{Wine Wednesday} NOLA cocktails

WineWednesday

It’s Wine Wednesday again and things have slowed down enough that I’ve had time to write about it! (FINALLY.) I’m still working on my post about my recent excursion to New Orleans and as I work on it, I thought I’d share some of my favorite NOLA cocktails with you…along with some recipes!

Pimm's Cup. Delicious.

Pimm’s Cup. Delicious.

Pimm’s Cup

I had quite a few of these on my long weekend (including my first and last drinks of the weekend) and each one was just different enough and all were refreshingly delicious. Here are the ingredients: Pimm’s liqueur, fresh lime juice, and ginger beer, with a cucumber. There are a ton of recipes out there, and I’d recommend getting those ingredients and getting to work. You really can’t go wrong. If you’re visiting New Orleans, definitely stop by the St. Lawrence bar for a Pimm’s daiquiri. It’s SO GOOD. It’s like a Slurpee but with booze. And if you’re in New Orleans and looking for ginger beer, visit the 12 Mile Limit and enjoy my friend Sam’s homemade ginger beer. I haven’t had the pleasure, but he speaks very highly of it and he’s pretty modest.

Here are some links to what I expect are fabulous Pimm’s Cup recipes. When in doubt, or if you’re being lazy, mix or pick up some lemonade and add some Pimm’s and ice. It’s easy and delicious and how I drank Pimm’s before I visited NOLA.

The Sazerac. Yes, please.

The Sazerac. Yes, please.

Sazerac

I used to think that Sazerac was a bar in Seattle with a really good happy hour. Turns out its an absinthe drink that originated in New Orleans and according to Wikipedia is “sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre-Civil War New Orleans.”

The Sazerac is a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, and bitters; it is “distinguished by its preparation method.” (Wikipedia)

Thank you to my friend Brian for introducing me to the Sazerac’s history and enjoying several with me over the weekend!

When I wasn’t drinking Pimm’s Cups or Sazeracs, I was busy imbibing in Hurricane’s, Fireball and red wine (my favorite!). What a weekend!

Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's with my cousins

Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s with my cousins

Fireball time with Jessi and Brian

Fireball time with Jessi and Brian

Here are most of my ladies at the wedding. Such a fun weekend!!

Here are most of my ladies at the wedding. Such a fun weekend!!

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Week 4: Cilantro

Cilantro shrimp and quinoa

Cilantro shrimp and quinoa

As I mentioned, last week was amazingly busy. So busy in fact, that I had to pick an ingredient out of thin air and meal plan and grocery shop on the fly. I made it through just fine and decided on cilantro for last week’s theme, and some of our favorite recipes.

We started with a turkey taco salad. It’s one of our favorites and it included: pinto beans, olives, tomatoes, avocado,cheese and of course, cilantro. We combine salsa and fat-free sour cream to dress the salad and love it. If you haven’t tried mixing these two together, try it!

I also turned to Pinterest (of course) for some other recipes. I took a few ideas and landed on a hybrid dish. I made a batch of quinoa, with water, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of olive oil, and sauteed some shrimp, both just as I normally do. As a finishing touch (and to incorporate cilantro into the dish) I added lime juice, some lime zest, and lots of cilantro to both the shrimp and the quinoa. We enjoyed my favorite kale salad with the lime-cilantro goodies.

We also enjoyed a favorite of ours: a variation on Cooking Light’s hominy chili. I’m a bit of a spice wuss and this chili has just enough spice for me. We added cheese, sour cream and of course cilantro! And, a special treat for you: our chicken and hominy chili recipe.

Delicious... Hominy chicken chili

Delicious… Hominy chicken chili

Hominy chili with beans (from Cooking Light

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans hominy, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red beans, drained
  • 2 (12.5-ounce) cans of cooked white breast chicken
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • A few dallops of fat-free sour cream
  • A few pinches Mexican cheese
  • Half a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant.
  3. Stir in chili powder, cumin, beans, chicken and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.
  5. Serve and top each serving with sour cream, cheese and cilantro.
  6. And enjoy!

Week 3: Orange-colored foods

Roasted veggies, before

Roasted veggies, before

Theme eating continued this past week with orange-colored foods.

We started out with a super-sized pack of butternut squash from Costco and we made our famous sausage, gnocchi, kale, squash dish and really enjoyed it. This is one of our favorite meals and it’s so great for those cold days when all you want to do is curl up on the couch with your DVR and cats. (I’m glad to know its not just me…)

Not so pretty on the eyes: Squash and tofu sausage

Not so pretty on the eyes: Squash and tofu sausage

I used a lot of the squash for the gnocchi dish, but I still had plenty left to combine with Brussels sprouts and mushrooms and some of the Trader Joe’s veggie sausage from last week. This is one of the first few times that I’ve tried to roast veggies and have been successful. I’m a good cook, but there are some things even I still need practice with.

Chicken, quinoa, avocado and oranges

Chicken, quinoa, avocado and oranges

One of the things I am really good at? Cooking quinoa. And we found a recipe (thank you, Sunset and Pinterest) for a quinoa salad with chicken, avocado and oranges. This thing looked good AND it tasted fantastic. This recipe is so good that we’re going to put it into our regular rotation and it’s your lucky day because I’m sharing our version of the recipe below.

Shrimp pasta

Shrimp pasta

Finally, we ended our week with a double dose of orange: shrimp pasta, another Pinterest find that turned out pretty good. I wasn’t a fan of how much sauce this dish had but it tasted good. Brandon had the leftovers (while I was jet-setting off to New Orleans) and said they weren’t as good the second time around. We’ll probably not make this again, but boy was it orange!

This past weekend was a blur and it’s been go, go, go ever since. I’ll try to have a N’Awlins recap soon, but in the meantime, bookmark this page and pin this recipe, it’s amazing! Oh, and we’re enjoying CILANTRO week right now. It’s tasty!

Quinoa salad with chicken, avocado and oranges (Derived from Sunset)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 container canned chicken (we use the larger cans from Costco)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed

Preparation

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Stir together chili powder, 2 tsp. garlic, the lime zest, 2 tsp. oil, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat and saute over medium heat. Since the chicken is already cooked, you just need to heat up to flavor the chicken. This should take less than five minutes
  3. Add remaining ingredients to quinoa and chicken; toss to coat.

{Gone pinning} New Orleans!

GonePinning

“Gone Pinning” is early this week, because my weekend also started early! Wahooo! It’s also a different format and less visual. Sorry about that.

Bright and early tomorrow morning I’m headed off (sans Brandon) to New Orleans to celebrate Jenny (from yesterday) and Nick’s wedding weekend. While we will have some scheduled events, there will also be some free time to explore the city. Many years ago I spent a week in New Orleans, and I’m really looking forward to visiting the City now that I’m of drinking age.

Ultimately it’ll be a group decision for the sites we see, but here is my wish list, based on a moderately-exhaustive internet search.

2014-1-16 NOLA 3First things first: Food

Some authentic Creole gumbo and shrimp and grits are on my ‘to eat’ list.

I’ve heard these restaurants are the ones to try:

Cochon  (Cajun Southern cooking)

Peche  (Seafood grill)

Verti Mart (carry out lunch)

Clover Grill for fun, greasy counter service

And for brunch: the Court of Two Sisters  

I’ve got several requests for beignet mix and ground coffee to bring back, so I’ll be making at least one stop at Cafe Du Monde.

2014-1-16 NOLA 1Coming in a close second: Drinks

We’ll likely cruise Bourbon Street and drink a daiquiri or two, but there are some other, less bead-frenzied places to imbibe:

Cane and Table (highly recommended for cocktails)

St. Lawrence (for the Pimms daiquiri)

Gene’s (for the banana split daiquiri)

Or maybe a dive bar? These were recommended: Chart RoomErin Rose, and Molly’s at the Market

And now for the sights:

We’re staying in the French Quarter and will be carless, so we’ll keep the sights on-foot, unless I find my way to a swamp tour.

French Market (And apparently the best bloody Mary from a small booth named ‘Organic Banana’)

Frenchmen street (The up and coming music area challenging Bourbon St., apparently we’ll find lots of music and all the same drunkeness but without the tacky daiquiri shops. My kind of place!)

2014-1-16 NOLA 2The Spotted Cat on Frenchman (It has “cat” in the name. That’s all that matters, right!?)

Or some fun bars for checking out and not necessarily spending the evening at: Carousel Bar (the bar rotates!) and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar (the history!)

Maybe go on a ‘haunted history’ (ghost) tour?

Have you been to New Orleans? Do you have any must-see advice for us? Have a great long weekend and I’ll be back here before we know it!

{Wine Wednesday} A wine bachelorette

WineWednesday

I recently threw a really fun bachelorette party for one of my close friends, Jenny, who’s wedding I’ll be celebrating this weekend. We spent the whole weekend celebrating: watching the Huskies win on Saturday and then we were up bright and early for brunch and an afternoon of wine tasting on Sunday. I had some pretty great ideas that I wanted to share with you, the internet and my readers, in case you’d like to use any of them for a wine tasting party of your own!

First, the decorations.

I had a few bottles of wine on hand (thank you, Wine Wednesdays) that I soaked in big bucket of agitated warm water and OxiClean for several hours. If you’re lucky, the labels will float right off (House Wine) and if you’re not, you’ll have to peel the label and adhesive off of the bottle. Beyond the soaking time, I wasted an old sponge and about an hour making sure the bottles were clean.  I thought about spraying them with chalkboard paint and using chalk to write a special message. Instead, I saved a step and used a gold paint pen to write “Soon-to-be Mrs. Fazioli” on the bottles. It didn’t look like much during brunch, but once the sun went down, the bottles looked so great!

Wine bottle party decor | Megan's Island Blog

Cheap, easy #DIY wine candle holders | Megan's Island BlogI also have these great candle holders from Crate and Barrel (I would like to share them, but they are apparently discontinued. Bummer.). The great thing about these candle holders is that they are totally customize-able, but they’re also really pretty plain. For this party, I took some of my leftover corks (thank you, Wine Wednesday), cut them into thirds with a serrated knife and voila! instant wine decor for FREE. I also kept some corks full and displayed them in an oversize wine glass. It helped add some height to the table.

Side note: I like to spend a few bucks every season to add some flair to the house by decorating these candle holders: sweethearts around Valentine’s Day, candy corn around Halloween, and cranberries and fake snow for the holidays. 

Next, the treats!

Customized bottles of wine | Megan's Island BlogWhen I asked the bride what she wanted for snacks that afternoon, she replied “cheese.” So, I had some flexibility. I put together these adorable gift boxes for the guests, complete with gummy bears, Ghirardelli chocolates, Hi-chews, anti-spill wine pourers and customized mini-bottles of wine.

For the mini bottles of wine, I used these wine stain images and Avery’s 5164 labels. I set up my design in InDesign, printed them and slapped them on the bottles. I used the wine stain images again and created the name tags for boxes, printed them on cardstock and cut them out with a punch. I attached them to the takeout boxes with some leftover silver elastic ribbon. Finally, I Googled “red wine glass” and found this image. I printed out a page of those on Avery’s 5293 labels. It was pretty easy to come up with some really nice customization for Jenny’s big day before the big day.

Wine tasting party favors | Megan's Island Blog

Wine tasting gift boxes | Megan's Island Blog

I also packed many cheese dishes for the bride: caprese skewers (tomato, fresh mozzerella and basil with balsamic vinegar on a toothpick), brie slices, Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese (a favorite of mine!) and a tray of cured meats. We busted them out at the second winery and they were all a huge hit! I also packed some pirates booty and additional wines for the bus. Delicious success.

Day of… We had quite the spread:

Pre-wine tasting brunch spread | Megan's Island Blog

  • Hashbrown and egg casserole from Allrecipes.com (a favorite of our group of friends)
  • Tropical fruit salad with mangoes, pineapple and strawberries
  • Kiwis
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • And…Mimosas! We enjoyed Cook’s champagne and tropical frozen juices

Next, we hopped on the party bus and headed to Woodinville. We tasted at Efeste (who was having a pizza release party!), Davenport CellarsRobert Ramsay CellarsCovington Cellars and Matthews Cellars. Phew. It was quite the day and we really enjoyed the wines!

Congrats Jenny!

Look at all those smiling faces!

Theme eating week 2: vegetarian!

Now that we’re back from vacation and all of the deliciousness of the holidays is behind us, it’s time to whip ourselves back into shape. How will we do this? By cutting out meat…for a week. Lucky for Brandon, “vegetarian” includes chocolate. Lucky for me, it also includes wine. It’s essentially just grape juice, right?

So, what’d we have?

Tofurkey linguine

Tofurkey linguine

Tofurkey Italian sausage linguine with diced tomatoes and steamed arugula. I bought two kinds of faux-meat  sausages and this one had sun-dried tomatoes in it. This meal is something that I make quite often, but with Italian sausage-flavored ground turkey.

I didn’t care for the flavoring or texture of the “meat” but I think it might have been better if I had cut the meat into smaller pieces.

While I’ll continue to make my tomato sauce, it’s not likely that I will be buying the Tofurkey Italian sausage ever again.

Greek faro salad with tempeh

Faro Greek salad with tempeh

Faro Greek salad with tempeh. This one is a Megan’s Island original and a favorite of ours, going back and forth between making this with quinoa and faro.

It’s good cold or warm and is great to take for lunches. We can find almost all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s, but like to hit up the olive bar at QFC for the roasted garlic.

Yum.

Mushroom risotto

Mushroom risotto

Mushroom risotto with meatless Italian sausage. I used the Trader Joe’s store brand sausage for this meal and greatly preferred this one over the Tofurkey. We thinly sliced the sausage (I learned from earlier in the week!) and sauteed it with some garlic and sliced mushrooms and then added the mushroom risotto from Trader Joe’s freezer section.This risotto is a favorite of mine. It’s so fast and so tasty. I usually like to doctor it up and this combination is definitely one I’ll try again. We paired the risotto with a spinach side salad and Brandon made some salad dressing with mango balsamic vinegar.

Sprouted tofu stir fry

Sprouted tofu stir fry

Teriyaki tofu stir fry. This is a pretty standard veggie dinner in our household, but this time I used extra-firm sprouted tofu instead of regular tofu. (See the differences here.)

We paired the stir fry with Thai vegetable gyozas from Trader Joe’s. I wasn’t that fond of them and much prefer the chicken gyoza that we normally buy.

We’ll definitely try the sprouted tofu again but will pass on the veggie gyoza.

All in all, veggie week was a great success! We’re ready to incorporate meat back into our meals and will do so in orange dishes next week! (Hear that? Week 3’s theme is orange foods!)

Have a great week!

{Gone pinning} Velveeta shortage!?

GonePinning

Happy Friday! Chances are you heard the news this week: Kraft sounded the alarms that there is a Velveeta shortage that may impact all of your  upcoming football-watching playoff parties. What will we do on Superbowl Sunday (Feb. 2)!? The horror!

Velveeta

Just kidding. I’m a big cheese lover, but not necessarily a fan of “processed cheese.” Don’t get me wrong, Velveeta is great every once in awhile, but not every weekend. However, in honor of the shortage and the upcoming football holidays, today’s “Gone pinning” features Velveeta recipes.

Run, don’t walk, to the grocery store to raid whatever is left of the Velveeta stock and make some of these recipes I found on Pinterest. Or, pin the recipes you like and save them for this year’s Superbowl. Or, the 2015 Superbowl. Processed cheese lasts that long, right?

We’ll start with my favorite party dip:

I guess I do like Velveeta. This dip is bomb.com.

I guess I do like Velveeta. This dip is bomb.com.

Shepherd's pie with Velveeta

Shepherd’s pie with Velveeta

Toasted cheese sandwich

Toasted cheese sandwich

Velveeta monkey bread

Velveeta monkey bread

Broccoli cheddar soup

Broccoli cheddar soup

Fudge with Velveeta. Huh.

Fudge with Velveeta. Huh.

If the shortage does actually happen, I found a DIY recipe for Velveeta. I dare someone to make this!

DIY Velveeta

DIY Velveeta

None of these strike your fancy? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to football eats and treats. And enjoy that “cheese!”

Oh, and go Seahawks and Broncos! And, if you’ve got a few minutes, help my friend Ryan and his wife win tickets to the Superbowl. Directions are on his website: http://www.superbowl12thman.com/