Recipe: Espresso Wine Biscotti

I really love to snack.  I know it’s not what we’re supposed to do to maintain (or lose) weight, but I find myself wandering around the house when I’m bored, looking for something that might be delicious.  This recipe has saved me multiple times by being easy to make, yet satisfyingly delicious while still being fairly healthy.  Since I love to incorporate wine into anything I make or bake, this recipe has become one of my own after starting as one from a published cookbook (Simply Delicious).

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  EspressoWineBiscotti
  2. Mix your dry ingredients together:  1 1/8 cup flour, 1T ground espresso coffee, 1 t baking powder, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/8 t salt.
  3. Whisk your wet ingredients until frothy:  1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 T brewed espresso, 1/2 t vanilla, and 1 T red wine (I used a Merlot in this recipe, but use whatever red wine you like).
  4. Combine your dry ingredients into the wet, until they just come together.
  5. Roll the dough gently, on a floured board with floured hands, to form a log. Carefully transfer the log onto the baking sheet and pat it into a form about 3/4 inch high and 2 inches wide.
  6. Bake the log until it’s firm to touch, about 20 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so.  Reduce heat in oven to 300 degrees.
  7. While log is still warm, cut into 1/4 inch slices, using a serrated knife, and lay the slices back on the baking sheet in a single file.  Bake biscotti for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until dry.  Remove to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.  The biscotti will become more crisp as they cool.
  8. If you want to add an extra touch, warm chocolate chips and drizzle over an end of the biscotti.  This is not necessary but is a delicious addition if you’re not planning to use these for dunking in coffee or hot cocoa.

I really liked the addition of the red wine to this recipe.  The flavor was just a touch deeper and it didn’t alter the consistency of the biscotti in any discernible way.  I like keeping these on hand for when someone stops by to visit… it’s always nice to seem prepared for company with such an elegant thing to add to a shared cup of coffee.  Hope you find them as tasty as I do… I love these!

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Recipe: Winter Crab Bisque

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses up the leftover Crab Dip that I had from our family’s Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend.  Crab Dip is a thing of beauty…. thick, creamy, and so very decadent.  The hard part comes when the entire recipe isn’t eaten and you have to find something that is equally delicious in which to use all that fabulous crab… and this, in my opinion, is it!WinterCrabBisque

I started my Winter Crab Bisque by making the soup base.  I diced half an onion and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil.  I then diced 3/4 of a butternut squash (about 4 cups) and one large sweet potato and added them to the large stock pot, turning the heat to medium to start a simmer.  Quickly adding equal parts chicken stock and white wine, I gave the vegetables time to cook on a low boil until everything was soft.  I had chosen to use marjoram, some fresh rosemary, and pepper for my seasoning, so added these to the cooking vegetables so the flavors would combine.

Once the vegetables were soft (almost “falling apart” soft), I used a stick blender to thoroughly mash everything until smooth. The soup was still very warm at this point, so I turned off the heat and added the cold leftover crab dip.  NOTE: My Crab Dip recipe couldn’t be easier… it comes from my cousin, Kris, and it’s as easy as warming 1 stick of butter and 1 block of cream cheese in a double boiler, then adding 1 lb crabmeat and seasoning with Old Bay and parsley.  

After adding the cold crab dip, I simply folded the soup over the dip until everything came to the same temperature and combined nicely.  The crab dip had already been seasoned with Old Bay and parsley, so this was a lovely addition to the winter vegetables in the soup, coming together to make a thick and hearty bisque that could warm the coldest hearts on a winters day.

One extra note on the crab dip: my official recipe from Kris says to use Lump crab meat, but the cost was about to make me choke, so I substituted claw meat, which was half the cost of the lump crab meat.  I was pleased with the results, but I was also serving a bunch of guys who don’t mind the difference.  If you’re trying to impress, the lump crab meat is definitely more “perfect”, but I tend to lean more toward something that’s less costly if I’m mixing it into other ingredients.

I do hope you’ll try this simple, yet elegant dish.  I made it in under an hour this morning and am very happy with the results.  If you’re looking for a delicious bisque recipe that isn’t going to send you running to the store for new/unique ingredients, this is a great option!  Enjoy!

Recipe: Zinful Orange Cranberry Sauce

If you’d been given the task of bringing the Cranberry Sauce to the family Thanksgiving table, this is definitely a recipe to try. The flavors of the red wine and cranberry, combined with a citrus-y touch of orange make this cranberry sauce recipe a simple and delicious addition to any style of holiday spread.ZinfulOrangeCranberrySauce

The recipe is incredibly simple.  Into a medium sauce pan, mix 1 cup of dark red wine (I used a deep, dark Zinfandel but you’re welcome to use whatever wine you like.), 1 cup of sugar, and most of a bag of fresh cranberries (saving 1/2 cup of berries to add at the end of the cooking process), the zest and juice of one navel orange, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook this mixture on medium until it starts to boil, then reduce and cook at a low simmer until the sauce becomes thick and all the berries have popped.

While the sauce is cooking, chop the saved 1/2 cup of berries to a fine dice.  Once the sauce is thoroughly cooked, stir in the diced berry pieces and remove from heat.  Move the completed sauce into a resealable container and store in the fridge until you need it.

If you only have a white wine on hand, feel free to use that in place of the Zinfandel in this recipe, or check out the other cranberry sauce recipes on this blog.  While I don’t remember ever enjoying cranberry sauce when I was younger, it has become one of my favorite sides for holiday meals.

Happy Holidays!

Recipe: Apricot Chicken and Snow Peas

This recipe was such a huge success this week!  I was trying to come up with a simple recipe to use a sweet/spicy sauce with chicken and I ended up with this winner of a meal.  You’ve GOT to try this one… truly!

I started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I salted/peppered each side and seared them in a medium-large skillet pan into which I had melted a small amount of olive oil and sesame oil.  Once they were nicely browned, but definitely NOT cooked through, I added a rather creative sauce.ApricotChickenSnowPeas

My sauce consisted of the following ingredients:  Gewurztraminer (dry) wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, apricot jam, commercial orange sauce, and soy sauce.  All these ingredients can be used, to varying degrees, depending on your taste preferences. NOTE: I chose to use a dry Gewurztraminer wine because of the heat that was going to come out from the orange sauce, but you could easily switch out a sweeter Riesling or Vidal Blanc white wine (or even chicken stock if you don’t want to use wine) but if you choose a sweeter wine, I’d decrease the amount of jam used.  It’s totally up to you!

Once I rolled the chicken in the sauce, I chose to roast this dish, covered, in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours.  I had the time and really wanted to have the scent permeate the house before we had dinner.  If I were more pressed for time, I could easily have left this on the stove top and kept the heat on medium for about 45 minutes or until the chicken thighs were cooked through.

Once the chicken was done, I added half of a small package of snow peas (sugar snap peas would be a great substitute) and allowed them time to cook in the sauce. Just before serving, while the sauce was still a bit runny, I mixed a few tablespoons of sauce with a little bit of cornstarch to make a slurry and added that into the sauce to thicken the mixture.  NOTE:  Make sure to add the cornstarch to a small amount of liquid rather than adding the cornstarch directly to the pan to prevent lumps in your sauce.

When I added the snow peas, I started cooking a small batch of egg noodles so they would be ready in time for dinner. This was a great bed for the dish and really allowed the flavors to pop.  If you prefer, brown rice would also make an excellent accompaniment.

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime.  I’ll be using the basic idea of this sauce for a shrimp dish tonight for dinner and expect it to present the same stellar results.  It’s all about finding the flavors that mix best for your family and playing with them to make your own arsenal of go-to recipes.  Enjoy!

Crock Pot Recipe: Red Pulled Pork

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that I’ve already posted a recipe called “Red Wine Pulled Pork“.  That recipe is really great… but I also wanted to post this one because it is just so incredibly simple.  Simple to the point of being a “marinate, cook, shred, serve” type of recipe… how tough could that be?

I started with a large pork roast… I bought it because it was on sale that Friday and I was looking for something that could feed a crowd while watching Saturday football games in our living room.  When I got home from the store, I put the roast into a plastic storage bag and poured a mixture of smoked paprika, Montreal steak seasoning, and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt over the pork, massaging the seasonings into the meat.  I then put the bag into the fridge to marry the flavors overnight.RedPulledPork

On Saturday morning, I pulled out my crock pot and put dinner together.  I sliced two onions into thin strips (cut the onion in half, root to tip, cut off the top and slice the onion into strips the entire way down to the root, discarding the root) and put it into the bottom of the pot.  I placed the seasoned roast on top of the onions and then poured the end of a bottle of dry red wine (feel free to use as much or as little as you like) into the bottom of the pot.  I chose not to pour the wine over the roast because I really wanted the spices to have time to season the top fat layer as the meat cooked.

I set the crock pot to cook on high for 6-7 hours, but I could have easily chosen to cook it on low for 7-8 hours.  Much will depend on how comfortable you are with your crock pot.

I’m impatient when I use the crock pot, so I did check this about an hour before it was ready.  I like the feel of the meat when it falls apart, so I tend to push the envelope when I’m making this sort of dish.  I removed all the bones and then allowed it to cook until al the meat fell apart exactly as it should.  The onions were a nice addition into the meat, since they just “melted” into the pulled pork.

When I got ready to serve this dish, I sliced homemade kaiser rolls in half and spooned some meat into each roll before topping with a small bit of a jarred BBQ sauce from my fridge.  Potato rolls or chewy rolls from the store are also delicious with this meal… don’t feel that you *have* to make your own rolls for this meal to work.  This recipe was simple… the pork cooked all day and perfumed the entire house with a spicy warm smell that ushered football season into our home in the best possible way.  Enjoy playing with this recipe and making it your own… feel free to use whatever spice your family likes so your meal hits all the “high notes” for your favorite fans. Most of all… have fun!

Red Fudge Sauce

Wow… this sauce is such a wonderful recipe that it’s worth making so you can dress up almost any dessert.  Company coming over?  Toast some slices of pound cake or angel food cake (or even ice cream) and drizzle this fudge sauce over top.  Sweet tooth craving something decadent?  Spoon a little warmed sauce over cut up fruit.  Dinner still an hour away and you’re looking for something to “hit the spot” so  you don’t over indulge and ruin your dinner?  Have a small spoonful of this sauce, cold, right out of the fridge.  It’s dark, deep, and oh, so delicious.  I’m confident that you’ll want to keep this recipe on hand for the foreseeable future.RedFudgeSauce

The best part of this recipe, in my opinion, is that it’s just so darn easy to make.  The original recipe came from my boys’ elementary school cookbook, but I just had to tweak it until it hit all the high notes for me (read:  needed wine).  You’ll want to have the following ingredients on hand and ready to go.

Ingredients:

  • 5 squares of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tall can evaporated milk (it’s about 1 2/3 cup total)
  • 2 Tablespoons of red wine
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Directions:

  1. To start, melt chocolate and margarine over low heat, whisking until the chocolate is thoroughly melted.
  2. Add the salt to the sugar and add the wine to the evaporated milk.
  3. Alternately add sugar/salt and milk/wine to the chocolate mixture, blending well with a whisk.
  4. Once thoroughly incorporated, bring sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Cook and stir until thick and creamy, about 8 minutes, then turn off heat and stir in vanilla.

That’s all there is to making your own homemade fudge sauce.  The red wine adds just a touch of richness without altering the flavor to a great degree.  I have tasted it both ways…. feel free to omit the wine if you prefer, but I really enjoyed its’ addition.  Store this sauce in jars (or plastic containers) in the fridge and heat to serve as desired.  I used this sauce recently to pair with a loaf of angel food cake when bringing dinner and dessert to my neighbors.  Such a simple thing, but it was a wonderful thing to share with friends.

Fudge sauce… the new way to share some love with others?  Enjoy!

Recipe: Chicken Pie

My new neighbors were driving home from NC on Monday and I knew they were going to be stressed, so I decided to make dinner for them, while making dinner for us at the same time.  Since I decided to make a chicken pie, it was extremely easy for me to double ingredients and make two dinners at the same time.  This is one of my favorite things to make, so I hope you’ll try this recipe some day… it’s a great comfort meal with lots of old-home appeal.ChickenWinePie

I started with one rotisserie chicken that I bought from the grocery store.  I put the chicken and all its juices into a large stock pot, added water up to the halfway point of the bird, then set the pot to simmer on medium low for about a half hour.  While it was cooking, I threw in some leftover veggies that I had in the fridge (three stems of broccoli without the crowns and six chunks of celery) and allowed them to perfume the water until it became stock.  NOTE: This is my favorite way to make stock… although I usually use carrots, celery, and onion, this turns plain water into something you can use in a myriad of ways.

Once the chicken had cooked in the liquid long enough to be easy to shred, I removed the meat and vegetables to a colander (I used a set of tongs and the chicken fell apart nicely as I removed it from the pot). I then strained the stock through the same colander and into a bowl big enough to hold all the stock so I could use the same pot to start making the chicken pie sauce.

To make the sauce, I started with four Tablespoons of margarine and/or butter and four Tablespoons of flour and whisked them together over medium heat until the fat had time to cook the “raw” taste out of the flour. NOTE: Remember, we’re making enough sauce for two chicken pies.  I then added about one cup of chardonnay white wine (Use whatever wine you prefer) and whisked the sauce to incorporate the wine.  It was still very stiff at this point, so I added an equal amount (equal parts wine to chicken stock) of the reserved chicken stock to the sauce and whisked that until things started looking like a “sauce”.  Feel free to add more wine or stock to get the sauce to the consistency you want for your chicken pie.  I actually went back and added more of both the wine *and* stock, but made the sauce too thin.  TO FIX THIS, I used 1/4 cup of reserved stock and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to create a slurry and added it to the sauce, whisking to make sure not to create any lumps.  Once I had enough of the thickened sauce, I needed to season it before adding it to the dish.  I used freshly ground pepper, some Herbes de Provence, some thyme (I like these two seasonings with chicken, but feel free to use your own favorites), and a squirt of dijon mustard.  I whisked everything together and then let it cook slightly, while I put the chicken pies together.  NOTE:  I went into greater detail in a previous post, entitled “How to make a sauce” on this blog, so feel free to open another tab and use those directions if they seem clearer to you.  I didn’t use any cheese in this sauce, as I did in the previous post, but the method is still the same.

To assemble the chicken pies, I picked and shredded half of the chicken into two separate casserole dishes.  I then drained two cans of mixed vegetables (this usually includes squares of carrots, potatoes, beans, and corn) and poured a can of the vegetables over the chicken in each dish.  NOTE: Since I had cooked extra celery and the broccoli stems, I sliced and added these as well, although they weren’t necessary. I then spooned the sauce evenly over both dishes to finish off the inside of the chicken pies.  NOTE:  I wasn’t sure if my neighbors were watching their salt intake, but knew that I would need to add a little more “umph” to our sauce, so I added a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce to the sauce in our dish.  This isn’t necessary either, but it’s a flavor I know we like.  

For the topping of the chicken pie, you can go in a variety of directions.  For this version, I used a box of Puff Pastry dough. I allowed the dough to thaw for 15-20 minutes, then laid the dough on top of the dish, folding the edges over and brushing everything with an egg wash (mixture of egg and water) to make a nice crust.  I also sprinkled our dish with some garlic salt, since that’s a favorite in our house.  NOTE:  Be sure to make 3-4 slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape during the cooking process.

To bake these beauties, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and pop the chicken pie into the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until you see bubbling sauce coming up through the edges of the slits.  NOTE:  You need to cook Puff Pastry version at a higher temperature.  You can decrease the oven temp to 375 degrees if using another topping of choice.  Remove the chicken pie from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving so no one burns their mouth on food that is, to quote my husband, “hotter than the sun”.

NOTE:  If you don’t want to use Puff Pastry dough for your topping, you can use a can of biscuit dough, a pie crust, or some homemade Bisquick topping.  Whatever you choose, make sure you cook the dish long enough to allow the topping to cook thoroughly.  

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime soon.  As the Fall approaches and the weather gets cooler, this meal is a staple in our house.  It always reminds me of my childhood and never fails to bring a smile to my face.  May this become a staple in your home as you create those same memories for your own families.  Enjoy!