Good Wine & Great Chow

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My first event at the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend was awesome — the Wine, Bread & Cheese seminar. The second, “The Truck Stops Here”? Not great. The majority of the food was fried which is a total non-starter when you can’t eat gluten. There were simply not enough “food trucks” providing food to make the price of admission worth it for me, taking into consideration the fried thing.

As a result of my frustration from Friday night, I’m not going to lie . . . I was not even a little excited about Saturday. But I went to the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village {at Front Street Village} anyway. I’m happy to say that it was awesome. It was much more organized than the food truck event. There was simply no possible way for me to try every wine {although I’m sure there were some there that tried}. And while I was a little overwhelmed at where to start, I came up with a sort-of-ish plan to start with the whites, working around the tent and sampling the awesome food in between.

Here’s what I did enjoy {that I remembered to write down or snap a photo of}:

Charcuterie, Charcuterie Board, Cheese, Southern Foods

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My favorite eats were:

  • Sesame Seared Tuna from the Channel Marker
  • Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream and Caramelized Onions {and ugh…I can’t remember where this came from}
  • Asian Pulled Pork Taco with soy-ginger slaw and sour cream from Circa-81
  • Spring salad with strawberries, feta & basil-peach vinaigrette (Olive Oil & Vinegar from Beaufort Olive Oil Company made by Chef Merrell from Circa-81.
  • The fish & shrimp stew from Sammy’s Seafood House & Oyster Bar
  • The Charcuterie board from Southern Foods

Circa 81, Clarke Merrell, tapas, cocktails, Beaufort Wine and Food Weekend

I only saw one cooking demo – from Chef Merrell of Circa-81 {And Dank Burrito. And Beaufort Olive Oil Company.} but it was fun. I learned a few things from the demo. Like for instance, did you know that when you buy extra virgin olive oil from the grocery store, it may have as little as 15% extra olive virgin oil. The rest could be . . . anything. Eww. Kind of annoyed about the olive oil I purchase at the store. I also learned that clear bottles should be avoided which is a shame since I bought clear glass bottles for my olive oil and vinegar.

Chef Merrell made a spring salad that we were able to sample. I had a taste of a really good Sauvignon Blanc, with it, that I cannot remember the name of, for the life of me. Nonetheless, it was a fun demo and like I mentioned, I learned a few things. One of the things I enjoyed about the chef’s presentation was his advice to try stuff out when you’re cooking taking a “no rules” approach. I like that.

Before I forget, I also loved the Gin &  Tonic from Mother Earth Spirits out of Kinston. P.S. I’m a cocktail fan but I had never had a Gin & Tonic before. I’m a new fan. I bought a bottle of Crude Bitters – Rosemary, Grapefruit & Peppercorn. I can’t wait to try it. I also had a sample of their Orange & Fig. So good!

bitters, Crude Bitters,

Overall, it was a really awesome experience. I had a ton of fun. I have been to quite a few wine dinners, tastings, etc., over recent years. But this was the first time attending a wine & food festival of this type. There are things I would do differently next year for sure. But mark my words, at the very least I’ll be back for the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village next year!

Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend – Wine, Bread, and Cheese Seminar

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Today I went to the first of a few events I’ll be attending as part of the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend. As an awesome 40th birthday present, my friend Jackie bought me tickets to the Wine, Bread & Cheese Seminar as well as Saturday’s Vin de Mer Epicurean Village. I bought myself a ticket to the “Truck Stops Here” food truck rodeo.

This was seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given! I had such a great time. The event was at the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center which is part of the Beaufort Maritime Museum. The view was awesome. And it was a super fun location for an event like this.

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I arrived early, along with quite a few others and we watched as the room was set up.

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Because this is the first event I’ve attended during the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The event exceeded my expectations. The only criticism I had is that I would have liked it to be a little longer. Nonetheless, it was a great experience.

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The cheeses offered were so very good. Southern Food’s Cheesemonger, Sasha Shreders, chose cheeses I have never had before and probably am not likely to have again for some time. However, I learned a lot and confirmed that cheese, is in fact, proof that God loves me.

I’m not sure I could pick a favorite if I had to though the Shakerag Blue and Brabander Goat Gouda were pretty amazing. The wine was excellent and paired perfectly. I only bought three bottles (my budget and wallet thank me). I’m saving the Petite Sirah for a special occasion.

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After the event was over, I spent a little time walking along the waterfront and sat for a bit, enjoying the view across Taylor’s Creek. Overall, it was a great way to spend a few hours of my vacation. I am looking forward to the next two events!

Drunken Mushrooms? Why not?

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I’ve lost my cooking mojo. I really have. I hate that. But it is what it is. Last night, I was alone in my kitchen {Pandora serenading}. That was glorious. Wonder of wonders . . . I cooked. I’m so glad I did.

I haven’t had a mushroom dish in a while so while in Morehead City on Saturday, I found a mushroom mix (oyster, portobello, shiitake) from Harris Teeter that was perfect.

As usual, I used a recipe {found here} as my starting point but deviated from it to fit my tastes and what I had on hand otherwise.

Before I get to the recipe, I have a confession . . . I’m scatterbrained sometimes. I have 50 things going on at once and since I’m not a very good recipe follower, my distraction level when I’m cooking is high. Really.

I used to think prepping beforehand – my ingredients measured out and ready to go – was a waste. But it honestly makes life so much easier for me in the long run. I highly recommend it if you are easily distractible as I am. 🙂

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What could be better than olive oil {and butter}, garlic, onion, sherry & mushrooms? Nothing I tell you.

Ingredients: 

2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Butter {actual butter, dude}

Wild Mushroom mix {or whatever you have}

1/2 Half Red Onion

2 Garlic Cloves

1/2 Teaspoon sea salt

3-4 Tablespoons Cooking Sherry {If you’re going for drunken mushrooms, go all out.}

2 Teaspoons of Fresh Thyme

Fresh Parmesan {See recipe above for goat cheese option which would also be DELISH. I just didn’t have any.}

Reserved 3/4 Cup of Pasta Cooking Liquid

Pasta of your choice {I use Barilla’s Gluten Free pasta.}

  1. Heat a skillet over medium to high heat. I have a very hot gas stove and tend towards medium.
  2. Start heating water {with olive oil} for pasta.
  3. I added 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, once hot. This differs from the recipe linked to above. Julia cooked her mushrooms in butter and olive oil. So yeah. I do too.
  4. I thew in my mushroom mix. IMG_1735
  5. Saute until they start to brown slightly. Don’t move them around much.
  6. Add onions, garlic and salt to the mushrooms. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes until onions soften. IMG_1738

7. Add the sherry to the mushrooms and then cook until it’s evaporated. I added a squeeze of fresh lemon. I don’t know. It’s a thing with me.

8. Drain pasta {except for the 3/4 cup}.

9. Add thyme to mushrooms and then toss pasta, water from pasta, and mushroom/onion mix.

10. Add fresh Parmesan and toss again.

11. And then . . . eat, ya’ll.

This was so good. It hit the spot. Maybe I’ll cook again tonight?

 

Honey Lemon Chicken with Pasta {Gluten Free of Course}

Honey Lemon Chicken, Chicken,

Listening to: No music for me tonight. Fixer Upper was my soundtrack.

Drinking: La Vieille Ferme Luberon Blanc 2014

It’s been a crazy few weeks, dudes. My house still isn’t in order even though I moved two months ago. I’m not a huge fan of the set-up of the living room or kitchen so I’m not feeling super motivated to cook. Or to do anything for that matter (#realtalk). But I cooked. And it was good.

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As for my house, I love houses with tons of light. My house is very dark. I feel like I live in a cabin in the woods. The yard has trees everywhere. I LOVE this. I really do. But everything is so dark and I have sucky cameras or my iPhone so when I’ve taken photos  . . . well, they’re not looking so hot. Don’t let my photos keep you from trying this. It really is quite good.

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The recipe needs some tweaking for next time, but it’s still a winner overall. I slightly adapted a recipe from Averie Cooks, after finding the recipe on Pinterest today. I will probably do some more tweaking the next time. It was much sweeter than I anticipated. Here is my adapted recipe. You can find the original at the link just above.

honey lemon chicken with pasta, gluten free

Ingredients

1/2 box of your favorite pasta. I used Barilla Gluten Free spaghetti noodles.                                                                         1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced

Directions

Mix the honey, lemon juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt/pepper to a bowl and whisk. Once ingredients are combined, set aside.

Heat water for pasta and then add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a pan to cook the chicken. In addition to the salt/pepper in the sauce, I lightly seasoned the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cook chicken about 6-7 (these chicken breasts were quite thick – less time may be needed) minutes per side. Mine had such a nice color to it – perfect. Once the water is boiling for the water, add your pasta. I added olive oil to the water as gluten free pasta can be clumpy.

After about 10 minutes, add the sauce to the pan. Boil the sauce with the chicken, until it thickens. Stir often.

Once the pasta was done, I drained it and then tossed it slightly with a pat of butter and squeezed more lemon onto the pasta. At this point, I thought it was sweeter than I expected so I was looking for something to cut through the sweetness a bit.

Add the sauce and chicken and then toss! I sprinkled some parmesan on, in addition to the extra lemon to even out more of the sweetness.

While sweeter than I expected, this was delish!

I don’t buy lemon pepper seasoning which is an ingredient in the original recipe. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’d add that next time. What I will do is cut down the honey and add some more lemon.

Try it!

Fried Green Delish

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I know! It has been awhile. Shortly after my last post, I made a scrumptious Easter dinner. Of which I intended to post about. But it started what ultimately turned into several weeks of being sick and/or having no appetite. Horrible, no?

Anywho. I’ve taken photos of a few other recipes but I thought I’d get back into the game with what I made tonight.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk, Chipotle Dressing!
Oh. My. Holy. Heck. Were these ever good?!
I’ve made fried green tomatoes before but this version was the best yet.
The goods:
1lb Bacon {I used Hormel Old Smokehouse Bacon – cured with sugar. Because it’s amazeballs.}
Fried Green Tomatoes – Ingredients:
2 green tomatoes, sliced
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Masa Harina (corn flour)
1/4 Cup Corn Meal
salt and pepper for seasoning
oil or bacon grease for frying {I way prefer bacon grease, dudes.}
Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Mayonaise
1 TBL Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Chipotle powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
For the tomatoes:
Slice tomatoes and place in 1/4 cup buttermilk. Soak for thirty minutes. I flipped them over after 15 minutes. If you’d like, you can double the buttermilk. That’s what I did.
In a separate bowl, mix the masa harina, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Masa harina is a staple in my mostly gluten free home {I’ll explain the mostly later.}. This is the cornmeal I buy. I’m fond of the packaging. Yeah, I don’t. It just makes me feel southern. Even though I’m not even remotely southern. I’m fond of buying products from my own area code.
While your tomatoes soak, fry up your bacon. I place on plates with paper towels as I go, letting the bacon fat and drippings stick to the pan.
Once I was about done with the bacon, I dredged the tomatoes in the the cornmeal mixture.
Sometimes, the way I cook isn’t pretty. And sometimes, I don’t take perfect photos. And sometimes, my hands are caked with cornmeal and masa harina and my tomatoes are lumpy. But I don’t even care.
Once the bacon is finished, I immediately started frying the tomatoes. Each side should be done in three minutes. I did have to add a smidge of vegetable oil to finish. But I did use the same pan I fried the bacon in. So delish, yo.
While frying the tomatoes, I made the dressing. Combine the buttermilk, mayo, salt and chipotle in a bowl. I actually doubled the buttermilk and mayo {but not the other ingredients}. You don’t have to. If you don’t, there will be a bit more bite to yours and you may not have any leftovers.
As I finished the tomatoes, I placed them on a plate with paper towels to soak up some of the oil. After finishing the tomatoes, I did this . . .
Oh goodness. This was so good. I need people to cook for. I simply cannot cook for just myself any longer. 😉
You should try it. You’ll like it. Tart, spicy, savory. Mmm…DE-lish!

Drinking: Margaritas. I don’t know. I’m in a mood. I had one last night too. This ain’t yo’ mama’s margarita though. It’s super low-cal and not even remotely sweet. Me likey.

Listening to: Coldplay station on Pandora. I’m sort of addicted.

Strawberry Caprese Salad

I have a strawberry problem. I was such a freak about strawberries when I was a kid, my Grandma made me a purse with strawberries on the fabric. I was am a nerd. Strawberries are, without a doubt, my favorite fruit. Someday I shall grow them. And annoy my someday family with strawberry everything.

In other news, I know I just shared a recipe with balsamic vinegar. But I was in the mood for this salad and so . . . here we are.

Caprese salads are on a continual repeat in my house during the summer months. The typical tomato Caprese, with fresh mozzarella pearls is my favorite. Every once in a while I change that up with small chunks of avocado. I have also made a couple of variations to include a plum Caprese salad that was ahhhmahzzing.

I’ve seen a few variations of strawberry Caprese salads on Pinterest. I’m all about trying a few of those this summer. But this one is a tad different. Me likey. It calls for a balsamic reduction that makes it over the top delish.

So here ya go:

For the balsamic reduction:
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
For the salad:
Whatever lettuce you want to use (I know some food blogger guru is freaking out right now but whatever. Use what you like. I prefer the spring mix or spring mix/baby spinach blend.)
1 cup strawberries
Fresh mozzarella (Pearls are perfect, but cubing some fresh mozzarella is easy peasy)
A handful of basil leaves, torn
Toasted sliced almonds (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Flaky or coarse salt (I use Morton’s Coarse Sea Salt)
1. The reduction is super simple. If you’re like me, I had no idea what a reduction was when I started my learning to cook journey. If that’s the case, Google is your friend. But here is one website you can check out. Combine 2 Tablespoons of honey (I use local honey. It’s worth the price, ya’ll.)  and 1/3 Cup of balsamic vinegar, in a small saucepan (medium to low heat).

2. Bring to simmer. Stir from time to time. You will continue to simmer until it’s reduced by 1/3. You’ll want to see it quite bubbly and thick. It will look like this:

You should be able to tell that it’s reduced (you will likely be able to see the original line on the side of the saucepan). If you’ve never made a reduction before, you may not want to wander too far from the stove. It should simmer like this for about five minutes. It will be quite thick.

3. Turn off the heat, and set the reduction aside. I cool mine on the counter in the glass container I store it in.

4. The original recipe suggests the use of baby lettuce. I say . . . use what you’ve got/what you like. My preference is a mix of organic spring greens and baby spinach. I love to cook. And I love learning what I can. But sometimes, people are so snobby about food. I can’t handle it. You’re probably not going to get an iceberg lettuce salad at my house. I do think it impacts the taste of the salad. But if you’re not very adventurous and it’s hard for you to step out of your box, use what you’ve got. If you want to branch out, try a red/green lettuce first. Anywho, arrange your greens on a plate.

5. After washing/hulling a handful of strawberries, quarter them and place on the greens. You’ll then place your mozzarella pearls on the salad. I have trouble finding the pearls here (here = the boondocks) sometimes. If you can’t find them, or you already have fresh mozzarella, cut it into small chunks and go for it. Pearls Schmearls. Use what you’ve got. Unless it’s not fresh mozzarella. In that case, get thee to the store. You will then rip up some fresh basil and add that in for good measure.

6. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil on top of the salad. And then drizzle 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons (I use 2. Okay, maybe sometimes more. But whatever.) of the reduction. Add slivered almonds (I had honey roasted almonds) and some coarse salt.

Lordy, ya’ll. This is so good:
If you don’t have the flaky or coarse salt, I don’t recommend using salt at all. I didn’t the first time. I loved the salad then. This time? The salt takes it to a whole other level. It’s an awesome combo of sweet, salty and savory.
You’ll have enough reduction for 4-5 salads. It will keep at room temperature if you’re like me and cooking for one. But I recommend glass versus plastic for storing.
Try it. You’ll like it.

On another note, I ate this with a mushroom alfredo pasta. I am not going to lie to you. I bought a store bought alfredo (Classico). But in a moment of sheer insanity, I made Julia Child’s “Champignons Sautés Au Beurre” to add to the alfredo sauce. Sounds super fancy, right? It’s sauteed mushrooms. But honestly, made this way, they’re amazing.It’s 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. It’s impossible to go wrong with mushrooms cooked this way. These sauteed mushrooms actually go in Julia’s Beef Bourguignon recipe (which I have made). I could seriously just eat these without anything else for dinner. I’m not kidding.

You think I’m kidding. But I’m not kidding. They’re pretty awesome. I added those to the sauce, cooked up some gluten free spaghetti and then? I chowed down.

I might have made a second salad. Okay, I did. So delish.

Drinking: Pinot Grigio
Listening to: Dinner with Friends & French Dinner Party on Spotify