’s not so bad now I have had it a few times over the last few years… We did get the biggest laugh when we got home the next day and re-read what we wrote.  Rich wrote on one of them and I quote “Donna likes, she must be drunk” towards the end of the book we started using buy and don’t buy instead of going into any great detail.  Even that small amount of wine adds up over the 4 hour period they give you

We also learned another valuable lesson that first year – what you can sell and buy in Vermont you cannot always find in the state of New Hampshire.  So the second year we went we, a little more educated I would say, we asked can you get any of these in NH. If not can you buy them online and ship to NH? Not a bad thing that we didn’t have as many to try this year, though we did learn quite a bit about different regions and growing conditions making a world of difference in the taste of wine even the same wine year to year, again probably not new news to anyone who is a novice but we are new and still learning.

This year our son came with us for his first wine festival, he is definitely a fan of the reds; can anyone tell me why some peoples teeth and lips turn purple so much faster than others when drinking red wine? I just don’t understand. Rich and Al walked around to all the reds this year, after awhile they did start to take some notes. Nothing as funny as my first years notes…

I also have another question if anyone knows the answer, why is it so hard to get wine into the state of NH. is it an old boys network, is it because we have state liquor stores?  I think it costs money to sell wine to certain states, Is NH more expensive?  I have tried some very good Finger Lakes Region wine and talked with the maker and he was trying very hard to come to NH.  I must find out why and how to resolve this!

There is a group of about 9 of us that attended the festival; we try to cook out at the condos after and it doesn’t really work out as well as we envisioned; before drinking wine for 4 hours.  I think we need to come up with another plan. Maybe something made in a crock-pot or a lasagna already made just pop it in the oven.  We definitely give it the ole college try; who knows we will probably try to cook out again next year!

I have always loved cooking with wine and if there is ever a bottle left over; direct quote from Dave “just because you open it, doesn’t mean you have to finish it” He and his wife also attend the festival every year.  I do try to use whatever is left over fairly quickly so it doesn’t sit for too long.  IF there is a leftover bottle of red I will make Beef Stew or an au jus for steak. I have a crock-pot recipe I use and an oven one.  It cracks me up that the oven one I use is dubbed the “quick beef stew” from my husband.  He has NO idea it still takes me an hour or so to assemble and peel and cook all the veggies.  Apparently that is fast for him since it is done in an hour and half versus cooking all day.

3 lbs boneless beef chuck

Kosher Salt freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbs olive oil – add more when needed

3 Cups diced onions – about 2 medium

4-5 Large cloves of Garlic minced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried thyme

3 Tbs flour

1 Cup red wine – or more if that is what you have

2 Cups water

3 Cups of Veggies:  Potatoes – Carrots – Turnip are my go to for Beef Stew

Heat oil in dutch oven trim and cut beef into 1 inch bite size pieces, generously salt and pepper. in batch’s, do not crowd, brown beef on 2 sides and set aside in a dish until all are done.  You want a nice dark brown crust. Add more oil if needed.

Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic stirring until softened.  Add the bay leaves and Thyme stirring for about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and then the wine and water.   Return the beef and all juices to the pan.

Take a large sheet of heavy duty tinfoil and press down until it almost touches the beef; press against the sides, crimp the foil around the rim for a tight seal. Cover and place in a 450′ oven for an hour and 15 minutes.

Peel and cook the veggies either by boiling, steaming or sauteing.  I boil mine; remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the foil; add the cooked veggies cover with the foil and cover let sit and meld for about 15 minutes or so.

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I am almost done with my glass of wine and it is time for me to make dinner since Alex just came out of the den and asked what’s for dinner.  His FAVORITE thing to say to me…. If he ever moves out on his own; he will MISS me…

Eating from my Garden

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While I am not a great gardener; as you can tell by the photo I just took, one garden looks great the other not so much! I do try to do my best.  Before I buy what I want to plant, I make a listing of everything we tend to eat and the herbs we use a lot.  I used to start the seeds in the house but I have been buying my plants for probably the last 10 years. I find it easier, kind of the instant gratification that I tend to need. Nothing like spending the day laying out all the plants, planting them and voila a garden!!!  I always plant the staples to make homemade salsa, green peppers, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onions, garlic of course, and cilantro. As well as things I can go out harvest and make a yummy salad or grab some herbs for seasoning our dinners; chives, thyme, basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are my favorite go to herbs.

I find it so gratifying going out into the garden and grabbing some zucchini and summer squash slice them up and cook them on the grill.  Sometimes in a foil packet sometimes just in rounds on the grill always with olive oil, onions and or garlic and Kosher salt and fresh black pepper.  I am very grateful my family likes that I cook them to al dente, not a fan of the over cooked mush that I see on occasion.

My husband and I have had a garden in some fashion for 25+ years (my favorites are raised beds hand downs) I am almost embarrassed to say that out loud, you would think that after that many years I wouldn’t lose a plant or an entire crop as I have on occasion. Not positive it is always entirely my fault; I water, weed, fertilize and do what I can to nurture them, if something is looking amiss I research what it needs and try to rectify the problem.  I am not always successful. Some years we have an abundance of tomatoes; next year it will be cucumbers, one year carrots.  I don’t change how I plant them; we do change where in the garden we plant them. So I am at a loss. I am going to go with the wonderfully ever changing New England weather we have.

I will confess; much to my husbands dismay; I have banned corn from our raised beds, while I love corn on the cob it takes up a lot of real estate and the harvest from our gardens over the years isn’t really worth it. If my husband had his way, he would have an acre of corn.  I didn’t actually say no to this, I just told him he needed to find his own acre somewhere else.  This year he now has found another plant that we have had a tremendous amount of luck with over the years so now he is focused on growing potatoes; my carpenter husband is now proclaiming he wants to be a potato farmer.  Sometimes you need to just nod and smile. I think he thinks he can make vodka; he doesn’t even like vodka; I am the one that drinks it. I have never heard of New Hampshire based vodka but I guess you never know unless you try.

New this season Potato garden!

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We all LOVE potatoes; fresh from the garden potatoes are definitely worth a spot in your garden at least once. I think my favorite way is roasting them in the oven or even on the grill.  Olive oil, Kosher Salt, Freshly ground black pepper and Rosemary – YUM!  My husband made a new larger raised bed for his potatoes, his plants are looking better than some of mine. You just never know!!!

There is a door into the shed that is off of my potting bench – It was a very ugly green that I have no idea why we even owned the color of paint. It was driving me nuts for a couple of years now, I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to paint it.  I figured it was not going to be seen by anyone but me and whoever helps me in the garden, so I decided to go a little crazy for me.  I did use a famous motto about gardening but changed it to Potatoes for my husband.  He loves it!!!!

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I love taking a medley of veggies from the garden; carrots, potatoes, beets and butternut squash, chop them up add olive oil and Kosher salt fresh cracked black pepper and put them out on the grill on one of my old cookie sheets.  Turn them a couple of times and they taste just amazing.  They are wonderful side to any meat you want to pair them with. Sweet smoky flavor that melt in your mouth.

When I do have too many vegetables to eat and give away before rotting, I do pickle my cucumbers. I also will make tomato sauce or I chop and seed them and freeze so I can add to just about anything soups, stews or sauces. I make garden salsa all the time and I have canned batches of that over the years; I used to send my daughter to college with a jar or two.  I am not entirely sure what to do with the bazillion jalapeno peppers we get, I do use them but while we like some heat in dishes, we are not super heat lovers.  I do end up bringing quite a few of them to work to share. This year I will need to look up what to do with them!

If we could grow avocado’s I would be in garden heaven – we LOVE guacamole and the only thing I need to buy from the store is the avocado, I guess that isn’t too bad!

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Fresh Garden Salsa 

6 tomatoes (Roma)

1 Green Bell Pepper

1 Onion

2 Jalapeno Peppers

5-6 Cloves of Garlic

1 Lime, Squeezed

Fresh Cilantro chopped

Kosher Salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Balsamic vinegar

1-2 packets of sweet and low

Dice and seed the tomatoes and set aside to drain while you dice the peppers and onions, press the garlic, and chop the cilantro. Mix everything together add a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a packet or two of sweet and low.

Hint 1: you can make it hotter by leaving the pith and seeds in the jalapenos or milder by removing them before chopping.

Hint 2: By seeding the tomatoes your salsa will be less watery

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Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa

1 Ripe Mango peeled, seeded and diced

1 Ripe Avocado peeled, pitted and diced

4 Medium tomatoes diced

1 Jalapeno seeded and minced

½ Cup fresh cilantro

3-5 Cloves of Garlic

Kosher Salt

2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice

¼ Cup chopped Red Onion

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

In a medium bowl combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and garlic.

In a small bowl add the onion and lime juice, let it site for 5 minutes, whisk in olive oil, season with salt.

Fold the dressing into the salsa and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

My roasted potato, carrots and rosemary are almost ready for dinner….

Mangia Mangia!!

Party on the Patio

So my husband and son made us the most amazing patio for entertaining a few years ago.  We entertain pretty regularly whether it is a last minute, hey come on over for a glass of wine  a cold beer or maybe some of my yummy Cosmo’s.  We put out several different kinds of cheese, some sort of salami/ham and our favorite onion crackers. We also tend to  grill up some sausage or pepperoni and slice it up for everyone to share. I think I always have on hand the ingredients for my Caprese salad which everyone loves so that is another staple at my house.
Patio
For larger gatherings; Birthday’s, Graduations, Holidays or a Going away party (daughter moving to Japan) with a few weeks to plan I love making Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Boston Baked Beans to name a few.  I do have a few tricks I would like to share.  I have some chafing dishes that I put out and always have a hot one going for the beans and cooked meat but I also put ice in the bottom tray of one or more of them to keep my salads cold, it works out pretty slick, you do have to replenish the ice occasionally but at least you know no one will get sick from them sitting out for a bit.  Also another trick I love is to take one of the college sized refrigerators we have and I put it out by the grill (someday my outdoor kitchen dream will become a reality) I keep all the meat we are going to be cooking as well as the cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles, condiments etc. in it. I can put things out there a day or so ahead;  it not only saves a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen fridge the day of; it also saves room in my kitchen fridge for the salads.

I do ask that people bring an App, Side or Dessert to share and hope for the best weather.  Everyone has their own staples they turn to for BBQ’s so I love to see what people bring and it is always a variety. It is always nice to try others; you never know when you might want to ask for the recipe.

I do have a very funny story that I have told many times over the years. This is one recipe you probably won’t be asking for.  The first time my husband met one of my now very good friends I will call her PN we were at my still very dear friend KP’s house having a BBQ. The 3 of us girls were in the kitchen, the table had all the salads and fixings set up and my husband was making his plate.  He put some potato salad and pasta salad on his plate, he tasted one of them and proclaimed “ah that taste like dirt” I swear PN and KP whipped their heads around asking which one so fast my husband stopped in his tracks.  I looked pointed at him and said with my ‘don’t you dare’ voices. “Don’t say a word” he proceeded to walk to the ranch dressing and doused PN’s pasta salad.  She was like “it was mine” we laughed SO hard and still do to this day.  For a short while she was trying to salvage her “dirt salad” but thankfully she has moved on to yummier pasta salads.  By the way it had dill in it which in my opinion is why it tasted a little too earthy. Dill is one of those herbs you need to use sparingly or you could end up with dirt salad.

Easiest Potato Salad Several Potatoes of your choice – red skinned I leave on the skin, others I peel 2-3 Hard Boiled Eggs cooked and peeled 2 Celery Stalks Extra Zesty Italian Dressing Mayo Chives or Scallions I boil the potatoes whole and slice up after cooked; still warm I put the cut up potatoes in a zip loc bag and add the Italian dressing; just enough to make sure a small amount of dressing gets on all the potatoes. Once cooled I put add everything to a large serving bowl and mix well.

Caprese Salad

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Fresh Mozzarella Slicing Tomatoes 3-4 Leaves of Fresh Basil 1-2 Cloves minced Garlic ¼ Cup Olive Oil Kosher Salt & Fresh ground Black Pepper French Baguette Slice and bake crostini size pieces of the baguette – no need to add anything to them, make sure they are slightly browned, try not to go too far with them, they are still fine crunchy but I like them slightly chewy for this Slice the same amount of tomatoes and mozzarella as well as the crostini’s to end up with the same number of pieces.  As little or as many as you like, depends on number of quests and what else you are serving. in a bowl or 1 cup measuring cup put the olive oil, minced garlic and chopped basil, let it sit a little bit for better overall flavor I stack the mozzarella and tomato on a platter/plate; salt and pepper them then drizzle the yummy oil you made over all of them.

You can serve this alongside the crostini’s for small gatherings where everyone is sitting down. I prefer for large parties where people are walking around  to take the already seasoned mozzarella/tomato’s and take a large platter covered with crostini’s and top with a slice of yummy mozzarella and tomato slices and then you can grab one and keep walking. Enjoy!

My Obsession with Garlic

I think as you start to truly enjoy the taste of food you tend to want more flavor, you want and think everyone should flavor all that they cook with at the very least salt and pepper.  I have found my one true food obsession and it is with garlic.  There are very few dinner items that I make that do not involve garlic in some form or another.  I love chopping it, pressing it, smashing it and leaving it whole.  Roasted garlic is just awe inspiring to me and so useful in many ways.  So much so that a few years ago I planted 40 cloves, they were not huge bulbs come harvest time but they were oh so tasty and we had enough for many months.  Towards the end they were drying out a little, so the next year I decided to peel each clove and freeze them; two and half hours of my life UGH!  While this worked nicely they lasted close to a year, the only down side was they were only good for pressing.  The flavor never really left them so that worked in my book. I decided the 3rd year I would plant 80 cloves and leave some whole, freeze the rest.  I thought I had a great plan unfortunately due to the crazy New England winters I lost them all.  Utter devastation in my house over the loss of garlic.  This year I planted 80 cloves again alas only 40 survived.  I will figure this out someday!  Thankfully Garlic is readily available so I can and do always buy it from the market.

A friend mentioned she was reading my last post and makes garlic mashed potatoes she never thought of flavoring the water at the beginning with garlic, she said she was totally going to try it that way, I hope she likes it.

A shocking thing to me is I have come across a few recipes that do not have garlic in them, not sure why that is, maybe the person making the dish is not obsessed with garlic as we are. Maybe they do not think it is necessary, maybe they are allergic, is that even possible???  But being me I just have to deviate and add at least SOME garlic to almost everything.

I do find that when a recipe asks for 2-4 cloves I tend to add 4-8.  I don’t think that is a bad thing, my son jokes that we are immune to garlic which is why I have to add more.  I am totally OK with that!   My daughter just reminded me of our running joke that no vampires will be coming to our house anytime soon!

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Basil Pesto – SO YUMMY!

6 Ounces of washed and dried basil leaves, stems removed

4 Ounces of pine nuts

6-8 Cloves of Garlic

2 Ounces of grated parmesan cheese

Olive oil – Salt and Pepper

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Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse to combine. Add olive oil until you get the consistency you like, finish by adding the parmesan cheese a little salt and pepper pulsing until combined.  Enjoy with and/or on just about anything!

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One–Pan Pasta – Great for week night meal; we have also made this on the grill’s side burner!

 1 lb. Linguine

1 lb. Cherry or Grape tomatoes halved

1 Onion diced

4-6 cloves of Garlic

½ tsp. crushed Red Pepper Flakes

6 Cups Chicken Broth

1 bunch of Basil

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and the chicken broth in a large straight sided skillet

Bring to a boil over high heat, boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and broth has nearly evaporated.  About 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with basil.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.

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Eating Through the Freezer

What busy week it has been. We have had a golf tournament, welcome home party and a college graduation party.  Not a lot of time to grocery shop let alone do a lot of cooking. Pretty much quick meals each night. Even when we don’t have time to be adventurous we still want to eat something yummy.  So busy weeks end up with something you can throw together fairly effortlessly. Steak, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus is one of my fav’s.

With it raining every night for the last week, seems like forever I went for the quick sear in a skillet and finish them off in the oven method for the yummy Rib Eyes.  Not my favorite way to cook them, I would much rather just season them (my go to steak seasoning is Adobo) and off to the grill.  But by doing them this way I was able to use some leftover red wine that was sitting on the counter.  One of my good friends favorite saying is “just because you open it, doesn’t mean you have to finish it” hence the leftover bottle of red wine. While the steaks are resting (very important and don’t skip) heat up the skillet and add the wine to deglaze the pan scraping up all the yumminess and letting it simmer down to more than half.  I also usually add beef stock or a beef bouillon it makes a great au jus that adds even more flavor to the beef.

With no time to grocery shop this weekend, I decided this week we will be eating our way through the fridge and freezer.  I actually like to do this every few months or so.  It is a great way to clean out both and to try to come up with meals with what we have on hand. It also saves quite a bit of money when you had so many things happening over the weekend and are a little low on cash.

Taking a quick look around we will be eating chicken, Italian sausage, a pork loin and even some beef tenderloins at some point this week.  I think I am pretty OK with this!

Bye for now; have a great short week – Happy 4th of July

Roasted Asparagus

Either cut off or snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Coat with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place on a sheet tray with sides and cook on 350’ for about 15 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Wash and cut up your favorite potatoes, cover with cold water, add 2 to 4 minced garlic cloves to the pot, generously salt the water and bring to a low boil for about 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and put them back in the same pot.  Add a heaping table spoon of sour cream, 4 tablespoons of butter and a little milk.  Mash until they come out how you like them.  I don’t mind them a little lumpy on occasion.