Setteanime – Merlot, NV

  • Basic info: Setteanime Merlot, Marca Trevigiana IGT, Italy – No vintage
  • Type:Red
  • Price estimate: $21 (local wine store)
  • Look: Dark red and opaque
  • Smell: Wine. (Honestly, I could not distinguish a specific aroma here)
  • Taste: Little effervescence on the first sip. Lots of dark fruit – some grape and plum notes. Light minerality, especially on the finish. Medium finish.
  • Conclusions: This is a good drinking wine. It isn’t one that is super memorable, but the wine is smooth, clean and balanced. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to enjoy, which is pretty much a great weeknight wine.
  • Other notes: When we talked with the rep for this winery at our local wine store, he mentioned that they don’t do specific vintages because the wine is crafted to drink young – within the year it is released. I’m still not certain why that would negate having a vintage on the bottle, but I’m sure it has to do with flexibility for blending or something like that. We’ve had the sparkling wines from this producer before and I love those.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from the wine store notes, “Ruby red with hints of garnet this wine has a wonderful bouquet of blackberry and black current. It is elegant yet velvety smooth with notes of natural softness. On the palate it has a youthful taste of fruit in bloom.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.


Vegetables & Grits

I find grits a little weird. Logically I know they are pretty similar to polenta, but there is something about how I’ve had them in the past that makes me pull out something else from the pantry when cooking. Doesn’t matter what, just not usually the grits. Bob, on the other hand, loves grits. He would love it if I made them on a regular basis, but he also knows he married a Jersey girl, so that isn’t happening.

But … every now and then I make them. I’ve made them with breakfast food and just with cheese per Bob’s request. I figured I earned the right to make them the way I wanted – with vegetables (or as Bob calls it – with food his food eats).

Vegetables & Grits:

  • 1/2 cup grits, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons grated hard cheese (pecorino)
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 scallions – white and light green parts separated from dark green part
  • 2 oz. snow peas (this is an estimate – it was a very full handful)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • olive oil for pan
  • salt and pepper

In a medium pot bring grits, 2 cups vegetable broth and a pinch of salt to a boil. (I was using regular grits so the cooking time was longer than some other versions. Reduce heat to low/simmer and cook, covered, for about 40 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Stir well and return lid to pot and let it rest for about ten minutes. Stir in cheese and keep covered.

While grits cook, chop vegetables. Cut parsnip and carrot on the bias, chop scallions keeping light green and white parts separate from the dark green parts, trim snow peas and cut into bite sized pieces (usually in half) and chop or slice garlic and chop chives.

Heat a large pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add parsnip, carrot and white/light green scallions. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes. Mix cornstarch into cool or cold broth and mix well. Add garlic to pan, cook 1 minute more, then add broth and stir together. Cover. Reduce heat to low and cook about 6 minutes until carrots and parsnip are tender and broth has thickened. Add snow peas and cook, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Plate grit in a shallow bowl or on a plate with a rim. Top with vegetables and broth. Garnish with dark green scallions and chives. Serve hot.

Morgan – Gamay, 2016

  • Basic info: Domaine Calot – Morgan, Gamay – Beaujolais, Burgundy, France, 2016
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $28 (from Somm Select)
  • Look: Dark ruby, almost purple in the glass. Opaque with significant legs.
  • Smell: Fresh raspberry.
  • Taste: Clean. Dark berries with some stone. A little thin texture, but not unpleasant. Bob called black cherry and granite. Medium finish with a nice, fresh berry flavor.
  • Conclusions: Very nice wine. Easy to drink and probably the best Beaujolais I’ve had. (Full disclosure, I generally don’t like Beaujolais and often find them too earthy and “forest floor” for my taste.
  • Other notes: I got super excited when my “build a case” of wine came in so there might be a few selections from Somm Select in the next few posts until my other wine comes in. Between our local wine store, a few wineries and now a few online places to buy wine, I’ve got a nice range of wines to try. Each place offers something a little different, which I think is just fantastic. Both Bob and I really liked this wine. It had a good flavor and was very soft and pleasant to drink. It didn’t blow us away, but it was better than expected.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Somm Select, “Deep, nearly opaque ruby with slight hints of pink and purple at the rim. Aromatically, it’s a highly perfumed mix of wild red and black berries, cherry, cranberry, along with woodsy notes of underbrush, rose petals and crushed granite.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.


Trail Mix

I’m not sure why but lately I’ve been eating my lunch at 10:30 in the morning. This, of course, leaves me with no lunch and really, really hungry by dinner. I’ve tried some granola bars or other snacks to keep the hunger at bay so I can eat lunch at lunch, but they just don’t work great. I use to keep bags of tail mix in my drawer at work, but then I end up eating half the bag which I don’t mind, but it’s not the best option, so I decided to make my own trail mix and portion it out so I just have a snack and not a meal.

When I did some reading on this, a quarter cup is considered one serving. I looked at my measuring cup and realized that was not going to work. It’s the granola bar problem – one “serving” isn’t enough to keep me until lunch and it barely touches the hunger pangs.  I decided to go for half a cup. More than one serving, but still small enough to count as a snack.

We have a few new grocery stores here and they all have good bulk sections, so early Sunday morning I headed to the closest one and kept my fingers crossed that it wasn’t crowded. I picked up a good amount of nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Once home I ended up making two different versions of the trail mix.

IMG_20180311_132126.jpgVersion 1 (makes 11 1/2 cup portions):

  • 2 cups dry roasted cashews
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 cup goldfish pretzels (I had them on hand)
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup banana chip
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Version 2:

  • 1 cup dry roasted cashews
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 2/3 cup dried tropical fruit mix

This isn’t anything fancy but if it works its onto homemade granola next!

Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pineceszet – Riesling, 2015

  • Basic info: Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pineceszet, Riesling – Pannonhalma, Western Hungary, 2015
  • Type: white
  • Price estimate: $18 (from Somm Select)
  • Look: light to medium yellow, translucent with only some legs
  • Smell: Lovely aromas of lemon and honey
  • Taste: Apricot, citrus, maybe a little mango. White grape and a little mineral note in the middle. Finish is medium length with some honey, but not sweet.
  • Conclusions: Fantastic! Really beautiful wine. Easy to drink, but a lot of character and no two sips are exactly alike.
  • Other notes: When I first read the description of this, I decided I had to pick up a bottle or two. “Bone dry Riesling” was the basic description and I thought that would be great on a warm spring day. I expected a pretty good wine, but I didn’t expect one that would just totally blow me away. From the first sip to the last, I savored this wine – I kept trying to figure out why I liked it so much, but never came to a firm conclusion. Bob thought it was just as good – amazingly well crafted and a lot of interest. I was so glad I picked up two bottles of this and slightly sad that I didn’t get more.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Somm Select: “Pale straw-colored with green highlights at the rim, with aromas of kaffir lime, white peach, green apple, white flowers, exotic spice, wet stones, and a hint of white mushroom. Medium bodied and textured . . . delivers great freshness and mineralogy.” 13.1% alcohol by volume.


Whipped Cream Cake with Caramel Buttercream

It has been a little while since I spent a day playing in the kitchen and baking. I’ve done some cooking, although not much really interesting lately, but I decided that with the latest cool snap it was time to crank up the oven and bake an actual cake.

PIMG_20180304_150921.jpgrobably anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s remembers the orange Betty Crocker cookbook. I think every house had one and unlike a lot of cookbooks today that are specific to one type of food (grilling, vegetarian, sauces, desserts) this one has just about everything you can think of in it. It definitely reflects the times when you read through some of the recipes, but for desserts, for cakes, I love this cookbook. I found a copy at a used bookstore in California when I lived there (I think for a dollar since it was pretty beat up on the outside) and snagged it. While I don’t go to it often for meals, I definitely go to it for baking ideas. Classics have a place.

The cake came straight from the cookbook and I actually followed the recipe. For the icing, however, I just went with the basic buttercream with the caramel sauce I made a month or so ago that was languishing in the fridge. The result – a cake Bob called “excellent” and one of my “best efforts.” Given that he generally likes what I bake, I’m taking that as a high compliment.


  • 1.5 cups whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • .5 teaspoon salt

Heat over to 350. Grease and flour pans (I used two 9 inch cake pans)

Beat cream until stiff. In separate bowl, beat eggs and vanilla until thick and lemon colored. Fold eggs into whipped cream. Stir together remaining ingredients and gently fold into egg/cream mixture. Fold until well combined.

Divide into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before icing.


  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • .5 cups caramel sauce
  • confectioners sugar to taste (about 1-1.5 cups)

Beat butter until light and airy. Add caramel sauce and mix well. Slowly incorporate confectioners sugar until the icing comes together and no longer has a distinct butter taste.


Hauts de Meynac, Bordeaux Blend – 2015

  • Basic info: Hauts de Maynac, Bordeaux Blend, Bordeaux, France – 2015
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: unknown (this was a gift)
  • Look: Dark. Opaque red with a touch of dark purple
  • Smell: Wine (seriously) with a tiny bit of cherry
  • Taste: Earth, oak, sour cherry. More acid than I thought it would have given the color. Medium finish with a lot of oak.
  • Conclusions: With food, this was fine. Without food, Bob had to finish my glass. It was ok and I can tell my tastes are changing because two years ago I would not have been able to get past the first sip. This is what I *think* Bordeaux is supposed to taste like, but it isn’t my preferred style.
  • Other notes: I know Bordeaux wines are some of the best wines in the world, but I just can’t get past the earth and tree bark taste that so many of them have. I started drinking red wine years ago, but stopped because almost everything I found was huge, earthy, oaky wines. To me, dirt and tree bark are not flavors I want in my wine. A touch of them, sure, a lot – not so much. This probably makes me unsophisticated in the world of wine, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Give me a good Pinot Noir or Zinfandel any day.
  • From the bottle: “The vintage has a garnet, clear and brilliant robe, with a fresh fruit nose accompanied by black fruit aromas and a subtle round mouth.” 13% alcohol by volume.


Couscous Stuffed Peppers

Every now and then I come up with something that just works. It isn’t often, but sometimes I do. This was one of them.

At the farmers’ market I found these incredible yellow peppers and some heirloom tomatoes. The garden has given me kale and basil, so I figured I could make up something with all of those. Bob isn’t a huge fan of peppers, but the yellow and orange ones he can do, so I thought he’d eat the filling and leave most of the pepper, but he ate the whole thing. The peppers were incredibly sweet and the filling had a deep flavor that was great on it’s own, but complimented the peppers so well.

Keep in mind that this was something I threw together and all quantities are estimations.


  • 2 large peppers
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese (or other hard grating cheese), divided in half
  • 4 kale leaves
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Peppers: Cut the top of the peppers off and remove the seeds and veins of the pepper. Coat in olive oil and lightly salt. Roast in 350 degree oven while you prep the filling.

Pesto: combine basil, kale, lemon juice, garlic, almonds and a pinch of salt in food processor. Blitz until everything is finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup cheese and about 1/4 cup olive oil and blitz again. Adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside.

Couscous: Heat a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot add onions and tomatoes. Cook for about five minutes, pressing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon every few minutes to help them burst. (you could also chop the into small pieces then add them about half way through cooking the onion.) Season with salt and pepper. Add couscous and cook for two minutes more. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pesto and most of the remaining cheese.

Put it all together: Remove pepper from oven and carefully (they are hot) fill each pepper with couscous mixture. Sprinkle a little cheese on top and return to the oven for about twenty minutes. There should be enough filling left for a third pepper, but I took it for lunch the next day instead of making another pepper.

Bedrock Wine Company – Zinfandel, 2016

  • Basic info: Bedrock Wine Company, Esola Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County, CA – 2016.
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $35 (from winery)
  • Look: Ruby red wine that is opaque in most lights, but has some translucency in the sun. Slight plum tint at the rim.
  • Smell: Raspberry (ripe, ready to eat raspberry still on the vine) with a little cherry.
  • Taste: Mild spice, red fruit, anise/ licorice. Super smooth with a nice acidity and mineralogy. Wine changes from fruity to a deeper flavor and it has a chocolate note on the long finish.
  • Conclusions: Amazing wine. Bob and I savored each sip of this wine, and I think we sat on the back porch for over an hour savoring a single glass each. This is everything I love about zinfandels in a light style, although the alcohol content is still up there.
  • Other notes: After the first sip Bob and I just looked at each other. If I blind tasted this I would have called it a pinot noir right out of the bottle. A half hour later, as the wine sat and opened a little, it was pure zinfandel. I didn’t think I could like a zinfandel more than I liked the Old Vine Zinfandel from Bedrock, but this is just as good if not better. I’m kind of sad that we only have one bottle of this wine. It is a little more than we usually spend for a “just to open” bottle but since I found out I passed my Admin Certification test for NJ and a bunch of other states (same test, but each state has a different required score – I managed to score high enough that my score will count for any state that accepts the exam) we decided a little celebration was in order.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes. 14.4% alcohol by volume.