Tag: wine pairing

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.




That’s A Nice Pair

The nice pair that I’m referring to is my shrimp with baby bok choy over rice and Sauvignon Blanc. But more on the pairing in a minute.

If you’re one of my regular readers, by now you’ve noticed that my wine repertoire is dry red heavy. A chilled white is nice for a change of pace, but overall my preference is usually red. And as much as I try, I can’t interest my husband in sharing a bottle of white which means I’m drinking it all by myself. The plus side of drinking white wine alone is more for me!

While my drinking buddy is having a cocktail, I’ve decided to try my Coppola Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc 2015. How did a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc end up in my wine stash, you ask? In addition to general curiosity, Sauvignon Blanc is frequently suggested to pair with foods we eat often such as shellfish and fresh salads. I’ve been ordering it by the glass occasionally, but my initial forays into the world of Sauvignon Blanc have not been very agreeable. Before giving up on it altogether, I’ll do some reading to understand what it is I don’t like about it.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is grown in many different countries and wine regions. In fact, it’s the most widely planted wine grape in the world. The wide variation in terroir as well as the wine-making style creates a lot of diversity in the final product. I may have stumbled onto the reason why my first half dozen tries give me the impression that no two Sauvignon Blancs taste alike!

Cool climate vineyards tend to produce Sauvignon Blancs with higher acidity, and citrus, grassy, and mineral flavors. In general, these characteristics aren’t my go-to flavors when it comes to wine. Reading through various tasting notes, I notice that Coppola is described as tropical fruit flavors which sound more to my liking. Also boosting my confidence that I’ll take a liking to the Coppola Sauvignon Blanc is that we enjoy several of their red wines such as Cinema and Claret.

The label’s description of tropical fruit is true to form in the delicate nose. On the palate are pineapple and ripe cantaloupe.  Citrus flavors lean towards tangerine and red grapefruit rather than lemon or lime. The fruit flavors are ripe and sweet as opposed to tart. The second day brings out more floral notes on the nose and palate. The overall impression is light and refreshing with a quick finish.

If the Sauvignon Blanc you prefer has bright acidity, lemony tartness, grassiness , or a mineral quality, this is probably not the one for you. If ripe tropical fruits are more to your taste, then give it a try. I’ll be buying another bottle soon!

Part two of my enjoyment of this wine is how well it paired with our dinner. The shrimp with baby bok choy is prepared simply in chicken stock and sesame oil with a bit of garlic and served over rice. The delicate flavor of the shellfish is complimented by the easy nimbleness of the wine. Bok choy brings its own subtle textures to the dish, combining wilted leafy tops with crunchy ends. For the full shrimp with baby bok choy recipe, visit this page: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-7L


Any suggestions of other Sauvignon Blancs I should try?

Oh, For the Love of Salad

Salad with Chicken

We eat a lot of salad. We drink a lot of cabernet sauvignon. But not together.

I love salad. A fresh garden salad with croutons, oil, and vinegar, Caesar salad, Iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, Asian salad with ginger dressing, salad with black beans, with grilled chicken, with crumbled gorgonzola, with Cajun-seasoned grilled shrimp. Call me the Bubba Gump of salad.

I also love red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Bordeaux-style blends. Here lies the dilemma. My vanilla-scented, dark-fruited Cab and my garden salad with Paul Newman’s Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing are a dreadful pairing. Not only does the oil and vinegar-based salad dressing make the dry red wine taste sour, the fresh crunchy, leafy textures found in the salad are incompatible with velvety smoothness of the wine.

Right about now I hear the food and wine pairing experts whispering in my ear, “Dry rosé, crisp white, Sauvignon Blanc.” Should we give up the red wines we prefer for the love of salad?


As is often said, timing is everything, and timing is the solution to this pairing predicament. Starting with wine, we accompany it with some smoked Gouda and rosemary crackers. Following our wine and cheese plate, we enjoy our salad course with a sparkling water. A pairing disaster has been averted.