Monday, May 18, 2009

What Went Down?

Wondering what went down at the winery??

Here's how it went:

My dad and I walked into the restaurant about 2 minutes late and were directed downstairs by the wife of the owner (although that's a terrible way to word it because she is probably just as much of an owner as the husband!). She said that we would reach the bottom of the steps, turn left, and we would "hear them working."

When we got down there the assembly had already begun. We got a 30-second briefing on how to put a label on the already-filled wine bottles and got busy. About 2 minutes into the labeling the owner came up to us and poured us each a glass of the Riesling that we were bottling. HOLY MACKEREL- that wine was good! It was a little odd drinking it only an hour after breakfast, but I welcomed it with open arms, pinky up (just kidding, I would never do that). He made sure our glasses stayed full throughout the bottling too, which was very kind.

There were about 12-15 people or so doing various jobs such as filling the bottles, corking them, pressing a seal on top of the bottle in the aluminum-type wrap, labeling the bottles, and then packing/stacking the cases.

Most everyone seemed to know what they were doing--and then there was my dad and I. They were all probably thinking, "Who invited them?"

My dad was quick and hyper, as he tends to be, and I was slow and precise, as I tend to be. So between his rapid movements (knocking over a glass of wine at one point) and mine, which were admittedly slow, we were a sight to see. I was actually laughing at one point thinking about how I was going to demonstrate to my mom how my dad continually reached in front of me to place bottles for myself and the other workers to label (we were lined up like an assembly line, so it was necessary to pass them down, but his hyper personality took it to a whole new level). It was like a scene from "I Love Lucy," which is exactly what my brother said when I told him the story.

Please don't feel sorry for my dad that I am picking on him on this public-access website. He publicly commented on the fact that I was going slow several times throughout the day. Comments like, "I don't mean to say anything, but I think I'm doing 4 bottles to every one that you do" and "I hate to comment, but you do seem to be going awfully slow."

What the Heck?!? Obviously he was joking and if you don't know me and can't detect my jokes through the computer, I'm joking about him too. But the people there didn't know how we relate to one another, so I hope they don't think we're crazy! And I also hope that we actually do get invited back because I had a FANTASTIC time!

In my last post I mentioned that if I learned anything new about wine during my visit, I would post it on here. Well, after the bottling was over, everyone went up to the restaurant and had an amazing meal prepared by a rather young and handsome chef. They served enormous portions of Chicken Parmesan with pasta, fresh tomato sauce, and a super-soft breadstick. Delicious! Once again, all of you Cincinnatians have to get there! During lunch, we had a nice conversation with everyone, some of it having to do with wine.

I already knew that the "Brix" was something that was examined to determine the sugar content of the grapes. One thing that I learned is that the amount of sugar present can affect the amount of alcohol in the wine. There are limits to the amount of alcohol that wine is allowed to contain, so it is just one of the many things that winemakers must monitor and control. For a quality product they also must control the amount of acid, as well as the amount of time that it "sits on the skins." I had never heard this expression before, but they were referring to the amount of time that the skin is left to mingle with the liquid, which obviously affects the color. It is also important because the tannins from the skins also affect the flavor and almost the mouthfeel of the wine. I'm not sure if "mouthfeel" makes sense to you or not, but I have been to a wine-tasting for an old job and they explained how you can almost feel the tannins present in some red wines because of the bitter taste/feeling that causes you to pucker.

I also picked up some do-it-yourself winemaking tips from another newcomer to the group who makes his own wine. If I ever find the time/money to give it a try, I'll certainly talk about it on here! However, don't hold your breath because I am just now learning how to garden and want to master that first! I'm no Martha Stewart, ya know. Oh you didn't know that? Then you're reading the wrong blog!!

Well, if were you I would have probably stopped reading by now since this entry was so long. It's a beautiful day here in Cincy- go out and enjoy it!! If you are somewhere else in the world, I hope you are having great weather too!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wine Time!

It's 2:00am on a Friday night. What better time than now to write my comeback blog entry? I use the word "comeback" lightly because it has only been a few weeks since I last posted and there is no one that I am really "coming back" to--is there?? I hope at least one person is still reading; if you are that person please comment so I know you're there. Or I tell you what, why don't you just call me since I probably know you anyway! :)

Since it is 2 in the morning (and no I'm not drunk or anything; just taking advantage of staying up late on a weekend) I'll probably keep this post short and sweet. I wouldn't want to strain anything as I make this ever-tough re-entry to the blog world. I should really just ease back into it. Of course I'm joking, but this post will be short, even though "short" probably means that I should be finished by now rather than rambling on like a lethargic maniac.

Well, the topic that I'm choosing to talk about today is WINE! Who doesn't like wine? I feel rich when I drink it. A false sense of financial security never hurt anyone, right?

Tomorrow morning my dad and I are going to a local winery to help them bottle their Riesling. They have a restaurant that some of my dad's racquetball buddies frequent so they encouraged us to go. I have to admit that Cincinnati is a conservative town where opportunities such as bottling wine are few and far between. That being said, we jumped at the chance to help out, and we even get a free lunch afterwards! Or at least I think it's free.

I'm not sure if we will be sampling the wine but I won't complain one bit if we do! I like Riesling a lot because it is sweet and very refreshing. That is the extent of my wine knowledge right there. I know which wines are red and which are white, but I couldn't tell you which ones have a floral note or flavors of crisp apple and pear, blah, blah, blah. In my opinion wine never tastes like the fancy words used to describe it.

If I learn more about the almighty grape, how wine is made, or how to describe it, I'll be sure to let you know!

Have a great weekend!!

p.s. If anyone reading this is from Cincinnati, here is the link to the winery/restaurant: Henke Winery

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Accidental Hiatus

Sorry about my accidental hiatus away from the blog! I have been seeing a lot of people in the blog world (aka blogosphere) either quitting their blog altogether or just opting to take a break from it. I do not intend to do either of these things and will keep up with it to the best of my ability over these next few months. I mention the next few months because they are crammed packed with wedding showers, weddings (2 friends), bachelorette parties, graduations (4 cousins, 1 friend, and my brother), birthday parties, and a dinner my brother is hosting at my parent's house for all of his friends. Whew! That was exhausting just writing that out!! But I am SUPER-EXCITED for the events to occur (just please bear with me).

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just started a new job and so far I Love it! Every single person in the company has been extremely nice and have made me feel right at home. Hopefully I will know everything (well, it's impossible to know everything) soon and will feel more confident in myself and my abilities. One day after work I went to a nearby grocery store we have here in Cincinnati called Jungle Jim's. Now when I say grocery store, think bigger than Kroger, bigger than Fred Meyer, bigger than Wal-Mart and even bigger than CostCo! Jungle Jim's prides itself in being an International Market and a food lover's paradise. They're not lying either! They have just about every food you could imagine. Aisles and aisles of Italian, Indian, Mexican, Asian, and Greek cuisines and much more are able to hold my attention for hours on end. I once spent 4 hours in Jungle Jim's with a friend (we were doing a project for a Food Service class and doing our own shopping on the side!).

I provided the link to the store's website in the above paragraph- be sure to check it out and click on attractions to see the many amazing things the store has to offer. They have all sorts of fun things to keep kids and adults entertained from Soupy- the giant singing Campbell's Soup can, to their award-winning "America's Best Restrooms."

Here is a run-down of some of the awesomely (is that even a word?) weird things I bought during my visit:

  • Persimmons- I am SO glad that I tried these! They are almost like a cross between a tomato, plum, peach, and fig. They have a very thick skin and a soft flesh and let me just tell you that they rival figs as my favorite fruit! The sign said they are nature's candy and they were right on that!
  • Artichokes- Not a weird food at all, but they are delicious, on sale, and I had to have them!

  • This is a product called "pitted baking dates" and they are perfect for me because I wanted to buy dates to use in a recipe that I have and this was the cheaper option, plus less work for me! The only ingredient is dates so there are no added sugars. I will post the recipe when I get around to making it!
  • DoFu Delight. What is it you ask? I don't know and I have no clue why I bought it. It was in the asian aisle just screaming my name. According to the package it is a "Natural Agar Dessert" and "A favorite Asian Treat." Agar is basically a thickening agent (much like gelatin), that is made from seaweed, thus making it vegetarian. However, this particular product also uses gelatin for some odd reason. Oh well- I'll report back when I try it even if it's gross!

  • Bob's Red Mill Graham flour- I have always wanted to make my own graham crackers so I thought what better time than now?! Well I tried them and they weren't very good at all! Both my mom and brother spit them out! I used a recipe I found online, but it wasn't from a reputable source. Back to the drawing board...
  • This is a yeast that is especially for whole grain baking. My friend Angelica told me that she saw it and when I came across it---once again---I had to have it!

  • Whole Grain Sourdough Bread- Mmmmmmmm! I should have taken it out of the package for the picture; it was heavenly.
  • Chocolate Pizzelles- My aunt makes traditional pizzelles each year at Christmas and I love them, but there is just something about these chocolate ones I can't get enough of! I suggest you give them a try; at only 25 calories per cookie, they are the perfect "Summer is coming and I'm going to the beach" treat!

  • Yotta bar- I'm really not sure of what the name means, but this bar claimed to contain a full serving vegetables. I have to be honest and say that I didn't like it and didn't eat the whole thing!
  • Primal strips vegetarian jerky- One was made out of soy, one was seitan, and one was shiitake mushrooms. I have had them before and think they're really good and an awesome snack. I only wish they were cheaper!

If you live in the area, go to Jungle Jim's; if not, come visit and stay with me! Adios amigos!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Quick Note...

Just a quick note:
I really don't like the way that last post was formatted, but I can't figure out how to fix it! Sometimes it seems like blogger thinks it is smarter than me when it comes to determining how the blog should look! I am going to look through their "help" options and try to work out some of my problems. Any advice would be much appreciated!

Please Cut Me Some Slack...

"Chicken Soup for the Sick, Blog-Slacker's Soul"
Photo taken from which is a very
impressive website!
If you're mad at me, I understand. I haven't posted in about a week (I think) and I did not do a Make-me-laugh-Monday the past 2 Mondays. I'm mad at me too! The thing is, I have been doing a lot over the past week and to be honest the blog is not on the top of my mind right now.

To catch you up to speed, I have been preparing myself to start a new job, which I started yesterday- I'm SO excited about it by the way!! I have been diligently digging through my nice-ish clothes and deciding what I like/what I don't like and also what fits and what doesn't. I have also been brushing up on some materials from school that will be helpful in this position.

In addition to all of that, I have been sick, sick, sick! Somehow I managed to get through the entire Winter without even a sneeze (exaggerate much?) and now, just as I start a new job, I get a bad sore throat and head cold. I think it hit me now for 2 reasons: 1 is that it is the changing of the seasons and the weather has been crazy (it snowed today!) and 2 is because I have been so stressed out about finding a job lately that when I finally found one, I think my body just let go and felt it was "OK" to get sick.

Do you find that you get sick when you finally get a break from stress? This used to always happen to me after final exams just in time for Spring break or Summer. Ohhh, the irony of it all!
Stay well and if you are on Spring break or will be soon, Enjoy!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Free Recipes for Healthy and Cheap Meals

First let me just say that the title of this post has to be one of the most appealing sentences ever written, don't you think? I usually try to think of something "catchy," but I think this one needs no manipulation to get your attention!

Have any of you heard of It is an awesome website that provides a ton of healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss advice. You can create a FREE meal plan and track your progress. There are message boards where you can talk to other people that may be going through similar things as you (ie weight loss, lack of motivation, etc.) and you can also "Ask an Expert." SparkPeople actually invented a word called "Healthtainment" to describe the fun that can be had while exploring their site.

I found out about SparkPeople through their expert Dietitian when I was a Dietetic intern. I feel like I know someone famous or something! This online company was started in Cincinnati in 2001 and has continued to grow into something HUGE!

Check this out:

"SparkPeople is growing into one of the largest free diet and health-related sites in the world. SparkPeople has received media coverage from: Fox TV, The New York Times, and ABC TV.SparkPeople was voted best online health site in Business Week's 2006, 2007 and 2008 "Best of the Web" awards."

I guess I signed up for SparkPeople a while ago, so I get daily health-related e-mails. I get recipes, exercise ideas, and my favorite- articles written by Becky Hand, the expert Dietitian that I admire so much! Yesterday, an e-mail showed up in my mailbox with a subject line that read: "Special Attachment: Recipe Book With Healthy Dinners for Under $2.50 a Person." What?! Healthy meals that are cheap- they DO exist!
The body of the e-mail encourages you to pass the recipe book along to family and friends and even mentions posting it on a blog!! How could I resist?! Since I have only had the recipes in hand for less than 1 day, I obviously haven't had the chance to make them, but they sound delicious!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Colors Duke, The Colors!!!

...I'm Colorblind Kid.

Do you remember this commercial?


This morning I went around and took a few pictures of some of the vibrant colors in the yard.
FYI- I just figured out how to change the font color- pretty cool, huh? I guess I have never actually needed it or looked for it before.

Getting back to the whole yard colors thing, I have to say that this year--more than ever--I noticed a HUGE difference in the appearance of the yard in very little time. What I mean by that is, it wasn't long ago that the grass was brown, the trees were bare, and in a word it just looked lifeless. Now everything is bright, colorful, fresh, and full of life!
I know I am getting carried away with the colored words- I promise I won't over-do it in future posts!

No one in my family remembers this plant ever blossoming like this before- Beautiful!!


On the left they are hiding behind a bush and on the right they appear to be looking through a peep-hole. They seem to be up to something...

I like how the "leafy things" in back
are shining through. Can you tell
I'm not a gardener?

While we are on the topic of Color, I might as well mention how important it is to eat a variety of colors. This is a great way to get all of the nutrients and antioxidants your body needs.

Try to plan your meals around color- hospitals, restaurants, and catering companies all plan their menus according to color, texture, and shape (along with taste, of course!).

Let's say, for example, that you are planning a meal of pork chops, applesauce, and baked potatoes. BORING!! Where is the color? You can change it by doing pork chops, a baked sweet potato, and broccoli. Add a nice colorful salad and you've got yourself a bright and healthy meal!

Now go out and Taste the Rainbow- in the form of fruits and vegetables, not Skittles!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Go-ing to the Chapel and She's Gonna Get Ma-aarried

"How do I cut a tomato?" is a sentence that has been haunting me since Sunday when my friend Laura so innocently uttered the words. We were at a cook-out at her house and she was slicing tomatoes for burgers. I think she was just kidding in a way, but I'm not sure.

With her wedding rapidly approaching, Laura is always busy with something. She works, goes to grad school, and is planning a wedding; not to mention the fact that she has the most adorable new nephew that takes a lot of her attention (he would take mine too!). I have no idea how much time Laura spends in the kitchen. If her hectic schedule is any indication, it is probably not much.

For this reason, I want to provide her, my other friend Danielle, and any other new brides, with a quick, easy, and impressive meal your new hubby will swoon over!

The first thing is a super-easy Almond-Crusted Tilapia (sounds fancy, right?). There is not a recipe per se, but I will list approximately what I use and explain the procedure.

Almond-Crusted Tilapia (or other mild white fish)
  • 1-2 packages frozen fish (If you can get it fresh, even better)
  • 1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I usually use seasoned for more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup almonds, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • butter for cooking

Procedure: If the fish is frozen, thaw ahead of time in fridge or leave in the packaging and submerge in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 hour to an hour. If it is still frozen, place it under running cold water or defrost in the microwave.

Prepare one bowl with a beaten egg and a separate plate with a mixture of the breadcrumbs, almonds, flour, salt, and pepper. Sometimes I even add a little Parmesan to the mix.

Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium-high heat.

Dip the thawed fish in the egg and then into the dry mixture. It helps to really press the mixture onto the fish so that it adheres.

Slowly place the fish into the pan of melted butter and cook--without moving it around much--for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until you notice it browning around the edges. Flake with a fork to ensure that it's done.Voila!

The other recipe, that goes fantastic with the fish, is a Zucchini Casserole of sorts that was featured in Family Circle magazine. The magazine called it Seven-layer Gratin, but I left out ground turkey, making it more of a vegetable side dish than an entree. The recipe can be found here.

Here are some pics of how the dish is assembled. Just as a side note, don't you love the baking dish?? I bought it for my mom (selfishly) at our World Market store closing sale which, by the way, was almost like a funeral for me!

I hope you girls try this- let me know how it goes!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Save My Fingers!!

I keep mentioning how Spring in finally here, yaada, yaada, yaada and now today, it's cold and dreary. What kind of a cruel joke is this?! My friend Kristen said it was because she broke her shorts and tees out of storage, so it's all her fault!!

For whatever reason---probably because I'm so cold my fingers are about to fall off---I don't feel like doing a long post. I am going to post a tribute to food using some of my favorite food pictures I have taken. I hope you enjoy them and I promise I will post something more interesting soon!

Here they are in no particular order because I am running out of time before I freeze to death...

  1. Sourdough bread in which I scored "N" for my brother, Nino
  2. Romanesco- an amazing looking cruciferous vegetable

  1. My wedding cake; well, not mine from my wedding (I'm not even close to marriage!)- I just decorated it for school
  2. Doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland that looks like my dad

  1. Pimientos de Padron from Viridian Farms in Portland
  2. Brioche we made in school; they look like ET during construction

  1. An AWESOME Italian Plum
  2. I envy the skill of this latte craftsman/woman

  1. I believe pears and figs were created specially for me
  2. Butter Braids- they taste better than they sound...

  1. Yellow tomato and Purple Pepper *Fun fact: I almost named my blog "Purple Pepper Eater" in honor of this rare pepper, but found that other people had post titles with similar names and I wanted to be original.
  2. The morning of my exam to become a Registered Dietitian, I ate half of a peanut butter sandwich with Skippy on white bread (blah!) because that's what my mom ate before she passed her nursing boards (apparently it's a nursing tradition). It worked!!

Have a great Saturday, with or without sunshine!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Tale of Two Tarts

The word "Two" combined with the word "Tarts" does magical things for me. It brings me back to the Portland Farmers Markets where my friend Heather and I would frequent the lovely Two Tarts Bakery. I admire everything about their business- the quality of the product, reasonable prices, beautiful presentation, and friendliness. Although they have not been open long, they appear to be well-established and professional. That is exactly what I aspire to be like in the future when I too follow my dream of starting my own business.

My "Tale of Two Tarts" actually doesn't involve the bakery; they were just an inspiration for the post title, so I thought I would mention how wonderful I think they are.

With Spring finally here and weddings galore, my mom and I have been sampling various tart recipes to serve at a wedding shower we are co-hosting. Tarts are a fairly simple way to make a bold, yet elegant statement at nice event (you know, something a little fancier than a backyard barbecue where chips and dip are an acceptable appetizer).

The first tart we tried was sweet and the second was savory. In pastry school, my absolute, hands-down favorite thing we made was the Pear Tart. It has a sweet tart dough (Pate Sucree) crust, an almond (Frangipane) filling, with poached pears on top. Heaven in a tart pan. When I was in school in Portland living alone, I tried not to take the treats we made home because I didn't want to be eating them all the time. Well, I took the whole Pear Tart home, and what should have taken a week to eat probably only took a few days. I think most Dietitians would disapprove (oh wait, I am one- Oops!).

Pate Sucree (Sweet tart dough) - Yield: 4 x 8" tarts

  • 4 oz powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 oz butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
Blend butter, salt, and sugar on low speed.
Add egg and vanilla.
Add flour and mix slowly until dough forms. Don't over-mix!
Chill in plastic wrap before use.

*You can freeze the unused dough as long as you wrap it tightly. Another use for unused dough is to just roll it out, cut, and bake like cookies!
Frangipane - Yield: 2 x 8" tarts

  • 6 oz almond paste*
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 4 oz soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz cake flour, sifted (I used AP flour)
Use paddle attachment on low speed to blend together almond paste and sugar (you may have to use your hands to help break it up)
Add soft butter and blend in completely
Add eggs, then flour

*Almond paste is a little pricey; if you want to make your own, just combine--in a blender or food processor--2 parts blanched slivered almonds (without skins) with 1 part sugar, plus enough moisture to make a paste. I made the tart twice and the second time I didn't have enough store-bought almond paste, so I tried making my own and it turned out great! One thing I noticed though, is that the store-bought kind had a stronger almond flavor, so I added a bit of almond extract to my homemade paste.
Poached Pears - You will need 1-2 pears for each tart

  • Look for pears that are quite firm so they don't fall apart while poaching
  • To make the poaching liquid, dissolve sugar into water in about a 1:1 ratio. So if you need 3 cups of water to cover the pears in the pot, use about 3 cups of sugar. You are basically making a simple syrup so you can make it as sweet as you like. It will turn out fine if you decide to add less sugar.
  • Make your poaching liquid over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then add the pears-- which should be peeled and cored--and reduce the heat to low.
  • Cut a circle out of parchment paper to fit down in the pot and cover the pears.
  • Poaching times vary, but will probably take at least 20-30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick; it should go in easy and feel almost like a canned pear.


To assemble the Tart:

  • Roll out the tart dough and press against the sides and bottom of the tart pan. Remove excess by just pressing your thumb against the top edge of the pan to cut it off.
  • Smooth the frangipane filling out in the bottom of the tart shell
  • Drain poached pears and slice into thin wedges (whatever you think looks pretty)
  • Arrange the pears on the tart and press slightly into the frangipane filling
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and set.
  • Allow the tart to cool and then brush the top with an apricot glaze (just warm apricot jam + a splash of water on the stove or in the microwave)
  • Enjoy your beautiful masterpiece!


OK, I know that recipe sounds complicated, but it really isn't all that bad and like I said, it can be very impressive! I am not going to post the recipe for the other tart because it will also be long and I don't want to bore you. If the pictures leave you dying to know what all goes into the Sauteed Spinach-and-Mushroom Tart with Ricotta Cheese either let me know and I can e-mail you the recipe or go to the library and check out Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau with Carolyn Carreno. It is a great book!

I don't mean to brag or anything, but...YUM!!