Monthly Archive: December 2010

Could Anything Be More Fun

than making Christmas cookies with your 3 yo niece?

I certainly can’t think of anything…

except maybe eating sprinkles off the cookies until your teeth turn green!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Wine Girl

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Dinner with Friends

Last night we had a dinner party! Is it a party if it was just us and one other couple? I certainly think so! We hosted these guys for dinner.

I’ve got to get in a better rhythm with this blogging in real time thing. I got so caught up in the cooking and the conversation that I forgot to take pics of all of us hanging out. So, a pic of Jon and LP from this summer will have to suffice.

LP and I enjoyed a Christmas cocktail first.

(Truth be told, I started sipping on mine while cooking before our distinguished guests arrived.)

Meanwhile, the boys sipped on a little something from Santa’s Private Reserve.

I set a pretty table for the evening.

To go with the pretty table I also planned a pretty menu. Once again I turned to the Barefoot Contessa for inspiration.

The Menu
Salad
Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken Breasts
Barefoot Contessa’s Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts
Barefoot Contessa’s Haricort Verts e Shallot

Here’s what it all looked like.

And it all tasted even better than it looked! Check out the recipes for the chicken, cousous, and string beans here, here, and here.  Jon & LP supplied the salad and the vino!

After dinner we sipped on a little mulled apple cider

and had our funny bones tickled by a Christmas classic.

What a way to kick off the weekend!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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Cocktail Hour – Candy Cane Swirl

Where has all the wine gone?  I better get back on it or I’ll never live up to my pseudonym.  I promise…Uncorked! will return next week.  This week, however, something a little more apropros for the holiday season – a holiday cocktail!

We will be hosting friends for dinner tomorrow night and I want to have a a festive beverage available for them.  I searched the internet for days…well, maybe not DAYS per se, but it was while.  I finally found something that sounded yummy, festive, not too sweet, and didn’t require multiple varieties of alcohol to prepare.  Of course, before I serve it to friends, I have to give it a test run and see if I like it.

It’s called a Candy Cane Swirl.  The Ingredients:

The Equipment:

The recipe didn’t call for it, but I like to put a little ice in the martini shaker to make sure that it’s nice and cold.

Then you add the cranberry juice

Next up – Grenadine

And the kicker…please note the Raspberry Infusion version…not plain.

Then…Shake-shake-shake…Shake-shake-shake…Shake your cocktail, shake your cocktail (if you haven’t guessed by now, that should be sung to the tune of Shake Your Booty).

Now this IS the holiday season.  Every thing is more glitzy and sparkly during the holiday season, and your cocktail glass should be no exception. Before your martini glass can be filled with this red concoction, it must first be festooned… um, rimmed.

I tried to make my own peppermint rimmer by smashing candy canes, but just ended up making a huge mess and never could get the pieces small enough that they would stick to the glass effectively.  If anyone has any tips on DIY candy cane rimmers (or any other variety of rimmer for that matter), I’d love to hear them.  But for now, Crate & Barrel to the rescue!

To get the rimming sugar to stick you must first moisten the edge of the glass.  I use a bowl or large food storage dish, fill it with about 1/8 inch of water and dip the top of the glass in like so.

For me at least, this is the neatest way to get this done and keep the water localized to the edge of the glass.  Then you dip your glass in the rimming sugar and twist it around.

(My martini glasses are too wide to fit inside the rimmer container, so I have to pour it out into a larger dish.)  Look how pretty!

First we festoon…Then we pour

Add a splash of lemon-lime selzter

and the piece de resistance

Voila!  A Candy Cane Swirl!

Here’s the mix:

 Candy Cane Swirl

• 3oz cranberry juice
• 1 oz SKYY Raspberry Infusion Vodka
• 1 oz Grenadine
• Splash of lemon-lime seltzer
• Rimming sugar (optional)
• Candy cane for garnish

Combine cranberry juice, vodka, and Grenadine in a martini shaker and shake.  Pour into rimmed cocktail glass.  Add a splash of lemon-lime seltzer.  Garnish with a small candy cane.

I sipped on mine while I wrapped all of these.

Wrapping is much more fun with a cocktail!  I highly recommend it.

Cheers, yall!

Wine Girl

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Grandaddy of All Ham & Cheese

So last week, after working at the hospital from 7a-3:30p all day Saturday, running around to do a little Christmas shopping, then spending 3 hours decorating the Christmas tree, I collapsed into a heap on the couch.  Firmly ensconced in my warm blanket with mulled apple cider in hand, I began to mindlessly flip through the channels and came across It’s Complicated on HBO.  Great movie.  I love Nancy Meyers movies.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  But I digress…

First, it must be said that Meryl Streep’s kitchen in that movie is A-MA-ZING!

Seriously, this is my DREAM kitchen.  But the kitchen is not the point of this post…it’s what is being eaten in this fabulous kitchen!  There is a scene where Meryl Streep and Steve Martin are eating a meal of what looked to be a large piece of cheesy bread, salad and some Chardonnay.  Now, the first time I saw this movie WHAT was being eaten didn’t catch my attention.  But this time, I went – “Huh, wonder what THAT is?”  Through the miracle that is the DVR, I was able to rewind and memorize the French name Meryl Streep called it…

Croque Monsieur!

When curious about making a French dish, there is but one “go to gal” – The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.  A little search around the Food Network website informed me that this dish is basically a French Ham & Cheese sandwich.  Hmmm….and I just happen to have fresh homemade bread on my counter. What’s a girl to do?  Why whip some up, of course!

Check out the Barefoot Contessa’s full Croque Monsieur recipe here.  First you have to grate a lot of cheese – I mean a lot.  We’re talking 12 oz/5 cups of Gruyere

and a 1/2 cup of Parmesan.

(Now, my Pampered Chef gadget definitely made this grating easier.) Then you melt some butter and stir in some flour until it looks like this.

Did I just make a roux?  To finish off the sauce, stir in 2 cups of hot milk

followed by the Parmesan, a 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir it until it is a big ol’ saucepan of creamy, cheesy goodness.  And now, NOW is when we get to put that Beer Bread to good use…

First you slice it up, then toast it up, and cover it in Dijon mustard, sliced ham, and grated Gruyere

top if off with another slice of bread,

and cover it with the cheese sauce.

GET. A. LOAD. OF. THAT!!!!  Any recipe that allows me to ladle cheese sauce on to, well, quite frankly anything, is a winner in my book!

Believe it or not, you then sprinkle MORE Gruyere on top then bake and broil it until it looks like this

Now, BG was not about to let any of the cheesy goodness go to waste.

I mentioned that the fastest way to his heart was to combine his two favorite things – beer and bread.  Well, you add cheese to that and he is on Cloud Nine!

In all honesty I sliced the bread too thickly.  So, the next night I made it in an open faced version and much preferred that.  It’s much prettier that way, don’t you think?

BG declared that this was the “best damn ham and cheese ever” and I have to admit, I whole-heartedly agree with him!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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The Way to a Man’s Heart

They say they way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?  But what about a man that loves beer…and bread?  Well, the way to his heart is still through his stomach, but you get there a lot faster if you combine his two favorite things.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Beer Bread!

I like how the light in that shot sort of makes the bread look like it was sent from heaven…because I kinda think it was.

Before I go any further, I would like to point out that before tonight, I have never made bread before.  As in EVER.  Never made bread before tonight.  I’ve told you before that I like to cook, not bake.  And frankly, the idea of bread making intimidated me – what with all the yeast, and rising, and kneading, etc, etc, etc…But, as Gabi from Honest Fare points out, the use of beer in the recipe neatly avoids all that jazz because – what is one of the key ingredients in beer…

YEAST!

The recipe was super easy.  In under an hour, I went from someone who never made bread to having fresh homemade bread on my table! The ingredients list was super simple.

First you mix and sift the dry ingredients, then add the “secret ingredient”…

I have no idea what kind of beer that is.  Gabi seemed to feel that “cheap” beer was best.  So I sent BG out for a single can of “cheap plain beer” and this is what he brought back.  It’s probably the kind of thing a beer snob like him wouldn’t ever be caught dead drinking.

Once the secret ingredient has been added, mix until a “stiff batter” is formed.  Gabi recommends that you use your hands once it starts to stiffen so that you don’t over mix it.  Here goes nothing!

Yuck!

After you wash the sticky, yeasty goo off your hands, scrape the batter into a loaf pan, brush on melted butter and bake away!

Voila!  Fresh, homemade bread in under an hour!

Get me!  I made bread! It was so yummy with a biscuity texture.  Delicious!  So very, very delicious.  Some of the commenters on Gabi’s blog discussed their successes with different flavors of beer and adding various herbs.  That’s the beauty of recipe as simple as this.  The potential variations are endless.

Bread this yummy would have been perfectly lovely eaten with just butter or dipped in olive oil.  But with fresh bread in the house, we had to get fancier than that.  Tune in tomorrow to see what we did with it!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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What the Heck Is Pone?

Every family has their holiday food traditions, right? How much to you want to bet you’ve never heard of anything like mine?

Any thoughts…

No? Ok, then. I’ll clue you in. But first, I must ask – Has anybody out there (outside of my immediate family) ever heard of anything called Sweet Potato Pone?

I didn’t think so. I’ve never said those words to any non-immediate family member who didn’t utter “Huh? A sweet potato what?” in response. But that’s it. That’s our It’s-Just-Not-Thanksgiving-or-Christmas-Dinner-If-We-Don’t-Have-This-Dish dish. Sweet Potato Pone. What is it exactly? You mean, aside from the most awesome way to eat sweet potatoes? Well, it’s sort of a cross between a sweet potato casserole and a sweet potato bread.

The idea of trying to explain this dish to the internet at large prompted me to do a quick Google search for “pone.” Pone is apparently some sort of bread my by Native Americans with cornmeal, basically the ancestor of what we now call cornbread.

Ok. So that makes sense to me as, again, this Sweet Potato Pone is a hybrid of a casserole and a bread. Generally, it’s pretty easy to make…that is once you get past the very first step. I’m not going to lie to you, folks, the first step is a pain in the A**!!

What is this wretched step, you ask? It’s grating 3 cups of sweet potatoes. You’ve basically got to turn this

into this

Since my family scarfs this stuff, we usually double the recipe…meaning we need 6 cups of grated sweet potatoes, which amounts to grating up about 6 sweet potatoes.  My baby sister and I had to take it in shifts, so that we didn’t wind up with shriveled claws for hands!

In the past I’ve always used your standard issue cheese grater. This year I decided to try my Pampered Chef Rotary Grater. I don’t know that I would say that this device made the grating easier, but it certainly did reduce the likelihood that I would shave off slivers of my finger or knuckles into the sweet potatoes as I grated…and grated…and grated…

After that, it’s a piece o’ cake…just mixing your standard baking ingredients and popping it in the oven.

I can not stress enough the importance of the inclusion of flour in the recipe…particularly self-rising flour.  This is a minor detail my grandmother failed to include when I attempted to make this for BG’s family the first Thanksgiving we were married.  As a result, I basically served them sweet potato soup.  I kept trying to explain to them that this was wrong…so very, very wrong.  They ate it anyway with weird grimacing smiles, but I haven’t been asked to bring it back to any of the subsequent holidays we’ve shared over the last 11 yrs.

Trust me, though, when you include all the appropriate ingredients – BAM! So very, very yummy!

Here’s the official recipe:

  • 3 cups grated raw sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp self-rising flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix in the order listed above. Bake at 350-375 degrees for ~45-60 min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Enjoy!  What about you?  In this holiday season, what are your family food traditions…or mishaps?  I’d love to hear them!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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Blonde’s Have More Fun

A few weeks back, WineGirl arrived home with six-pack of a new beer — Leffe Blonde.
It’s a pale ale brewed at the Belgian Abbey of Leffe, and it’s a tasty surprise. I don’t know whether to say “Leff” or “Leffé” (and while I could call it “Kent”, that would only be funny to a few)

Leffe Blonde

The abbey was established in 1152, and the Premonstratensians bought a local brewery in 1240. It prospered until the mid 15th century, when a combination of plague, floods, and finally invasion by Charles the Bold brought it to its knees. The brewery recovered, though finally suppressed by French Republicans in 1796 and ceased production in 1809. The beer that we drink today is from a cooperation between the abbey and a local brewery, started in 1952.

Leffe Blonde is clear and golden in appearance, with a lacy head. (I used a wine glass, as I’m still investing in proper Belgian barware). It smelled yeasty with hints of honey and banana. The first sip was sharp, moderately carbonated, with a pleasant bite on the front of my tongue. I let it warm a bit, and I got more of the sweet honey taste, with a dry finish.
WineGirl and I will definitely buy this again.

I’ll give it 4 kegs
4 of 5 Kegs

Beer Guy

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