Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cheese. Glorious cheese!

I love cheese.

It's usually the first thing I grab when I get home from work to curb my hunger until dinner is ready. A little piece of cheese will definitely quiet my grumbly tummy until we can sit down and eat. Plus it tastes fab with the glass of wine I'm drinking. Which is the second thing I grab after getting home.

So I have to tell you about all the awesome cheese at BevMo! We included a bunch of it in the photos we took for the upcoming BevMo! newsletter. We had Couronne Brie, Manchego, Black Creek Cheddar, Dry Jack, Rosenborg Blue, Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar, Blue Stilton, Montchevre Garlic Herb Wedge, Fromage D'Affinois, Jarlsberg, Havarti......plus prosciutto, olives, crackers, bread sticks, nuts. Aaaaaaaah! I was in snack heaven. 

We got huge wheels of cheese for the shoot from Marin Cheese Company. This isn't how they sell it at BevMo, it's portioned out. Because most people don't need a wheel of Manchega, It was seriously the size of a small tire!

So the next time you're in BevMo check out the cheese case. I think you'll be quite pleased with the selection!






What's your favorite cheese?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pine Ridge Vineyards. Cabernet heaven.

Last Saturday we went to Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa. I had won an awesome prize at the Napa Chamber Golf Tournament by somehow, miraculously, winning the most accurate drive contest in our group. HA! I got my ball closest to the string - and wasn't even really trying. My goal is usually to just make contact with the ball and not completely humiliate myself. So winning something was a bit shocking. My prize was a Cabernet tasting for two and two bottles of amazing Cabernet from Pine Ridge. Awe-some!

We asked our nice friend Blair if Elli could play with her daughter for the day so we could go to the store for a bit then go wine tasting without Elli being completely bored out of her mind. We spent the morning at Pollin's. I helped organize fabrics and Don caught up on paperwork. Then we took an hour to go over to Pine Ridge. We used to be a wine club member, so it was really nice to be back tasting their amazing wine.

We got to taste five lip-smacking good reds.


And they gave us two bottles of the Napa Valley Cab which we put in the cellar. We'll keep them there for a year or so then open them up. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave the '06 Cab  89PTS. Not bad! The 2007 Charmstone was also really good and a little more affordable. Robert Parker gave this one 90PTS. Nice.

If you would like to buy some, you can buy it here on the Pine Ridge website. Most of their wines are not in retail stores.You may occasionally see some of the Cabs at restaurants, but it's really limited distribution and based on the retail prices - probably a little $$$.

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon '06

So while we are waiting for our Cab to age. We opened this baby from Chateau St. Jean because we noticed that it was a 2000 Merlot and should be opened. I love when that happens. Don decanted the wine before I had a chance to snap a picture. So here's the empty bottle. It tasted goooood. It was smooth and full-bodied almost like a cab.

Chateau St. Jean 2000 Reserve Merlot
We used to be members at both of these wineries. We joined them when we first moved here - which was 5 years ago (7/19/05). Things were different then. We had no idea the roller coaster we were about to ride - and are still riding, five years later. Neither of us ever imagined we would own an upholstery shop in Napa. Never.

Ever.

We don't regret our decision. We just wish that things could have gone a little differently, that's all.

Life is funny. Not ha ha funny. More like strange funny. You know what I mean.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken and Orzo Greek Salad. A keeper!

On Monday I mentioned that I tried some new recipes last week. The first was Mustard Pork Tenderloin (Good). The second was Thai Style Beef Salad (OK) and the third was Chicken and Orzo Greek Salad (Great!).

The Thai salad was a bust. It didn't have any flavor. We ended up drowning it in Trader Joes' Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette Dressing. Which helped it tremendously and made it taste really good. But that wasn't the intended recipe. I doubt we'll ever make it again. So we're going to move on.

Thai-Style Beef Salad with Angel-Hair Pasta
The recipe that Don and I liked a lot was the Chicken and Orzo Greek Salad. The flavors were great - light, fresh and summery tasting. It was perfect for dinner, and the leftovers made an awesome lunch. Elli wasn't as thrilled with this as Don and I were. But she's a trooper. She ate it anyway, even though she's not crazy about tomatoes and olives, so she picked through it.

Shrimp (or Chicken) Orzo Greek Salad
I substituted chicken for shrimp. I used half the lemon for the dressing and the other half to marinate the chicken. I put the chicken in a ziplock added juice from half a lemon, some oregano, salt and pepper and let it sit for about an hour. I also used more Orzo than the recipe called for (because I wanted left overs) and used my good tasting olive oil for the dressing. I'm going to need some more "good" olive oil soon. Anyone want to send me some? And if you read my tip from Monday you'll want to remember to incorporate the lemon and olive oil very slowly. (drip, drip, drip)

I added some of the variations they suggested. Cucumbers and cherry tomatoes made the salad complete.

The suggested wine for this dish is Pinot Blanc. Look for one that has subtle fruitiness and fresh herbal accents. 

Click on the image to read the recipe.
We're definitely making this one again. Don even told me yesterday, "Hey, that pasta salad thing you made last week was pretty good. It was good for lunch." Don rarely comments on the food. So that means it was good. Yeah! Two points for me.



Monday, July 26, 2010

Three new recipes. One great. One good. And one ok.

So, since this blog is called "What's Cooking?" I figured I should share some food stuff every once in a while.

Last week I was really stressed. I was at a photo shoot for three days and Don has some "stuff" going on at the store that has my stomach in knots. So what do I do when all this is happening? I cook. It takes my mind off my troubles. It gets me focused on something other than all my worries - for a little while anyway. And we get to eat some good chow! (Hopefully.)

I was in the mood for salads that could be served as an entree. A one dish kind of meal. So, I opened this cookbook and started looking at all the pretty pictures. I picked out three totally different salads, made my shopping list, went to the store, and was set for the week. It really was as easy as that.

Recipe #1  is Pork with Mustard Lime Vinaigrette, served with a Napa Valley Merlot.

Now in hindsight, I don't really recommend trying to cook meals at home after you've been at a photo shoot all day and are EXHAUSTED. Perhaps frozen pizza or burritos from High Tech Burrito would have been a better choice. But oh no, I don't do anything the easy way. That's too sensible and normal.

Me? I walk in the house and in a complete flurry whip out dinner. And whip the kitchen into a fricken disaster zone. Which I have to clean up, because no one else wants to enter the danger zone.

Anyhoo, on to the first recipe. It was easy and pretty good. It's the "good" recipe that is in the title. The main meat is pork tenderloin, but it would work well with chicken or beef. If you like pork tenderloin you are in luck. Because you know how they always sell you two tenderloins in the package? We never eat two at one meal. So I always freeze the other. Well now you can grill both and SAVE the second one for this salad. It's genius my friend. Like two meals in one!

Pork With Mustard Lime Vinaigrette Recipe (Click photo to read recipe.)
The key to the salad dressing is this. Use really good olive oil. Not the kind you cook with. Something light and tasty. And the second thing is to incorporate the oil VERY, VERY slowly into the lime juice. I mean SLOWWWWWWWWLY. Like the smallest drops and drizzles. It will taste much, much better if the oil and lime juice can incorporate slowwwwly. TRUST me on this. I learned this at cooking school. (So I'm a pro now.) You do not want to make the chef wince. I saw this happen and it's NOT pretty.

I tossed the pork and dressing with mixed greens. It doesn't say that in the recipe. But it's a salad. Hellloooo?

So there you go. Oh, and bonus, it tastes great the next day as a light lunch. Woo hoo.

So remember earlier I mentioned there are two tenderloins in most packages? Here's what you do. Grill both. Two different seasonings. But you can handle it. And they both taste different. So it won't feel like you're having leftovers. Because you aren't!

Night #1 - Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Night #2 - Pork Tenderloin Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Here's the recipe for the first night. If any of you happen to have the FCA China Cookbook it's on page 188. If not, here you go.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, or powdered
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup oil

Mix all of this in a Ziplock. Add 1 or 2 tenderloins. Marinate all day, or overnight. Cook on hot grill 16 minutes. Baste and turn every 4 minutes. Take off grill. Let sit covered in foil 5 minutes. Slice in rounds. Serve with rice and a grilled veggie. The meat should be a teeny bit pink.


For the second tenderloin, smother it in Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and grill 16 minutes. Turning every 4 minutes. Refrigerate once cool for the next nights salad.

There you go. Let me know if you try it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

There's a camper in my driveway

Don and I came home last Friday night to find a camper parked next to our patio and cars with the drapes closed. Say what? Uh, hello. This is not camper world. You do not belong here. Are you lost?


The license plates are from Arizona. So I'm assuming the nice folks that own this camper are visiting someone here on our street. And they didn't just randomly pick our curb to park and camp.

As I'm sitting here typing this Saturday morning I hear the camper door open. WAH! I jump off the lounge chair, run inside and race to every window in the house hoping to get a glimpse of the human inside. DOH! I missed them, but the door is still open. They will be back.

I'm starting to feel like a cross between Monk and Mrs. Kravits (from Bewitched.)

When all of a sudden SLAM! The camper door shuts. This time I just run to the patio to see. Forget subtlety. I hop on the chaise and look. And I find a nice looking older woman, all dressed and ready for the day walking down our little street. She stops at another town house and goes inside.  PHEW. She's visiting someone here. I'm ok with that. As long as she doesn't dump any weird, smelly stuff from her camper/van in my personal space. Because that would be yucky.

So the camper left on Saturday and didn't come back. Good they're gone. Then they came back - late Sunday afternoon. Grrrrrrrrr. They are back. So I boldly walked outside to see what was up. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I really don't want them camping RIGHT THERE!!!!

So I think they got the message because they moved the camper van to another spot which is closer to their friends. GOOD! Be closer to YOUR friends not my house. Thankyouverymuch.

I know. I'm a freak.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Behind the scenes

I love this part of my job! I got to spend three days in Sonoma on a photo shoot for an upcoming BevMo! catalog. This is the fun part of my job where I get to be a little creative. Normally they don't like it when us account folks get creative. But here we all work as a team making sure everything is just right for the client.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots that I took. I can't wait to see all our hard work in the catalog!



Joanna, our stylist, making everything pretty.

Joanna and Jimmy hard at work.


The beautiful flowers and grape vines at Jacuzzi winery.

Yummy wine in the making.
I highly recommend a trip to Jacuzzi and Cline Cellars. They are both in Sonoma and are directly across the street from one another. They are wonderful places to visit if you are here in wine country.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Are you comfortable with your weight?

I totally lied to my mom about this one. I'm sure she knows that.

We started talking about weight and dieting while hanging out at the pool. Talking about dieting while in your bathing suit is never a good idea. So I lied, hoping we would move on to another subject. I told her I'm totally OK with my weight right now. Because if I said I wasn't, and wanted to lose weight, I would feel like she would be counting my glasses of wine and calories I'm consuming.

The thing is, I'm not OK with my weight or what kind of shape my body is in. But I just don't feel like doing anything about it.  I hate the way I look in pictures. I have no shape. My body has changed to a  middle-aged mom figure. Blaaaaaaaaah. That bites. I know what needs to be done and I just don't have the energy. No, actually I just don't want to. That's even worse.

But that's about to change. I'm going to do something soon. Right after I finish this post, and the laundry, and cleaning the house.

I think I'll join Weight Watchers again. I don't need to lose that much. Probably 10 - 12 pounds. I've done it before. It used to work like a charm. So we'll see. So that will be the diet part - the easy part. Now I need to figure out the exercise part.

Here's my dilemma. We can't afford any kind of gym membership so that's out. And we live at the top of a hill which killed my knees that last time I decided to walk/jog for exercise. So I may actually have to drive to the bottom of the hill and walk/jog on the flat part and then drive myself home. That just sounds so lame. But look at my arse in this picture? I actually went out in public in these yoga pants. Holy moly cottage cheese buns. What was I thinking? I'm sorry to all of you at the dog park that had the unfortunate view of my backside. Ay caramba.

And then there's the fair. Here I am on the swing ride with everyone lined up behind me. Lookin' ok.


And this my friends is the worst picture - ever. Holy guacamole. I can't believe I'm even showing it to you. Of course my entire family has already seen it because Don EMAILED IT to everyone. Thanks honey. Oy. Oy. Oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. (Insert HUUUUUUUUGE sigh here.)


It's time. In fact. I'll think I'll shut down the old computer and go for a walk.
What do you do to keep in shape?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where stuffed animals go to die

See this cute little face?


It did this to the poor piggy.


If you are a stuffy, you better stay away from my house. Because we are the house of death in stuffy-land.

When I see all the stuffing guts all over the living room I feel a little sad. I know that's lame. But I think I've seen Toy Story one too many times. I know the stuffed animals are not real. They don't have feelings, or friends. They are fake. Not real. NOT REAL.

Or are they?

Last night I had to throw away Elli's little alligator that she won at the fair. Bentley found it. Tore off a leg and ripped out all it's guts. I felt a little sad this morning when I opened the trash can and saw the alligator lieing there all dead. And now he's covered in coffee grinds. Sorry little fella.

So listen here Mr. Bentley. Unless you want to be banned to the kitchen the rest of your life you better straighten up. 'Cuz we're not buying anymore stuffies. We're done. And don't you dare touch Elli's American Girl dolls. You hear me?


I know he's getting enough exercise and play time because Don takes both dogs to the park in the morning and at the end of the day. And they run and run and run until they are both pooped. Literally.

So he's just one of those stuffy destroyers. And plastic ball destroyers. And silicon rubber poached egg holder destroyers. He's also quite fond of prescription glasses, and corks, and ear plugs, and pencils, and lego's, Basically anything he finds on the ground. Thankfully, he has not discovered any of my shoes. Because that would be bad. Very, very bad.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I have house envy. Dooce!

There is a blogger out there by the name of Heather Armstrong who writes a blog called Dooce. It's a really funny blog. She's a great writer. I would compare her style to Larry David. It's not that she writes about nothing. But she writes about ordinary, everyday stuff, that makes you laugh. Because we've all been there too.

So there's her introduction. Now on to the meat of the matter. She and her husband Jon just bought a new house. I have complete, and utter, house envy. Big time envy. Like my blood pressure is up kind of envy.

Their business is blogging. They support themselves from her site Dooce and other things too I'm sure. They just bought this amazing house in Utah. It looks like it was custom-built. There are all kinds of "extras" including the most beautiful wood floors. Here's the kitchen. And the rest of the house.

I WANT THAT HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!

What are we doing wrong? I have a full-time job in San Francisco running a very busy retail account, and Don runs our business in Napa, and we live in a 1365 sf townhouse which we rent. We live paycheck-to-paycheck. We are nowhere close to ever being able to buy a home. Let alone our dream home.

Wah, wah, wah. We I need help. I don't want to give up on my dream of living in a fabulous house again. But I need to be realistic too. And reality sucks here in California.

I know homes are cheaper in Utah. Lots cheaper. So maybe we need to relocate there? I bet what I'm paying in rent is close to their mortgage payment. Life is not fair. (Insert sad, sad face here and stomping feet like a 2-year old.)

humph.

Something must change. The economy must change. I don't want to live like this anymore. So.......

Dear Mr. President,

Figure it out! We're dieing here in California. Housing is too much. Food is too much. Schools are a mess. Businesses are going under. We have a crazy ex-ebay executive wasting spending a jillion dollars on tv. THAT IS NUTS. What is happening? 

Are you just hoping the big one will happen and all of California will crack off the mainland and float away? My stomping may actually cause that to happen because I'm pissed. And I'm not going to take it anymore! I don't want to see the first lady in her pretty little gingham dress eating ice cream either. 'Cuz it's just making me mad. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!!! 

Please. I'm begging you.

Kris

Ok. I'm done. Sorry about that. I was a little fired up. I feel better now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cavallo Point Cooking School, Part III - Dessert

To finish our lovely evening, Chef Knickerbocker guided us in making meringue served with berries and home-made whipped cream. It was fresh, light and tasty. Perfect for a summer evening dinner party.

DESSERT
Summer Meringue with Fresh Berries and a Rose Geranium Flavored Cream
Fresh Mint Infusion

We each took turns doing things. I was in charge of making one of the batches of meringue. Luckily I have some experience with meringue. Last Thanksgiving I made a coconut cream pie with meringue. Which I had to make twice. (Something funky happened with the first batch.) I had no problems this time around.

After the meringue was done we spread it on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment. Then it went into the oven for a few hours. A good tip on this is to make the meringue the night before you want to serve it. Heat your oven, place the meringue in the oven. Turn off the oven. Go to bed. When you wake up you'll have perfect meringue.

We also hand-whipped cream for the lightest, fluffiest whipped cream topping. We added just a touch of rose geranium to the whipped cream. I've never tasted rose geranium before - it's really nice. It reminds me of a spa. They gave each of us a clipping to take home and plant in our garden. Mine is sitting in water on the counter looking oh-so-lovely.


The meringue and cream was served with all these yummy, yummy berries, some mint and rose geranium leaves that were sliced oh-so-small.


Then they served it with a hot fresh mint infusion. I've never had this before and it was quite good. It was basically tea - but made with a mint leaf instead. Nice. We have some chocolate mint in the garden. I bet that will make an amazing little drink!

Kris (me) and Peggy

So there you have it! It was a great evening. Don and I would definitely do this again. Hopefully it won't be another two years before we get back to Cavallo Point!

You can buy Peggy's book here: Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cavallo Point Cooking School - The Main Course

Don and I didn't work on the entree. But I kept a close eye on what was happening.  I did help on the salad team. And wouldn't you know it, it's a tomato salad I have made many times. The only thing I do different is add fried shallots on top. Where she added croutons.

MAIN COURSE
Grilled Salmon with Peas and Mint
Potato Gratin with Artichokes
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Before we started to cook, Jayne, the head chef, told us about where she got the salmon. She is all about farm-fresh vegetables and sustainable farmed seafood and meats. So it was important to her that we knew about the fish.
 


She only buys fish that is in season, from a restaurant/fish market here in Sausalito called FISH because they have such strict policies with the fishermen they buy from. They have to abhold to a one man, one pole, one hook policy. That way they only fish for, and hopefully catch, what they set out to get. I guess I never really thought about it before. But it makes a lot of sense.

Of course there is a price ($$$) to pay for this type of fishing. Plus, the fact that there was only a very brief, 4-day salmon fishing season this year. And kaching. The salmon is $40/lb. They bought a nine pound fish. Holy moly. That's $360 of fish. The good news is it was really, really good. And we ate every bite. So now you know why seafood is so expensive in restaurants.

The fish was served with fresh peas and mint. Of course the peas were shelled. No frozen peas in this kitchen! The garlic was sauteed in butter before adding it to the fish. The fish was lined on parchment paper, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and baked in the oven for 20 minutes. And it was perfect.





The potatoes were a very basic gratin preparation, with a twist of course. The bottom of the dish was lined with chopped baby artichokes that had been sliced and sauteed in butter and white wine. Her tip to make sure the potatoes are cooked through and that the top layer is not dried out is to pull out the pan after about a half hour and press down on the potatoes to force some of the liquid (milk) to rise above the top layer of potatoes. They were gooooooooood.




For the salad team, we got a lesson in the the proper way to hold the knife and a tip to help chiffonade the basil and leaves. (You roll the leaves like a cigar, then slice.)  They also taught us how to properly emulsify the oil and vinegar for our salad dressing. We thought we had it perfect. Then the chef came over and immediately had a coughing attack and quickly muttered "...olive oil. It needs more olive oil." So we added more olive oil!!!!






While we were all madly cooking. Little helpers set the table. It looked really beautiful. And we were all ready to sit down.

They served a nice glass of wine to each person during dinner. But that was it! We each got one glass. Don and I both would have liked another glass. But they only had two bottles and 24 people. So that didn't happen. But that's ok. I'm sure a bunch of people running around a kitchen with sharp knives and wine is probably not the best idea.


Everything was so fresh and delicious. It was really a treat. I hope I can make this exact same menu for a group of friends and family some day.

There's a link below to one of Peggy's cookbooks. In case you're in the market for a new cookbook.

Roasted Salmon Smothered in Peas, Green Onions and Mint

1 pound wild king pacific salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds English peas, shelled
12 small spring onions, thinly chopped (or one large white onion diced)
12 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375º

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet is is oven proof, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it gets hot, add the fish, skin side down.
2. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until you can see that it is turning pale pink. Flip it over carefully with two spatulas.
3. Add the garlic and a splash of the wine.
4. Roast it in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove it from the oven when done and transfer the fish to a warm platter. If the skin is still on, peel it off and discard it.
6. Place the skillet back on medium high and add the green onions, peas and the rest of the wine. Swirl the pan a few times and add the mint. Pour the pea mixture over the fish and serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Potato Gratin with Artichokes

6 T. butter
6 baby artichokes, trimmed with outer tough leaves peeled away and sliced thin, lengthwise
Splash of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large yellow yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (on a mandolin preferred)
1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350º

1. Grease a shallow gratin dish, 9 x 12" with one tablespoon of butter.
2. In a medium sized heavy skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook the artichoke slices, with a splash of wine. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices evenly on the bottom of the pan.
3. Layer the potato slices in an overlapping patter on top of the artichokes. Season each layer with salt and pepper. You should have two to three layers.
4. Pour the milk over the top so that it comes to the bottom of the top layer. Add more it you need to. Dot the top with the remaining butter, about 3 tablespoons. Season again with salt and pepper.
5. Bake in a preheated oven for one hour or until hot and bubbling and golden brown. While the potatoes are baking, after about 30 minutes, press down on the potatoes with a spatula so that the liquid comes up over the top and keeps the top layer moist.
6. The potatoes are done when they are fork tender when pierced with a fork.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Croutons
1/2 to 3/4 of a crusty country loaf
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200º

Tear the bread into small pieces about the size of a quarter. On a baking sheet toss the bread with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake until the croutons are toasty and crunchy, about 30 minutes. Watch carefully. Turn the oven off and leave them until you are ready to make the salad.

Vinaigrette

1/4 t. sea salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, excellent quality
Freshly ground pepper

Place the sea salt in a small bowl and add the shallot and vinegar. Let the shallot macerate for 10 minutes. Just before serving, whisk in the olive oil, one drop at a time, until well blended. Take your time. Add pepper to taste.

Tomato Salad

4 to 5 pounds tomatoes, preferably heirloom and multicolored, sliced
1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Hand full of fresh basil leaves torn or cut into very thin strips

Arrange the tomatoes on a large white platter, scattering the cherry tomatoes over the top. Spoon the dressing lightly over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and scatter the croutons and basil on top.

Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties