Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ladies Night In Wine Tasting

Three of my favorite things: time with gal pals, hosting parties and indulging in wine. Can you blame me? 

During one of my many times lost on Pinterest, I came across the idea to host a ladies night wine tasting. It was completely casual with sweet neighbor gals (I got lucky in the neighborhood department), chatting over small bites while we sipped some of our favorite wines.

Here’s the low down on my Ladies Night-In Wine Tasting.
I just made a casual facebook invite with the following wording:
"Hi neighbors! I would love to get everyone together to introduce some new faces and enjoy a little ‘ladies night in’ wine tasting fun! Bring your favorite vino and we’ll have a casual tasting contest. Prizes involved and appetizers will be provided. Hope to see all of you as we “wine down” the last days of summer!"

You could be more specific and say “red” or “white” wines only, wines made in your state, etc. – really whatever sounds fun to you! I would suggest keeping the party limited to 10-12 people so there’s enough wine in each bottle for everyone to try a little.

Set Up:
I wanted guests to be able to keep track of their wine glasses (plus it’s fun to have your name on anything) so I bought white cardstock from Michael’s, cut into shapes, wrote each person’s name, punched a hole and used jute string to tie onto the bottom of each wine glasses.
 As guests arrived they put a number card on their bottle (so everyone could keep track of what they were trying). You could also use brown paper sacks and have a “blind” taste testing if you wanted.

Make sure you have a couple bottle openers on hand. Also, fill a cute bucket with ice so you are prepared to keep white wines chilled.

Small Bites: 
I wanted to keep the appetizers simple but also have a variety of options that would pair with different types of wine. 

  • Assorted cheeses (brie, fontina, apple cheddar, pepper cheese ball), 
  • Crackers (great for cleansing the pallet in between wines), pita bread & pretzel thins
  • Salami
  • Olives
  • Hummus
  • Fruits (grapes, strawberries & apples)
  • Bacon-wrapped asparagus (just because) 
  • Chocolate (bite-size brownies and chocolate-covered craisins)

I created a little note sheet so each person could keep track of what they tried, what they liked, what they didn’t, etc. I had every intention of having the ladies vote on which one they liked best (with a prize ready to go) but we ended up chatting the night away and forgot. That was okay by me.

A good time was had by all! What's your favorite thing to do for ladies night? I love hearing new ideas!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pork Fried Quinoa

I am sucker for pork-fried (or chicken-fried) rice from most Chinese restaurants. Is anybody with me here? I had some pork chops on hand and instead of frying them up with some potatoes (which would have been equally as delicious) I decided on a whim to create my own {healthier} version of “fried rice” using protein and vitamin packed quinoa. This dish was a hit and will definitely be making another appearance at the Fry dinner table very soon.

If you prefer chicken, just swap out 2-3 breasts for the pork chops. Increase the cooking time by 3-4 minutes per side (or more depending on the thickness of the chicken).

What You Will Need:
  tbsp oil (canola, vegetable or peanut)
4 boneless thin cut pork chops
1 tsp each salt & pepper
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup carrots, peeled & chopped
½ cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 eggs (optional)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce or sriracha sauce  (optional, but highly recommended)

Step One
Prepare quinoa as listed in the recipe here (leaving out the corn).

Step Two
Heat 1 cup water to a boil in the microwave, remove, drop in peas and drain after a few minutes (don’t heat the peas in the microwave - this takes away the nutrients).

Step Three
Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Season pork chops (or chicken) with salt & pepper. Add to skillet and cook on each side 3-4 minutes (increase for chicken), or until no longer pink inside. Remove and cut into smaller pieces.

Step Four
Heat remaining oil in skillet on medium and sauté the onions & carrots 4-5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Add in garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in peas and pork; cook for an additional minute.

Step Five
Move vegetables around the edge to create a circle in the middle of the skillet. Crack eggs directly into the skillet, letting sit for a minute. Using a spatula, start to break eggs up into smaller pieces until cooked through.

Step Six
Add in quinoa, soy sauce and chili garlic sauce (if using). Mix everything together and heat through on low for a couple minutes.

Serve alongside some edamame or ginger salad for an easy + light meal. Enjoy, y’all!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spinach & Beef Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my all-time favorite dishes, especially during fall. It's hearty. It's cheesy. It's a crowd pleaser. It's calorie free. I WISH. Hey, there is nothing wrong with having one of those "splurge" meals every once in a while, right? Tonight was one of those nights. I had a craving AND I had the ingredients on hand. All signs pointed to Y-E-S.

This recipe also gets bonus points because it cuts down on a couple of the steps by using oven-ready lasagna noodles and jarred tomato sauce. Don't judge! I like making my own sauce, but sometimes you just don't have the time (or the desire). Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think (I bet you won't be able to tell the difference)!

1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles
½ cup sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups raw baby spinach (or ½ pkg frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained)
1 lb ground beef
¼ lb mild sausage (this is not necessary, but does add a nice flavor)
1 jar basil marinara
1½ cups cheddar-mozzarella shredded cheese (or just mozzarella)
1 small container reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
dash of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

Step One
Sauté onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil, 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add in spinach and cook until reduced down.

Step Two
Add beef, sausage, oregano, salt, pepper & red pepper flakes; cook until no longer pink.

Step Three
Drain off most of the fat (leave a little for flavor). Pour in the jarred tomato sauce (saving ¼ cup to the side).

Step Four
(this can be done while meat is cooking) Beat the egg in a mixing bowl. Add in the ricotta, Parmesan & parsley. Mix well.

Step Five
Using a 9 x 13 glass pan, pour the remaining tomato sauce over the bottom. Layer 3-4 noodles (however many fit) across the bottom. Spread ricotta mixture, then later beef mixture and top with some shredded  cheese. Repeat this twice, ending with a little beef mixture on top and a layer of cheese.

Step Six
Cover with foil. Cook for 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 10-15 more minutes (or until a light golden brown).

Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with salad and warm crusty bread for a complete and delicious meal.

Enjoy, y'all!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegetable Soup

It's finally feeling like fall outside so its time to add soup back into the menu rotation! This vegetable soup can be made with any combination of fresh and/or frozen veggies you have on hand. It's also a great excuse to add grilled cheese as a "side dish" to a meal!

4 green onions, sliced
¼ cup white onion, diced (optional - just had this on hand)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 tsp each oregano, basil, salt & pepper
¼ tsp thyme, rosemary, garlic powder & red pepper flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
2 tbsp tomato paste
4-5 cups chicken broth
7-8 cups fresh or frozen vegetables
(pictured below corn, peas, butter beans, okra, potato, carrots, tomatoes and squash)  

Step One

Heat oil large dutch oven on medium high heat. Saute onions, celery and spices for 4-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add in garlic and cook an additional minute.

Step Two

Add broth, diced tomatoes and paste to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Step Three

Add in vegetables, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes (and vegetables are tender).

**You can also make this recipe using the crock pot. Complete step one (in smaller saute pan) and then dump everything into your slow cooker. Cook on high 4 or 6 hours.

Enjoy, y'all! xo --