Recipe: Wine Cupcakes

Ok…. Even I was a bit skeptical when I came up with this idea.  I had a box of white cake mix… I had James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine… I had some Pinot Noir red wine… what’s a girl to do?  Swap the wine for water!


I weighed out the cake mix to make sure that I actually was able to separate the mix into separate bowls and then went to work.  I used the cake mix directions and simply swapped out the water in each half with a different wine.  I used exactly the same ingredients for each half of the mix, but I used James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine for the “white cake” and I used a Pinot Noir red wine for the “red cake”  Don’t they look interesting?  NOTE:  I would absolutely have used James River Cellars Rad Red, if I’d had some in the fridge when inspiration took hold this morning.

Rather than add frosting to these cupcakes, I decided to add sprinkles.  I had gold sanding sugar to add to the white/chardonnay cupcakes, but I didn’t have any red sanding sugar on hand, so I used multi-colored tiny sugar balls for the red/pinot noir cupcakes.

I know this is a weird way to use wine, but I just had to try it… nothing lost by trying and everything gained by finding another fun use for wine!  I hope you’ll consider trying these out sometime.  It’s bizarre, but I think they’re surprisingly tasty.  Have fun!

NOTE:  I shared these with my co-workers and we all agreed that the Reserve Chardonnay cupcakes were tastier than the Pinot Noir ones… but check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!



Recipe: Pinot’d Pizza

Ok… I’m almost embarrassed at how easy and simple this pizza was… well, almost.  The wine portion of this meal came from simply “thumbing” some Pinot Noir over the pizza that I put together tonight for dinner.  Honest!  It’s a lazy, Friday night, so here’s my favorite way to make a homemade dinner without a huge amount of effort… and here’s how I put everything together.

I started with a trip to my local pizza place and purchased a medium size pizza dough for $4.00.  Seriously… $4.00 and I had enough dough to split into 2/3 dough for my hubby’s pizza and 1/3 dough for my own pizza.  It’s the perfect “single-serve” amount of pizza for dinner for me and the cost is totally worth it.  NOTE:  if I’m planning on feeding more people, I would obviously purchase more dough.  My boys like thicker pizzas, so I would have picked up a medium size for each of them and do our 1/3:2/3 split for us.  See if your favorite pizza place sells dough… it’s a huge timesaver!PinotPizza

I had thrown the dough in the fridge when I got home, so I pulled it out to rest for about an hour before starting to make our dinner.  M and I have things down pat when making pizza for dinner.  I make the crusts for everyone and then, together, he/I add all the toppings and such.  My pizza tonight consisted of jarred pasta sauce (go cheap if you like… it’s getting covered after all), a large handful of spinach/arugula mix, cut in thin strips  (this is called a chiffonade), crumbled gouda cheese, mozzarella cheese, and  garlic salt.  I layered everything in order mentioned and added as much or as little as looked right to me at the moment.  The “pre-oven” pizza pic is on the left.  NOTE: for those of you wondering, my husband makes a mean pepperoni pizza with light sauce and light cheese… and NO wine.  LOL.

At the last moment,  I pulled out a bottle of Pinot Noir red wine that I had just opened and used my thumb to sprinkle the wine over my pizza.  Weird, I know, but it was one of those “why not” moments.  The pizza went into a pre-heated 475 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Don’t leave the house or plan to be too far away… this pizza can go from “almost perfect” to “burned” fairly quickly if you’re not watching.

With the extra liquid on top of my pizza, I needed to let it rest for a few minutes before cutting it into 8 pieces and inhaling… I mean, eating… my dinner.  It was a wonderful way to end the week.

May your evening meal be as entertaining AND delicious as ours!

Recipe: Stephanie’s French Toast Bites with Blueberry Wine Sauce

I have to start this recipe by saying that I love breakfast foods.  Eggs Benedict… pancakes… french toast… hash browns… sausage… waffles… bacon… you get the picture.  I could have breakfast-for-dinner at least once a week (although my husband much prefers to limit breakfast foods to “breakfast/brunch time”).  Because of this love affair I have with breakfast, I enjoy creating different sorts of recipes that showcase some of my favorite options, especially when I can incorporate wine into the mix.  The best of both worlds, right?

This recipe was created for my dear friend, Stephanie, who’s having a difficult time eating full-size servings of food these days.  To tempt her into eating breakfast one day, I came up with the idea of having small crouton-size bites of french toast that she could eat with her fingers or dip into a fruity sauce.  It was a big success, so I thought I would share this special recipe with everyone here.  I’ve named this recipe in her honor because without her, I wouldn’t have thought to make this delicious breakfast dish in such a unique manner.

I started by cutting up a few slices of whole wheat bread into bite-sized cubes.  Using my memory, I blended an egg (you can absolutely use egg substitute if you prefer), some milk (I like using almond milk if that’s on hand), some white wine (I used Vidal Blanc last time but use whatever you may have in your fridge… just decrease the amount of sugar if you’re using a sweeter wine), a sprinkling of sugar (as desired), a touch of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon (to taste).  Using a wire whisk, beat the egg mixture until it’s just becoming frothy.  I wanted something that would taste light, so I opted to whip the mixture until it was light and airy.  I then tossed the bread cubes in the egg mixture until all the cubes were soaked with the egg-y-yumminess.  When you’re ready to cook the toast bites, melt a pat of butter (and a touch of olive oil if you’d like) and transferred the toast bites to a very warm saute pan to cook.  Note: don’t crowd the pan, so feel free to do this in two sections if necessary.  


In the meantime, using a small saute pan (or sauce pan), melt a pat of butter and add a handful of blueberries,  Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand or prefer.  We had quarts of blueberries in the fridge, so they were the natural choice when I was creating the sauce to go along with these toast bites.  As the berries begin to warm and pop open, add some red wine (I went around the pan twice with a lovely Pinot Noir… again, because that’s what was in the fridge.  If I’d had a different red wine available, I might have changed to that one instead.  Use what you have and what you enjoy!) sprinkle some sugar to sweeten the sauce, and I decided to add a dash of cinnamon, to mirror the taste from the french toast bites themselves.  Allow the sauce to cook until it reduces and thickens.  If it gets too thick, add a little more wine… if it’s not thick enough, feel free to add a little more sugar.  This is a Use The Force sort of recipe… make it your own!

You’ll notice that there are also some bites of sausage on the serving plate in the photo – we had turkey sausage that needed to be used (and it was a good source of protein), so I browned the sausage until it was crispy and delicious.  It’s not a prerequisite… just another flavor to temp my dear friend into eating more than she had planned.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you need to expand your horizons when it comes to feeding your loved ones.  If someone isn’t feeling particularly well, feel free to play with your recipe to tempt them into eating something tasty and good for them.  It’s not about who’s doing the cooking or even about how they’re cooking… it’s about the love that is conveyed by the simple act of feeding people.

As you cook, may you enjoy the challenge and turn it into an expression of love.  That’s what it’s all about…

Recipe: Sloppy Joes and Pretzel Rolls

My boys will recognize this recipe as the one we always have on Halloween.  You know… the time of year when everyone is ordering pizza because it’s so much easier to handle with all the trick-or-treating?  I started making a recipe of my Auntie Jean’s Sloppy Joes (she calls it BBQ) when the boys were small because I wanted them to have a filling dinner before heading outside to beg for candy.  I’m not a huge fan of Halloween (See my feelings on this “holiday” on my other blog) but since my boys loved it, this was my way to add some “normal” to the evening… add in some homemade rolls, and I was a happy camper.

Some of you will be happy because this recipe starts as an actual “recipe”.  My aunt gave us the ingredients, my cousin dutifully wrote them down, and I amended it into my own version.  I always pull out the recipe card when making Sloppy Joes, because I can’t always remember exactly what goes into this delicious meal, but I also rarely use a measuring device of any sort, since I cook using The Force.  Here’s the original:

Auntie Jean’s BBQ (Sloppy Joes)

  • 2 lb hamburger – brownedSloppyJoes and PretzelRolls
  • 1 bottle ketchup (small, 28 oz size)
  • 3 Tbs vinegar (we always use apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 Tbs mustard (plain yellow mustard works best here)
  • 3 Tbs worchestershire sauce
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp celery seed

Note: I typically use one package of ground turkey instead of ground hamburger – I think it takes flavors even better than traditional beef.  I also like to add a diced onion along with the meat, but this is purely up to you.   When I make my version of Auntie Jean’s Sloppy Joes, I also add two turns around the pan of red wine to the ground meat to bump up the flavor a bit.  For this recipe, I used a bottle of Pinot Noir that I had open in the fridge, but if I were opening something specifically for this dish, I’d reach for James River Cellars’ Rad Red or James River Cellars’ Meritage.  Both have great cooking capability and are delicious all alone.

I browned the diced onion, added the ground turkey until everything was nicely browned.  Add the wine at this point and allow it to cook until the wine is incorporated into the mixture.  Start adding your Sloppy Joe ingredients at this point.  Remember that this recipe is written for DOUBLE the amount of ground meat, so you’ll need to have a light hand when adding ingredients.   I always add much less ketchup than is called for, simply because you can always add more of an ingredient but you can’t remove it once it’s been incorporated.  Allow the mixture to cook for a good half hour to really meld the flavors.  I’ve found that really makes a difference with this recipe.  NOTE: I served my Sloppy Joes on spaghetti squash (a la MomUncorked) and it was amazing!

We have loved this Sloppy Joe recipe on all sorts of rolls, but here’s a BONUS RECIPE for you… Pretzel Rolls!

PRETZEL ROLLS: (using a recipe from Donna German’s Bread Machine Cookbook VI)

  • 1 1/8 cups water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast

I make my pretzel dough in my bread machine, according to the machine’s directions.   I then divided it into 10 sections and formed thick pretzel shapes before allowing them to rise for about an hour in a warm, dry place.  The key to making pretzel rolls is to boil the rolls (2-3 at a time) in 2 quarts of water plus 2 Tbs baking soda, flipping the roll and allowing to boil on both sides.   I removed the rolls to baking sheets, sprayed with cooking spray and dusted with cornmeal (I used grits, since I was out of cornmeal).  As the rolls came out of the water mixture, I  brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkled them with coarse salt.  Once all the rolls had been treated, I baked them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-13 minutes.  Note:  If you want to make this recipe into large soft pretzels instead of rolls, you can adjust the directions by making the pretzels thinner and then bake them just a little longer, until they’re even chewier.  

We did find that these rolls are a little chewy for sloppy joes… they’re more suited to burgers or grilled chicken… but they are just so darn delicious that I had to include this recipe for my readers.   I hope you try this recipe sometime… they are TOTALLY worth the effort!

Recipe: Pinot Noir and Black Bean Salsa Dressing

I was trying to make my lunch early this morning when I stumbled onto something pretty tasty. I’m generally not a fan of packing my lunch, but it really is the simpler option when I’m working at the winery. Bringing in something to heat in the microwave might seem easier, but since my meal might be interrupted at any moment, I really do like to have something that won’t spoil. A salad or sandwich is fairly quick to throw together before I leave but this time it became inspired.

I decided to put together a salad for today’s lunch. I cut up a head of romaine lettuce, sprinkled some freshly frozen corn kernels around and then spooned in a small amount of taco meat from last night’s dinner. I had pulled out the last of a jar of Spicy Black Bean Salsa that I had left in the fridge, but I didn’t feel inspired to create a multi-ingredient dressing. Instead, I pulled out a bottle of Acrobat Pinot Noir that I had left in the fridge… and that’s when inspiration hit me. What would happen if I added wine to the salsa?

It was nothing short of wonderful. 1/4 jar of the salsa, combined with about the same amount of the red wine and a packet of equal, became a fabulous concoction that was thick, without being too thick… Spicy, but not too spicy… In the language of The Three Bears, I had unwittingly created a dressing that was “just right”.

I would love to say that it was the most amazing thing I’d ever made, but that would certainly be overstating things a bit. It made a unique and “oh, wow” sort of flavor that blended with my salad ingredients beautifully. The lunch that I had grudgingly packed that morning turned into a meal that made me happy….and any meal that can do that for a person is one worth sharing.

Feel free to share my blog with you friends… Maybe my sense of whimsy in using wine for cooking will inspire others to make something new from the mundane. It certainly has livened up many of the meals in our household.

Wishing you all a renewed sense of the unique and the strange…. it can be quite tasty!