"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grilled Molasses and Orange Glazed Pork Chops, with Roasted Root Vegetables, and Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Slaw

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight after a long, hard day of work and on a night when your kid's school project is due? Well, wonder no more. Here's a great meal idea that is quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. It's my grilled molasses and lemon glazed pork chops, served with baked sweet potatoes, beats, and carrots, and a side of slaw with a lemon and honey vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Pork Chops:
What You Need (for 4 servings):
  • 4 Pork Chops (bone-in, thin cut recommended)
  • 1/2 a cup of Molasses (or use honey if you don't have Molasses)
  • Juice from 1/2 an orange
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sesame Seeds (not necessary, but adds extra flavor)
  • 1 Tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary (use dry rosemary, if you don't have fresh)
1-2-3 Step Before Grilling
  1. Rinse, pat dry and season the pork chops with salt and pepper
  2. Combine all the remaining ingredients to make a glaze
  3. Pour the mixed glaze onto the pork chops
Voila! Grill the pork chops (you can use the oven if you don't have a grill or if it's cold out)

Roasted Vegetables (you can substitute any vegetables you like roasted)
What You Need:
  • Sweet Potatoes (w/skin cut into bite size pieces)
  • Fresh/Raw beats (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
  • Carrots (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (just to coat vegetables)
Place cut-up vegetables onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, mix some olive oil on vegetables. Then, roast in a 375-degree oven until tender (about 20 minutes)

Slaw w/Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette
What You need:
  • 1/2 a package of shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 package of shredded carrots
  • 1/2 package of shredded red cabbage
  • Juice from 1/2 of lemon
  • 1 Teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
What To Do:
  • Mix the shredded vegetables in a medium bowl
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a jar w/lid (old jelly jar works great; or whisk in a bowl)
  • Pour the vinaigrette on the vegetables
  • Mix and serve
Recommended Wine? Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, CA 2007). This wine is has a deep purple color. Its flavor components are berries (maybe Blackberries and Cherries). It is a wine that is ready to drink now, but can be saved for a couple of years. It is complex on the tongue with each sip, but has a long-lasting finish. This wine is typically $22 at Safeway, but I bought it recently for $11. Enjoy!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farfalle w/Italian Sausage, Vegetables & Tomato Cream Sauce

Some people think Farfalle (Bow-tie pasta) is boring. Well, if you are one of those people, I have a recipe that, once you try it, you will change your mind. It's my Farfalle pasta with mild Italian Sausage, fresh broccoli and bell peppers, and a light tomato cream sauce. [Feel free to use whatever vegetables you and your kids like, if you have kids.]

When I made this pasta dish this past Saturday, Patrick and I had a glass of a Meritage wine by Nine Points from Sonoma, CA. I bought this wine at Safeway for $12 (it is regularly $23). It is a medium-bodied wine, that is smooth to drink, with notes of berries. Nine Points is a line of wine from Stags' Leap Winery.

To start the meal (as an appetizer), I served an amazing salad of purple cherry tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, diced avocados, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I have never had purple tomatoes before, but they are delicious. They are crunchy, and when they pop in your mouth, they are sweet and scrumptious. My daughter actually asked for them every time as a snack. She said: "These tomatoes are great, Mom!" Who would have thought a 6-year-old would have found something that is actually good for her "great." It makes me so happy-:) I only wish I had bought more than one basket of the tomatoes.

To finish the meal, I served a refreshing and very simple dessert of fresh sliced peaches dropped into a glass of muscat (a sweet dessert wine from Paso Robles, CA). Saturday was very hot, and after running around running errands, and cheering my daughter at her soccer game, this dessert was a great way to cool down. I found this particular muscat (Castoro Cellars) at Trader Joe's for $5.

Here is what you need for the pasta (the rest of the meal is already described above):
  • Box of Farfalle pasta cooked according to the package instructions; ADD the vegetables into the pot of boiling pasta during the last 2 minutes of cooking [Barilla's PLUS brand is great: it is whole grain and enhanced with omega-3]
  • 1 package of mild Italian Sausage (casings removed, crumbled, and browned on in a non-stick skillet on the stove top; once cooked remove from skillet and place on paper towel to drain out some of the excess oil)
  • 1 medium can of diced tomatoes (with Italian seasonings)
  • 1/2 red onions (chopped)
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (or white if that's what you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoning (or some dried basil and oregano, if you have)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
  • Throw away the excess oil from the skillet that you cooked the sausage in.
  • Add olive oil to the pan
  • Add onions, and saute for about 2 minutes
  • Add garlic and saute for 1 minute (don't burn the garlic)
  • Add the diced tomatoes with the liquid
  • Add the Italian seasoning
  • Add some salt and pepper to taste
  • Add the wine and stir
  • Let it simmer on low for just a couple of minutes (to cook out the wine)
  • Add some water from the pasta pot or some pre-made pasta sauce, if you have some
  • Then, add the whipping cream
  • Stir, simmer for about a minute, then turn off the heat
  • Add cooked pasta from the pot directly into the skillet
  • stir; add salt and pepper, if necessary; then mix in the Parmesan cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve
I hope you try this recipe one day. If you do, I would love to hear what you think. So, don't forget to write a comment.

Until next time . . . cheers!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Well-Balanced and Versatile Zinfandel

If you are in the mood for a great bottle of wine, but don't want to spend an arm and a leg for it, I have a wonderful suggestion for you: Beaulieu Vineyard's 2006 Zinfandel (Napa Valley). Right now, Safeway has it on sale for $9.98 from $16.99.

This wine has a deep dark ruby color. It is full-bodied, and somewhat nutty, with rich and concentrated flavors of black pepper and berries. You can enjoy this wine with a variety of foods, including hamburgers, chicken, barbecues, or simply enjoy it by itself.

If you are in Napa Valley, Beaulieu is a great winery to visit. Here is a link to the Winery's website: http://www.bvwines.com/home.aspx.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cookies & Milk


I recently came across the best recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies on Quaker Oats' website (http://www.quakeroats.com/cooking-and-recipes/content/recipes/recipe-detail.aspx?recipeId=474). They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. As a special ingredient, I add about 1 teaspoon of honey in the mix when I am adding the eggs and vanilla. I think the honey gives it a little extra flavor and also makes the cookies more chewy.

My family loves these cookies. But, the best part about this recipe (and baking generally) is that the kids enjoy making the cookies with me. They get so excited taking turns pouring the ingredients into the mixer and watching everything mix together. They also love to sit in front of the oven watching the cookies bake. Talk about quality family time! It's the best feeling when your kids and you can enjoy cooking things together. Check these cookies out some time with a glass of milk (or for the adults, maybe a glass of Sherry -- dessert wine). One of my favorite bottles of Sherry is Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry. This Sherry is a smooth and elegant, somewhat nutty in flavor with a hint of vanilla. Trader Joe's often has sells it for less than $10.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, September 14, 2009



On Monday nights, dinner at our house is all about simplicity and speed, without compromising taste, of course. Here is an awesome Herb-Lemon Shrimp with Spaghetti and Arugula recipe that I made last night (My daughter's comment was "Yummy!").

This past weekend, Whole Foods had these fresh gulf shrimps on sale for about $7/lb.; regular price is $15/lb. Since my daughter loves shrimp, I picked some up. I added Arugula to the pasta because it has an earthy and peppery taste, which gives the dish richer flavor. Arugula is also rich in Vitamin C and Potassium (think bananas and oranges rolled up in a lettuce).

Last night, I used a Barefoot Pinot Griggio (I cooked with it and also had a glass of it with dinner). It is an inexpensive wine, but it pairs well with seafood and light pasta dishes. This wine is light-bodied, but packed with flavor. It tastes similar to fresh, tart green apples paired with delicious white peaches, with a hint of citrus. It also has an aroma of fresh floral blossom, which is so refreshing on the nose. Check it out some time. Safeway currently has it on sale for about $5.

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. As with almost every dish I recommend, you should feel free to substitute any of the items for things you have on hand or that you like. For example, you can use frozen shrimp if you have some in the freezer. I'll try to suggest alternatives as much as I can.

  • 1 lb. of fresh large Shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cleaned
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tablespoons of shallots (or 1/2 a cup of chopped red onions)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (use the zest too for extra flavor)
  • 4 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to flavor/taste)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste; you can leave out if you do not like peppers)
  • 1/2 Cup of cooked bacon (the bacon gives the dish extra flavor, but is not necessary]
  • 1 Cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 Package of dry Spaghetti (feeds a family of 4, depending on how hungry everyone is)
  • 1/2 Cup of fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 Package of pre-washed Arugula or spinach (substitute cooked peas or broccoli if want, but get some vegetables in there to round out the meal)

Marinade For Shrimp

  • Combine 1/2 of the crushed garlic, 1/2 of the chopped parsley, all the chopped thyme, 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste
  • Add shrimp to the herb mixture and mix well to coat the shrimp
  • Let the shrimp sit in the marinade for about 30 minutes if you can (in the meantime, you can help the kids with bath or homework, take a bath yourself, or fold a load of laundry)
Cooking Instructions:
  • Boil a large pot of water for the pasta
  • Add some salt to the boiling pasta water, add the pasta to the water and cook according to package and until your desired consistency

  • While the pasta is cooking, cook the shrimp without the marinade in a sauté pan over medium heat until they are pink
  • Remove the shrimp from the pan, place them in a bowl, and set them aside
  • Add remaining olive oil
  • Add shallots (or onions) and cook until softened (about 3 minutes)
  • Add remaining crushed garlic and cook (about 1 minute)
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Add the cooked Shrimp back into the pan
  • Add the bacon (if you are using some)
  • Add the wine
  • Simmer on low heat for about 4 minutes (until the wine cooks off a bit)
  • Add the cooked pasta (without the cooking water) directly into the pan of shrimp
  • Stir in the remaining chopped parsley
  • Stir in the arugula (or spinach)
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Serve with a glass of the white wine you used to cook (or your favorite red wine)
Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Eggs Please!

If you are in the mood for some delicious eggs for breakfast, but are tired of plain old scrambled eggs, I've got a great egg dish for you. Your family will ask for seconds, so make extras.

This week, I made these individual-size egg casseroles and my family loved them. So, I hope you give this recipe a try. It is easy to make, and will give your family a fulfilling breakfast (lunch or dinner) at home.

Individual-Size Egg Casseroles w/
Chicken Breakfast Sausage and Mushrooms

  • 1/2 package of Chicken Breakfast Sausage (about 10 ounces); removed from casing and crumbled into smaller pieces [You can use any other type of sausage]
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped Crimini Mushroom (you can use button or any other mushroom)
  • 1/4 red or yellow onions (chopped)
  • 2 green onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded GruyèreCheese (or any other hard cheese you like)
  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 4 Large Egg Whites
  • 1 cup of low fat milk
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 6 small ramekins (if you don't have ramekins, use a muffin pan to make 12 muffin-size quiches).

Cook the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until brown and cooked through. Drain the cooked sausage on a paper towel and place it in a bowl to cool.

Add the olive oil to the skillet.
Add the chopped onions to the skillet and cook until soft (adding salt and pepper to taste).
Add the mushrooms to the skillet with onions and cook them until they are soft and brown, stirring often.
Add the cooked mushrooms to the drained sausage.
Add the green onions, cheese, and pepper to the mushroom and sausage mixture, and mix well.

Whisk eggs, egg whites and milk in a bowl (with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste).
Divide the egg mixture evenly among the greased ramekins.
Divide the sausage mixture among each ramekin with the eggs.
Put the ramekins on top of a baking sheet, and place them in the oven.
Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack. Cool for about 5 minutes.
Serve in the ramekins (or on a plate by flipping and turning them over on the plate) with a side of fruit, some Orange Juice (or better yet, a refreshing Mimosa). Piper Sonoma's Brut Sparkling Wine is one of our favorites and most reasonably priced ($13.99 at BevMo). Enjoy!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Steak & Potato Kind of Night

This weekend, I was in the mood for some easy-to-make steak. Here's a recipe of my version of a "Steak and Potato" dinner. It is very easy to make, but packed with delicious flavors. Serve that with your favorite wine, or try the Carménère below, and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Appetizer - "Melon Wrapped w/Prosciutto & Mild Goat Cheese"
I got a small cantaloupe-type melon at the Farmers' Market on Saturday that tasted so sweet and refreshing. I had some prosciutto from Trader Joe's and some goat cheese in the refrigerator. I sliced up 1/2 of the cantaloupe. I took 3 slices of the prosciutto, and split them in 1/2 (you do not need a lot; save the rest for lunch). I placed a small amount of goat cheese inside the prosciutto, and wrapped them around each slice of the cantaloupe. Voilà! A delicious and light appetizer. [For the kids, you can use ham or turkey.]

Entree - "Grilled Steak Topped w/Blue Cheese, Served w/Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans"

"Roasted Tri-Color Fingerling Potatoes"
I got some purple, red, and yellow fingerling potatoes at the Farmers' Market. After washing them, I cut them up (bigger ones in 1/4, smaller ones in 1/2). I placed them in a baking sheet. I seasoned them with salt and pepper. I added the stems of 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, about 1/4 red onions sliced, and extra virgin olive oil. I mixed everything with my hands. Then, I placed the potatoes in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes (temperature and cooking time may vary depending on your oven). The aromas of the rosemary and onions emanating from the oven are absolutely amazing. I took them out and kept them covered until the steak is ready.

"Grilled Steak" (use whatever kind of steak you like)
While the potatoes are cooking, I took a couple of steaks (I had some Loin Top Sirloin from Costco), and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and some grilling spices. After grilling them to our desired temperatures, I placed some blue cheese on top of each, and melted the cheese. I let them sit for about 5 minutes before serving (that helps keep the juices in).

Vegetables - "Sauteed Green Beans w/Garlic"
In the meantime, I boiled a pot of water. I took some fresh green beans from the Farmers' Market, rinsed them under cold water, and cut the ends off. (Remember my green beans that were accidentally taken last week? Well, the Farmer replaced them for me.) I boiled them for about 4 minutes. I drained the water out, then placed them back in the pot. I seasoned them with some salt and pepper, and added some extra virgin olive oil. I crushed a clove of garlic, and put it in the pot. I stirred the beans until the garlic is cooked, but not burned (about 2 minutes). Then, I served the beans with the steak and potatoes.

Wine - "Carménère" (Reserva; from Chile)

This wine is different from the traditional wines that you may find at the market. But, it goes really well with meat dishes that are cooked with fresh herbs and spices. Carménère is a member of the Cabernet family of grapes, and was originally planted in the Bordeaux region of France. It is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon in that it has a deep red color, and has a rich aroma of spices and fruit. At the same time, it is somewhat different from Cabernet Sauvignon as the tannins in Carménère wine are often much softer, and the wine is drinkable at relatively young ages. Check out Wikipedia's website for a nice description and more information about this grape: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carm%C3%A9n%C3%A8re

I bought this particular vintage (Montgras, Reserva 2008) from BevMo about a month ago when BevMo was having its 5-cents sale. I bought 1 bottle for $16, and got a second bottle for 5 cents. It is a great deal.

Dessert - "Fresh Strawberry Salad w/Cinnamon-Lime Syrup"
In a small saucepan, I put about 1 cup of water, with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the zest of 1 lime. (I often eyeball this, and you can use lemon if you like.) To that, I added 1 cinnamon stick (you can also use cinnamon powder). I brought everything to a boil until the sugar is melted and the water is reduced a bit (by about 1/2), giving an almost syrup-like consistency.

In the meantime, I rinsed some fresh strawberries that I got from the Farmers' Market, cut off the stems, and sliced them up (smaller ones in 1/2; larger ones in 1/4). I put the sliced strawberries in a bowl. I poured the syrup over the strawberries, and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Then, I served them in a martini glass (for the grown-ups) with a small amount of whipped cream. Sooooooo delicious, and a nice refreshing end to a wonderful meal!

If you try any of the above, please write a comment and let me know what you think. If you have a recipe using similar ingredients, please do share by posting a comment!

Until next time . . . Cheers!