Another Present in the Mail

This week is definitely ending on a very good note.  Two presents in two days.  It’s not even Christmas or my birthday.  These are just because presents.  Those are the best.  🙂 Today’s present is a book from our very own “Goldie”.  It’s  called Static Dreams, Volume 2.  I am so excited to read this book.

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If you don’t follow Goldie’s blogs, you should.  She has very good insight and information on a wide range of topics.  Though Goldie and I have never met in person, yet, I feel like I have known her for years.  I have come to rely on her as a my editor and second set of eyes, but more so, I am honored to call her my friend.  And WE WILL meet one day, which I just know will be the start of an even better friendship.  You can see what Goldie is up to and what’s on her mind at https://dailyflabbergast.wordpress.com/,  and by following her special categorical blogs NROP or News Related Opinion Piece, CW or Creative Writing, BT or Blogging Tips, HW or Hashtag Week, and Awards.   Goldie is one busy bee, as you can see, and yet she still finds time to write books as well.  She is amazing!  We all need more Goldies in our lives.  I’m just glad I have this one in mine.  🙂  To borrow your phrase Goldie, “stay golden”.

A Surprise in Today’s Mail

As we all know, sadly, the holiday season of 2019 has come and gone.  We are now into a new year and a new decade.  But that doesn’t mean presents aren’t still loved and greatly appreciated.  I love presents anytime.  🙂  I received a surprise present in today’s mail, from my friend Karen, in San Diego, CA.  It totally made my day.   I was feeling a little wiped out after an event that happened at work this morning and was just really kind of in a bit of a funk.  It really knocked my socks off.  So getting this surprise today really perked me up.  My care package from Karen made it all better.

Every year, Larry and I host our annual ornament exchange party to ring in the holidays.  Part of Karen’s care package included a fun ornament.  NO!  This one is for my tree.  It is not one for the 2020 exchange!  I love my new ornament, but the part of the gift that was just what “the doctor ordered” was a fun little packet of cocktail recipes called “Karen’s Twelve Cocktails of Christmas“.  I think I just might need to make one for tonight.  Karen knows me well.

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The cocktails included in this libatious packet are:

  1.  Christmas Cookie Cocktail
  2. Poinsettia Cocktail
  3. Santa’s Sleigh Cocktail
  4. Champagne Cocktail
  5. Candy Cane Cocktail
  6. Hot Spiced Butterscotch Rum Cocktail
  7. Glacier Cocktail
  8. Classic Cognac Cocktail
  9. Holly and Mistletoe Cocktail
  10. Orange Coffee Cocktail
  11. Gingerbread Cocktail
  12. Christmas in a Glass

Don’t these all sound fun?  I can’t wait to try them all.  I promise I will have tried them all at least once WAY before Christmas comes around again.

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My favorite gifts are ALWAYS those that are fun, creative, and made from the heart.  This was a perfect gift that I can enjoy anytime of the year.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Karen.  Love you lots.  🙂

 

Ports from Portugal

Port, or porto, is a sweet wine, enjoyed mostly enjoyed as a dessert wine around the world.  Port is made from a blend of different grapes and because it is made from different grapes, it has a very complex character.  To be considered a true port, the wines have to be made in the Douro River Valley of Portugal.  Ports are also regulated by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douros do Porto.

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The grapes used to make ports are grown on very steep hillsides all throughout the valley.  The summers in this area are very hot and the terrain is extremely difficult, but these difficult conditions are the perfect conditions to grow all the different varieties of grapes used to make port wines.

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Wines have been a part of Portugal’s history since at least 2000 BC.  Vineyards were originally planted in Portugal when the Tartessians planted vines in the Sudo and Tagus Valleys.

Port wine was originally made to preserve the wines as they were transported from country to country, particularly the wines coming from Portugal and going to England.  The English have had a love affair with wines from around the world since their beginnings, but we all know England and the UK do not have the right weather conditions to grow grapes.  Thus, their wines all had to be imported.  At first, most of the wines were imported from France to England, but this changed during all the English -French wars.  The English had to find other sources for their beloved wines.  They imported many wines from various countries, but the ports from Portugal became a favorite.  In the beginnings, the wines were fortified with brandy after the fermentation process and during the aging process.  Today, it is mostly fortified during the fermentation process.

There are different types and styles of port wines too.   A tawny port is made mostly from red grapes and is aged in wooden barrels.  Barrel aging refines the wine and makes it smoother than bottle aging.  Another advantage of barrel aging is that it reduces the amounts of tannins in the wine.  Tawny ports are aged for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or 40 years before they are ready for bottling and consumption.  The longer a tawny port ages, the more smooth and refined it becomes, and the more expensive it is to purchase.  The most popular tawny ports are those that have been barrel aged for 20 years.  Wooden barrels expose the grapes to a gradual oxidation and evaporation, which gives the port a smooth nutty flavor.

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Another style of port is a Reserve port.  Reserve ports are blended from several vintages of high quality wines that have aged for about 5 years.

Vintage port is yet another style.  It is a port that has aged in wooden barrels from 4-6 years, but it is made from a specific vintage only, which according to the rules of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douros do Porto, has to be specified on the label.  Anyone who is a wine lover knows that many wines need to age and mature before they are ready for consumption.  Ports are no exception, however, a vintage port is the only type of port that is matured in the bottle rather than in the barrel.  The best vintage ports are those that have aged for about 20 years.

There is also a white port, which can be made in any of the above mentioned ways, only it is made by using white grapes only, rather than red grapes.

Serving port at the just the right temperature is an art form.  You do not want to serve it too warm, over 70* F, or it will taste flat, and dull, and the taste of the alcohol will be very prevalent, rather the taste of the grapes.  You do not want to serve it too cold either though.  The best temperature to serve port is when it is slightly cooler than room temperature.  This will bring out all the delicious complexities and flavors of the port.  Port is delicious at any time of the year, but it is often thought of as a good wine to enjoy in the cooler months of the winter season.

To your health!  Cheers!  A votre sante!  Salud!

 

 

 

 

Falafels and Tahini Sauce

The other day a friend of mine asked me if I had any good recipes for falafels.  So I started looking through my library and found some really good recipes.  My quest got me hungry for falafels too, so I decided to make them for dinner.  Falafels are a great dish for vegetarians or vegans because they are so high in protein.  You can easily eat them on their own, or as a side dish to go with something else.  They are almost always served in either a pita or with a flatbread, and tahini sauce.

About the only thing people agree upon about the origins of falafels is that they originated somewhere in the Middle East and are typical Middle Eastern foods.  Other than that, who knows.  All of the countries in the Middle East claim them as their own.  One of the most accepted theories, however, is that they originated in Egypt about 1000 years ago.  Falafels are made from either dried, ground fava beans or chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.  They originated as foods to eat on the go, so are most often found in either round balls, flat patties, or doughnut shaped balls.  Once they are formed, they are fried until they are crispy.  The name falafel is believed to have come from two sources.  The first is the word falafil, which is Arabic for crunchy, and the second is from the Egyptian word ful, which means fava bean.  Falafels are the second most popular dish made from chickpeas, following another Middle Eastern/Mediterranean favorite, hummus.

 

This dish is super easy and quick to make, and only requires a few ingredients.  As I have said many times, simple is often best.

Falafels with Tahini Sauce

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1/2 white onion

1 TBSP garlic

1 can garbanzo beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained

1 cup parsley

1 cup cilantro

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

3/4-1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

canola oil for cooking

pita bread or flatbread

 

In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until they are finely minced, then remove them from the bowl and set aside.

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Next, add the chickpeas and all the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it makes a paste.

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Add the garlic and onions back into the mixture, and pulse once again until everything is well blended.  Then form the mixture into either balls or patties and place them on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Let them set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before frying them.

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While the falafels are setting, make the tahini sauce.  Again, this is a very easy sauce to make, and only takes a couple of seconds in the food processor.

Tahini Sauce

1 1/4 cups plain yogurt or a combination of yogurt and mayonnaise

1/4 cup tahini or sesame paste

2-3 TBSP lemon juice

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Mix everything together in the food processor until you have a smooth creamy sauce.  I did not have enough yogurt, so I mixed the yogurt I had with some mayonnaise and it came out just perfect.  I interchange yogurt and mayonnaise quite often.  I also like my sauce a bit more lemony, so I made it with 3 TBSP of lemon juice.  Chill the sauce until ready to use.

Once the falafels are ready, fry them up.  You can deep fry them or pan fry them until they are golden brown and crispy.  I prefer to pan-fry things if I can, since it is usually slightly less fattening because things are not completely saturated in the fat.  But it is really just a personal preference.

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I chose to have my falafels as a side dish, and served with some pork chops marinated in lemon juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil, with some asparagus topped with tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic and pita bread.  And of course there was wine.  I served it all with a cool, crisp Verdicchio.  I felt like I was dining in the middle of the Mediterranean or somewhere exotic in the Middle East.

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Teriyaki Scallops

I have been hungry for scallops for awhile now, especially since Bernice, from Supper Plate has been posting so many wonderful looking dishes with scallops.  I have also been wanting something a little different as well, and decided to make some teriyaki scallops for a change.  We love teriyaki sauce, but for whatever reason, I don’t tend to make teriyaki dishes too often.  Maybe with a new year and a new decade ahead of us that will change.  Who knows?

Teriyaki, as we know it today, was born in the Hawaiian Islands during the 17th century, from the Japanese migrants who settled into the islands.  It is a fusion from the traditional Japanese recipe and the new Hawaiian version.  Traditionally, teriyaki sauce was made from only 4 ingredients, mirin, which is a sweet Japanese cooking wine, sugar, soy sauce and sake, which is another Japanese wine or spirit.  When the Japanese people migrated to the Hawaiian Islands, they fell in love with the pineapples that were so prevalent in the islands, and incorporated some pineapple juice, ginger, garlic, and often sesame seeds to their original marinade, and the result was the sauce we so love today.

The word teriyaki is a combination of two Japanese words, teri or tare, and yaki.  Teri means something that has luster or shines and yaki is a cooking method referring to something that is grilled or broiled over hot coals.  In the western world, when we hear the word teriyaki, we know it as something that has been marinated in teriyaki sauce.  It can be any kind of meat or vegetables that have been marinated in this particular type of sauce.

As you all know, normally I pride myself in making everything from scratch as much as possible, but with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I have cut time a little and actually used some store bought items instead.  Such was the case for this dish.  I used a bottled teriyaki sauce rather than making my own.  Will you ever forgive me?  🙂  of course, I did “doctor” it up so it wasn’t exactly the same as it was coming straight out of the bottle.  The sauce was good, but a little too salty for our taste.  So, when I make my own the next time, I will cut down on some of the soy or at least use a low sodium soy sauce.  Other than that, it was very good.  We like spicy much more so that we like salty, so I added more ginger and more garlic, cooking them both with my vegetables.  I thought I had potstickers or wantons to use a side dish, but did not have either, so I used naan bread as an accompaniment instead.  My philosophy is to “use what you have and don’t worry about the rest”.  Indian is still considered to be Asian, so they kind of go together, right?!  🙂  Normally, with a spicy sauce, a good Gerwertztraminer or Riesling would be perfect, because their sweetness will balance out the spiciness of the dish.  I went with a dryer white wine though, and chose a Verdicchio instead, to offset the sweetness of the sauce, as well as the spice.

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You can use any kind of vegetables you like, but I stayed with an Asian theme and used carrots, mushrooms, snow peas and shallots, along with garlic and ginger.  Then I topped everything with green onions, a dash of sesame seeds and some orange peel to really make all the flavors come to life.

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Teriyaki Scallops with Vegetables

1-2 lbs sea scallops

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 large shallot, sliced very thin

2 carrots, sliced at an angle of Asian style

1 TBSP ginger

1 TBSP garlic

4 TBSP olive oil or peanut oil for cooking

1-1 1/2 cups teriyaki sauce

1-2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch, optional

green onions, sliced Asian style for garnish

sesame seeds – optional for topping

orange peel optional for topping

 

Add your oil to a hot skillet or wok and then add the vegetables, ginger and garlic and cook until the carrots are tender and the shallots are translucent.  When the vegetables are cooked, remove them and set them aside.

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In the same oil, adding more if necessary, add the scallops and cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until they are browned and cooked.

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When the scallops are cooked, add the sauce, and a little arrowroot or cornstarch if you prefer a slightly thicker sauce.  Mix everything together well and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

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When the sauce is to your desired consistency, add the vegetables and combine everything together well.  Then serve over rice or noodles.  I used rice this time.  Top with green onions, sesame seeds and orange peel.

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Dinner is ready.

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Painting with Perri

My friend Perri and I decided we needed a little break from the pool and headed down to go paint some lilacs instead.  Perri is one of the other coaches I work with.  We have a lot of fun together.

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After I got home, Larry and I started taking down all the Christmas decorations.  It is time to put them away until next time.  Sadly, the Holidays are now officially over.

 

Thai Chicken Curry

The two main types of curried dishes are either from India or from Thailand.  An Indian Curry  Both are delicious and we eat both quite often.  I do not really have a preference to either, it really just kind of depends on my mood at the time of cooking.  Indian curries are usually less saucy than Thai curries, and are more paste-like.  Indian curries almost always contain turmeric, cumin and coriander.  Thai curries are most often made with coconut milk, are lighter, and are more soup-like than Indian curries.  They are often made with ingredients that are more traditional from the Asian parts of the world, such as cilantro, lemon grass and tamarind.  Usually the Thai curries are a little sweeter too.  Both range from mild to spicy, depending on how much heat you like.  And both styles can be made with any combination of meats, seafood, and/or vegetables, or vegetables only if you prefer them to be vegetarian.  There is no right or wrong way to make a curry.

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Curries, whether they are Indian or Thai, can be made with a lot of ingredients or just a few.  I tend to make mine with a lot of ingredients, since I “like stuff in my stuff”.  I tend to make them with a lot of different vegetables.  In this particular curry, I added some pumpkin, broccoli, red peppers, jalapenos, onion, basil and cilantro to really make it full of flavor.  You can use a wide variety of vegetables.

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Thai Chicken Curry

1 1/2- 2 lb chicken, cut into thin strips

1 cup broccoli florets

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 cup pumpkin, cubed

1/2 onion, sliced very thin

1 jalapeno, diced fine

1 TBSP fresh basil, chiffonade or cut into thin strips

2 TBSP cilantro, chopped fine

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger, fresh or dried is fine

1 can coconut milk

1 TBSP lime juice

1 TBSP honey – I used ginger honey

salt & red pepper to taste

2-3 tsp curry, or to taste

olive oil or peanut oil

toasted coconut, optional for topping

cilantro for topping

 

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Cook the vegetables in the oil and the salt & pepper until the onions, broccoli and peppers are translucent and tender.

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Once the vegetables are done, remove them from the skillet and set aside.  In the same oil, adding more if necessary, cook the chicken.

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While the chicken is cooking, mix the coconut milk, lime juice, honey and all the spices together.  I used my ginger honey that I received for Christmas A Box of Honey which really made the flavors pop and come to life.

 

Add the vegetables back into the chicken and mix together, then add the liquid mixture and combine well.  Add the basil and half the cilantro and mix well.  Bring the dish to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Curries, but especially Thai curries, are very accommodating to being served with either rice or noodles.  This time I served it over angel hair pasta.  I topped it with toasted coconut and cilantro and served it with Indian naan bread, along with a crisp buttery chardonnay.  It just hit the spot and was perfect for dinner.

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