Tag Archives: wine

May the odds be ever in your favor: The Hunger Games’ sweet and savory Lamb Stew with Dried Plums Over Wild Rice

May the odds be ever in your favor: The Hunger Games’ sweet and savory Lamb Stew with Dried Plums Over Wild Rice
Katniss' favorite meal of lamb stew with dried plums and wild rice.

Katniss’ favorite meal of lamb stew with dried plums and wild rice.

If you’ve ever read The Hunger Games trilogy, you’ve probably noted that the most memorable dish in said texts is Katniss’ memorable meal of lamb stew with dried plums over wild rice. Her first taste of it in book one is at the games training center in the Capitol, and she is later rewarded with more of it later on during her time inside the game arena (it pops up in the following books quite a few times as well).

To create this dish, I used my favorite Irish Guinness beef stew as the base recipe: swapped out the beef for lamb, traded the Guinness for red wine, and threw in some dried plums (a.k.a.: prunes). Otherwise, the base is simply, onions, carrots, potatoes, fresh herbs and tomato paste — all items that can be easily found at your local grocery store.

This rustic lamb stew is incredibly easy to make and is the perfect dish to serve over these next few chilly months. The lamb is tender and slightly sweet, further enhanced by the herbaceous rosemary and sweet prunes. If lamb is too pricey for your budget, simply use beef or pork stew meat in its place. This can be simmered on the stove top for about 45 minutes, or cooked low and slow in a slow cooker over the course of a few hours. It is great served on its own, but to keep with the original inspiration for the dish, it’s even better served over wild rice (though I prefer a wild rice blend as wild rice can be rather chewy and rather costly).

Put yourself in Katniss’ shoes and volunteer yourself as tribute for cooking up this heartwarming meal. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

(P.S.: Happy New Year!)
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Chicken with Fresh Peas Braised in Sparkling Wine: A simple dish that’s packed full of flavor

Chicken with Fresh Peas Braised in Sparkling Wine: A simple dish that’s packed full of flavor
Marks & Spencer

Image credit: Delish.com

As most of you faithful readers know, I love cooking with booze. Using beer, wine or spirits is a great way to infuse flavor and amp up a dish. Whether it’s used for deglazing in a simple pan sauce or for a low and slow braise, alcohol can add a myraid of flavors to a dish (as long as you’re not using bottom shelf swill).

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Image credit: Marks & Spencer

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Frosted Flakes: Citrus Champagne Granita

Frosted Flakes: Citrus Champagne Granita

Granita 1_logo

Need a refreshing treat for the warmer days to come? Go with a granita. Granita is a semi-frozen, Sicilian specialty that is served both as dessert and as a palate cleanser between meal courses. Essentially, is is made up of sugar, water, flavorings and, in this case, booze, and is very similar to Italian Ice.

Granita one of my go-to desserts because it’s incredibly easy to make and requires no special equipment to prepare. A baking dish, a fork and a freezer — that’s it. Seriously, this recipe is hard to screw up. Granita does require a few hours to prepare, but your freezer does most of the work. I’ll usually prepare this the night before I serve it so that it’s icy, but not too hardened from being in the freezer for more than a day.

As for flavoring it, you can use just about any liquid as the base: fruit and citrus juices, alcohol (in moderation), coconut milk, zest, herbs, etc. If you can dream it up, then you can probably mix and freeze it. The mix must be sweetened with a liquid sweetener, so a simple syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water; see recipe below) is most often seen used to make this, as well as honey and agave nectar.

For this iteration, I flavored my granita with grapefruit, lemon and bubbly. Even though I call this a “Champagne” granita, you can certainly use cheap sparkling wine. Keep in mind that if you use a sweeter sparkling wine (like Asti), you’ll probably want to add less simple syrup. Also, be sure that your juice ratio is greater than the amount of wine and sugar combined. Alcohol and sugar inhibits some of the freezing process, so a mixture with too much of either will result in a watery, slushier granita. If you opt for hard liquor, don’t use more than a few ounces.

So when the mercury starts to rise, whip up this cold Italian treat to impress your guests (or to keep all to yourself).
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Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Ginger Beergarita 1_logo

Due to the simple fact that we Americans have to make just about every holiday an excuse to drink, I’m sure that most of you are well aware that Cinco de Mayo is this weekend. That means parties, sombreros, and tequila drinks galore. And no, for the last time, it does not mark Mexico’s Independence Day (that’s September 16th); it’s a celebration and remembrance of Mexican fighters taking down the French forces at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. Use that one to impress friends and potential one-night-stands on Sunday.

I digress. On to the drinks!

Tired of celebrating with the standard margarita, I decided to concoct a new tequila-based libation. I borrowed the idea of the “Beergarita” — a mixture of Mexican lager beer, limeade or sour mix, and tequila — and gave it a sweet and spicy twist by replacing the lager with ginger beer, and adding fresh ginger and jalapeno. Ginger and reposado (slightly aged, amber-colored) tequila are a great flavor pairing in this Ginger Beergarita and the addition of the jalapeno enhances the spiciness of the ginger — which can easily be omitted from the recipe if you’re not a fan of heat.

Not that this would be the first thing on your mind when mixing a drink on Cinco, but the Ginger Beergarita also has some great health benefits. Ginger has natural immune system-boosting properties and helps to fight of certain types of cancer cells with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Bonus: ginger has been a natural remedy for migraines and nausea, so this drink may actually reduce your hangover on May 6th.

So while celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Mexico (and the time they kicked some French ass) by guzzling far too much cerveza and tequila, try out the following exotic tipples this weekend.
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Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Credit: Samantha via Wikimedia Commons

Head on over to my pal Penny’s blog, Penny’s Romance Reviews, to check out my guest post on one of my favorite drinks for her weekly “Martini Club”: Rosé!

It’s both educational and entertaining (complete with RuPaul’s Drag Race references), if I do say so myself. ;-)

Do you fondue?: How to whip up a three-course fondue feast

Do you fondue?: How to whip up a three-course fondue feast

Photo: 663highland via Wikimedia Commons

Fondue isn’t just a cheesy throwback culinary trend that your parents used to participate in at parties in the the ’70s, it’s a fun, easy and interactive way to share a meal with family and friends.

You don’t even need fondue pots to enjoy it at home. All you need are a few pots and a working stove top. Also, if you’re fondue pot-less and don’t feel like eating it in your kitchen, small slow cookers also come in handy as they can hold the items inside at a constant temperature.

Here are some basic, solid fondue recipes — both sweet and savory — to enjoy. Feel free to play around with the ingredients and make it your own. And if you’ve got a larger crowd to feed, simply multiply ingredients accordingly.
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Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth

Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth


It’s Friday night and you’re: a) wanting to cook up something special for your significant other, b) having friends over and need to whip up something that’s easy to prepare but looks impressive, or c) will be staying in solo with your PJs and your DVR and need something quick and tasty that doesn’t involve greasy takeout.

The dinner solution for all scenarios: Bacon, lemon-thyme and tomato bivalves. It’s a loose interpretation of the BLT — mussels and clams steamed in a broth of white wine, bacon, onions, garlic and lemon-thyme (I needed an ingredient starting with L, and I’m not crazy about leeks) and finished simply with fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. Oh, and of course there has to be crusty bread served alongside to soak up that tasty broth. Best of all, it’s done in a jiffy and only requires one pan to cook.

Obviously, this isn’t the most prim and proper dish to be eating in front of strangers whom you’d like to impress, which is why I recommend eating it with people who will forgive you for using your fingers and making loud slurping noises (or alone so you can have it all to yourself).

Some quick bivalve purchasing tips: When buying clams and mussels in the seafood section, they’ll typically sort through your bivalves before handing them over to make sure they’re all closed. (Closed bivalves are still alive — which is a good thing.) If you’re picking them yourself or have just thawed a frozen pack, discard any that are open. To double check, tap them on the side of your counter — if they close, keep ‘em; if they remain open, chuck ‘em. Eating dead mussels could potentially result in food poisoning. Reversely, you’ll want to discard any that don’t open after they’ve been cooked, as they’re either really stubborn or dead.

As for cleaning them, give them a good rinse before throwing them in the pot and “debeard” the mussels. No, they’re not ZZ Top wannabes, the “beard” is actually a byssal thread that mussels use to cling to surfaces in the water.
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The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

Credit: Voga Italia

While many consider the wine spritzer to be a throwback drink (made popular in the ’70s and ’80s), it seems that lately the spritzer has been making its way back onto the trendy cocktail scene.

The spritzer of days gone by was typically two parts white wine to one part club soda. (Can you say “boring”?) But today’s mixologists are giving them modern, grown-up twists by mixing them with top-shelf sparkling wine, Champagne, fresh fruits and exotic liqueurs.

So, the next time you have guests over or throw a cocktail party, mix up some of these nouveau spritzers for refreshing alternatives to the typical liquor-mixer cocktails and throwback white wine spritzers.

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