Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pours of a Different Hue

Note: This is a guest post by the male side of PawsAndPours.

Ever have those days when you run into the grocery store for just a few items, and come back with more than you planned on? You know, that one more item that just calls to you from the aisle, begging you to give it a whirl?

Our neighborhood Trader Joe's had a display for Newton's Folly Draft Cider. The engineer that I am, I of course picked up on the cleverness of the name (remember Sir Isaac Newton and the alleged story of the apple falling from the tree contributing to his discovery of gravity?). Even better, an adult beverage that is only $2.99 for a 6-pack? I was sold.

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One of the great things about TJ's is that they let you mix and match 6 packs. Naturally, I had to get some of both the original flavor and of the Granny Smith flavor. The review: pretty good. Not phenomenal, but certainly a refreshing drink after a long day. Both flavors are very smooth, with a touch of sweetness. I like the granny smith flavor a little bit better -- it has just a hint of the tartness to add an extra layer. My verdict: definitely good for the price.

Note that a little sleuthing on the web turned up a few posts that discovered the brewer is the same brewer as Woodchuck Draft Cider.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meatless Mondays...Tofu and Swiss Chard Stacks

Since we loved the combination of tofu and chard in the past, in this recipe, I thought it would be fun to give the ingredients a new twist this time around.  Scott found this recipe, from Cooking Light, while doing a google search.  I was uninspired, but craving tofu, and asked him to find something for us to prepare tonight.  (BTW, he found lots of other great sounding recipes, so stay tuned for future additions of Meatless Mondays if you like tofu.)  Now, I know we use tofu a lot on our "meatless" meals, but I really have come to love and crave tofu! 

This recipe was simple to prepare, and made an easy weeknight meal.  Especially on a Monday, when the cooking inspiration isn't always at it's strongest...at least for me.  We served this with a side of fried rice, as the recipe suggested, to make a complete and satisfying meal. 

The verdict...

Very good, but that said, we both agreed that we much prefer the tofu recipe above, with the Swiss chard, blue cheese crumbles, and pear slices.  There was just something about the combination of those flavors that wowed our taste buds! 

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Tofu and Swiss Chard Stacks    adapted from Cooking Light

(2 servings)

TOFU:

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine)

2 tsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. honey  (I used agave nectar)

1 package water-packed extra firm tofu, drained

GREENS:

1 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps

1 1/2 tsp minced, peeled, fresh ginger

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard

1/2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted (I omitted, as I didn't have on hand)

2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce

To prepare tofu, combine the first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.  Cut tofu lengthwise into 4 equal slices.  Pour soy sauce mixture over tofu and let marinate 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Remove tofu from marinate and place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Broil 10 minutes on each side, orce until lightly browned.

To prepare greens, heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, ginger, pepper, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Add chard and sesame seeds; cook 3 minutes, or until chard wilts, stirring frequently.  Stir in 2 tsp. soy sauce.

Place 1/4 cup chard mixture on each of 2 plates; top each serving with 1 tofu slice.  Repeat layers with remaining tofu and chard. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

2006 Kilda Chardonnay

I've mentioned my general dislike of chardonnay several times in the past. There is that occasional unoaked chard that will wow me, but usually I'm a red drinker anyway. So, I certainly don't go out of my way for chardonnay.

After last evening, this might have to change. We went out for happy hour at a cute little joint called The Herb Box. It was a lovely evening -in the low 70's (unseasonably warm, even for Phoenix,) and I wasn't wowed by the limited selection of reds on the wine list, so I decided to try a white. Seeing that the Kilda chardonnay was from Southeastern Australia, I guessed there wouldn't be a lot of oak. It was a good guess. The flavor was clean, with a nice amount of green apple and citrus that wasn't masked with oak, like many of the California chards. It had a little of the creaminess typical for chardonnay, but in a light way. It was perfectly refreshing for a pre-dinner apertif on the patio. In fact, I couldn't stop talking about how great it was.

I can't say I've ever seen this on the shelf at our local wine shops, but then again, I don't go down to chardonnay aisles to often. I'm definately going to be on the lookout now, because I think this will make a great everyday white once spring hits. Googling it, I found it should retail for $10-$12 a bottle.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Using the local citrus

While most of the country is covered in a blanket of snow, this is the time of the year in Arizona when trees in the neighborhood are brimming with oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.  If you don't happen to have a citrus tree in your own yard, not to worry, because friends, neighbors and co-workers will bring you grocery bags full to get rid of their own supply.  It just so happens that we have been the lucky recipients of an abundance of juicy lemons and oranges. 

So yesterday when I found some magnificent U-10 shrimp, it was a no-brainer that I would do something citrus-y with them.  Since I don't always like lemon in savory dishes, I knew that it would be utilizing orange.  Enter my favorite Cooking Light recipe ever!  We have made the crunchy shrimp with ginger orange sauce several times with great results.   That said, I wasn't sure I wanted to coat these big beauties with anything, but instead keep them as unadulterated as possible.  So, I decided to simply sear the giant prawns with a little salt, pepper and grated ginger.  Then, to finish, a drizzle of the Ginger Orange sauce from the Cooking Light recipe.  Oh.My.God. this was good. 

Served upon a mound of quinoa, it was a great way to showcase the lovely shrimp and the very fresh oranges that we had. 

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GINGER ORANGE SAUCE - from Cooking Light

  • 1  cup  orange juice
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2  tablespoons  reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  teaspoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1  teaspoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • To prepare sauce, bring 1 cup orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; cool completely. Stir in 1 tablespoon cilantro and next 7 ingredients (through red pepper); set aside

    This sauce is also great on steamed veggies and even grilled chicken. 

    For wine, we picked out the 2005 Bonterra Viognier.  Bonterra is known for organically grown grapes.  The floral aroma and hints of orange and honeysuckle complemented the shrimp perfectly. 

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    And finally, I leave you with a photo of Chase, playing (aka going nuts)with his favorite toy.

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    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Meatless Mondays - Vegan White Pizza

    Another weekend is gone, and it's all about the Manic Monday.  The day the alarm seems especially early, sometimes the day seems exceptionally long, or is it because we are just tired from all that weekend fun?  Now it's back to the routine, work, workout, errands, boring foods, etc. 

    Not so here at the Paws and Pours household.  Our meatless creation this week is really something to look forward to at the end of the longest day of the week.  Let me show you how to have a delicious and nutritious pizza to start out your week. 

    First, pour a glass of vino, and take a deep breath.  Monday is almost over right?  We started with a favorite, the Dynamic 2006 Red Table Wine.  I have reviewed this before here, but I just can't say enough about this great blend.  A $10 bottle that really drinks more like it is a $25 red. 

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    Now, get out your pizza dough.  We used homemade pizza dough that was frozen the last time we made a large batch.  But, in a pinch, Trader Joe's or Fresh and Easy make fantastic fresh pizza dough.  Breathe, take another sip of vino, and start to feel very relaxed.  ;-) 

    I have made variations of this type of white pizza in the past, but wanted to experiment with making it vegan this time.  Really, all that involved was substituting silken tofu for ricotta cheese, and using the Veggie Shreds Italian blend "cheese."  The results were spectacular!

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    VEGAN WHITE PIZZA

    pizza dough or pre-made pizza crust

    12 oz. silken firm tofu (2/3 of a block) -  can substitue 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese

    1 cup Veggie Shredds Italian blend -  or substitute 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella + 1/2 cup shredded parmesan

    1/2 tsp. garlic salt

    2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

    1/2 tsp. dried oregano

    1/2 cup fresh arugula, coarsely chopped

    1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly slices

    1 shallot, thinly sliced

    1 -2 roma tomatoes sliced, or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

    Crushed red pepper to taste

    mushrooms (optional) and drizzle of good balsamic (optional) 

    1.  In a bowl, combine tofu and veggie shredds.  Add garlic salt, lemon juice, and oregano.  Mix thoroughly. 

    2.  Spread tofu mixture over pizza dough, leaving 1/2 inch around the edges

    3.  Top with arugula, basil, shallot and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper.

    Bake in pre-heated oven - 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes - or until edges are turning golden and toppings are done. 

    Pour another glass of wine, and dig in!

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    Seriously, this was so good, I could eat it EVERY night of the week!

    Hope you all survived Monday and have a great week!

    Thursday, January 8, 2009

    GOOD TIMES, GOOD FRIENDS, AND GOOD FOOD

    Call me weird, but I have more fun staying in and cooking rather  than going out...

    Especially if it involves good friends, and even better yet if those said friends enjoy the cooking and partaking as well.  Such was the case last week, when we decided to avoid the "Amateur Night Out"  (aka New Years Eve) by having a little dinner party. 

    The great part about a dinner party at home (or someone else's home,) is that you can do everything at your own pace, and choose your menu and wine, without restaurant limitations.  I say dinner party rather loosely, because I don't want to infer that I did all the cooking and preparation.  On contrary, my two lovely friends and I collaborated and collectively made a dinner that was fantastically better than any restaurant in town. 

    We started with wine and appe's, of course.  The standout of the appetizers was the Carmelized Onion Dip from the November issue of Cooking Light. 

    Then we. got. serious. 

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    Here we are working away at dinner.  The men happily sat back, relaxed, sipped their adult beverages and watched us revel in all our foodie glory.  My kitchen isn't large, but the three of us worked well, with the only mishap being a little spilled milk.  (literally!) 

    I didn't catch a photo of all the dishes we made, but here are a couple.

    A few scallops searing:

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    Salad of spring mix, Granny Smith apples, blackberries, shaved fennel and gorgonzola:

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    And my favorite of the evening...Roasted Cauliflower Augratin

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    Unfortunately, those are the only photos I took of our amazing meal.  We also had, filet mignon, roasted red potatoes with a roasted garlic vinaigrette,and  roasted brussel sprouts.  Dessert was mocha chocolate lava cakes - which was served with port.  Our evening can be summed up as decadent and rich!  Not only rich in calories, but in having good times, with good friends and starting the New Year out right!  

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    Meatless Mondays, Take 3

    This week I'm bringing you stuffed portobello mushrooms as the Meatless Monday meal.  I had a craving for mushrooms all weekend, so this was the perfect way to satisfy the craving, and get in a "meatless Monday" meal. 

    Not having any specific recipe, I went about creating a "filling" with a few things I had on hand.  I started by cooking up some Minnesota Wild Rice.  While that was cooking I sauteed some spinach with the leftover chopped up mushroom pieces that came from "scooping out" the mushrooms, and onion.  When the rice was done, I added the spinach mixture into the rice with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.  I also added a few cranberries to give it another element. 

    After taste testing the filling, I added it to the empty mushroom caps.  Topped with a little feta and sharp cheddar and a few capers, then into the oven. 

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    While not the most photogenic meal, this was the tasty results.   I did a extra mushroom and topped with gorgonzola and that was even better.  (Note, next time I will top with gorgonzola.)  Served with some extra wild rice on the side, this meal was filling enough for even my hungry husband.  After the picture I drizzled a little balsamic reduction over the mushroom which enhanced the flavor even more. 

    Since it is a Monday, and we've had some great wines over the past couple weeks, we pulled out our favorite "everyday" wine. 

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    Easy to drink, the Menage a Trois, paired perfectly with the stuffed portabellos.  The red blends have been such a great discovery in terms of taste and value.   The jammy flavor of this one comes from cabernet, merlot and zinfandel.  It is soft, but has hints of spice at the same time.  The cab does give it some of that "big" feel, but not overdone.  

    A nice ending to the beginning of the week. 

    Love My Little Black Dress

    As I have confessed before, I occasionally buy wine for the label alone.  Hence is the story of the Little Black Dress 2006 Merlot. 

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    I.LOVE.LITTLE BLACK DRESSES! 

    Such a perfect fashion statement that can be dressed up or dressed down with high heels and sparkly accessories, or casually thrown on with summer flip flops and a ponytail.  I have a spaghetti strapped little black dress,the casual sleeveless, the mid-sleeve conservative version that is workplace appropriate, the long sleeved winter addition, etc. etc. 

    So, when I saw this bottle, of course it quickly appealed to me.  I didn't remember seeing any reviews, but that didn't matter, it was the label and the name that won me over.  I was in high hopes that is was going to be wonderful, and therefor could be my new "house" wine, so that I could enjoy the label regularly.  I mean at $10, it would make a decent "regular" for our casual week night dinners, right?

    I remained positive, and while it wasn't bad, it wasn't wonderful.  On pouring into the glass it had a stunning ruby appearance.  The first few sips were a bit tannic, but it opened up and showed a rich flavor of berries, and a hint of vanilla.  It was certainly fine and we (of course) finished the bottle, but it is not one I'd necessarily buy again, let alone become a "regular."  (I was also doubting that my husband would really ever feel like opening it on his own.  He said it was a "girly" bottle.) 

    Oh well, like little black dresses themselves; some become your favorite, and others you could take or leave.  I guess for now I will pass on more of the Little Black Dress Merlot.

    Friday, January 2, 2009

    HAPPY NEW 2009!

    Sorry for the belated New Year wishes.  I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday season!

    Here is a photo of Chase, starting off the year with his favorite toys, looking happy and healthy.  Wishing you all the same for 2009!

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