Friday, May 25, 2012

UnWINE towards the Guinness World Record

While living in the San Joaquin Valley, I have become aware of the valley's impact in the wine industry. This is something people outside of the central valley are not aware of. When I speak to friends about wine regions, they don't mention the Fresno area. I usually hear Paso Robles, Santa Rosa and Napa. I hope Fresno State has helped increase the awareness of the San Joaquin Valley wine industry through their past event.
On May 4th, I participated in "UnWINEd Central California" at Appellation: California put on by Fresno State marketing students. The students have attempted to break several Guinness World Records throughout the semester. This time the attempt was to break the world record for most people uncorking wine at the same time within 30 seconds.
As you arrived at Appellation: California, a tent was set up to buy a Fresno State wine for $10. Then you walked into an enclosed area where students counted people and handed out wine bottle openers. We were instructed to only remove the foil from the bottle and not insert the bottle opener into the cork. We had 30 seconds, time between two horns being blown, to uncork the bottle.

 We broke the record! 415 people attended the event (previous record of 308).
As you left the enclosed area, they handed out wine bottle stoppers. Perfect! I didn't have to finish my bottle before I left the event. There were wineries from the Madera Wine Trail and surrounding area giving free tastings; including some of my favorites, Quady Winery, San Joaquin Wines and Twin Pomegranate Wines. I inserted the stopper into my wine and had some tastings while listening to the live band. (Appellation: California has live bands every Friday during the summer.)
Also at the event was laranis airbrush tattoos. They offered several stencil wine inspired designs for a donation.
Well, what do women do when they've had a few glasses of wine...get an airbrushed wine tattoo! This is as close I'd get to a tattoo. :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sponge Cake for your Diet

The temperature is heating up in California and ladies are getting bikini ready for the summer. If you are putting yourself on a diet you may be inclined to not eat desert after your meal. But there are options with lower calories than regular sweets. For example, I made a sponge cake using no oil or butter. Doesn't that sound healthy already?

This sponge cake uses boiling water to replace the butter or oil in a traditional recipe. Since you are leaving the butter or oil out, you may feel less guilty dressing it up with strawberries and whip cream. :)
Sponge Cake with no Oil or Butter
recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
1 tbs fresh lemon or orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Beat egg yolks at medium speed until thickened. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat 3 minutes longer. Beat in water, orange or lemon zest, orange or lemon juice and vanilla extract.

At low speed gradually beat in the sifted ingredients.
Using clean beaters in a medium bowl, beat egg whites adding cream of tartar until soft but not dry.
Fold one quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
I cut small round cakes, top them with strawberry slides, whipped cream and top with another cake.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chewy Lemon Cookies

I've been receiving lemons from several friends lately. The lemon farmers must be doing great. Lemon desserts are one of my favorite types. The lemons give a freshness taste to the dessert.

I made chewy lemon cookies from a recipe from a fellow blogger. These cookies are covered in powder sugar once they are out of the oven. I tried one without the powder sugar, and one after to taste the difference. The powder sugar makes it better. If you like your lemonade sweet, don't skip the powder sugar.

Chewy Lemon Snowdrops
(makes about 24)
1 3/4 all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
zest of 2 lemons
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lemon juice
about 1 cup powder sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Set aside.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter, lemon juice, zest and honey until smooth.

Combine lemon juice and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, add lemon juice and flour mixture. Scrape down sides and mix with a spatula to make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Roll cookie dough into 1 inch diameter and bake 10-15 minutes. (Mine were done in 12) Let cool for a few minutes and toss into powder sugar while cookies are still warm. The powder sugar seems to stick to the cookies better while they are warm.

And enjoy some fresh chewy lemon cookies!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Unwind at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards

Like many, my brother and I visited our parents over the Easter weekend. Have I mentioned that I grew up in the central coast? I moved from one wine country to another (San Joaquin Valley). When we visit our hometown, I nag at my brother early Saturday morning so we have time to stop at a winery in the Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo or Santa Maria area. Someday I'd like to visit them all.

During this visit to the central coast, we stopped at a winery on our way back to the valley. I quickly researched beforehand to figure out which were open on Easter. After reading reviews and their hours, I decided on Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards. The apple wines caught my attention.

This is a family owned vineyard, which started as a retirement project for Dick and Dolores Kelsey. It has now become a full time business for the family. Their children and grandchildren are involved from growing the grapes to managing the winery.

The winery is located near Avila Beach towards the hills. We followed the signs and a road with many turns to arrive at our destination.

Somehow during reading the reviews, I missed that they have peacocks on their property! They have about 100 peacocks on the property and have been at this location for about 30 years. They seemed not to be afraid of people and got very close. Maybe they wanted me to feed them. The winery has peacock food pouches you may purchase for $2 to feed the peacocks.

They were modeling for the camera!

Enough about the beautiful peacocks and back to the wine...

We had the tasting of six wines of our choice from the wine list. I'll tell you about the apple wines. The apples in the wine are local from See Canyon. The wines are apple cider blended with a wine variety. The apple cider is subtle so it's not your apple cider you'd drink at Thanksgiving as a child. Avila Springs is just down the road; these would be perfect to drink while relaxing in the springs.

The "Red Delicious" is labeled as the Hot Tub Wine. I thought it was for the springs near by. Then I read the back of the label...


Wine Description from the Wine List...
2010 "Red Delicious" A nice relaxing blend of See Canyon Cider and Zinfandel that goes just as well on a warm summer night in the hot tub as it does with a happy BBQ with the family.

2010 "Golden Delicious" A unique fruit wine featuring a 50/50 blend of See Canyon Apples and Chardonnay grapes, this is a great wine equally for a hot summer day, or a nice spicy dish.

Make sure to check them out if you are looking for a place to relax, sip some wine, and enjoy the central coast weather.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Many families get together on Easter to decorate eggs. Once decorated, they hide the eggs and have the children find them. But once you place them on the dirt, I'm not too sure I'd like to eat them. I have another idea to get everyone together, decorate, and eat your creation!

These are Easter baskets made from cupcakes. Easy, and you may involve all of your family members.

These are the supplies you'll need:
Edible Easter Grass
Candy eggs
Candy bunnies, chicks, ducks
Sour Punch Straws
First, bake cupcakes and let them cool. Once they are cool frost them with your frosting of choice. I made some vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting.

Cut Edible Easter grass and place on top of cupcakes.

Add the Sour Punch Straws as the basket handles.

Add Easter egg candies and your basket topper candies.

Kids can have fun putting these cupcakes together and followed by the favorite part, eat them!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Discovering the Malbec from Argentina

Everyone I have met from Argentina is wonderful. They have been easy going, friendly and with a hunger for adventure. I don't know if all Argentineans are the same, but those that I have met are pretty awesome. :)
For my next wine tasting, I tried the best variety from Argentina, the Malbec from the Mendoza region. The Malbec originated from France and was later given to Argentina as the "best wine grape." The French did not want to hand over their successful grapes and lied to Argentina by giving them a grape that didn't do so well. To the French's surprise, the Malbec did great in Argentina. The Mendoza region has better climate, altitude and soil for the Malbec grape.

As I sipped my wine, I imagined drinking aside other Argentineans at the Vendimia Festival. It occurs every March in the Mendoza region. The bodegas (wineries) host various events and wine tastings for the festival, Malbec everywhere you go! The festival is rated number two on National Geographic's
Top 10 Harvest Festivals. (I'm adding it to my bucket list ;) )

My expectation of the Malbec was for it to be great like the Argentineans I've met! This wine was pretty close, after all, these Argentineans are awesome...

Vineyard: Bodega Norton
Year: 2008
Variety: Malbec
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Purchases at: BevMo $16.99
91 pts Wilfred Wong
About Bodega Norton...founded in 1895 by Edmund James Palmer Norton with vines imported from France. They now have five vineyards spread throughout the Mendoza region with vines of an average 30 years.

Tasting Notes: Deeply red with violet hues. Aromas of ripe red fruits, cassis and pepper. Sweet on the palate, friendly tannins with spicy flavours. Very good persistence.

My experience:
I agree with the tasting notes! I smelled the French oak barrels in which the wine was aged. I was eating food with a spicy sauce, and after drinking the wine, my spicy taste buds went for a wild ride. It made the spicy flavors bolder and stood out in my food. It can be compared to the sense of adventure my Argentinean frieds have.

Just like the wine color, I smelled and could also taste dark red fruits such as plum, sweet grape, and some blackberries. Overall, this wine is easy to drink for those looking for a red wine with a full body.
If interested in purchasing this wine at BevMo, it is part of their 5 cent wine sale. The sale ends this Monday, March 26th!!

Sommelier Adolfo Munoz

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are thought to be healthy breakfast treats because they include oats. They are so easily turned into unhealthy just by adding another ingredient.

When you think of breakfast, and greasy, does bacon come to mind? Well, bacon is added to these Bacon, Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies. This is not your average sweet oatmeal cookie. The bacon adds a little saltiness and smoky flavor, which pairs great with a cup of coffee.

recipe from bon appetite
8 oz sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 inch squares
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup raisins

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat sugars and butter in a large bowl, occasionally scrapping down sides, until well blended, 2-3 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.

Mix in dry ingredients.

Fold bacon, oats, and raisins into batter and stir until evenly incorporated.

Chill for about 15 minutes so the batter isn't as sticky. Using a cookie scoop, form dough into balls and place on prepared sheets spaced at least 3" apart. Chill dough for 1 hour or cover and chill overnight. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375 degrees.

Bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are light golden brown and centers are still slightly soft. (The instructions say 20-22 minutes, but with my oven, 19 minutes was too much.) Let cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.