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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forgive me Followers, for I have sinned. It has been five days since my last blog.

For no particular reason have I been slacking on my blog.  I haven't been particularly busy.  I haven't been ill.  Just lazy.  But I do have loads to discuss.

New Cookbook is full of Questionable Recipes

I have now prepared 4 recipes from this Cookbook and found three successful.  One of the recipes was so bad that Lola the Shar Pei monster wouldn't even eat it.  This recipe was the Fish, Spinach, and Ricotta Cannelloni.  Just the thought of it makes me gag.  After reading the title of this recipe maybe it was my recipe choice that was questionable.  Either way, we threw the whole thing out.

The other three recipes we experienced, the lemon and garlic lamb (will share recipe at bottom of this posting), smoked trout and the pesto potato wedges were good with one tweak:  The potatoes need cooked lower and slower - maybe more like 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  They stuck to the pan horribly.

Date Night Idea

Last Saturday hubby and I were itching for something a little different to do than the usual.  When we saw the local putt putt golf course full of 4th graders and no movies were being shown that we wanted to see, we attempted to do a wine tasting at The Wine Cafe.  The Wine Cafe has North Carolina's first automated wine tasting machine.  So what you do is purchase a little card, like a credit card, from the store clerk.  You then put money on the card (with the attendant) and get yourself a glass.  You put the glass under the wine dispensing device, and press whether you want a taste, a half glass, or a full glass of the particular type of wine.  While this technology is pretty cool, it takes the "experience" out of what I have come to love about a wine tasting.

My first experience with a wine tasting was when I was in college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  My friend Kat and I decided to visit Windgate Vineyard.  My idea of wine before this tasting was extremely limited to whatever bottles someone had bought to slam at IUP homecoming parties.  I never considered the flavor nuances wine can hold.  Or how wine and food can complement each other so well.  I really came to enjoy the education you receive at a wine tasting.  I enjoy everything about a proper wine tasting, the array of wines from white to red, the discussion about each wine, the atmosphere in a vineyard, winery, and wine store, the exchange with the knowledgeable winery employee. So I did not welcome this automated wine tasting experience.  Hubby and I thanked the clerk for her information and promptly left the store.

Still looking for something to do, I directed hubby to The Mash House, a local "brewery and chophouse".  I had been wanting to visit this restaurant and brewery since moving to Fayetteville.  I took my hubby to do a beer tasting of the locally brewed beer.  Hubby isn't much of a wine drinker anyways, so I knew he would appreciate this experience much more than a wine tasting.  We shared a beer tasting platter of nine different beers.  The bartender wasn't swamped and was able to explain the beers we would be tasting and then left us to taste and discuss between ourselves.  This ended up being one of the best dates we have ever shared.  We tasted the beer, talked about what we liked and disliked, compared to beers we had tasted before, and laughed and talked like we don't always take the time to do in our busy, day to day lives.

It felt really good to enjoy some quality time with my husband.  I know, it sounds silly.  We spend each and every day together.  But sitting on the couch watching Drinking Made Easy (will discuss in a later segment) together via DVR in our pajamas doesn't always constitute as quality time.  Sure, we can spend time together and enjoy each other anywhere and at any time.  But at least for me, when we're at home on the couch, my mind is on other things.  The laundry in the dryer, the dishes in the sink/dishwasher, the dog needs out, I need to run the sweeper (aka vacuum - Pittsburghese can comprise a blog post in and of itself), I should shave my legs, did I remember to put away those socks?  So going on a proper date every once in a while and letting your hair down is extremely important in any relationship.  If a beer or wine tasting isn't to your taste, sometimes a nice walk does well.  Although alcohol helps to loosen up any discussion, as long as you don't drink too much and end up fighting about something stupid.  I highly recommend a date at your local brewery or winery.  No boyfriend/girlfriend???  No problem!  Go with your friends for a different drinking experience!

Drinking Made Easy

If you haven't yet tuned in to Drinking Made Easy on HDNet Wednesday nights at 8:00pm you definitely need to set your DVR to record all episodes immediately.  Essentially the stars of this show, Zane Lamprey, Steve McKenna, and Marc Ryan travel the country and try local booze and food while visiting cool local bars, breweries, restaurants, and distilleries.  I admit I'm totally jealous and would die for their job.  But they are super entertaining.  Learning about the different cocktails, brews, and spirits is really interesting to this foodie.

Also, if you're feeling a little adventurous, you can play the Drinking Made Easy game while you watch the episodes.  Rules can be found at their website and if you dig the show you should definitely try this once or twice!  Hubby and I did this on Friday night of last week and thoroughly enjoyed our time making each other drink and laughing at the funny tactics of the guys on the show!  Tune in!

Lemon and Garlic Lamb

2 lbs lamb (I used center cut leg of lamb I cut apart into lean pieces)
1/2 shallot
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup beef stock
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons dry white wine

Trim fat from lamb and cut into manageable pieces, discarding any bone.  Heat olive oil in large pan to medium heat.  Brown lamb on all sides and remove from pan.  Add shallot to oil and cook till tender, about 5 minutes, scraping bottom of pan occasionally to loosen browned bits.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Stir in paprika and heat through.  Return lamb and any juices to the pan.  Stir in lemon juice, beef stock, and fresh thyme.  Cover tightly and cook, stirring occasionally for 50-60 minutes.  10 minutes before lifting from heat, add 3 tablespoons of dry white wine.  Serve over 4 cups brown rice. 

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