Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday: Sweet Pea Apple Wine

My sister was in town last weekend to help me prepare for an estate sale and to paint our stepdad's condo. I have not had a girl weekend with my little sister since she was pregnant with her 2nd son, almost 9 years ago.

We decided that sorting and pricing sale items on a muggy Friday night would go much smoother with a little libation. I pulled out the oversized wine glasses that my stepdad had provided to me years before and we settled on a lovely bottle of Sweet Pea Apple Wine.

Never one to pass up a cute wine label with a catchy name, the apple wine appealed to me for a few reasons- first because we were practically raised in an apple orchard, so sentimentality won me over, and second because I was looking for something summery, cool, crisp and light. I was not at all disappointed.

Sweet Pea Apple Wine is two parts apple and one part peach. You can taste just that in this wine. It reminded me of hard cider without the kick. My sister said she was reminded of martinellis sparkling apple juice without the carbonation. We agreed that it was the perfect wine for our evening. I would definately recommend it for when the girlfriends get together- it is just that kind of drink; very feminine.

I think that this wine would go well with English Digestive crackers and marscapone. It would pair well with a nice salty pork roast or seasoned chicken breast. I served it chilled over crushed ice while enjoying time with my sister-probably the best combination of all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Keep It Simple Saturday: Greek Kapotenia (Carrot Truffles)

This post is for my brother, Dennis. I have been promising to share this recipe with him for a while now. I encountered this sweet carrot macroon while thumbing through Vefa's Kitchen cookbook "the bible of Greek cooking".

This is a great simple recipe (although a little more involved than eating cherries and chevre over the sink). The flavor is very macroon like- I think that your tasters will be surprised to realize that this contains carrots. The recipe is unique and makes a great little presentation.
1lb, 2 oz medium carrots
1c superfine sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1t vanilla extract
2-1/3 - 3-2/3 c dried unsweetened dessicated coconut (I used Red Mill)
  1. Parboil the carrots for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat, drain, cool and then grate coarsely.
  2. Combine grated carrots, sugar and lemon zest in a pan and cook, stirring frequently for 20 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add vanilla and half the coconut. Mix well.
  4. Let cool completely and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll each in the remaining coconut. (If they don't hold together well, add more coconut)
  6. Put the truffles in candy cases and store in air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

A final note about carrots: I recently came across some yellow and purple carrots at the Snohomish farmer's market- I am always intrigued by unique veggies, so I had to buy. I learned later that these funky colors are not so unique, but more representative of ancient carrots. Today these are mostly engineered to enhance nutrient values and flavor (I guess most veggies fall in that catagory that aren't heirloom). I am not sure how I feel about having scientists messing about with my veggies. Today's popular orange carrots are a true product of scientist intervention. I read that the beta carotene content in today's carrots in 25% greater than 20 years ago.

Surprisingly someone has devoted a whole website to the subject of carrots, if you are interested in learning more about carrot history, check it out here:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Keep It Simple Saturday: Cherries and Chevre

One of the great little blessing that came with our 1955 Brick Bungalow is a Rainier cherry tree.
The tree is heavy with fruit this year- there are more cherries than we can possibly eat- and, apparently, more cherries than the birds can eat as well. We have invited our friends and neighbors over to help themselves.

Rainier cherries are one of the sweetest varieties. They were developed in 1960- a cross between a Bing and a Van. As far as cherries go, these are the elite variety- they can run as much as $5 a pound- so, we feel extremely pleased to have these for free in our back yard.

Kathy Casey of Dish D'Lish** introduced me to the idea of Cherries and Chevre cheese this summer with a posting on facebook for a fabulous little appetizer she calls "Cherry Bings". I had hoped to link you to the recipe, but could not find it, however these are as simple as can be:

Wrap a pitted cherry with chevre and roll in sliced almonds. She used Bings (hence the name), I used my Rainiers

Simple enough.
However, I couldn't help myself once I tasted the combination! I found myself eagerly scooping up teaspoonfulls of lovely chevre and devouring it with a rainier cherry on top (Almonds would have been a nice addition- but I got distracted and didnt think to add that until I had eaten the rest of the chevre). This is one of those wonderful little bites that can be devoured vigorously while standing over the kitchen sink. (I speak from experience here)

I was thinking today that a chevre ice cream might taste good with a topping of sliced cherries. We will definately need to look into that

Do you have any other great "cherry" or "chevre" combos? Let us know!
**Kathy Casey's blog about cherries is located here

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday: Layer Cake Shiraz

Thought a little wine review would be a cool addition.
Why "wobbly"?...Well, that is attributed both to my knowledge about wine (which is weak) and the effect that a good wine will most certainly have on me. (I am a light weight when it comes to alcohol!)
I disclaim that I am not a sommalier, although I do know what a sommalier is and even how to spell it. No siree, I am just an occaisional, no frills, drinker of the stuff and so my reviews should be fairly simple and probably much more understandable than what you might get from a wine expert (or sommalier).
I hope to share here what I learn as I gain some wine wisdom and maybe we can both figure out what all the fuss is about. (and get wobbly together)

I really believe that wine preference is an individual thing- decide for yourself what you like and what is good. Don't be concerned about price. The cheaper wines, in many cases (punny!) are just as good as the more expensive ones. We will commence with all wine snobbery here!

I picked up the Layer Cake Shiraz on a recent trip to Trader Joe's. I confess that I had never heard of this wine before, but was taken in by it's fabulous name and, well, I also fell prey to the label. (It was like it was expertly marketed just for someone like me!)

Important fact: A "shiraz" grape is the same as a "syrah" grape. For some reason, when it comes from Austrailia they just call it Shiraz...(mate).

For me, "layer cake" conjurs up images of tiers of chocolate cake goodness- not billowy coconut or lemon poppyseed cake layered with jam - just chocolate. And I think the makers of this Shiraz definately share my vision. According to the Wine Bible (which you will hear me quote often), Shiraz tends to have a chocolate or mocha tone to them.

Although I am no expert on wine, I have watched experts and I know that they will first hold a glass up to the light to look at the color. I do not know why they do this, but as far as wines go, this one is a brilliant color of ruby red and I think it would make a great nail polish color actually. (I promise to investigate in future blogs what the color checking thing is all about.)

The next thing that I do with wine is swirl it in the glass which is done to release the essence of the wine. One then points one's nose into the glass and inhales. I play a game here, whereby, I attempt to determine what fruits, spices, barrels etc which have influenced the particular wine. With Layer Cake, I immediately smell a berry of some description, and coffee. The bottle gives only a description of "layers of flavors".

Tasting a wine also involves a special technique. A small sip, followed by a larger sip to basically coat the mouth, followed by a normal sip- and supposedly after this sip you should have a good idea what the wine tastes like and because you look very savvy at wine tasting your credibility is immediately increased. However, I often have to try several sips before I can clearly determine the wine's unique characteristics.

Immediately upon drinking the third sip of Layer Cake Shiraz, I tasted dark chocolate. I am not sure that this is one of my favorite wine flavors, so I am afraid I cannot be completely impartial on this one. I love chocolate and coffee, and I even like chocolates with wine, but this wine starts fruity and ends a bit too bitter for my tastes (although I confess that did not stop me from drinking over half the bottle).

A neat little hint that I read not too long ago in Martha Stewart Living about pairing wines (don't ask me what issue- I may have been reading one of my old ones!) When you determine what is in a wine (and many times it is written right on the label), it makes it easy to pair with the right foods. For the Layer Cake shiraz, I would just look for a dish that could mingle with chocolate...this could be chili, or peanut satay.

If you chance to give this wine a try, or know this wine already, let me know what you think (or thought) of it.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Blog #100 - Keep It Simple Saturday

Well, that didn't take long.... Blog #100 is here!

With all this post-MBA time on my hands, I have been thinking about ways to improve my blog, to make it more useful to my friends and fellow foodies and also to align it with my current attempts to simplify my life.

I don't know about you, but I find serious comfort in having a clean, uncluttered home. I think there is an art-especially in the kitchen- of having on hand just the tools you need and nothing more. (My late friend Mary was the queen of this pursuit)!

I posted a few blogs ago that I was struggling with balancing my love of cooking and food with my need to get back into physical shape. Deprivation is not an option if you want to be successful in changing your diet, and neither is cooking sinfully rich brownies and macroons each week! I think I have come up with a solution though. A little exploration of flavors and simple recipes. This is particularly easy to do in Summer and early fall, as fresh produce is in abundance and, frankly, nothing tastes as good as the simple and fresh picked fruits and veggies.
Keep it Simple Saturday is when I will share with you some simple recipes (2-3, maybe 4 ingredient gems) that I think are sensational. The reality is that good food does not have to be complicated.

Early this week I purchased some apricots at the Snohomish Farmer's market. A few months ago, I discovered Fage (Fa-yeh) Greek Yogurt with honey. I think that Fage is the next best yogurt to homemade. At lunch one day this week I chanced to mix the two and...let me tell you...the combination rocked!

So here is the recipe: Please, if you have other ideas for simple apricot bites that you would like to share (keep the ingredients below 4 items), feel free to add it to the comments.

Apricots with Greek Yogurt and Honey
4 Apricots
1 container of Fage Greek Yogurt w/ honey (or Plain Fage Greek Yogurt and add your own honey!)

Slice the apricots in half and remove the pit.

Fill the apricot with a spoonful of greek yogurt
Drizzle honey on top.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tuna and Potato Chip Casserole...and An Opportunity to Do Something Good

The most popular blog post in My Home Cook N Blog's short, sweet (and sometimes savory) history is: Tuna and Potato Chip Casserole!

For the life of me, I would never have guessed that this recipe would be so popular with the blog set!

It got me thinking: IF I had a dollar for every tuna and potato chip casserole seeking visitor I have had since posting that fateful recipe..well...certainly I might be able to make a small difference in the world, right?

If you came here for the very famous tuna and potato chip casserole recipe, I am happy to share, and I think we can both do a little bit of good in the process....

For the rest of this year I am raising money for the American Lung Association and I am asking for your help.

Here is how to get the recipe:

Perform a web search using the search box at the top of this page that says "search for a cure". When you search, you will automatically be taken to the post with the tuna casserole recipe! (You will also see results from your search.) When you visit the sponsor's "google ads" resulting from your search results,they pay me for sending you to them (Please note this important step- you must visit the sponsors website!). I will, in turn, pay the American Lung Association the proceeds. (Your search can be for anything you wish!)

You can also visit the ad sense ad on the right of the page and roam around a bit (that is the brown box to the right of the page). Although no recipe will appear, a donation will be made just the same.

Why am I doing this?

Two reasons: My aunt Sally (who first introduced me to tuna fish and potato chip casserole) and my late father in law, Robert Cook. Both passed away from this terrible type of cancer. August will be the one year anniversary of Robert's death and I want to do something positive to remember him on this anniversary .

I will provide a monthly tally of your generous contributions and at the end of this year I will submit a check to the ALA. Tell your friends too!

Thank you in advance for your participation and enjoy the casserole!

Back to Bloggin'

Well, it has definately been a very interesting break...a roller coaster ride of events and a whirlwind of emotion. If nothing else happens this year to rock my world, that will be just fine with me!

I will not recap all the sordid details- because it will exhaust you and I really would like to just tie this June up with a bow and have it launched into outer space (or someplace else I will not be tempted to visit).

The aftermath I can share. I am tired. I am also a bit dazed and disoriented. I have completed two dreams of mine (graduate school and attending the UW) and I have this very unsettling sense that I am forgetting to write a paper, take a test, or do my assigned reading. The amount of time I suddenly have on my hands, after almost two years of constant study, is unfathomable.

And oh what has NOT been neglected in those two years? My home, my family, my body, my garden. It feels as though I have gone on "walkabout", visiting far away lands, while the rest of the world just continued on without me. I was here...sort of...half present...

But now I am returned.

I have no immediate goals or objectives, which is a bit uncomfortable for me as I am a highly structured and driven individual. Part of me wants to bake, part of me wants to focus on getting back in good physical shape and another part of me thinks I should just bask in my newest accomplishment for a while - just rest.

At any rate....I have been cooking up a storm (and eating) (and not really exercising much) lately-and I have some great recipes to share with you all. Stay tuned.