SIMPLI’ – handcrafted soaps with wine

This Christmas, I really want to support small businesses as much as I can and the idea of being able to purchase items directly from an individual is extremely appealing.  If you’re looking for a wonderful stocking item, present for a neighbor, or a hostess gift, this is a company you should consider supporting:  www.simpliartisan.com

Simpli’ is a Gaelic word for simple and straightforward.  My dear friend, J, is the artist who is handcrafting small batch soaps and body products.  She comes up with her own recipes, selects incredible “good for you” skin products, and works diligently to use high-quality ingredients to make her soaps, beard products, and body butters.  The scents alone are wonderful but the fact that her items are made with such pure ingredients is even better… until she started making soaps with WINE!SIMPLI.jpg

How cool would it be to use a soap made with wine?  Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Gris all have their own place in Simpli’ soaps.  Each has a wonderful scent, cleansing lather, and is handcrafted in Northern Virginia.  These are a wonderful example of an artisan combining two of her passions… wine and crafting soaps.

I recently visited with J at her home and had the privilege to watch as she created a cooked soap and it was a really fun experience.  Watching the ingredients come together to thicken and become a soap, ready to cool in a handmade loaf pan, was fascinating… and the smell was intoxicating!

If you live in the Northern Virginia/DC area, you should consider finding this company at one of the local craft shows that are coming up this holiday season.  At the very least, you should consider looking through the Simpli’ shop for soaps, body butters, bug balm, salves, and deodorant.

J has been very generous and is offering a special coupon code to anyone who subscribes to this blog!  Sign onto her website, www.simpliartisan.com and use the coupon code BOTWINE17 to receive 10% off everything in her shop… but don’t delay because this coupon expires on 12/31/17.

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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: A new twist on Pizza

I love making pizzas with my family. I say pizza with an “S” because I end up making individual pizzas for each of us… I halve, double, or make regular portions of my version of a Weight Watchers whole wheat pizza dough recipe and go from there, depending on who’s having dinner with us that evening. For M, it’s ham and pepperoni… for D, it’s a cheese pizza… if we’re including E for dinner, it’s just pepperoni… but for me, it’s a special black bean and corn salsa pizza. Doesn’t this look delicious?

Here’s how I start. The pizza dough recipe is supposed to make eight servings. After trying to make individual pizzas from this single recipe, I’ve learned that I need to either make 1.5 recipes or double to make four large enough pizzas to feed my guys… it takes A LOT to fill them up… but I digress. Here are the directions to make my pizza dough:

WW Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 8 servings

Sponge:

2 t active dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm water

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Pizza Dough:

½ cup fat-free milk

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

¼ t salt

2 pkt equal

1. To prepare sponge, in a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the water; when the yeast looks wet, add flour and stir hard. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let stand at room temperature for about 40 minutes.

2. To make the dough, stir the milk into the sponge. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt and equal. Add to the sponge and stir to blend.

3. Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Turn out the dough; knead until it become elastic and resilient, 10-12 minutes. *This is important… dough needs to be kneaded thoroughly for this to work.

4. Spray a large bowl with Pam, place dough in bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Punch down dough, lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out dough to a 14” circle. Transfer dough to a baking sheet, arrange toppings and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Per serving: 3 PointsPlus (1/8)

My NOTE: I make this dough into four individual pizzas that are rectangular and approximately 7”x14” (?). The pizzas are very thin, but I can cut them into 6-8 individual slices and be able to have my own pizza using 6 points for the dough. Totally worth it, imho…

Once the dough is done, I form each person’s pizza. For mine, I roll it into a rectangle (as noted above) and then spray with Pam and sprinkle garlic powder on top. I’m now ready to mix up my version of black bean and corn salsa. Using The Force, I mix a can of drained/rinsed black beans, an equal amount of fresh corn off the cob (or a can, drained and rinsed), mild salsa, some taco seasonings and some Cabernet Sauvignon. I like to also add a spoonful of pesto to add some depth to the taste and use about 1 cup of this mixture to top my pizza. The pesto recipe that I like best is one that my niece created and posted on her blog, PB Fingers and called Sunflower Seed and Walnut Pesto (http://www.pbfingers.com/2012/06/26/sunflower-seed-and-walnut-pesto/). If you want to read her blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, use this link and follow her for some terrific new recipes and great fitness ideas (http://www.pbfingers.com/). I would read this blog every day even if she wasn’t my niece!

After topping the pizza with your salsa, add your favorite cheese blend and follow the cooking directions as noted above. I used a blend of Asiago and Parmesan cheeses in the pizza I made the other night. Here’s how yummy it looked when I pulled it out of the oven.

I like to cut my pizza into 8 pieces and eat it with a knife and fork. There’s so much on top of this pizza crust that it’s just impossible to pick up and eat any other way. I hope you’ll try this pizza dough recipe sometime and play around with different toppings on your own pizza. There are franchises out there that make big money creating bizarre blends for pizzas… take a chance and create something that’s totally yours. You might be stunned at how well it all turns out!

Recipe: Mexican taco cheese dip

I had to bring an appetizer to work… and I work at a winery…. so I needed to come up with something yummy. I also needed to come up with a dish that could be made quickly and warmed up later. Jeez…. So many parameters within which to work. Could I do it??

Over the years, I have found that people who love wine seem to also be people who appreciate tasty food, so sharing something with them needed to be great. My darling hubby had pulled a package of ground turkey out of the freezer earlier, so that’s where I started.

I browned the package of ground turkey until it was toasty brown. I could have added onion and garlic, but I was a bit pressed for time this morning. Once the meat was thoroughly cooked, I liberally spread taco seasoning on top and then added the quarter bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that was resting in my fridge. A few more minutes in the pan was all it took to turn plain turkey into a spicy concoction worthy of a finicky foodie, such as myself.

My next step was to add some salsa. I poured from the jug (yes, generic and mild, I admit it) and mixed until well incorporated. The last addition was a package of Velveeta cheese. This stuff melts extremely well and handles reheating beautifully, so it was the perfect “go to” for this treat. I popped my dish into the microwave and heated it up, minute by minute, until all the cheese was melted.

Tasting it was a delight… Unfortunately, it was only 11am and I wasn’t going to serve this until after 6pm. Thankfully, the ingredients I used here are very forgiving. My dish warmed up well in the winery’s microwave, I served it with some scoop able tortilla chips, and had nothing left to bring home.

There’s something so satisfying about bringing home an empty dish. Try this recipe for your next get together and see if you don’t have the same great result!

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A Recipe Redux: a new twist on leftovers

A “redux”, by definition, means of a topic, restored, brought back, revisited.  This recipe is my way of showing you, dear reader, how to take something that clearly isn’t going to work in its present state and turn it into something that has your family and friends saying “wow.. what is this?”  I had the opportunity to make a totally new recipe from some leftovers and was so thrilled with the results that I simply had to share them.

Every so often, there is leftover food from an event at our winery.  Caterers don’t want to take cooked food home and not everyone thinks about bringing food storage bags to take away the excess, so the employees and volunteers become the willing recipients of this cooked bounty.   This happened recently and I was very excited to try my hand at creating something totally new and different from the plate of food I had to bring home.

What did I have to start?  The caterer had made a beef tenderloin with a tasty brown sauce, scalloped potatoes, crab cakes with a mango salsa, and a great green salad.  There was enough left over that plates were made up for the three staff members working the event (I love when caterers think of this, since I feel funny traipsing into someone else’s event and grabbing some of their food) that included individual portions of each item.  Since I knew the salad wouldn’t make it home (and it wouldn’t be enough to feed M and myself), I ate that while still at work.  I now had three slices of cooked beef tenderloin with sauce, a serving of scalloped potatoes, and two small crab cakes (with that yummy salsa) to take home for dinner.  The crux of the problem was that this wasn’t going to feed both my husband and myself… oh, what to do… what to do…

My Redux:  Once I got home, I sliced the beef into thin strips and removed the salsa topped crab cakes to a separate plate.  I decided to simply warm up the crab cakes, which was the best solution for us… we love crab cakes!  I then proceeded to make dinner.  Using 1T butter and 1T of flour, I made a roux, allowing the mixture to bubble a bit to cook out the flour taste.  Next came some wine, to extend the sauce.  In this case, I used a nice amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (that I already had open in the fridge) and about 3/4 of the same amount of Reserve Chardonnay (that I also had open in the fridge).  The sauce now was slightly pink and needed a bit of seasoning… some simple salt and pepper worked nicely.

I now had a sauce but felt that it wasn’t quite enough.  I added the serving of scalloped potatoes to the mixture and squished it down (great cooking term, eh?) to allow the butter and cheese in the potatoes to add some richness to the sauce while the potatoes (when smashed) added depth.  After stirring the mixture a bit, I added the beef strips and sauce to finish the dish.  For leftovers, this was looking pretty amazing!  I did add some more Chardonnay to thin out the sauce, since the potatoes had cooked a bit and added a little too much depth.  Once everything tasted “right”, I plated this over some brown rice and added the warmed crab cakes on the side.  It was a perfect amount for two and my husband’s question of “what is this?” was just the line I needed to feel fabulous when I replied:

“Oh, it’s just leftovers”

See if you can come up with a way to use your leftovers in your own version of a Recipe Redux… you might be pleasantly surprised with what you create if you just think outside the box!