Tag: easy recipes

Acorn Squash and Crossfork Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Acorn Squash and Crossfork Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Acorn squash usually conjures images of fall’s bounty, the autumn harvest’s cornucopia of pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti squash, and all those hard, bumpy winter squashes that we don’t quite know what to do with. The hard rind makes these squashes long-lasting, hence the term “winter squash” although here in the Northeast, they are usually grown throughout the summer and picked in late September and October.

So how did we acquire a garden-fresh home-grown acorn squash in July? My sister-in-law, who moved to New Orleans last year, had the realization that a southern garden can be planted as early as March, resulting in mature winter squash in the middle of summer. On her most recent visit to the New York area, she managed to pack two large home-grown squashes in her suitcase. She must have had to leave behind half her clothes and shoes so as not to exceed the 50-pound weight limit.

My sister-in-law gave us a terrific tip to speed up the cooking time for hard squash that I haven’t seen on the internet. After cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds, she microwaves the halves for about 5 minutes. Although she likes hers with cinnamon, we opted for the more prevalent butter and brown sugar preparation, followed by baking.


Cut in half. I did it lengthwise, but either direction will work. Scoop out the seeds and that pithy stuff. My trusty grapefruit spoon comes to the rescue. Microwave the halves for five or six minutes.


Smear a half tablespoon of soft butter around the hollow. Sprinkle a tablespoon of brown sugar on each half. Bake at 350 degrees until a fork goes through the flesh easily (about 20 minutes)

The acorn squash was an enjoyable accompaniment to baby-back ribs with Brooks sauce. 

The wine of the evening is something new we’re trying, the 2015 Crossfork Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Sheridan Vineyards in Yakima Valley, Washington. The Yakima Valley AVA, established in 1983, was the first AVA established in Washington State. It’s part of the larger Columbia Valley that garnered AVA status the following year, in 1984. Widely planted varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Syrah. The region is also known for growing Cascade hops, which are very highly regarded and sought after according to my beer-brewing friend.

The nose is fruity towards jammy, with floral notes and hints of green bell pepper and herbs. On the palate plum, cherry, and currants abound with afterthoughts of licorice and tobacco. Many of the Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon wines we’ve tried have been lighter in body than their California counterparts. Not so with Crossfork Creek; it’s squarely down the middle as a medium bodied Cab. The medium-length finish has some bright acidity balanced with oak and light tannins. Overall, Crossfork Creek is well worth the under $20 price.

Grilled Shrimp-Stuffed Portobello Mushroom

Grilled Shrimp-Stuffed Portobello Mushroom

Our roving palates resulted in another recipe mash up and the offspring looks like a stuffed Portobello mushroom and tastes a bit like New Orleans style barbecue shrimp.  This experiment was more the result of a wine-fueled brainstorm motivated by the boredom of our typical Portobello mushroom recipes than the invention of variations simply because we’re missing a few ingredients and are forced to make substitutions. The shrimp and Panko stuffing soaked in the buttery Creole seasonings is the highlight of this recipe.

I use my trusty grapefruit spoon to scoop out the gills.


Cook the onion and garlic and set aside. Reuse the pan to cook the shrimp.

Heat the oil, butter, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Add Panko, shrimp, and onion. Reuse the pan, less dishes!

Mix with cheese and bacon bits. Stuff into mushrooms and top with cheese (or add cheese halfway through grilling.)



  • 2 Portobello mushrooms with stems and gills removed
  • 4-5 large shrimp
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup of Panko
  • 1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits
  • 2 teaspoons of Andy Roo’s Louisiana BBQ Shrimp Creole Seasoning
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  1. Clean the mushrooms and remove the grills with a grapefruit spoon. Baste the outside with olive oil.
  2. In a medium-sized pan, cook the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Using the same pan, cook the shrimp is salted water. As soon as they are pink and curled, remove them and cut them into small pieces. Pour the water in the drain.
  4. In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter is melted, add the Creole seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on low heat for one minute.
  5. In the pan, stir in the small pieces of shrimp, onion, and Panko. Allow the Panko to absorb the oils.
  6. Meanwhile, beat the egg in a mixing bowl. Add the mixture from the pan to the egg and stir in the Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. If the mixture is too wet, add a little more Panko. Stuff into mushrooms.
  7. Grill mushrooms on medium-high heat, adding the cheese topping about halfway through. Mushrooms are done when they are tender and the cheese is melted, less than 10 minutes.


·       Instead of shrimp and bacon bits, use 3 slices of cooked bacon cut into small pieces.

·       Add large slices of tomato under the cheese and top with Italian herbs.

·       Swap out the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses for Gorgonzola or Blue cheese

Ingredients On Hand Challenge

Ingredients On Hand Challenge

I have a secret fantasy. In it, I’m appearing on The Rachael Ray Show to promote my book about living the Boozy Lifestyle and I’m asked to participate in a cooking challenge. The game is to create a meal out of five random ingredients. I know I’ll ace it since I perform this very activity at least a couple of times a week. My daydream may be less exciting than folks who imagine sipping champagne in a private jet en route to dine in Paris, or thrill-seeking adventures like climbing Mount Everest or sky diving but it’s my unheralded superpower, nonetheless.

This ingredients-on-hand challenge was initiated by cleaning out our pantry, stocked with those irresistible 10 for $10 sale items that have no immediate plan for consumption. Normally, I not very aware of the aging of canned and packaged goods in the cupboards since they’re meant to last for a few years. But when an elderly relative serves you dip from a jar with a “Best By” date sometime in the last century, it’s a wakeup call to check the dates.

To my pleasant surprise, there’s nothing in this pantry sweep that needs to be thrown away. I make a collection of items with expiration dates drawing near, including a package of Knorr Pasta Sides. Prepared packaged goods like Knorr side dishes or Kraft mac-n-cheese aren’t foods I prepare on a regular basis; but I keep these items on hand for occasions when we are inclement weather-bound, or overcome with laziness to the point of cooking incapacitation.

I choose the microwave directions and, for the last two minutes of cooking time, add a cup of par-boiled broccoli florets. It’s a tasty accompaniment to grilled chicken legs and thighs seasoned with Italian herbs and parmesan cheese.

Paired with Buena Vista Pinot Noir.

Next up in the Ingredients On Hand Challenge, we move on to cleaning out the refrigerator. Frequently there’s a smidgeon of ricotta cheese, a chunk of mozzarella, or a few ounces of cooked pasta left over after making lasagna, stuffed shells, eggplant parmigiana, or a homemade pizza. Here’s an easy way to put those leftovers on a plate instead of in the garbage pail.

Baked Spaghetti 


  • ¼ – ½ pound of cooked spaghetti (or whatever is leftover)
  • 3 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ – ¾ cup of tomato sauce
  • ½ cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of dried basil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and combine with ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the spaghetti into the ricotta mixture and gently coat.
  3. In an oven-safe dish, pour a bit of tomato sauce on the bottom. Transfer the spaghetti to the dish.
  4. Layer the mozzarella over the top of the casserole. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top and allow some to coat the sides of the dish to prevent the spaghetti from sticking and burning.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Baked Spaghetti2

Paired with McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.