F the “Skinny Bitch”

February 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

So January started with the idea of following the “Skinny Bitch” diet!  It lasted about a week (and that could be exaggerating!)  But, even though I wasn’t a strict adherent to the intended diet, I for some reason lost my zest for cooking.  Because really, how good can lasagna be when it has to be made with tofu cheese?

There were no post-its marking recipes in my foodie magazines, there was no meal planning, there was only ad hoc Chinese take out and delivered pizza…just because I was trying to follow some silly rules set up by some “skinny bitches”!  For some reason it just took a while to see some holes in the plan!  Like… I might be better off indulging myself in something I want to eat, than buying food that I actually really don’t want to consume!

But, now I am back.  Cooking is happening in the kitchen once more.  The new goal…2 experiment/new dishes a week.  The rest of the time, good ole stand by favorites.

So here we go…tonight…something I have never actually prepared myself, but have had many, many times…mussels!  Thank You, Thank You Bon Appetit magazine for the inspiration…god knows I needed it!

Steamed Mussels with Sausages and Fennel
Bon Appetit, February 2008
(I cut the recipe in half, so it serves 4…my version is the one below)

1 # Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage, sliced into 1″ chunks
1 large onions, sliced
1 large fresh fennel bulbs, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 t crushed red pepper
1 1/2 C dry white wine
3 # mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 baguette
EVOO for drizzling
Chopped fresh Italian parsley

1.  Preheat oven to 450F. 
2.  Heat large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook until browned, turning occasionally.  Add onions, fennel, garlic, and crushed red pepper.  Add white wine and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer until sausages and veggies are cooked through (about 12 minutes). 
3.  Add 1/2 C of wine and mussels to skillet; transfer skillets to oven and roast uncovered for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove skillets from and top each skillet with enough baguette slices to cover completely.  Return skillet to oven and bake uncovered until mussels open and bread slices begin to brown (about 5 minutes).
4.  Drizzle bread with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve mussels and sausages directly from skillet
Note:  Super yummy when I drank it with my friends Rose.

Super yummy for your tummy!

nw

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Rainy Sunday and Roasted Chicken

February 15, 2009 at 5:16 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) ()

I am completely loving the rain! 

The Pitter, Patter sound on the windows.  The clean smell.  The gray clouds rolling over the Mayacamas mountains…NVS anyone?

The rain hasn’t stopped all day, and I really hope it doesn’t anytime soon!  Because of the rain I am actually inspired  to stay at home and get stuff done.  Things that seem so awful to do when it is sunny and bocce is calling my name. 

And when the rain is coming down in buckets and buckets, what is more fun than roasting a little chicken?  Not much, unless it is Pot Roast, or Lasagna, or short ribs.

But, today i roasted a chicken and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!  So delicious that I was actually inspired to share it with you…so here it goes…

Special Sunday Roast Chicken
Bon Appetit, February 2009

2  12-oz unpeeled russet potato, cut into 1″ cubes
1 12 oz yam, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2  Large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
3  medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 T EVOO
3 T unsalted butter, @ room temp
2 T finely chopped fresh sage
2  garlic cloves, pressed
1 4# chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 t kosher salt
8 C torn mustard greens
1 shallot, minced
1/2 C dry white wine
1/4 C water

1.  Toss first 5 ingredients in large roasting pan.  Mix butter, sage and garlic in small bowl.  Place chicken in center of vegetables.  Spread sage butter under skin as well as on top.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Stuff lemons in the cavity.
2.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Roast chicken and veggies for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven to 375F; continue roasting until instant read thermometer reads 165F and veggies are tender.  Stirring veggies once after about 1 hour.
3.  Place greens and shallot on large deep platter.  Spoon 3 T fat from juices in pan and drizzle over greens; toss to coat.  Using slotted spoon, transfer roasted veggies to platter placing atop greens.  Tilt chicken, allowing juices to flow from cavity into pan.  Transfer chicken to work surface.  Cut into serving pieces and arrange with veggies atop the greens.
4.  Add wine and 1/4 C stock or water to roasting pan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to scrape up browned bits.  Simmer until slightly reduced
(about 3 minutes).  Season sauce to taste with S&P.  Transfer to a small pitcher and serve alongside chicken.

WaLa – dinner on a rainy Sunday!

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Triple Over Time

January 15, 2009 at 8:26 am (Napa Valley)

It seems every time that I go to an NBA game there is some sort of overtime.  This has been happening since the days I used to frequent the King’s games back in the day when Chris Webber and Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson were rock stars!  (Jackson incidentally still plays for the Kings!)

Last night four of us made the trek to Oakland to see the Kings vs. Warriors!  It was a good time…two Blue Moon beers, a mediocre Andouille sausage, and of course TRIPLE OVER TIME that led to a Kings victory!

Needless to say I am TIRED today.  Triple over time means getting back EXTRA late.  But, hey who’s complaining…I’d do it again tonight!

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Cheesewhizzes visit the Green Isle

January 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm (Cheesewhizzes, Napa Valley) (, , , , )

Fancy sign made just for the event!

Fancy sign made just for the event!

Cheesewhizzes…Cheesewhizzes…oh, sweet sweet Cheesewhizzes!

I really can’t believe that I still enjoy these gatherings so much.  But, it seems that each one is so entirely different.

…new cheeses to try
             …new people to laugh with
                          …new locations to wander

The last Cheesewhizzes event was extra special.  Instead of a local winery hosting the event and everyone bringing a cheese and beverage to pair, the Cheesewhizzes hosted the event with Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in honor of the launch of Culture magazine – the first American magazine dedicated to the wondrous world of cheese.  Since the issue featured the famed cheese making region of Country Cork Ireland, it was decided to showcase the cheeses of Ireland…and no one had to bring anything but their fabulous self.

For $20 an attendee received five different Irish cheeses and two Napa Porter beers.  The cheeses were delivered on a plate with marcona almonds and fun chutneys and fruit paste.  The cheeses were:
1.  Tipperary Cheddar:  The land of Tipperary in south-central Ireland is known for its lush green pastures and mild climate, perfect for dairying. This mild cows milk cheddar is aged for 12 months and has a rich, creamy texture. The deep yellow color of the cheese comes from the beta carotene in the milk, a result of the fertile grasses that feed the grazing cows.

2.  Coolea: This smooth, caramelly, gouda-style, cows milk cheese is made by the Willems family in County Cork. Originally from Holland, the Willems brought their family recipe to the shamrock isle 20 years ago and have married the Dutch traditions and Irish terroir perfectly. It is aged for 12 months (at least).

 

 3.  Gubbeen: The Ferguson family is a marriage of mother Giana, from Spain, and Tom, from an Irish farming family. They are producing cheese as well as smoked meats in an impressive family farm operation. Gubbeen is a surface-ripened, semi-soft cows milk cheese with flavors of mushroom and cream beneath its delicate pink and white rind.

 

 4.  Ardrahan: Made from the milk of their own cows, Mary, Eugene and son Gerald Burns of County Cork produce this beautiful washed rind cheese that is earthy, pungent and delicately salty. Each wheel is 2-3 lbs and is aged for up to 16 weeks.

 

5.  Cashel Blue: Also made in Tipperary, this glorious cows milk blue cheese tastes like Stilton mixed with butter. It is made by Louis and Jane Grubb, whose family have been dairy farmers in Ireland for 300 years. This cheese, however, has only been made since 1984 after the Grubbs noted how popular the soft Danish blue cheeses were. The wheels are moist, aged for 6 months and made from the milk of their own herd.

My personal favorite was the Coolea – loved the caramelly nuances and rich flavor.  The cheddar was delicious as well as the Cashel and most people I asked said these were their favorites.  Some felt that the Gubbeen and Adrahan were a little too funky.  I personally enjoyed them…especially because they were at their prime ripeness.  But, all are worth a try!

The only thing missing from this Cheesewhizzes event was the fun of having the left over cheese and the reason to get together for a night of Mac and Cheese.  But, life always has sacrifices!

All the yummy Cheeses!

 

 

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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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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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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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Practice Makes Perfect

November 25, 2008 at 8:10 am (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

One Thanksgiving down…one more to go!roast-turkey

This year we are not traveling to Bass Lake.  Mom had knee surgery and is kind of immobile.  So if not traveling to Grandma’s, and Mom is immobile who is cooking…Natalie, Erin and Dad.  Should be interesting!

Because I have never really cooked anything at Thanksgiving due to all of the Chiefs in the Kitchen, I was really nervous about the whole Turkey and Gravy routine.  Mashed potatoes – no problem, Stuffing – in my sleep.  But, cooking a whole bird on my own and then making gravy without lumps…dangerous!

So when my friend Blake received a turkey from his mom, I gladly volunteered to help cook it…and make the gravy.  Friday night was spent perusing Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines for the perfect recipe.  Saturday day was lists and a trip to the grocery store.  Saturday night was prep and a couple bottles of wine (wasn’t in this on my own by the way…I talked Britt into being my sous chef).  Sunday we got up early to finish the job and supervise the other elves who were making things like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and brussel sprouts with bacon and jalapeno (yummy)!

Brittany and I made the Roast Turkey with Bacon-Herb butter and Cider Gravy (Bon Appetit, November 2008).  And I can honestly say, maybe the best turkey ever.  Maybe it was the bacon, maybe it was the herb butter, or maybe it was the fact that we made it on our own…but damn, it was FABULOUS!

Now I am ready for the real “Turkey Day”.  I will walk into the kitchen with my head held high and tackle that job like nobodies business.  But, of course I do like a challenge so I have chosen a completely different recipe for the Turkey…let you know how that goes!

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Is there such a thing as too much cheese?

November 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm (Cheesewhizzes, Napa Valley) (, , , , , , )

This last week has been filled with Cheese!  Goat Cheese, Cow Cheese, Cheese from Italy, Cheese from France, Washed-rind, Bloomy-rind, cheese made 5 miles from my house in St. Helena.

Why so much cheese?  A lot of fun cheese stuff going on…and no will power to say NO!  I have never refused a good piece of cheese!

First night was at Oxbow Market.  Barbara and Rex Bachus who have been making cheese on their property in Napa Valley since 1972.  What makes their cheese so special is the fact that it is made from La Mancha goats that feed on the hillsides right on their property.  Lucky for me we got to taste four types of their famed Goat’s Leap Cheese:
1.  Dafne – named after the Greek bay leaves (daphni) that adorn the top of the wheel during aging.
2.  Kiku – Aged in a fresh fig leaf that is doused in Sauvignon Blanc.  Seasonal and only made in small amounts.
3.  Eclipse – The wheel is crowned with a whole star anise.  Mid-way through the barrel the cheese is slashed with ash…which is an ancient method of preservation.
4.  Carmela – Comes in a 5# wheel, and is the most aged.  Very, VERY rare!

The next night was a cheese class through the Napa Valley Extended Education program that was taught by John Raymond, the famous Cheesemonger.  John has been all over the world studying the production of cheese, aging methods, and migration patterns through the rise and fall of civilizations.  Needless to say – he is a Cheese Expert.  During the course of the three hour class we tasted through 20-25 cheeses, and learned the difference between things like a “washed rind” or “bloomy rind”; fresh versus aged; milk type characteristics.  There was so much information divulged, I actually stopped taking notes toward the end and just listened…I had a cramp in my hand from writing too much!  Hands aren’t in writing shape, but definitely in typing shape.

NVS

NVS

Two nights later, Helen Jane and I hosted another Cheesewhizzes.  The theme was cheese from the good ole USA, the location was Acme Wine Co., the results…a huge success!  One of My favorite cheeses from the table was the Franklins Teleme by Mid Coast Cheese Company.  It was brought by Jessica Pecota who purchased it at the Napa Valley Olive Oil store.  I will definitely be purchasing this to share with family and friends.  Helen and I went in on a whole wheel of Sally Jackson Goat Cheese from Washington.  That stuff is pure hedonism.

And to keep with tradition after the Cheesewhizzes event we took the leftover cheese to Malcom’s and made the famous Mac and Cheese.  What is fun about making Mac and Cheese after every Cheesewhizzes is that each Mac and Cheese turns out different because the cheeses always come from different areas or themes.

So no cheese for me right now.  Taking a HUGE break!

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