Monday, December 31, 2007

Grocery Store Wine

After I pick my son up from daycare, I can basically tolerate one stop with him -- He is 4. So, it can't be wine store and the grocery store...It can only be the grocery store. In Ohio, grocery stores have a lot of not so great wine and some great "drinkers" if you look hard enough. Furthermore, I really try not to spend more than $8.99 a bottle if it's not a special occasion. (A "drinker" is a an inexpesive bottle of wine -- less than $10 that I can have a glass or 2 of mid-week.) Here are a few suggestions that I can find at the Giant Eagle in Ohio. I should note my preference is to not buy wine at the grocery store, but sometimes that is my best option.

(I grew up in a small town near Rochester, NY and in NY State you cannot purchase wine in the grocery store. It's unfortunate because Rochester has the world's best grocery stores - Wegmans and in states, e.g. Virginia, where they can sell wine Wegman's has an awesome selection. But, Wegman's is a topic for another day, as I am a Wegman's evangelist to use a term utilized in the corporate world of customer service. Okay... I went down a tangent there.)

Grocery Store Wine Picks
1. Gnarly Head Cab $8.99
2. Goats du Rhone Red or White $8.99
3. Niebaum Coppola Rosso $8.99
4. Not my first choice - Little Penguin Shiraz or Pinot Grigio $6.99-8.99
5. MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc $9.99
6. Tierra de Castilla Tapeña $9.99
7. Bonny Doon Big House Red or White $9.99
8. Also, if you can find them, South African, Chilean or Argentinian wines are generally great bargains and very good wine.

Happy New Year!

We only have a babysitter for a few hours tonight, so my husband and I are going to go out to dinner -- early and then head home for a peaceful New Year's Eve together. I would like to start out at Alana's for a cocktail -- she juices all her cocktail mixers and then head over to ...The Refectory. The Refectory is not as funky as Alana' fact it is very French and formal, but very good. It also has an outstanding wine list. I like to do the little bar menu and hang out at the bar and snack. (Ohio is a totally smoke-free state now which makes bars much more enjoyable!)

P.S. I am taking some advice from the book Julie/Julia project. I am not going to tell my friends about my blog for a few weeks. On the other hand, I feel like I am talking to myself!

P.P.S. I am going to purchase a digital camera today. I was a film-holdout but I really need the convenience of digital photos if I am going to add pictures of my food to the blog.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My blue pot...

My Blue Le Creuset is definitely one of my kitchen favorites. It's the perfect size and has incredible durability. It also adds a little color to my kitchen.

My awesome friend Jen recently gave me a Le Creuset canister to hold my whisk, tongs, spatulas etc. that I keep on my cooktop.

I made some Southwestern Creamy Vegetable Soup the other night using leftovers from my Christmas Eve celebration in my blue pot.
Southwestern Creamy Vegetable Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, chopped
5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 tbsp. Tabasco
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. (You can also add a little butter to the olive oil for additional flavor.) Add the onion, carrot and celery, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the heavy cream and cook on medium about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let the soup cool slightly.

Remove soup from heavy saucepan and pour into blender. Also, remove thyme and bay leaves. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes. Soup should be smooth.

Return soup to heavy saucepan and reheat. Stir in Tabasco.

Serve sprinkled with Cheddar cheese.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back to why am I doing this...

As you can tell, I am really into this -- right now. Let's see how my enthusiasm is when I am back in the thick of work. (This is typically one of the slowest weeks of work for us corporate folks.) Anyway, I should clearly define my strategy to you...maybe through themes. So, what are my themes for this blog?
1. Easy recipes that you can make when you come home from work with things that are stocked in your pantry. (I will give you some suggestions.) I will also share some more complex recipes for the weekend.
2. Recommended cooking utensils
3. Restaurant suggestions
4. Balancing work and home
5. Maybe a few other opinions on unrelated subjects here and there when I can't resist (At work -- it's called straying from our agenda)
6. And, as with should evolve and adapt overtime. Relevance is certainly a key to having a successful career or blog!

Alana's is the best restaurant in Columbus!

Alana's is a place for people who are serious about food and/or wine. It is one of Columbus's "insider-gems". It also has a little attitude that comes across as self-confidence....which I find attractive.

And, best of all, the wine selections are unique and mark-up is non-existent!

My co-workers view me as the "office foodie" and whenever we have consultants from cosmopolitan cities...NYC, Chicago, I always send them to Alana's.

Here's a little menu sample...(The menus change with the season - can't cook what's not fresh!)
Vegan Jerked Kabocha Pumpkin 6
Lemony Lentil with Parsley and Feta 5

Florida Stone Crab Cocktail with Sauce Apropos 15
2005 Las Brisas (Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc) Rueda, Spain…7

Herbaceous Fruit of the Moon Shiitake stuffed with St. Agur and Duck Confit lagniapped with Ruby Streak greens and Balsamic Vinaigrette 9
2005 Fratelli Ferrero Nebbiolo Langhe, Italy…9

Lettuces from Elizabeth Telling Farm
Simple Salad of Mesclun Greens & Baby Spouts with Parmesan Tossed In a Dijon Vinaigrette 7

Spinach with Lettuce-like, Sprouts, Shaved Radishes, Duck Egg, Scallions, Bacon and Creamy Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing 8

Risotto with Trinity, Lump Crab, Kabocha Pumpkin, Fruit of the moon Shiitake, Bruder Basil and mildly scented Ancho Mushroom Jus 21
2005 Fratelli Ferrero Nebbiolo Langhe, Italy…9

Beef Tenderloin on smashed Yukons, Creamed Brussel Sprouts Demi Glase 33
2006 Owen Roe “Sinister Hand” (Gsm) Columbia Valley…10

Moroccan Tagine of Juicy Chicken Breast with Almond Cous Cous, Quince, Parsnips and Carrots 22
2004 René Muré Gewürztraminer “Traditiuon” Alsace, France…8

Love the attitude below! :)

Need It Vegan or Vegetarian Just Ask
Prices subject To Change Depending On Customer’s Attitude
Cell Phones Interfere With Proper Risotto Preparation
Raw and Undercooked Food Possibly

My 30 seconds of fame --- Sweet Potato Quesadillas

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
One 15-ounce can black beans
Four 10-inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
2 cups shredded jack cheese

1. In a pot of boiling water, cook the sweet potato until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add the beans and mash; spread onto 2 tortillas. Top each with chicken, cheese and a second tortilla; press to flatten. In a skillet, cook each quesadilla over medium-high heat until the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes; flip and cook for about 2 minutes more. Cut into wedges. (Published in Rachael Ray Magazine)

My inspiration for this blog....

I had always told my husband that if we ever lived in a house with a fabulous kitchen, I would commit to becoming a better cook. (I have always had an interest in food -- cooking, wine, and restaurants.) However, until 2006 I have always felt that my space was working against me. That probably wasn't true, I just needed inspiration and for me it was my new house with a fabulous kitchen -- good counters/counterspace, great 5 burner gas cooktop, decent lighting, and a double convection oven. Overall, I just enjoyed being in my kitchen and it was a great way to unwind at the end of an enjoyable but busy day in corporate America.

At first, I made trip after trip to the grocery store. It took me a while, but instead of the recipe being my starting point for weeknight dinners, my pantry needed to be my starting point. I was spending way too much money at the store and my young son was not keen on heading to the grocery store every night after his busy day at daycare. Essentially, I needed to go to the store once or twice a week after giving my pantry, fridge and freezer a rundown. I also found that if I bought a few staples each week, I would find something to cook, e.g., chicken breasts, ground round etc.

Why else am I here? As I think about what has brought me enjoyment in my life beyond my family and my career, I can reflect on some of my travels to major cities and the restaurants I have visited, as well as my favorite's in my hometown, Columbus, Ohio...It really is a great place to eat! (I will share links to all of my favorites at some point.) However, what really got me on my food kick as of late, is a recipe of mine that was published in the December 2007 issue of Rachael Ray magazine - Sweet Potato Chicken Quesadillas. Not my best creation, but it met the 5 ingredients or less requirement and was slightly unique. As my husband say, I ran around the house like a crazy woman and than he summed it up best..."It's the small victories in life that keep us going." As I have said, I love my job and my family, but somehow beyond the kitchen I want to fulfill my passion for food, so I am going to give this blog a go. To use a few corporate terms.....Give me feedback, level-set with me, and if my strategy isn't making sense let me know! Thanks.