My New Go-To Salad Dressing

My New Go-To Salad Dressing

Salad Dressing. Until lately, I did without – at least, at home I did. My best friend, Tammy, always used to make her own dressings without using a recipe – because her mother always did the same. Me? I tend to go for bare greens. But they can get boring.

So, since I’m determined to cram more salad eat better, and since that includes leafy greens, I have been turning to a brand new-to-me dressing.

a photo of lemon curd.It’s a citrus-based salad dressing. Using, of all things, lemon curd. Very simply, you put a lump of lemon curd, add in a splotch of whole grain Dijon mustard, a couple splashes of rice wine. Whisk that all together until the lemon curd isn’t lumpy any more, then drizzle in olive oil while you’re whisking it. Voila – a sweet-tart salad dressing that you can use on just about anything. (Brussels sprouts, anyone?)

Now, please note that I don’t give you amounts. Why? Because when I first used amounts, I made way too much dressing and ended up throwing most of it away. Err on the stingy side of things with the lemon curd, and you’ll cut your calories down. If you don’t have rice vinegar, feel free to use white wine vinegar. I never have that in the house, which is why I use rice wine vinegar. For some reason, I have two almost-full bottles of the stuff. If you don’t want to use whole grain Dijon mustard, feel free to use any dijon-type of mustard like Grey Poupon.

I was in Cost Plus World Markets a couple days ago (I LOVE their kitchen section!), and found an embarrassment of fruit curds available. I never knew they came in other flavors!  Lemon curd, two different kinds and sizes and prices; key lime curd; raspberry curd. Don’t they sound delicious? Don’t they make you yearn for summer and an excuse to bring a bright flavor to your salad?

This dressing plus a bag of 50/50 lettuces equals a nice, big salad for four people.  Sprinkle that salad with some citrus pieces, add a small handful of sliced almonds, toss a handful of the jewel-bright seeds of the pomegranate – mmm. Tasty!  Just keep divvying it up onto plates until the bowl is empty – then fill the rest of the plate with broccoli, perhaps, and a small piece of poached fish. Voila – put a nice Pinot Grigio behind that, and you’ve got a healthy meal.

And if you want to bring out your inner domestic diva and make fruit curds of all kinds for yourself and friends, there are plenty of recipes out there – just give it a google and you’ll see.

In the meantime, my family is eating more salad than ever. And they’re enjoying it more, too. Let’s hear it for (hopefully not too fattening) salad dressing!

What’s your favorite recipe, or do you tend to buy the bottled? I’d love to know!


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Snarking on Winter Whites

Snarking on Winter Whites

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

Today I’ve got three white wines. Yes, despite the fact that I am a red wine whore fan, at times the food, the day, the palate cry out for a white wine. I’m not entirely sure when, but my husband makes sure to point out all the signs. Like, he opens a bottle of white wine and pours it for dinner. That’s usually a really good sign that it’s time for a white wine. So, without further ado, here are the three that have managed to sneak onto my dinner table in the past couple of weeks.

It’s A HeadSnapper Pinot Grigio 2011 D.O.C. Trentino, Product of Italy Alcohol 12.5% by Volume,  $9.99 at Vons

On the Label: “When a wine is so memorable that it makes you do a double take, you know “It’s a HeadSnapper.”

“Zesty and floral, our Pinot Grigio has delicate notes of honeysuckle and figs which finish with a crisp, soft note. Enjoy its refreshing finish with wood-fired quatro pizza or simply as an aperitif.


My Take: In my opinion, people in the wine industry should not try to become standup comics. Neither should they try to be “cute” with their labels. Honestly, it took me several years after seeing my first “HeadSnapper” label to actually get up the nerve to buy one.

On the one hand, the subliminal message of the label could be, “hey, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and neither should you” – but it could also be saying “we’re a really bad wine disguising ourselves with a funny label”.  I finally got up the nerve, in spite of the label, to give it a whirl.

I liked it. Crisp, refreshing, just the way a Pinot Grigio should taste. I didn’t taste any figs or honeysuckle, but it was a nice, clean wine that was in no way offensive.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable Plus ~ Yeah, technically that’s not a rating, but it didn’t quite elevate itself up to Very Drinkable so I had to come up with something else. Drinkable Plus seems to work for now.

Toad Hollow 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay Francine’s Selection, Mendocino County Alcohol 13.9% by Volume, under $10 at Vons.

On the Label: “2010 Unoaked Chardonnay. Clean, crisp and full flavored with hints of mango and melon and a rich, creamy mouth feel. Pair with herbed chicken, braised pork, grilled shellfish, sushi. Also great with goat cheese and gouda. A treat for the senses!

“Seriously crafted from three Mendocino County vineyards that produce clean, bright flavors in Chardonnay.  Whole cluster picked and pressed into tanks, racked and chilled to 52 degrees F. Slow fermentation process to retain fruity characteristics. Absolutely no oak!”

My Take: Okay, okay, no oak. I get it. Though why they would brag about leaving out an important (to me) part of wooing the chardonnay grapes is totally beside me. Though I do understand there are fanatic Chardonnay drinkers out there who actually prefer the stainless steel taste in their Chardonnay and in fact, am friends with more than a few, I do believe this is just a fad and will fade with time. My fondest hope is that there will be a middle ground – not the huge buttery, oaky Chardonnays of the 1980s (which was a fad in itself), but something milder, and without the metallic taste so often prevalent in the unoaked Chardonnays.

My Rating: ~ Thiscloseto Very Drinkable ~ Yes. Despite my rant above, this is close to being a Very Drinkable wine. Not too metallic (but that does creep in a tiny bit to my personal palate) but drinkable. Despite the cutesy label  (with Mr. Toad, in waistcoat and walking stick, lifting a glass to the sky), too – I guess after the HeadSnapper label, this one was mild in comparison. At any rate, all you Unoaked fans will appreciate this one.

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2011 The Earth Friendly Winery™ Pioneers in sustainability; Established in 1968. 14% less carbon emissions. Alcohol 13% by Volume. Under $10 at Vons

On the Label: “Renewal. With each new vintage, I recall why I enjoy making wine. Starting fresh each spring energizes me. My sense of personal renewal shows in our popular Chardonnay. This is a wine with a medium body, full of easy-to-drink flavors of apple, pear and tropical fruits. So when the day is done, I like to relax and refresh with good friends. Our Chardonnay is always invited. Perfect with most fish dishes and white meats like chicken or pork.” Dennis Martin, Winemaker

“Fetzer now uses lighter glass bottles, runs the winery from mostly green energy, recycles, the list goes on…enhancing our heritage of sustainability.”

My Take: There is so much wrong with that back label that I’m stumped as to where to start. I’m not sure, for instance, that I want to know what part of Dennis’ sense of personal renewal shows in the wine. Is it the sweat of work well done? *shudder* And how about where he “invites” his friend, Chardonnay, to relax with him – and then CONSUMES said friend? It’s just – disturbing. But for me, the icing on the cake is their trumpeting of their “green” practices. If you have to shout about it on the label…*shakes head*. I suppose it is a good thing that I make a practice of NEVER reading the back label before I buy.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ When all is said and done, Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years. They’ve kept the price low, which means I can still afford it, and it’s a solid producer, year after year. What’s not to like?

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ. Thanks for dropping by! I love your comments – what new wine (or old favorite) have you enjoyed recently?

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!


White Wine Options for Thanksgiving

White Wine Options for Thanksgiving

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

Thanksgiving is a week away, and between now and then, a certain amount of the population will panic about which wine to offer with the meal. I’d like to say that if you’re pouring wine from the minute your guests hit your doorstep, it won’t matter what you pour with the turkey since everyone’s already a) happily sloshed or b) fighting with Strange Uncle Bob or c) stone cold sober and writing a blog post about everyone else.

However. Today I’m taking a look at three different white wines which you might choose to grace your holiday table.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2010  Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $11.99 at Pavilions.

On the Label: “The rewards of patience are remarkable. For three decades, my family has nurtured coveted vineyards along California’s cool coast. Our Jackson Estates Grown 100% Chardonnay is bursting with tropical flavors such as pineapple, mango and papaya along with citrus notes that explode in your mouth. Crisp, green apple flavors and a smooth, creamy texture add even more depth. To balance this intensity, we age the wine in small oak barrells. I’m very proud of this wine. I hope you enjoy it.”
-Founder, Jess S. Jackson

My Take: This is an excellent wine. (On the label, I wrote “perfect”.)  I’m not wild about the exploding in my mouth that Mr. Jackson mentions; as a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure nothing exploded in my mouth when I drank this wine, as I have an intact set of teeth and my tongue still works. But I believe you’ll find this an excellent pairing with turkey. It’s got depth and just a hint of oak; it’s NOT a “big, buttery chardonnay”. I don’t think you can find those anymore as they have, alas, fallen out of fashion. At $11.99 it’s over my $10 a bottle price range, but that extra two bucks is totally worth it.

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~ Because I haven’t yet found a white wine that has earned Slut status.

Firestone Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Santa Ynez Valley, California Alcohol 13.5% by Volume  $6.99  at Pavilions.

On The Label: As Santa Ynez Valley’s first estate winery, Firestone helped pioneer viticulture in this quiet, rural area. Our 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is fresh, crisp and bright with passion fruit, lime zest, grapefruit and newly cut grass.

My Take: I’m SO glad I didn’t read the label before drinking this wine. I don’t know about you, but I have no wish to drink wine and eat newly cut grass (oh, did I read that wrong? My bad…). That said, this is a lovely and very easy to drink wine that will cut through the heavy courses of the typical American Thanksgiving dinner. It’s bright and clean, with very little aftertaste. Though do yourself a favor and have some potatoes after your bite of cranberry sauce, and before you sip – you’ll save yourself from a terrible collision of flavors.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~

Estancia Pinot Grigio 2011 Alcohol 13% by Volume; under $10 at Pavilions

On The Label: “Simply put, Estancia Pinot Grigio is better than all the rest. The grapes grow in such bliss – warm days and cool nights on the Pacific coast – it could strike the average Pinot Grigio with envy. You’ll love it for its zesty, intense flavors and will remember it long after the recycling has gone out.”

 My Take: Pinot Grigio, to my taste buds, is a cozier wine than Sauvignon Blanc, even though both are clean and crisp. They both pair with food beautifully and are light on the palate, so it really depends on your personal taste preference.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ 

 So there you have it, three possibilities for white wines at your Thanksgiving Table. I’ll be hitting up on the Rose and Red Wines next week, so be sure to come back and check it out!

Which wine do YOU like to serve at Thanksgiving?

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Fish Tacos and Wine…

Fish Tacos and Wine…

It’s Friday – so I must be tasting cheap wines for you, so you don’t have to! Let’s begin, shall we?

Which wine goes best with fish tacos? I’m not talking the batter-fried fish…I’m talking lime-infused, pan-grilled Dover Sole in white corn tortillas with home-grown tomatoes, crisp green cabbage, refried beans…and a flurry of other stuff like saffron rice, guacamole, and sour cream.

So…which wine?

We tasted three. Yes, envy us! I’ll take you from white to rose, to red in our quest, and I’ll make my pronouncement at the end of the posting for the best wine with fish tacos!

La Gioiosa et Amorosa Pinot Grigio ~ Italy ~ Fresh & Easy, $7.99

On the Label: Marca Trevigiana Indicazione Geografica Tipica Alcohol 10% by volume

I found this wine the first year Fresh & Easy opened up in my hometown. It was refrigerated, had a screw top, was only $5.99, and said it was a “Prosecco”. Which is the Italian bubbly wine. I bought it, fell in love with it, and have been buying it ever since. Except last year sometime, it went away. No one knew what happened to it, but it was gone. GONE. I was devastated. This year, however, it came back – but the label no longer said “Prosecco” though it still had bubbles in it, and it had gotten bumped up to $7.99.

Still. Low alcohol content for wine always makes me give two thumbs up. Crisp, clean, almost tasteless but with a hint of the yummy Pinot Grigio grape and the sparkle of the tiny, tiny bubbles. Last night I drank it with Chinese food – it cut through the spices and cleared my palate, the way a good wine is supposed to. Tonight? It handled the fish tacos very well.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ For the price, it’s a good, inexpensive bubbly with an Italian heritage.

Tempranillo Penrosa 2009, Vino de Espana Rose wine BODEGAS REALEZA $4.99, Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Product of Spain Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon Spain is producing some of the finest rose´wines in the world due to their beautifully ripe grapes and new modern winemaking practices. This rose´has been made to be the perfect al fresco  refresher on long hot summer days.

“Fresh red berry fruit aromas of strawberry and raspberry. Serve chilled, on its own or with light savoury canapes. Made from premium grapes grown across northwest Spain. Enjoy now or store carefully for up to two years after purchase.”

I love this wine. It’s got a lovely hint of sweetness. A pretty pink wine that would go with pork, fish, or vegetarian meals, it’s also got the balls to cut through spice (good for Asian dishes) but works well as a sipping wine, too. It made the fish tacos sing. Another wine with a screw top, to which I say Huzzah!

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And come on, at $5 a bottle, this could be THE summer wine! Seriously. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Fresh & Easy, go buy a bottle for that summer party that’s coming up. Because there always seems to be a summer party that we’re not ready for, right?

Apothic Red 2009 Winemaker’s Blend, California On Sale at Vons for $9.99 (I think…lost my receipt! But definitely not over $9.99.)

On the Label: “Inspired by the ‘Apotheca’ , a mysterious place where wine was blended and stored in 13th  century Europe. Apothic Red offers a truly unique wine experience.

“A masterful blend of RICH ZINFANDEL, FLAVORFUL SYRAH, and SMOOTH MERLOT, creating layers of dark red fruit complemented by hints of vanilla and mocha.”

Okay. Have you ever had a huge party, and after everyone’s gone home, you had like, seven bottles of red wine with maybe two inches of wine left?

Yeah, me neither. Okay, but suppose you did. And you just poured all the wine together into one bottle, and stuck it in the fridge, and drank it the next day. Oh, stop looking so horrified. The wine probably tastes very, very good. The bad part? There is no way to recreate the wine you created the night before. Or…maybe that’s the good part…

At any rate, this wine is approachable. As the hubby says, he can sip it between playing songs on the guitar. It doesn’t demand food. It’s a congenial wine, ready to play, or be a backdrop to the food you’re serving. As to how it went with fish tacos?

Well, it was fine. Not a standout, no more than any of the other wines. To be honest, hubby said to me before dinner that fish tacos only rate a mediocre wine. I don’t agree, especially with the fish tacos I made…

My Rating ~ Drinkable ~ Though hubby says very drinkable, lol!

We ended up drinking the red wine with dinner. But frankly, the Penrosa Rose would have been spectacular with the fish tacos, and the La Gioiosa Pinot Grigio would have cleared our palates in a wonderful fashion. So – with these three wines, all of them would have served wonderfully both the table and the palate.

Do check out the links, wine sites can be totally fascinating. Remember, these are my taste buds and that means they’re subject to tides, winds, and the whims of the family. Your taste buds will vary. And please…drink responsibly!

 ~   ~   ~

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Two Pinot Grigios under $10

Two Pinot Grigios under $10

Pinot Grigio if you’re in Italy, or Pinot Gris if you’re in France, is on an upswing in the United States. Considered the “new Chardonnay” due to it’s rising popularity in the past ten years, it’s an easy sipping wine that can wow both the knowledgeable and the casual drinker. From everything I’ve read, there are no “rules” for Pinot Grigios – they can be barrel aged in oak or stainless steel, left completely dry or with a bit of residual sugar left behind. This will inevitably change the wine from producer to producer, and the color will range from a pale gray to a light pink.

I’m contrasting two very different Pinot Grigios today. A friend, Christine London, poked fun at me and asked when I’d be reviewing Two Buck Chuck; so the next time I happened to be in Trader Joe’s, I picked up a bottle of their Pinot Grigio to give it a taste. Christine, this one’s for you!

Here’s the scoop:

Charles Shaw Winery Pinot Grigio, 2010, California $1.99 at Trader Joe’s. Napa and Sonoma Valley, California Alcohol 12.5% by volume. For more info on the wine maker, go here.

On the Label: The label was uninformative, which in my book is not a bad thing.

My take: Eh. It’s not a bad wine. Please do yourself a favor and drink very cold. If it’s a dinner wine, and I highly recommend it as such, keep it in an ice bucket. It’s got a high acidity level, which cuts through spicy foods well.

If you’re having a party, consider stocking up on this wine as a mixing wine – white wine spritzers on a hot summer day, with a splash of lime or lemon – this wine is excellent for that purpose. If you’re sipping it poolside, make sure you have a sharp cheese and some crackers to go with it as you’ll enjoy the wine more.

In these uncertain economic times, the producers of all the Two Buck Chuck varietals are making wines available to a wide population at ridiculously low prices. If you like them, then your wallet will be ecstatically happy. If you don’t, then the hunt for inexpensive and tasty wine continues.

My rating: ~Drinkable~ especially for the price. I much prefer other wines, but will come back to this one. Maybe it just needs a year in the bottle? I’ll see if I can find a 2009.

Concannon Pinot Grigio Central Coast, 2010 Regularly $8.99, on sale $6.65 at Vons. (Sorry – I couldn’t find a pic of the Pinot Grigio!)

On the Label: “Roots. Rocks. Intrigue. Since 1883, Concannon Vineyard has been handcrafting fine varietal wines from grapes grown along the Central Coast of California, a diverse region that stretches north from Santa Barbara to the San Francisco Bay. We carefully select the most ideal vineyards for growing each varietal and craft this expressive fruit into superb wines.

“The coastal fog blankets the grapes and protects them from too much heat…and too much cold. This allows for gradual ripening, producing aromas and flavors of citrus, melon and honeysuckle. This well-balanced, crisp Pinot Grigio goes well with somked salmon or roasted pork tenderloin.”

My first impression: A friendly wine. Why? It had a screwtop. Oh now, stop it. Don’t lift your nose and sniff. Screwtops make complete sense. Cork is expensive, and can fail. A screwtop can’t, especially when they add a sealer to it underneath the top. From my readings, South Africa and Australia don’t have the same “cheap” connotation for screwtops as Americans do, and they’ve whole-heartedly embraced the screwtop on their wines. I say, good for them! And I hope America soon follows suit.

Now to the wine itself: I could definitely smell and taste the melon and honeysuckle, which surprised me. This is a light, refreshing wine with a zing on the aftertaste, as well as a hint of sweetness to it that makes it an excellent sipping wine.

I paired it with a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans and a salad and it made the whole meal feel summery and fresh in the heat of the evening.

I find I’m liking Pinot Grigio a lot, and I’ll pick it up when I need a refreshing white wine. Overall it’s a friendly varietal that pairs well with lots of different foods. Several are terrific sipping wines, and they make a nice change from Chardonnay at a summer party.

My rating: ~Very Drinkable~ . A bargain even when not on sale!

REMEMBER: Your tastebuds may vary. What I love, you may hate, and vice-versa. So if it’s under $10 and in your taste ballpark, go ahead and give it a try no matter what I’ve rated it.

Now, weigh in on screw tops. Yay or nay, and why? Is it more romantic, having to uncork a wine?