Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Monday, December 31, 2012


Each year we look for some small token we can share from our kitchen with family and friends for holiday giving. The past few years it had been Dark Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels. But this year we were looking for a new "gift" to give.

We came across some lovely looking Meyer lemons at Costco that prompted us to try to make some limoncello that we had always talked about making. 

Then we found a recipe on Food Network by Giada that we thought we'd give a try. And really as long as we planned ahead it was a doable project. Zesting the lemons was tedious but with both of us doing it together it went pretty quickly actually.

After letting the lemon rinds infuse in the vodka for 4-5 days you add some sugar and water and let it sit one more day.

Really the most challenging part of this project was finding some cool vessels to bottle them in.

It was a great project and a small way to share our home with the ones we love for the new year.


Limoncello (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
10-15 Meyer lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shrimp-Scallion Pancakes

Usually during our Christmas break we are very busy creating some moderately fabulous meals for ourselves and others. But this year our break seems so short and busy most of our meals have honestly been more of the, "Hey how about some cheese, salami and crackers again tonight?" variety.

But a few nights we did happen to pull it together enough to make some tasty meals. We happened to have some shrimp we didn't completely use left from our wonderful Seafood Chowder that G had made for Christmas eve that I wanted to put to use. I came across this recipe for Shrimp-Scallion Pancakes in the December Rachel Ray magazine that sounded tasty and  next thing we knew we were immersed in putting together these very tasty pancakes.  

There are only a few ingredients but the dough and rolling process was a bit more difficult than Rachel Ray made it sound. Our suggestion would be to chop the shrimp in much smaller pieces than we ended up doing. We were wanting to not lose the shrimp flavor and texture but it definitely made rolling out the pancakes flat (like in the photo in the magazine) very difficult, actually impossible. But no matter they were still delish. 

Served with the dipping sauce they were close to fabulous. Could be the perfect New Year's Eve appetizer if you're looking for one. 


Shrimp-Scallion Pancakes (from Rachel Ray Dec. 2013)
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 cup thinly sliced scallion greens (from 1 bunch)
6 ounces thawed frozen cooked shrimp, patted dry and finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup water. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Stirring, slowly pour in 3/4 cup of the boiling water until just incorporated. Knead briefly until a dough forms, adding more water in very small increments if needed. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for 1 minute more. Return to the bowl; cover with a damp cloth.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each into a square. On a floured surface, roll 1 dough square into a 7-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush the top with 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil; fold in half. Brush with 1 1/2 tsp. more sesame oil; fold in half again. Repeat with the remaining dough squares.
Roll each dough piece into an 8-by-11-inch rectangle. Distribute the scallions and shrimp lengthwise over half of each rectangle. Fold the other half over the filling; fold in half again. Roll into 9-inch pancakes.
In a skillet, heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Fry the pancakes 1 at a time, turning once, until golden, 5 minutes. Add more vegetable oil to the skillet as needed. Transfer the pancakes to paper towels to drain. Cut each one into 8 wedges.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Seafood Chowder

We both are pretty big fans of a good, hearty, potato packed chowder. And this special Seafood Chowder that we made for our quiet Christmas eve dinner was actually pretty spectacular if we do say so ourselves. 

And even better it was fairly simple to make. We had spent the day skiing and G came home and put it all together pretty quickly. 

We used some mussels, halibut and large shrimp. 

We served it with some very garlicky crusty bread. It was the perfect meal served with an Oregon Pinot Blanc made by Erath Vineyards.


Christmas Eve Chowder (adapted from Cuisine At Home)
Makes: 10 cups; Total time: 40 minutes

strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
cup diced onion
cup diced fennel, fronds reserved
Tbsp. unsalted butter
Tbsp. all-purpose flour
cup dry white wine
bottles clam juice (8 oz. each)
cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 8 oz.)
oz. firm white fish (such as cod we used halibut), cut into 1-inch chunks
mussels, debearded
cup heavy cream
tsp. minced fresh thyme

Salt and Tabasco sauce to taste

Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. drippings. Add onion, fennel, and butter. Sweat vegetables over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add wine and boil 1 minute more.
Add clam juice and potatoes, scraping up any browned bits. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer mixture until potatoes are tender, 8–10 minutes.
Stir in shrimp, fish, and mussels. Cover pot; simmer chowder until fish and shrimp are cooked through and mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any unopened mussels.
Add cream and thyme to chowder. Simmer chowder 2–3 minutes to heat through. Season chowder with salt and Tabasco; garnish with bacon and fennel fronds.

Nutrition Information
Per cup: 214 cal; 15g total fat; 402mg sodium; 4g carb; 0g fiber; 13g protein

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Babies

Christmas traditions are really, to us, what the season is all about and we have many of them. But the one we most look forward to each year is making gingerbread babies with our niece and nephew.

When our niece ally was 3 years old I started this tradition with her after we read Jan Brett's The Gingerbread Baby. Now she is 14 and her younger brother Spencer is 10 and our tradition is going strong. I often tease them how fun this will be when they bring their children to do this with us too.

Some years the cookies turn out better than others but the experience is really what it's all about.

This was the first year the cookies were made with our English Bulldog Sally Porkchop at our feet and we all loved having her here to experience to fun with us.

Sally loves her cousins as much as they love her.

And she helped give some serious laugh relief in-between cookies in the oven and being able to frost them.

Christmas traditions are the best reason for the season! This year our cookies turned out better than ever. We returned to the The Joy of Cooking Light Gingerbread Cookie recipe this year and decided we need to make this our EVERY year go to recipe after all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

Is it kind of sad that one of my most favorite things about this time of year is all of the wonderful appetizers and the many excuses to eat them? Sad or not it is a reality. I LOVE APPETIZERS. I could likely eat them for every meal replacing any main entree.

Spinach Artichoke Dip is no longer trendy or "the it" appetizer. But it's still one of my favorites.One we rarely order at a restaurant anymore mostly because there are so many new choices we want to try instead. 

But this weekend we were watching Paula Deen with her son on the Food Network making a dip like this and it reminded us how good it is. So when I stopped by Trader Joe's to pick up  a few things I also decided to pick up some fresh spinach and frozen artichokes to have on hand to throw this dip together when the craving hit. And of course that craving hit pretty quick. 

If you have all of the ingredients on hand it really isn't much effort to make.

We did a few tweaks to Paula's recipe using light mayo, adding some sliced water chestnuts, using frozen artichokes in place of the canned and lime in place of lemon zest. 

G was in heaven. The creamy dip was so full of artichoke and spinach you almost forget it's not the most healthy of treats. We served with both toasted baguette slices and pretzel chips. Mmmmmm...we really can't wait for the next excuse to make it. It really is that good. When is the last time you had Spinach Artichoke dip? 


Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip ( adapted from Paula Deen)

8 cups fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, zest finely grated
2 (12-ounce) frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and coarsely chopped
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) Parmesan, freshly grated, divided
1/c cup chopped water chestnuts
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon bottled habanero pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 1 1/2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside
Blanch spinach. Squeeze excess water.
In a medium bowl, mix together spinach, garlic and lime zest. Add artichoke hearts, 1-cup Parmesan, sour cream and pepper sauce. Mix. Place into prepared casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. The last 5 minutes add the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan to the top. Serve hot or cold along with chips or bread.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simple Chicken Won Ton Soup

Won ton soup is one of those things you can typically count on being pretty good or at least not horrible at most Chinese restaurants. I mean really it's hard to mess up some chicken broth with some floating pot sticker dumplings floating around. And sadly at most restaurants that's all that is in the soup. 

But I've had a few really good versions of won ton soup with great flavor. That's what I was craving after having a sore throat and stuffy nose for over a week. A good,flavor packed won ton soup with some substance and layers of flavor that would also be simple to make given I wasn't really feeling like cooking in the first place.

We happened to have some mini chicken cilantro won tons in  that we had picked up at Trader Joe's in the freezer. I decided I wanted to give the soup a bit more protein with add some shredded chicken. As well as some layers of extra flavor by adding ginger, lemongrass, Serrano chile's and scallions. 

Truly SIMPLE. Delicious and healing to one annoying, never ending sore throat.


Simple Chicken Won Top Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 slices of ginger
4 2 inch pieces of chopped lemon grass
1 chopped serrano chile ( seeds removed if heat isn't your thing, we used the seeds)
1 chopped red Fresno chile
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 package mini chicken cilantro wontons or potstickers
2 tspns sea salt
1/8 cup chopped green scallions

Saute ginger, lemon grass and chiles in canola oil in a large dutch oven until fragrant. Add chicken broth and bring  to a boil add potstickers to the broth, bring back to boil. Lower heat and simmer 8-10 minutes. Add shredded chicken to soup and season with salt. Serve soup in large bowls add scallions as a garnish.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

40 Cloves Garlic Chicken

Don't you just love the glow from the Christmas tree? We do. It just creates this feeling of warmth and comfort all about the house.

And to go with that feeling some food that is warm and comforting always sounds good. 

We had a lot of garlic to use before it went bad. We just love how convenient buying garlic already peeled and ready to go is from the Asian market. But it's a lot of garlic to be used by just 2 people. And most often it just gets thrown out before it all gets used but this time we decided to make sure to put it all to good use in a 40 clove garlic chicken recipe.

Sautéing this garlic after browning the chicken in the dutch oven smelled and looked fabulous.

And the chicken was deliciously flavorful and warming. Don't let the 40 cloves of garlic fool you. The garlic becomes soft, sweet and mild. Just perfect. Not at all overpowering.

We served our delicious chicken with Parmesan polenta and wilted spinach. A great Monday night meal.


40 Cloves Garlic Chicken ( adapted from Ina's Garten's recipe linked here)
40 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Brandy divided
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons flour
tablespoons heavy cream

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. In batches, sauté the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to sauté’ all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Brandy and the wine return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Brandy and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

Monday, December 3, 2012

French Onion Soup

Sunday we tromped out to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our holiday throne for 2012. It's one of our many loved holiday family traditions that we both enjoy and look forward to each year. As much as each year I think, "Man, having a tree with lights already attached sure would be nice" we would never trade this tradition for the ease of an artificial tree.

I love to decorate for the holidays. 

But it never feels complete until our tree is up and decorated with all of the ornaments from our many travels and family & friends. 

Sally Porkchop Christmas 2012 6 months old
Sally Porkchop decided she wanted to get involved in the festivities this year too. One of our yearly traditions when putting up the tree is to celebrate it's decorated beauty with a warm bowl of French Onion Soup.

Actually we originally made the soup the night before when we had some good friends over for dinner. Since I've been sick for what seems like a week soup is sounding good all of the time. But I intentionally made a double batch knowing we'd be getting our tree the next day and that it would be fantastic for our tradition.

We've made a variety of recipe versions of French Onion Soup. This one is a good one not our very favorite but I can't seem to locate the recipe that we love the most. So the past 2 years we've been making this one which is a tweaked version of Ina Garten's from the Food Network.

On top of the wonderful caramelized onion soup we placed some crusty toasted bread rubbed with garlic cloves.

On top of the bread we grated a combination of gruyere, 

entemaler and Parmesan-reggiano to be broiled to a melty goodness.

The house had the aroma of many, many onions and almost overpowered the smell of our freshly cut Christmas tree but the smell itself brought back the memory of tradition and comfort. 

We enjoyed our delicious soup with a bottle of Fidelitas Cabernet Franc. Which was fantastic paired with this rich soup.


French Onion Soup
2 pounds onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (we used white onions this time but prefer yellow usually)
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
6 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Toasted sliced bread, rubbed with garlic cloves
Freshly grated combination of gruyere, emmenthaler & Parmesan-reggiano to top the bread
1 teaspoon dried thyme

In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, saute the onions with the butter and bay leaf for 20 minutes, until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes.
Add the beef and veal stocks plus salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Toast the bread and rub with garlic cloves. Remove the bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, and serve hot with grated cheeses. Broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned.