Saturday, January 29, 2011

When I started this blog it was my sole intention to share the myriad food adventures, both at home and otherwise, that I experience as I was able to document them photographically.  This has not been as frequent as I would like it to be due my demanding schedule of classes.  However, this semester seems to be more conducive to documentable epicurean escapades then the preceding. Plus, I have found new blogging inspiration (I am actually quite surprised that I did not think of this sooner).  Wine!!

I love wine.  In fact my passion for wine is comparable to that of my passion for food; as one would expect any epicurean's to be.  However, I don't think I fit the stereotypical idea of what we might think of for a self-proclaimed epicurean.  I am a vegetarian on a poor college student budget.  This doesn't make food or wine adventures any less...well, adventurous.  In fact, it really only adds to the excitement.  Finding and making great food for even better prices, and discovering cheep bottles of wine that masquerade as pricey ones is a skill I have spent the last three years honing in on.  And it is my latest find that has inspired me put wine on the table (pun intended).  While I do fervently express my abiding love of wine, I do not claim to an expert.  So, I promise to my best when describing the wines I choose to share with you.  Please feel free to correct me as I'm certain not one of entries are perfect.  Now that my very long, and arguably unnecessary preface is over, let's get down to business....

On one of my recent shopping trips to Trader Joe's for the usual fair, my roommate and I stopped to partake in the day's wine tasting.  We always find this enjoyable even if the wines aren't to our liking for a couple of reasons.  First, if we don't really care for the tasting selections, the employee working at the counter is always able to make a suggestion of something new for us to try.  Secondly,  and perhaps most importantly, Trader Joe's employees are always cheerful individuals with whom conversing is  easy and enjoyable.  However, this particular trip was unusually fruitful as we walked away with two new bottles to try.  One of which we tasted who's details I will save for a future post, while the other came highly recommended after a short exchange about some of the recent additions to our favorites list.  The friendly fellow offering tiny plastic cups of fermented grape juice explained that if we are looking for a Cab. under ten dollars that drinks like a $40+ bottle then we must try the 2008 Familia Nueva Vineyard's Cabernet Sauvignon Liberte.  So, we did.  And we fell in love.  
To give you and idea of what my novice palate looks for in a good bottle of wine in the $10 range, typically you'll find dry, full bodied, foreign reds in my "cellar."  In my opinion this is one of the best Cab's I have had (albeit you could count them all on a hand or two).  I don't even want to attempt giving you my description of the tasting notes so I'll leave it to do it for me:"This is a well-made, reasonably priced Cab from Paso Robles. The nose is dominated by ripe (but not overripe) dark fruit, particularly plum. With the restrained tannins, this could easily be a Merlot/Cabernet blend. In any event, it’s good."I feel this is a decent description of it, although far too understated in my opinion.   If you try it and would like to share your description in the comments, please do.  I'd love to read about your experience.  

Addtionally, here's what the vineyard says:  "With its elegant red hue and powerful palate this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon deliver an exceptional bouquet of blackberries, autumnal leaves and backing spices followed by opulent flavors of clove and marzipan."
 Basically, I'm saying:  Try it!  You'll be happy you did. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baked Tofu with Veggies and Quinoa

Baked tofu with sautéed veggies and rice is always a favorite in my house.  However, I have been looking for good recipes to add flavor to my quinoa in an attempt at a seamless substitution for the rice in various dishes.  With some trial and error, and many hours researching others' experience and opinions on the topic, I have finally settled on a good recipe for quinoa when substituting in asian inspired cuisine.   Additionally, I have been looking for marinade recipes for baked tofu.  It can be quite a bit more expensive to buy already baked tofu; along with another down side being lack of control over ingredients.  After much painstaking research in this area as well, I have happily settled on a marinade for my baked tofu as well.  

The culmination of these edible endeavors was last nights dinner.  I made baked tofu and quinoa using the aforementioned recipes and topped it off with some sautéed scallions and red bell-pepper.  It was such a hit in my house that I wanted to share the discovery.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and I am certain will continue to do.

Baked Tofu Ingredients
 1 lb extra firm tofu
 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
 2 Tbsp Tamari soy sauce
 1 Tbsp raw can sugar
 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger OR 1/2 tsp ground ginger
 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic OR 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
 ½ cup chopped scallions
 ½ tsp cumin
 ½ tsp coriander
 a pinch to ¼ tsp cayenne (according to desired level of spice)
 fresh ground black pepper to taste
Marinating Tofu
1. Put all the marinade ingredients (all but tofu) in a jar, screw the lid on tight, and shake until well mixed
2. Press the block of tofu between an old dishtowel or paper towels to remove any excess water
3. Slice the tofu in 1/2 inch slices, and lay side-by-side in a flat baking pan
4. Spread the marinade over and under the tofu slices
5. Cover and marinate 1 hour or more in the fridge, turning once or twice if possible
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
7. Drain off the excess marinade
8. Bake 30 minutes
9. Turn over halfway through the baking
Note: Less baking time, if it looks very done halfway through
10. Broil, or pan fry, for a few minutes on each side to give the baked tofu a crusty finish.

Quinoa with Asian Flavors

  •     1 cup rinsed quinoa
  •     2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  •     2 clove minced garlic
  •     1 Tbsp minced ginger
  •     2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  •     1 Tbsp sesame oil
  •     1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Heat oil in a sauce pan
  2. Toast rinsed quinoa in heated oil for 2-3 mins
  3. Add broth, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to pan and bring to a boil
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover
  5. Allow to simmer on low for 25-30 mins or until all liquid is absorbed
  6. Fluff with a fork and serve

Monday, July 5, 2010

Adventures in Pizza Making

It can often be difficult to find time to make the homemade meals that you'd like to with a busy schedule, as is the case for me and my roommate.  One of the fun ways we have found to get around this dilemma, admittedly with a little cheating, is making our own pizza on pizza nights.  With the help of a couple key ingredients from Trader Joe's (one of my favorite stores) we are able to make mostly homemade pizza quickly and easily.  The added bonus, we have found, is that it can also be tons of fun!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocolate Earl Grey Cookies

This was a recipe that I tried a little over a month ago and was a big hit with my roommate.  It went over so well that I made them again when I went to go visit my parents.  They are a rich chocolaty cookie with a twist.  Very tasty!  Although, if you don't like Earl Grey tea, you probably won't care for this recipe either, as my dad found out to his chagrin.  For the those who enjoy both chocolate and the essence of Bergamot, I highly recommend whipping up a batch.

1 cup butter, room temperature 
1 cup white sugar 
2 1/2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea, finely ground in a coffee grinder 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 teaspoons baking powder 

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
2.Cream together butter, sugar, and tea. Beat in vanilla, then eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder; fold into egg mixture until just mixed. 
3.Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a ungreased cookie sheets. 
4.Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes.
Optional:  Pipe melted white chocolate onto cooled cookies

Original Recipe Yield 3 dozen