Friday, October 31, 2008

Frightfully Good Beer

At our recent wine club outing, in honor of Oktoberfest, we chose to sample ales. Two of the standouts from that evening were:

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat -Brewed in Chicago, this hazy unfiltered beer had a spicy aroma followed by crisp, fruity ale flavor. The smooth, creamy body results from blending barley malt with fortified wheat.

Red Hook ESB- Styled after the "Extra Special Bitters" found in English pubs, this beer delivered what their label professed, "Liquid Goodness". Flagship ale of the Portsmouth, N.H. brewery, it's unforgettable copper color had unique yet balanced flavor.

Scare up some on your next visit to the corner pub or liquor store.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Too Much Of A Good Thing

How do you address your concern about a loved one's drinking pattern?

That's hard news if you're concerned about a friend or family member's drinking. But there's good news, too. By skillfully approaching this person, you can make a lifesaving difference.

The following is an excerpt from the Hazelden website.

Using the following guidelines to help gain the influence needed to start a loved one on recovery:

Time your message carefully. Talk to loved ones shortly after they've experienced a problem related to drinking. These problems could range from a family argument to divorce, loss of a job, or arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Avoid talking to people while they're intoxicated. Wait until the following day when the person is clear-headed and when the problem related to his or her drinking is still fresh in mind. At that time you have a better chance of getting your message across.

Focus on consequences. It's usually best to talk to people about how their drinking is actually hurting them. Explain how their drinking behavior is self-defeating. Focus on the discomfort, the psychological distress, the emotional pain your loved one feels. You can say things like, "It really hurts me to see you go through all of this."

Avoid lecturing. Some people assume that a direct, hard-edged confrontation is the only way they can convince a loved one to get help. But this strategy often backfires. Sermonizing or scolding people for their behavior may invite further resistance and denial. Instead, take a compassionate approach and show care and respect for the individual. Use nonjudgmental language and don't blame or criticize. Don't label the person as alcoholic or demand that they seek treatment. State your concerns and encourage your loved one to be assessed by an addiction professional.

Maintain rapport. When approaching a loved one about a drinking problem, the most important thing you can do is to maintain rapport. If you make a comment that this person interprets as shaming or blaming, you weaken that rapport.

Expect the worst. Your loved one might get angry, deny the drinking problem, and tell you to mind your own business. Don't take it personally; these are common reactions. Denial is one of the unfortunate symptoms of alcoholism. After loved ones cool down and experience more negative consequences from drinking, they might take your message to heart. You may have planted the seed for recovery.

Offer assistance in getting help. If your friend is ready for help, be prepared to refer that person to a source of help. Escort them to the source of help and take part in the process as needed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Montepulciano Squared

Both as region and a grape variety, Montepulciano (mohn-teh-pool-CHAH-noh) should find a place on your "Bucket List". This beautiful hilly region is located east of the historic town of Siena, where Tuscany meets Umbria. It traces its cultural and vinous heritage to the Etruscans, who settled the area before the Romans.

The grape variety makes a brilliant deep ruby wine with an intense nose of strawberry and ripe plum fruit, combined with hints of leather. Often blended with Sangiovese to produce Rosso Conero or Rosso Piceno, these medium bodied wines pair with a wide variety of foods, notably baked lasagna.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fusion Food

Fusion cooking is the art of mixing ingredients and preparation styles from different countries and cultures into a unique dish. Someone recently referred to this style as "clean out your fridge" cooking. Raising a large family, my frugal yet creative mother invented fusion out of necessity.

Recently, while preparing dinner, I discovered that specific ingredients for my intended dish were missing. Undaunted, I fused two Mediterranean dishes into something original that rated highly with my spouse. The result was a combination of an Italian baked sausage pasta, a Greek moussaka and a lasagna.

Before you gag or holler "YUCK!", Mediterranean cuisines are very similar. Onions, garlic, and tomatoes, cooked in olive oil, begin many dishes. Eggplant, squash, peppers, mushrooms, cucumber, artichokes, legumes and various greens are considered staples. The use of fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, fennel, and oregano is common.

So, next time you are faced with this situation, be inventive. Think outside your recipe to another compatible country.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Think Before You Drink!

Have you ever wondered why your spouse/male friend seemed less affected by his second cocktail than you did by your first? It's not all in your head, it's in his stomach.

Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is an enzyme discovered in the mid-1960s. In humans, it is present in the lining of the stomach where it breaks down alcohols which could become toxic.

ADH activity varies between men and women, and between populations from around the world. For example, women are unable to process alcohol at the same rate as men due to lower quantities of ADH. In women of Native American and Asian decent the rate is even lower than those from European countries.

Before driving home from holiday parties this year, remember that women have proportionally less (body) water than men, so the concentration of alcohol in their blood stream is higher. The legal limit is .08 in MN and small hand held monitors are available to purchase.

Eat, drink and be merry at your gatherings but use both your head and your stomach!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rotisserie Chicken To The Rescue

Some days, cooking can be challenging, even for those of us who consider it enjoyable. You might be too tired from your day or the cupboards and fridge look bare. Just thinking about a trip to the store could fray your last nerve. My solution is to keep the meat from a rotisserie chicken handy in my freezer.

There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but here are ten ways to use a rotisserie chicken.

Salads - Add rotisserie chicken to mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, shredded carrots, sliced red onions. Toss with your favorite low fat or fat free dressing.

Sandwiches and Wraps -Make a chicken-salad filling with crunchy celery and apple. Use plain low fat yogurt with a hint of curry powder or cumin for the dressing. Stuff into a whole wheat pita or spoon into the center of a whole wheat tortilla wrap and roll up.

Soups - Add 2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken, a selection of chopped vegetables and 1 cup of uncooked rice or noodles to 3 cans fat-free chicken broth.

Pizza toppings - Top a Boboli crust with 1/2 cup of pesto or barbecue sauce, 1 cup of chopped rotisserie chicken and 1 cup reduced fat cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Quesadillas - Combine shredded rotisserie chicken and diced green chilies with a little cumin. Spoon on one half of a low fat flour tortilla; sprinkle with reduced fat cheese; fold tortilla in half and cook in a nonstick skillet (coated with cooking spray) for 5 minutes, turning once.

Burritos, Enchiladas, Fajitas, and Tacos - Add shredded rotisserie chicken to salsa, beans, low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheese; or combine with sauteed onions and sweet peppers; with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes; or mix with mild green chilies, seasonings, scallions and a can of enchilada sauce. Use low fat flour or corn wraps with these fillings.

Pasta dishes - Add to your favorite pasta dish. Use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of ground beef or turkey in your favorite lasagna recipe. Be sure to use reduced fat cheeses.

Pot pies - Add chopped rotisserie chicken, sliced mushrooms and frozen mixed vegetables to low fat, reduced sodium condensed chicken or mushroom soup. Top with a reduced-fat biscuit topping or phyllo pastry sheets.

Casseroles - Combine 2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken with 2 cups cooked rice, a can fat-free broth or chopped tomatoes, and a selection of chopped vegetables in a 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Skillet Meals - Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken to sauteed onion, mushrooms, broccoli and rice cooked in fat-free broth. Sprinkle some Parmesan before serving.

Tonight, I used my rotisserie chicken in a classic Greek soup with lemon, chicken, carrots, celery, onion and rice. Served with an un-oaked Chardonnay, it filled both our soul and our stomachs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Second Glances

Sometimes, my hubby amazes me. He can accurately identify a Sangiovese based wine by it's color and body alone.

We recently opened a bottle of Chianti that we had enjoyed on another occasion, to serve with our Greek/Italian fusion meal. (Think of a baked sausage pasta that married a moussaka.) The 2005 San Lorenzo Chianti produced by Fattorie Melini, uses lower altitude fruits. Aged in a combination of oak casks, barriques, and steel, it is a modern wine with distinctive Tuscan roots. Bouquet of raspberries and blackberries with hints of violets and irises, it is light bodied with fine tannins. This wine works well with veal, roasts, pork, pizza, pasta in meat sauce, BBQ and antipasto.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Full Court Press

Now that the "Boys of Summer", aka The Minnesota Twins, have packed their bags for another season, it is time to head for the woods with The Minnesota Timberwolves. Terminology changes with each sport and today it is all about the press.

A full-court press is a basketball term that refers to a defensive style in which the defense applies man-to-man or zone defense to pressure the offensive team the entire length of the court before and after the inbound pass. A full-court press takes a great deal of effort, but can be an effective tactic. Often when teams are behind late in a game, they will apply full-court pressure as a means of attempting to produce turnovers as well as tire opponents.

When it comes to wine terminology, press can be used two ways:

n. A device used to squeeze juice from grapes. Of the many types of presses in use today, the basket press, designed to squeeze out as much juice as possible, is one of the earliest. It uses a plate to push down on the grapes in the basket, forcing out juice through small slots. Numerous versions of this press have evolved over time and many are still used today. A bladder press uses an inflatable bladder that forces the grapes against a perforated outer shell through which the juice drains into a container. The most recent generation is the tank press, which uses an airtight tank lined with a membrane that lightly presses the grapes. The tank press is currently thought to be one of the best because the gentle pressure and lack of air exposure produces high-quality juice. press.

v. To extract juice from grapes using one of several various presses. Pressing usually follows crushing and precedes fermentation of white wines, but it follows the fermenting of red wines.

Celebrate the change in seasons and the changes in the sports you watch by enjoying last year's grape harvest, waiting in a bottle for you.