Monday, August 29, 2011

From the wine rack ... Hyatt Vineyards Cab-Merlot

My husband bought me a wine rack for my birthday in July - capable of holding 72 bottles of beautiful, beautiful vino.  I am never going to pretend to be a wine expert, but I am happy to drink what I love and tell others about my finds.

Pre-wine rack, I got an email from Groupon that featured a deal where you spend $25 and get a $75 gift card from Barclay's Wine.  Curious to try Groupon and pretty fond of wine, I figured this was a win-win for me.

And boy was it ... Barclay's has a limited selection, but it had enough red varietals to pique my interest.

The first wine I tried out of my Barclay's stash was Hyatt Vineyards Cab-Merlot - a non-vintage blend hailing from Yakima Valley, Washington.  And wow ... the bottle retails at $18, but given this is a fully-matured blend, I wouldn't blink at the cost.


Name: Hyatt Vineyards – Non-Vintage Cabernet Merlot
Year: Non-Vintage
Particulars: "This Non-Vintage Cabernet/Merlot marks a return to our original practice of assembling this easy-drinking introduction to Hyatt Vineyard's red wines from select lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot across several vintages. While the varietal components are 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet is 98% from the 2003 vintage and 2% from Reserve 2001; the Merlot is all 2002. Delicious blackberry flavors and clean, rich finish make this a great match for meats, tomato-based sauces and pure enjoyment." (From vineyard's website.)
Drank: August 2011
Where Purchased: Barclay’s Wine (as part of Groupon offer …). Normally $17.95/bottle (that's minus shipping and handling ... Barclay's has free shipping offers from time to time.)
Notes: This wine needed to breathe before consuming. After it had a chance to breathe, it was very rich, more of a darker flavor, very good.  Special occasion wine.
**Amended note:  On a whim and because I am operating the under the premise that if I find a wine that I like, I will try to find out information about said wine and determine whether I should acquire more of it, I sent an email to the contact information on the vineyard's website.  That afternoon, I had an email from their national sales manager.  This wine is ready to drink NOW and is fully developed.  And the depressing part?  The vineyard is discontinuing this wine, so once it's gone from Barclay's there is no more. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

I've been working from home since the end of March.  And about a month ago, 100 degree temperatures in the Midwest had me, the cat and my laptop fleeing for the cooler temperatures of the basement.  It was there that I found myself watching Food Network while I was pounding out proposals.

Yeah - it wasn't the most productive couple of days of my life.

Regardless, I got some food inspiration from this exile, including this salad from Bobby Flay.

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

This dish would be particularly good for a potluck - it is damn tasty and it makes a TON of salad. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This is another one of my mother-in-law's recipes that gets requested when we head down to Dubuque for a weekend.

What's really awesome about this dish is that it makes a lot of food and it freezes really well.  Which made it a perfect choice when I was getting some casseroles together for my friends Sharon and Joe.  They are expecting their first baby in September and since I live five hours away, this is my way of "being there" when I can't actually be there.


1 lb. of rotini or small shell pasta
1 26 oz. container of pasta sauce (MIL uses Ragu, I used Hunts)
1 16 oz. can of pizza sauce
1 lb. hamburger
1 pkg. pepperoni
2 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese

Boil noodles according to package, leaving off about 2 minutes of cooking time, because this will continue to cook in the oven.  Brown and drain hamburger.  Cut pepperoni into pieces and add to the drained hamburger.  Mix the sauces into meat and add to drained pasta.  Transfer into a 8 x 11 pan and bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  When there are about 15 minutes left to cook, remove foil and top with cheese.

**If you decide to freeze, follow steps above and instead of baking, freeze.  Thaw out before you intend to cook and then cook according to directions.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Black bean quesadillas and roasted corn ... something-or-other

My husband and I live by the Seneca Food plant in town here and this is the time of year where one of our main routes home is clogged by semi trucks bringing in sweet corn for processing.  Which is great, in theory, talk about seeing where your food comes from.  Except that on some evenings, the air smells like corn.  Which is fine, in theory, until said smell lasts for several days on end.  So as much as I loved sweet corn as a girl and still do to some extent, living near a canning factory makes me a little green around the gills when I'm presented with corn.

Which is what my wonderful neighbor Bonnie did the other day.  A half dozen ears of corn and three fresh onions from her nephew's garden.  (I was pretty psyched about the onions.)  Faced with the prospect of having my kitchen smell like the canning factory, I shucked the corn and brought it out to the great outdoors and the grill. My idea was to make a roasted corn salsa with a bunch of other grilled veggies - tomatoes, onions and peppers.  As this started to come together, I couldn't decide if this was a salsa, a relish or a salad.  So we're just going to call this "roasted corn something-or-other."

You're gonna have to forgive the photo ... this is off the Blackberry, not sure where I put the camera.  Sigh!

For the Black Bean Quesadillas
2 corn tortillas
about 3 T. of 2% Mexican-blend cheese
about 2 T. of black beans

Heat a skillet over high heat and place one corn tortilla on the surface, carefully sprinkle with cheese and beans.  Wait until cheese is getting melty and press the other tortilla on.  Then give it a careful flip.  (And this is usually the part where I get cheese everywhere if I am impatient and do not wait for the cheese to melt.)  Heat the other side until the filling is cooked through.

Roasted Corn Something-or-Other
2 ears sweet corn, husks removed and cooked on the grill
2 red peppers, sliced and roasted on the grill, then diced
1 green pepper, roasted on the grill, then diced
2 large tomatoes, roasted on grill, diced **
1 large onion, halved and roasted on grill, diced
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T. adobo sauce from chipotle peppers (optional - adds a strong kick of heat)
a couple dashes of hot pepper sauce
Penzey's Adobo Seasoning

**FYI on the tomatoes - you're going to want a firm tomato so you don't get tomato juice all over your grates.

I am probably one of the last people who should be educating the masses on how to grill veggies.  So go here.  And here.  Once these are grilled and given a little chance to cool down, start dicing your grilled and roasted vegetables.  For the corn, take a sharp knife and cut the kernels away from the cob.  (FYI - you can save the cobs to make the base for a corn chowder, if you are so inclined.  Which I will be.)

Chances are good that the corn will cut off in cute, little slabs.  You don't necessarily want this, so go ahead and dig in with your (clean) hands to break them up and incorporate them with the rest of the veggies.  This is also where you'll add some regular cherry tomatoes - which is optional ... I added them for texture and color.  And because I love tomatoes.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and whatever Mexican-esque seasoning you have in the house.  (Plain ol' cumin is a good choice, maybe some chili pepper.)  At this point, the salad would be good as-is, but if you're craving a little heat, we added some adobo sauce from the chipotle pepper can and a little bit of hot pepper sauce. 

We ate ours on the warm side, but this is going to taste fabulous after it's spent some time in the fridge and melding all the tastes together. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Detailed instructions ...

My husband has temporarily left me for a bunch of nerds at Gen Con in Indianapolis.  And God love my husband, he likely loves my cat more than I do at this point, but he seems to forget that the Cat and I were shacking up long before he and I started cohabiting.

Having said that, he has also trained the cat to NOT drink out of the toilet, so I only rolled my eyes a little bit when I found this note taped to the bathroom mirror last night.

Why yes, that's a picture of the Cat hanging in our bathroom ...

Bowls of fresh water are mentioned throughout.  And the last item on the list mandates that the cat needs skritches!  Every day!

Here's the object of my husband's affection.

"I'm stuck with you alone, again?"
Cat is not impressed.