Author Archives: CorkAndSpoon

Au Revoir 2012 – A Look Back

We’ve only got about a week left in 2012, and, since you are all reading this, we can safely say the Mayans were wrong and the world continued past 12/21/2012.

twoMayans

And it really is just as well, because I need 2013 to get here so I can enjoy it! 2012 flew by in a blur of big life changes, ___________, and ____________. Let’s take a look back at what 2012 meant to us here at Cork and Spoon.

January

We were pretty boring in January- recovering from the holidays and using up left over champagne from New Years Eve.

February

Ruth and I continued volunteering with Potomac Point Winery this year, starting off with the Virginia Wine Expo, host to the Virginia Governors Cup. We went in with a well designed battle plan and had another fabulous time chatting with wine makers and vineyard owners, and interacting with the crowds.

March

March was a busy, busy, busy month, especially for me. In the very first week of March, I turned 30th, took (and passed!) my Certified Information Privacy Professional exam, and Cork and Spoon posted its 100th post!

In addition to all of that, Ruth moved to a new job within the Marine Corp, and I got to spend a weekend with my newest nephew Logan.

Logan's first cooking lesson, 2

April

After the busyness of March, Ruth and I laid low in April. We did enjoy a night out in Old Town Alexandria belatedly celebrating my birthday at GRAPE + BEAN’s Taste like a Sommelier class. (Read about fellow blogger, Karen of Back Road Journal, and her Alexandria, VA experience here and here.)

Taking notes during our blind flight after class.

May

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Ruth sipping coffee on the patio of her family’s timeshare in Spain.

May saw Ruth flying to Spain and spending a week soaking up the sun, culture, and food. She made sure to inspire us with a Spanish inspired Gin & Tonic and homemade aioli.

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June

Ruth spent all of June at Patuxent River Air Station taking a class required for her job. While it certainly involved a lot of work and more than a little stress, she did get to spend part of her weekends exploring Maryland wineries – a nice change of pace for us here at Cork and Spoon.

Meanwhile, even though I was promoted in June to a Privacy Analyst position, I still extolled the virtues of finding great wine that doesn’t break the bank. Promotion or not, money should always be spent frugally so there is plenty left over for shoes!

The wines

July

Ruth and I both laid low during the month of July. There were weekends at the beach, and Independence day cookouts. And of course, like so many around the world, we were eagerly following the 2012 Summer Olympics while making our own version of Olympic athlete approved dinner.

August

August is Virginia Craft Beer month, and here at Cork and Spoon , we got into the spirit with home-brewed ale.

Brewing Beer Time to Enjoy

The first weekend of August, also saw me moving back to my beloved Washington, D.C. in a lovely apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Not only was I blessed by awesome friends to help me move, but a trip to Ikea for a couch gave me the excuse to finally buy elderflower syrup. The result was a tasty drink, perfect for sipping while unpacking.

Unpacking and an Elderflower Fizz

September

September was another laid back month for Ruth and I. I fought a nasty cold… like I said, it wasn’t a very exciting month :)

October

On October 1st, I started a new job with a privacy and information security focused government contracting company. Finding a new position in my still pretty new career was an amazing feeling, and definitely confirmed that things are working out well.

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October, as you may recall, is all Virginia Wine month. Again this year, the amazing folks at VA Tourism invited Ruth and I to participate in one of the month’s many activities celebrating Virginia wine – the Virginia Crush Bus tour of Loudon County wineries. We eagerly accepted the invitation, although prior commitments kept me from attending, so Ruth went, making sure to send me envy invoking photos all day.

Meanwhile, I was in the wilds of Maryland, preparing for the zombie apocalypse by participating with friends in the Run for Your Lives 5k race. It was a tough race filled with obstacles such as swimming across a freezing cold pond and zombies bent on stealing the flags that kept me “alive.” The good news is, I crossed the finish line alive and kicking. Now I just need to practice my survivalist cooking techniques and I’ll be ready for my own version of The Walking Dead.

zombie race_Emilie Schulz

November

Logan's first Thanksgiving dinner

November marks the start of the holiday season here in the U.S. Its the start of holiday parties and plenty of quality time with family. And while Thanksgiving Day menus are remarkably similar from house to house, it doesn’t mean that Ruth and I play it safe. Nope we’re still experimenting, and just using our unsuspecting families as guinea pigs.

December

Between more holiday parties, holiday shopping, and Christmas dinner planning, December is always a busy month in its own right. Add to that a bend of creativity that has both of us making homemade Christmas gifts in our kitchens and Ruth and I are constantly moving during the month of December. But that didn’t stop us from heading out last night for a little bit of fun with one of our longtime favorite bands Carbon Leaf.

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All in all, its been a crazy year for Ruth and I, and I don’t think we’d have it any other way. So here’s to what 2012 gave us and to what 2013 has in store. We couldn’t ask for better followers and friends to have along for the ride!

Hump Day Happy Hour: Peach-Rosemary Shrub

I have a deep respect for vinegar. I’ve been known to dip fresh bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle malt vinegar on my french fries, use rice vinegar in my quick and easy dipping sauce, or even use apple cider vinegar as a beauty treatment in my trusted baking soda-vinegar clarifying shampoo. Despite this deep appreciation for vinegar and its ability to take a dish up a notch, I cannot get behind the idea of drinking 2 tablespoons a day as a dietary supplement. Even with the addition of honey and long list of supposed health benefits, the idea of drink apple cider vinegar in my morning glass of water makes my stomach do flip-flops.

Those were the same flip-flops my stomach did when I read this article about making a shrub syrup at home. Shrubs, originally brought stateside by English colonists, are a method of preserving seasonal fruits for year round consumption as a fruit syrup mixed with vinegar. The addition of vinegar, as in pickling, allows the fresh fruit juice to sit for months before going bad. Even with the addition of ripe sweetened fruit, drinking vinegar still seems yucky. But I wouldn’t be a good cook, foodie, or blogger if I didn’t occasionally go out on a limb and giving something new and wacky a try.

A shrub can be made with any type of berry, stone fruit, or other fleshy fruit;  any type of vinegar; and any type of sugar. I knew from the start that I wanted to stick with apple cider vinegar for 2 reasons: (1) its proclaimed health benefits, and (2) apple cider vinegar would likely provide a smoother flavor than white vinegar at a cheaper cost than champagne or wine-based vinegar. I chose peaches because we are at the height of peach season and I was at the farmer’s market late in the afternoon – the perfect conditions for some respectful price haggling. I brought the price of my locally grown, organic peaches down from $2.59/lb to $1.75/lb – almost 33% discount. Of course it helps that the farmer was less than inclined to take the produce back home and I had picked out some pretty rough looking peaches. Because the fruit get macerated and turned into a syrup, feel free to pick out a few less than perfect specimens and barter the price down a few nickles :)

Peach-Rosemary Shrub

1.5 lb peeled & pitted ripe peaches
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 pint organic apple cider vinegar

1)     Place peaches, rosemary, and sugar in a large sauce pan. Using a potato masher or the back of a spoon macerate the peaches and sugar, forming a thick liquid.

2)     Turn stove burner on medium heat and heat peaches until just beginning to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 to 20 minutes.

3)     Using a cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer, carefully separate the syrup from the “solid” mush left behind. Discard the peach mush and funnel syrup into a sterile glass container* (a 1 pint mason jar would work well, I used an old fashion milk bottle with cap I have).

4)     Add 1 pint of organic apple cider, close with sterilized lid and place in the fridge.

*To sterilize your storage container, wash it and the lid in hot soapy water and rinse well. Fill the container with boiling water and let it sit while you prepare the shrub. Meanwhile bring a small pot of water, enough to cover the lid, to a boil. When the shrub is ready, empty the water from the bottle, add the shrub, and dip your lid in boiling water for about 30 seconds before putting on the container. Store in the fridge.

Shrub and soda

The simplest way to enjoy your shrub is chilled with soda water. Its a sweet-tart, bubbly treat that is wonderful on the last warm days of summer. Just add a couple ounces to a glass of soda water, stir, and sip. Just make sure to always shake vigorously before using, otherwise you’ll get nothing more than a mouthful of vinegar.

If you want something a bit stronger, I played around with my liquor cabinet and came up with this gem, which I decided to call the Amber Strumpet. The name of the drink was the hardest part of the development part: amber was easy, look at the color. After my second glass, the sweet-tart makes me think of the personality of a “strumpet.” I do this all for you ;)

Amber Strumpet

1.5 ounces peach-rosemary shrub
1 ounce Art in the Age Snap Liquor
club soda

Pour the liquor and shrub in a glass over ice and stir to combine. Top with club soda and enjoy.

Walnut Baklava

If you are anything like me, you were taught to never show up to a party empty handed. So, when I was invited to a mid-week 4th of July cookout, I needed something that could be made Sunday, nearly 3 days before the party and still be as good (or better) than the day it was made. This meant cupcakes, pies, and anything that could become stale was out. I thought about making sangria and letting the flavors meld together over the 3 days, but then realized driving with an open container of booze on the 4th of July was unwise. So I turned to my trusty baklava recipe. See, the trick to good baklava is letting it sit for at least 24 hours after pouring the honeyed syrup over the layers of phyllo and nuts. This waiting period gives the syrup time to soak into all of the cinnamon-y layers and glue the bars together.

Walnut Baklava

1 lb walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2.5 teaspoons quality cinnamon
3 sticks butter, melted
1 16-ounce package phyllo sheets

Baklava Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup honey
1.5 teaspoon vanilla

1.     Preheat oven to 300°F

2.     Combine walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon. The box of phyllo dough should come with 2 individually wrapped 8-ounce packages. Unwrap one package and cut sheets in half. To keep the sheets from drying out, place between two sheets of wax paper and cover with a clean damp towel.**

3.     Using a pastry brush, spread a light layer of melted butter along the bottom and sides of a pan approximately 10×14 inches.

4.      Layer 16 half sheets on the bottom of the pan, buttering each sheet as you layer it.

5.     Spread a healthy cup of the walnut/sugar mixture this first layer. Top with 10 half sheets of phyllo dough, buttering between each layer and staggering to cover the pan.

6.     Repeat step 5 two more times so that you have 3 nut layers. After the final nut layer, simply layer the rest of the phyllo sheets on top, brushing the top with a final coat of butter.

7.     Using a sharp knife cut halfway through the baklava. I like to cut it in quarters lengthwise and thin cut it on the diagonal, creating diamond like shapes.

8.     Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour.

9.     Forty-five minutes into the baking time, begin to make syrup. Bring water, sugar, honey, and lemon juice to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat,  add vanilla.

10.    Remove baklava from the oven and immediately (and very carefully) pour the syrup over the baklava. It will boil and “spit” so, again, be careful.

11.     Cover with plastic wrap and foil. Let sit for at least 24 hours, or up to 2 days. The longer it sits, the better it gets.

12.     Cut the rest of the way through the baklava, and place in air tight container for up to another 4 days.

** You will use most, if not all of the box of phyllo dough, but only unwrap a package at a time to keep it from drying out.

Hump Day Happy Hour: Champagne-Sorbet Dessert

Ah dinner is done and that homemade gnocchi in cream sauce was amazing. It was rich treat, if a little heavy. So how do I  end a meal like this? Not with cheesecake or a dark chocolate cake, its just too much. You’ll have to roll yourself out the door like Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

No a rich meal like this calls for something lighter, but still decadent. A simple clean way to end the meal and cleanse the palate. In times like this, champagne and quality sorbet combine to make a quick easy dessert that satisfies all of your needs. I prefer this with Häagen-Dazs raspberry or lemon sorbet (although I plan to try homemade sorbet this summer) and a dry champagne, to balance the sweetness of the sorbet. Add a sprinkle of fresh herbs, like mint or tarragon, on top and your dessert is ready. This is a really love end to a dinner party or paired with an end of meal cheese plate. And no worries if the conversation is so good that the sorbet melts before everyone finishes, swirl it together with your spoon and continue sipping. Its delicious!

Champagne-Sorbet Dessert

1/2 bottle Dry to Extra Dry Champagne
1 Pints Sorbet, any flavor
complimentary herbs

1)  Finely dice the herbs and set aside.

2) Add 2 scoops of sorbet to a serving dish. I like champagne coupes or a footed dessert dish.

3) Pour about 3-4 ounces of champagne into the glass and serve.

My nephew’s first cooking lesson – turkey chili with butternut squash

Before I start, I need to ask your forgiveness for any typos, bad grammar, or just non-sensical crazy talk in this post. I’m writing with only about 5 good hours of sleep in 48 hours, so my brain isn’t fully functioning.

See, last night I flew in very late from a wonderful weekend with family in Minnesota. I got to celebrate as my brother brought a wonderful woman in to our family; see my nephew A.J. (and decide that he needs to be wrapped in bubble wrap until he turns 18. Only days after having stitches removed from his forehead, he picked up the wrong end of a very hot curling iron, so I’m thinking bubble wrap might be the only option); and spend serious quality time with my newest nephew, 3 month old Logan.

In addition to snuggling with my nephew and catching up with my family, I spent some time in my sister’s kitchen making easy freezer meals that will help make her and my brother-in-law’s evenings a little easier. In addition to making spinach-mushroom stuffed shells and chicken pot pies, I also whipped up a few batches of my famous pumpkin scones and bacon-cheddar scones. Although the best part of the day had to be giving Logan his first cooking lesson as I made turkey-butternut squash chili.

Discussing proper knife safety with Logan

Turkey Chili

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 tblspn olive oil
1lb ground turkey
1 medium butternut squash
1 can white hominy
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5-15oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz cans kidney beans, with sauce
1 can chicken broth
1 can green chilies
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp chili powder (depending on desired heat)
½ tsp ground cumin

1)      Dice onion and garlic. Peel and cut butternut squash into ½ inch cubes.

2)      Heat olive oil in a large stock or soup pan. Add onion and garlic, sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add ground turkey and cook through.

3)      Add butternut squash and sauté for another 5 to 7 minutes.

4)      Add hominy, kidney beans (with sauce), tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and green chilies.  Stir in spices.

5)      Simmer for 30 minutes, or longer, to let flavors develop. Logan and I recommend dancing around the kitchen while the chili simmers.

Seriously, look at that face (his, not mine!)

It’s our 100th Post! Let the Adventure Continue!

Today we are celebrating Cork and Spoon’s 100th post!!!! AAAHHHHH! Ouch! That was Emilie pinching me by the way. Just needed to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Wow! It’s almost surreal, because it does not feel so long ago that Emilie and I were contemplating this endeavor over blueberry-ginger mojitos and swiss chard. Thank-you, guys, for joining us on this adventure, and, more importantly, sticking with us! We are having a blast and we hope you have been enjoying it as much as we have.

Did someone say celebration???

So how do you celebrate such a milestone? Well, Emilie, being the information whiz that she is, began researching ideas about a month ago. Just as there are so many ways of celebrating a birthday, she discovered that there are just as many to celebrate your 100th post. One idea that stuck with us was the suggestion of celebrating our 100th post with a list of 100 “things” related to our blog. Since Cork and Spoon focuses on cooking and uncorking (or mixing up) something yummy, our first thoughts were 100 Kitchen Staples or 100 Favorite Ingredients. The I realized that listing 100 of anything is a lot more than I could come up, even with Emilie’s help! Emilie agreed, and the two of us came up with the idea of listing ten different Top 10s.  While ten separate lists seemed like it would much easier, it was still pretty challenging. Good thing Emilie and I thrive on challenges (and wine)!

These lists aren’t in any particular order – coming up with them was hard enough. Blending 2 versions of each list and then ranking them… Emilie and I decided maintaining our friendship was more important than whether or not the Flavor Bible is better than Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eatting (take note of our two separate desert island lists… yea, there will be no 3 hours tours for the two of us). Let us know what you think. Even better, what are your top 10s? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear them!

Now, without further adieu, I give you Cork and Spoons Ten Top 10s!

#1: Top 10 Cooking Resources

  1. The Flavor Bible - Don’t know what goes with that celery root you just picked up? This book gets you started on flavors and

    Consulting the Flavor Bible

    ingredients to build on.

  2. Pinterest - Full of inspiration and “how to” sources. 
  3.  You Tube -  With millions of videos, great source for finding a tutorial that works for you and your approach to cooking.
  4.  Real Simple - Recipes,  step by step videos, and even ingredient profiles where you can find out how to shop for, prep, and cook something.
  5. Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating - You want to know about good food, this book will tell you all about it!
  6. The Kitchn - Inspiration, tools, party ideas, special diets… They have it all.
  7. Epicurious’ App - Use the search tool to find recipes by ingredients on your phone while at the grocery store.
  8. Joy Of Baking - Great place to start for the aspiring recreational baker. 
  9. Martha Stewart - Is there anything food related that woman can’t or hasn’t done? The Cooking 101 section offers great crash courses for those just ready to get their hands dirty.
  10. The Food Network - I don’t think this one needs an explanation!

#2: TOP 10 Food and Wine Destinations

  1. New Orleans, LA – One of the earliest “melting pots” in America, find  both your fancy and your down home cooking… with a dash of tobasco of course.
  2. Provence, France – Côtes du Rhône wine and fields of lavender…sounds relaxing.
  3. the Amalfi Coast, Italy – Cooking schools, limoncello, the birthplace of pizza…oh, there’s wine, too!
  4. Istanbul, Turkey – An ancient cross roads smack right in the middle of the Old World is sure to please an adventurous palate.
  5. Seattle, Washington, U.S. – This trip would be worth it just to check out the world famous Pike Place Fish Market. Its also the birth place of the modern, ubiquitous coffee shop. Add to that an urban forest designed for food foraging, and its a unique place to experience.
  6. Buenos Aires, Argentina – Malbec!! Torrentes!! Oh, and I hear the food is delicious, too!
  7. Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.- American southern cooking

    Oyster Shell Chandeliers in Charleston’s Amen Street Raw Bar

    is seen by some as the one purely American cuisine and this city offers up some of the best!

  8. Bangkok, Thailand – Garlic, chilies, fresh seafood…it’s like the best of Chinese, Indian, and Pacific island cuisines. Apparently the street food is something you don’t want to miss out on, either!
  9. Barcelona, Spain – Ever hear of molecular gastronomy? Don’t worry. If jellied strands of arugala “pasta” aren’t your thing, there are other options like  jamon serrano, fresh olive oil, and paella! Or you can wash down your plate of tapas with a glass of Rioja.
  10. San Francisco, California, U.S. – The perfect city for foodies with amazing restaurants and shopping experiences like the Ferry Building Marketplace. Plus, Napa Valley and the California wine experience is a day trip away.

Ghirardeli Square, San Francisco, California

#3: TOP 10 Foods Emilie Would Take On A Desert Island

  1. Coffee
  2. Jameson Whiskey
  3. Garlic
  4. Diet Coke (yes, I’m addicted and I am not ashamed)
  5. Gooey creamy mac and cheese
  6. Goat cheese
  7. Atlantic salmon
  8. Asparagus
  9. Sourdough bread
  10. Heath Toffee bars

#4: TOP 10 FOODS Ruth WOULD TAKE ON A DESERT ISLAND

  1. Coffee (Caribou’s Lacuna blend!)
  2. Bushmills Whiskey
  3. Italian Parsley
  4. Garlic
  5. Dove Dark Chocolate
  6. Tomatoes
  7. Pineapple
  8. Limes
  9. Chick-fil-a Sauce and Waffle Fries (they’re symbiotic, so it counts as one!)
  10. Shallots

#5: TOP 10 Essential Kitchen TooLs

  1. Several cutting boards – It is a very rare recipe that doesn’t require at least 2 cutting boards: one for veggies and one for raw meat.
  2. Dutch Oven – Great for even, slow cooking and works on both the stove top and in the oven.
  3. Good Chef’s knife (or 2!) – A good knife will make your kitchen life so, so much easier!
  4. Sharp paring knife –  Peel apples, section citrus fruits, hull strawberries, remove the inside ribs of a jalepeno…If it requires control, detail, and precision this is the tool to get it done.
  5. Decent set of pots and pans - Not everyone can afford All Clad, but there are tons of options to fit any budget and cooking life-style.
  6. Basic citrus juicer – Gets every bit of juice AND catches those pesky seeds.
  7. Whisk- Sift your dry ingredients without a special tool, or more importantly whip up heavy cream and eggs into airy deliciousness

    Emilie grating Parmesan over dinner

  8. Micro-plane Grater – Razor sharp, it zests citrus and finely grates your favorite cheeses and spices quick and easy.
  9. Heat resistant spatulas and spoons – No one wants melted plastic for dinner.
  10. Corkscrew – More wines are moving to metal screw tops everyday, but corks are probably still here to stay! Some corkscrews even do double duty as [beer] bottle openers.

#6: TOP 10 Pantry Staples

  1. Garlic bulbs
  2. Extra virgin olive oil
  3. Low sodium chicken or vegetable broth/stock 
  4. Canned, no salt added diced tomatoes
  5. Canned Beans (black beans, kidney beans, Garbanzo beans)
  6. Panko Bread Crumbs
  7. Lemons
  8. Balsamic Vinegar
  9. Wine (One bottle of red, and one bottle of dry white. Decent, but inexpensive.)
  10. Sweet onion (like Spanish or Vidalia)

#7: TOP 10 Posts from other Bloggers

  1. Annie’s Eats How to Decorate with Royal Icing
  2. Smitten Kitchen’s Project Wedding Cake: Swiss Buttercream…After

    OMG, Ruth finally decorated a cupcake!

    all my woes with buttercream, this post lead me to another discovery: Italian Buttercream and the development of my now go-to recipe.

  3. Sprinkle Bakes Jane Austen Birthday Cake - We love Jane Austen – LOVE. So of course we appreciate anyone who would bake her a birthday cake, inspired by a recipe from her own era!
  4. My Bitter Sweets & Savories Cinnamon Apple Hope Cake – Its hard to pick a favorite from this relatively new blog. All I know is I identify with MyBitterSweets. Who among us hasn’t spent time seasoning our soup with a few tears?
  5. We Are Not Martha Make Your Own Glitter Flats – Sure this a blog about food and wine, and We Are Not Martha is also a blog (primarily) about food, booze, and cooking. But occasionally the ladies surprise you with some fun project, like these flats. Yep, I made a pair and I still wear them, just not to the office.
  6. Tasha in the Kitchen VegBag Excitement: Not only is this post a celebration of fresh produce and supporting local produce, but it also highlights the need for flexibility and creativity in the kitchen.
  7. Pasta Princess Homemade Sausage Stuffed Ravioli: Cheryl over at Pasta Princess makes some amazing looking food (I am itching to try her peanut butter caramel corn), but what amazes me most is the absolutely beautiful pasta she makes. Serious, these ravioli are little works of art, go look at them right now.
  8. Just a Smidgen’s Flat Stanley? No, It’s Flat Ruthie’s Chicken Soup for Stars: No, it’s not this Ruthie. Barbara and her wordpress alter ego “Smidge” have got to be one of the most creative blogs out there. Check out “Flat Ruthie’s” trip around Calgary with Smidge which ends with a fantastic looking bowl of chicken soup.
  9. Back Road Journal’s I Wanted to Take You To Mt Vernon But: Karen takes the most fantastic trips ever! If you missed it, you should check out her recent trip up and down I-95. We were super excited to see her take (twice) on one of our favorite local areas, Old Town Alexandria.
  10. Joy The Baker’s Homemade Churros with Warm Dark Chocolate Sauce : I just recently came across this blog as I was researching Spanish dishes (vacation coming soon, yay!). The recipe may be for churros, but the post itself, however, has nothing to do with churros…but cigarette smoking Tinkerbells…curious now, huh? Check it out!

#8: Top 10 Bottles of Wine You’ll Find in Cork and Spoon’s Wine Racks

  1. Sarah’s Patio Red, Chrysalis Vineyards ( Middleburg, VA) – 100% Norton and absolutely amazing served lightly chilled on a hot summer day. Just for the record, we are obsessed with reds that are as delicious when chilled as when served at normal temperatures.
  2. Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry Cava (Sant Sadurni D’Anoia, Barcelona, Spain) – Prounounced “fresh-eh-net”. This Cava is a bubbly blend of three white Spanish grape varietals: Macabeo, Zarel-lo, and Parellada. Sparklewithout being too sugary. The black bottle really dresses it up, too!
  3. Abbinato, Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery (Stafford, VA) – A blend of Sangiovese and Touriga Nacional, a bottle (or two) of this Italian style table wine is always ordered during visits to the winery…and maybe a bottle or two makes its way back home with us, too!
  4. Monte Oton,  Bodegas Borsao (Campo de Borja, Spain) – 100% Granacha, it has a good clean minerality with some delicious dark fruitiness. Bold enough for red wine lovers yet light enough to serve on summer day with or without a light chilling.
  5. Crush Red Blend, The Dreaming Tree (Geyserville, CA) – A blend of merlot and zinfandel, this is a recent discovery of Emilie’s. Dave Matthews is really getting into the wine business. First his own vineyard (Blenheim in Charlottesville, VA and now this CA venture with Award-winning Sonoma Countywinemaker Steve Reeder)  Jammy berry flavors (that’s the zinfandel) and a hint of smokey tobacco (that’s the merlot)…we’re planning on digging up our Dave Matthew’s CDs  for the next bottle we open.
  6. Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) –  100% Sauvignon Blanc, don’t hate it because the label is pretty! Aged in stainless steel, it is crisp and full of citrus zing without being too acidic. Love this wine.
  7. Mendoza Station Torrentes (Mendoza, Argentina) – 100% Torrentes, at about $6 this wine is an absolute bargain!! Full of tropical flavors and nice acidity, it pairs wonderfully with light fare like sushi, salad, and grilled seafood.
  8. Nero d’Avola, Cusumano (Sicily, Italy) – 100% Nero d’Avola. Of Sicilian wines, you may be more familiar with Marsala, but you really should look into the Nero.  A very Italian wine, you’ll find it fruity and peppery with a nice finish.
  9. Delas St. Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge (Rhone, France) – Predominately Syrah and Grenache, our Total Wine friends introduced us to Cotes-du-Rhone wines with this bottle. If you like red Bordeux wines, but find the price tags a little steep for your budget, you’ll love a bottle from one of the many Cote du Rhone villages.
  10. Gascon Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – Say hello to Emilie’s favorite varietal! Beautiful dark fruits like cassis, plums, and berries lends well to the beautiful deep color. You’ll get a lovely, sweet oak in the smooth finish.

#9: Cork and Spoon’s Top 10 Wish List

  1. Beverage dispenser for parties (Emilie loves this hand blown one from Anthropologie ) 
  2. Full size food processor like this Cuisinart 
  3. An Elegant Coffee Server like the one they serve your coffee with at the Elliot House Inn in Charleston
  4. Beautiful flatware: how can you not love this set Em has picked out?! 
  5. A Waffle Maker (How cool is this double Belgian version?!)
  6. DeLonghi Perfecta Espresso Machine 
  7. Scone Pan for perfectly beautiful scones.
  8. A Stylish home bar. This modular style from Pottery Barns allows a little bit of customizing.
  9. Vinturi  Aerorators (yes, we can be impatient!), there’s one for red wine, white wine, and even spirits!
  10. A fantastic outdoor cooking space like one made fromthese modular design pieces from Harmony Outdoor Living. I’d like the waterfall backdrop, too, please!

#10: Top 10 “Non-Essential” Kitchen Tools (Doesn’t mean we don’t want them!)

  1. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer– If you’re a serious baker and have the money to drop on this, DO IT! I know my baking life has gotten

    It takes a while, but a whisk will get the job done!

    seriously easier since I bought mine last year on Cyber Monday and Emilie uses her mom’s all the time (She grinds her own sirloin for hamburgers, how cool is that?).  However, people were baking long before the stand mixer came around. Nothing like good old fashioned elbow grease to get the job done. Making bread? Punch! Pull! Great stress reliever. Whipping cream or egg whites? Don’t need your Tae Bo speed bag moves to tone those arms now!

  2. Mandoline Slicer – The two of us just recently acquired our own mandoline slicers. Wonderful for quick, perfect, even slices for something such as an au gratin or beautifully presented salads. A chef’s knife, patience, and practice will get you the same results.
  3. Garlic/Ginger Press – Not Emilie’s favorite gadget, but I love it! This little gadget gets you fast and finely minced garlic and ginger that blends into recipes with no noticeable chunks. Again, a chef’s knife will get you similar results.
  4. Rice Cooker – My mother’s Filipina and I was raised in Okinawa, we always had a rice cooker. Then I moved out after college and had a disastrous experience with cooking rice on a stove top. Not my cup of tea, so I bought a little rice cooker that has served me well for about six years now. There are fancier models out there that will also steam fish and veggies for you at the same time it cooks your rice. Never fear, a sturdy, lidded pot works just fine for most people. Just keep an eye on it!
  5. Burr Mill – Freshly ground coffee always tastes better. We even had one of these at the office for a few years (Cougar Team always had the best coffee around!) Myself, I make French press, espresso, and drip coffee so I need to be able to adjust the grind to fit each technique. Your favorite coffee shops are perfectly willing to grind any whole beans you buy from them to your liking. Grocery stores that sell bulk coffee beans also have grinders available for your convenience.
  6. Brownie Pan – Who loves that bit of crispy edge? I do! Emilie prefers the middle (Are you beginning to tell who is the more practical of the two? lol). These square cavities can also do double duty for baby cakes (vice cupcakes) and bar style cookies. You know, though, you’re muffin tin will work just fine or just save the gooey center for Emilie after you cut off the crispy edges.
  7. Cake Pop Pan – Yes, they exist. Yes, I want one! My waistline shies away from mashed up balls of cake held together by tons of frosting and decorated in even more beautiful frosting…but sometimes you just have to do it!
  8. Pancake Molds – Perfectly shaped pancakes and eggs are absolutely beautiful. Truck and teddy bear shaped ones are just too cute! But all you really need is a steady hand. A little imperfection adds character, don’t you think?
  9. Electric Corkscrew – Ooookay, if you entertain a lot and fun gadgets are your thing, this may be worth the splurge. It really is quite a conversation piece, actually, but all you really need is your humble leverage or torque style corkscrew. Heck, I’ve even used a pocket knife (though NOT recommended unless you like a side of cork with your wine lol)
  10. Wine Stopper/Vacuum– Wine is a natural product, it will go

    Storing some left over Pinot Noir next to…some Freixenet!

    bad on you if you so you need to finish it before it gets all vinegary on you.  That’s where a vacuum wine sealer or pump comes in handy.  An electric version pulls out a lot more air from the bottle than your manual pump. There are even kinds that pull out air and replace it with inert gas to prevent oxidation.  Here’s a rule of thumb for the gadget free folks: re-cork and refridgerate your opened bottle of wine for up to three days. Yes, even your reds, just take them out at least 30 minutes before you plan to drink it so it can return to a more suitable temperature.

And just for a fun bonus round of giggles…

#11: Top 10 WorsT Kitchen Chores To Get Stuck With

  1. Organizing the Tupperware cabinet – seriously is there an alternate universe where socks and Tupperware lids reside?
  2. Scrubbing the sink
  3. Wiping down the stove top after deep frying something
  4. Washing the dishes after the family holiday meal
  5. Fanning the smoke detector when something’s “gone wrong”
  6. Cleaning out the fridge and finding that lettuce you thought you’d finished 2 weeks ago
  7. Identifying that contents of the unlabeled leftovers.
  8. Scouring the bottom of a a stock pot when you let the soup simmer just a touch too high. Two soaking rotations and a box of S.O.S. pads later and you still aren’t sure the pot will ever be clean.
  9. Mopping the kitchen floor
  10. Wait…they’re all the worst!

Well, who’s going to clean up after dinner? Volunteers? Anybody?

~Ruth and Emilie

Hearty Beef Stew

At the beginning of this week I extolled the joys of owning a Dutch oven. They are resilient, multitasking tools that can be used for dishes like the rustic garlic chicken, homemade baked beans, or a moist flavorful roast beef. They are also the best pot to use when makes a rich stew because they hold heat well  which allows for the slow and steady cooking necessary to simmer tough meats and veggies to melt-in-your mouth perfection. Furthermore, the heavy bottom of your Dutch oven creates even heat so you can sear the meat, a necessary step if you want a truly rich and flavorful stew.

When buying your meat, you’ll want to pick tougher pieces of meat from the shoulder (often referred to as chuck)  or the round (aka the cow butt).  While this meat is often considered tough, the slow cooking process will break down those tough fibers and make it butter soft. You can make your stew using approximately 2 pounds of beef, lamb, or venison; I prefer using a mix of venison and beef because of the depth of flavor it creates.

As a quick note, stews are very versatile. The recipe below is really just a road map and you can often use whatever is in your fridge, such as turnips, a can of stewed tomatoes, or potatoes. I normally use barley in this recipe, and that is what I list in the recipe, but as I was going through the closet I noticed half used boxes of quinoa and kasha and decided to use those instead. An easy and flexible way to clean out the pantry!

Beef Stew

olive oil
2 lbs red meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 parsnips, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup red wine or apple cider (for deglazing the pot)
2 cups vegetables stock
2 cups beef stock
1-2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt & Pepper
Water

1)      Drizzle olive oil in Dutch oven placed over medium-high heat. Sear each side of the meat in small batches, each side of the meat is done when it lifts easily from the pot. Remove the meat as you finish searing each piece and set aside. This is going to take time, but remember it’s worth it!

2)      Lower the heat  and add more olive oil to the pot. Sauté the onions and celery until translucent. Add carrots and parsnips to the pot and continue sauté, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove this mixture from the pot.

3)      Add mushrooms and cook until slightly browned. Make a well in the middle of the mushrooms and add garlic and cook until fragrant, only about 1 minute.

4)      Pour red wine into the pot and use a stiff rubber spatula to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot and mix with the wine. Let simmer over low heat until the wine has reduced by half or been mostly absorbed by the mushrooms.

5)      Return the meat and veggies to the Dutch oven and add both stocks to the pot.

6)      Add bay leaves and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.

7)      Add enough water so that there is about half an inch of water covering the ingredients.

8)      Cover the Dutch oven and let simmer over low heat for about an hour.

9)      Add barley and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until barley is tender.

Hump Day Happy Hour: Orange Bourbon Hot Toddy

I rarely get sick. It probably has something to do with the fact that I regularly consume nearly 200% of my daily vitamin C. Anyway, since I seldom get sick, I feel like death warmed over when I do. Sure, I know that I’m not that sick, but when it happens I turn into Barney from How I Met Your Mother.

So it has finally happened, I’ve caught my yearly cold. I woke up last Wednesday  with a scratchy throat and ignored it, blaming it on dry winter weather and a draft. By the time I’d left the house I was fine and stayed fine throughout the day. Same thing the next morning. By Friday night I could only breath out of one nostril, was sneezing every 3 minutes, and felt like my head was going to implode. Death warmed over. So I took a handful of drugs, made myself an orange-bourbon hot toddy, and curled up on the couch to watch trashy TV. There is nothing like a soothing, vitamin C packed hot toddy to sooth a sore throat and help easy a sick whiny baby, like myself, to sleep.

Orange Bourbon Hot Toddy

Juice of 1 large orange, about half a cup
0.5-1 teaspoon brown sugar
Dash of ground cloves
3/4 cup boiling water
1.5 ounces bourbon or whiskey
Orange slices, for garnish (optional)

1)      Add brown sugar and a dash of cloves to a coffee cup.

2)      Add orange juice and stir to dissolve.

3)      Pour boiling water into cup. Top with 1.5 ounces bourbon, stir to mix.  Garnish.

4)     Curl up under afghan made by your grandmother, sip, and feel better.

Ruth’s Famous Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Doughnuts just don’t have a chance when I bring these muffins ’round the office. As my pal Jamie said today during my SOW review lockdown, “They’re like crack!”

Whole-wheat, dark-chocolate chunk, banana muffins. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is! Bananas are one of my favorite fruits. Besides being tasty, did you know the banana is also considered a super fruit? Go ahead, Google it or check it out here. Now back to those muffins!

I always have bananas in my house, aaaaand they tend to over-ripen overnight on me. For me, that’s bad. I like my banana’s just a little green and tart. Instead of throwing them away, I place the one or two bananas left in the freezer. They accumulate pretty quickly. What to do with all these bananas, right?

Well, banana bread is typically the first thing that comes to mind. I decided that I wanted to make a more tender and healthier version of this classic sweet
bread. So, how did I do that? First and mainly, I swapped out All-Purpose Flour and used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (You can use regular Whole Wheat Flour, too). Instead of regular, unsalted butter, I opted for Light Butter (Feel free to use the regular kind if you prefer). I also added chocolate. Not your every day, semi-sweet morsels now, but anti-oxidant, blood pressure regulating dark chocolate. My favorite is Ghirardelli’s 60% Cacao chips, but Hershey’s Special Dark is another that I like and use. I also built in portion control via muffin tins instead of a loaf pan. I often opt for the 12 count tin, but every now and then I pull out the minis!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 1 ¼ cups Whole Wheat flour*
  • ¼ cup All-Purpose flour*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • As much dark chocolate chunks as you want

Wet:

  • 3-4 very ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup melted butter**
  • ¾ cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°
  2. Mash bananas in a bowl then add the brown sugar, egg, and butter; mix well
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the chocolate until thoroughly blended
  4. Fold the dry ingredients to the banana mixture. Be careful not to bead the mixture or the muffins will come out rubbery and tough.
  5. Fold in the chocolate
  6. Spoon muffin mixture into your choice of muffin tin.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes

Makes appx 1-2 dozen muffins depending on how much you fill the muffin tins.

Notes:

*My fave combo is to use 1 ¼ Whole Wheat pastry flour and ¼ All Purpose flour. The little bit of All-Purpose allows the muffins to rise better since Whole Wheat Flour creates a denser batter.

**I use Land of Lakes Light butter

~Ruth~

Fast Fondue: Chocolate Dipped Fruit

Argh! Chocolate, I need you! Please save me!

Sorry about that. What can I say, it’s definitely Monday. Okay, I’m calm now. I knew you’d understand.

So, when I want my chocolate fix and I want it NOW, I pop some dark chocolate (chips, chunks, squares, whatever I have on hand) in the microwave and cut up some fruit for dipping. In less than five minutes, I have a wonderfully decadent bit of chocolate heaven.  Not a bad trick when you need a last minute dessert, too. Now, using this method, the chocolate comes out a little thicker than when using a double boiler, but for a casual setting this is absolutely fine in my book.  Pair with a glass of your favorite, fruit forward red. I had it with Tormaresca “Neprica” .

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of your favorite fruit (I had strawberries and bananas on hand, but my absolute favorite is pineapple!)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 tbsp half and half, heavy cream, or milk
  • Optional: 1 tbsp cream liqueur, like irish cream

Directions:

  1. Prepare fruit to your liking. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate into a small, microwave safe bowl.
  3. Heat chocolate in the microwave for one minute at 50% power.
  4. Pour milk, cream, or half and half  into warmed chocolate. If you are using the optional cream liqueur, add it here, too.
  5. Place the chocolate in the microwave again and heat for 30 seconds at 50% power. Keep an eye on the chocolate, especially if you used milk because it will boil over.
  6. Stir contents of bowl together until chips melt completely and the chocolate becomes smooth and shiny. Use more milk, cream, or half and half to thin the melted chocolate if you find your mixture to thick.
  7. Dip fruit in the chocolate and melt away happily.
~Ruth~