Cookbook Club – December 2008

December 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm (Cookbook Club, Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, , )

This time we decided to do something different.  This time something a little more festive.  So the girls decided let’s get inspired by cocktails…can’t go wrong with that this time of year…right?

artisinal-cocktailsThe chosen book was “Artisinal Cocktails:  Drinks Inspired by the Seasons”written by famed St. Helena boy Scott Bade about his concoctions behind the bar at Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg.  (Side note:  Cyrus is probably the BEST restaurant I have ever had the experience of eating!)

The theme for the party was pair up with someone and pick a cocktail, and then make your “go-to” holiday appetizer.  Britt and I made the Autumn Apple cocktail which had apple rum, cinnamon, and dried apples for garnish.  Super yummy and perfect for a fall evening.  For my appie I threw together “Wickedly Good Potato Bites”.  A super simple finger food that is perfect for cocktail parties.

What you’ll need:  baby potatoes, chives, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and toasted Pine Nuts.

Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.  Roast the potatoes at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  While potatoes roast, combine the chopped chives, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and pine nuts in a bowl.  Season to taste.  When potatoes are done, let them cool a little so they can be handles.  Then cut them in half, and out of each half scoop out some potato to make a little boat.  Fill the boat with the olive mixture.  Sprinkle with more chives and serve.

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Quickie Dinner and a Movie

December 17, 2008 at 12:26 pm (Good Eats & Drinks) (, , )

It’s officially the holidays.  Making up lists and checking them twice.  I give presents for naughty, rather than nice.  But that’s not a surprise it it?

It’s a busy time of year, and when it gets busy I get lazy on preparing my own food…it’s sooooo much easier to grab something on the go or order take-out.  But, since I am trying to eat healthily this week I made a super-quick dinner that included salmon and broccoli rabe.  Doesn’t get much healthier, right?  And I need something quick because I had a movie date at 8:15 to see Rachel Getting Married (which by the way is EXTREMELY dark and filled me with anxiety…in a good movie kind of way…highly recommended!)

For Salmon:  Mix together mayo, Dijon mustard, dashes hot pepper sauce, chopped garlic, chopped chives, and chopped tarragon.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Place salmon in a baking dish skin down and cover with mayo mixture.  Drizzle with a little honey.  Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

For Broccoli Rabe:  Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add broccoli rabe to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and then cool.  While cooling, in a skillet melt butter, then add 2 cloves chopped garlic and a handful of chopped walnuts.  Cook over medium high heat until butter is browned.  Add broccoli rabe to skillet and cook for and additional 5-8 minutes. 

Serve salmon and broccoli together.  Winner, winner deliciously quick dinner!

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Holiday Revelry #2 – The Hearnses and TFE

December 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm (Good Times, Napa Valley) (, , )

It was another weekend filled with activity.  Erin even flew up from LA to join in the festivities…I am still recovering.

It started on Wednesday with Tough Enough to Wear Pink night at the National Finals Rodeo.  A group of us got together at Ana’s to root on all the cowboys who wore pink to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Thursday cocktails and steak tartare at Press (a holiday indulgence).  And then a stop on the way home to Martini House…part of the St. Helena Pub Crawl!

And then Friday – the 3rd Annual Hearn Cocktail Party (And yes, I have attended all three!).  I love this party because after some drinks are downed, the costume box comes out.  And boy do I love to play dress-up!  My favorite things in the costume box this year:  1.  feathery angel wings  2.  blue Brit Spears wig  3.  the fur stole.  But, I do have to say the all-star costume box insider is the “mustaches”.  This year we even discovered they double as uni-brows (as sported by Helen Jane and Erin Sullivan).  This year’s theme was “Natty” hats…and there were some pretty good ones!

Saturday was the Trinchero Family Estates (TFE) Christmas party.  The theme was Bond (as in James Bond), so Tony took me, Erin, and Britt as his dates.  He wore a white dress jacket…we wore the fancy dresses.  I even had my hair done – part Marie Antoinette, part Amy Winehouse…either way it looked fabulous!

Me and Mavalicious

Me and Mavalicious

I am laying low this week.  Lots of veggies, water and gym-time!

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Tortilla Soup – The FAST Way!

December 10, 2008 at 9:13 am (Good Eats & Drinks) (, , , )

While flipping through the December issue of Gourmet magazine I stumbled across Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup.  “Yum” I thought as started reading the Ingredients and Directions.  “Ouch” I said, when I realized that it would take 3 and 3/4 hours to make.  Who has that amount of time to spend on a Tuesday night dinner?

But, then I realized 2 and 3/4 hours of the time was due to cooking the chicken and making homemade stock.  So, I decided to cheat.  Solution:  store bought stock and rotisserie chicken.  Easy, peasy dinner in an hour!

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 Quarts Chicken Broth
1 Rotisserie Chicken
3 whole Allspice
1 whole Clove
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t black peppercorns
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 T chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
1 T adobo sauce from can
1 C brown rice
1 1/2 # sweet potatoes (about 2 ), peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 (15-19oz) can black beans
2 avocados, sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
1/2 C finely chopped cilantro
Smashed tortilla chips
And if you are feeling a little frisky some grated cheese and sour cream!

1.  Heat chicken stock in large soup pot.  While heating toast spices over medium-low heat, until fragrant and a shade darker (about 2 minutes).
2.  Transfer spices to a blender along with onion, garlic, chipotles and adobo sauce, 2 1/2 t salt, and 1 C chicken stock.  Blend until mixture is smooth and spices are ground.
3.  Add puree to stock in the pot along with rice and sweet potatoes.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer, covered, until sweet potatoes and rice are tender (about 45 minutes).
4.  While soup simmers, discard skin and bones of rotisserie chicken and shred meat into bite size pieces.  Prepare garnishes.
5.  When rice and sweet potatoes are tender, add chicken and black beans to soup and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.
6.  Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with garnishes of lime wedges, cilantro, avocados, and tortilla chips!


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Holiday Revelry Begins with Flappers and Tractors

December 8, 2008 at 10:21 am (Good Times, Napa Valley) (, )

It was a fabulous weekend! 

Friday night I went to my friends Tiffany and Natalie’s house for a “Repeal of Prohibition” Party.  Yes, that’s right, lucky for us that silly legislative move called Prohibition was officially ended 75 years ago.  Because of this repeal I have a job, many late nights with friends, and lots of laughs.  I can’t even imagine life without bubbles and Coors Lights for Bocce.

Because it was a theme party I just HAD to dress up.  So I threw together the most “flappery” outfit that I could find in my closet.  Black dress with sequins, a sparkly headband, fishnets, and silver shoes……  all Glitz and Glam!  There was even black glittery eyeshadow and fake eyelashes involved.  The girls went all out and served Bellinis, Bathtub Gin, and lots and lots of wine.  All in all, it was a super fun evening.

The next night was a Napa Valley treat…the 13th Annual Calistoga Tractor Parade!  Yes, you read that correctly, a parade with tractors decorated for the Holidays.  I love stuff like this!  After the parade there was a quick stop at Suzie’s bar (or as Malcom says – Ana’s North).  There were cocktails…there was people watching…there was Blake dancing on a pole.

A great kick-off to the Holiday party season!

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No More Leftovers…Please!

December 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

I am so very thankful that Thanksgiving is over.  Not because I don’t love gathering with family and friends to enjoy a delicious feast, but because I really can’t stomach the leftovers from the feast another day!  No more turkey, no more mashed potatoes, and please no more pumpkin cheese cake with marshmallow frosting.

So even though I would love to share all of the fabulous things we made for our Thanksgiving feast…I just don’t think I can do it.  Just know, that it was AMAZING!

Instead I am going to share how I got creative and took some leftover Ile de France Brie from the cheese plate and made a delightful little sandwich which was a complete departure from the typical Thanksgiving Day fare.  I make this sandwich whenever I am fortunate enough to have a Brie like the Il de France, which is nice and creamy.  It was inspired by a sandwich from a little place I used to visit above Gloucester Tube station while living in London.  It was a nice warm treat on a cold London day.

Here’s what you do:  Take one baguette and toast it lightly in the oven.  Once warm, cut the baguette in half down the center.  Spread the brie cheese over one half of the baguette and a hot and spicy mustard (or Dijon mustard) on the other half.  Top the brie with ham and sliced tomatoes and then the other baguette half.  Put back in the oven until cheese is slightly melted.  Ooh, la, la!  And when I feel a little more feisty, I wash this delicious treat down with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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