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Five Great Wineries in the Umpqua Valley

Five Great Wineries in the Umpqua Valley

This week’s Friday happy hour post is a bit different from my normal cocktail post.  This week, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite wine region in all of Oregon – the Umpqua Valley.  When people think about Oregon’s wine scene, they most often think of the vineyards and wine makers in the Willamette Valley and those in Hood River.  The Willamette Valley is known for its amazing Pinot Noir grapes, which are, without a doubt amazing.

However, if you are looking for a different wine tasting experience in Oregon, I encourage you to check out the Umpqua Valley.  This region is in Southern Oregon and is easily accessible along the I-5 corridor.  It’s about three hours south of Portland and easy to get to via either the Portland International Airport (which is swoon worthy in and of itself in terms of all the great shopping and food that’s in the airport, including the local wines that you can buy to take home with you) or the Eugene International Airport, which is about an hour and a half north of the Umpqua Valley region.  The Eugene International Airport is absolutely adorable – very small, but very easy to get to and from.  The nearest town to the Umpqua Valley is Roseburg.  It’s a cute town with some great restaurants and a really nice Holiday Inn Express.  Trust me, relaxing in the hot tub there with the view of the Umpqua River after a long day of wine tasting is a great way to end the day.

The Umpqua Valley has over twenty-five wineries.  While I’ve not been to all of them, I’ve definitely toured my share.  In no particular order, here are my five favorites.

Brandborg Winery

Brandborg is an easy to find winery off of Highway 138 in Elkton, Oregon.  Elkton is a lovely tiny town – it’s got just a few shop on its main street, with spectacular views of the Umpqua River.  Brandborg itself has lovely wines – great pinot noirs, in particular.  The Love Puppets Pinot Noir is one of my favorites, though I also have room in my wine loving heart for the Ferris Wheel Estate Pinot Noir.  Brandborg has a gorgeous tasting room and the folks there are so generous with their time and knowledge when you are tasting.

MarshAnne Landing

MarshAnne Landing is in Oakland, Oregon, easily accessible off of I-5.  There distinctive logo includes a flying saucer because they want anyone, even space visitors, to have a great wine experience with their wines.  My all time favorite here is the Red Planet red blend, though I adore the Cote du Umpqua, too.  But really, all their wines are awesome.  The tasting experience at MarshAnne is also lovely – great tasting room, friendly people.  If you are lucky enough to be in the Umpqua Valley region in the spring and summer, MarshAnne also holds concerts both in the tasting room and on their patio.

MarshAnne Landing’s Pinot Noir. Bought this one from DC Farmer’s Co-Op in Roseburg (seriously). The Farmer’s Co-Op has a great selection of regional wines.

Pyrenees

One of the best parts about Pyrenees is a tasting room that opens up onto the Umpqua River.  This vineyard is in a quiet spot in Myrtle Creek, a town about twenty minutes outside of Roseburg.  If you are looking for a place to take a picnic and taste wines, Pyrenees is the place to go.  They are open only by appointment in the winter, so this is definitely a place to call ahead and make sure they are open when you plan to go.

Abacela

The last two on my list are two of the larger wineries in this region.  Both produce spectacular wine.  I’ll start with Abacela.  Abacela has a spectacular tasting room – it’s spacious and light and such a great place to cozy up, especially in the winter, and taste a full flight of wines.  Abacela is also pretty easy to find in many larger liquor stores and wine shops, so if you can’t travel to the Umpqua Valley but want to try out a bottle from this region, look for Abacela.  Again, as with other wineries on this list, all of the wines are worth tasting.  My hands down favorite from Abacela is their Viognier.  It’s a light, crisp white wine that’s perfect for summer months paired with grilled foods.  Their Albarino (another white wine) is pretty awesome, too.  I particularly love really intense bold red wines and Abacela delivers on these with their Tempranillo, Dolcetto, and Garnacha wines.

Abacela’s Albarino, purchased at PDX while I was on the way to New Orleans for a conference.
Abacela’s Vintner’s Blend #14 – bought as a special Thanksgiving treat.

Henry Estate Winery

Henry Estate Winery has a long history in the Umpqua Valley.  They started producing wine in this region in the 1970s and are one of the most respected wineries in the Umpqua Valley.  They have a lovely tasting room, and if you have a chance to go to an open house on a Thanksgiving or Memorial Day weekend, Henry’s is a must stop destination.  Henry’s red wines are great, but my absolute favorite from this winery is the Veraison, which is a perfectly dry rose wine that pairs well with fish and chicken dishes, as well a variety of cheeses.  If you are looking for a pinot noir, Henry’s has some great options here as well.  Oh – and the chocolate wine truffles they sell in their gift shop are so good.

Henry’s Pinot Gris – this was was purchased at the grocery store in Bandon, Oregon. I love my Umpqua Valley wines!
Henry’s Estate all decked out for the holidays.
Eight years ago, hubby and my first wine tour in the Umpqua Valley. This is a photo of us in Henry Estate’s vineyard right around Thanksgiving.

So there you have it – five outstanding wineries in the Umpqua Valley region.  The Umpqua Valley region has over twenty-five wineries to explore – if you want to check out some of the others or want to learn more about events in the region, check out http://www.umpquavalleywineries.org/wineries/

This post is linked to Saucy Saturdays #89.   For more great recipes, check out the hosts’ sites:

Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant and The Flavor Bender

Must Have Canning Cookbooks

Must Have Canning Cookbooks

Canning and preserving is one of my favorite cooking activities, which is why I want to share my must have canning cookbooks list with you.  I first learned how to can from my mom.  Many years ago, when I was an early teen, she and I went out to a farm, probably in some way out place like Brighton, Colorado, and bought pickling cucumbers and peaches.  These stand out in my mind because that Christmas, we had our own canned pickles to go with our Christmas Eve buffet.  I also remember the peaches, because I remember the taste of peach conserve that had maraschino cherries and walnuts.  I also remember that we used the Ball Book of Canning, which is the sort of the original bible of canning and ended up with a billion quarts of pickles and as many pints of peach conserve.  To say that these lasted us awhile is an understatement.

We were canning before small batch canning became popular.  I think my mom only canned for two or so seasons.  I remember doing more pickles, along with some watermelon rind pickles.  But beyond that, my canning memories are a bit fuzzy.  I didn’t pick up a jar until many years later, when I had one canning season in New Mexico.  I made some sort of crabapple jam, scavenging crabapples from just outside our neighbor’s trees.  Somewhere along the way, I’d picked up a cookbook on small batch canning, which was revelatory.  Instead of having to can thirty jars of something, I could do four.  And four jars of something canned can be a lot easier to get through, especially in a family of two.

I decided it was time to try it again when we moved to Oregon.  Oregon has some of the most incredible farmer’s market and U-Pick farms, and we were lucky enough to have both close by.  Around the same time, I discovered Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars blog and then her first Food in Jars cookbook.   For several seasons, I canned just about everything I could get my hands on.  I loved having all the pretty jars lined up in the pantry and loved experimenting with more exotic flavors in some of my jams and preserves.  I also loved making pickles and canning tomatoes.  I discovered Dilly Beans, which are the absolute best snack food I’ve ever made.  I was a canning convert.  I even entered my preserves in the county fair for two years in a row (and even won a couple of blue ribbons, along with a couple of second and third place prizes).  We grew 60 pounds of tomatoes in our own yard in 2015 and I canned them all.

You don’t have to preserve 60 pounds of anything though to get the joy of canning in your own kitchen.  You can most definitely do small batches and enjoy the fresh tastes of fruits and vegetables all through the long bleak winter.  In this post, I’m going to run down my favorite canning books.  These are mostly all small batch books and cover jams, preserves, and pickles.  I’ll also share why each is a favorite.   Check back here in a few weeks, as I’ll also be posting about my favorite canning gear, along with a giveaway of one of my absolute favorite canning tools.

These first three books are all from Marisa McClellan. I love both McClellan’s lovely flavors, but especially the ethos of small batch canning.  These are so perfect for the home-canner who doesn’t have storage space, time, or the desire to eat jar after jar after jar of one type of strawberry jam.  Food in Jars is also the perfect introductory book for someone who hasn’t preserved before.

   

The Ball Book of Canning and Preserving is a standby for me.  If I want to make a large batch of tomato sauce, for example, this is where I’ll turn.  It’s a great book, too, for the novice canner with lots of great tips.  It’s updated often, so the flavors stay contemporary as do the tips for how to can safely.

Canning for a New Generation is a gorgeous book with so many yummy recipes.  One of the things I love about this one is that it also includes recipes for what to do with the stuff you’ve just canned.  Because I promise you, there’s not much worse than looking at a pantry full of jams and pickles and thinking – uh oh – what do I do with all of this now?  Most of the recipes here are also small batch, so really perfect for the weekend cook.

The Joy of Pickling is entirely focused on pickles, from fermented pickles to small batch refrigerator pickles, to freezer pickles, to chutney and relishes, to canning pickles.  I made my first batch of fermented pickles using the recipe in this book and munched on them all summer long.  This one is a cookbook I could just curl up with and read from cover to cover.

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is another great book for beginners looking to try out some small batch recipes.  This one covers everything from jam to pickles and everything in between.  There’s also a chapter in the most recent edition about what to do with what you’ve put up.  There’s a chapter on low-sugar preserves, too.

Last, but not least, is Put Em Up!  This one covers all sorts of preserving topics, including canning in small batches, but also freezing and drying.  This is a great book if you are looking for ways to make use of produce from a CSA or if you are a farmer’s market fan.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something linked here, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I only include products that I use and love.  Thank you for supporting Fix Me a Little Lunch. 

This post is linked up to Inspire Me Wednesday
“Inspire

And to Country Mouse City Spouse’s Monday Mish Mash

And it’s also been shared at Cottage Making Mommy,

Ravioli Day Roundup

Ravioli Day Roundup

It’s National Ravioli Day!  I get so excited about ravioli, it’s kind of ridiculous.  There’s just something so lovely about filling wrapped in dough.  Ravioli is particularly special, as it works so well with some of the best sauces out there (I’m thinking Alfredo, marinara, tomato sauce with vodka…you get the idea).  Did you know that the first written mention of ravioli occurred in the 14th century in Venice in the personal letters of a merchant?  Ravioli wasn’t served with tomato sauce, though, until the 16th century (because tomatoes weren’t introduced to Italy until then).  Prior to the 16th century, ravioli were served in broth.  If this doesn’t get you hungry for ravioli, I don’t know what will.  Maybe these ravioli recipes will do the trick.

Let’s start with Ravioli with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce from Confident Cook, Hesitant Baker!  The star here is the sauce – and it is such a quick sauce to make.  I’m holding on to this one for farmer’s market season when peppers are available in abundance.

Pumpkin and other winter squash is such a natural paring with ravioli.  Up your ravioli game by making these Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage, and Walnuts from What a Girl Eats

Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage, and Walnuts

Rabbit and Wolves prove that ravioli doesn’t have to be made using cheese for it to be good.  These Vegan Broccoli Rabe Pesto Ravioli are a perfect spring ravioli option for vegans and non-vegans alike.

Vegan Broccoli Rabe Pesto Ravioli

This Carrot Ravioli with Broccoli-Ricotta Filling from Caroline’s Cooking is another great spring ravioli option.

Carrot Ravioli with Broccoli-Ricotta Filling

This Balsamic and Garlic Mushroom Ravioli from Krumpli combines the great flavors of balsamic vinegar, garlic and mushrooms and wraps it all up in a neat package of yummy!

Balsamic and Garlic Mushroom Ravioli

Next up is Orange and Pecorino Ravioli with Rosemary Brown Butter from Use Your Noodles.  This looks like such a light and refreshing ravioli – just imagine how that bit of orange zest in the ravioli would complement the rosemary brown butter.

Orange and Pecorino Ravioli with Rosemary Brown Butter

Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli (With a Kick) from Slow the Cook Down gets its kick from the addition of a finely chopped red chili.

Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli (With a Kick)

Kitchen Sanctuary’s Spicy Burrito Ravioli takes the traditional ravioli and gives it a great twist with the addition of burrito flavors.

Kitchen Sanctuary’s Spicy Burrito Ravioli

Butternut Squash Ravioli Bake from the Girl on Bloor is a great quick meal if you have squash or pumpkin ravioli already on hand.  Ravioli pairs well with all the ingredients in this one dish meal.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Bake

Last, but not least, if you are still craving even more ravioli (which I always am), here’s a beautiful dessert ravioli: White Chocolate Mascarpone Ravioli with Raspberry Sauce from Pinch Me I’m Eating.

White Chocolate Mascarpone Ravioli with Raspberry Sauce

I’d love to be eating this right now – I’m starting to feel inspired to do a three-course ravioli dinner, with a ravioli appetizer, a ravioli entrée, and a ravioli dessert.  Maybe for next year’s National Ravioli Day!

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail is my homage to X-Men, which is the focus of this month’s Fandom Foodies.  So here’s the long story of how I came to be inspired this month to make The Storm Cocktail.  First off, this cocktail is inspired by the X-Men character, Storm.  So you might wonder, why Storm?  (Ok, you might not wonder, but I’m going to tell you anyway, which is where the long story comes into it).

Many years ago, I lived in Colorado.  I actually grew up in Lakewood, Colorado, but spent a lot of time as a young adult in Denver (going to college, working, hanging out).  One of my favorite places to go was Café Euphrates.  I’m pretty sure that Café Euphrates was on Pearl Street, so it wasn’t too far away from my alma mater, the University of Denver.  I’d go there to hang out with my ex and one of his friends.  The place served the best hummus I’ve ever had and absolutely lovely coffee.  I was still in my mocha phase, so I know that I drank probably several hundred mint mochas at Café Euphrates.  But my absolute favorite part of going here was the X-Men Arcade game that was in the back corner.

Prior to Café Euphrates, I’d never played much in the way of arcade video games.  I played some Pac Man and loved some really rudimentary computer games.  However, growing up, there was no Nintendo, no Atari – none of that. I don’t think I was actually all that interested, which was probably a big part of why this never entered into my life.  But for some reason, I loved X-Men.  And I always, always, played Storm.  If you’ve ever listened to the song “This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case, you’ll get it.  I’ve always taken some pride in a stormy personality.  Storm was, by my estimation, powerful and perfect.  If I had a super mutant power, I’d want hers.

I can’t remember the last time I went to Café Euphrates. I grew up, moved far away, moved closer and then moved further away again.  I didn’t think much about this place and time at all, except as I started to think about what I would do for X-Men for Fandom Foodies and it all came back in a beautiful rush.  I’m ok being my older self, but I have a lot of fondness for that young woman, who was optimistic but moody, reserved but with lots of big dreams.  I think that time period might have been the first time in my life when I started to really appreciate my nerdy side and stopped trying so hard to fit in with everyone else.

So the storm cocktail is my homage to my favorite arcade hero.  I haven’t gotten much into the X-Men movies (though I do think Hale Berry rocks in the role).  I do think every time I drink this cocktail this summer, I’ll think about that younger self and smile.

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail

The Storm Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 2 ounces coconut milk
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce blue curacao

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into cocktail glass with more ice. Enjoy!
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This post is linked up to March’s Fandom Foodies hosted by Heather at Food ‘n Flix.  Check out the Fandom Foodies page for a schedule of all the great inspiration for this year!

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

The February/March Cook the Books reading selection, Dinner with Edward, inspired my mini strawberry chocolate galettes.  Dinner with Edward, by Isabel Vincent, is a charmer.  It’s a quick read, filled to the brim with amazing food stories, menus, and inspiration.  But the heart of the book is the relationship between Edward, a retired gentleman whose wife recently died, and Isabel, a younger woman who goes through major life upheaval in the course of the book.  It’s a book about friendship and food, both of which cut across generations.  I really thought this one was, well, charming.

And so much food to choose from for inspiration (as you can see from my very sticky-noted copy)!  I initially couldn’t decide if I was going to try one of Edward’s potato recipes, or steak, or soup, or soufflé, or martinis, or chicken, or fish, or pork.  What I eventually landed on was being inspired by the apple galette that shows up around chapter three.  Strawberries are slowly making their way into season (as spring seems to finally be peaking around the corner here in the PNW).  I decided to aim for a version of the galette using butter instead of Edward’s recommended lard, and go for flavors that I love to share with friends.  Thus, I ended up with a dozen perfect mini strawberry chocolate galettes that my husband and I have been munching on all week long.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

These mini strawberry chocolate galettes would make a great Easter dessert.  They’d also be delightful as the final course for a picnic.  You can substitute other berries for sure – I’m definitely going to be making these again when raspberries are in season.  Galettes take all the loveliness of a pie and make it into a rustic, easy to make and bake treat.  They are completely free form, so all you have to do is make the pastry, roll it out, fill and bake.  I added a touch of dark chocolate and some sugar macerated strawberries and called it delightful.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Oh – and I’ll confess.  I did end up making a dry martini the way it was suggested in the book.  I think it may be the best martini I’ve ever had in my life.  If you are curious, check out either the book (which I highly recommend) or take a peek at my Instagram feed where there’s a photo of the martini and tips on how to make it.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Ingredients

    For the Pastry
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • For the Filling
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Make the pastry by combining the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour, using a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. Add the water, a bit at a time and work into the flour/butter mix until it forms a ball. Refrigerate the pastry dough for 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, combine the sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside to macerate.
  4. Use parchment paper to line a baking sheet.
  5. Melt the dark chocolate chips. Roll the chilled pastry dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or similar to cut the dough into small circles.
  6. Spoon a bit of the melted dark chocolate into the middle of each pastry dough circle. Arrange several slices of strawberries on top of each and gently fold and pinch the pastry dough up over the strawberries.
  7. Place each mini galette onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you are using an egg to wash, combine the egg with a tablespoon of water and beat until frothy. Brush the egg wash over the pastry dough for each galette.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the galettes are light brown. Enjoy!
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cookthebooks

This recipe is linked up to March’s Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi.  Treat Petite is hosted alternative months at Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, so be sure to check out both awesome blogs!

And to Novel Foods #29

And to the March 2017 Foodie Reads

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Freezer friendly tropical turmeric smoothies blend the lush taste of mango, coconut, pineapple, and strawberry with just a hint of ginger and turmeric for a perfect breakfast or lunch pick me up.  Best yet, they can be made ahead of time (on the weekend during meal prep) and tucked away in half pint jars in the freezer.

It’s been awhile since I’ve made smoothies. For a period of time, it was a weekly affair – I’d even you-pick my way through various farms in Southern Oregon and freeze berries and other fruit for the sole purpose of making smoothies all winter long.  I loved having smoothies on hand throughout the week as part of my lunch.  Then we moved and I got out of the habit.  And then we (by we, I mean my husband) broke the carafe for our blender.  So much for smoothies.

I wouldn’t have given it much more thought beyond that of – once we move again, I’ll get around to getting a new blender.  However, I ran across an article on some foodie site not too long ago outlining all the ways to use an immersion blender, which I have and use all the time for soups.  One of those uses was to blend smoothies.  The light bulb went on. It’s time for smoothies again.

Sure enough, the immersion blender works great.  I put all the ingredients in a big bowl and just blended away.  I don’t know that this would work too well with frozen ingredients, but with fresh fruit, it’s perfect.

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

I’ve also been reading quite a bit lately about the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and been thinking about how to get more of this beautiful spice into my diet.  A smoothie seems the perfect vehicle for turmeric.  It’s not too overwhelming of a flavor and goes well with a sweet smoothie. I also used ginger to give these freezer friendly tropical turmeric smoothies a bit more zing.  The combination of mango, coconut, pineapple, strawberry, turmeric and ginger was perfect.  Working with the ingredients I had on hand, I was able to get three 8 ounce smoothies put away in the freezer for later this week.  I’ve still got freezer burritos on hand from last week, so when I do get back in the office later this week, lunch is all ready to go.

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

So, if you have either an immersion blender or regular blender, I encourage you to make these freezer friendly tropical turmeric smoothies.  You won’t be disappointed.

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Freezer Friendly Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Ingredients

  • 2 peeled and sliced mangoes
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender (or a bowl, if you are using an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.
  2. Enjoy!
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This post has been shared with the Recipe Showdown Cooking Game hosted by Binky’s Culinary Carnival in March. The ingredient this month is turmeric.

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

Can we all do a collective sigh of relief that it’s Friday and there’s time for creating the perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic?  My week started off with snow.  That’s right – snow, again, in Oregon, in March.  I usually spend one or two days each month around the Oregon capital in Salem, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for the daffodils around the capital mall to open.  I’d been so hopeful that they’d be blooming already, but no – they look as discouraged by the weather as I’ve been.  Instead, I had to tromp through the slush and snow to get to the office I work at when I’m in Salem, getting my feet wet and my shoes muddy.  Not to mention, it was also snowing in Portland as I was getting ready to leave on Monday morning.  Giant flakes of snow kept attacking me and the dog when I went out with her before I left.  Not fun.

It’s no wonder I’ve been increasingly leaning toward drinking white wine and making fruity, happy, summer cocktails.  I figure if I spend enough time pretending it’s summer, it will get here faster, right?  Yeah – so far, no luck.  I guess in the meantime, I will stay inside where it’s warm and dry, curl up on the couch and snuggle with Daisy (our dog).  I’ll also make up a Spanish G&T or two.

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

The great thing about creating a perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic (as compared to a regular gin and tonic), is that you can use all sorts of pretty aromatics in it.  I like the variety rather than having to dig around in the fridge each time to see if I have a stray lime hanging around.  For this particular G&T, I used a combination of satsuma mandarin orange peel, cardamom seed pods, juniper seed pods, and whole peppercorns.  I also through in a dash of grapefruit bitters, which are my new most favorite item in my liquor cabinet.  You can mix up the aromatics: fresh herbs are wonderful in a Spanish G&T – I love throwing in fresh rosemary, but lemon thyme works well, too, as would regular thyme, various types of mint, and so on.  You can also use citrus peel or citrus segments.  I’ve used blood orange ice cubes before, as well.  Really, this is the most versatile cocktail in my repertoire of cocktails.

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

So, make one of these up with what you have on hand and enjoy the warm weather (if you are living in a state where there is warm weather right now) or enjoy watching it rain or snow.

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

 

Creating the Perfect Spanish Gin and Tonic

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin
  • tonic water
  • 2 drops grapefruit bitters
  • Various aromatics

Instructions

  1. Combine the gin, grapefruit, and aromatics in a glass. Top with tonic water. Enjoy!
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Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Today is my 41st birthday, so I made myself a red wine chocolate cake to celebrate.  There’s a back-story here. Last year, I turned forty.  For months prior to this milestone, I’d contemplated baking myself a fancy cake to celebrate.  I’d just started blogging the year before, and I envisioned a perfect blog post with a beautiful cake. I’d also envisioned having a tapas party and cooking great food with friends.

Sometimes fate has other plans: what I really did last year on my fortieth birthday was work my first meeting at a new job and then drive back to our house in Southern Oregon to finish packing so we could move to Portland and I could officially start work mid-March.  I didn’t bother cooking for nearly a month, much less blog.  Clay bought a couple of really good cupcakes from a bakery near our soon to be house and we went to dinner for Italian that night.  While I was more than content to spend my fortieth this way, I started making plans for this year.

So this year, I’m 41.  First and foremost, I want to say that I really love being in my forties.  I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been.  I feel like I’ve finally figured out who I am – I have a style that’s unique to me.  I can look in the mirror and be happy with what I see.  I love my work.  My relationships is steady, stable, and happy.  I started blogging as a creative outlet and have had so much fun making this my primary hobby.  I’m content having a car that’s nearly at 100,000 miles.  I know what I like and I know what I don’t.  So, yes, forty has been awesome.

Baking this red wine chocolate cake was my birthday present to me this year.  I set aside an entire day to bake and frost.  I tackled Swiss Buttercream frosting and made something that tasted like it came from a bakery.  It was an awesome experience.  I loved setting up the photo shoot and taking the pictures of this cake, too.

I love how birthday cakes can be such a symbol of love.  My favorite birthday cake when I was growing up was a cake my grandma made for me when I was a kid – and then once again when I turned 18 because I begged her to.  The cake was a bunny cake, which was several sheet cakes formed together to make a bunny, with frosted “ears” and chocolate Easter eggs for the eyes.  I could never eat the bunny head – that was just a bit too much for me.  But I loved that fluffy white frosting and cake and I loved that she made the cake just for me.  The photo in this picture was taken on my 18th birthday.  Yes – a birthday cake is special.

red wine chocolate cake

My red wine chocolate cake is a layered chocolate cake some yummy red wine to flavor.  The chocolate Swiss buttercream got covered with chocolate sprinkles on the top.  Clay helped frost – he watched what I was doing, told me that the process of frosting was a lot like spackling, and took over my spatula.  Yes – a birthday cake is about being loved.   We’ve nibbled our way through the cake all week.  (Given that do have a day job, it wasn’t actually practical to bake my cake on my birthday in the middle of the week, so I made it on Sunday, instead).

If you’ve never made a birthday cake for yourself or for others, I encourage you to do so.  It doesn’t matter how it turns out – the important thing is the act of cooking because you love someone or because you love who you are.

red wine chocolate cake

A couple of things to note about the frosting.  First, I used this recipe for Swiss buttercream and have linked it rather than trying to adapt it to suit my purposes.  It made a lovely frosting, but our kitchen was definitely too warm for this to go well on the first try.  If your buttercream turns out runny, it really does work to refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then whip it again.  I will tell you though, use a bigger bowl than you think you need.  My entire kitchen, including me and Daisy (who likes to lurk right under the counter top when I’m cooking) were covered in buttercream.  Ok – in fairness, the dog thought this was awesome, except for the part where there was buttercream on her back that she couldn’t lick off.  The other is that this recipe makes a lot of buttercream frosting.  I like a little frosting and this ended up being way too much.

red wine chocolate cake

red wine chocolate cake

red wine chocolate cake

The recipe for the cake is adapted from Liv for Cake’s Mocha Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (olive oil works for this recipe)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • Frosting of your choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out parchment paper circles to line the bottom of three 9 inch cake pans. Butter the pans (including the parchment paper) and sprinkle with cocoa powder to cover.
  2. Sift the cocoa powder. Combine all dry ingredients, from flour through salt and stir until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and wine and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Divide the cake mix between the three pans.
  4. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Frost with your favorite frosting. I used this recipe for my Swiss buttercream – but beware, this makes enough for several cakes.
  5. Serves between 8 – 16.
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This post is linked up to #CookBlogShare, hosted this week by Hijacked by Twins

Hijacked By Twins

This post is also linked to Saucy Saturdays #87.   For more great recipes, check out the hosts’ sites:

Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant and The Flavor Bender

Freezer Egg, Potato and Bacon Burritos

Freezer Egg, Potato and Bacon Burritos

freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos

This month, for Food ‘N Flix, I’m sharing freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos. I was inspired this month by the movie The Martian.  And while potatoes might have been an obvious one for this movie, I couldn’t resist, since they are without a doubt one of my favorite foods.  A favorite story definitely deserves a favorite food.

So in case you haven’t seen or read The Martian, it is, in short, an amazing story about the possibilities and beauty of science.  The book by Andy Weir came out in 2014.  I adore sci fi, having grown up on reading Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.  When I saw The Martian in the bookstore, I snapped it up quickly and spent a happy weekend lounging on the couch and reading it.

I was skeptical about how good the movie would be.  I’m a hard critic when it comes to movies that started as books.  It turned out that I also loved the movie.  Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars after a dust storm forces a mission abort.  The crew of the Ares III mission believe Watney to be dead, so leave him behind.  This starts his journey of survival until the Ares crew comes back to rescue him.  There’s lots of NASA control room drama that goes on throughout, in addition to following Watney’s path to survival.  It’s such a great pop-some-popcorn-and-stretch-out-on-the-couch-with-the-dog movie.

Potatoes factor heavily into the plot line, as Watney survives by growing potatoes.  Now in fairness, I would imagine Watney would probably not ever want to eat a potato again.  I probably wouldn’t want to either, and I really love potatoes.  Still, I wanted to do a shout out recipe to the humble spud.  These freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos are one of my favorite foods.  You might have guessed that they can be frozen – which makes them a perfect breakfast or lunch on the go food.

 

freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos

I opted to use these pretty blue, red, and yellow potatoes.  I don’t really notice much difference in flavor between potato types.  That said, I love the fact that potatoes come in so many varieties, so tend to cook with a mix.

freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos

The potatoes get mixed with a chopped up onion and roasted until they are crispy.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos

freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos

I like to serve these with some salsa and some guacamole on the side (but wouldn’t you know it – none of my avocados were ripe when I made these).  I’m going to enjoy these freezer egg, potato and bacon burritos for lunch this week and imagine being on Mars.

Want to participate in Food ‘n Flix? Check out this month’s announcement post at http://adayinthelifeonthefarm.blogspot.com/ and drop by the Food ‘n Flix site to learn more!

Freezer Egg, Potato and Bacon Burritos

Ingredients

  • 8 small potatoes, washed and sliced into small chunks
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 pieces of crispy bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 8 large flour tortillas

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a parchment lined cookie sheet, combine the chopped potatoes, chopped onion, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once half way through the cooking time.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, cumin, coriander and ground black pepper. Use a fork or a whisk to combine until the eggs are fluffy. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick or cast iron pan over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and allow to set. When the eggs are nearly cooked through, fold and cook until they are fully set, gently scrambling. Set aside.
  3. To make the burritos, place 1/8th of the scrambled eggs in the middle of a tortilla. Put 1 piece of bacon on top of the egg. Put 1/8th of the roasted potatoes on top of the egg and bacon. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on top. Roll the burrito by folding up the top and bottom and then rolling the remaining tortilla over the folded part.
  4. Roll the burritos in aluminum foil and freeze. To reheat, remove the aluminum foil and wrap the burrito in a paper towel. Microwave until warm and serve with salsa and guacamole if desired.
  5. Makes 8 burritos.
  6. Enjoy!
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Dirty Lemon Martini

Dirty Lemon Martini

Dirty Lemon Martini

I’ve had martinis on my mind lately, which explains this Dirty Lemon Martini.  I’ve found a new podcast that I absolutely love called Martinis and Murder.  The best part is that every episode starts with a martini recipe, which I guess makes the fact that the rest of the podcast is all about true crime a little easier to swallow.  The hosts, Daryn Carp and John Thrasher, are very funny and very engaging.  It helps, too, that their producer Matt is a shadowy figure in the background, making up martinis and making the occasional snarky remark that only the hosts can hear. I don’t usually read or watch true crime stories, which is strange, given that my preferred reading genre is mysteries.  It’s one thing for it to be made up, I suppose, then for it to be something that happened in real life.  This podcast is the exception for me, as it reminds me quite a bit of the podcast, Serial.

But enough about true crime podcasts.  Back to the Dirty Lemon Martini.  I love a good dirty martini.  I’ve been known to make them with any olive brine I have on hand, including that from kalamata olives.  There’s something so lovely about the brininess of the olives and the sharpness of the vodka and Vermouth.  My favorite variation on this theme is a dirty martini with the brine of preserved lemons.  Oh my goodness – this is the perfect way to end out a week.  Preserved lemons infuse the brine with a hint of lemon.  I use juniper berries and peppercorns in my preserved lemons, so there’s a hint of these spices as well.

Dirty Lemon Martini

This martini is so easy to make – all it takes is some good vodka, a dry Vermouth, and the brine from some preserved lemons.  This is yet another good reason to have salt preserved citrus on hand, because when Friday comes around, who wouldn’t want to curl up with Netflix and a Dirty Lemon Martini?

Dirty Lemon Martini

Dirty Lemon Martini

Dirty Lemon Martini

Cheers!

Dirty Lemon Martini

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1/2 - 1 ounce brine from preserved lemons

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass.
  2. Serves 1
  3. Enjoy!
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