Recipe: Red Meatloaf & White Carrots

Dinner last night was one of those “comfort meals” that everyone talks about… meatloaf and mashed potatoes… classic, right?  I have a habit of taking classics and adding a new “wine’d up” spin on things, so this dinner was no different.  I was craving meatloaf and I had a small bag of baby carrots in the fridge, so I came up with a way to cook both dishes at the same time.  Brilliant, right?  Actually, it was more of a fluke the first time I tried it last week, but it really does work!RedMeatloaf&WhiteCarrots

I started out making the meatloaf.  I used one package ground turkey, two palms full of seasoned bread crumbs, some dark red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon that my neighbor had given me… yummy!), a hefty squirt of dijon mustard, some Montreal Steak Seasoning, an egg, and some parsley.   I mixed everything together until it was nicely combined (feel free to add a little more of the bread crumbs if it’s too moist).  Then I assembled the baking portion of the meal.

Using a loaf pan, I sprinkled a layer of baby carrots on the bottom of the pan and poured some white wine (I used the Chardonnay I had in the fridge) over top.  I then put a large piece of foil over the carrots, to create a new “loaf pan” for the meatloaf, and sprayed it with cooking spray.  I formed the meatloaf into the pan and made a bit of a well down the center.  Before I popped the pan into the 375 degree oven for an hour, I added a touch of ketchup on top for color and sweetness.

  DOnce the meatloaf had cooked for the hour, I removed it and let the pan sit for 5-7 minutes before lifting the meatloaf off the carrots and slicing the loaf for dinner.  The white wine had cooked the carrots to a perfect al dente’ and the meatloaf was dense and tasty.  Adding some homemade mashed potatoes was just the perfect accompaniment.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make comfort food, this really did it for me.  I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it turns out for you!  Enjoy….

Recipe: Asian Wine’d Salmon ‘n Veggies

Here’s a basic recipe that I used last night for dinner.  It’s a very classic “Using the Force” sort of recipe, where I started with a single ingredient for dinner and then started pulling things from the fridge/cabinet, blending them until the sauce tasted the way I wanted.  I actually went to a few recipe sites, but wasn’t finding the sort of ingredient list I could pull together, so I “Used The Force”.  If this term is new to you, please check out my explanation at the very beginning of this blog (almost <gasp> two years ago).

I started out with two packets of Salmon for our dinner.  Seriously, these are 4-oz packets of frozen salmon that I picked up on a “super deal” at the local grocery store… awesome for a quick meal and easy to add/subtract as your guest count changes.  I  let the salmon thaw in the fridge during the day so it was easier to handle when dinner time rolled around.  NOTE: It might have thawed faster if I had taken it out of the packaging, but I didn’t want to worry about the mess.

Looking in my fridge, I found four small Yukon Gold Potatoes and a head of broccoli.  For two of us. this seemed like the perfect amount to roast for dinner, as long as the potato pieces were thin enough and the broccoli was sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Again, these are items that you could easily increase to serve more people if necessary.  NOTE: If you end up doubling this recipe, I would separate the vegetables from the salmon and roast them in different pans so that you can control the cooking times of each as needed.  You can also substitute your favorite vegetables for this dish… just be aware of size and cooking times of whatever you choose.AsianWine'dSalmon&Veggies

Once I had my main ingredients picked, I needed to create a sauce…and here’s where The Force came into play.  All-in-all, I used the following ingredients:  Hoisin sauce, dijon mustard, white wine (I used a Chardonnay I had in the fridge), balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Using a medium bowl, I spooned some hoisin (asian BBQ sauce) into the bowl, poured in some wine. and squirted in some dijon mustard.  These were not equal measures, but I went light on everything so I could add more if needed.  I like using hoisin because it’s got a bit of a kick and it thickens up things nicely.  I then added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a generous portion of soy sauce, and sweetened everything up with a bit of honey.  After whisking everything together, I tasted the result and added another bit of honey so the sauce didn’t have too much bite.

I chose to make this recipe on one sheet pan, so I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray so the sweet/sticky sauce wouldn’t be difficult to handle after cooking.  I sliced each potato in half, length-wise, and sliced each half into very thin half-rounds that would cook fairly quickly before layering them on the baking sheet.  I then cut the broccoli into thin slivers, cutting small stalks in half as needed, and layered them on top of the potato thins.  I decided to top the veggies with a bit of sauce before adding the salmon because I wanted to make sure I got most of the veggies touched with the sauce… not necessarily coated, but a little bit would go a long way with this flavor.

Once I had spooned sauce on the veggies, I laid the salmon fillets on top and spooned sauce over them as well, using up all the sauce.  It smelled rich and flavorful, even as it hit the oven, which was my intent… I love when the house smells like something delicious when we’re getting ready for dinner!

Dinner cooked for 30 minutes in a 375-degree preheated oven and was really tasty.  The potato thins were cooked, the broccoli was crisp-tender, and the salmon was delicious. I reheated rolls to have along side this meal, but it really wasn’t necessary.  Just follow your instincts and see what your family prefers.

Remember, this is a recipe that you can change up in a million ways to suit your family’s individual tastes so have fun with it.  We thought it was a hit!

Recipe: Twice Baked Wine Potatoes

As promised, here is the recipe for my favorite Twice Baked Wine Potatoes.  I have been making these for quite awhile now.  I alter the recipe each time, depending on the flavor blend I want to have for the meal it might accompany, so it really does work for so many meals.  I’m sharing the basic idea, but please feel free to adjust and play with the recipe to suit your own family’s tastes and preferences.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  NOTE:  the number of potatoes you bake depends on how many servings you want in the end, but for the two of us, I tend to bake three potatoes so I end up with six small twice-baked potatoes.  Feel free to bake your potatoes however you like, but I typically will cut a small slice in the side of the potato (this will end up being the start of my cut to slice each potato in half) and bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I remove them from the oven (remember that they’re hot, so use oven mitts so you don’t burn your fingers) and slice them in half, lengthwise.  Using the oven mitts and a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato and collect it in a bowl large enough to mix any/all ingredients.  NOTE: If you want to use a mixer for this part, you can put all your potato innards into your mixing bowl… I just like the more rustic feel I get from using a hand masher, similar to one my mom used to use.TwiceBakedWinePotatoes

Once you’ve scooped out all the potato skins, your cooking fun begins!  For the recipe pictured here, I first added the following ingredients:  shredded cheese, one egg, a spoonful of margarine, some great tasting white wine,  and a wedge of Laughing Cow lite cheese.  Once I mashed these together, I needed to adjust the seasonings so I added a spoonful of Greek yogurt, salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  NOTE:  I have used a spoonful of Bourcin Cheese on occasion and this has also been a great addition.  The egg can be omitted, but I find that it adds a touch of richness to the final product that is otherwise lacking.  Feel free to use a Fat-Free Egg Substitute if you prefer, but using only the egg whites won’t produce the same texture – experiment with your favorite ingredients on this one.

Once the mashed potato mixture is to your liking (make sure to taste this part), I use a small cookie scoop to fill the potato skins so I know that I’m filling everything evenly.   You can simply line up the filled potato skins onto a baking sheet, but I have found that I really like to place the potato skins into a muffin tin and fill them inside so they don’t end up rolling off to the side and are easy to store until you’re ready to bake them.   I’m one of “those” people who thinks about dinner early in the day, so if I have the completed Twice Baked Potatoes sitting in my fridge for the day, it’s so much simpler to have them contained in a muffin tin.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that you could easily double and make over the weekend – freeze anything you don’t want to use right away and then you have a perfectly simple side dish available for any night of the week!  I’m a huge fan of “make-ahead” foods that can be stored in the freezer.

To bake these little darlings, just pop them into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until they’re cooked through and lightly browned on top.  I love the crispiness of the potato skin and think that it’s a wonderful complement to any meal.  I’ve served it with BBQ chicken, steak, lobster, shrimp, burgers… almost anything looks fancier when you put these out as your side dish!

Hope you’ll try this and see just how easy it is to make such a fun side dish… our family loves them and I’m sure yours will too!

Recipe: Roasted BBQ Chardonnay Chicken

This recipe was inspired by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman when I was looking for a new twist on making BBQ chicken for one of our last meals in our apartment.  I wanted to make something that would fill the apartment with “yummy smells” and give us a meal that could be eaten for a few days in chicken salad or sandwiches.  While I really liked the original recipe, I found it difficult to replicate, possibly because I was using an electric oven instead of a gas range.  I also was trying to use up ingredients from my fridge before the move to our new home, so I definitely did some substituting along the way to create something truly finger-linking.  Here’s my take… I hope you enjoy!

I started with a package of 10 chicken thighs.  I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and used a large, high-edged baking pan, drizzled with the last of my olive oil.  I placed the thighs, skin-side down, in the pan and liberally topped them with garlic salt and pepper before placing the pan in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.  NOTE: I removed the skin from half the thighs to see if there was a marked difference in taste…  in the end,  I didn’t miss the BBQ’d skin in the least.OvenRoastedBBQChardChicken

While the chicken roasted, I made a sauce of 3/4 bottle of BBQ sauce (use what you like), 1/2 jar apple jelly (use whatever preserves you like best – I would have preferred grape or blackberry, but apple jelly was in my fridge, waiting to be finished), a thumb’s length of crushed garlic (the stuff from the tube is fine, unless you want to mince your own… then use 2 cloves or so),  1/2 cup of Chardonnay (I would suggest using your favorite non-oak chardonnay here), and 1/4 cup ketchup.  I heated the sauce on the stovetop and kept it warm throughout the cooking process so I could easily brush the meat with the thickened sauce.

Once the thighs have roasted for 25 minutes, I brushed them with sauce and flipped them over before liberally brushing sauce on the top.   Thus began a series of three “roast for 10 minutes- baste with sauce- pop back in the oven” segments.  Since I didn’t really see the crispy BBQ-look I wanted, I then popped the oven temp to 425 degrees and roasted for another 10-15 minutes.  I liked that the original recipe didn’t call for any flipping of the chicken thighs, but I did have a lot of extra “juice” that I removed after the second or third “10 minutes in the oven” segment.  You can see by the photos that the sauce does get really dark and caramelized as it continues to roast and I do believe that this would have cooked a little quicker in a gas range, but I ended up with the result I wanted and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

I”ll post the recipe for the accompanying Twice-baked Potatoes with chardonnay as soon as I can…. these are fast becoming a staple in our house, so I really need to share this recipe as well.  If you like baked potatoes, crossed with mashed potatoes, crossed with potato skins, you’ll love this easy side-dish.

Until then…. enjoy cooking for your family!

Recipe: Anniversary Alfredo

Our “dating” anniversary was this past Thursday and, while we don’t go to great lengths to celebrate it, I was in the mood to make a special dinner to commemorate this auspicious occasion.  My husband loves steak, but that wasn’t something I could easily cook in our current apartment, so I opted for a seafood dinner… specifically, a special seafood alfredo.

For this seafood alfredo, I decided to use the meat of one cooked lobster (diced), one pound of large shrimp (sliced in half lengthwise and roasted in a 400 degree oven with salt/pepper/herbes de provence/smoked paprika until pink and curled), and one pound of angel hair pasta (cooked al dente’).AnniversaryAlfredo

NOTE:  A traditional alfredo sauce is made by melting equal parts butter and heavy cream together before adding in mouthwateringly large amounts of parmesan cheese.  Since heavy cream is something that I (1) didn’t remember to purchase and (2) typically try not to use because it doesn’t agree with my stomach, I opted for a unique way to create the taste of an alfredo sauce without the dense feel.  I do hope you’ll consider trying it this way sometime as it’s rather tasty.

For my alfredo sauce, I started by melting a stick of margarine and a dollop of olive oil in a saute’ pan.  Once the margarine was melted, I added a generous splash of white wine (I used a local crisp white wine, but this would have been a great place to use either an oaked Reserve Chardonnay OR a sweeter Vidal Blanc) and then added two palms full of Parmesan Cheese and some garlic, whisking everything together well.  Once the cheese is fairly well melted, you’ll notice that it doesn’t look entirely appealing at this point.  It seemed a bit thin and didn’t really have the creamy texture that I wanted, nor did it have that amazing taste that I wanted.  It was a bit salty to taste, so I added freshly ground pepper and some smoked paprika, along with two spoons of creme’ fraiche that I had picked up at the store.  The sauce thickened up nicely, but to complete the sauce I added a single wedge of Laughing Cow light swiss cheese, which melted into a creamy bit of heaven.  NOTE: I added the diced lobster to the sauce to warm the meat.

When ready to plate the meal, I chose not to add the shrimp to the sauce.  Instead, I placed a serving of the pasta on each plate, divided up the shrimp among the plates and then spooned the sauce (with lobster bites) over the pasta and shrimp.  I had popped a loaf of crusty bread into the oven (as you can see in the corner photo) and sliced this up to serve along with dinner.  While I did cook some snow peas to add a vegetable to round out our meal, these went largely uneaten and could have easily been avoided altogether.

In the end, we had a really lovely anniversary dinner.  It’s been 27 years since our first “date” and 26 years since we married, so I thought it was fitting to name this recipe as our Anniversary Alfredo.  I’ve been blessed with a wonderful man who knows how much I like to cook and will eat just about anything I cook, wine or no, because he loves me.  How much better can life get than that?  Happy Anniversary to my husband… wishing everyone else a fun time with this recipe!

LAST NOTE:  If you don’t like seafood, this recipe would be lovely with roasted bites of chicken, beef or even simple roasted vegetables.  Cook what you like and your loved ones will enjoy it!

Recipe: Simple Wine Scones

I played with a recipe today… and ended up with the yummiest (and most simple) scones I’ve ever tasted.  A friend had posted this 3-ingredient scone recipe from TheMiniatureMoose.com on Facebook and I couldn’t help myself… I *had* to try it!  Of course, I just can’t make a plain scone, so I picked up some mini chocolate chips and decided to use some of the Chardonnay that I had in my fridge… it was a HIT!  I took most of the scones downstairs to the Leasing office and treated the ladies to an afternoon snack and they agreed with me.  Yummy & easy… wine & chocolate… two of my favorite combinations.

I started by preheating my oven to 425 degrees.  There were very specific (yet simple) directions in the original recipe, but my version ended up being totally tasty as well.  In a large bowl, I mixed 2 cups of self-rising flour with two Tablespoons of sugar and two palmsful of mini chocolate chips.  I then added 1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk and stirred to combine.  NOTE: Canned coconut milk separates into two layers… a thin “milky” layer and a thick “greasy” layer.  You need to stir these two layers together to create the creamy coconut milk you want to use.  FYI… don’t poke the harder white layer on top too energetically or you’ll get spritzed with the milk that comes sporting up out of the can.  Trust me… I learned the hard (and messy) way on this one!  😉SimpleWineScones

My version differs at this point with most recipes for scones.  Everyone else will say to be gentle with your dough and to kneed the dough and do all sorts of lovely things to form your scones.  I was simply lazy and wanted to see if this recipe would still work, so  I stirred in some Chardonnay (a bright stainless-steel Chardonnay is great in this recipe, especially if you choose to add any citrus to the mixture) and made sure that everything was well-combined.  I then spooned the scone dough (it was definitely not something that could be cut into forms at this point) onto a pan sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled the dough with sugar.  I knew I was going to want to cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges, so I tried to make slight indentations into the top of the dough so I’d know where to cut.  Much more than this wouldn’t have worked with this version of the recipe.

baked the scone dough at 425 degrees for 17-20 minutes until the top started to look lightly browned and didn’t look like it was going to be gooey when it cooled.  Ok, this isn’t a very “scientific” way to describe it, but it’s the most honest way I can explain it.  I shook the pan and nothing moved… then I pressed the top of the dough and it felt pretty solid.  I figured it was good to go at this point.

I removed the large cooked scone to a cutting board and allowed it to cool for a few minutes.  I then took a knife and cut the dough, following the pie-shaped wedge marks that I’d originally made.  They came out nicely puffed and light – not dense or dry at all.  I might just bake them in small rounds next time…. they would be lovely as a dessert, broken open and drizzled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

See… even a diversion from a tried-and-true recipe can turn into something totally different and fun!  Let me know if you come up with a new way to play with this recipe… and I’ll be sure to add other versions as I play with this recipe on my own!

Wishing a Happy Summer to you all!

Recipe: Asian Chardonnay Chicken and Pasta

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner came by way of the salad dressing in my fridge… really!  I picked up a national brand Asian Sesame salad dressing recently and wondered how it would pair with chicken for dinner.  Thankfully, it paired beautifully and became the focus of this recipe.  NOTE: You can substitute your own favorite dressing in this recipe… if you like it, feel free to use it for more than a salad.AsianChardChickenNPasta

I started with two chicken breasts.  I made a foil packet (using two pieces of foil) in my baking dish and placed the breasts together  on the bottom of the dish.  I then poured some Chardonnay white wine (I love using James River Chardonnay for this sort of recipe) and drizzled the dressing on the breasts before closing up the packet.  I could have easily cooked the chicken for 30 minutes at 350 degrees,  but I wanted to cook dinner much slower, so I let the breasts steam in the packet at 250 degrees for an hour.  NOTE: Even at this much longer time frame, the breasts were tender and juicy… I love when an experiment goes well!

About 20 minutes before I wanted to serve dinner, I started making the bow tie pasta and added a touch of Chardonnay to the cooking liquid to flavor the pasta to mirror the chicken’s sauce.  After taking the chicken out of the oven and opening the packet, I realized that the sauce was much too thin to be “good enough”, so I had some work to do.

I removed the chicken to a plate and poured the cooking liquid into a saute pan.  Using a bit of the cooking liquid, I made a slurry with some flour, whisked the slurry into the pan, and cooked the sauce until it thickened (which happened really quickly).  For flavor, I added a few tablespoons of a garlic/herb light cheese, some salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of herbs de provence.  Then, using a spoon and a fork, I turned the cooked chicken breasts over twice to pick up the sauce and warm the chicken a bit.

Serving dinner was easy… I ladled pasta onto the plates, placed the chicken breast on top, then poured sauce over the entire meal.  A side salad or a vegetable would have added a bit more color and a great boost of nutrition, but we opted to go with a very simple meal tonight.  If my entire family was coming to dinner, I could have easily cooked more chicken/pasta and the additional vegetables/salad would have completed the meal.

It’s the little things that can add to your meal each night.  Adding your family’s favorite vegetable or some crusty bread to dinner can round things out quickly.  Follow your instincts when it comes to cooking… and wait to hear the sounds of happy, satisfied family members singing your praises.

Enjoy the food journey we all travel… it’s so much fun that way!

Recipe: Onion Roasted Chicken

What do you do when you have to make a quick, no-hands-on dinner?  In my house, you make Onion Roasted Chicken Breasts.  My son and his girlfriend were coming over for dinner and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time slaving over a stove top, so this was my way of making something that was tasty, low “tech”, and “guest-worthy”.  I hope you enjoy it!

I started with two large chicken breasts.  Since I was feeding three people (one of whom was my son), I decided to slice the breasts in half, width-wise, to extend the amount of food without having to wait for three thick chicken breasts to cook through.  Once the breasts were cut into four separate cutlets, I put them into a bag with a sliced onion and a mixture of salad dressing (I used a lite sesame Asian vinaigrette), Chardonnay (a stainless steel Chardonnay works best here… just be sure to use what you like), and some salt/pepper.  I let the chicken/onion mixture marinate for a half hour.OnionRoastedChicken

When my guests arrived, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and covered a baking pan with foil for easy cleanup.  I used tongs to remove the chicken and onions from the marinade and placed them in the baking sheet (as shown in the photo).  I decided against pouring the small excess marinade over the chicken.  I could have poured it into a pan to create a sauce, but this wasn’t that sort of  a dinner… I wanted something more simple.

The chicken took about 20 minutes to roast.  While the chicken and onions were roasting, I popped a bag of green beans into the microwave and cooked them for 6 minutes (until they were steamed thoroughly).  I then pulled everything out of the oven/microwave and plated our dinner.  Had I been feeding my husband, I would have added some garlic toasts or a “starch” of some sort, but this was the simple, easy dinner that my son preferred.

You can also make this dinner with fish, if you’d like.  There are many options when it comes to a dinner recipe such as this… try your hand at using your own favorite ingredients and have fun.  You’re feeding the ones that you love… enjoy!

Recipe: Red Mashed Potatoes

Yes, this is a strange way to use wine, but I was curious.  I had time on my hands, two potatoes, and some red wine… so what else was I to do, but to try out this recipe?RedMashedPotatoes

I started with two potatoes, a small amount of crushed garlic, about a cup of James River Cellars Hanover Red wine, and some herbs de provence.  I diced the potatoes into even cubes, added them along with the garlic and the herbs into a small saucepan, and then poured in the wine to almost cover the potatoes.  I cooked the potatoes in the wine until much of the wine had been absorbed.  NOTE: Next time, I think I’ll add a small amount of chicken stock along with the wine… the potatoes didn’t cook quite as much as I would have liked before the wine was absorbed.

Once the potatoes were ready, I mashed them until they were fairly smooth before adding a touch of margarine and some milk to turn this into a rather unique side dish.  NOTE: I wasn’t thrilled with the final purple color – next time, I think I’ll smash the potatoes and then just add a little butter, to allow the red and white colors to show through.  When the potatoes were totally mashed, they turned purple…. before that, they were really pretty.  I might even just toss the cooked potatoes with a small bit of olive oil and roast a touch so the colors don’t change.

Sometimes we all have “less than favorite” final results when trying out a recipe.  I wanted to post this so you know that we’re all in that same boat.  I have the occasional flop, just like everyone else… the idea is to learn from any mistakes and keep trying.

Enjoy the journey and keep cooking!

Crockpot Recipe: Asian Pulled Pork

As the weather gets warmer, I like to use my crockpot to help keep the kitchen cool.  This recipe came about when I had a full day scheduled at work but wanted to have something delicious and easy for dinner… enter my handy-dandy crockpot!AsianPulledPork CP

I created a sauce to pour over a large pork loin, using a varying amount of the following ingredients:  James River Cellars Montpelier wine (NOTE: This a Cabernet Franc blanc/rose’ wine that smells like strawberries and tastes of cranberries – I love this wine with pork recipes.  You could also use Boordy Landmark Dry Rose’ which has the same sort of properties but is a dry wine), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, blackberry jam, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.  

I started dinner by slicing a large sweet onion and layered the onion on the bottom of the crock pot.  I then laid the pork on top and poured the sauce over everything and set the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Once the pork was completely cooked, I removed it and put it into a bowl to shred, using two forks.  The pork is now ready for the addition of a delicious sauce to make it into a yummy dinner for my family.

I ladled the cooking liquid out of the crockpot and warmed it in a small saucepan.  As yet, I hadn’t added anything more to the liquid than what I’d poured over the pork earlier in the day.  The sauce was too thin for my taste, so I mixed up a slurry of cornstarch and Montpelier wine to thicken the sauce as it cooked a bit.  Once the slurry was added to the sauce, it took about 5 minutes to tighten up and become wonderful.  NOTE:  If you prefer to add some more spices for the pulled pork, this would be a great time – you could add a pinch of Five-spice powder or use more of the original flavors.  Have fun and be creative!

After the sauce was thickened, I tossed it with the pulled pork and served it on homemade rolls (only cuz I had them on hand…. I could have easily picked up some rolls at the local grocery store on the way home if needed).    This recipe ended up being a huge hit with my family and I hope it will become a favorite of yours as well!