Monday, January 31, 2011

Update and Another Wine Trial

January is coming to a close and while my posting number for the month has been rather pitiful, my life behind-the-scenes has been busy but good. Joining a new, larger university in the middle of an academic year and acclimating to a knew town has taken away nearly all my free time. As far as cooking goes, I still have a backlog of recipes made while I was visiting my family that I need to post, but I have been so busy my meals have been relatively uninteresting. Lots of sandwiches, canned soup, and cereal. I don't mind these less-than-creative meals because I have been enjoying using my time instead to meet new people and explore the new town I am in.

I think the only gastronomic goal I've had for the month of January is giving some Texas wines a try. I shared a bottle of delicious chenin blanc from Llano Estacado wineries. I think I liked it more than the Twin Springs, but honestly its hard to compare the two because they were different styles of wine. The chenin blanc was sophisticated but easy to drink; I imagine it would be a pleasing wine for anyone who enjoys white wine. It had a clean, lightly crisp apple and pear flavor, and as the back label said would pair nicely with chicken or fish; I agree with their suggestion. I just had it by itself while playing board games...any wine that I can drink while relaxing is fine by me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Savory Mushroom and Rice Soup

A lot has changed since my last post. I have re-rooted myself and am officially in Texas. I've been working to get my new apartment comfortable and have started my first semester here in Texas. I have been utilizing my freezer to hold excess servings of food because I figured (and rightly so) that I would be crazy busy as a new doctorate student. I have taken time to explore my new town and beautiful campus, and of course sample some local fare...well, local wine at least (which should be considered thesis research because I will be studying winegrapes!). My first day back I went to the grocery store and picked up a bottle of Twin Springs wine, a sweet red table wine. I was not disappointed in this selection because it was the perfect wine to sip after a long day of flying, taxi-driving, and first attempt at organizing my messy apartment. It was easy to drink with fresh raspberry and grape jelly flavor and aroma. I would highly suggest this one.

Now, onto my first fix-and-freeze recipe. I bought a lot of dry goods before leaving to go home for the holidays, and this soup is for the most part based off of those ingredients. Mushrooms and rice may not seem substantial, but what makes this soup special and rich is the addition of both beef broth and tomato paste which add body and a more intense flavor. Plus, beef and mushrooms are a match made in heaven. I froze individual servings in plastic freezer bags. These should be good for up to 3 months in the freezer. Just thaw in the refrigerator and heat in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. I should also mention this is a great budget-friendly meal, too.

Savory Mushroom and Rice Soup
Printable Recipe

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 8-oz package fresh mushrooms, any variety, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 32-oz box low-sodium beef broth
2 tbsp low-sodium tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup par-boiled brown rice
salt and pepper, to taste
suggested garnish: chopped parsley

1. Heat a large saucepan or 4-qt stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and once it's war add the onion, celery, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic. Saute all the vegetables until tender.
2. Pour in the beef broth, tomato pates, sage, water, and season with some salt and pepper. Once the tomato paste has dissolved upon stirring, bring the heat to high.
3. When the liquid is boiling, add the rice and reduce heat to simmer; cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 224
  • Fat: 4.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 264 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 37 g
  • Fiber: 3.3g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Protein: 10 g

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Apple-Dill Coleslaw

I hope the New Year is going well for you so far. I have a few days left in Indiana, then I head back to Texas to begin my Ph.D. program. Therefore I'm feeling a mixture of anticipation, anxiety, and sadness (could not think of a synonym for sadness, so my attempt at alliteration was ruined...). I'm sad to leave my family but excited to explore the new town I  moved to. I guess all those emotions could best be summed up by the word "bittersweet." I have enjoyed cooking for my family while I was home, now it will be back to just cooking for me and any other new wayfaring friend who chances upon my apartment. It's funny to me because not only do I look forward to just having the companionship of new friends, I really look forward to feeding people!

One of the newest ways of cooking I have chanced upon is freezer cooking, which is supposed to save time and money. Basically, you take one day and cook a lot of stuff and freeze it for a whole week or even a month. Now, I can't see myself taking a whole Saturday afternoon cooking a week's worth of meals because, while I love cooking, I simply do not have the patience for something like that. What I do want to start doing is making more than I can eat of a particular recipe and freezing a few or even individual portions. Some foods, such as stews and chili, are difficult to prepare for one person because you're left eating it for days and days. I can avoid that by freezing excess. Another great thing about having frozen portions of food is that I don't have the excuse of saying to myself "I don't have anything in this apartment to eat!" All I'll have to do is check out the freezer. This will probably reduce my urges to get take-out, which can be unhealthy and seems to cost more per portion compared to homemade food.

I've been writing some freezer-friendly recipes to try. The funny thing is, I find myself re-making old standbys into healthier recipes. I think when people are trying to eat in a healthful way, they miss those old favorites like macaroni and cheese and enchiladas, which happen to be foods that freeze well. With a little thought, these recipes can be easily adapted by adding leaner ingredients plus a lot of flavor agents. Please stay tuned for my series of "lightened up" freezer-friendly foods as well as tips on how to prepare foods for freezing.

Switching gears, here's a recipe I made yesterday to go with some simple turkey burgers. This meal looks like summer, 4th of July food, though it is January. The coleslaw idea came from a lunch I had at Stream Cliff Farm Winery last summer. We shared a side of their delicious dill coleslaw, which had apple in it as well. I have re-created that salad, and here's my lighter version.

Apple-Dill Coleslaw
Printable Recipe

6 tbsp light Miracle Whip
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
sugar or sugar substitute to taste
6 cups shredded cabbage
1 Granny Smith apple
3 tbsp minced fresh dill
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Blend the Miracle Whip, vinegar, sugar or sugar substitute, and a little salt and pepper to taste.
2. To julienne the apple, cut thin slices off the "cheeks" of the apple, then stack the slices up and make thin cuts perpendicular to the cutting surface to produce batons.

3. Toss the cabbage, apple, and dill in the dressing. Allow the coleslaw to sit in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 72
  • Fat: 3.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 4 mg
  • Sodium: 148 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 10.6 g
  • Fiber: 2.5 g
  • Sugar: 6.3 g
  • Protein: 1.4 g

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Chow Bella and Holiday Recipes

Though the 3rd anniversary of Chow Bella was January 1st, I haven't had a chance to blog about it between New Year's celebration and my birthday. So, we'll count this as my 2nd anniversary post. And, appropriately enough, this is also the 200th post on Chow Bella, so two milestones are accomplished.

I have a lot of info to relay in terms of foods my family and I prepared for our festivities. On Christmas eve, my parents and I had a nice dinner at home with a roasted turkey breast, roasted sweet and white potatoes, and green beans with maple pecans. For our wine we had Castle Finn Rhubarb wine, which is a light blush wine that paired well with everything we served.

My dog, hanging out under the table in the kitchen as we cooked.


For the family Christmas party, my mom and I made a roasted vegetable dip and cowboy caviar (basically black eyed pea salsa). While both were good, I'm going to continue perfect the recipe before I post it here.

The biggest recipe success had to have been our contribution to a New Year's party. I found a simple and delicious puff pastry recipe from Pepperidge Farms. Because I followed the recipe exactly, I will just post the link here instead of repeating it. Below are the pictures of the final product. They tasted like glorified grilled cheese sandwiches with toasty, buttery bread and a soft, warm blue cheese center studded with sweet-tart sun-dried tomatoes and crunchy walnuts. The party we brought these treats to was a wine tasting, so our wine of choice was a 2009 Cupcake Chardonnay. I had heard great things about this particular wine and I have been wanting to try it. From the descriptions of it, I thought it would be crisp enough to cut through the creaminess of the gorgonzola, but still buttery enough to pair with the puff pastry. The Cupcake chardonnay received mixed reviews from the party goers. It personally was not my favorite wine, and to tell you the truth I seldom drink chardonnay because it doesn't typically pair well with the foods I prepare; sauvignon blanc seems to work best. The funny thing is, Don Luciano chardonnay from La Mancha, Spain is one of my favorites. It costs only about $4.00/bottle. It just goes to show you that good wine doesn't have to cost a lot, it just depends on your personal tastes.

Please stay tuned for more recipe posts because I am still working on a back-log of recipes and photos. I hope I catch up one of these days!
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