Spelt Spaghetti with Butternut Squash and Pesto
Here we are a week after Thanksgiving and I am hard at work in the kitchen dreaming up lighter, healthier meals for in between holiday extravagances. I’ve been testing several ways to use spelt pasta, and spelt flour since Nature’s Legacy sent me a box of their products to try out. Thus far I am very happy with their spelt products and the recipe development using spelt in my kitchen.
Today I cooked up a dish that came to me last night wondering what would be the best type of dish for this time of year. I wanted something hot and satisfying, but vegetarian.
This dish came out great in testing today and I am happy to share it with you in the hopes that you will give spelt a try.
Why, you might ask should you give spelt a try? Well, for one reason it taste great. For another reason it’s all natural, and not-been-messed-with like its cousin wheat has been. Spelt is non-GMO, high in fiber and vitamins too. More and more people are searching out simple natural foods to add to their diet and spelt is gaining in popularity.
So try one or more of my spelt recipes, and see what you think. To help you try out spelt Nature’s Legacy is giving one of my lucky readers a box of spelt products.
Just leave a comment on this post what your favorite pasta dish is and you will be entered in this drawing. I’ll draw the winner soon and let you know who the lucky person is on my Facebook fan page. Due to shipping costs the winner must take delivery in the US.
Included in the box is:
1 5 lb bag 100% whole grain spelt flour
4 boxes whole spelt rotini
4 boxes whole spelt spaghetti
2 boxes whole spelt lasagna
Spelt Spaghetti with Butternut Squash and Pesto
1 ten ounce package of Nature’s Legacy spelt spaghetti
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup pesto
2 1/2 cups butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1 cup roasted walnuts(optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat water in a 5 quart pot with a tablespoon of salt.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss butternut squash, salt and pepper with olive oil in a bowl and mix to coat. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Cook spelt spaghetti according to instructions on package fifteen minutes after the squash goes in the oven, see note*
Drain and rinse spaghetti and put in a large bowl.
Add pesto, walnuts and parsley and toss well.
By now your squash should be tender but not mushy. Put hot squash in with spaghetti and mix well.
Serve with a garnish of steamed broccoli, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
The package says it takes 4-6 minutes to cook the spaghetti in boiling water, but I had to cook it about 8 minutes and it wasn’t overcooked.
I made a basic pesto from a recipe on the Food Network’s website that turned out very well, and only took ten minutes. You can buy or make your own pesto for this dish. Here’s the link for the recipe I used:
Even though I was gifted a box of products from Nature’s Legacy it didn’t influence my opinion.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and definitely one of my favorite holidays. After all how can you not love a holiday that is about family and friends gathering to share good food and conversation? I am always amused by the many new recipes for Thanksgiving standards that come out each year, however I usually stick to the same old roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. Why do I stick to the usual? Because I only eat this specific meal once per year and I know from over twenty five years in a row of cooking Thanksgiving meals what taste best to me.
That is not to say I don’t appreciate some new ideas for Thanksgiving favorites, because I do. I just cook up the new recipes I find afterwards, or for Christmas dinner. But to each his/her own and by all means learn new recipes for your holidays if that’s what churns your butter.
What I plan on blogging about over the next several weeks is the healthy meals you should be eating in between these big, rich meals that are coming at us for the next five weeks. I too will be eating the good stuff when it comes my way at parties and family get togethers, and will want to eat light healthy meals in between so I come out the other end of this five week food fest feeling good.
One of my favorite meals growing up in Colorado was a good leg of lamb, and the stew that usually followed the next day made from the leftovers. It qualifies as comfort food in my book. Today I give you my original Fast and Furious Cook lamb stew recipe that is very easy to make, delicious, and fairly healthy too. I have tested it this last week to be made in the crock pot and it came out great! During the next five weeks when you need a hearty, healthy easy to cook stew I hope you give this one a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
1 oz dried mushrooms, chanterelles or morel
2 cups water
1 pound lamb stew meat
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium sized yellow onion chopped
3 stalks celery sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove minced fresh garlic
1 8 oz package white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of dry red wine(Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 carrot sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
*Soak dried mushrooms in water for at least 10 minutes.
Dredge lamb pieces in flour and set aside. In a saute pan or enamel cast iron pot cook onion, garlic and celery in half of the oil on medium heat for five minutes stirring often. Add fresh mushrooms and cook stirring for another five minutes. Pour into crockpot, then wipe pan/pot clean and brown lamb in remaining oil on medium to medium high heat. Add lamb, wine, mushrooms, seasoning salt and carrots to crockpot and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low heat. If you are able to stir it halfway through the cooking time it is helpful but not necessary.
Serve over a cup of steamed brown rice, or your favorite pasta.
Dried mushrooms vary in the amount of grit hiding in the nooks and crannies. One way I have found to reduce the grit is to soak the mushrooms in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and stirring them gently before using them to allow the grit to settle on the bottom. I then take the floating mushrooms from the top of the water and add them to the dish I’m cooking and carefully pour the mushroom water into the dish leaving the last couple of tablespoons of liquid on the bottom to throw out with the grit that has settled there.
You can skip the fresh mushrooms and double the amount of dried mushrooms if you like.
If you can’t buy dried mushrooms in your local grocery store consider ordering them online as they don’t cost much to ship and at $5.99 for one ounce of chanterelles most people can afford that price. Here is a link to my favorite source: http://www.thewoodlandsatphillips.com/dried-mushrooms-1/
It’s good to be back home and in the groove. My 10 days in Spain gave me many ideas for recipe development that I’ll work on in the weeks to come. One of my favorite dishes was the ever present breakfast and or tapas dish the “tortilla”. It’s a simple preparation of potatoes and eggs served at room temperature or warm. What I like about it is that you can add so many ingredients to this base recipe to come up with your own favorite way to eat it. At the resort where I was staying they served it with a side of a nice tomato garlic salsa that went great with it. I don’t plan on eating this sort of thing every day, but would like to incorporate it into a special weekend type of breakfast food in the near future.
With the holiday upon us I will mainly focus on healthy recipes to counterbalance the good stuff most of us will indulge in during this feast a plenty few weeks. I do believe in eating healthy most of the time and splurging during Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. I tested a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites cookbook I bought while visiting Ithaca, NY last September. For those of you not familiar with Moosewood they are a collective of owners running one of the best farm to table, mostly Vegan, and Vegetarian restaurants in the US. They have been around for forty years, a feat that is difficult to say the least, putting out inventive meals for those who love to eat healthy delicious food.
The recipe I tried out last night was the Navajo Stew, a lovely stew of sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, beans and tomato seasoned with ground cumin and coriander.
I don’t own many cookbooks or use them much, but this one is fast becoming one of my favorites.
I actually followed the recipe closely, and only deviated a bit when adding Korean sweet potatoes to come up with four cups total as I was a little short using just regular sweet potatoes.
The result was a wonderful tasting, quite filling stew that was served with a side of whole grain baguette that satisfied and warmed us on a chilly dark night. I suspect one could use delicata, or butternut squash in this stew in place of sweet potatoes with good results. For those of you that want meat in a stew like this I believe it would be easy to add chicken, beef or pork at the beginning while sauteing the onions.
2 T olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves minced
1 t salt
1 red or green pepper seeded and chopped
1 T ground cumin seeds
2 t ground coriander seeds
4 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes(1 inch cubes)
2 cups water
one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T canned chipolte peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups black or red beans rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels(optional)
Warm the oil in a covered soup pot on low heat.
Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook about 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell peppers, cumin, and coriander and cook for a couple of minutes.
Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes covered or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes, chipoltes, and cilantro in a blender.
When the vegetables are tender, stir in the tomato puree and the beans. Add corn, if you like.
Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Serving and menu ideas.
Top each serving with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce(page 310), plain yogurt, or sour cream, or shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. Serve this stew with cornbread(see pages 283 and 284), flatbread, or tortilla chips. Also nice on rice.
Thanks to Moosewood for letting me share this great stew recipe.
Moosewood Inc copyright 2005 from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, published by Clarkson Potter.
Portland Oregon, Foodie Town USA
Over the last few years I kept hearing bits and pieces about the food scene in Portland, and decided to go investigate for a day. It had been about ten years since I last visited Portland and that was just for an afternoon before flying out. That was not enough to really get to know Portland. This trip however brief(one day) was just to explore the food scene. I arrived the night before and stayed at an airport hotel with the plan of catching the new Max light rail train to downtown the next morning bright and early. I caught the light rail from the airport to the convention center at about 6 am heading for Petite Provence Bakery and Restaurant. They have four locations in Portland including the airport, but I chose the Alberta St location.I had read the reviews on Yelp for the best breakfast place in town and even though Petite Provence was rated #5 on the list I had a feeling it was the best for what I was looking for. I wanted a place that had extraordinary food with a local flair and found it here. Many reviewers raved about the salmon hash, a dish I would probably like, but I had just cooked up some of my Alaska salmon the day before and wasn’t craving it. What caught my eye was the Risotto Cakes with home fried potatoes and butternut squash. Here’s the description from their menu:
Risotto Cakes & Eggs*
Slow simmered risotto rice with sautéed bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, red onions, and fresh basil, gently formed into patties, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection. Topped with two poached eggs. Served with Provençal Potatoes & Butternut Squash. 8.95
This was one yummy breakfast meal, and even though I didn’t have the eggs it was plenty for me since I ordered a croissant on the side. The risotto cakes were cooked perfectly and the red onions carried a slight taste of red wine. It was one of the best breakfast meals I have had anywhere in the US! The croissant was as good as most I have had in Paris which is rare indeed. It was flakey, fresh, buttery, and served with a little bit of raspberry jam. The other bakery goods there looked great, but I resisted the urge to buy and bite as I had miles to go yet.
As I worked my way back towards downtown by bus I saw a gluten free bakery and decided to pop in and check it out. Tula gluten free bakery has the usual goods you would expect in a bakery. I looked it over and decided to try the Cranberry Pecan Bread. It was good, and I never would have guessed it was gluten free in a blind taste test.
Next on my list was to walk downtown to get oriented on this fine fall day that was forecasted to be sunny and around 70 degrees. Not your average fall weather in rainy Portland. I hopped the light rail again and got off downtown close to Pioneer Square. I had three hours to walk around before lunch and saw they have a lovely riverfront park and walkway on both sides of the Willamette River. I walked the downtown side of the trail for about a mile before heading into the downtown area. It’s hard to beat a nice river walk and this is one of the best I have found in the US. There are many sculptures, benches, fountains etc to this a special place.
At my next foodie stop I was looking forward to eating at a well known Peruvian Restaurant that is highly rated on Tripadvisor.com. The head chef and the owner of Adina travelled to Peru to learn from local chefs authentic Peruvian cooking techniques to further the quality of Adina’s menu. I was interested in eating a vegetarian lunch here as one of the staff at Petite Provence who is a vegetarian recommended it. I ordered the
Hongos Saltados, which if my Spanish is correct means “Jumping Mushrooms”. It was very good and something not found on any restaurant menu I have ever been to. It was presented nicely, and steamy hot. I would love to go back and try some of the squash dishes, and other vegetarian options next time I’m in town as they looked great.
Next up on the list was ride the light rail’s smaller cousin called the “street car” which is just a smaller route, same train style. I hadn’t got far when I spied Powell’s City of Books, and in I went. This is probably the biggest book store I have ever been in, and they say they have over a million books here! It was laid out well with color coded rooms for easy traveling and staffed quite well too. I love to support book stores and this one had the biggest selection of cookbooks I have ever seen, with a special vintage cookbook section. If you are in the area they have six locations including one at the airport.
Next on the list was kill time by hopping a light rail train just to see where it went. I rode the yellow line towards the Expo Center and spied a cool looking grocery store after 20 minutes of riding. Off I went like a moth to a flame into the Arbor Lodge location of New Seasons Market. I noticed two things that I liked right away. One was they had a great supply of fresh mushrooms, both wild and cultivated. The other thing was they had grass fed or grass fed and grain finished beef advertised at their meat department. If you are going to eat beef you would do well to eat the 100% grass fed beef that is becoming more common in grocery stores. I bought an organic apple for my log plane ride home the next day and set off for my final foodie stop the Portland City Grill. This was touted to me by a passenger on the plane to Portland who said go there for the view and the Kung Pao Calamari at happy hour. Portland City Grill is rated #22 out of over 3,000 restaurants in Portland, and is Asian/Pacific Rim type cuisine. Since it was a fine blue sky day it seemed to be a good choice. Most restaurants that have a big view suffer from food quality issues, but this place was pretty good. I ordered the calamari and a glass of Willamette Pinot Noir and settled back to enjoy the view of Mt Hood of in the distance. The calamari was good but had a bit too much batter that was easily peeled of. The flavor however was excellent and calamari goes well with spice and peanuts. I also ordered the Cesar Salad which was pretty good even though it had a bit too much dressing on it. Next time I’m in town I’d consider going back to try dinner if it’s on a clear day in the summer as the view is magnificent.
If you are looking for a totally cool place to visit I recommend Portland for many reasons other than the food. It’s close to the Pacific Ocean, Mt Hood and the Cascades, as well as the Columbia River. I look forward to my next trip to Portland with my wife someday in the future when I can share the experience with her, and taste what she orders too thus doubling the fun!
It’s true that I love to travel. Although I don’t travel as much as some I travel quite often. This week has me leaving for Madrid, Spain to attend Pueblo Ingles language school for Spanish speaking individuals looking to improve their english skills by attending a week long course all in English. My part is being a volunteer providing conversation daily one on one, or in small groups so the individuals can be exposed to a variety of accents. There are other volunteers from North America, as well as the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.
What on earth you ask do I expect to get from this? I hope to learn about the Spanish culture, and especially the amazing cuisine I have heard about in Spain. It’s always good as a cook to be exposed to different styles of cooking to enhance the creative process that cooking demands.
Pueblo Ingles pays for my room and board at a pretty cool resort, that if you follow this link you can read the reviews and see pictures of the resort:http://www.tripadvisor.ie/Hotel_Review-g1104138-d1373072-Reviews-Abadia_de_Los_Templarios-La_Alberca.html
One of the challenges I have in leaving the country for ten days is providing healthy meals for my wife who doesn’t hardly ever cook. I have spoiled her all these years by cooking virtually all our meals, except when we go out to eat. This is the first time I have attempted to have this many days worth of lunch and dinner ready to heat and eat for her, and it’s been interesting to say the least. Most of the recipes are mine, but not all have been added to my blog. Just in case you ever have to do something like this I share with you the menu I devised, and some of the recipes.
Ten Day Menu Plan
Wednesday November 6th
Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with a side of applesauce
Lunch: Salmon Salad Wrap with baby greens
Dinner: Maitake Mushroom Chowder with Couscous Salad
link to chowder recipe: http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/392/
Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with a side of peaches
Lunch: Italian Tomato Soup. Link to soup recipe at:
Dinner: Coconut-Vegetable Thai Chowder
Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with almond butter toast
Lunch: Green salad with cauliflower and sunflower seeds, dressed with Cranberry vinegrette
Dinner: Salmon salad on greens and Vegetable lasagna. Link to lasagna recipe:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/?s=lasagna
Breakfast: Fried farm fresh egg on toast
Lunch: *Vegetable fried rice with peanuts
Dinner: Chicken curry on brown rice
Breakfast: Blueberry, banana and fresh apple smoothie
Lunch: Ramen soup with added frozen peas
Dinner: Go out to neighborhood Indian restaurant/take out
Breakfast: Steel cut oats with applesauce
Lunch: Italian Tomato Soup Bean and rice burrito with side of salsa
Dinner: Steamed Edamame starter, Vegetable fried rice
Breakfast: Granola or steel cut oats
Lunch: Bean and rice burrito with side of avocado, and salsa. Link to bean and rice recipe:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/spicy-black-bean-brown-rice-lunch-wraps/
Dinner: Baked Salmon Cake with side of steamed peas and carrots. Link to salmon cake recipe:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/salmon-cakes-with-chipolte-tartar-sauce/
Breakfast: *Steel cut oats with peaches
Lunch: Green salad with a side of hummos and chips
Dinner: *Sauteed Fire Roasted Portabellos on linguine
Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with applesauce
Lunch: Black beans and rice, or eat at work
Dinner: Chicken curry on brown rice, or chest nut rice
Breakfast: Steel cut oats and a fresh apple
Lunch: Lasagna and side green salad
Dinner: Baked salmon with chestnut rice
Wednesday night take peaches out of freezer and thaw in fridge.
Thursday night take Lasagna out of freezer and thaw in fridge.
Friday night take curry out of freezer and thaw in fridge.
Saturday, In a large saute pan heat 1 teaspoon of oil in pan on medium heat with fried rice and cook stirring for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup peanuts and cook for two more minutes.
3-4 pm cook 2 cups brown rice with 3 cups water in rice cooker for curry dinner.
Tuesday night take peaches out of freezer and thaw in fridge.
Wednesday night start 5 cups of water heating on stove to boil pasta. When water is boiling add past stirring constantly for the first minute.
Start saute pan heating up with 1 teaspoon oil on medium hi heat for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of Phillips Fire Roasted Portabellos and cook stirring for 5-7 minutes or until piping hot. Serve on top of pasta.
Thaw curry in fridge for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Thursday night thaw salmon, and chestnut rice in fridge.
Friday night heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a small(gold colored) baking pan and rack that fits in it put salmon skin side down and bake for 20 minutes. Season salmon with a sprinkle of Spike and ground black pepper.
Heat chestnut rice in covered oven proof baking dish with a spray of oil at the same time you are baking salmon.
Steam some green beans if you like.
You can see it’s fairly extensive, and most items reheat in 5-7 minutes. I plan on posting about the trip after I return, but share with you my favorite healthy soup recipe I developed last year.
Italian Tomato Soup
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 clove fresh garlic minced, or 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 14.5 oz can of kidney beans
1 15.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 5.5 oz can of V-8 vegetable juice
1 vegetable or chicken cube,(bullion)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup of small shell pasta, uncooked
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Optional,1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
In a 4-5 quart pot add enough of the water to cover the bottom about a quarter inch and heat to simmering. Add onion and garlic and cook on medium low for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add canned tomatoes, beans,red pepper flakes, rest of the water, V-8, bullion cube, and dried herbs. Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes covered stirring twice. Remove cover, turn heat up to a boil, and add pasta, stirring every 30 seconds for three minutes to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. Cook for 8 minutes uncovered keeping it at a slow boil. Stir in broccoli and cook for 3 minutes simmering. Stir in spinach and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve.
*This is a thick soup, but you can add an additional cup water if you want it thinner.
*Green beans can be substituted for broccoli.
*Kale can be substituted for spinach.
On November 6, 2012 I launched the Fast and Furious Cook Blog. Now that it has been almost one year here are some of my thoughts on the last year blogging.
Wow, there is so much to learn to be an effective blogger.
Cooking doesn’t come easy to most people.
Washing dishes, pots and pans is not glamorous.
My kitchen sure is small.
My puppy has the usual dog ability to get in the way when I cook.
Photographing food is not easy.
Learning how to master WordPress is not easy either.
Writing recipes is fun and easy for me.
Hot and spicy food is where it’s at.
Many Americans are fat and unhealthy but Mexicans have just passed us by according to a story I heard on NPR this morning. Welcome to the number one spot.
Fresh organic produce from my garden beats grocery store produce any day.
My, but there are a lot of food bloggers out there.
Good health matters, and is determined mostly by what and how much we eat.
There are a lot of nutrition blogs out there. Read one often.
GMO food products are like some mad science project gone bad.
Shopping at a farm that has been in business for over one hundred years is cool. Especially when they use methods from over one hundred years ago.
I don’t like chemicals in my food.
People will say “I’ll buy your cookbook, but don’t”, and that’s just the way it is. No big deal.
Writing a cookbook is easy, but shooting the pictures, editing it, cooking something five times to get it right are not easy.
I still love to cook and create new dishes.
A lot of the info out there on eating healthy is wrong, but keep reading anyway because some of it is right.
Cooking in front of an audience is fun for me.
Always keep learning.
It’s been a great year in spite of the loss of my german shepherd Vixen and my Ragdoll cat Buster.
And with that my friends I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, and passing on my blog and recipes. I promise you I will do all I can do improve year after year so I can bring you the best food choices for a healthy life.
I leave you with this recent recipe from the F&FC test kitchen. Most cream soups have gobs of milk or cream, but this does not. Try it, you will like it.
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
1 pound cauliflower florets
5 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
3 tablespoons minced yellow onion
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
3-4 tablespoons better than bullion chicken base
1/4 cup half and half
white pepper to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon
Cut cauliflower into equal sized florets then put in a pot with water, and chicken base and cook for about 12-15 minutes covered on medium high heat until tender. While the cauliflower is cooking start the minced onions in butter and garlic oil in a saute pan on medium low heat. Cook onions for 5-7 minutes stirring often until translucent and tender. Add flour and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes.
By now the cauliflower should be about done. Turn off heat and use the following directions for tabletop blender or immersion blender.
If using a tabletop blender drain cauliflower but reserve cooking liquid. Put cauliflower in blender with about 2 cups of the cooking liquid and puree. In the pot with the remaining cooking liquid add flour/onion mix and stir well with a wire whip until blended. Add pureed cauliflower to pot and stir.
If using an immersion blender leave cauliflower in water and blend until about pureed. Add flour and onion mix and blend first with a wire whip then use the immersion blender to finish the job.
To finish the soup add the half and half with the white pepper and serve with my Pan Toasted Croutons as a garnish.
Use the larger amount of chicken base if you want the soup a bit more flavorful and salty. You can always add the extra tablespoon at the end after tasting it.
Try coconut milk if you want to skip the dairy, and use olive oil in stead of butter.
Try a tablespoon or two of Spike or Mrs Dash seasoning salt in place of chicken bullion for a vegan/vegetarian soup.
Wine Touring Dry Creek Valley Wine Region with the Fast and Furious Cook
Every year or two I like to go to a wine region to explore for wine and food gems, and last week found me on the Dry Creek Valley wine trail in California. Thanks to friends of ours we were tipped off that this was the place to visit next, and we did visit last year but only for a few hours as our schedule had us mostly in and around the town of Sonoma.
This year’s trip was special as my brother was able to join me and assume the role of videographer, wine taster, and photographer as we explored Dry Creek Valley.
Dry Creek Valley touts itself as a “premium wine” region, and thus far I agree. Now that doesn’t mean the wines, food and lodging are all at a premium price, but it can be if you want it to be. We found several wines that cost under $15 that were worthy of higher price tags. With over 70 wineries in the valley every wine drinker is probably going to find many excellent wines that suit their taste. Dry Creek Valley wineries are not caught up in the glitz like Napa wineries, and when you visit quite often you will be greeted by the owner or member of the owner’s family to share the story of the wines with you. It’s this down home, personal touch that will have me coming back for another taste.
The weather in the Dry Creek Valley is great for grapes and not bad for people either.
Here’s what the Wine Grower’s of Dry Creek Valley website has to say about the climate:
70 miles north of San Francisco and 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, Dry Creek Valley is ideally situated for winegrapes. Bordered by Lake Sonoma in the North and the confluence of Dry Creek and the Russian River to the south, the valley is classified as a Region II climate for grape growing (similar to Bordeaux region in France). Dry Creek Valley experiences both coastal and inland influences, with the nearby coastal mountain range keeping cool marine temperatures at bay, allowing for daily temperatures in the mid-80’s, July-Sept. But these mountains also provide a conduit for the coastal cold air and fog to come in at night, dramatically dropping temperatures. Long, warm days allow the fruit to fully ripen, while coastal cooling in the evening enables the grapes to mature slowly and retain their acidity and balance. These are the perfect growing conditions for Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, the region’s signature wines, as well as Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
We found found the weather lovely on our visit with the daytime highs in the mid 80’s and the morning low around 45 degrees. With the fall colors on display I think October is the best time to visit.
For a town of just over 11,000 Healdsburg has great food and lodging options. As far as food options in the area Tripadvisor.com lists 69 restaurants on their website with Partake by K-J tops on the list. I have eaten at the Oakville Grocery, a deli like restaurant on the square in downtown Healdsburg, and also stopped in at the historic Dry Creek General Store twice. Unfortunately on this trip when we dropped in at the Oakville Grocery for lunch, and we had to pass because the place was packed and our next appointment was just 30 minutes away. Instead we stopped at El Farolito and had a quicky lunch of chips and salsa, with a vegetable burrito. It was fast and good, but the salsa was the stand out dish. It was earthy, and spicy like a good red salsa should be and the chips were hot out of the fryer.
I haven’t stayed in the Healdsburg/Dry Creek area yet, but plan on it next year. Tripadvisor lists 8 hotels, 16 B&B’s or Inn’s and 5 specialty lodging choices ranging in price of $84 per night on the low end to over $500 on the high end. Tripadvsor also lists 62 vacation rentals on their site. I like to rent a place with a kitchen when I visit wine country so I can cook some of the great local produce my way. Last year in Sonoma we rented a lovely two bedroom cottage just steps from the Sonoma square that was great, and it only cost about $250 per night. I found a nice looking cottage on Tripadvisor that for a mere $175 offers two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a private patio that looks out on the vineyard. That’s quite a deal especially if you split it with another couple. If you travel with another couple you get the benefit of having extra designated drivers as well as bringing down the cost of lodging!
About the wines you ask? Yes I did partake of a bit of wine at the four wineries we visited, but in micro amounts as I was the designated driver. First on our itinerary was Fritz Underground Winery tucked into the hill side on the north end of the valley. I had heard a radio spot called “cellar notes” on the classical music station WJBC in Baltimore last year about Fritz and knew I had to check it out on my next trip to wine country. I tasted the the 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Pinot Noir, 2011 Estate Zinfandel, 2010 Merlot, and the 2010 DCV Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked all but the Pinot Noir enough to go out and buy them next time I’m in my favorite wine shop. I was told that most of Fritz’s wines are available in the Baltimore area. I think my favorite was the 2011 Zin with it’s flavors of blackberry, and cherry accenting it’s delightful finish.
At Ferrari-Carano we tasted just five wines but were very impressed with the 2012 Fume Blanc and 2009 Zinfandel. The Fume Blanc had just the right amount of French oak highlighting its aromas of orange blossom, peach, meyer lemon, mango, pineapple, pear and guava. A great wine to go with salmon in papillote(in parchment paper tent) one of my favorite fancy salmon dishes. The 2009 Zinfandel was on sale at $18(reg $28) and was tops on our list of wines to look for when out wine shopping back home. It has 18 months in French oak that helps bring out the aromas of blackberry, raspberry preserves, and strawberry jam, with flavors of bing cherry, milk chocolate, and vanilla bean. A fine wine to go with chicken and mushroom dishes.
Our next stop was a Chateau Felice Wines in Healdsburg where we went to the owners home to sample wines on their gorgeous patio on a perfect afternoon. We tasted their Black Label series wines that are being fazed out as well as the new La Craie Reserve Series. Maybe it was the lovely patio, or our charming hosts, but we loved everything we tasted. Chateau Felice winemakers buy wines and work their magic in blending them into masterpieces for your enjoyment, as opposed to growing their own. I bought a case of the Black Label 2008 Estate Zin and a bottle of the American Celebration 2006 for a special occasion wine. Too bad I had to have it shipped, because now I have to wait a week or two to try it again.
The last stop on the wine tour was Ledson Winery. I have been to Ledson three times now and even though they are a bit spendy, I think they are the the best winemakers I have come across. They have over 80 wines from grapes grown as far south as the Monterey region, to up north in the Anderson Valley and out east around Lodi. Steve Ledson a fifth generation Sonoma farmer leads the team since 1997 when they produced their first wine under the Ledson label, an estate merlot. From their website here are the types of wines they produce:
The Ledson family specializes in small lots of hand-crafted wines reflecting California’s uniquely diverse terroir. Expressed across a broad range of varietals including Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Barbera, Mourvedre, Primitivo, Grenache, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Rosé and Madera Port, Ledson Wines champion sense of place flavors and wine making artistry.
Quite a variety of wines produced by this amazing winery that doesn’t sell wine to distributors, or liquor stores. To buy their wines you have to go to the winery, the Ledson Hotel, or become a wine club member which I did three years ago while visiting Sonoma.
I don’t consider myself a wine snob, but I have found that more often than not when I taste a wine in the Napa, Sonoma wine regions the wines are all good to great. But when I taste a wine from other not so famous wine regions like Colorado, Virginia, Maryland their wines usually don’t impress me a bit. I also like Washington State, and Oregon wines, but don’t buy them as often as California wines.
It just goes to show how difficult it is to grow and produce wines and that we have some of the best wines in the world here in these United States. I once saw on the outside wall of a wine bar in Auckland, New Zealand this saying:
“Life is too short to drink bad wine.”
so whatever your idea of good wine is, go ahead and enjoy it with good food and friends and your life will be richer for that!
In the spirit of good wine and food I give you Sauteed Chicken on Mushroom Sauce with Dry Creek Zinfandel.
Mushroom Sauce for Chicken
8 ounces slice white button mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup sliced yellow or white onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mushroom base
1 to 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons of fresh sage or thyme minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons half and half
In a saute pan cook onions in oil for 3 minutes on medium heat stirring every 30 seconds or so. Add sliced mushrooms and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is cooked out of the mushrooms stirring about once per minuter. Add flour, and butter, and cook stirring for 3 minutes on medium low heat. Add chicken stock, red wine and and stir in well cooking it for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the mushroom base and half and half and cook on medium low heat for about 3 more minutes stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with chicken or pork.
Weekend Breakfast Treat
The weekend approaches and here at my home that means something special for breakfast. Throughout the week we usually eat oatmeal, and sometimes a piece of toast or fruit with it, but on the weekend it’s time for kicking it up. Sometimes it’s egg and cheese sandwiches, and other times it’s pancakes. When it’s pancakes I always like to do them up in a special way like making a fruit topping from scratch or with strawberries and bananas cut up and mixed together.
I really outdid myself when I thought up Drunken Cherry Spelt Pancakes! I tried these four times over the last three weeks and proclaim them a winner. If you haven’t heard about spelt you should check it out. Spelt is an ancient grain that is higher in fiber than modern wheat which is tweaked for its use in high production baking products. You can learn more about spelt, and spelt products at Nature’s Legacy:
They sent me a box of their products to try out and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything in the box so far.
You can make this pancake recipe with an apple topping, or just pour hot maple syrup over them and watched the butter(Smart Balance) melt. Either way they are great! This is a very easy recipe to make and you could even replace the alcohol with vanilla extract and water if needed.
I have also cooked up the last couple of pancakes, (instead of saving the batter for another day) and put them in the fridge for a day or two, cut them in half to reheat in the toaster with good results. Not your average toast for sure. So give these a try and maybe add your own twist like whipped cream, or a bit of powdered sugar, and as always please leave feedback.
In my latest newsletter I had a giveaway , and the lucky winners for the restaurant gift certificate were:
Pam V The Melting Pot
Lauren O Maggie’s
Johanna M Baldwin Station
I hope you all enjoy a good night out at these Maryland restaurants. In the near future I hope to have a box of spelt products from Nature’s Legacy so look for that as is’t great, and healthy stuff.
Even though Nature’s Legacy gave me a box of their spelt products my opinion was not affected by their generous gift.
Drunken Cherry Spelt Pancakes
2 cups spelt flour
1 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
2 Tablespoons rum or vodka
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs beaten
In a small bowl combine cherries, Grand Marnier and rum. Let the cherries soften in the liquid while you prepare the batter. Cherries will need a minimum of 10 minutes to soak, and 20 minutes is even better to rehydrate and flavor them properly.
In a medium mixing bowl combine spelt flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix in egg and 3/4 or so of the buttermilk and mix just until batter is moistened. Depending on how thick, or thin you like your pancake batter you can adjust at this point. Adding the rest of the buttermilk will give you a slightly thinner pancake, leaving it out will give you a thick pancake.
Drain the liquid off the cherries and reserve. Fold cherries into batter and cook on a oiled griddle or cast iron pan as you would any other pancakes. On medium heat these take about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 2-3 minutes on the other side.
A pinch of nutmeg or a teaspoon of cinnamon would be a nice addition.
Saute a cored and sliced granny smith apple with a teaspoon of canola oil, and a bit of water. Cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, then add the liquid the cherries soaked in and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Serve as a side or on top of pancakes.
I sometimes use three parts buttermilk to one part water for a thinner pancake.
Slow and Easy Cooking
Nine times out of ten when I’m cooking a meal it’s done Fast and Furious Cook style, because I have a full schedule like most of you and don’t want to be in the kitchen more than neccesary. There are times though when I might take 30 minutes to prep something and an hour to cook it. Today was one of those times, as I like to have some quick and healthy re-heat type meals in the freezer for days when there just isn’t time to cook. I think of lasagna as a comfort food. Even back in my elementary school days I loved the stuff from the school cafeteria, or any place I could get it. Lasagna is a dish like pizza where most of it is pretty good by virtue of the ingredients. When you put together an Italian tomato sauce and cheese good things happen. Add beef, pork or vegies and it gets better yet.
I brought back some lovely portabello mushroom caps from The Woodlands at Phillips Mushrooms in Kennett Square, PA Saturday and went to work with a new recipe developed right here at Fast and Furious Central for lasagna. This recipe combines the usual Italian tomato sauce(my home made sauce from heirloom tomatoes from my garden) with two kinds of cheese, broccoli, zucchini, and the portabello mushrooms to make a mighty good vegetarian lasagna. A hot and steamy hunk of lasagna is hard to beat on a chilly fall evening. Served with a nice side of garlic bread and you are set for some good eating. Now I’ll admit that this isn’t quite as healthy as most of my recipes, but without the meat it has significantly less calories as other lasagna recipes. I also omitted the ricotta, or cottage cheese. Give it a try and see if you believe like I do that mushrooms can replace meat in many recipes without leaving you feeling hungry soon after dinner.
Portabello Mushroom Lasagna with Vegetables
3 portabello mushroom caps stem removed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cup marinara sauce, or store bought spaghetti sauce
1 small zucchini sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped or sliced fresh broccoli
1 small red bell pepper sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
3/4 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese
lasagna sheets, cooked per directions on package
1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, optional
Slice Portabello mushrooms 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick and saute on medium heat in olive oil for 4 minutes. Turn mushroom slices over and cook 3 more minutes. Remove to a plate for assembly. Prep a 11×7 in baking pan with a bit of olive oil before laying lasagna sheets on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the lasagna and then lay half of the mushrooms on top. Next lay the zucchini slices on top and then sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of the mozzarella. Lay more lasagna sheets on top and top with 1/2 cup sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Add one more layer of lasagna sheets, then top with remaining sauce mushrooms, bell peppers, and cheeses.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees covered, then reduce heat and continue baking for 40 minutes covered. Uncover and bake for 10-15 more minutes, then remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Serves four to six.
Yellow squash can be used in place of zucchini.
Eggplant can be used in place of broccoli, but should be cooked in the saute pan after the mushrooms for 4 minutes each side.
I used no-boil whole wheat noodles and it turned out great. If you have to boil your noodles it adds about 20 minutes to the prep time.
It got down into the mid forties here last night and that means it’s officially soup season. Even though I had to make soup every day for almost three years in the US Coast Guard I still love to make and eat soup. It’s high on the list of comfort foods in taste and ease of cooking and re-heating. It invokes memories of mom’s making soup for their children home from school sick watching TV with a tray to hold the soup and crackers close by. And memories of coming in from the cold to a steaming bowl of mushroom soup, or cream of tomato soup. Tops on the list of soups is chicken noodle soup, a soup that really does help cure a cold according to many.
There are so many types of soup from the chunky to the bisques, and creamy to clear.Or made from chicken, beef, and other type of stocks. There are soups made to start a meal, and soups made to be the meal. When it comes down to picking a soup that is hearty enough to make it a meal almost nothing beats chili. Served with crackers, tortillas or bread this is an American favorite. When I was living and working in Frisco, Colorado back in the 1980’s I worked at The Moose Jaw and loved their chili recipe. I would eat a bowl of that great chili at least once per week in the winter time while at work. BTW, they are still open and celebrating 40 years in the same location, and run by the remaining member of four owners who bravely bought the place so long ago.
Fast forward to the present and there is a movement to make chili healthier, and with less meat. When the good folks at Phillips Mushrooms asked me to develop a recipe blending mushrooms with meat into a new kind of chili I was up to the task. After all I love mushrooms and chili so why not mix the two? This recipe is super healthy due to less meat and no added oil or fat. It is started by sauteing the onions, garlic, meat and mushrooms in water. If you have not tried this method of sauteing it’s worth a try. With recipes like this most people would never guess it was made without sauteing in oil.
So when it gets cold where you are give this easy, healthy chili recipe a try and don’t forget to pass it on. If you like it or have something to add please leave a comment.
Portobello Mushroom and Beef Chili
1/2 yellow or white onion diced
2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb portobellos cut into 1/2 cubes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 15 ounce can kidney beans
1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies
1 jalapeno minced, optional
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Cook onions in a 3 12 quart cast iron enamel pot, or other heavy pot in just enough water to cover bottom by 1/2 inch on medium heat for 5 minutes stirring often.
Add mushrooms and beef and cook on medium high for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium cooking 5 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and sauce then stir in spices and salt. Add beans and bring to a simmer cooking for 20 minutes stirring about every 5 minutes uncovered.
I use about a quarter cup of water to rinse the tomato cans with then pour into the chili so as not to waste what doesn’t come out of the can easily.
Chili powders vary in flavor and spiciness so feel free to add or reduce accordingly. I used McCormick’s chili powder for this recipe.
I like it hot and will add red pepper or jalapeno powder to kick it up.