Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wine Wednesdays - Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday full of family and friends; good food and good wine!  I'm about to crack open this 4 bottle magnum, which will be put to good use in my XL Wine glass; a perfect Christmas in my eyes!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Windows

For those of you not in New York, below are the highlights of the 5th Ave holiday windows and the Rockefeller tree.  I ran uptown last week to check them out as part of my NYC Christmas tradition

Bergdorf's were my favorite; glittering scenes from holidays throughout the year.  Saks were based on a fury yeti that comes to NY to make snow for Christmas time.  Guess he didn't make it this weekend with temps in the 60s!!  

And of course the tree, it may look the same from year to year but it certainly never disappoints.

I hope everyone is enjoying these last few days before Christmas.  I'm happy to be home, cooking away and enjoying time with family and friends.  Posts and updates to come!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wine Wednesdays - Pause for Tequila

Happy Wednesday!  I interrupt today's normal wine Wednesday to bring you a festive cocktail to make for you holiday parties this weekend.  I made the cranberry syrup (paired with a nice bottle of tequila) to give as my white elephant gift at my holiday party, and I must say it was the hit of the party (and stolen several times throughout the game!)

It couldn't be easier to make, and looks so pretty and festive, tastes pretty darn good too!

Cranberry Margarita 
1.5 oz tequila
1.5 oz cranberry syrup
2 oz. Cointreau
Splash of soda water

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker, shake and strain.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wine Wednesdays - Hendry 2011 Pinot Gris

Another post from my time at home, I told you we'd be drinking!  On Saturday we went to the ranch with some friends for a picnic lunch and manzanita tree cutting.  Instead of the standard Christmas tree, Laura and Frankie wanted a big manzanita branch to put in a wooden box and decorate with lights and ornaments.  Jeffrey knew of a manzanita grove on the ranch so we headed out there with an electric saw in hand to find the perfect branch!

After a successful find we headed back to Grandma's house for lunch.  While I didn't do much work with the actually tree cutting/hauling, I did put myself to work assembling the perfect cheese board.  I'm really quite proud of my handy-work!

As for what we drank?  Hendry 2011 Pinot Gris.  It was the perfect wine for our charcuterie lunch.  The nose was like biting into a tart green apple, while the mid-palate to finish was notes of pear, citrus and a hint of vanilla; smooth, well balanced, light and refreshing.  A perfect picnic wine.   

They didn't exactly bring the right car to get the branch home in, or maybe they didn't expect to go home with such a big branch...but we made it work!

Wine:  Hendry Napa Valley 2011 Pinot Gris
Purchased:  Gifted from a neighbor, link to buy here, Hendry just released their 2012 vintages.
Price: $18
Would buy again: Yes!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chocolate Cookies Two Ways

As an alternative to pumpkin pie, I brought 2 versions of double chocolate cookies to our Thanksgiving.  Both were naturally gluten free as they didn't call for flour.  I couldn't resist sneaking in some pumpkin caramel to one batch which really gave the cookies a deep flavor with mild spice to balance the chocolate upon chocolate!  They were such a huge hit, I made another batch for our party later in the weekend!

First Batch:  Flourless Brownie Cookies
*Recipe adapted from Yammie's Gluten Freedom

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/3 cup pumpkin caramel

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix together the soda, salt, and cocoa and add to the wet ingredients, mixing until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel.  Bake for 10-12 minutes then let rest on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Second Batch:  Chewy Flourless Chocolate Cookies
*Recipe courtesy of Recipe Girl

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 to 4 large egg whites, at room temperature 
(I used 3)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat mats).
In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar with cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in egg whites (start w/ just two) and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened. You're looking for a brownie-like, thick and fudgy batter consistency. If it seems too thick, add another egg white-- then a 4th one if it still seems too thick. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake about 14 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The best part?  The leftovers, which I turned into magical ice cream sandwiches!  Who knew it really is possible to gain 10 lbs in a weekend at home?!?!

Chewy gooey flourless cookie with java chip ice cream
Flourless brownie cookies with pumpkin caramel and vanilla ice cream

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wine Wednesdays - Duckhorn Vineyards Tasting

The day after Thanksgiving, Mom and I decided to check out Duckhorn's tasting room, located just north of St. Helena off of Silverado Trail.  Our family has been growers for Duckhorn for many years but I've never had the chance to visit.  Our wonderful host Luis gave us a great tasting, it could not have been a more beautiful day and the grounds were absolutely gorgeous. 
As for the wines?  Those were great too!  Duckhorn is most well known for it's Merlot and Cab.  They just released the 2010 vintages for both.  Luis tasted us through both their more mainstream labels (found in restaurants and wine stores nationwide) as well as the reserve labels which are mostly limited to winery sales and wine club members.  It was fun to taste the 2 variations side by side and pick a favorite. 
As many of you are starting to guess around here, if I'm drinking red wine, it's most likely a Cab, although I'm trying to expand my horizons!  I particularly like the big bold flavors of a typical Napa Valley Cab and the Monitor Ledge 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon did not disappoint.  Dark and intense black fruit dominate the nose and entry, with light oak and mild tannins giving way to a smooth finish.  A wonderful wine to enjoy now or cellar for the future. 


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