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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Carrie's Wine List

For those of you who know me, you know that I love dry, red wine. But, like most people, I would go out for dinner, have a nice glass and then couldn't remember what kind it was or I would only remember half of the name (which apparently doesn't help you when you're trying to describe it to the store salesperson. They don't particularly like to play charades).

Anyway, though I love wine, I personally do not see a need to go out and purchase a bottle over $25. To me, it's not worth it (though I'm sure there are many wine connoisseurs that will whole-heartedly disagree with me..the essence, the aroma, the legs...blah..blah..blah). There are so many good wines out there within the $10-$25 per bottle range that I've been able to find quite a few that are noteworthy. So back to my story. About a year ago, I decided to enter the bottles of wine that I liked into the Notes section of my phone and have, on several occasions, had to send this list to a few of my friends. Since my Sangria recipe has been viewed a lot lately, I figured I'd share my list with you. Take it or leave it..completely up to you but, I have never had a headache after drinking any of these wines the next morning. 

Most of these wines I have found at a gourmet liquor store called Gary's Wine and Marketplace in NJ; however, if you're not from Northern NJ, you can certainly search for them online to locate the nearest store that carries them in your area. Below are the names and local NJ prices(in no particular order but I will star my favorites!). Now, this isn't to say that this is everything I like because I have had many other wines prior to this list that were also very good, but you know the age-memory thing isn't what it used to be so let's just agree to say this is a constant work in progress. I have only one bad wine on my list, which is Terrazas Malbec (taste like iron..yuk!) and that is only because after many months of keeping this list,  I never wrote the bad ones down until one day while looking for the "next best thing" I bought this wine again, took one sip and the memories came flooding back (and at $16/bottle my kitchen sink drain thanked me!). 

*Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec 2008 (Argentina) $13.99
The Wine Spectator has called Bodega Norton one of the top 20 world wide value oriented wineries Only three wineries were selected from Argentina and Bodega Norton was listed number one.

La Posta Malbec 2008 (Argentina)  $13.98
Wine Spectator and International Wine Cellar  90 Points

Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2007 (Argentina) $15.95

Alamos Malbec 2010 (Argentina) $7.98

*Altos de la Hoya (Argentina) $9.99
International Wine Cellar  90 Points

Vina Alicia Malbec Paso de Piedra 2007 (Argentina) $15.99

Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) $9.99

Castelli Martinozzi Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) $14.95

*Palazzo Della Torre Allegrini Veronese (Veneto, Italy) $14.99
Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate 90 Points

Antinori Villa Toscana  (Tuscany, Italy) $16.99
Wine spectator 88 Points

Tommasi 2008 Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo Maremma Toscana (Tuscany, Italy) $12.99
Wine spectator 91 Points

*Argiano N.C (Non Confunditur) 2008 (Tuscany, Italy) $16.99
Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate 88+ Points. The final blend is made with 40% cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah.

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008 (Abruzzi, Italy) $11.99
Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate 88+ Points40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 20% Syrah.

Galil Mountain Yiron 2008 (Galilee, Israel-Kosher) $23.99
This wine is a blend of 54 %Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Merlot.

Franciscan Merlot 2005 (Napa Valley, CA) $16.99

Radius Cabernet 2008 (Washington State, USA) $8.99

Ok, now here is one if you want to really splurge or if you see it on a wine list while eating out at your favorite restaurant.

Luccarelli Pazzia Primitivo Di Manduria Old Vines 2007 $29.99


Friday, June 17, 2011

Cheeseburger "Sliders"

To me, I just call them mini-hamburgers. But in today's day and age, they are infamously known as "Sliders". Growing up, the only real mini-burger we heard of was at White Castle and it took a good 45 minutes to get to the closest one from where I lived. Now, they have a whole food category all on their own. In fact, when searching on, there are 78 listed different kinds of them on their site alone...amazing! So I did a little bit of research to find out who REALLY invented the slider and this is what I found out. 
In the 1940s, Walter Anderson formed White CastleHe wanted his burgers to be as inexpensive as possible so he made them small and came up with his own cooking process (that still exists in the business today). White Castle sells its own original burgers under the trademark Slyders, these will always be known as the first and the best.

So, there you have it. Mine aren't that special. Just some ground beef, cheese, ketchup and Kosher Dill Sandwich Pickles; however, I only use Kings Hawaiian Sweet Rolls when I make mine. I stumbled upon them by accident several years ago after coming home from a weekend in MA and visiting Fall River for some Chorizo and Portuguese Sweet Bread. We brought some bread home and it was about to get stale so I decided to put hamburgers on it. It was so good and added a little sweetness; which a regular roll doesn't have. Then I found these Kings Hawaiian rolls at the supermarket and decided to try them out and it was a close match. 

We don't have this meal often (as you can see by my over 50+ recipes in the last month and not one burger has been had for dinner) but every now and then, my kids crave some good 'ole burgers and fries. We're not a "fast-food" type of family. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten at one in the last few years. Though, when Wendy's came out with their Sea Salt French Fries, my youngest was all gung-ho and wanted to try them. But then, once she had them, she said "it was not a big deal" and hasn't asked to go back since. Who needs Wendy's when you can make them at home yourself in minutes!

Cheeseburger "Sliders"
1 lb. Ground Beef
1-Package of 12 Kings Hawaiian Rolls
6 Slices American Cheese

Form 12 mini-hamburger patties and grill approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Add 1/2 slice cheese to each burger until it is melted and put on roll. Top burger with your favorite condiments. 


Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Leftover" Wasabi Chicken Pot Pie

Well if you haven't already noticed, I made a slight adjustment to this blog. I finally sat down to figure out how to add categories so that if you're looking for a particular menu item, such as Sides or Vegetables, you can just click on the title and it will bring up all of the blog posts containing what you're looking for. I told you I was new at this blogging thing and I'll figure it all out eventually. I hope this helps!

And now for dinner...

Remember when I made the Tarragon and Lemon Roasted Chicken earlier this week? I had some leftover chicken from that meal. I purposely bought a roaster large enough so that I would have extra especially for this recipe. When shopping I found a new item I had never seen before called Golds Wasabi Sauce. It has the consistency of a horseradish sauce and it wasn't pure wasabi (that would have made this dish extremely hot!) but I figured I'd try it out and if nothing else, it might taste good with a turkey sandwich. I normally use Dijon mustard in this recipe and if you can't find this sauce, by all means use that instead. It wasn't spicy, as you might think, but gave it a little something extra. This dish is so quick to put together because everything is already cooked. In the past, I've even bought the frozen mixed vegetables to make it even easier. You can add or substitute any of these vegetables for ones that you may have or prefer. I even buy the pre-packaged refrigerated pie crust dough, but as you'll see below, I recommend par-baking the bottom shell before adding the filling so that the dough isn't raw from soaking up the juices. 

Wasabi Chicken Pot Pie
2-9” Ready to Bake Refrigerated Pie Crusts
2 Cups Cooked Chicken Breast, chopped
1 Cup Cooked Carrots, sliced
1 Cup Cooked Corn
2 Scallions, chopped
½ Cup Peas
2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 Tbsp. Golds® Wasabi Sauce or 2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
2 Tbsp. Cold Water

Line pie dish with one of the pie crusts, place entire dish on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. (You'll want to do this in case the filling bubbles over, so it won't cause a total mess in the bottom of your oven!) Remove from oven.

This is how the filling
should look prior to
adding the top crust.
In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat oil and add chicken, carrots, corn, scallions, and peas. Sauté for 5 minutes until all ingredients are heated through. Add chicken broth and wasabi sauce. In a small cup, mix together the cornstarch and cold water and add to the chicken and vegetable mixture. Stir until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add entire mixture to the par-baked pie crust and top with remaining uncooked pie crust. Bake for another 35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. 
Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serves 6.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

St. Patty's Day in June? Dijon Encrusted Corned Beef, Crown Royal Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Irish Soda Bread

I know what you're thinking. Who eats Corned Beef when it's not St. Patrick's Day? Well,  this year when purchasing my Corned Beef for our annual dinner on March 17th, I had forgotten that I had already bought one a week prior and wound up with two. So I froze one to use at a later date. I'm not a huge fan of the "boiled meal" and don't like cabbage, so a few years ago, I came up with this variation of the old standard and because it is one of my picky eaters favorite meals, we do tend to have it several times a year. 

Dijon Encrusted Corned Beef
5-6 lb. Corned Beef Brisket
¼ Cup Grey Poupon® Dijon Mustard

Rinse corned beef off and place fat side up in a large pot of water; making sure to completely cover the meat. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours; adding water as needed to cover the top of the brisket. Remove meat from the water, trim any visible fat and place fat side up in a baking dish. Add Dijon mustard to the top of the meat and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until the mustard is browned. Let cool 5-10 minutes, and then slice diagonally across the grain. 

I get tired of eating regular, plain old mashed potatoes. And..since I only had one potato in the house and several sweet potatoes, I figured I'd make mashed sweet potatoes instead. I have only made mashed sweet potatoes a few times but the recipe I use is more of a casserole style with heavy cream and pecans that I make for Thanksgiving and I wanted something a little less fattening. So I went searching for a new recipe online and came across one for Bourbon Sweet Potatoes; which coincidentally also had a ton of fattening ingredients in it. Then I decided that if Bourbon goes well with them, why not Crown Royal (and we always have Crown Royal!). So I tweaked the recipe I found, reducing the amount of butter, using 2% milk (which is a staple in this house over whole milk), and threw in some brown sugar and cinnamon for good measure. I love when my little kitchen experiments come together and they taste good. 

Crown Royal Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 ½ lbs. Fresh Sweet Potatoes
3 Tbsp. Crown Royal Whiskey
2 Tbsp. Butter                                 
¼ Cup 2% Milk
2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Kosher Salt

Put cut potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender with a fork. Drain water. Add Crown Royal, butter, milk, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Blend together with an electric mixer until mixture is creamy. Serves 4.

Well, I didn't actually make the Irish Soda Bread on this day, but I have made it often enough that I DO have the correct measurements for everything. I just thought it might make a great addition to share with this meal in case anyone wanted to try it out for themselves. Growing up, I never used to like this bread. It always seemed dry whenever I had it out.  But about 20 years ago, when I was still working in the food business, our pastry chef made this Irish Soda Bread that was out of this world! It is so moist and I probably put on about 5 pounds the week of St. Patrick's Day every year because of it. I make these loaves of bread, slice them thick but yet thin enough to fit in my toaster, toast them until they're golden brown and add salted butter. (Not the healthiest breakfast but I do only make this once a year!). I did make some slight changes to the original recipe since I don't particularly like a lot of raisins or caraway seeds, but if you like them simply add another 1/2 Cup Raisins and 1 1/2 tsp. Caraway Seeds to this recipe. 

Irish Soda Bread
7 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Raisins
1 Stick Salted Butter, softened
2 1/2 Cups Low Fat Buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients using only 6 cups of the flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the raisins and buttermilk. Mix with your hands until well incorporated and turn onto a lightly floured board; gradually using the remaining 1 cup of flour. Kneed 10-12 times. (The dough shouldn't be too sticky. If it is, gradually add a little more flour as needed). Split into 2 round loaves and cut a deep X into the top. Lightly spray a sheet pan with cooking spray and place the loaves. Bake at 350°F for approximately 50 minutes or until when you stick a knife in the center, it comes out clean. 


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Veggie Facts

Ok. Day 3 of my Soup Diet has commenced. I'm a little tired and I have a headache but other than that I feel pretty good. I guess I have to drink more water. Today I only get to eat Fruits, Vegetables and of course, the Soup. So I figured I'd educate you on some vegetable facts. 

Did you know?

1. Carrots are not always orange. They can also be found in purple, white, red or yellow. Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially. 

2. The wild form of celery is known as smallage. It has a bitter taste, and the stalks are more stringy than cultivated celery. Smallage was used in ancient times as a medicine, and the Romans used it as a seasoning. It was in the 17th and 18th centuries that celery was developed by breeding the bitterness out of smallage. 

3. Parsnips are sweetest after a frost. In Europe, they were used to sweeten jams and cakes before sugar became widely available. 

4. According to the USDA, each American eats 140 pounds of potatoes a year. This fact was astonishing. Just think about it. Each bag of potatoes you get at the store is generally a 5lb. bag. EACH person eats 28 of those bags a year(that's over 2 bags per month)! I guess it's no wonder. Potatoes are fat free, saturated fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, are high in vitamin C and a good source of potassium.

5. Asparagus folklore credits these delicious green spears with everything from curing toothaches to being a reproductive tonic! 

6. The average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows.  There is one piece of silk for each kernel.

7. Green peas, also called Sweet or English peas, grow on vines which are often supported by a pole. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Gregor Mendel, the “Father of Genetics” formulated his theories while studying peas. 

8. Spinach was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago in Iran.  By 1806, it had become a popular vegetable in America and in the 1920’s the U.S. pushed spinach commercially, with the Popeye the Sailorman cartoon becoming a great advocate for spinach consumption.  

9. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade or potato family, which also includes tomatoes and hot peppers. Many useful medicines are derived from this family. Eggplants can be purple, green, white or striped, pear-shaped or cylindrical and the size of a golf ball to a football. They are often used as a meat substitute. 

10. Jalapeno Peppers are a variety of chili peppers and can be hot. If the heat is too much, dairy products like milk and yogurt can help put that fire out. 

11. The flower of a zucchini plant is also edible. 

12. Broccoli is worth 12 points when playing Scrabble. 

13. Brussel Sprouts aren’t really baby cabbages, but they are in the same plant family. 

14. Not all cauliflower is white. Try purple and orange cauliflower too. 

15. Sweet Potatoes: These edible roots are usually labeled either sweet potatoes or yams but, unlike potatoes, they are members of the morning glory family. Calling these veggies yams is a misnomer. True yams are native to Africa and are from a different botanical group. 

And now for some statistics...

For more information, visit the Fruits and Veggies More Matters website

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Soup Diet

Well all of this cooking (and taste testing!) has caused me to add on some unwanted extra pounds. I've decided to try the Sacred Heart Diet, which claims that you can lose between 10-17 pounds in 7 days and since I'm approaching a vacation in the next few months, I figured I'd give it a try (it's either that or go out and buy some new formal dresses).  This is a fad diet that has been around for several years and originally stated that someone from the cardiology department at Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital created it to give to their heart patients to help lose weight prior to surgery. Now, although I know this is an Urban Myth, if you look at what you have to eat, it's worth a try. What could be wrong with eating vegetable soup, fruits and vegetables?

Today, I'm on Day 2.  I started off my morning with celery sticks; such a treat at 8am (can you hear the sarcasm?). Mainly because after I made the soup, my husband and daughter also decided to do this diet with me, and that's all of the vegetables I had left in the house until I was able to go to the grocery store. I don't think it would have been that bad but I had a nagging headache. I'm not sure if it was from the lack of solid food or from my youngest daughter fighting me with every ounce of her being that she was tired and didn't want to go to school this morning.  I can usually have a small, light breakfast and no lunch, but I do like to have a normal dinner and am looking forward to Day 5('s what's for dinner!).  After I went shopping, I then came home to make more soup and some of that Roasted Cauliflower. Since I can't have any oil, I just used a little water to coat the pan while in the oven so the cauliflower didn't get burned. 

7 Day Soup Diet

Day 1 Any fruit (except bananas). Cantaloupes and watermelon are lower in calories than most other fruits. Eat only soup and fruit today.

Day 2 All vegetables. Eat until you are full with fresh raw, cooked or canned veggies. Try to eat green leafy veggies and stay away from dry beans, peas or corn. Eat the soup. At dinner time, you can have a baked potato with butter. Don't eat any fruit today.

Day 3 Eat all the soup, fruit and veggies you want. Do not have a baked potato.

Day 4 Bananas and skim milk. Eat at least 3 bananas and drink as much skim milk as you can today, along with the soup.

Day 5 Beef and tomatoes. You may have 10 to 20 ounces of beef and a can of tomatoes, or as many as 6 tomatoes today. Eat the soup at least once today.

Day 6 Beef and veggies. Eat to your heart’s content of the beef and veggies today. You can even have 2-3 steaks if you'd like with green leafy veggies but no baked potato. Be sure to eat the soup at least once today.

Day 7 Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice and veggies, until full (and eat the soup). You can add cooked veggies to your rice if you wish.

Drinks Allowed
  • Unsweetened juices
  • Tea (also herbal)
  • Coffee
  • Cranberry juice
  • Skim milk
  • Lots of water

Original Soup Recipe
  • 1 or 2 cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 3 plus large green onions
  • 1 large can of beef broth (no fat)
  • 1 pkg. Lipton Soup mix (chicken noodle)
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 2 cans green beans
  • 2 lbs. Carrots
  • 2 Green Peppers
Season with salt, pepper curry, parsley, if desired, or bouillon, hot or Worcestershire sauce. Cut veggies in small to medium pieces. Cover with water. Boil fast for 10 minutes. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. The soup can be eaten at any time.

Here is my version of the soup recipe. I found it to be too salty the original way so I don't add any extra salt, bouillon or Worcestershire. I also found that the soup tastes much better when you use fresh vegetables instead of frozen or canned. 

1/2 Can Stewed Tomatoes, chopped
4 Scallions, chopped
32oz. Low Sodium Beef Broth
1 Package Lipton Chicken Noodle Dry Soup Mix
12 Cups Water
6 Stalks Celery, chopped
1/2 lb. Fresh Green Beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 lb. Carrots, chopped

The same instructions apply as above. 

I'm definitely craving starch by the end of the 2nd day and can't wait for my baked potato for dinner. Now since it only states "baked potato, I'm opting for a baked sweet potato with cinnamon butter instead. My daughter and I love them and since my youngest isn't on this regimen, I think I'll just make her some grilled cheese to go with the soup. I just hope I can stick this out for the week because I have an entire wardrobe waiting patiently for me in the closet. ;)

For more information about the diet, visit the website

Friday, June 3, 2011

Baby Shower Fruit Punch

For those of you who know my warped sense of humor, you'll appreciate this. If you don't, it's all meant in fun. I was invited to a luncheon today for a small baby shower. When I asked what I could bring, they already had all of the food items covered so I offered to bring something to drink. I decided to make a fruit punch and added a little twist. Now look closely at the ice cubes. Yes, they are little "babies" floating in the punch as well as pink pacifiers (we know she is going to have a girl). The funniest part about this, besides them actually floating around in all of our cups, was when I was making the ice cubes at home. My husband came home late the night before and I hadn't had a chance to tell him about what my newest experiment was in the kitchen. He went into the freezer to grab some ice cubes for his drink and was shocked to find these little "babies" with their arms sticking out of the ice in our freezer.  Anyway, they were a big hit! I purchased the plastic babies and pacifiers from a local party store but they also had plastic diaper pins, duckies, umbrellas, etc. Whatever you decide to use, make sure that you gently soak them in hot soapy water, rinse and dry well before making the ice cubes.

Fruit Punch
2-12oz. Cans Frozen Concentrate Fruit Punch
1-2 Liter 7-Up or Sprite
4 Cans Cold Water
2 Cups Orange Juice
1 Container Rainbow Sherbet
1 Orange, cut in half then sliced in 1/4" slices

In a punch bowl, mix together the fruit punch, soda, water and orange juice. Just before serving, add the sherbet, orange slices and frozen ice cubes.