Monday, January 15, 2018

Wine Country adventures ...

You know that moment when a fellow Californian, says "...Wanna go wine tasting..." and your ears perk up, a smile blossoms on your face and you calmly say, "...that sounds good...". When all the while your body is screaming ROAD TRIP!!!

Yep, that was me while on vacation. But instead of the Napa Valley route, which I love and highly recommend, we ventured to the relatively unknown second, Northern California wine country, City of Livermore.

Before we dive deep into the story, I would like to explain, at least in my opinion, what's the deal with going to wine tasting???
There are three basic reasons to go to wine country. I call them my three "Es" ... Entertainment, Escape and/or Education. For me ... I was all about the educational aspect of the industry.

My first experience, way...way back in late 80s, my job included traveling to different territories educating management and staff about lending. My northern most territory was the City of Napa. I know, how awful was that! Before then, I didn't think much about Napa until that one clandestine day after work I came across Domain Chandon Winery. What I lacked in knowledge about Napa or wine was made up by my love for champagne. The great thing is at that time, Domain Chandon provided an in-depth immersion into wine making through their tours which included the historical and geographical review of wine, chemistry of wine making, bottling, riddling cellars and of course ... the tasting. I immediately knew I was in my zone... the fine art and science of wine making...very sweet spot!

Fast forward several years, wine memberships and life changing events have evolved and I find the wineries have evolved past education and thrust into escape and entertainment. A large section of wineries instead of providing knowledge they provide an escape from your life and a means to entertain. Wineries resemble "lounges" or sophisticated bars...with the only thing offered is a chance to get drunk and sell wine and memberships. Which in most cases people cancel once they reach the sobering reality of their homes...and budget.

Now, before you write me of as a critic or judgmental wine snob I was taken to a place that encompassed all three Es and then some. Steven Kent winery in the City of Livermore embodied all three Es effortlessly in a casually elegant manner. From the moment you enter the grounds you are greeted, reservations recommended, by the hostess and the escape begins by whisking you into an entertaining educational experience. One pour after another you escape into a world full of flavor and nuance from whites to reds. Each guests is invited to  escape guided by a knowledgeable wine expert.

I was lucky to share this experience with my longtime friend Cheryl Terbeek and her husband Eric...who just happened to be our guide. Cheryl, Eric and I have a history with wine...not just consuming, but sharing ideas, recipes and conversation. I was lucky to have such a knowledgeable guide and friend to expose me to a new winery and for me an undiscovered wine realm known as Livermore.
The grounds were majestic and for me an easy place to get lost taking pictures, relaxing and purchasing from their shop.  The wine was delicious, easy on the palette, flavorful and beautifully packaged for the ride home or a gift. Nah, this bottles for
Instead of heading to the sometimes trendy section of Napa take a tour East and experience wine on a new level. For winery details follow the link and be ready to be transported: 

Where's the food you might ask? Its a food blog, right??? Well, in my book and I think Shakespeare, " is the food of the Gods ... so drink up, enjoy, share and remember to do it with love.
Au bientot, Lady E.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 Fancy Food Show here I come!

I'm super excited that I was approved for a Press Pass to the Fancy Food Show this year in San Francisco!

What does that mean? I'll be able to attend the show and conduct interviews, write articles, maybe a little vlogging...which will be new to me. Look for upcoming article this month shortly after the show in January.
Oh! For those interested in learning more about the Fancy Food Show it is a specialty show featuring all things food. Vendors, manufacturers, farmers, name it. If you'd like to know's the link:
For the LECooks longtime readers, I've attended the show before and featured articles, but as an attendee, not an actual Press Pass. Thanks to Chef Mimi for encouraging me to move in this direction. Looking forward to what this opportunity may bring.

Until then, remember ... Cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.
Au bientot,
Lady E

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Back in the Game...

Its been one long year of reflection, growth and of course cooking and writing. Most of the cooking for 2017 was a balance of between eating healthy and cooking for my Man. A challenging balance to say the day fried chicken the next day However challenging, the year of cooking was filled with joy, memories and a very happy Man after each meal.

I've risen from my euphoric incubation and started cooking and writing again. First up, the Christmas Eve cake. A long standing favorite ... Lemon Cake, but this year instead of the heavy sugary frosting of butter and  powered sugar I found a light delicious alternative made of whip cream and cream cheese.

Now, you might think that the combination of whip cream and cream cheese would be heavy on the tongue, palette and stomach for that matter...but somehow in the magical world of culinary science, the whip cream cuts the heaviness of the cream cheese and surprisingly very little sugar is used and instead of a dense, rich, sweet cake frosting a light, fluffy, melt in your mouth goodness engulfs your tastes buds.

Okay, so you're saying, "...okay, enough already! What's the recipe..?!?!". Glad to oblige. I found the recipe at Allrecipes coupled with the video. Super easy and bonus budget friendly. The frosting recipe can be found here:
Next up was the annual making of the Galette. I made two, of which both received rave reviews. I ventured in a different direction for both...well, in a way.  I continued with my classic Julia Child/Jacque Pepin Galette basic recipe, but instead of sweet apples, like Pink Lady or Macintosh, I went ultra classic with the Granny Smith apples. Shocker! I haven't used Granny Smith in ages wanting to introduce more "flavor" into the recipe by using alternative selection of apples. 

Gotta admit there is something about the taste of the classic tart, crisp Granny Smith apple that blends so well with a buttery flaky crust of a Galette. From now on ... classic Granny is the way to go for me.

The second dessert was the traditional family pie turned into a Galette...the Mincemeat pie 
(Sorry, no picture). My Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother all made, baked and ate Mincemeat pie and I'm no exception. This year however was a game of "see who can find Mincemeat first".

Thank goodness I started my hunt early. After 5 grocery stores and wandering down countless aisles scouring up and down baked goods to canned stuff the game of "find the Mincemeat" was off to a very sad start. No one had a single jar in stock. One very nice person said, "...we have freeze dried...", she said sheepishly. Before, I responded I cringed at the thought and took the small package in my hands examining it for all it's flaws. The condensed version of already dried fruit left me speechless...and I'm rarely speechless. I politely handed the package of freeze dried fruit concoction back to the sales clerk and said, "I just can't" and bolted from the store like it was on fire.
I ran home determined to make the Mincemeat myself. The recipe is simple, but wholly cow...that's a whole lotta dried fruit!!! Not the most budget friendly filling, unless you buy it premade. I forged onward to the great search guru in the sky...Google.
Thank goodness for the supreme being named Google. A mere search on the web with the words "near me" revealed only specialty stores or places where "old folks" shop had Mincemeat. Well alrighty then. I called the local Piedmont Market and inquired if they actually had in their possession a jar of the precious mixture. Gratefully, they did ... "... several jars...", she said. I flew as fast as my little Kia would take me and bought a single jar. Why not more? I didn't want to deprive another person if they too had been on the great Mincemeat adventure as well.

Onward. The Mincemeat Galette was the easiest and flavorful pie full of raisins, apricots, ginger...just to name a few coupled with the most important ingredient..RUM. With a side of ice cream its a warming and filling dessert, just what the season requires after a meal of roast beef, lamb or turkey with all the trimmings. I highly recommend this fruit pie alternative.

Last up, Mothers NYE cake aka Mommies' Birthday Cake which actually turned out to be a homage to the Mincemeat Galette minus the "Where's the Mincemeat" game. First of all, I have a confession. Yep,...I used boxed cake mix. When it comes to my Mom's cake I don't take chances and by now I'm exhausted and baking a cake from scratch wasn't my idea of fun. But, the idea for the cake was brilliant. Sacrilege, you might say, but it's a life and time saver. I used white cake mix and added a  teaspoon of vanilla extract in the batter before it's baked. I used the same whip cream-cream cheese frosting, but a confetti of dried fruit on top made of dates, candied ginger, apricots, cranberries. Oh, and the surprise was a thin layer of fig jam spread on each layer of cake. It added a savory sweetness to the cake without being overpowering.

Before the fruit is placed around the top of the cake I sprinkled a random layer of candied sprinkles. If you look close you can see them. Subtle, but just the extra something to add to the festive occasion. With all that going on ... was the cake any good? All I can say is ... Its gone. I even ate a slice and was very sorry I didn't take a second slice to go. Fun alternative and very New Years Eve looking.

I'm back my friends and exploring our love of the culinary arts on a new level...more to come on a monthly basis. Even might explore healthy options to post. The important thing to remember whatever the option ... cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Au bientot, Lady E!   

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas cookies

Nothing says Christmas like a warm smile, snowflakes and holiday cookies.

This year Lady E Cooks took a long break for a variety of reason...but I'm back to baking starting with Christmas cookies.

Sugar cookies with champagne frosting and little sprinkles to set the spirit bright
Sugar cookies have to be the easiest and most versatile recipe on earth. One, because of the limited ingredients and leavening agent. Nope, no eggs to bind, no baking soda or baking powder ... so, if you're out of those, but have the basic ingredients below you can create a variety of tasty treats for friends and family. Most of all you can be as creative as you want... top with jam, cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, no sprinkles and they are suitable for any special occasion. Just imagine to your hearts content.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 lbs unsalted butter - 3 US sticks
3.5 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 lbs confectioners sugar - for frosting
Follow any sugar cookie recipe...making sure the butter is at room temp, the vanilla has lots of flavor and put in fridge to chill once combined to firm up the dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out dough and form cookies with cookie cutters. Once baked and cooled...around 12 minutes allow to cool.

Frosting was inspired by the Christmas Eve champagne I was sipping. Put powdered sugar in stand mixer and pour two tablespoons of champagne into bowl and mix on low, then increase speed to blend.
Use a small spoon or teaspoon measure to pour frosting on cooled cookies.  I tried dipping then, but just a bit messy for me. Before frosting hardens place candy on top either randomly or strategically.
Be sure to drink a little less of the champagne as the night progresses...or the cookies become a hot mess and the 1/4 teaspoon measures get caught in the garbage disposal like mine did. All in good fun and cheer. When that happens .... it's time to turn in and fix the issue in the morning light. LOL!

Merry Christmas to all and may your spirits be bright on this beautiful Christmas Sunday.
Remember cooking with love makes every recipe taste better.
Lady E Cooks - 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To everyone ... Happy Thanksgiving. Lady E has been focused on studying, resting and not cooking lately. More food to come later in the season.
Hope your holidays are filled with joy, love and family.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pickle 'em while you can...

I started pickling and canning vegies and fruit at an early age. Mostly, as a "keep her busy" project with my least I thought. Now, that I'm older what I thought was an attempt to keep me out of trouble was actually the passing down of family recipes and secrets to a child who showed interest in the culinary arts.
Unfortunately, Daddy has passed on and until recently I didn't know how complicated pickling, jarring and canning was. It's m me a year to capture the sweet tangy taste of homemade pickles we shared, until now.
The secret? Most recipes call for a combination of apple cider vinegar and white vinegar to the liquid. But, much to my surprise after adding most of the ingredients to the pot which was already starting to boil I reached for the white vinegar ... and the cupboard was bare.
What to do... what to do? I thought plain ole water will have to do. It was risky at best and could possibly dilute the already simmering  pot of sugar, apple cider vinegar and pickling spices.
I did what most artist do ... I tasted the brew to see if it made a difference. Actually, it didn't in fact I think it might have helped a little.
After the initial boil. And then the second boil I placed the sliced cucumbers and onions in three separate containers. Poured the pickling liquid into each one and prayed for the best. Now, at this point I should say, fill/pack your jars to the brim. Pack the pickles tightly into the jar. Otherwise, as shown the pickles will just float in the liquid. It isn't really a problem, but it does make for a better final product.
A day later the pickles were sweet, tangy and spicy. Just the way Grandma made them. And the onions weren't half bad either. I took a jar to my friends and fellow foodie's house. She thought the pickles would be best served with hot dogs and hamburgers. That's music to a foodies ears.
Pickling does a heart good. Next time you reach for a jar of relish or pickles at the supermarket. Look at the price and ask yourself is it worth $3.99+ or more. Then, venture on the wild side and make your own. There a tons of recipes to follow for pickling so ... grab a onion, cucumber and make some magic.
Cooking with love makes any recipe taste better ... and possibly the spirit of my Grandmother was watching over me with love, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer garden fresh salsa

The countdown to the end of Summer has officially reached ... zero. But, Summer doesn't have to end in the kitchen with the bountiful goodness at your nearest Farmer's Market and your imagination.

Mine, imagination that is,  hit into high gear this past weekend with some ripe tomatoes and recently purchased items at the Farmer's Market and spontaneous "Taco Sunday" purchases for dinner with my Man. So, don't throw away those ripe tomatoes ... bring them to life in a salsa.

My secret ingredient is not just any ole tomato. I'm into the Summer tomato favorite the Early Girl. Never had one? At the peak of the season they have a crisp outer skin and tender flesh and when cut, sprinkled with salt and nothing else burst in your mouth and taste sweet and juicy.

5 Early Girl tomatoes
1 Roasted jalapeño
1 Small bell pepper
3 Small garlic cloves
Handful of cilantro
1/2 Red onion
1/2 Fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. Pica de Gallo seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste.

Not much prep work involved for this accent to any meal, expect for the roasted jalapeño. Roast the pepper in the oven, on the grill, in a cast iron skillet... any way ya wanna. Allow the peel of the pepper to blister and char, typically about 5-8 minutes being sure to turn the pepper on all sides. Let the pepper cool. No need to remove skin or seeds.

Chopping. Not much just enough to help the processor along. Big chunks are just fine. Chop and dump is my motto. Pulse the ingredients a couple of times, then squeeze a half a line, salt pepper and pica de gallo. Whirl two pulses... and taste for additional seasoning. Keeping in mind once chilled the flavors meld and bloom. You can always add salt, but never take it away.

Serve with chips. On top of roasted chicken. Drizzled over room temperature cream cheese and chips... or just by the spoonful. The flavor is slightly sweet from the tomatoes, red onions and red bell pepper with a hint of spice.

The hot days of Summer have come to and end .... at least outside, but in the kitchen keep it sizzling with cool, crisp, sweet salsa from garden ingredients. Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Lady E