Cold Morning, Warm Start…

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Isn’t it what they always said?

Parents, Grandparents?

Remember?

When you were a kid and they would tell you about winter “when they were a kid”?

You would always have said something to spur the conversation on…  like…

“it’s too cold out” or

“there’s too much snow to walk to school” or

“it’s too far to walk in this weather”.

Invariably, you had set your self up for the comments…  and would heave a heavy sigh after they said

“It’s too cold out? Why, when I was a kid…” or

“There’s too much snow to walk to school? Why, when I was a kid…” or

“It’s too far to walk in this weather?  Why, when I was a kid”…

these general remarks were followed with the following…

“I walked fourteen miles to school each day up hill both ways in snow so deep you could barely see the pom-pom on the top of my hat!”.

Right?

Ok.

I will admit that when my kids have whined about it in the past…  I have said something similar.  But, I did walk to school in the snow.

And, home.

It’s wasn’t so bad.

It was only up hill one way…  which was in the morning.

On the way to school.

But don’t tell my kids.  Ha.

I remember those mornings in the winter…  with the snow blowing.  Walking to school or later, waiting at the bus stop.

On those mornings…  I would sit on the heater vent and eat a hot breakfast.  Trying to store up heat for the trek.  Never worked all that great.  Except, the hot breakfast…  that helped.  Warmed up from the inside.

Now, I grew up in a home where we lived with my grandparents… so there were lots of “old-fashioned” things I learned from them.  Like, fried bread dough sprinkled with sugar (think elephant ears), Ban roll on, braunschweiger (yuk), sliced garden fresh tomatoes sprinkled with sugar, riced potatoes, how to fold a fitted sheet (really, I don’t know anyone who does this any more), what a “physic” was (believe me, you don’t want to know) and back in the day, we had a “party line” (a different land line phone number than our neighbors BUT we shared the same line, so when we would pick up our phone, we could hear them talking and couldn’t use our phone until they got off)(sucky, right?)…  stuff like that.

One of these things that was “old-fashioned” is what I call “Poor Mans Rice Pudding”.  It’s not really rice pudding.

It was often made for breakfast the morning after we had Chop Suey (that my Grandma used to make)(which was more like beef stew with oriental vegetables than it was like real chop suey)(but, yet again, I digress).

It was one of those warm breakfasts that would sustain the walk to school or the bus stop.

Super easy.  And, pretty darned good on a cold morning….

 

Poor Mans Rice Pudding

Cooked White Rice (I imagine you could use brown rice too, though I’ve not tried that)

Milk

Sugar

Cinnamon

Put desired amount of rice in a single serving bowl (a cereal bowl works) and heat in the microwave about a minute and a half or until it’s hot.  Pour milk over rice as you would cereal.  Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon to a tablespoon of sugar (I urge you to do these things to your taste).

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Enjoy.

Not hard right?  Almost as easy as instant oatmeal.  Warm.  Satisfying.  And…  an excellent way to use up that leftover rice!

A bowl of this and a cup of black coffee was my breakfast this morning…  it’s cold here and we still have snow on the ground…  it hit the spot!

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Mangia Bene!!!

Little Drunk, Pork Chop?

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As of right now…  the DH’s truck is up on jacks in the garage.  We are in discovery mode.  Trying to figure out what is wrong with it.  My DH is methodical and thorough.

So, this is a process.

Do it right the first time.

But, it’s cold.

And, snowy.

Which makes this kind of job…  miserable.

So, last evening, while he was checking to see if the flywheel had all its teeth…  I decided to make him a hearty meal.  You know…  stick to your ribs stuff.

I ran across a recipe some time ago called…  “Drunken Pork Chops”.  Weird name for a recipe.  Granted.

And, I was skeptical after reading the ingredients list…  it has ketchup in it.  Not something I like with pork chops.  But, ALL of the reviews on this recipe were good ones…

How can they all be wrong?

So, I proceeded to make this for the DH and the Fam…  it was a hit!!!  I served it with my smashed red potatoes…  and a green salad.

The verdict was….
YUM!

 

So…  here is the recipe…

 

Drunken Pork Chops

5 or 6 Pork Tenderloin Chops (or any chop for that matter)

Salt

Pepper

1 Bottle of Dark Beer (I used Guinness)

1/2 Cup of brown sugar

1/3 Cup ketchup (here is where I got apprehensive, but really, its great)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 Cup warm water

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Add about a teaspoon of olive oil to a skillet and allow to heat.  Sprinkle each side of your pork chops with salt and pepper.  Add chop to skillet and brown on each side.  Meanwhile, in a bowl combine beer, brown sugar and ketchup and whisk to combine. Once your chops are golden brown on both sides, pour the sauce over the pork chops and simmer, uncovered for about 30 to 40 minutes.  In a shaker (I used a small lidded storage container)(works just the same) combine 1 Tablespoon of corn starch and a 1/4 cup of warm water, shake well to mix.  Remove chops from the skillet and set aside.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture in to the boiling sauce and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken.  Return chops to pan to coat them with the sauce.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

I was worried this would be strong on ketchup or beer flavor…  but it’s not.  Really.  It was AWESOME!

This was delish…  the DH had a Guinness with it.

Go ahead…  give’r a go…

Mangia Bene!!!

Well Red…

As you all know…  the DH and I are HUGE Dottie and John fans.

They are our wine gurus (all hail Dottie and John)(we are not worthy).

So, as such faithful fans, we celebrated “Open That Bottle Night” a few weeks back.  Now, we are still pushing our way through a Groupon purchased case of California wines we bought a few years ago (yep, we are as surprised as you are that there is wine in this house that has been here for two years)(it even had dust on it)…  and because the case came with two bottles of each wine, we decided to revisit a wine we opened back when we first received the case (mind you…  none of these wines have been spectacular)(much to my chagrin)(and I certainly would think twice about purchasing the Groupon deal again)(but, we must move on…).

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It was a 2009 Burke Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I make little notes some times, when tasting.  Yeah, I know…  snobbish.  But, it’s the only way I remember what the wine was like.  I have a teflon coated mind…  nothing sticks to it.  Anyhow, the first time we had this wine, my notes say it was rather thin for a Cab with weak fruit and light color.  Huh?  Must be we weren’t too impressed with it.  I believe we served it with beef last time and the meal enhanced the wine which often happens (or completely obliterates the flavor of the wine).  This time, we served it with, of all things, smothered chicken and coucous.  Our report this time?

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Much better.  Still not one of our favorite Cabs (but, only because it was lacking that big bold flavor you expect from a California Cab).  The meal definitely enhanced the wine, considerably.  Before the meal we found it to still be a bit thin (in the wines defense, we love huge robust wines).  In color, still lighter than we think a Cab should be.  We found the flavors to have more depth.  Just a tiny bit of sweetness this time.  Still not much of a bouquet (or nose, if you are feeling snobbish about the whole thing).  Better mouth feel (you know, what it feels like in your mouth)(elementary).  I would say that this time it was a far more enjoyable wine (and lets be honest after a few glasses, it gets better)(because it breathes)(not because you are tipsy).

As with some reds, it has become better with time.

I did see that this was on a good value list, so the quality of the wine is right in line with wines in the per bottle price range of $7/$12.

We served this wine at room temp as we often do with Cab.

Cold Cabs tend to lose their flavor until they reach room temp again, in our opinion.

All in all not a bad choice for the meal we were having…  and a totally enjoyable evening was had.  Good food, good wine and good company…   it’s the little things in life that are the most gratifying.  I know…  I know…  I am waxing all poetic and stuff…

Picture of the dust on the bottle...  DH thought you all needed to see it...  even though it's hard to see from this picture.

Picture of the dust on the bottle… DH thought you all needed to see it… even though it’s hard to see from this picture.

I thought, it might be nice to list which Cabs are our favorites.  Some are blends…  we enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from time to time…  So, here’s the list with price points for our area (Michigan).

Dancing Bull Cabernet Sauvignon — $8.99

Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon — $8.99

Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon — $9.99 (but are often two for $11 at our local Meijer)

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon —  $11.99

Concha y Toro  Frontera Cabernet Savignon-Merlot — $9.99 magnum (Costco) This is a favorite “go to” red for us and the price is right.

Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon — $7.99 magnum (Costco) Also a favorite “go to” red, and the price is great!

Three Thieves Red Wine — $7.99 magnum (Costco) This is a blend of four varietals, one being Cab.  Great price, good wine!

If you try any of our faves, let me know…  I would love to hear what you think.

Salute!!!

It won’t straight to your Thai(s)…

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I, for one, am entirely tired of cold and snow.  Granted, we have only had winter for about two and a half months…  but, it’s been a doozey.  I know, I know…  we usually start winter in November and go straight through til April.  I suppose I should count my blessings…  but I am just sick of it.  I want my flip flops and sunglasses and fishbowls on the deck with good friends…  and grilling.  I love to grill.  And, if I hadn’t mentioned it before, I am the griller in our house.  If you want something grilled right around here…  you have to do it yourself.  The DH is not, bless his heart, grilling intuitive.  Therefore, I am the grill master to avoid all things that look and taste like charcoal briquettes (he is WAY better than me at lots of things, so I don’t feel bad for telling the world that he is not a griller extraordinaire).

Thinking about snow and cold…  and the stark contrast this March is to last March…  is what put me in mind of grilling and warmer weather…

Flashback…

This time last year…  and yes, I mean early March…  we had VERY warm days.  I had windows open.  And we were grilling.  It was about this time that I planned to grill out with my Dad.  He wanted to come over and grill something.  So, when it was time for ME to go out on the deck and grill dinner…  he followed me.  We were chatting and all of the sudden he looks at me funny and says, “why isn’t your husband grilling?”.  Without missing a beat…  I said, “I do the grilling around here”.

You see, my Dad called the DH, “The Saint”.  (again, a whole ‘nother blog post)

Why?

Because he has to put up with me.  (eyeroll)(like I am that bad)(so, I am a little strong willed)(a little stubborn)(a little opinionated)(so what?)(it’s my Dads fault)(right?)(ha)

Fast forward…

All this thinking sent me in search of a grilling recipe…  that I had been saving for just such an occasion.  Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin Chops with Thai Noodles.  We generally serve this in the summer, but I thought since the snow has melted some…  y’ all might be able to get to your grills for a taste of summer.  I didn’t take step by step photos of this…  I have no idea how that happened.  But, it’s worth sharing all the same.

 

Marinated Grill Pork Tenderloin Chops

4 Thick cut (or butterflied) Pork Tenderloin Chops

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil (really, what ever cooking oil you have on had will work)

2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

Pour all ingredients, except Pork Chops into a 1 Gallon Ziplock Bag and smoosh (yes, that is a technical term) around to mix.  Now add the Pork Chops and smoosh around to coat.  Place in the fridge for at least an hour.  But, the longer the better.  I usually try to do about three hours.  Heat grill to medium hot heat.  Place chops on the grill and cook, turning just one time.  Cook about 4 to 5 minutes each side.

Thai Noodles

1 Box Whole Wheat Linguine

1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil

1/2 Cup Sesame Oil

6 Tablespoons Honey

6 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Cilantro, Finely Chopped

Green Onion, sliced diagonally in 1/2″ pieces

Sliced Roasted Almonds

Toasted Sesame Seeds

Sliced Thai Dragon Peppers (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Heat the two Oils and the Crushed Red Pepper Flakes in a small sauce pan over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, give or take.  Strain out the Pepper Flakes using a mesh strainer or screen, reserving the oil in a bowl.  To the Oil in the bowl add, Honey and Soy Sauce, whisk to combine.  Add the pasta to the bowl and toss to coat.  Now here is where you have two options…  Option One is to serve the Noodles hot.  If you choose this option, you can scoop out some noodles and put them in or on your serving bowl or plate and top with cilantro, green onion, almonds, sesame seeds and Thai peppers.  Or, you can put the Noodles in the fridge until chilled (even overnight, if you wish) and serve cold alongside the Pork Tenderloin Chops.  Don’t forget to add the toppings, though.

You may add more heat by increasing the Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.  I go easy because I like heat with flavor.

Mmmmmmm….

We like to serve this with a cold, clean Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s perfect with the heat of the Noodles but also with the Pork.

Mangia Bene!

 

 

 

A story for you…

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Sometimes I feel like I share a lot of things on here but, not a ton about what I do aside from this blog.  I thought maybe, you would be curious.  Of course, I could be wrong.

It’s happened before.  Once.  But, again, that is another blog post. (ha)

Once upon a time…  I owned a cheesecake company.

Sinful Cheesecake Company to be exact.

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It was a great little business and had its share of success in our area.  I had Brides to be, actually come to Bridal Shows  just to see me.  I told my kids that I was a rock star.  That I had groupies.  They didn’t really buy that.  But, it was nice that these lovely ladies wanted to see me and have me provide the cakes for their weddings.  I was extremely flattered.

 

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Anyway…  I ran this business from a State Licensed Kitchen built-in my home for just this purpose.  I loved it.  And, my clients.  Because of this business, I met the percussionist from War, saw a man propose to his fiancée in my living room, met local celebrities and worked with many wonderful people.  I wouldn’t change any of that for the world!

Ever!

Then came the tipping point…

Without going in to a ton of detail, as it was a highly personal decision…  let’s just say an episode of the TV show “Shark Tank”, changed everything.

The very next morning, I told my husband of the epiphany I’d had while viewing “Shark Tank” the night before…  and oddly enough, he’d had the exact same reaction I did.  Right then and there, we made the decision to close SCC’s doors, forever.

I thought I was at peace with this decision.  We decided that October 2, 2012 would be my last wedding, because it was the end of the wedding season for that year.

We decided together what the next step was and thought on what MY future would be.  Initially, it was decided that I would do what I always have done, and teach myself a new craft.

My DH never forgets a thing, and he remembered what a hit the neckties from our MDs wedding were.  He thought I should learn the screen printing process and make hand screened neckties.  I loved this idea for many reasons…  but the most important reason for me was the creative outlet it would provide.

 

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So, Three Dog Neckties was born.

And, died.

In less than a few months.

Why?

I think partly…  the name.  People thought I was schlepping neckties for dogs.  Not humans.  Which lead to a great deal of confusion.  And, I didn’t have a passion for men’s neck wear.

At all.

About this time…  I was winding down the cheesecake company.  And, believe it or not, something that I was so sure I was OK with began to rip me apart.

Let’s just call it grieving.  Because, I do believe that is what it was.  Grief.

In the end…  I was closing the doors on something that had defined me for 10 years.  I did NOT expect to feel grief.  But, I did.  Not to say that I would go back there again.  I won’t.  That part of my life is over.  But, it was sad for me…  none the less.

Now though…  I needed to do something…  and I had the screen printing equipment…

So, now what?

I started thinking…  what do I feel passionate about? (aside from weddings, which I LOVE)

Two things popped to the front of my mind…

Number One?

Aside from my kids and the DH?

Dogs…  Dogs…  Dogs…  I LOVE DOGS!

I care about their treatment, I care about their well-being, I care about their safety…  I care about over breeding and ADOPTION.  This is something I feel strongly about.  But how to make that into a business?

Huh…

Then…

Number Two?

Aside from my kids, the DH and dogs?

The other thing I love…  VINO!  Wine.  I love wine.  Now, I figure…  if you are going to care about doggy welfare, you are going to need LOTS of wine.  Because, doggy welfare is, as often as not, an ugly thing.  Ugly = Wine.

 

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Again…  apart from opening a winery (which I am not at all equipped to do), how was I going to parlay this into a business?

Armed with these things in mind…

Three Mutts Ink was born.

And, is beginning to show a great deal of promise!

Three Mutts Ink is run out of a little studio in my home and I am excited about it.  I design and print T’s and hoodies.  Pillowcases and Doggy Bandanas.  It gives me a creative outlet and…  a voice.

You see…  I have a line of what I call…  Rescuewear.

 

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T’s and Hoodies that promote Doggy adoption and rescue.  I am excited to present these items because at some point in the near future…  I will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the “Rescuewear” line to help Doggy related charities all over the country.  It is my hope to make a difference in the world and in the life of dogs.  It is as much for me, as it is for them, that I do this.  And, I am soooo overjoyed to be doing it!!!  This is the voice this business gives me…  to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves!

 

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Then, the more “fun” side of things…  I have what I call “Wineauxwear”.  Yep, wine related Ts and Hoodies.  So much fun!  I love the expressions on the faces of folks who see the wine sentiments on my shirts.  They smile or laugh…  and I love that it was my product that did that!

And, I still do neckties…  and doggy bandanas, and pillowcases.

I am so excited about this business and happy to see that its beginning to bloom into something I can be as proud of as I was with the cheesecake company.

So, this is what I do other than blog…  just in case you were wondering.

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/threemuttsink

http://www.threemuttsink.com

 

Thanks a ton for indulging me…  I am glad you are all still here!!!  :0)

Stacey

 

Stop being such a Twinkie.

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Thought it was time for something sweet…  The challenge?  This recipe claimed that it “tasted just like a Twinkie”.  Hmmmm…  being forever the skeptic, I decided to give ‘er a go and find out.  Which is what I did.  On a Saturday afternoon a while back.  Before the Christmas madness and all.  The result?  The family declared them fantastic!  Did they taste like Twinkies?  Yes.  If Twinkies were made with out a lot of goop that we don’t need.  Then…  Yes.  These were pretty freakin’ good.

So….

The recipe…

Twinkie Cup Cakes

1 Yellow Cake Mix plus the ingredients on the back of the box

1 small box instant Vanilla Pudding (you can use regular, sugar-free or fat-free)

1 Recipe Marshmallow Buttercream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in to your muffin pans.  Now, make the cake mix according to the directions on the box.  Add the pudding mix and stir to incorporate.  Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pans, filling each cup around two-thirds of the way.  Put the pans in your oven and bake for about 15 or so minutes until golden (you can use either the touch test or the toothpick test).  Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile…  you can prepare the frosting.

Marshmallow Buttercream

1 7 oz. Jar Marshmallow Fluff
2 softened sticks of Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Powdered Sugar, approximately a two-pound bag

In your stand mixer place the following:  Marshmallow Fluff, Butter and Vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  A little at a time, add in powdered sugar…  Do this until the frosting is smooth and light.  It should also stiffen up a bit so it is piping consistency.  Now, you can place the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (of you can smooth it on with a spatula) and pipe on to your cooled Twinkie Cupcakes!

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And, enjoy!!!!! 

Mangia Bene!

A Little Winery… Close to home.

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Things have changed a lot around here in the 16 years that I have lived here.  More housing developments have gone in.  More businesses have moved in.  There is more financial and racial diversity…

And, 16 years ago…

this was a DRY town.

And when I say DRY, I mean DRY.

There were no sales of alcohol in this city at all.

NONE.

People (neighbors, even) would drive in to their garages, close the doors and unload their groceries, if they had beer, wine or other such contraband in their car.  I even had a neighbor apologize to me the night we moved in because her husband had a beer out on their table when I popped over there.

Really?

My mom said, “what are they going to do with a dark-eyed, dark-haired Italian girl out there?  The whole town is going to hell”.

She may have been right…  I will take the blame.  Ha!

Since moving out here…  the town is no longer dry.

This has been a fairly recent development.  Let’s say, in about the last four or so years (since I did not look it up, we will guesstimate).

We now have a liquor store, a winery and TWO breweries.  YES, TWO!  I for one, did not ever think it would happen.  But it has.

I think this little town is the better for it.  But, I am sure there are those who would argue that with me.

Anyhow, this post is about our visit this summer to Hudsonville Winery.  We went there on a very warm Friday evening in June, just cause.  We had heard that within the winery now, there is a brewery.  So, me and the DH were excited to try that out too.

The Brewery portion of the winery is called “Pike 51″.  We asked why they named it that…  and they very nice young man behind the counter told us that Chicago Drive (which runs right down the middle of our town) used to be called Pike 51.

Who knew?

So, we had beer, wine and a history lesson.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Upon arriving at the winery…  I, of course, had to check out the merchandise first thing.  They have an assortment of wine paraphernalia, t-shirts, hats…  and wine (obviously!).

Hudsonville Winery

Then we moved to the bar…   and wow.  They had done a remodel since we had been there last.  And, I have to say…  I was impressed.  The new decor was spot on with what I think of when I think winery.  And, they had added a space in the back with tables and chairs, as well as a small “living room” like seating area.  Pretty snazzy for our little burg.  At the bar we decided, because we had tasted wine before, we would go with the brewery’s offerings.

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So we went ahead and ordered a flight of beers.  Now when I think of a flight…  I think, a taste.  Their flight was more than generous!  Thank goodness we were sharing or we would have had to walk home (and even that might have been dangerous).  We ordered the Everlasting Light, Calibration, Dark Star, Wheatwhacker, Bazinga, The Kush IPA and The Knight’s Brown.  The Marvin’s Weizen and the From Whom the Stout Tolls was unavailable.

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Our favorite of the seven beers we sampled was Calibration.  But we also liked The Knight’s Brown and the Wheatwhacker.

I am a wheat beer girl in the summer time.  So, I enjoyed that one.  But, I am a dark beer girl in the winter…  so, I enjoyed the darker ones too.

I am NOT an IPA girl, I have recently learned.  I think it’s too “hoppy” for me.

Our server was the aforementioned young man…  he was awesome and made our experience even that much more enjoyable.

We very happily quaffed our beers (Can you quaff beer?  Or, is that just a wine thing?) and each others company while exchanging notes on what we thought of each selection.

I think the DH and I agreed that we were impressed with the selection of beer and the quality!

I don’t have enough “beer experience” to talk about flavors and colors as I do with wine…  but I will say, the beer we sampled at Pike 51 was good.  Delicious.  Impressive.  We definitely would go again.  And, I just read that one of Pike 51′s beers, The Kush IPA, is available on tap at Hop Cat in downtown Grand Rapids!

Next, after allllll that beer (and I must admit, feeling a little fuzzy in the head)(no comments about how I am always “fuzzy” in the head. OK?), we decided to taste some wine too!

After all…  it is called Hudsonville Winery.

So we slid down the bar a tiny bit…  where a young lady helped us out.  She also was wonderful and we very much enjoyed chatting with her.

For our wine tasting we selected, Red Zinfandel, Pinotage, White Zinfandel and Mela Carmello (Caramel Apple in Italian).

Now here is where I can get in to the nitty-gritty of wine tasting…  cause I know a few things about wine (not as much as some, mind you, but enough).

First, the Red Zinfandel…  Red Zin is one of my favorite wines.  It’s a wine that is best served at room temperature.  Hudsonville Winery’s Red Zin was good.  I won’t go on a rave about it but it was very enjoyable.  According to our notes, it had a fruity nose with a hint of oak.  Round without being boring.  Nice finish.

Then, the Pinotage.  This is my favorite at Hudsonville Winery.  Nice and bold like a red should be.  In my experience, you either like Pinotage or you don’t.  I liked this one.  This was everything the DH and I love about reds.  Red fruit on the nose with a hint of earth and oak.  Had a nice light spice at the finish.  We actually purchased this one in the past and would do it again.

Next up, White Zinfandel.  OK…  I know. White Zin?  Are you crazy?  But, as much as it pains me to admit it… I like a nice cold glass of White Zin every now and again.  Mostly in the summer months.  But, yeah…  I like it (what of it? Huh?).  Anyhow, Hudsonville Winery’s White Zin was very nice.  They call it “off dry” but I found it to be less so.  Refreshing and fruity with very light body.  Served ice-cold on a hot summer day?  Perfect!

Finally, Mela Carmello.  Ok…  I am totally not a fruit wine drinker.  AT ALL.  Not my bag.  Buuuut, I tried this because the name is in Italian.  How could I resist?  I know…  silly reason to try or buy a wine.  But, I have done worse…  like buying based on the label?  Yeah.  Guilty as charged.  So, back to the wine…  Mela Carmello…  meaning Caramel Apple in Italian.  Now this was unexpected and so different.  I quite liked it.  But, the DH was not on board.  It tasted like a Caramel Apple (which explains why the DH did not like it, he is anti fruit)(weird, I know)…  but with a bit of smoke on the back side.  It was strange but somehow…  it worked.  This is a sweet wine which I am not usually too excited about since I like Chilean and Australian Reds…  but, I totally enjoyed this for what it was.  Sweet, fun and tasty.  I actually bought a bottle of it, chilled it well and had it on a warm fall afternoon.  And, guess what?  It was PERFECT.

Wine is both subject and objective.  And, I have found that nearly any wine (price point and level of prestige aside) can become the perfect wine given the right circumstances.

Overall, the wines at Hudsonville Winery are nice wines at a decent price point.  Most of them are a bit lighter in body and flavor than more serious wines are.  But, they are enjoyable AND some of the wines have won awards.  I think they can only get better from here.

After sipping wine, we sat in the new “seating area” to absorb the ambiance for a bit (and to become less fuzzy).  I think I may have been the only one who was fuzzy…  because the DH seemed to be doing  just fine (never thought I was a lightweight but maybe I am).  At the end of the evening, we didn’t have to walk home and a good time was had by the both of us…

It is worth mentioning, with regard to the “seating area”… there are tables and chairs, and even a little “living room” like area for you to relax in while you enjoy your wine, beer and food.

Also worth noting… You can purchase by the glass or the bottle and they even have a food menu with some enticing looking items on it like “Jumbo Shrimp Scampi”, “Drunken Mushrooms, Goodfellow’s Pizza and other assorted items including a cheese tray and chips and salsa.

Wine price points start at around $8.49 per bottle and $4 for a 6 oz. pour and topping out at $20 per bottle and $5.50 per 6 oz. pour.

I believe our “flight” of beer at Pike 51 was around $12.  And, unfortunately, I didn’t write down the pricing for their beers…  I will have to update this in the future.  They did have “Growlers” available for purchase (which, I didn’t know until we went there, is a glass jug to put beer in for taking home).

As for the new food menu…  Two Chefs provides the appetizer style food items and the prices range from $4.25 for Chips and Salsa to $13.95 for a 9″ personal sized pizza.  We haven’t sampled the food offerings at the Winery/Brewery yet…  but, I will update when we do.

Hop on over to Hudsonville Winery/Pike 51 Brewery and check them out!

Oh, and let me know how you enjoyed it!!!

Salute!

Cold and Snowy meets Warm and Cozy

Cream of Mushroom Soup 7

 

Winter has finally arrived in West Michigan.  I know LOADS of people are excited about that.  I am usually not one of them.  Not really a snow-loving kinda gal.  But, I am not minding it right now.  Mostly, I think because the snow is far more pretty than the dead grass/bare tree look we have had to this point.  And, with colder/snowier (is that a word?) weather comes warm clothes, hot toddy and comfort food…

Mmmmmmm.

You know, soup and stew season?

Anyhow, nothing is better on a cold and snowy day than a warm and cozy bowl of soup.

Cream of Mushroom Soup.

This recipe makes a soup so silky, so velvety…  I bet you go for a second bowl.

We enjoyed a hot, steaming bowl with a crusty multigrain french bread.  The perfect pairing.

This soup is so irresistible.  I hope you will try it out and enjoy it as much as we did…  if you do…  leave me a note and let me know.

 

Ingredients

2 cups fresh mushrooms  (we used baby bellas and white buttons)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced (knuckle buster method)
1 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef stock (not broth, it matters, trust me)
1 tablespoon flour dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Sea Salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cream of Mushroom Soup 1
Clean and chop mushrooms in to fine pieces (I left some larger pieces in mine because it added a hearty chew to the soup) and use your grater to mince up the garlic.

Cream of Mushroom Soup 2

In a sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Then, add the butter and garlic.  Saute.  Now add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes or so…  until the moisture from the mushrooms cooks off.

Cream of Mushroom Soup 3

Should look about like this once the liquid is all cooked away.

Cream of Mushroom Soup 4
Pour in the beef stock.  Allow the stock to come to a boil, stirring every so often.  Reduce heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cream of Mushroom Soup 5

Next, with a wire whisk, stirring constantly…  add in the flour/water mixture.  Continue stirring until the mixture thickens.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Now, stir in the milk and heavy cream.  Allow the soup to reach a simmer.

Cream of Mushroom Soup 6

Serve!

We had a nice, round Pinot Noir from Lindemans with the soup.  It was soft enough to nicely with the soup’s mellow flavors.

Mangia Bene!

 

My gift to you…

So, I know I said on my Facebook that I would have a surprise for you all this week.  And, I do…  I am torn about sharing this with the world, because it has been a part of me for over 10 years now.  But, I told myself that I would do it…  and so here goes…

I have owned and operated Sinful Cheesecake Company for over 10 years now (as I mentioned above).  I closed SCC’s doors permanently in October of this year.  There were a number of reasons I chose to do this.  Some personal and some professional.  SCC was successful and I enjoyed making the cheesecakes and designing the wedding cakes for my wonderful clients…  but, I needed to move on. Which I have done (but that’s another post).  So…  you are probably wondering what my gift is….

It’s this….

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Yes…   that is Sinful Cheesecake Company’s Cheesecake.

No.

I am not giving you each a cheesecake.

I am giving you something better…

The recipe.

Yup.  You heard me….  the recipe.

Call it my Christmas gift to you.  We have kept this hidden and a secret for the entire time I owned SCC…  and now it’s yours to use and share if you like!  Just please…  credit the source.

So…

Merry Christmas to you!!!

Sinful Cheesecake Company’s Recipe

CRUST-

2 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 Cup Sugar
Half a Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted

Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a bowl mix together the sugar and cracker crumbs. In the microwave safe cup melt butter, about 1 minute.

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Mix the melted butter into the graham cracker/sugar combination.

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Press crust mixture into the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ Spring Form Pan. Set aside.  But before we set this aside…  I thought maybe I would also share some secrets of the trade.

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This, my friends, is called a “smoothing spoon”.  This was created for the sole purpose of smoothing out a graham cracker crust by my DH when he was in charge of such things in the early days of the business.  You want one of your own, you say?  Well…  I bet you already have one.  This is a normal tablespoon (the larger ones that come with your silverware set).  And he bent the bowl of the spoon so it would rest flat on the bottom of the pan.  Viola!  Smoothing spoon.

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With your spoon or smoothing spoon spread the crumbs around to cover the bottom of the pan.  Then, begin smoothing it out.

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I start at the edges.  Smoothing them down first and work my way to the center, applying light pressure to pack the crumbs down.

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Then work on smoothing the center.  I go over the entire thing a few times to make sure it’s well packed.  If you don’t pack it down well…  the crust will crumble when you slice it (the crust will crumble some anyway, but you don’t want it to just be a crumbly mess).

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All done…   now you can set it aside.

THE CHEESECAKE-

3- 8 oz. Blocks of Cream Cheese
4 Eggs
1- Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2- Cup White Chocolate, Melted
1 Tablespoon Vanilla (real or extract)

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy (starting on a low setting and speeding it up to medium as the cream cheese beats down).

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I used the large three-pound blocks of cream cheese (I get two cheesecakes from one block).

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Turn mixer off. Add in the eggs, and beat on slow for a few minutes. Turn mixer off and scrape down the bowl and the beater (it will look kind of curdled, trust me it will come together).

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Beat on low increasing speed to medium/medium high until the eggs are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth (see, it came together just fine).

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Turn mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk (I used Meijer brand but have used the one from Aldis as well as Eagle brand).

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Beat on medium for about a minute.

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I always melt the white chocolate in these coffee mugs turned chocolate melting mugs.  This amount of white chocolate melts in the microwave in about 40 seconds.  Remember that melted chocolate chips will look shiny but hold their shape.  Stir them well before putting the melted chocolate into the batter.

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Turn mixer down to medium/low setting and with the mixer running add the melted white chocolate.

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Now (with mixer beating) add in the Vanilla.

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Beat on Medium until the vanilla is incorporated.

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Pour batter in to Spring Form with crust.

Here’s the thing… I don’t do the water bath thing. You can if you like. But we have never done it. If you are going to do the water bath… I recommend wrapping the pan in foil, then placing it in a pan that is already in your pre heated oven. Then, adding the hot water. For the water bath method, I am not sure on baking time. A good rule of thumb is to bake the cheesecake until about three inches diameter in the center of the cake is still slightly jiggly.

If you dry bake the cheesecake, which is what I do… it will bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes give or take a bit.

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To prevent cracking, we remove the cheesecake from the oven and immediately run a thin knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Then set it aside to cool before refrigerating. We think the cheesecake is best made the day before and refrigerated overnight.

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This recipe makes one 10″ round cheesecake.  We slice it in to 16 servings.  Which is perfect with it being cheesecake and all.

How did we get those lovely rosettes on top and what did we use to make them, you ask?

I seriously cannot believe I am giving away the farm on this one…

We bought “Rich’s On Top” from Gordon Food Service.  It comes in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip all ready to use.  You can do just the stars, or with a swirl of your wrist create the rosettes like we do.  Real easy.

Here are some of the basic variations we have done:

Cherry Cheesecake- After baking and cooling… add rosettes and top with one can of Comstock More Fruit Cherry Pie Filling (yep, that’s all it is)

Blueberry Cheesecake- After baking and cooling…  add rosettes and top with one can (you guessed it) Comstock More Fruit Blueberry Pie Filling

Cookies n’ Creme Cheesecake- Before baking… Stir broken up Oreo pieces into the batter after you put it in the pan and then sprinkle more on top.  And, bake as normal. After cooling add rosettes and sprinkle with more crumbled Oreos if desired.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake- Before baking… Same as with the Oreos above (I use the Nestle mini semi sweet chips) and bake as normal.  After cooling add rosettes and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Candy Cane Cheesecake-  Before baking… Crush about six candy canes (I use a freezer bag and a rolling-pin) and do the same thing as with the Oreos above.  Baking as usual.  After cooling add rosettes and sprinkle with more crushed candy canes if desired.

Brownie Cheesecake-  After baking and cooling… Top with hot fudge sauce (we like Mrs. Richardson’s), then add broken up brownies and drizzle on chocolate syrup.

Strawberry Cheesecake-  After baking and cooling…  add rosettes and top with fresh, sliced strawberries in Marzettis Strawberry glaze.

Please let me know if you make this…  this recipe is near and dear to me.  I do so hope you will enjoy it!

Mangia Bene!!!

Sauced…

So, I figured I have been quiet long enough…   did you enjoy my silence?  I bet you did!  Ha.  Anyhow, I have been on an apple kick lately…  you know…  “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”…  and other such rot.  For some reason, when fall rolls around, I just want the house to smell like apples and cinnamon.  Unfortunately, it’s not good for my waistline.  But, whatever.

This fall is no exception.  Apple sauce, Apple crisp…  apple, apple, cinnamon!

Sugar.

Ok…  so my warped rambling is out of control.  I think I best just get down to business…  crock pot.

Ok…  so one more.  I told someone the other day that they were going to start thinking I was the “crock pot queen”.  Because the last few times they have been to my house…  I have had something cooking in the crock pot.  I love it that you can do ALL kinds of things in the crock pot and I have been taking advantage of it lately.

Better the crock pot, than a crack pot…  oh gosh.  O.u.t. o.f. c.o.n.t.r.o.l.

So………  crock pot applesauce it is. (shrug)

Crock Pot Applesauce

Ingredients

4 to 6 LARGE apples, peeled, cored and cut in to chunks

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar (you can adjust based on how sweet the apples are)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup of water

Put the apples in the crock pot and pour in the water and the lemon juice.  Now add in the remaining ingredients.  I just give a quick stir.  Then allow to cook on low for 4 to 6 hours (give or take).  Occasionally, toward the middle of the cooking process…  and again around the end of the cooking, I get out my “smasher”…  You know that weird-looking potato masher thingie (I believe that’s the technical term) and I mush the apples a bit to break them down to a more “sauce” like consistency.

Egads… it’s a blurry pic…

This is delicious served warm…  mmmmmmm.  Maybe warm with Vanilla Ice Cream? Or, with Pork Chops?

Ok…   where did I put my crock pot????

I really probably wouldn’t serve wine with this…  but, what the hey…  maybe a nice Ruby Port?  Yup.  Just the thing on a cool, crisp fall evening…

Mangia Bene!!!