Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

I feel very lucky today. Why? Because we have an extra day in February this year! So what are you going to do with your extra day?

I celebrated, so far, with a stroll in my tiny yard to share with you some color and beauty.

Just remember, tomorrow is March 1st and March is the month that Spring arrives!
Tonight will will celebrate our extra day with a new wine! More on that later!
Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Glass Of Wine and In Key West

Linguine Primavera was on our menu the other night, adapted from the book I just reviewed “Pasta Verde”. I also mentioned that I served a great Sauvignon Blanc with our dinner. The 2004 Reynolds Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc flowed freely and paired so well with our pasta. Let me tell you about Reynolds Vineyards. They are located in the Southwest area of one of my favorite countries, Australia! The Reynolds Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from the famed “Nanya” vineyard in the Murray Valley (Riverland) of South Australia just 150 miles Northeast of Adelaide. My blogging friends from Australia Nora, Lucy and Johanna, I am sure, know exactly where this area is located. Reynolds Sauvignon Blanc is a nice white wine made of 88% Sauvignon Blanc and 12% Chardonnay grapes. My taste buds were treated to a medium bodied wine overflowing with tropical fruit flavors. And to top it all off, my favorite “down under” hint of grassiness presented itself while I was swirling the wine around in my mouth. Oh too good! For the low price of under $12.00, a perfect way to start the end of your day!

Before I end for today, I thought I would share a little piece of Key West with you!

Most of them around town are painted in all sorts of lively colors!

And for those of you who are freezing your ass off in the north, come on down!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Review Number 9, "Pasta Verde"

Before I get into my book review, I want to ask you all if you have ever heard of Jean-Christophe Novelli ? A friend of mine said he is the Emeril of the UK ? I hate to say this, but I have never heard of him. He is quite a handsome dude! Nice website. Let me know!

Last week my contribution to Holler and Lisa’s new monthly challenge “No Croutons Required” was a soup adapted from “Pasta Verde” by Judith Barrett. If any of you have not checked out “No Croutons Required”, please hop on over to Lisa’s Kitchen to check out the roundup of vegetarian soups. I believe there were over 70 entries! How fun!

This week my book review is on “Pasta Verde” by Judith Barrett. She co-authored “Risotto” which is a wonderful book and I know a few of you have it in your collection. I will review “Risotto” in the future. Judith’s “Pasta Verde” has more than 140 vegetarian recipes for pasta sauces, soups, salads and baked pastas using all shapes and sizes of pasta paired with the freshest veggies such as asparagus, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and squash. To enhance her sauces Judith recommends using fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary and sage, all of which can be easily grown in pots! I found that a number of Judith’s innovative pasta recipes are ones that whatever you bring home fresh from the grocer or, even better, the farmers market can be made quickly and easily. My kind of cooking! I highly recommend Judith’s book for healthy, easy to prepare and affordable vegetarian pasta recipes!

Chapter 1 – The Main Ingredient – Pasta! She talks about pasta’s past, dry pasta, fresh pasta, cooking and serving pasta.
Chapter 2 – The Pasta Pantry – Judith talks about olive oil, Parmesan Cheese, Vinegar and Herbs
Chapter 3 – Pasta and Vegetable Sauces. She includes in this chapter flavored pastas, roasted vegetable sauces, tomato sauces, mushroom sauces, sauces with truffles and sauces with pesto Chapter 4 – Pasta Soups
Chapter 5 – Pasta Salads
Chapter 6 – Baked and Filled Pasta with Vegetables. She includes lasagna, cannelloni and ravioli
And her last Chapter 7 is Heart Healthy Low-Fat recipes for pasta and vegetables
She covers it all!

Besides the soup that I adapted from her book that you can find in my previous post, I adapted another recipe from her 1st chapter on vegetable sauces with pasta.

I turned her “Spaghetti Primavera” into my "Linguine Primavera".

Blanch these veggies for about 2 minutes in boiling water and then into an ice bath to stop cooking, drain well
2 cups broccoli florets
1 zucchini cut into 1 inch pieces
6 stalks of fresh asparagus cut into one and a half inch pieces
1 cup of green beans cut into 1 inch pieces

Here us the rest:
¾ cup of frozen peas thawed
1 can of diced tomatoes drained well
olive oil
2 cups of thinly sliced mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 leek cleaned well and finely sliced
1 cayenne pepper chopped or dried pepper flakes to taste
1 small bunch of fresh parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil or about 6 fresh leaves finely chopped
¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
1/2 lb. dried linguine
½ stick of butter
2 tablespoons of vegetable broth
About a ½ cup of cream
½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

After you blanch your veggies, take a nice glug of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add your leeks and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes then add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add your hot pepper and parsley and cook for 2 minutes, then pop in your tomatoes and basil. Cook for about 10 minutes to get all the flavors mixed. Now add your green veggies that you had put aside, plus the peas, and heat through.

Meanwhile, cook your linguine till al dente and drain. In the same pot add your butter, cream, broth and cheese. Cook over medium heat till the mixture is smooth and a bit thick, not soupy. Reduce the heat to low and add your pasta back in tossing quickly to blend. Add your veggie mixture and pine nuts, toss until all is warm. Serve in warm bowls. You can pass extra Parmesan at the table if anyone would like.

I served country Italian bread along side with bowls of fruity olive oil for dipping. And last but not least by any means, we had a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc to accompany all. I will tell you about the great wine I served later this week!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Celebrating This Time With Wine

Celebrating again! You bet! First bean harvest of the season was underway last evening and I had to celebrate, of course, with a glass of wine. I am glad I pulled this Pinot Grigio out of the rack and chilled as it was such an easy white wine to enjoy during the harvest.
The 2006 Lagaria Pinot Grigio is from the northeastern part of Italy, Trentino Alto-Adige and the appellation of Delle Venezie. Lagaria Pinot Grigio is a celebration in your mouth of fresh clean citrus! Go ahead, smack those lips! This is no watery Pinot Grigio, of which I have had a few in my time, but a medium bodied, well balanced wine that will make your taste buds shout out for more!

And besides that, you will enjoy the fresh artwork that adorns this bottle. Price you ask? Under $12.00!

What a way to start the end of your day harvesting beans!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Day Of Celebration And A Soup For Lisa and Holler

There is so much to celebrate today! I do not know where to start! OK, we will begin with my original start of this blog one year ago today! I cannot believe I have been blogging for one whole year already. Time flies! Also, this is my 200th post!

This photo is the one I used on my first blog. (Since I had no clue as to what I was doing, I just headed to my garden for a photo.) Oh, those were the days! But one year later, I must “tip my hat” to all of you and say a big “THANKS!” If it was not for you, my community of blogger friends, I am sure that I would not have continued blogging. Everyday when I get this ol’ body out of bed and get myself together, I cannot wait to get the computer fired up and see what is happening with all of my friends! I spend more time “chatting” with all of you everyday than I ever did on the telephone with friends. Also, when I am with friends or family, I talk about you as if you were my next door neighbors, although most of you are thousands of miles away from me! Again, thank you all for being there!!!!

Next up it is time to celebrate the new challenge "No Croutons Required" that Holler from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen has dreamed up for us. Yes, these two vegetarian ladies are putting us to the test each month for a new soup and salad challenge! The deadline for the first month challenge, which is a vegetable soup, is tomorrow! You still have time to enter the challenge! Check out Lisa’s site here for details and in a few days for the delicious round up of soups which are good for the soul!

My entry for this month is a soup that I have adapted from a wonderful book titled “Pasta Verde” by Judith Barrett who also co-authored “Risotto”. This book has more than 140 vegetarian recipes for pasta sauces, soups, salads and baked pastas. I will be reviewing this book for you next week. On with the soup!

Soup Of Borlotti Beans, Dried Porcini, and Tubetti

A quick note to start, our pinto beans are very much like the Italian borlotti bean. I could not locate the borlotti bean so I used pinto beans.

2 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms (you can use other dried mushrooms but the flavor of the porcini are wonderful)
1 cup of boiling water
A good glug of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
2 cups of pinto beans ( I used canned, drain and rinse before adding to the soup)
1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juice
3 cups of vegetable broth
½ cup dried tubetti pasta (I used elbow)
1 fresh cayenne pepper finely chopped (or you could use a nice sprinkle of dried peppers)

Place your dried mushrooms in a heat proof measuring cup with the boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter and save the liquid. Chop the mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a nice size saucepan over medium heat and then add the onions and peppers and sauté for a few minutes, add the chopped garlic and continue sautéing for a minute.
Add the beans, tomatoes, mushrooms with ¼ cup of their soaking liquid and the broth. Bring all to a boil then turn down to simmer until the soup is a bit thick, about 20 minutes.
At this time season the soup with salt to taste. Add your dried pasta to the soup and let cook for about 10 more minutes until the pasta is tender but still firm.

This is a great soup that is fast to make and very satisfying. It is one soup that is a whole meal in itself. Definitely pour yourself a nice glass of red or white wine to start, actually have a glass while you are preparing, add a salad, or even a hunk of parmesan cheese with some crusty bread or crackers along side and baby, you are in heaven!

Now, I have a couple of more things to celebrate! A "big thanks" to Holler for awarding me the “E” award! Holler and I have been good blogging friends for many months now and you must stop by her site and check out the great vegetarian dishes she prepares. Thanks to her, I keep somewhat on the healthy track! Thanks again Holler!

Another big “thank you” goes out to my good blogging friend from South America Gloria at Canela's Kitchen! She has awarded me the "Nice Matters" award. You must stop by her site for good home cooking and her sharing with us stories of her lovely family and friends from her part of the world. Thank you Gloria!

Well, if it was not so early in the morning, I would pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate this day. Oatmeal and wine? Hey, you never know till you try it!

Cheers To All !!!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bill You Are On The Blog And What A Great Visit

Hi Gang! I am back to my site after a wonderful visit from my brother Mark, his new fiancee Cindy (yep, got engaged while they were here, how exciting!) and our good friends Bill and Tina. We had such a fun filled week here in Key West playing tourists. We fished, rode bikes, shopped, had many ice cold beers!, wonderful island food and checked out a couple of our great museums. The wine, beer and food flowed freely and was totally enjoyed during our beautiful sunny days. A fun time was had by all and I hated to see them get back on their planes to head for home. Thanks again Mark, Cindy, Tina and Bill (who is the third handsome dude from the left) for coming to visit us!

Sorry to make this such a short post, but laundry awaits! I will be back tomorrow so I can be "better late than never" in participating in Holler's new adventure!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where's The Wine

Leaving you with one last glass of wine which, I know, is empty. It was that good! But before I go, let me tell you about the wine I had last evening! In the previous wine post, I told you about a wine from Banfi. Well, heading down the wine aisle in the Italian section, I found another great inexpensive (under $12.00) wine by Banfi. The 2006 Fumaio white wine from Tuscany is a little gem loaded with vibrant fruit flavors. Fumaio is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Chardonnay. Interesting, as I have not found many wines with that combination. The prominent partner here to me was the Sauvignon Blanc as the wine had that nice citrus spark of grapefruit to it and also a lovely melon flavor was present on the palate. The Chardonnay’s contribution to this blend was a nice round body with no taste of oak, as it was aged in stainless steel tanks. The finish was long and satisfying but my taste buds were shouting for more just a few minutes after my first sip! A great wine to start the end of your day!

I am leaving you for the week as the gang from the freezing north is coming south this week for some warm sunshine, cold beer, satisfying wines and a good time. My brother, his girlfriend and another couple who we are good friends with are arriving tomorrow. I am so ready for a “play week” and am excited! Key West is such a neat little diversified town and a great place to play tourist! Photos to follow!

On a closing note, when I return, maybe these little baby bean blossoms will have matured into the real thing, Kentucky Pole Beans, in Key West!!!

Have a good week everyone and I will catch up with you in a week or so!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wine With Our New Additions!

Being the proud mother of newly sprouted tomato plants, I just had to celebrate with a favorite wine of mine. Le Rime Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio is a lovely wine produced by Castello Banfi. This wine is a combination of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Grigio. On opening this bottle, I got a whiff of fresh citrusy lemon with a hint of apple. What was the taste? Well proportioned bright, tangy lemon and green apple flavors with enough acidity to give it a nice back bone. Le Rime is a nice medium bodied wine that is very clean and crisp on the finish. Even though this wine is 70% Chardonnay, it had no “oaky” flavor as it was aged in stainless steel tanks. Cost? Right down my alley at $8.99 a bottle!

I figured I needed a nice light wine to start the end of my day admiring the new additions to the garden. I planted these guys just a week ago and was excited to see them pop up so soon. These new tomato sprouts include “Sweet Baby Girl Hybrid”, “Super Sweet 100 Hybrid” and “Balcony’s”. I did a mix, planting some of the tomato seeds in “seed starter” mix, which contains sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and lime, and some of them in “organic potting mix”, which is a mixture of composted bark, sphagnum peat moss, pasteurized poultry litter and an organic wetting agent. (Yes, the soils have mixes just like cooking and baking!) So far there is no difference with the growing medium, as all sprouted on the same day. This is the first time I have started my tomatoes from seed, so I am learning the tricks of these little guys. It is hard to imagine that these tiny little plants will produce nice juicy tomatoes in a couple of months. (I say this keeping my fingers crossed!)

As I was visiting other blogs, I noticed Christina at A Thinking Stomach has posted her planting of seeds. She even has some new equipment to help her seeds get a head start! So hop on over to her site to see what interesting seeds she has planted!

Well, I am heading back out to my container garden to check on the radishes that I planted from seed the other day. I noticed some activity in their pot this morning…more new arrivals!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Visitor In My Garden!

Outside painting the back of our house yesterday, I heard some comotion in our trees. I looked arounds and Mr. Iguanna decided to pay me a visit. Not sure he came to visit me, he is eyeing my cayenne peppers and pot full of lettuce.

Hey, I am going to check out the rest of your garden, but first I think I will check out the pool.

Ah, nothing like relaxing poolside in the sun.

Well, gotta run. I will be back for some lettuce and a glass of wine soon!