Recipe: White Wine Seafood Stew

Sometimes, you have to alter what you’re going to make for dinner when you find a good deal at the local grocery store.  This is what happened to me yesterday… the store had some beautiful scallops and shrimp on a 50% off sale, so my recipe plan took on a life of its own.SeafoodStew

I started with two small packages (each) of scallops and shrimp.  I shelled the shrimp, washed the seafood, and then seasoned everything with a dash of soy sauce, herbs de provence, salt, and freshly ground pepper, before letting it sit in the fridge for an hour or so.  NOTE: This step isn’t necessarily important… I was bored and wanted to get dinner prep started early.

Once I started cooking, I began by sauteing the seafood in some olive oil.   Since I had so much seafood, I did this in two batches to keep the heat up.  Once the seafood was cooked through, I removed it all and added a few cups of diced vegetables.  I also added a healthy amount of Viognier white wine for flavor.  NOTE: If I’d had it around, I would have used either James River Cellars Gewurztraminer or Vidal Blanc… either would be a great background taste for this stew.  The vegetables were ones that I had picked up at the salad bar of the grocery store recently, so it was a great way to use up leftovers that needed to be eaten or tossed.  While the vegetables were cooking, I decided to cook some pasta to throw into the stew, so I boiled some spaghetti noodles that I broke in half.  I added the cooked spaghetti to the vegetables and then also added the seafood back into the stew.

Once the components of the stew were together, I decided to play with the seasonings a bit.  I used varying amounts of parmesan cheese, Viognier white wine, a little mozzarella cheese, and bumped up the tastes of the original spices.  It was a fun dinner to create and delicious to eat… I added some garlic toasts and called it a night!

Enjoy playing with your spices… they can make a huge difference in the flavor of your final product.  Try one new spice at a time and see how it works with your meals and recipes.  Have fun with your cooking… after all… it’s just food!

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Recipe: Petit Goulash

I’ve been told that this isn’t really a goulash recipe, but since that’s what my husband called it, that’s what I’m going to call it as well.  This was a two-pot dinner… one medium pot for the pasta and one large skillet to brown the meat and mix everything together.  Simple and comforting… that’s what I was craving last week when the snow hit our area.

PetitGoulash

I started by dicing together a large onion and half a large green pepper and sautéing them together in a pat of butter.  Once the vegetables were browned, I added a package of ground turkey and cooked this until the meat was thoroughly browned.  To this mixture, I added a healthy pour of a dark Petit Verdot and cooked the meat mixture until the wine had been thoroughly absorbed.   The last “flavor addition” was a can of petit diced tomatoes, which added some great color to the dish.

While I was cooking the meat, I started cooking a pot of water with jumbo elbow macaroni and salt.  Once the pasta was cooked, I drained it and added it into the large skillet and stirred everything together, seasoning with garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika.  This recipe is very similar to the mazetti that my mother-in-law makes (which is absolutely delicious) and was a huge hit with my family.  The flavors melded together nicely and the dish was hearty enough to be filling without adding bread on the side.  A simple green salad would have been a nice addition, but not totally necessary.

Enjoy playing with this recipe if you choose to make it for your family.  A wonderful Hungarian smoked paprika would be fabulous – Think  I might be able to talk my local grocer into stocking this spice if I whine about it enough?  Have fun making your own family’s favorite “goulash”… after all, you’re creating something for those you love.  What could be wrong about that?  Enjoy!

Recipe: Chardonnay Pesto Shrimp & Pasta

I started planning dinner before I left for work this morning.  I didn’t do anything as adventurous as get out the crock pot and start dinner… nope….  I just started thinking about what I wanted to make that evening.  Such is my life when I get to talk about wine all day.  Mind you, I’m definitely not complaining… just making an observation.  When I lead guests through a wine tasting at James River Cellars Winery, I gloss over recipe ideas and offer up ways to use the various wines we have to offer.  It’s the way I’ve always done wine tastings, but apparently it’s unique enough that people are stunned when I toss out recipe after recipe for our wines.  Thankfully, the winery owners have allowed my blog to be linked to the winery’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account – guess I’m doing something right, huh?

I stopped off at the local grocery store to pick up a bag of shrimp on my wayChardonnayPestoShrimp&Pasta home and grabbed a tube of Pesto paste to use, along with some bow tie pasta.  I thawed, peeled, and sliced  the shrimp in half when I got home so that dinner prep would be as simple as possible.  Then I got out the rest of my ingredients:  a lemon, a pat of butter, olive oil, James River Cellars Winery Chardonnay, and a touch of half & half left over from another meal this week.  Once my husband got home, I was ready to start cooking.

I put some of the bow tie pasta into a pot with some salted water and got that started while I melted butter and olive oil in a large saute pan.  As soon as the butter/oil mixture was hot, I added the shrimp and allowed it to cook thoroughly – I had sliced the shrimp length-wise so the thin shrimp pieces curled up into little corkscrews.  Once the shrimp was cooked, it was time to start creating a sauce.

I made the sauce with the shrimp in the pan.  Sometimes I’ll remove the shrimp, but I was feeling a little lazy tonight and didn’t do this extra step.  I added some wine to the shrimp and let it sizzle for a bit until the chardonnay had almost been absorbed by the shrimp.  I then added the juice of the lemon, some pesto paste, a little more wine, a splash of half & half, and some of the pasta cooking liquid.  I allowed this to simmer until the sauce looked thick enough before I tossed everything with the cooked pasta.  It was quick and delicious!

The entire meal, cooking from start to finish, really only took about 15 minutes.  I even had enough time to defrost and toast a ciabatta roll so we could each have half to soak up the sauce.   While there are tons of different things I could have added or changed about this recipe, the clean taste of the wine, lemon, and shrimp paired with the pasta was just what I was looking for tonight.

I hope you’ll experiment with this recipe and come up with your own favorite version… it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Baked Spaghetti x two

535048_10151622969642953_1426933668_n(1)I have to confess that I rarely like to make two separate meals for my family.  I tend to stand by the idea that if I’ve taken the time to cook dinner, the least they can do is eat it, right?  I decided to take pity on my older son, D, who is not a fan of seafood and make two versions of this baked spaghetti.  While it wasn’t difficult to do, it was definitely made as a treat since D will be heading off to grad school soon and I won’t have the opportunity to cook for him for a bit.

I began dinner by cooking spaghetti – I used most of a package of thin spaghetti, cooked as the package directed, but could have just as easily used linguini or some other pasta shape.  Spaghetti just seemed “right” to me for this meal.

Then I started with the protein side of things.  I sauteed a package of chicken tenders in a large stock pot until they were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After removing the chicken, I added a pound of medium-sized raw shrimp without the shells and sauteed them in the same stock pot until they, too, were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After giving them each their own photo shoot, I popped them into separate casserole dishes and set about making the sauce.

This sauce was a fairly simple one to do.  I began by melting 2T butter in a saute’ pan and adding half an onion, finely diced.  I let the heat take over and turn the onions translucent before adding some flour, and James River Cellars Chardonnay to start the creative juices flowing on this sauce.  I added some skim milk, simply because I wanted the sauce to have a little more body than the leaner Chardonnay sauce, then added  1/2 c asiago cheese, and 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese.  Once the cheeses had melted into the sauce, I thinned it out with a little pasta water and some freshly ground pepper.  Throughout the process, I would taste the sauce to make sure things were blending nicely – this is where you should add or alter your recipe when you can.  Throwing salt on a finished product makes for a flatter taste in the meal, in my opinion.

Once the sauce was complete, I topped the two casserole dishes each with half the cooked pasta, and half the cooked sauce, then stirred them both to combine all the ingredients.  My final step was to bake the casseroles for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I sprinkled a touch of cheese on the top, but that’s totally up to you.  I just like the toasty cheese look when it comes out of the oven.

As you can see by the photos above, incorporated into this collage, dinner looked similar but tasted different, depending on the meat that was included.  M was happy with his Baked Shrimp Spaghetti and D was thrilled that his Baked Chicken Spaghetti had no seafood.  It was a win-win over all…especially since I got to have a ramekin of each recipe!  YUM!

Recipe: Pantry Spaghetti Sauce

I needed to make a quick and healthy dinner tonight and decided to simply search through my pantry and see what I could find.

First, I opened the freezer and found some meatballs that I’d totally forgotten. What goes best with meatballs in our house is spaghetti… but I didn’t have enough sauce to cover everything. I put the meatballs into a 375 degree oven and let them roast until they were browned and toasty. Mmmm…. now for the rest of the story…er… dinner?PantrySpaghettiSauce

To make the sauce, I started with some leftover onion (I had about 1/4 of a Vidalia onion left in the fridge),olive oil, and a touch of butter. I sauteed the onion and then added 2 chopped garlic cloves and about 2 cups of thinly chopped spinach.

Once the sauteed vegetables were soft, I added in a large can of crushed tomatoes and some red wine (like James River Cellars Rad Red wine), then let the sauce simmer for a bit. Salt and pepper, along with some Italian seasonings, had the sauce tasting really wonderful, but it was still missing something.

That something turned out to be a packet of pitted black olives. Once chopped, they added a fabulously salty bit of yumminess that took the entire dinner to a new height. I popped the baked meatballs into the sauce and cooked the pasta (I used about 1/3 of a package of vermicelli) so everything would come together quickly when we were ready for dinner. Hint: Stir in a few ice cubes in with the pasta in the pot when it’s cooked to your liking, to stop the cooking process. I’ve found that it also keeps the pasta from sticking together. Weird, huh?

I hope you’ll consider trying something like this for your next “quick” dinner… it’s amazing when things come together to make something so tasty AND healthy. Enjoy!

 

 

Recipe: Shrimp Puttanesca

I have to caveat this post by saying that this sauce is not a true Puttanesca… it has none of the tomatoes, olives, and capers one would expect in a traditional puttanesca sauce, should you place an order for this in a restaurant.  My darling husband isn’t a fan of olives and capers, but I was hungry for something along the same lines of a puttanesca sauce with shrimp, so this is the recipe that came about.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

I started with a frozen package of Extra Jumbo Shrimp from my local grocery store.  I love to pick up packages of shrimp any time they’re on sale, so this is always a “go to” for me… especially since my husband and I both love shrimp.  I thawed and shelled the shrimp while they were still partially frozen, so they were easy to peel.  I also put a pot of pasta on to cook… cook as much as you’d like for your meal.  We like either bowties, rotini, or ziti as any of these hold the sauce nicely and are easy to eat with a fork.  If you like spaghetti or linguini, this would be a great recipe to use as well.ShrimpPuttanesca

Once the pasta is almost cooked, I warmed up some olive oil and then sauteed a large amount of finely chopped garlic and shallots until softened and lightly browned.  Into the pan, I then added two anchovy fillets (I used the ones packed in oil, because that’s what I had in the cupboard – I’ll use anchovies packed in water for the next rendition) and allowed them to melt into a sauce.  SIDE NOTE:  Anchovies are fun to cook with because they really do melt into the sauce when exposed to heat and bring a salty back note to any sauce.  I find them fun to use, as long as my family isn’t aware that I’m using them… they’re a little finicky about fish in their sauces.  Once the base of the sauce was cooked and the anchovies were incorporated, I added the shrimp.  As you can see in the photo, I sliced the shrimp length-wise so they would curl up and look pretty in the dish.  This also allowed the shrimp to cook pretty quickly and pick up the sauce even better than if they were whole.

With the shrimp were in the pan and starting to cook, I added some James River Cellars’ Chardonnay to fill out the sauce.  If I were trying to make a meal without wine (why would anyone DO that??), I’d simply substitute chicken stock for the wine.  I allowed the wine to cook into the shrimp and add a lovely taste to the seafood before topping the entire dish with some chopped parsley.  If the sauce is still a little thick, you can add more wine OR you can add a little pasta water.   The pasta water will end up thickening the sauce as well, so adding both is not a bad idea either.

For plating purposes, I drained the pasta and then tossed it into the shrimp and sauce.  This dinner was a huge hit and will definitely be seen often in my “easy/go-to” line up of recipes.  Try it yourself and see if you don’t add it to your own family’s favorites!

If you’re thinking about making a Valentine’s dinner, this is wonderful for a seafood lover.  Just add some crusty bread and a decadent dessert, and your loved one will be putty in your hands.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recipe: Meritage Marinara Sauce

It’s always good to have a basic recipe in your cooking repertoire that can be used for lots of different dishes.  A basic marinara sauce is just such a recipe.  I used James River Cellars Meritage for this recipe, but you can just as easily use a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc, a Petit Verdot, or any other dry red wine that you prefer.  I based this recipe on one I found in the latest Cooking Light magazine (Slow-cooker Marinara) but I really didn’t want to take the time to use my crock-pot, so I altered the recipe and came up with something that make more sense for my current timetable and needs.  I hope you like it!

Ingredients:Meritage Marinara

  • Olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bag of mini carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped (I like the taste of celery, so I tend to go heavy on this veggie)
  • garlic, to taste (again, I like garlic, so I tend to use more than most – use as much as you like)
  • fresh oregano, finely chopped (I used a few stems from the plant I have – about 2-3 Tablespoons)
  • tomato paste (about 1/4 of a can)
  • red wine (I used James River Cellars Meritage, since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes

Directions:

  • In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil before adding the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.  Saute’ all until the vegetables are softened.  *See #1 on the photo
  • Add oregano and tomato paste and cook until fragrant.  *See #2 on the photo
  • Add wine to the sauce and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates.  I used The Force with regards to the amount I used, but it was equal to two turns around the pan.  *See #3 on the photo
  • Once the wine is incorporated, add the tomatoes and stir to combine.  *See #4 on the photo.  At this point, I covered the pan with foil and popped it into a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours.
  • After baking the sauce, I removed it from the oven and used an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce.  *See the final photo marked “YUM!”.  I adjusted the seasonings by adding some salt/pepper and a little sugar to sweeten the sauce a touch, since our family likes a sweeter marinara.  It’s now ready to use for a myriad of different dishes.

Ideas for Marinara Sauce use:

  • Meatball sandwiches:  For each sandwich, fill hoagie roll with meatballs (homemade or store-bought), top with marinara and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Broil sandwiches to melt cheese and serve.
  • Portabella Mushroom sandwiches:  For each sandwich, fill hoagie roll with sauteed portabella mushroom/spinach mixture, top with marinara and ricotta cheese, then broil to warm before serving.
  • Veggie Mexican Pizza:  On pizza crust, smear marinara sauce as you would tomato sauce, top with black bean and corn salsa and sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.  Bake as desired and serve.
  • Simple Italian dinner:  Top pasta (macaroni) with Meritage marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Serve with garlic bread.
  • Eggplant, chicken, or veal Parmesan:  substitute Meritage marinara sauce for standard tomato sauce under your eggplant/chicken cutlet/veal cutlet and top with mozzarella cheese

This sauce is incredibly versatile and really tasty.  Try it in any dish where you’d typically use a canned or jarred tomato sauce.  It’s a great way to sneak vegetables into your family’s favorite meals and you can feel good that you’d made something healthy AND tasty.  It’s one of my favorite things… making healthy foods that my family will love.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Taco Pasta Bake

Are you looking for a quick and easy “go to” dinner for the holiday season that doesn’t involve turkey?  Are you stumped when it comes to making something for your family that everyone will eat without complaint?  If you’re like me and have a household of big eaters, I want to share one of my favorite dinners with you… a Taco Pasta Bake.

You may remember that I’ve mentioned my niece a few times – she writes a fitness and lifestyle blog called “Peanut Butter Fingers” or PBFingers?  She posted a recipe that my husband raved about… but he wanted me to make it “exactly like the recipe says”, which meant “no wine involved”… but what was the fun in that for me?  After mulling over the recipe for a few days, I came up with a version that could make everyone in my household happy… my guys (because they would get a dinner that tasted yummy) and me (because I could experiment and play with wine in my cooking).   I hope you find it as tasty as we do!

I started by browning a package of ground turkey.   If you can get away with it, this is where I would add diced onion and some diced green pepper if my family liked that Taco Pasta Bakesort of thing.  Once the turkey is nicely browned, I sprinkle the meat heavily with taco seasoning and a nice dry red wine (like James River Cellars’ Rad Red) and let everything cook until it’s nice and dark.  Next, I add some salsa and some more red wine so your food is a bit soupy.  At this point, I add in some dry pasta.  My hubby likes bowtie-shaped pasta, so I try and do things that he likes.  I’ve also made this recipe with jumbo elbow macaroni and it’s also tasty.

Now you need to cover the skillet and allow the liquid to be absorbed by the pasta… I know it’s hard not to peek and keep checking on the dinner, but try  and resist so the pasta has ample time to plump up and become al dente and just right.  If all the liquid gets absorbed and the pasta is still underdone, feel free to add more wine (or broth) and then allow time for the pasta to cook until it reaches the right taste for your family.

At this point, you have a few options.  If you’re ready to have dinner, feel free to serve this straight from the skillet.  If you’ve got some time, I would suggest putting your dinner into a casserole dish, spooning in (and on) some shredded cheese and then popping into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes when you’re almost ready for dinner.   It totally depends on what you want to do… hence; this is a great example of using The Force when making your dinner.

I hope you try this recipe sometime and let me know how it turned out for you.  It’s similar to the mazetti recipe that my mother-in-law makes, with a tasty taco twist.  It’s simple… it’s easy… and it’s a recipe that you can adjust to please everyone in your family.  What more could you want?

Seriously…. what more would you want from a recipe?  Enjoy!

Recipe: Stroganoff by The Force

I love making casseroles early in the day so that dinner can be a low stress affair.  I do my best to keep the kitchen cleaned up before M comes home (since he’s the one who does the dishes after dinner) so this is the simplest way I know to have time to make that goal a reality.  Casseroles rock… one baking dish to wash after dinner?  Definitely a plus in my book.  Additionally, with the schedules that are kept by all who currently live in our house, I’d have to make four separate servings of a meal to get everyone fed.  With a casserole, I can make it once and everyone can eat when they’re able, though we do endeavor to sit down together to eat as often as possible.

Dinner tonight is one of those “I can’t be there, so dinner is in the fridge” nights.   I’ve got a consult and then a meeting during the time we usually try and have dinner, so  I’ve made a version of Stroganoff that I’m hoping my guys will like.   I used a Reserve Chardonnay and a Pinotage that I had in the fridge to the recipe so the pasta would cook thoroughly and I wouldn’t have to worry about crunchy noodles in my casserole.  It’s done entirely using The Force… and I think it tastes pretty amazing.  Here’s how I made dinner:

Brown 1 sliced (or diced) onion and 1lb of ground turkey in a tiny bit of olive oil in a large saute pan on the stovetop.  Once these are browned nicely, I added a large glug of good Olive Oil and enough flour to make things start to get sticky.  I would start with 2T of flour and see if you need more.  I then added a half box of jumbo elbow macaroni pasta, some garlic paste, salt/pepper, paprika, the rest of a bottle of Reserve Chardonnay (about 3/4 cup?), some glugs of a Pinotage called “Grinder” I have in the fridge (maybe 1/4 cup?) as well as 1 cup of beef stock.  All the liquid is needed to soak into the pasta and get it to cook up nicely without having to pre-cook it.  Here’s what dinner looked like at this point:

It’s still steamy and the noodles haven’t totally cooked, so they still look pretty yellow.  At this point, I put the lid on and let it cook on its own for a bit.  I was editing pictures, so I’m really not sure how long it cooked.  Once I decided the noodles had cooked enough and turned off the heat.

Here’s where the “stroganoff” part came in.  In my head, a stroganoff has to have some sort of creamy sauce and paprika to make it into what I think of as traditional.  I added some Philadelphia creamy garlic sauce (only because I didn’t have any greek yogurt or sour cream on hand) and that seemed to do the trick.  Taste test was a success and I was ready to put dinner in the casserole dish… but it just didn’t look “finished”.  I needed buttered bread crumbs to top it all off.

When growing up, my mom’s Buttered Bread Crumbs were the standard by which I judged all other casserole toppings, which means that I didn’t like anything that other people called “bread crumbs”.  I now make Buttered Bread Crumbs in the same saute pan I used for the casserole, so I’m including tiny bits of dinner into the delicious topping that will grace this casserole.  Today, I used three burger rolls (because that’s what I had on hand, that’s why) and cut them into small bite-sized pieces.  I heated some of the really good Olive Oil (seen to the right, a fabulous Olive Oil that I got from my cousin Tami and her hubby Harry) with a few tablespoons of margarine and a little garlic paste.  I then tossed in the bread pieces and sauteed this mixture until the bread started to crisp up a bit.  Buttery, garlicky, and toasty… that’s the way these Buttered Bread Crumbs should taste!
Once the topping was finished, I added them onto the casserole and dinner was ready.  M will pop it into the oven tonight and my three guys will have a fabulous home-cooked meal, even though I won’t be there.  It’s one of the joys of working odd hours and being happy to use The Force to create something I am sure they’ll enjoy.  Wine or no, cooking should be about sharing your joy and passion.  I’m just so grateful that my guys appreciate that about me.

Since you won’t be here to see the finished product come out of the oven tonight, here’s a final shot of how dinner looked when I was done playing today.  I may not be the best housekeeper, but I can whip together a great meal and include wine in the process…

Recipe: Red Wine Spaghetti

Are you ever looking for a use for that red wine in your fridge?  You know… the one that didn’t taste quite the way you expected when you brought it home?  I’m sure it doesn’t happen often, but instead of dumping it down the drain, try using it to make a lovely, simple supper for two.

Starting with a large, high sided skillet, heat 2 cups of red wine, 2 cups of water, a half box of spaghetti (half pound total… don’t use angel hair pasta on this one, but you could use linguine if you prefer) and a few pinches of salt.  Heat to boiling and stir occasionally, so the pasta doesn’t stick together.  Cook until pasta is cooked to your liking and most of the liquid has been absorbed or cooked off. Remove from the heat but don’t drain

While the pasta is cooking, I typically will brown up some thin pieces of chicken – tenders, sliced, make a great addition.  If you like, feel free to add some thin sliced onions to the chicken just to add flavor.  If you would prefer to make this more of a vegetarian meal, browning some mushrooms or a mix of veggies would work well here as well.  Add to pasta and lightly toss.

To finish the dish, stir in a thumb of butter (ends up being around 1T, but it looks like the length of a thumb) and some cracked pepper.  I like to add grated cheese (romano or parmesan work well here) at the end to add a finishing touch.

The pasta will be pink, so don’t expect this to be an especially “manly” dish, but the taste should make everyone happy.  It’s simple, pretty, and fairly quick & painless.  This is one recipe to keep on hand for one of those “I need to make dinner in a hurry” nights…