Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Squash Goulash the Healthy Way---I Think

First of all, I have to give the disclaimer that this is not an attractive dish. I tried to dress it up as much as I could to make it pleasing to the eye, but it's a goulash. It looks like a goulash. So...there ya go.

That being said, I grew up with my mom making zucchini goulash, and I've watched it evolve through the years. Awhile back, I got the idea to make it with ground turkey instead of ground beef to make it healthier. Although, I'm not entirely sure if the googobs of cheese don't entirely destroy that notion. 

Let's tell ourselves it's healthy.

Now, this recipe is definitely one that is seasoned more to individual taste. My husband likes it heavier on the red pepper, black pepper, and pepper jack cheese for a little extra kick. If you have a milder palate, use less. This recipe is less about the measurement and more about your taste buds, so just have fun with it. 


1lb ground turkey
one medium-sized zucchini
one medium-sized yellow squash
1 cup sliced mushrooms
one small white onion
about two generous teaspoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup sliced roasted red pepper
3/4 can whole kernel corn
1 can of sliced black olives
about 4 slices of pepper jack cheese torn into shreds
shredded fiesta blend cheese

(Use the spices below to your individual taste)
sea salt
black pepper
crushed red pepper
Trader Joe's 12 Seasoning Salute

Put the turkey in a large non-stick skillet. Dice the onion and add it to the turkey along with the garlic, roasted red pepper, and the spices. I like to use the Trader Joe's roasted peppers in oil, but if you would prefer to roast your own peppers, get on with your bad self. Mix thoroughly and cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, slice the yellow squash and zucchini into quarters and add to the skillet. Next slice up your mushrooms, stems removed. I usually use crimini or baby bella. Add those to the skillet as well. 

Next add the corn and the olives, stir until thoroughly blended. Cook until the squash starts to look almost done. Now is a good time to taste your mixture and adjust the spices as you see fit. 

Tear the pepper jack cheese and add to skillet, then stir the cheese in until melted. If there seems to be excess liquid the the skillet, drain it or just let it cook off. Taste again and adjust amount of cheese and salt as needed. 

Top with desired amount of fiesta blend cheese and you're done! An easy summer meal, and filling too!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Food by the Sea...is Not Always Because of the Food: Part One

So, my mother is amazing. Let me just start out by saying that.

She has been my mother, father, best friend, sister, therapist, and confidant for all of these years. She is young at heart, does not think my generation is stupid, goes to rock concerts with me, drinks with me when the time calls for it, laughs with me, cries with me, the list goes on. We have been a gruesome twosome for my entire life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have many good memories with my mother, more than I can even list, actually. But the first of two that stand out for me was when Mom and I went to Los Angeles to see our favorite band--a metal band from Finland--play a special show. It was in January with a storm threatening where we lived, and we had been terrified our flight was going to get canceled, but we made it, got our rental car, and proceeded to drive halfway through La Brea and beyond because of road construction and me not knowing where the *insert word of choice here* I was going.

Because of the day we came into Los Angeles, we were Disneyland bound, because I had not been there since I was five and we had a whole day to kill. Well, after a harrowing journey to find the hotel--where we drove back and forth on the same road like four times, we had to ask directions and then follow a local woman back onto the freeway, we barely made our exit, and I thought I had lost my cell phone--we were promptly told we could not check in yet.

Of course!

This was how we were used to traveling when we were being "groupies." It literally was what always happened. So, we just bailed and headed to Disneyland.

The rides were fun, but the whole day traffic was bad, the food was even worse, we got lost more times than I ever want to think about, and by the time we got back to our hotel, I was about ready to throw in the towel for good. The last stint on the freeway an hour back to our hotel had seen me having to pee so badly I was practically shaking, and as a person with an anxiety problem...I was SO DONE with LA traffic.

So where did we end up?

At Denny's of all places.

Because it was the only thing open.

And it was terrible.

Can we say heartburn?


Needless to say, we were disappointed, and we went to bed feeling like we had lead in our stomachs.

The next day, we headed to Venice Beach before the concert. We were feeling good, ready to go...

Even though I was getting a hang of this driving in LA thing, the wind at the beach almost blew us into the next county, and we ate lunch at some seaside shack where the fish was so greasy it stayed in my stomach for the rest of the day. I was seriously wondering if I was ever going to get a good meal while I was on this trip.

However, despite numerous meal setbacks--I seriously don't even remember what I had for dinner...something Mexican, I think--we met up with some of my good friends, we had a great time, the concert was amazing, and we headed back to the hotel that night on a rock and roll high we had been missing for awhile.

The next day, our flight did not leave until late, so Mom and I decided to head back to Venice Beach for a better experience since the first time had been so rushed.

We went to a place I unfortunately forget the name of now, but it was both a high-class and low-key restaurant (if that makes sense) where we had the only decent meal we had eaten thus far--a real, honest-to-goodness breakfast. We scarfed it like starving people, and were satisfied for the first time all trip. Afterwards, we wandered the beach, checked out shops, watched some local talent, and enjoyed the peace and serenity that can only come from the ocean.

We stayed there for the greater part of the day, and two hours or so before we had to go to the airport, Mom and I headed back to that same restaurant for dinner.

Now, keep in mind, I was pretty broke at the time. I was divorced and living in a studio apartment. My budget was extremely limited. But because I was so used to being a miser, I had saved more money than I had spent and decided to just say screw it. You only live once, I was on vacation, and I was under budget.  So Mom and I got an amazing cheese plate, a couple glasses of wine, followed by a half bottle I don't even want to remember the cost of now--because as much as I love wine, I am still pretty cheap above all things, especially back then.

Honestly? It was one of the best cheese plates I've ever had. And even one of the best wines. But I don't think it had anything to do with the actual food and wine I was consuming.

I have and always will be a sentimental creature, and sitting on the patio of that restaurant, eating cheese and drinking overpriced wine with the one woman who could understand what I was babbling about when it came to the man who would one day be my husband was worth any price.

And and as the sun set, we drank, ate, and talked. We even saw the artist P!NK, which  was pretty freakin' cool, but the best part of it wasn't the wine or the food, as good as it was. It was the fact that I was somewhere I loved--the ocean--at sunset, and I could talk freely and candidly with someone; I could share an experience like this trip had been with someone, and would never even think to regret any part of it. I could be myself, I could "let it all hang out," to to speak, and I would never be judged.

Let me tell you, that is an awesome feeling.

That night on the beach remains one of my favorite memories of traveling, because it was so raw in its realness. It can never be copied or replaced...

And that's just how I want it to stay.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Easy Weeknight Chicken Tetrazini

When I was visiting Arizona, a good friend of mine had me over for dinner and offered me a glass of white wine while she was cooking chicken tetrazini. I'm pretty sure I hadn't eaten for most of the day and it was the middle of summer, so it was probably somewhere around 110 degrees. Knowing the wine was going to go straight to my head because of that combination, I asked my friend if I could have a piece of French bread, discreetly trying to stave off the illuminating effect that wine has on me on an empty stomach.

No such luck. I lit up like a blazing torch and I could feel the red splotches spreading heat in bizarre patterns across my chest, neck, and face. I said nothing because this is a normal thing for me. I'm pale. I splotch. It happens. So I just sat there and breathed in the heavenly aroma of onions, garlic, and mushrooms simmering in white wine, and enjoyed conversation with my friend, who I hadn't seen in quite some time.

When my friend turned around, she just about screamed at me and thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction and was going to pass out. I told her I was fine, that it was just because I was drinking wine on an empty stomach. She shoved more bread at me and then made me go stick my head in the freezer.  To this day, this is the memory that comes to mind when I think of chicken tetrazini, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I never looked up a recipe for the dish. I don't know why. I guess I just like to play. But over the course of some experimenting, I have concocted a yummy chicken tetrazini recipe that takes out some of the steps. It's great for the working woman who does not want to spend a ton of time preparing a meal after she gets home from a long day.

Again, I don't really measure anything, and a lot of the seasoning is up to individual taste. I will give you the ingredients and the steps, and the rough estimate of measurements, and you can customize it :) This recipe is for 2-4 depending on how hungry you are lol.


extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
about 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
about 1/2 teaspoon of herbs of Provence
sea salt
ground black pepper
about four cloves of chopped or minced garlic (2 generous teaspoons if it is in a jar)
a quarter of a cup or so of diced onion
1 can Progresso Recipe Starters Portobello Mushroom
about a cup of sliced crimini or baby bella mushrooms
half a package of frozen peas
white wine
bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind you put on pizza)
fresh grated Parmesan cheese
about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 package of linguine

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Pour some olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. Add the chicken, onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, herbs of Provence, sea salt and pepper and saute on medium heat for about a minute. Add about a cup of white wine. I like to use Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Simmer uncovered on medium heat until the wine reduces by about half and the chicken is pretty much cooked. Don't forget to give it an occasional stir.

When the wine reduces, add about 3/4 the can of Progresso Recipe Starters Portobello Mushroom. Add the mushrooms and peas. Turn heat a little bit lower and heat through. Meanwhile, fill a pot with water, add some salt and a little bit of olive oil. Bring to a boil and add your linguine. Cook until tender, then drain and add the noddles to the skillet. Add the powdery grated Parmesan cheese and the nutmeg.

Give your sauce a taste and adjust the spice level to your tastes.

Transfer the noddles and sauce to a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the fresh grated Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake until it starts to turn a little golden. Usually about ten minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy with a glass of the same wine you used to cook with!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Thing That Began My Love of Wine

So, artists in any fashion are often joked about as being drug addicts and alcoholics and generally messed up people. A lot of the time, this is true. lol.

But this is not one of those stories!

The people who are closest to me tease me about being a wino, but the alcohol content has absolutely nothing to do with why I love the beverage. Over the years, it has become a ritual of relaxation for me--there is nothing like coming home after a hard day of work and taking a bubble bath while listening to some music and drinking a glass of red wine. It is also something that, from a very young age, I equated with success. And yes, I know that sounds really negative for the psyche, but let me explain.

One of the people I admired very much while growing up was my best friend's mom. She was tall and statuesque and had spent her life in the theatre business. She would have parties for the kids and their parents at her luxurious two-story home and would walk around laughing and mingling, glass of red wine in hand, her black clothing flowing like living art as she walked. To a thirteen-year-old with a love for the arts, it epitomized everything I wanted to be when I grew up. Artsy, beautiful, successful...and a glass of red wine seemed like the perfect symbol that stuck in my naive teenage brain.

Too bad I thought red wine was horrendously nasty by the time I was 18, and the only way I could stomach it was if it was a glass or Arbor Mist  with maybe a splash of Seven Up. You can imagine the damper this was putting on my future goal of being a wine-wielding arts aficionado.

Enter my mother and her best friend, who I commonly refer to as "Aunt Michele." My aunt Michele had done freelance housecleaning for years, and one of her longtime clients had moved to a placed called Cambria, CA. It was right on the Southern California coast, and she would let Aunt Michele come and spend vacation time there as so long as she cleaned the house before she left. So, basically rent-free, all things considered.

Mom and Aunt Michele asked me if I wanted to come along during the summer I was 18. What a silly question that was. Of COURSE I wanted to go! I adored the ocean, and I reveled in any kind of traveling I got to do.

So, for ten days, I was was able to explore the California coast with two of my favorite people, taking in such sights as Hearst Castle and Big Sur, San Luis Obispo and Salmon Creek. They let me drive the convertible Mustang they had rented while rocking out to Metallica and we had a whole floor of Aunt Michele's client's beautiful home to ourselves, which was right across the street from the ocean. It was like being at the best resort.

But the thing that I really took away from this experience was my love of wine.

We had gone wine-tasting one day, and while I never expected to get served anything, the sommeliers kept giving me amounts to taste, obviously knowing I was with two adults. How awesome was that? Made me feel super important at the time!

And while I didn't start really loving red wine until I was around twenty-four, we all found a wine at EOS Estate Winery that suited all of our palates at the time: Muscat Canelli.

It was sweet, crisp, and refreshing, a desert wine, but one that we all adored the flavors of.

But the wine was not what really mattered after everything was said and done.

That evening, we went back to the house, ate dinner, and finished it off with a glass of Muscat Canelli, each of us with our own, and we went out onto the balcony that overlooked the ocean in the distance. It was sunset, and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen up till that point, the sunset highlighting everything in purple, pink, and gold. And we were laughing, the three of us. Laughing about all sorts of things. And I remember thinking to myself how happy I was, and how this was what relaxation was, this was what peace was.

And later that week, after I had been peer-pressured into going to some beach party kegger with a bunch of Cal Poly kids who were three years older than me, and me being the only one strong enough to help the one guy with us beforehand carry the keg, and with some random guy spilling beer in my purse after trying to pick me up, and after I had spent the night feeling completely awkward and out of my element, I much preferred that tranquil feeling I had gotten drinking wine on the balcony with my family.

And as the years went by, my love of the sweet wine transferred to a love of white zinfandel, which then transferred to a love of dryer but juicy white wines, and then eventually to a love of most all things red. I still credit that sunset on the balcony. Because as much as I would like to say it all went back to my friend's mom, it really didn't--even though I DO flow through my house in artsy attire with my glass of red wine during dinner parties, I also wander around in my sweats. It's all in perspective. The memory I think of first when someone asks me why I love wine was that one night--so peaceful, so perfect, so full of laughter and light and innocence.

That is what I feel and remember every time I have a glass of wine.

And I sometimes wonder if that is what relaxes me instead of the alcohol.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Introduction and Apologies

So, I am sorry that the first post in this blog was just a random recipe. I was confused, drinking wine, and trying to figure out how to change my old blog (which I never did anything with) over to this new one.

I am a wine and food enthusiast in addition to being an author. This blog really has nothing to do with me being an author. While I may refer to it from time to time, this is something I can do that will make me happy and cultivate some of my other passions: wine, food, and travel. I will share stories, recipes and whatever else. Pictures definitely, when I have them. So, please, feel free to subscribe or recommend me somewhere.

At least then I'll know someone is reading it lol.  ;)