Recipe: Meritage Mock Lasagna

I was craving something Italian last night for dinner, but needed to come up with something that would be do-able in our current apartment situation.  Going to the store and purchasing all the individual ingredients for a delicious lasagna sounded wonderful, but the reality is that I brought tons of spaghetti noodles with us in the move (they didn’t fit as well into Ziploc storage bags).  I also didn’t want to have extra foods around that might spoil, so I came up with a simpler plan.  I utilized the salad bar at the local Fresh Market next to our apartment building.

After an extended afternoon (which included another trip to the leasing office to replace the “new” garage gate remote), I didn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to make a full-on lasagna.  Instead, I used quicker cooking spaghetti noodles (broken into thirds) and some delectable James River Cellars Meritage to create our dinner for last night.  Here’s how things came together.MeritageMockLasagna

I diced the peppers (from the salad bar) and added half an onion into a stock pot with touch of olive oil to saute everything together.  I added one package of ground turkey and browned everything well before adding a healthy dose of James River Cellars Meritage red table wine.  NOTE: By using the words “red table wine”, a winery doesn’t have to post the exact percentage of alcohol in the wine… if the words “red wine” are used, the wine must by law share the exact percentage of alcohol.  Interesting, huh?

Once the base of the sauce was well cooked, I added one large can of crushed tomatoes and a spoonful of tomato paste.  After combining everything (and adding another pour of wine), I added a handful of dry spaghetti noodles, carefully breaking the strands into thirds, and allowed it to cook until the spaghetti was al dente (“to the tooth”).  At this point, I could have served dinner as a version of mazetti, but I was craving more of a lasagna-style flavor, so I kept cooking.

To turn this yummy pot of food into something that resembled lasagna, I simply added three spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Once mixed together, the cheese added a creaminess to the sauce and bumped up the flavor to a “lasagna-esque” taste that made me happy.  I added some garlic toasts to complete a wonderful, meal.

This is definitely something that it pretty simple to personalize to suit each family’s particular taste preferences.  Feel free to try it on your own… we loved it!

Recipe: Chicken Veggie Gris

Ok, I’ll admit that this is a strange name for a recipe, but at least it gives you an idea of what you’re getting… right?

Let me share a little background before launching into this recipe with you.

We recently relocated to a new state, in a new town, in a furnished corporate apartment.  Have you ever had to do this?  It’s sort of like cooking in “your own” kitchen, but it’s not.  The pots and pans are different… the utensils are unique (even though I *did* bring my own)… and even the cooking vessel (an electric stove instead of my beloved gas range) is different.  Challenges to be sure, but I was determined to make our transition to this new place as smooth as possible… which meant cooking dinner each night.  

Yesterday, our first weekday in our new apartment, brought on my first challenge.  I had to purchase *enough* food and seasonings without purchasing *too much* because, remember, this is only our temporary home.  I already have the necessary pots, pans, seasonings, etc to make the meals that I want to make… but they’re currently sitting in a Jessup, MD storage unit.  So, in the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to create delicious meals without purchasing too many items that will end up being duplicates if I don’t use them up before we move from our current residence.  I hope you find my journey to be interesting and maybe even a little helpful!

Dinner on Monday was a challenge.  I went to the local Walmart to pick up some things, but this particular store was rather sparse in selection, especially since it carried no fresh produce or proteins.  This is where I bought the kitty litter, toilet paper, skim milk, orange juice, spaghetti sauce, canned chicken, a loaf of bread, foil, and a large bag of individually packaged chips. While I could have stopped at the Fresh Market store a block from our apartment, I was on a particular mission to find something that would help me get groceries (and cat litter) from my car to our new home, so I was traveling around town with this goal in mind.  I eventually found a collapsible cart that will be perfect for my needs and darted into the closest grocery store to stock up on some fresh items.

Since this was my first venture out for supplies, I was trying to mentally flip through a number of meal options that could create the most amount of duplicate ingredients.  I ended up choosing two packages of ground turkey, two packages of chicken breasts (with three in each, which could yield three meals for the two of us), some broccoli slaw, a bag of onions, romaine (for my lunch salads),  a bag of onions, a small box of frozen meatballs, cooking spray, and spices (garlic salt, herbs de provence, dry mustard, italian seasonings, pepper, and Hungarian Paprika).  Using these basics, I decided to go with something very simple for dinner… and my Chicken Veggie Gris was born.ChickenVeggieGris

I started by seasoning two chicken breasts with garlic salt and herbs de provence.  Using the apartment’s skillet, I turned the electric burner to “8″ and allowed the pan to heat.  Clearly, this is not the way to do things with an electric oven because when I added some margarine and a thinly sliced onion to the pan, there was entirely too much smoke in the apartment. I quickly turned down the heat and turned *on* the vent fan to keep from setting off the fire alarm so things calmed down a little.  NOTE: there was never any real danger, but it really did freak me out a bit. 

Once the onion had time to saute in the margarine to soften, I opened a bottle of white wine (I used a Pinot Gris, but only because I couldn’t find a bottle of James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay fast enough) and added that to the onions to allow them to soak up some of the yummy wine flavor.  I then moved the onions away from the center of the pan, placed the chicken breasts in the center to brown, and seasoned the underside of the breasts with the same seasonings as mentioned above.

Dinner was looking a little bleak at this point so, after I flipped the breasts over to cook through, I added some broccoli slaw to the pan for color and veggie-goodness.  Seasonings were now the priority… dinner couldn’t be bland, especially for my first attempt.  I opted to add a few dashes of soy sauce, some balsamic vinegar, and about a half cup of the wine to create a sauce that would make things come together.  I then cooked everything until all the flavors combined, about 10-15 minutes.  The chicken was poaching nicely and, while I would have preferred to have the veggies with a little more crunch and color, the softened broccoli slaw suited my husband’s tastes and still looked pretty on the plate.  To finish off the meal, I cooked a packet of brown and wild rice and used that as our starch for dinner.  It wasn’t exactly the meal I’d planned, but it was tasty and home-cooked… the best way to finish out a stressful “first day”.

I’ll continue to add recipes, both from before and during our move, so I hope you’ll check back to see how things are progressing.  I have some recipes that I never had the chance to share, so I’ll let you know when those are posted.  My attempt tonight is going to be something along the lines of a lasagna, without lasagna noodles…. will that even work?

Follow me on this journey… I promise to share both the highs (yummy recipes) and lows (how in the world am I going to learn to cook without a gas stove?) of the coming weeks.

Easy Beef Bourguignon

Note: This recipe is an homage to “Bob’s Short Ribs Bourguignon”, by one of my favorite chefs from the Outer Banks.

A few years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with a chef during a group cooking class.  He cooked in a way that was very similar to my own, using his hands/eyes as a way of measuring ingredients and his intuition as a way of creating a dish that was both delicious and flavorful.  Having a trained chef share his take on a traditional, classic recipe was a gift beyond compare and I’ll always be grateful to him for opening my own eyes to cooking this way.  This recipe used some basics from Bob’s recipe and added my own twist, allowing me to use my own intuition (The Force) to create a new dish.

I was at a wine/food festival recently and was asked if I had a Beef Bourguignon recipe on my blog.  Since I hadn’t “formally” cooked and blogged about this recipe, I decided to remedy that problem as quickly as possible.  EasyBeefBourguignon

I started with a package of beef that I found on sale at my local grocery store. NOTE: I try and pick up packages of meat anytime they go on sale, that I can use in various recipes, and keep them in my freezer until needed.  This helps keep my costs down and I can “shop” in my freezer for dinner inspirations most any day.  I sliced the beef into 1-2″ chunks and, using my favorite large stock pot, browned them in a bit of olive oil after dusting them with some flour, salt, and pepper.  Since I had so much beef, I did this step in two stages, removing the first half of the beef once it was browned and repeating the process.  

Once all the beef was crispy, I placed it all back into the pot and added the following ingredients:  1 sliced onion, 4 diced bacon slices, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 beef bouillon packet (I like G. Washington Brown), a few globs of ketchup, and covered everything with a lovely red wine (think James River Cellars Monitor).  I stirred everything to combine it nicely, popped the lid on the pot, and put the entire dish into a 300 degree oven to cook for awhile.  I think it cooked for about 2 hours, but I was really waiting for the entire recipe to reduce and mesh together well.  You could easily reduce the heat on the stove top, pop the lid on, and cook it for the two hours, but I prefer to use the oven when I can for this sort of meal.

Once the wine had reduced and the sauce was thick and rich, I added half a bag of frozen peas to bump up the color factor on the meal.  The final touches involved adding a few dashes of worchestershire sauce and a small bit of butter to gloss the sauce.  It looked delicious!

As we got closer to dinner time, I cooked some egg noodles and sliced some crusty bread to complete the meal.  The final product was deep, dark, and rich… a perfect meal for a cold, snowy evening, even if it *was* March.

I hope you’ll try making your own version of this wonderful recipe.  Using short ribs (when on sale) is a great alternative to a piece of pot roast, but you can use most any meat that will handle this sort of long, slow cooking process.  Changing up the vegetables by using carrots, pearl onions, or any other favorite vegetable is a great way to add nutrition and tailor the recipe to your family’s preferences.

Remember, cooking is about sharing your love with the ones you love.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Breakfast Egg Casserole

I’ve been trying to plan my meals and eat better this year, so I’m always on the lookout for a fun and tasty breakfast that will fill me up without a sugar-rush.  Being able to make this casserole at home and control the ingredients is a definite bonus.  My college friend, D, shared her version of this casserole with me and I knew I just had to give it a try.  The wine I use is a surprising ingredient, but one that adds a lovely depth to this recipe.

I started with 1/3 package of bacon.  I diced the bacon and cooked it in a skillet until the bacon was nicely toasted.  I then added about a cup of frozen sweet peppers.  I chopped them fairly fine and used red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, and allowed them to soften with the bacon.  Once this was done, I spooned the bacon and peppers to the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish, leaving a little of the bacon grease in the skillet.

BreakfastEggCasserole

I gathered 2 cups of kale, removed the ribs, and roughly chopped the kale.  NOTE:  You can also add in some spinach if you prefer. Using the remaining bacon grease in the skillet, I tossed in the kate and added 2 oz James River Cellars Montpelier wine, sauteing the kale until it had wilted and the bitterness had dissipated.  NOTE: If using full leaves of kale, be sure to massage the kale to remove some of the initial bitterness from the leaves.  Trust me… this is important.  I like to season the dish while cooking the greens so the spices have time to develop – for this dish I used salt, pepper, herbs de provence, and smoked paprika. Once I finished sauteing the greens, I layered them in the casserole dish, on top of the bacon/pepper layer.

Here’s the easiest part of the recipe… I poured 1 1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute into a Pyrex measuring cup, gently poured the egg over the entire contents of the casserole dish and pressed the bits of vegetable down into the egg mixture.  How simple is that?

Once everything was in the pan, I popped it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  If your oven runs hot, you might want to check it after 25 minutes, but 3o minutes seems to work best for me.  I allow the casserole to cool for at least 10 minutes and then cut it into 6 square, equal-sized pieces and wrap each in Saran to store in the fridge.  It’s easy to reheat (30-45 seconds in the microwave) and tastes wonderful in a breakfast sandwich, using bread thins.

Hope you’ll consider trying this fun recipe sometime.  Use what you like or what you’ve got in your fridge and it can take on whatever flavors you want.  I love it…. especially when I realized that it’s only 91 calories per square… SWEET!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Banana Raspberry Wine Muffins

I promised to have this recipe posted today, so please forgive my tardiness.  Here’s a yummy way to use up some of those browning bananas that we all seem to have from time to time.  This recipe is loosely based on one that I found on a Food TV recipe app, but their recipe called for a few ingredients that I either didn’t have or didn’t want to use.  I hope you’ll try it and see what works best for you.   I loved the lightly pale pink color but if you want to make them a touch more vibrant, I would suggest using some extra food coloring.  The taste was delicate… nothing was exceptionally strong (other than the banana), so it would be a fun addition to a luncheon or “afternoon tea” sort of thing.  I thought they were terrific… and since it started with a ‘real” recipe, you’re going to get it in “real” recipe form, complete with exact ingredients.  Score!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter/margarine
  • 4 medium bananas, very ripe20140228-133053.jpg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup fat free egg substitute
  • 2 Tbs raspberry syrup
  • 2 Tbs white wine (I used James River Chardonel)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Melt butter/margarine and then mash bananas into butter
  3. Add sugar, egg, vanilla, raspberry syrup, and wine into the banana mixture
  4. Fold in remaining ingredients until just incorporated
  5. Spoon into 24 mini-muffin tins and bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I like to add a little sanding or raw sugar on top for decoration, but it’s not necessary.

I shared these with some random people at a recent event and they were highly complimentary of the taste and texture.  You can make these into 12 individual muffins, if you prefer, but this full recipe made a perfect set of 24 mini-muffins.  Great for sharing and just enough of a snack at only 102 calories per mini-muffin… yes?  Enjoy!

Recipe: Beef Steak Sandwiches

Ideas for this sandwich kept popping up in my newsfeed all week, so I thought I would make my own rendition of this delicious recipe that Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) calls The Marlboro Man Sandwich.  It’s a fabulous-looking steak sandwich that isn’t anywhere near as expensive as it *could* be, since it uses cube steak as the main ingredient.   While I would highly recommend checking out the original recipe on The Pioneer Woman site – she’s very entertaining and, IMHO, the sort of personality to which *I* would strive as a cooking show host – this is my own version that recipe but includes WINE (of course)BeefSteakSandwich.

Ingredients:

  • Onions (I used one and sliced it for this recipe)
  • Butter (I used 2 Tablespoons, but will try coconut oil next time to see if that would work as a substitute)
  • Cube Steak (I used just under 1 pound of meat for 2 1/2 sandwiches)
  • Red Wine (I used a Pinot Noir from my fridge, but would typically use James River Cellars Rad Red)
  • Worchestershire Sauce
  • Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt

Directions:

  1. I started by melting a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan and then browned an entire sliced onion until it was soft.  I added a bit of red wine to brown with the onion to give it a bit more flavor, then removed it from the pan once the wine was absorbed.
  2. Once the onions were cooked and the pan was empty, I added the second tablespoon of butter to melt in the pan.  While it melted, I sliced the meat across the grain and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  When the butter was hot, I placed the strips of steak in the pan and allowed them to sear well before flipping them over and doing the same thing to the other side.
  3. As the steak finished cooking, I re-added the onions and poured in about a half cup of red wine to make a base for the sauce.
  4. Using the wine to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the saute pan, I seasoned the meat with a bit of worchestershire and some Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt.  The sauce reduced fairly quickly and was ready for dinner soon after.
  5. To serve this lovely sandwich, I toasted two hoagie rolls and spooned the steak/onion mixture onto half of the roll.  I love cheese, so I added some shredded mozzarella cheese to my sandwich while my husband had his without cheese.  The best part of this recipe is to drizzle a bit of the sauce down over the meat once it’s on the roll… I think it’s the sauce that makes this sandwich so very salty, flavorful, and deep.

I hope you’ll try your own version of this sandwich sometime.  Add peppers to the onions if you like – that would add some great nutrition to this meal as well as a bit of a fun twist.  I used the last bits of the meat in a salad, so I can safely say that this is a recipe that you can use in most any way you can imagine.  It’d be great in wraps, salads, over noodles, or just as the original sandwich… you just can’t go wrong!

Salud!

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!

WineCupcakes

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!

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