Friday, March 28, 2008

Weekend Wine and A Pasta Salad !

The weekend is upon us and since spring is upon us also, maybe you plan to do some work outside in your garden or yard. If so, you may not have much time to spend on fixing lunch so here is a great Pasta Salad to whip up in between getting your hands dirty!

This is a Tuna Pasta Salad that I have been making for years so all I have to do is gather up the ingredients and click on the recipe in my brain, which sometimes can be…oh, never mind. On with the pasta salad!

¼ lbs. of fresh green beans, cut into inch pieces and blanched for about 4 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. I have also used frozen beans, just barely cooked to retain some crispness.
6 oz. of Dreamfields Rotini Pasta cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed under cold water and drained again.
1 can or package of solid white tuna packed in water, drained
3 green onions chopped
1 large tomato seeded and chopped, or sometimes I use a good handful of cherry tomatoes
¼ cup chopped black olives
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon celery seeds, optional

I mix the mayo, vinegar and celery seeds in a separate bowl. I toss all of the other ingredients together in a big bowl and then add the dressing and toss again. That is it! What makes this salad so good are the green beans and onions, which give it a nice crunch, the smooth pasta and the nice bite the vinegar adds to the dish!

Let me tell you, Dreamfields Pasta has been a great find for me. I have tried many of the “healthy” pastas on the market, but found Dreamfields to have that authentic pasta taste with only 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving, cholesterol free and 0 grams of trans fat! Dreamfields has twice the fiber of regular pasta because it contains a special fiber, Inulin, which has been shown scientifically to promote digestive health and support a healthy immune system while enhancing calcium absorption! I need all of that at my age!

Another thing I need at my age is a good glass of wine to kick off the weekend. It has been awhile since I have had a nice “Dry Riesling” so I picked up one of my favorites at the store the other day. You cannot go wrong with the 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington State. Most Rieslings are a bit sweet but a Dry Riesling does not have a lot of residual sugar left in the wine, therefore it is not as sweet. Ste. Michelle’s Dry Riesling has mouth watering aromas of melon and peach on the opening and those same flavors are echoed in the mouth as you sip. On the palate I also noted a hint of crisp green apple which added to the nice clean finish of this wine.
At $10.99, what a way to start the end of your day! Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Was Easter ?

Did everyone have a great Easter? Ours was very good! We had lamb chops atop a load of rosemary over a charcoal grill! Oh my gosh, just the smell…heaven. Remember the bowl of salad I showed you in my previous post?

Well it was attacked and dressed with a very simple dressing of freshly squeezed grapefruit, orange and lime juice. To that I added a good plop of whole grain mustard, a squeeze of honey, salt and pepper and just a touch of olive oil. No vinegar. Talk about spring in your mouth! You all have to try this. Soooo fresh and happy!
With our lamb and salad we had fresh asparagus on the grill, a simple potato casserole and grilled bread.

I don't know about you guys, but I love fresh roasted peppers. Their taste just does not compare with the jar type. So for the grilled bread I roasted 2 peppers, cooled then sliced thinly. I put them in a bowl with 1 smashed anchovy, a heaping spoon of capers, about two teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary, a few sprinkles of red wine vinegar, some chopped black olives and salt and pepper. This we put atop the grilled bread. Oh Yum!
Photos you ask! No time for photos as we were devouring our dinner!

To accompany this wonderful spring dinner, we served a wine that I have told you about before. Ardeche by Louis Latour is a lovely non-oakey Chardonnay from France. Crisp and fresh on the palate, perfect with the fresh fruit juice dressed salad. Hey, and not bad with the rest of the meal also! Did not have to twist my arm for another glass!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Is In The Air And Gardens

Spring has been in full force in Key West for the past few weeks! I have been spending my entire time outdoors lately and not in the kitchen. I apologize that I do not have any new recipes to share with you and the wine I have been consuming is good ol’ favorites. But what I would like to share with you is an update on my garden!

Anyone for a bowl of salad? Mesclun to be exact!

How about some lovely mint for the lamb you might be serving for Easter or better yet a mint julep to quench your thirst! Actually I use most of mine in ice tea:) And I also see a spring of basil at the top of the photo. Everyone wants in the picture, even Mr. Frog!

Another bumper crop of cayenne peppers!

And hopefully by the looks of all the blossoms on the tomato plants, we will have a bumper crop of tomatoes in the near future!

And blooms that will get your attention in my side yard garden, the bromeliads are lovely!

And the antherium was begging for its photo to be taken!

And not only have I been spending time in my garden, I have been spending time at the Key West Garden Club, of which I am a member. It is busy at the club this time of year because the “season” is coming to an end and the year end plant sale will be taking place soon. Many of the garden club members are “snow birds” and will be heading back north very soon. And, with the heat of summer approaching, the club sells all the plants that they have started this year as there will not be as many folks here to take care of them in the propagation area. Also the garden club is hosting a “A Toast to Spring” on Thursday night to raise money for much of the foliage that will be planted at the new homes being constructed near hear by Habitat For Humanity. The Key West Garden Club has an excellent web site here if you would like to check it out. And if you are in the area on Thursday evening, come by the garden club and say “Hi” as I will be bartending at the fund raiser! (Imagine that!)

If I do not make it back to the blog world before Easter, I want to wish everyone a very “Happy Easter”!

So with dirt on my hands and a smile on my face, I wish all of you a very “Happy Spring”!


Friday, March 14, 2008

No Croutons Required "Spicy Soups"

Holler and Lisa are at it again this month with No Croutons Required! This month’s theme is “spicy soups”. With that in mind, I went south of the border to Mexico! In our house we love spicy foods, especially Mike. So just for him, I usually have out in my container garden 3 or 4 varieties of hot peppers growing all year round. Therefore I was pretty excited about this soup as I had a couple of ingredients right out the back door. This soup even broke a sweat on me!

This is a Spicy White Bean and Tomato Soup, better known in my house as

Salsa Soup

1 – 16 oz. can of vegetable broth, divided
2 heaping teaspoons of chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons of cumin
1 – 16 oz. can of white beans, I used navy, rinsed and drained
2 cayenne peppers, or you can use whatever hot pepper you desire
1 onion peeled and cut into quarter wedges
2 cloves of garlic peeled
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon of sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt to taste

In a Dutch oven over medium heat combine 1 cup of broth, chili powder, cumin and beans.
In a food processor while running, drop in your garlic. Then open lid and add the other cup of broth, your hot peppers and onion. Pulse till veggies are chopped. Add this to your beans.
Next add your tomatoes and cilantro to processor and pulse a few times to chop. Add this to the beans, along with the sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for about 20 minutes till soup is a bit thick and the veggies are cooked.
When soup is a bit thick, remove from heat and add in your lime juice and olive oil. Stir and taste, then add whatever amount of salt that you prefer.
This baby is ready to serve!

Since this is a salsa soup, you will need to have some tortilla chips to accompany. We prefer the organic blue corn ones, but any tortilla chip will do. This is a great soup for weeknights as it comes together really fast. Salsa soup would also be great for a starter soup if you plan to have a big Mexican feast for your next party!

If you have not stopped over to see Holler at Tinned Tomatoes or Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen, do not wait any longer! Both girls really know how to veg it up! Thanks again you guys for hosting such a fun event! Oh, I almost forgot, don’t forget to check Holler’s site shortly after March 22nd for a fabulous roundup of “spicy soups!”


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Am Bringing The Wine!

Strike up the band, set the table and uncork, in this case unscrew, the wines! Two wonderful Italian bloggers, Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita and Marie of Proud Italian Cook have decided to throw a party Festa Italiana! Now tell me, who could resist going to a feast hosted by Italians especially when the invitation starts out “Picture a long table set under the shade of twisting grape vines on a warm summer evening…” That is all I needed to hear knowing that there will be many succulent dishes and luscious desserts. I am there! Then I thought, what will I bring to this gathering of friends? Of course, WINE!

Being it is a warm summer evening, I decided to bring two white wines and one red. I chose 3 from the Banfi Collection of Tuscan Wines as I have been smitten by their white wine selection. Highlighted in my previous posts, I bring to you the Le Rime white wine which is 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Grigio and the Fumaio white wine which is a combination of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Chardonnay. You will be asking for second pours on these crisp, refreshing wines that highlight wonderful citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit. These are both super wines with that zesty finish you cannot forget!

Even though I am a major white wine drinker, coming to an Italian feast would not be complete without a luscious red to compliment the hardy pastas and grilled meats or poultry. The 2006 Col Di Sasso from the Banfi collection is a youthful red wine combining those full bodied grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. This wine may be young, but it is bursting with the flavors of cherries and fresh berries with the nice feel of soft tannins on the palate. You can pour me another glass, thank you!

Well, I have my glass of wine and am ready for the feast! If you have not visited Maryann’s or Marie’s site, head on over, but get your taste buds ready for some great treats! Also this party will be ending on March 22nd, so get your dish ready and get to the party! Shortly after March 22nd there will be a round up of all the great food and wine we enjoyed. Don’t want to miss it!


Monday, March 10, 2008

Strawberry Seduction!

Mike over at Mike’s Table has been seduced and obsessed with strawberries the past few weeks. So much so that he decided to make an event of it! So as a fellow Floridian, I am thrilled to join Mike in his obsession. Yes folks, the strawberries abound in Florida right now at a bargain price of 3 pounds for $5.00! Who could resist that price! So the past few weeks I have added strawberries to just about anything that would take them!
I think the first thing that comes to mind when you here the word strawberry is dessert and chocolate. Figuring that is what will be flooding Mike’s event, I chose to go a little different route and bring to Mike’s party a

“Spinach Salad With Strawberries & Brown Buttered Pecans”

This salad is so simple to prepare and so delicious that you could serve it as a dessert!

Get yourself:
A bag or box of fresh baby spinach
1 head of Boston bib lettuce
1 pint of fresh strawberries sliced
About a ½ of cup of pecans
A good glob of butter

For the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar or balsamic vinegar (actually at the store the other day I bought a bottle of a combination of the two that is simply marvelous!)
About a teaspoon of honey – if you use the plain raspberry vinegar you may want to add a bit more. It is a taste thing.
1-2 finely minced shallots
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
Olive oil – add till you get a good mix
Salt and pepper to taste

Put your glob of butter in a small sauté pan, heat till just turning brown, add your pecans, stir for a few moments and turn off the heat. Be careful and do not burn your pecans.
For the vinaigrette put the first four ingredients in a bowl and mix, add olive oil in a slow stream till you get a good mix.

Now there are two ways that you can serve this salad.
One way is to add your spinach to a big bowl and tear your bib lettuce to about the same size as your spinach and toss together. Add your vinaigrette, saving a touch to pour over the top of the salad. Plate your salad and then sprinkle the strawberries and pecans atop, then drizzle a bit more dressing over the strawberries and pecans and serve.

The second way you can present the salad is to put whole bib lettuce leaves on a salad plate, put your dressed spinach atop, then top with your strawberries and pecans. Drizzle extra dressing atop the berries and pecans and serve.
I must tell you all, this salad not only tastes so good, it is quite decorative on your table!

I want to thank Mike for hosting this luscious event! If you have not checked out Mike’s blog here, please do so. In fact he has a new pasta attachment for his mixer and has been creating some wonderful pasta dishes lately!

Just a bit of trivia: Strawberries were considered an aphrodisiac in the Middle Ages and a soup made of strawberries, borage and cream was traditionally served to newlyweds for breakfast.
Ah ha, now I know why Mike called this event “Strawberry Seduction”!


Friday, March 7, 2008

Prince Charming In The Garden In Key West?

OK, now you have my photo.

How about a kiss?

Would you put that camera away!

Cheers from Deb's Garden In Key West!

Have a marvelous weekend and make sure your start the end of your day with a glass of wine!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Potato Salad

This post is for my “Spud Bud” Valli over at More Than Burnt Toast. I do believe Valli’s love of potatoes does surpass mine, but I run a very close second. So Valli I thought of you last night as I was craving something with potatoes! Since Spring is right around the corner I felt that a Potato Salad would be fitting. Since I was going to grill out some chicken thighs, potato salad would be a good match. I don't know about you, but every potato salad I was brought up with was made with mayonnaise and, quite often, hard boiled eggs and some type of sweet relish. There is nothing wrong with potato salad made with mayo, in fact I have a great Southwestern version that has a touch of mayo, but when you are looking for something with a different twist, check this out!

“New Potato” Salad With Grainy Mustard

2 lbs. of those cute little red new potatoes
2 Shallots chopped
½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon of whole grain mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley
A splash of dry vermouth

Cook potatoes till just fork tender. Drain and start cooling.
Mix together the shallots, both mustards, vinegar, honey, olive oil and parsley.
While potatoes are still warm, cut into pieces and place in a bowl and splash with the vermouth, toss and then add your mustard dressing tossing again till potatoes are coated.
At this point you can serve the salad still warm, but I like to let it set with a cover over it for about an hour to let all the flavors seep into the potatoes.
If you do not have dry vermouth, no worry, as the salad tastes just as good. The vermouth just gives it an extra little kick.

I told you that I served this potato salad with grilled chicken thighs. Well, when I took the chicken off of the grill I just had to chuckle as I thought one of the pieces looked like a turtle! And I know what you are thinking, ah, she has had too many glasses of wine while preparing that chick. But honestly I only had one glass!


Monday, March 3, 2008

Porcupine Wine Is Fine!

Wildlife abounds here in Key West this time of year, not only with the critters that live and visit my yard, but also in the wines I drink! My latest find is Porcupine Ridge 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Of course I could not resist the interesting label, but what caught my attention is that it is a wine from South Africa. I am starting to see a few more wines on the shelf from this interesting part of our world and am anxious to give them a go.
Porcupine Ridge is from the wine farm Boekenhoutskloff which is located in the Franschhoek Valley, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Wow, that was a mouthful and this great Sauvignon Blanc from the Cape is a pleasant mouthful profiling tropical fruit flavors and citrus. A bit of Semillon was added to this wine which really firms it up. A well balanced acidity gives this wine a zippy, fresh crispness which makes you hand out your glass for another pour. What also impressed me, besides the wonderful flavor of this wine, is that this winery is also into conserving the land they are farming for their vines and the wildlife that resides there.

They are even sponsoring a PHD student who is researching the feeding behavior and movements of the crested porcupine for which they named this wine. For more on their conservation acts, please visit their website here. It actually is one of the nicer wine websites I have seen in awhile.

While sitting in the garden enjoying a glass of Porcupine Ridge, I had a visitor who seemed seriuosly interested in what I was drinking!

Cheers to a new friend! A wonderful way to start the end of the day!