Treat Week: Truffle Tuesday

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Due to the death of a close friend, this week’s postings got delayed, so, as you can see, Truffle Tuesday turned into Truffle Sunday

Day 2 of #TreatWeek is one of my favorites: #TruffleTuesday.  Or, as my family (& hairdresser) calls it, the day I start making make #BoozeBalls!

The first, and quickest to prepare are my soft centered Red Wine Truffles.  These truffles are only as good as the wine you use to make them, so I always use the last glass of whatever great blend I have open.  This year that meant that the truffles were made with #2013MountVeederReserve.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  This blend worked beautifully with the dark chocolate and made for a decadent treat!  A few important words of advice about these truffles:

  • Make sure you chill your truffle filling for AT LEAST 3 hours so it’s easy to scoop.
  • Freeze your scooped portions for at least 30 minutes & try to make them as close to balls as possible.  These can’t really be rolled.
  • Melt your coating chocolate while your scoops are in the freezer so your coating has time to cool a bit.
  • If you intend to use the candy melts to decorate the outer/hard layer get it prepared in advance.
  • If you are sprinkling any type of decoration that will stick to the outer coating do it as soon as you coat the individual truffle.  The coating hardens very quickly on the cold truffles.
  • Because of their soft centers, these truffles must be kept refrigerated for best presentation and taste.

Red Wine Truffles

  • 2 – 12 oz bag dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 5 TBLS Good Red Wine – Anything with Malbec, Cab Franc, or that’s BIG and BOLD
  • 2 tsp solid Crisco shortening

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from stove and add 1 bag of the chocolate chips and red wine. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir until everything is fully incorporated and smooth. Remove to a smaller bowl, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Once the truffle filling has chilled, using a cookie scoop or small spoon, scoop out chocolate and form into truffle balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes

While truffles are in the freezer, in a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

Take 6 truffles out of the freezer at a time.  Working quickly, coat bottom of truffles first and place on a plate lined with waxed paper, then, using a spoon coat the top of each truffle and decorate with red & gold sprinkles if desired.

They dry/harden on top quickly.  Move on to the next 6 and then move the plate to the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Zinful Cranberries

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This is a recipe I shared yesterday to my wine lifestyle blog #GirlsGoneWine that I love pulling out for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s one that I have been making for a few years. It’s fast, easy, and tastes so good!  If you’re serving a #KetoCrowd, there’s an adaptation at the bottom of the recipe.

Growing up, my family never ate any cranberry sauce that was homemade.  In the preparations for cannedcranberriesThanksgiving, someone was always assigned the task of bringing two cans of jellied and one of whole berry cranberry sauce.  You couldn’t try and pull a fast one by buying store brand.  It had to be Ocean Spray on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table!

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my own family I automatically followed the same routine until I became obsessed with the Food Network a few years back and made my first foray into making cranberry sauce from scratch.

For the first few years, I stuck with the basic “back of the package” recipe:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bag of whole fresh cranberries

Boil sugar and water, add cranberries and cook 10 minutes over a slow boil until berries have popped, refrigerate until time to serve.  *If you wanted it jellied you strained out the berry solids and skins using a mesh strainer before refrigerating.  BORING!

This year I put some time and creativity into the preparation and came up with a winner:

Zinful Cran-Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 & 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Zinfandel Wine (Best Quality you can afford – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • 1 – 12 oz Package Ocean Spray Fresh Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Orange or Tangerine Zest

Bring sugar, wine and cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to use a splatter shield to avoid splashing when cranberries pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Cool slightly then move sauce to serving dish.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and serve cold.  Sauce will thicken up as it cools.  Garnish with a few cranberries, blueberries and curls of zest.

Keto Conversion:  Substitute 1/2 Cup+1 TBLS Granulated Swerve (Stevia) for the Sugar

Don’t worry, for the holdouts who just can’t stand not seeing the canned Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, I still have the obligatory dish with the slices in the shape of the can. 😉  #CAGirlsGoneWine

Goodnight Charlie’s Hot Chicken Tacos

Food & Wine June 2018 Travel: Honky Tonk/ David Keck Hot Chicken TacosOnce he achieved the wine world’s most coveted initials behind his name, M.S. (Master Sommelier), instead of heading off to some five-star fancy pants restaurant to show the upwardly mobile out to impress their friends, or those with more money than sense, his incredible wine knowledge, Jeff Keck opened up a HONKY TONK, yes, a Honky Tonk in Houston!  That doesn’t mean he’s stepped away from his love of wine, indeed, far from it.

While getting his other wine-themed businesses and restaurants off the ground nearby, Goodnight Charlie’s serves up gourmet Texas fare with lots of Bourbon, Beer, Vodka, and davidkeckfelipericcioyes, some wine too.  There’s even a #RhinestoneCowboySpecial – a bottle of tête de cuvée Champagne and 12 tacos, prepared by his business partner, and chef, Felipe Riccio.  As the recipe below shows, they’re far from your run-of-the-mill street tacos.  I love Nashville Hot Chicken, so these should be right up my alley! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Goodnight Charlie’s Hot Chicken Tacos

Chicken

  • 6 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 5 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/8 ounces)
  • 5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 cups whole buttermilk

Stir together 6 cups warm water, sugar, and 1/2 cup salt in a large, lidded container until dissolved. Let cool. Place chicken in brine; cover and chill 8 hours.

Drain chicken, and discard brine. Whisk together cornstarch, flour, chili powder, cornmeal, onion powder, garlic powder, and 4 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Place buttermilk in a separate bowl. Working in small batches, dredge chicken pieces in cornstarch mixture, dip in buttermilk, and dredge again in cornstarch mixture. Place coated chicken pieces in a fine wire-mesh strainer, and shake off excess flour mixture. Place chicken in a single layer on 2 wire racks on rimmed baking sheets, and let stand 15 minutes.

Spiced Oil

  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 cup grape seed oil, plus more for frying

Stir together cayenne, brown sugar, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Heat 1 cup grapeseed oil in a medium skillet over medium-high until hot, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and add spice mixture to oil, stirring to combine. Let cool 10 minutes. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Heat 1 inch of grape seed oil in a large, heavy, high-sided skillet over medium-high to 360°F. Working in 3 batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until crispy and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.

Transfer to bowl with spiced oil; toss to coat. Lift chicken from bowl; place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer baking sheet to preheated oven to keep warm. Repeat procedure 2 times with remaining chicken and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.

Braised Greens

  • 4 ounces fresh Mexican Chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced jalapeño
  • 1 (12-ounce) bunch collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Place Chorizo, onion, and jalapeño in a large skillet over medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until Chorizo is crumbled and browned and onions are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add greens and 1 teaspoon salt; cover and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Stir in vinegar. Remove from heat.

Additional Ingredients

  • 24 (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped bread-and-butter pickle chips

Divide braised greens and fried chicken among warm tortillas. Top with pickles.

Serve alongside a couple of ice cold beers, or, if you’re feeling fancy, do it #GoodnightCharliesStyle and pop open a bottle of Champagne. #GirlsGoneWine

Baltimore Style Crab Cakes

When I am in the mood for crab but don’t want the mess & hassle of cracking shells and digging the meat out, nothing fits the bill like a crab cake.  I’m not talking about a crab cake that’s mostly crappy breadcrumbs and other cheap fillers, I’m talking a cake filled with lush, sweet crab meat and little more.

FandW092018The September 2018 Food & Wine Magazine features their 40 “Best Ever Recipes,” which lured me in with a luscious chocolate cake on the cover, but they hooked me with this recipe for crab cakes, nine pages from the back of the magazine on page 95!

Andrew Zimmern’s Baltimore Style Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (See note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
  • 20 saltine crackers, finely crushed (See note below)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (See note below)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.

In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crab meat with the cracker crumbs. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture.   In Andrew Zimmern’s words, if you don’t over mix, and don’t pack your mounds too tightly, you will experience “pure, unadulterated crab cake heaven.”  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds; lightly pack into 8 patties, about 1+1/2 inches thick. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderately high heat until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

  • Tip 1:  If you prefer, you can substitute 1 1/2 tsp yellow or spicy mustard and omit the Dijon mustard and hot sauce
  • Tip 2:  You can substitute 1/2 cup Panko crumbs for the saltine crackers
  • Tip 3:  You can substitute any lightweight oil for the canola oil.  I prefer olive oil.
  • Tip 4:   If you plan to serve these as appetizers you can scoop them with a small cookie scoop, a soup spoon or melon baller – depending on whether you want them to be a 1 or 2 bite app.
  • MAKE AHEAD Crab cakes can be prepared thru Step 2 & refrigerated overnight

The recipe as written serves 4 people 2 patties each alongside a peppery arugula salad topped with diced mango, pineapple & cucumbers with a squeeze of lemon juice & a tablespoon of vinaigrette dressing.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

This recipe was originally published in 2012, and also appears on Andrew Zimmern’s website.  Food & Wine Magazine recommends pairing these crab cakes with a Muscadet#GirlsGoneWine  I’m not familiar with Muscadet, so I looked to my go to wine reference site, Wine Enthusiast, for an education on this brisk, lemony wine from the Loire Valley region of France.  Wine enthusiast says the flavor profile of Muscadet wine can vary from very neutral to tangy and saline.  Basic Muscadet wine is light in body and light in flavor, and may have a little spritz. Higher quality examples lean more towards a tangy saltiness and notes of flinty minerality, with a smooth texture and friendly, approachable nature.   As for specific recommendation, here’s a very affordable option:BougrierLesMartinieres

  • Bougrier Les Martinieres – This crisp, fruity white is an enjoyable accompaniment to shellfish and light appetizers. Its light sweetness adds richness to the light lemon, mineral and peach notes.  Total Wine $10.99

Lemon Pepper Shrimp

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Once school starts, week night sit down dinners together for most families become a memory.  This recipe requires few ingredients, can be made in under 30 minutes (while Mama is sipping her glass of wine), can be made ahead and reheated, and makes week night dinners together something that doesn’t have to stop as soon as summer is over!  This serves 4 but can easily be doubled to serve a larger family or guarantee leftovers. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Lemon Pepper Shrimp with Linguine

  • 1 – 8 ounce package linguine pasta
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 TBLS olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic minced (I use the pre-chopped jars which would equal 3 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 TBLS chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBLS chopped fresh basil
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Whole basil leaves for garnish

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil
  2. Add linguine and return to a boil
  3. Cook according to package directions for al dente pasta (usually 11 to 13 minutes)
  4. Drain the pasta and put into a large bowl
  5. Toss with 1 to 2 TBLS olive oil and set aside
  6. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and saute garlic about 1 minute
  7. Mix in chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, & pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is reduced by about 1/2
  8. Mix shrimp, butter, parsley, and basil into the saucepan
  9. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp is opaque
  10. Stir in the cooked linguine, and continue cooking 2 minutes, until well coatedWesterlySauvBlanc14

To serve, place a mound of pasta in the center of dish and divide the shrimp and sauce evenly between the plates. If desired sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese atop and garnish with leaves of basil.  This dish pairs nicely with chilled Sauvignon Blanc. #GirlsGoneWine

Start Your Meal Off Right

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When you’re relaxing before you’re ready to have dinner, but don’t want to sip on your wine without a little something to take the edge off of your hunger, these decidedly Southern, half moon shaped cheese biscuits are just the thing!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Southern Cheese Moons (Wine4Food)

  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream together softened butter and finely shredded cheese, using the paddle on a stand mixer or a hand mixer.

Combine flour, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, mustard, and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk together well.

Slowly incorporate flour mixture and cheddar butter. Don’t over mix, just combine.

Transfer dough to parchment paper. Gently press into one ½-inch oval shape.

Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, press cutter in dough. Then, slice in half.

For any remaining dough, shape into ½-inch ovals.

Place the cut half moons onto a parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. The cheese biscuits should be a minimum of 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer to cooling rack.

Enjoy these biscuits with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Syrah or Sangiovese. #GirlsGoneWine

Amaretto Poached Peaches

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PHOTO: Chelsea Kyle, PROP STYLING: Alex Brannian, FOOD STYLING: Dawn Perry

I’m planning a weekend dinner party and love having a make ahead dessert that allows me to spend as little time during the party in the kitchen as possible.  Considering that it’s peak peach season, and very few people have a strong aversion for them, I’d consider it  prime time to dig into my favorite peach recipes at www.californiagirlsgonewine.

This one is fast, can be made ahead, and only tastes better the longer it sits before being reheated!  The very best thing about this recipe is you have two choices when you make it:  Hands on by cooking it on the stove top or hands off by cooking it in the slow cooker!  For what it’s worth, I prefer the more focused control over the end product that comes from using the stove top method.

Amaretto Poached Peaches

  • 6 peaches (about 3 pounds), pitted, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 3/4 cup Amaretto
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBLS honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp cold water OR 3 tsp arrowroot + 2 tsp cold water
  • Vanilla bean ice cream (for serving)

For Stove Top:

  1. Rinse and dry your basil leaves and peaches, and scrub the skin of your lemon thoroughly before you start your recipe.
  2. Heat peaches, lemon zest, amaretto, honey, salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 1 cup hot water in a medium pot over medium heat until simmering.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook until peaches are tender, about 25 minutes.
  4. Cover and remove from heat until 15 minutes before you are ready to serve.
  5. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, scoop ice cream into serving bowls and place bowls into freezer.
  6. Mix cornstarch OR arrowroot with the cold water until a thin paste forms.
  7. Return peach mixture just to a boil.
  8. Stir cornstarch or arrowroot paste into peach mixture until sauce starts to thicken then remove from heat.
  9. Spoon peach mixture over the ice cream and add a full basil leaf or two. Serve immediately.

For Slow Cooker:

  1. Rinse and dry your basil leaves and peaches, and scrub the skin of your lemon thoroughly before you start your recipe.
  2. Toss peaches, lemon zest, amaretto, honey, salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 1 cup hot water in slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on high until peaches are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
  4. Mix cornstarch OR arrowroot with the cold water until a thin paste forms.
  5. Stir cornstarch or arrowroot paste into peach mixture until sauce starts to thicken then turn slow cooker off.
  6. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, scoop ice cream into serving bowls and place bowls into freezer.
  7. Spoon peach mixture over the ice cream and add a full basil leaf or two. Serve immediately.

**Tip  You can save yourself time during your dinner party by scooping your ice cream into your serving bowls and putting them into your freezer before the party starts.  #GirlsGoneWine

Note that I made a few changes & notes to the original linked recipe:

  • They didn’t specify whether to peel the peaches or not, but the photo shows unpeeled peaches;
  • The Amaretto (almond liqueur) you use matters to the amount you use.  If you ci-disaronno-originale-amaretto-02f22ebe37e1d171are using Amaretto Disaronno use the amount shown in the recipe.  If you are using another brand you may want to slightly reduce the amount as some tend to have a more pronounced almond flavor.  Adjust according to your taste;
  • I found the recipe to be “too saucy” and the sauce to be too thin the first time I made it so I made 2 changes: I increased the peaches from 4 to 6 and added a thickening agent to the sauce (cornstarch or arrowroot).  In this case, use cornstarch or arrowroot to maintain your shiny sauce;
  • I read the reviews of the original recipe, on www.epicurious.com, and agreed that it needed just a touch more honey, so I added an additional tablespoon; and
  • I added 1/4 tsp cinnamon to compliment the peaches, and tame the spice of the red peppers and the peppery basil.

This recipe served 8 and was a definite crowd pleaser!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat