Genes & Food

You learn something new everyday is all too true.  I was reading this short, interesting article earlier today in National Geographic about how (some of) what we eat is somehow tied to us, DNA-wise.  As the articles states, ‘…at first glance, look like cousins.’  Glad they said that because for a second I had to think…does this truly mean we are what we eat?

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Ok, back on true topic.  From that flank steak & burger to a great chicken breast; then further down the line, think of that rice some stir-fried chicken might go on top of.  Baker’s yeast — bring on the bread — was on there!  And, wine grapes, not just ‘grape’ grapes made the list.

The article mentions how while all species are unique, from inanimate to breathing objects, we have many genes in common at the base.  Check out the article.  I just though it was great to learn about.  The kitchen and food can be much more/provide much more information than we think.  Talk about food for thought.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/07/125-explore/shared-genes

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Peach Picking

It’s an absolutely beautiful day at the end of August (high 70s, low humidity?!?!?) so my friend and I decided to go peach picking at a local farm.  This place is amazing.  You can head out there almost year round to pick seasonal fruit at your leisure.  It is dangerous in the sense that you pick and pick, maybe take sample to refuel, then pick and pick.  When you eventually get to the register you realize you have pounds and pounds of amazing fruit.  When you go to the grocery store you’re aware of what you get.  But, oh well.  This is FUN!  This place is called Homestead Farm and is located in Poolesville, MD, about 30-45 minutes outside of DC.

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You start by picking your box to collect your goods.  Why not go with the big one today?

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You can get a ride to the peach trees or you can walk.  It’s such an amazing day, we had to walk.  Once there, we saw there were about 5 rows of peach trees.  We had to go fairly deep in the rows to find trees that still had the goods.  Then, let the picking begin.

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As mentioned, you just go and go.  I worked to get some not-so-ripe ones so they’d last longer.  I was also thinking I can chop some and put them in the freezer.  My friend and I did sample a couple to keep us going.  We eventually decided to call it quits.

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We headed back to the main entrance to check out.  They also have a ton of other veggies.  I picked up some cherry tomatoes.  (Oh, the peaches were $1.79/lb).

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Per the Farm, apples are available for picking next week.  That will be some Labor Day weekend fun.  Bring on the fruit.

Whole Food(s) & Wine

Had to get that great Before & After thought in there again as much as possible.  So a couple weeks ago, I saw this amazing sign outside of the Whole Foods in Glover Park/Georgetown (DC) for their Wednesday night $5 for 5 wines and 5 food bites.  What, what, did I read that wrong?  Really, I know I just walked out of the gym, I’m tired, dehydrated, want some food (and likely wine) but what did that say?  But I did read it right!  Every Wednesday from 5:30-7pm they feature 5 wines (in two ounce pours) accompanied with a nice snack for five bucks!  Whoa!  Bring…it…on!  I am proud, yet almost ashamed, that I finally (only finally) made it down there this week.

And the night began.  So as the first timer, I walk in, see wine in the non-wine section (aka produce) and see people with glasses and paper.  Of course I have to ask who/what/when/why/where??  Deer in headlights.  Simple…go to the express lane, pay five bucks and get the (take home!) wine glass (that you can bring back, or any wine glass, for a dollar off…four dollars!) and summary/rundown sheet for the five tasting stations.  Money paid, game plan set.

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Station #1:  Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier.  Ok, every nose and palette is different.  It smelled like swiss cheese to me…yes, you read that right, but oh, oh, oh, down so smooth, with some berries then smoke, in a nice, clean sense.  The even better thing?  It was on sale from it’s normal X price (don’t what that is) to $10, then we got an extra buck off!  I CAN NOT wait to go to South Africa next year to taste this stuff on site!  This was served with breaded eggplant (couldn’t have it because of cheese…heard it was good).

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Station #2:  Another visit to Sugarloaf with the Sugarloaf Mountain Pinot Grigio.  They are just north of DC and offer a great escape for a day.  Crisp, citrus-y with a hint of peach.  A great summer white, cool and refreshing!  Retail price around $17 or so.  This was served with shrimp prepared in coconut oil.

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Station #3:  Take me to Italy for some Cesanese Lazio Volepetti.  Nice medium bodied-red.  I kept trying and trying, and trying and trying to nail down a nose or flavor and couldn’t do it.  It was a nice wine.  I drank it, I would drink it again, but I’m only writing home about it for my blog.  Apparently they couldn’t keep it in stock after the tasting.  I bought the bottles of #1, not for the price (score!) but for the wine/taste proper.  Each one to their own…more for me!  Side note, retail price for this one is around $12 or so.  This was served with salami, (hard parmesan), and french bread.

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Station #4:  Parlez vous francais?  Avez-vous un peu de vin?  Merci beacoup.  Yes, I speak French and I had French wine.  Rose, to be exact.  We tasted Aime Roquesante Rose.  If you want the site in French, check it out.  Pink is about the most I could say about it.  It was a dry vs. a sweet rose which was nice but I couldn’t equate it to anything, really, flavor-wise.  Would be good to have handy as a light wine for summer.  It did have a cool bottle, as in the non-uniform shape.  Overall, it was nothing to write home about again just good info to write (on) a blog about.  Retail price around $13 or so.  And as I note this, I must say again everybody has totally totally different wine taste, go please go try it!  We had roasted chicken and rice with this one.

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Station #5:  Pop! Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux.  Bubbly.  Great way for the tour end.  Nice fizz, nice light taste.  Retail price around $14 or so.  This was served with a little protein smoothie with huge chunks of delicious peaches.

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This was yet another great was to just learn about new wines and expand the palette.  And for five bucks?  Can’t go wrong.  Happy happy hour!  And again, I am giving my tasting notes.  Everybody has different tastes and can like different wines.  Go out to your local store(s) for tastings or buy a bottle to share with friends.  Have a tasting party.  You will only learn more by exploring and socializing.  Sip on, sip on.

Easy Wrap-Up Dinner

So I’m a bit late writing about a quick, easy wrap-up dinner I made for Sunday night.  It only took a few minutes but gave so many flavors that it was just perfect, and it was lactose free!  Served some wine with it and it made going back to work on Monday even worse.  Always think…make things easy…use this during the week if you want to.

I had a yellow squash that had been around for a few days that I needed to use before it went bad.  So I just sliced that and put it in a pan for a bit until it was cooked to the level I wanted.  A few minutes before it was done, I threw some grape tomatoes in the pan just to have them ‘pop.’  I’d been craving shrimp, so I pulled some of the frozen one out of the freezer earlier in the day.  I just pan seared those about half way through the cooking of the yellow squash.  Oh, for spices on these, I just picked one of my Penzey’s blends.

I looked in my fridge for what else to serve.  Had some grapefruit that I always love and they are highly recommended to eat before a meal (if you’re able to) — just having it on the plate was good enough for me.  Served a couple pieces of that.  And I can never turn olives down.  Threw some of the greek ones from Trader Joe’s on there.  Had also grabbed some bread earlier in the day and just did some olive oil, S&P for dipping.

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Next, the vino!  At the liquor store outside of Annapolis this time, Edgewater Liquors, the recommendation was La Mondianese Grignolino.  Was about $16… Very light, refreshing…will have to get more.

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Also had a little bit of Cline’s Cool Climate Pinot Noir.  This is one of my favorites.  Since it’s grown where the temps don’t rise a ton (I learned the specs once and don’t remember all the details), it has a different taste than the other Pinot.  It’s usually about $18-$20.

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Love finishing the week with a nice dinner before starting a new one.

 

Saturday Wine Tasting

Saturday is a great day.  It’s the weekend, (hopefully) you don’t have to work, and many wine shops have tastings.  It provides the opportunity to sample a new wine — you can explore new regions, new varietals, new everything.  You tempt your palette and might realize there is a whole world of grapes out there you never knew about!

Right down the street from me I visited Cork & Fork this weekend for their wonderful sampling.  We had five to enjoy.

#1 Kaltern Pinot Grigio.  *Note – this is the closest site I could find to link to for info because they don’t have their one.  Pretty sharp and heavier than most Pinot Grigio.  Very good.  You could serve this alone, with appetizers or chicken, shrimp or pasta for dinner.

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#2  Bebe Sparkling Rose (scroll to bottom).  While seeing it in the bottle I had my doubts about the sparkle.  But once it’s poured, wow.  Those bubbles were definitely there.  The first thing I tasted was strawberries.  After that ‘just’ berries.  Perfect for summer.  And, it’s in a great bottle that doesn’t have a traditional champagne cork, you just flip it off, so you can easily re-use the bottle for olive oil in the kitchen or something of the like.

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#3  Barnard Griffin 2013 Rose of Sangiovese.  Need to serve very cold.  Crisp, fresh with citrus notes.  This might be a bit too heavy to drink just alone.  Would definitely need something to pair it with, even if just some simple appetizers.

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#4 Les Allies Sauvignon Blanc.  *Note – no site available to provide more info.  This white was so light, its color was close to water vs. some other whites (Chardonnays) that are very dark yellow.  Crazy how clear it was.  All I can say about it is give me a peach, then a peach, then can you please hand me another peach.  Very nice!

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#5  Maestrale Barbera D’Alba.  Save the best for last — red.  Start with some currants then finish off with some black licorice.  Interesting how the flavors changed as it went down/through the palette.  Very, very nice red.

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Another great wine tasting to expand knowledge of wine, taste new varietals and see what else is out there to fill the wine rack.  I love going to these because I have my love of Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah and I have become so much more educated about what is out there with a simple sip.  All is takes is a walk down the street or a couple mile drive to expand the love of wine.  Sip on my friends, sip on.

Beer-scotti

Yes, oh, yes.  You read it right.  Why stick with the norm?  I love making biscotti, but when opportunity knocks, find the bottle opener!  I have my monthly supper club tomorrow and the theme is Texas.  I was debating what to make and after some deep thought I remembered that a beer I love is right out of that state.  The name — Shiner Bock.  So (I feel like Alton Brown here), time to get to the lab.  I’d made one beer-scotti before, but it’d been awhile, so I had to get the juices (aka beer) flowing.

I started by combining 12oz of Shiner (1 bottle) and about 1 cup of dried cranberries in a pot on the stove to have the cranberries get nice and drunk.  Oh, sorry, absorb all the liquid.  I kept it at medium heat for about 20 or so minutes.

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Once that was done, I let them cool for a bit (and sampled a few…very good!…keep away from children, unless you need them to fall asleep).

Next I was trying to decide what flavors to use as accents.  Do I want this to be savory or sweet?  I chose to do a bit of both.  I opted for rosemary and cinnamon.  So, here I go with all these ingredients, and of the the staples of my normal recipe…

Flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, salt, cinnamon, rosemary, egg yolk, vanilla, (more) Shiner, drunk cranberries, walnuts.

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Dough ready, make it into two logs, throw it into the over at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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When the first part is done, take it out and slice it.  I use a pizza cutter.  Makes it so easy.  Samples required at this point.  WOW!  WOW!   For the second baking, I just turn the oven off and throw it back in there. I don’t time it, I know it will work perfectly because I’m not picky on the crunchiness, softness, etc. of the biscotti.  If you are wondering, the recipe called for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.

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I am so excited to take this to supper club tomorrow.  So, to summarize…pass me another.  Make that a biscotti this time.

 

New All Around

Had some friends over for dinner the other night and there were new tastes all around the table, from cheese to salad to wine.

For pre-dinner, my friend was kind enough to bring non-cow milk cheese to make the lactose intolerant person happy.  One of them was a Honey Goat Gouda from Trader Joe’s.  I normally can’t stand goat cheese but love gouda.  This was totally on the good side.  I highly recommend it!  The other was a manchego from TJ’s that I’ve had before that is equally as delicious!  Great way to kick off the night.

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We had three wines throughout the evening, kicking off with a Virginia white.  The first was Rappahannock Cellar’s Viognier.  It was a nice local grape, pairing nicely with the appetizers.

For dinner I made a recipe I had been wanting to try for awhile — Citrus-Avocado Salad.  It was AMAZING!  For the tamari almonds it calls for, a friend gave me the great idea of making them vs. buying them to save money.  All you need to do is toss the almonds in some soy sauce, a couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and a pinch of sugar.  You bake them at 250 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Done!  For the blood oranges, sometimes they are tough to find.  I came across red oranges at one grocery store.  Otherwise I was going to use grapefruit or just regular oranges.

With this salad I served some pan seared (vs grilled because I live in an apartment and can’t have a BBQ) chicken breasts and quinoa.

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The wines we enjoyed with this included two reds.  One from Virgina — First Colony Cab from a winery in Monticello — very nice.  Again, I’m finding Cabs I like — something is happening to me.  The second red is one I discovered/was introduced to a few years back — Eleven.  It’s from Washington and the specific varietal was the 2008 La Ronde.

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Recap:  Great dinner.  Rave reviews around the table.  Now I just keep thinking about what the next meal will bring.  Cheers.

Fly Away With More MD Wines

And the fun continued with more Maryland wines.  This time I was fortunate to have them be only a block away with a tasting at Vino Volo (that’s where part of the title came from).  The mostly airport-known wine chain is expanding and Bethesda, MD (suburb of Washington, DC) was the first town to be fortunate enough to not require a boarding pass, standing in endless lines (unless they are super packed), taking your shoes off, putting your bags in plastic bins, having everything scanned and walking through the security gates.  So much better — you just get to enjoy wine right away!  You don’t drink away the pain.  You enjoy it just to enjoy it.

Every week they have a tasting, from well known vintners (tears were rolling down my cheeks in a good way when Silver Oak was there…) to medium size ones to local ones that are working to make a name for themselves.  After visiting MD wineries last weekend, I was able to taste wines from another one that is less than an hour north of here — Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard.  They sampled four varietals and all of them blew me away, white and red.

The first one sampled was the Pinot Grigio.  Had some nice fruity notes — pineapple, grapefruit.

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Next was a Viognier — crisp, sharp.  I can’t put a finger on the flavor, I just liked overall how powerful, yet subtle, it was for a white.  Another sip, please.IMG_1414

Now, on to the big business, reds!  That is my favorite color.  I didn’t know there was good reason for this when I was under 21.  The first was a blend…AMAZING.  Yes, bring me my wine!  This was the best wine of the night…Comus.  Five varietals packed a huge punch to give amazing flavors and tastes that surround your nose and mouth with endless wine happiness.

At this point as I write this, the great Tim McGraw song “Fly Away” comes into my mind because of how good wine is, those non-country lovers, just fly away with Vino Volo, and all of us, just love our wine!  Go pour yourself a glass if you don’t have one, or at least picture yourself with one.  Ok, back to grapes…

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Last but not least was one of my least favorite varietals that I will say, is totally growing on me.  Good things come with age, right?  Both wine and intelligence, perhaps?  Anyway, it was a Cab(ernet Sauvignon).  Very deep and complex.  The couple next to me was torn between this and the prior as to which was their favorite, but opted for the Cab.  Many people were split.  But as mentioned, when I find a Cab I enjoy, I love it and I could have had much more of this, so I was thrilled, Cab and MD?  Dang!!!

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So to wrap up, Maryland, you are setting a name for yourself!  Two weekends in a row, I am beyond impressed.  I am not a national reviewer or commentator but I haven’t normally been a fan of this area.  This is not a political comment in any way, shape of form, but I might start leaning a bit right…geographically, when I drink my wine.

Zuch-anoush and More Mediterranean Flair

More playing in the kitchen!  I had this enormous zucchini that my friend gave me from her garden that led me make a twist to one of my favorite dips.  When I can find Baba Ganoush without dairy (yogurt) because of my lactose intolerance I love it, but it can be hard.  So, I tend to make it at home.  But, it’s fun to make small changes to the recipe. Therefore, I have made it with zucchini vs. eggplant a few times.  The hardest part of all this is thinking ahead and roasting the zucchini a for a good 45 or so minutes.  You just cut the zucchini into big chunks, throw it on a cookie sheet and put it in oven at about 425 to roast it.

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When it’s done, you want to be sure to squeeze it to get rid of extra water.  After that, throw it in the food processor and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, S&P…and any other spices you might like.  This batch seemed to be missing something but it was still good!  I dipped carrots and crackers into it.

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I was in a Mediterranean mood that day and continued in the kitchen and made a Village salad.  I’d grabbed a great yellow (vs traditional red) tomato at the farmer’s market and added a cucumber that I had from my friend’s garden and some greek olives.  I had a red onion in my fridge but totally forget to put that in there.  I threw some other ingredients in the mix to both clear out my fridge and add some fun — celery and walnuts.  Sprinkled with a Penzey’s spice mix and olive oil.  Great, healthy, hearty meal!

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