Joanie Loves Bocce Game 6 – Fiesta!

May 31, 2008 at 8:47 am (Napa Valley) ()

Scoring a Casino…..1 Gold Star

Playing in 2 winning games…..2 Silver Stars

Beating Tipsy Moonshiners all 3 games…..PRICELESSI am soooo hungry

Joanie has been playing the Tipsy’s for three seasons now and there has never been a shut-out to date.  Granted, half of their team was on a Marketing retreat, we still played like rock stars.  12-1, 12-0, and 12-4.  That is some mighty good playing.  The Joanie train to Winville is on its way!

This weeks theme was FIESTA!  The food was amazing and I really do think that it gets better and better every week.  Pualito made my favorite appie – jalapenos stuffed with artichoke dip and cream cheese, wrapped with prosciutto and then baked in the oven…DELICIOUS!

I racked my brain for what to make…enchiladas?  tortilla soup?  taco salad?  All yummy and tried and true favorites, but I do love a challenge, especially when I can test new food stuffs on my poor bocce comrades.  So after flipping through my roomies extensive collection of Mexican cookbooks I had it Spicy-Sweet Empanadas.  Little bites of heaven!

Only make this recipe if you have time because it isn’t something to just throw together.  The empanadas can be assembled ahead and frozen, and then baked when needed.  FYI – to make these little heavenly bites you will need a 4″ round cookie cutter to make rounds in the puff pastry.  Serve with a bowl of mixed olives and hot peppers.

Spicy-Sweet Meat Empanadas
The Mexican Cookbook, by Marlena Spieler

12 oz ready-made puff pastry
All-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1-2 T water
Spicy Beef Filling:
1 # fresh ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 C sherry
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground cumin
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 t sugar
1 t vinegar
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
3 T coursely chopped toasted almonds
salt and pepper

Get on it!:
1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  To make the filling, brown the meat and onion in a skillet over medium heat.  Pour off any extra fat, then add the garlic and sherry and boil down until the liquid has nearly evaporated.
2.  Add the cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have reduced to a thick sauce.  Stir in the cilantro and almonds and heat through, then set aside.
3.  Roll out the puff pastry into a thin layer on a lightly floured counter.  Using the 4″ cookie cutter, cut the pastry into circles.  Place a tablespoon or two of the Spicy Beef Filling in the middle of one circle.  Brush the edge of the pastry with beaten egg, then fold in half and press the edges together to seal.
4.  Press the tines of a fork along the sealed edges of the pastry to make the seal more secure, then place on a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining pastry circles and filling.  If  freezing do not do the next step and go ahead and freeze.  Brush all empanadas with beaten egg.
5.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-25 minutes, or until a light golden brown on the outside and hot in the middle.  Serve immediately, hot and sizzling from the oven.

Enjoy, XOXO!

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Teacher of the Year

May 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm (Napa Valley) ()

I had so many plans for Memorial Weekend, and most of them included enjoying some fabulous sunny weather.  Playing bocce, drinking Sauvignon Blanc by the pool, taking the Minkie on walks…but, my plans had to change because Saturday morning when I woke up the sun had been replaced by rainy clouds.  You have to wonder when was the last time it rained in the Napa Valley on Memorial Weekend?  Not since I have lived here!

But, even with the rainy weather my friends decided to gather together to celebrate our friend Malcolm’s “Teacher of the Year” Award.  I much coveted award in this small town, and Malcolm definitely was the front runner…he is an amazing hands-on teacher that inspires students and parents alike.

The party was supposed to be at the park so we could grill and play bocce, instead we had it at a friends house and everyone brought snacks.  I decided to make Fondue for two reasons 1)  I received a bad ass fondue set for my birthday this past year that was still sitting in the cupboard unused  2)  I had never made fondue before and it seemed like a good challenge for a rainy day.  So I went to my Cheesebook to find a “real” fondue recipe and this is what I made:

Traditional Switzerland Fondue
Cheese Primer, Steve Jenkins

1 1/2 C (6 oz)     grated Gruyere
1 1/2 C (6 oz)     grated Emmental
1/2 C (2 oz)        grated Appenzeller
2 T                      Corn Starch or All-Purpose flour
1                         clove garlic, halved
1 C                     dry white wine
1 t                      fresh lemon juice
Splash of kirsch (I used brandy)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg

1.  In a medium-size bowl, combine the three cheeses and toss with cornstarch
2.  Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic halves.  Add the wine and heat over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.  Stir in the lemon juice and kirsch.
3.  Add a handful of cheese at a time to the wine mixture, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, wait for each portion of cheese to melt before adding the next.  Continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted, bubbling gently, and has the appearance of a light creamy sauce.  Season to taste with pepper and nutmeg.
4.  Remove the pot from the heat and place over an alcohol safety burner set on table.  Adjust the burner flame so the fondue continues to bubble gently.

I served the fondue with crusty bread cubes, steamed artichokes, baked fingerling potatoes, and slices of sausage.  Sliced apple would also be good after tasting the fondue!

Enjoy, XOXO


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Joanie LOVES Bocce, Game 5 – The Elements

May 24, 2008 at 5:46 am (Napa Valley) ()

It was a blustery, warm night.  A night to be remembered and revered.  Joanie Loves Bocce won all three games against our competitors La Dolce Vita.  Oh Sweet, Sweet Victory!  This will garner me 3 (yes 3) silver stars and a gold one for the fabulous casino that Helen Jane and I scored during game 2.  The stars will add a little more flare for my Joanie Jacket.  (The flare always makes the competition a little uneasy!)

The theme this week was The Elements – Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.  I had a hard time with this one.  There was much discussion and cookbook page flipping.  Finally I decided on Mushroom Bruschetta…which turned out mighty tasty!  Get it, mushrooms are from the earth…and taste earthy.  I even added a sprinkles of green chives for another earth color effect.  I am pretty sure my favorite item that was made was the “Knock the Wind out of You Punch”.  A secret recipe that I know included vodka and stawberries.  Danger, Danger!  I only had 2 glasses because that kind of stuff goes down way too easy during these warm spring nights!

Another bocce snack to add to the repertoire!

Mushroom Bruschetta
2 #     Sliced mushrooms (I used portabellos)
5       Lemons
7 T    Olive Oil 
3      Cloves of Garlice, crushed
1 T   Herbs de Provence
Loaf of rustic bread
Feta Cheese

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees
2.  Place mushrooms in a large bowl and marinate with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, herbs de provence and salt and pepper.  Let mushrooms sit in marinade for 20 minutes.
3.  Slice loaf of bread and brush each side with olive oil  Place on baking sheet and cook for 6 minutes on each side.  Set aside.
4.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook mushrooms until tender (about 20 minutes).
5.  Top each slice of bread with mushrooms.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and chives.


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Joanie Loves Bocce Game 4 – “Poked and Skewered”

May 20, 2008 at 11:09 am (Napa Valley) ()

This is how much I love the game of bocce and the fabulous people I get to hang with each Thursday…even though it was 100+ degrees on bocce night, I braved the heat to join my team on the courts.  And it was so worth it because it was the first time this season we won 2 out of 3 games (lucky for me I played both games that we won so I am looking mighty good in the Cappo’s eyes!).  I finally think JLB has hit its stride!  As one of my friends says “Winners win!”

The theme this week was food that could be “poked and skewered”.  Since I knew it was going to be so unbearably hot I made something that was refreshing to eat and didn’t require much kitchen time.

Eggplant, Feta, and Mint Skewers
Party Food for Vegetarians, Celia Brooks Brown
(makes 20)

1-2       Eggplants, sliced as thinly as possible lengthwise into 10 slices
Olive Oil      For brushing
3 1/2 oz.     Feta Cheese, cut into 3/4″ cubes
20        large fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Vintage Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling

Place a ridged grill pan over high heat for 5 minutes or until very hot.  Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil, then charbroil on both sides until translucent and striped with black.  Let cool, then cut each slice into two long strips.  Take one strip at a time and place a mint leaf on top, then tightly wrap both around a piece of feta.  Secure with a bamboo skewer or cocktail stick and place on a large serving plate.  Season to taste with black pepper, then drizzle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

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Pickles, Pickles, Pickles

May 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm (Napa Valley)

I received the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit about a week ago and after salivating page after page I was inspired, inspired to do something I had never done before…make pickles.  Yes, I have had many pickles in my life…on the side of sandwhiches, taken out of the jar for a snack, and rolled up with pastrami and cream cheese and speared with a toothpick (the most recent addition to my list via my trip to Minneapolis and a visit to Psycho Suzi’s).  Who would have thought making pickles would be so fun and easy.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that the pickles are delicious, a tasty treat to share at Paulito’s birthday bash on Saturday.

Here are some interesting pickle facts:

Interesting Fact #1:  Cucumbers were probably first pickled in Mespotamia 4,400 years ago

Interesting Fact #2:  Julius Caeser’s troops ate pickled cucumbers as a health aid

Interesting Fact #3:  PIckled cucumbers became popular in the US due to the influence of cuisine of Central and Easter European immigrants

Slightly Sweet Dill Regrigerator Pickles
Bon Appetit, June 2008

1     small sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui)
2     # medium pickling cucumbers, scrubbed, but into 1/4″ thick rounds
1     large bunch dill (coursely chopped, stems included)
1     T yellow Mustard Seeds
2     t whole White Peppercorns
1 1/2 C Apple Cider vinegar
1     C water
1     C sugar
3     T course Kosher salt
2     t dill seed

1.  Divide sliced onions between two 1-quart wide-mouth glass jars.  Pack cucumber slices horizontally in jars.  Top each jar with dill.

2.  Using mortar and pestle or resealable plastic bag and mallet, crush mustard seeds and peppercorns together.  Place crushed spices in medium saucepan.  Add vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and dill seeds.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

3.  Ladle mixture evenly over cucumbers.  Leave jars uncovered and chill 24 hours.  Cover glas pickle jars tightly with lids.

Notes:  Can be made 1 week ahead.  Keep refrigerated.

Let me know how your pickles turn out!



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My Obsession

May 13, 2008 at 4:43 am (Napa Valley) ()

A place to lose your head.I have an obsession, and it’s called The Tudors.  It is by far my favorite show that has ever  been on TV, and since my college TV watching days of 90210, there have been some fabulous shows …Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Big Love, Rome, and the list could go on.

I know it is an obsession because:  1) the recorded episodes are never deleted, 2) I watch them repeatedly if I can find nothing else on, and 3) if a friend wants to catch up on episodes I tell them to come over and feel free to turn it on.  I love the acting and costumes, the historical context and embellishment.  And really, the storyline is so insane that one could believe it was actually made up…but it really happened!  One lusty king fell for one clever girl and because of it they brought down the entire Catholic religion in England- would that even be possible in modern day times?

I pray that they continue the story through all six wives, because I know from a lot of reading that it really does get more insane and even harder to believe that these things actually, actually happened.

And as a special treat here is a plaque at the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn lost her head…should be an upcoming episode. 

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I Heart the Napa Valley

May 8, 2008 at 6:07 am (Napa Valley) ()

So today was one of those days that I realize why I have never left the Napa Valley after 6 years of living in St. Helena.  It was a “perfect 10” of a day – the sun was shining, I took The Minkie on a long walk and enjoyed the fragrance of all of the blossoming flowers, and friends came over in the evening to have dinner (5 of us in a 3 butt kitchen – pretty entertaining)!  There was a lot of dodging and maneuvering and stirring and chopping. 

A-Star was making soup and I made Majorcan Veggie Pizza.  While cooking up dinner we played Trivial Pursuit and drank a fabulous bottle of Trimbach Pinot Gris.  Both dinner items were delicious.  A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Majorcan Veggie Pizza (Coca de Verduras)
Variation of recipe in Cooking Light, May 2008
Yields: 6 servings

The original recipe in the magazine calls for home-made pizza dough.  Instead, I bought pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s.  Making it from scratch just didn’t sound like too much fun at the time.  I have broken up this recipe into 5 steps to make it functionally more easy to follow:

1.  Preheat oven to 500 F
2.  Start Samfaina
3.  While Samfaina simmers prepare pizza dough
4.  Spread Samfaina on pizza dough and top with Ricotta Cheese
5.  Load pizza into oven and cook for 16 minutes

2.  The Samfaina (Topping) – A mix of onions, garlic, eggplant, pepper, tomatoes, and zucchini.  Exact proportions of  this recipe are not crucial – improvisation works!
2 T     Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 C     Coursely chopped Onion
5 C     Cubed, peeled eggplant cut into cubes (about 1 #)
2 C     Cubed zucchini (about 1/2 #)
1 C     Chopped red bell pepper
7        Minced garlic cloves
1 1/2#   Chopped Tomatoes (seeded and peeled)
2 T     Parsley
1 T     Thyme
1 t     Smoked Paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until tender.  Stir in eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes.  Add tomatoe, parley, and thyme.  Simmer until vegetables are tender and liquid evaporates.  Stir in salt/pepper and paprika.  Cook 1 minute. 
Yield:  10 servings, so you will not use it all on the pizza.  Go ahead and throw the remainder on a baguette for lunch the next day.

3.  Pizza Dough/Crust
While the Samfaina cooks prepare the pizza dough.  You can buy pre-made pizza dough at most grocery stores….or you can choose to make your own.

4.  Putting it together:
1 C Ricotta Cheese
Spread Samfaina evenly over dough.  Cover with Ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with a little Olive Oil!

5.  Load pizza into oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until crust is golden.  I feeling adventurous, throw on some toasted pine nuts when the pizza comes out of the oven.  Very Spanish!

Tired now after a great day. 

Until next time!  XOXO!

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A Night out in Minneapolis

May 5, 2008 at 8:57 pm (Travel) ()

I do love the Midwest.  It is charming, clean, and the people are well…just plain friendly.  They say “Hi” to you on the street.  They invite you to sit with them at bars.  They open doors and help you put your coat on.  Things that can happen in California, but it is a rarity.

The other night one of my Minneapolis buddies took me on a mini food crawl.  We started out at a place called Psycho Susie’s Motor Lounge (per my request since I had seen the place mentioned on the Food Network.  Psycho Suzi’s used to be an A&W Drive-In and has been converted into a  tiki bar serving up all kinds of interesting drinks and treats.  I enjoyed a libation called The Suffering Bastard – served in a cute little tiki glass and made from various boozes, spices and mixers.  We each picked out a ” Pu Pu” to share and ended up with Potluck Pickle Roll-Ups and Barracuda Buffalo Wings.

I was a Potluck Pickle Roll-Up Virgin (to the delight of my tour guide.)  And wow, I was surprised that I did actually enjoy the little bites.  For those who don’t know what a Potluck Pickle Roll-up is picture this:  a thin slice of pastrami or corned beef, frosted with cream cheese and then rolled around a pickle.  Then slice into bite size pieces and serve on toothpicks.  Dee-liteful!  I hear they are a favorite at many a midwest gathering.

I will admit I have a buffalo wing obsession and try to eat them at as many different places as possible in search of – the perfect wings.  So of course when they presented themselves on the menu at Suzi’s I had to give them a try.  The Barricuda Buffalo Wings had been marinated in tequila and beer and definately has a kick of heat.  Lots of flavor and not too much grease…they earned an 8 out of 10 in my book.

Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lounge
2519 Marshall Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 788-9069
Open everyday 11am-2am

The next place we visited was just across the way – Tony Jarro’s.  At Tony Jarro’s they are famous for two drinks called the “Pinkie” and “Greenie”.  I ordered the “Pinkie” and my friend ordered the “Greenie”.  The “Pinkie” is made from Vodka, Collins Mix and something similar to Grenadine.  It tasted like a Shirley Temple and I could see how someone could get very drunk if having more than one at a time.  The “Greenie” tasted like a Mt. Dew – which I used to drink tons of in highschool.  For a snack we decided on the mini-corndogs which were the best I have ever eaten.  A sweet cornbread type batter fried to a crispy perfection.  I dipped mine in plain yellow mustard.  It took me back in time to the bopping around the county fair during summer.

Tony Jaro’s
2500 NE Marshall St

Down the street we traveled to The Sample Room which has been a Saloon or Tavern since 1893 and was in a beautifully kept red brick building.  The menu here was a little more modern and not typical “bar food”.  At the Sample Room we enjoyed two more little snacks:
1.  Baked Stickney Hill Goat Cheese with Oven Dried Tomatoes and Basil Oil
2.  Pan-Fried Walleye Strips – a really meaty white fish that is local to Minnesota and can only be found in lakes.  The fish is available all year long, even during the long winters when people go ice fishing.

The Sample Room
2124 Marshall Street NE

There were a couple of additional places on Tom’s list, but after so much eating and drinking we decided to call it a night.  Until next time…


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