I have a burning question tonight. Do you cook with good wine or do you save the good wine for drinking and cook with the cheap stuff? I'm genuinely interested in hearing your opinions about cooking wine. 🍷 This is what my brain dwells on - food and wine.
There are professional chefs that swear that your finished dish will only be as good as the individual ingredients that you add. I can only assume that they believe that inferior wine will result in a less than superb product. Can a cup of two buck Chuck really ruin a good batch of meaty marinara or Coq au Vin? I really don't know and before I mess up a perfectly fine batch of short ribs, I need to find out.
Maybe the answer isn't as black and white as I'm trying to make it. Perhaps there are some recipes where expensive wine is necessary and others where boxed wine would suffice. White wine used as an ingredient in the sauce over fresh mussels might require a higher quality wine than the red wine in beef stew, for example. As for me, I use whatever wine I happen to have open on the day that I need it for a recipe. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it, but I've even been known to swap a white for a red in a recipe if I"m trying to use up the last few drops in a wine bottle. 🤷🏻♀️
This recipe for Pork Ragu only calls for 1/2 cup of red wine which seems like an insignificant amount but it plays a really crucial role in how all the flavors of this dish come together. The pork, the tomatoes, the pancetta, the wine and the herbs all have to marry together in perfect harmony to create a tasty dish. Altering just one of the ingredients can throw off the whole balance of flavors and really lead to a displeasing result. So do I roll the dice and take a gamble on a cheap wine or go all out and use a full bodied red wine?
Slow Cooker Pork Ragu
2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound cooked pasta
Stir in parsley. Toss with pasta and top with parmesan cheese.
I know that you're all waiting with baited breath to find out exactly what type of wine I used in my Pork Ragu. 😂 It was a half cup of my dad's homemade red wine. I'm 60% sure that it was a cabernet but to be honest, the sharpie markings that my dad uses to identify his different wines had been rubbed off the neck of the bottle. Soooo - whatever it was - it was good. Both in the ragu and in my wine glass. 🍷
Twizzlers! It's our go-to road trip food. For some reason the twisted strawberry licorice just makes spending hours at a time in the car - more tolerable. (Or maybe the steady supply of sugar just makes me a more pleasant car rider. 🤣) Regardless, we don't often start off on a road trip without it. We drove to Valdosta in December for a weekend and I forgot to take my purse BUT you better believe that we had our twizzlers for the trip. Priorities?
If you ask my family how I feel about road trips, they have no reservations about describing how miserable I am as a car rider. I accidentally took too much Benadryl before a road trip to St. Augustine last summer and I slept for the entire 7 hour trip! I honestly don't remember anything after getting in the car and my family claims that it was our best family road trip to date. 😂 I blame motion sickness for my undesirable car riding attitude. I can't do anything productive while I'm in the car. I can't read a book or look at my phone or write anything down without feeling queasy and that makes me very grumpy.
We road tripped so much in December that even the twizzlers weren't helping with my negative attitude. The sugar seemed to have a reverse effect on me after hour 10 of being stuck in a cramped vehicle on a crowded highway. 🚗 I reached a level of entrapment that no amount of sugar could cure. 🤦🏻♀️
We don't eat a lot of fast food - even on road trips. I am the queen of packing enough snacks to last us at least 2 weeks. 🍎You know, in case we should get stranded somewhere - Hallmark movie style. 😂 On our trip home after Christmas - I couldn't stomach the thought of eating any more of my supply of road trip snacks, more twizzlers or fast food. We opted instead for a quick stop at a grocery store along our route to pick up some sustenance. I chose a bowl of freshly cut fruit, a container of hummus and some naan bites. Not your typical road trip fare but it hit the spot for me. I had forgotten how much I loved hummus.
Ultimately Creamy Hummus
15 ounce can chick peas
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon fresh parsley
Adjust to consistency of yogurt by adding additional water.
Season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with fresh parsley, reserved chick peas and extra olive oil. Let sit 30 minutes before serving.
Anyone else prefer warm hummus to cold hummus? I love to eat hummus when it's freshly made but I wasn't a big fan after it had been refrigerated. Soooo, I've been warming my leftover hummus in the microwave for a few seconds before diving in. If you're on the fence about hummus - try warming it. You might be surprised how different it tastes when it isn't cold.
Guys - it's winter in Atlanta. I'm talking about middle of January W.I.N.T.E.R. ❄️ Sunscreen, sandals and daffodils, kind of winter. 🌞🌷😂It's been in the 70s all week. I don't really mind the mild temperatures but it does feel weird to play corn hole in a t-shirt in the front yard in January. Even my flowers seem confused about how to respond to this unusually warm weather.
Regardless of what my thermometer says, it's technically still winter and I haven't been through my list of "winter" recipes yet. I'm not about to give up on them just because we've launched into early Spring. I've got a que full of soups, root vegetable stews and hearty casseroles to make before it gets even hotter. (I'm hoping these temperatures aren't a sign that we're going to experience record breaking heat this summer.) 😅 So brace yourself, beloved husband, and turn on the air conditioning - I've got some winter recipes coming your way.
This classic recipe for French Onion Soup is everything that you would expect. Perfectly caramelized onions, fresh thyme sprigs, crusty baguette pieces and two separate cheeses melted over the top. A classic. There are all kinds of ways that you could change this up but if you want a traditional French Onion Soup recipe - look no further.
French Onion Soup
4 Tablespoons butter
4 pounds onions, halved and sliced thin
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup dry white wine
8 cups beef broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces baguette, cut into 1" cubes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded
French onion soup can really be a meal on its own but I chose to pair mine with a green salad. I think it made me feel less awkward about eating eating my french onion soup outside on the porch on a 70 degree January evening.
I don't look through my blog analytics very often but with the start of a new decade, I decided to take a look at my 2019 analytics. As usual, I was surprised by what I found. 😳 My most visited post of 2019 was the Lunch Lady Cafeteria Rolls blog post from 2014. Coming in as a close second - Jimmy Johns Bread. 🥖
In other analytic news, my Canadian following is way up since last year. (Thank you Canadians! 🇨🇦) And the most popular time for followers to be on the blog is 4:00 every day. I'd like to think it's because you're following along with my recipes as you prepare dinner but it's probably more likely that 4:00 is the first chance that you get to sit down and look at your phone. Yes, I know that 58% of you are reading my blog on your phone. Ah, it must me nice to have young eyes that can still read on the phone. 👀
Let me just say that I've heard you loud and clear AND we're on the same page. We're taking a stand against this whole low carb movement. 😂 I'll keep posting new bread recipes and you keep trying them. Deal? I can think of nothing better to go with that freshly baked loaf of homemade bread than a great big Italian dinner. Neapolitan Meatballs with Ragu to be specific.
Normally when I make a pasta dinner, the pasta is the star and the meat is just an accompaniment. This recipe turns that theory on its head. The meatball is really takes center stage here and the sauce is just an accent. The meat lovers in my house are going crazy over this recipe.
Neapolitan Meatballs with Ragu
4 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups panko
1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 ounce piece Romano cheese
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 cans crushed tomatoes
8 large basil leaves
Remove cheese piece and serve with additional grated cheese.
If you've ever dined at a Maggianos restaurant, you're probably familiar with "meatballs as big as your head." My kids used to think that was hilarious and of course they would have to order one just so we could do the size comparison at the table. My daughter inevitably left the restaurant with marina in her hair but kudos on the genius marketing Maggianos.
Because I know that there are literal kids out there (like mine) who are going to test my expression, I'm not going to make the claim that these meatballs are the size of your head. Instead, think fist size. Literally. 👊🏻
I might be the only person on the planet that really enjoys taking down my Christmas decorations. I like living amongst all the glitter and garland and Christmas trees while the holiday music is playing but somehow on the 26th of December, it all just looks like untidy clutter to me. 🎄 The first free day that I get after Christmas, I throw myself into hyper-speed to get all of the fairy lights and nativity scenes tucked away into their containers where they'll spend the next 11 months.
I'm not going all Hobby Lobby and replacing my Christmas wreaths with pink hearts for Valentine's Day, but I do love to get the Christmas decorations packed up and the house de-cluttered. My house isn't the only thing that gets a clean out at the start of a new year though. I do a thorough yearly examination of my blog que as well. It's not unusual for me to have 40 and 50 recipes in my que at one time. Recipes that I intend to make in the near future. Near being the operative word. I found a recipe in my que from 2017! 😬
That sounds crazy but the recipe is actually for Prime Rib. Apparently, I've had no occasions to prepare a prime rib in the last three years. When I find recipes online or in my cooking magazines, I add them to the que and then wait for the perfect opportunity to try them out. Still waiting on that Prime Rib kind of day! 🥩
This tomato olive focaccia recipe hasn't been in my que very long but when my brother gave me a package of olives that he brought home from his travels to Greece - I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. FOCACCIA! The Greek olives are amazing and the best way that I could think of to highlight them is on top of some delicious homemade bread.
Tomato Olive Focaccia
3 2/3 cups bread flour
5 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups room temperature water
8 Tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bake 20-22 minutes in a 500 degree oven. Cool 5 minutes on wire rack.
Remove from pan with metal spatula. Cool 30 minutes before serving.
This bread rose for way longer than 5-6 hours. A quick trip to the mall turned into a puppy holding, ice cream eating, lunch out, shoe shopping, jean buying, trip to the grocery store excursion that lasted 7 hours. Soooo... my dough had risen and then fallen and I was a little worried about it. Lucky for me. It baked up just beautifully. I hope you'll give this one a try.
Like my page on facebook.
Follow me on Instagram