Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting the Bubbly ready for New Years

Do you have the bottles ready to pop for New Years? What kind of bubbly will you be serving? Champagne? Sparkling wine? Cava? Prosecco?
Do I have you confused yet with all these names? :)

There is a difference between all the names mentioned. Many call all bubbly wine "champagne." But after this post, you'll know most of the time it is "sparkling wine."

Champagne is technically only from the region of Champagne in France. Only bubbly wine that follows the regulations of making champagne may label their bottles as Champagne. Champagne follows the remuage process in which the bottles are placed downward and slowly rotated. A very long process.

Korbel began to make sparkling wine before champagne was legally protected. Therefore, you'll see champagne on their bottles, but it must appear next to California.

Sparkling wine comes from the 'New World' region. New World is referred to the countries that make wine outside of the traditional Europe. New World includes the United States, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada. Sparkling wine is what is mostly found at grocery stores.

Cava comes from Spain and Prosecco comes from Italy. More information on these later.

I happen to have a bottle of Champagne that I've been saving for a special occasion. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hard Candy Ornaments

Anyone who is into preparing food has probably seen cooking shows on the Food Network. A while back I was watching a holiday special with the Neelys. They made ornaments using hard candy such as jolly ranchers that made the ornaments look like stained glass. This year I thought, what candy can I use to make them look more festive?
I used peppermints.

Things you will need:
hard candy
metal cookie cutters
small cake decorating tip (I used tip #12)
parchment paper
cooking spray

Spray cookie cutters with cooking spray to avoid candy getting stuck to the cutter later. Place cookie cutters on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put hard candy in the cutters. I also crushed some candies to stick in the slim areas of the cookie cutter. Place decorating tip where you would like to put string through the ornament.

Place in the oven heated at 325 degrees. Mine took about 3 minutes to melt. You may want to watch yours for 3 to 5 minutes.
This is what they look like right out of the oven...

Once you can touch the ornament without feeling too hot (about one minute), carefully remove the cookie cutter and decorating tip. I then dabbed the ornament with a napkin to remove any excess cooking spray.
Then you can string the ornament and place on your tree, or eat it. :)

The Neely's recipe:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peppermint Meringues

Looking for another excuse to use that red food coloring from the Christmas Pinwheel Cookies? I have a recipe from the bon app├ętit magazine in the December 2011 issue that calls for red food coloring. These immediately caught my attention as they are pictured in the cover. It also has peppermint extract to go great with the holiday season. They taste like a candy cane, but without that stickiness that comes with eating it. It's like light fluffy cookie with peppermint flavor. I'm adding this one to my cookie plate this Christmas.
Recipe says it makes about 60 meringues; I had about 40 meringues.
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powder sugar
1/8 tsp. peppermint extract
12 drops red food coloring

Pastry bag and 1/2" tip or plastic freezer bag with 1/2" corner cut off

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about 1 minute.
With mixer running, add granulated sugar in 3 parts and mixing for 2 minutes between each part. Beat until peaks form, about 2 minutes longer.
Add powder sugar and peppermint extract; beat to blend, about 1 minute.
Drop red coloring dots on the meringue. Do not stir!
Spoon meringue into your bag; twist the top and pipe 1" rounds onto your sheet. The food coloring will color the meringue as you pipe.

Bake meringues for about 2 1/2 hours, until they dry completely. They will loose their shiny look. Cool for one hour and enjoy!

Note: Once I piped a few round drops of the meringue, I got adventurous and piped candy cane shapes. I also piped hearts and used a toothpick to form the top of the heart. These would also be great for Valentine's Day. Maybe add strawberry extract instead? Raspberry extract? Yummy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cozy Ramos Torres Tasting Room

As mentioned before, one great thing of living in the San Joaquin Valley is being surrounded by wineries. Many of these wineries have a "close-knit" feel to them unlike some wineries found in other areas. It is no surprise when the wine makers grew up in the area. Ramos Torres Winery is an example of just that. The owner and wine maker, Oscar F. Ramos is a Kingsburg native and Fresno State alumni. He selects quality grapes from throughout California to produce a premium wine. In 2008 he opened the tasting room located in Kingsburg.

I had the opportunity last weekend to visit their tasting room. It is a cozy place with a wood burning fireplace and art available for purchase. There are tables with high chairs to sit down and chat over a glass of wine. A large chalkboard is located behind the counter with the week's featured wines on the tasting menu, the wine vocabulary word, and current promotions.
The wines available for tasting during my visit were:

2008 Generations (60% Alicante Bouschet, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon)
2009 GMS (40% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah)
2009 Syrah (100% Syrah)
2009 Tempranillo (95% Tempranillo, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
2010 Vino Blanco (100% Chardonnay)

My two favorites are Generations and Tempranillo. It's difficult to decide on one favorite. I liked Generations because it reminded me of eating a razzleberry pie; I'm a berries kind of girl. :) It is described to have "some nice cola aromas, ripe berries, a wonderful clean nose and some underlying hints of lavender. Tannins are chewy and are beginning to balance friendly wine."

Tempranillo was smooth and somewhat complex. It is the kind of wine that I want to keep tasting and swishing in my mouth to find all the hidden flavors. It is described to have "aromas of currant, blackberries...round and full mouth feel that finishes with a clean taste."

Tasting is only $4 and you are given crackers with each tasting. Their crackers were also yummy! The ones I received had a cheese grated and baked with the cracker.

Tasting Room:

1665 Simpson St.
Kingsburg, CA 93631
(559) 419-9159
Friday 2pm -7pm Saturday & Sunday 12pm- 5pm

I'd recommend visiting their tasting room! All their wines are great, just check out their facebook page and see what people have to say. They also post their upcoming events on their webpage. Their next event is the "Holiday Winemaker's Dinner" on Friday, December 16th at 6pm with live music, wine and a fabulous meal. They will be hosting the dinner in their new winery facility located just behind the tasting room. I heard it looks great. :) Cost is $50 per person, and must be paid in advance by Friday, December 9th. To reserve your spot call the tasting room or Ranetta Brown (559) 364-6793.

For more information visit their website.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Pinwheel Cookies

Christmas will soon be here so it's time to start thinking what cookies to bake for those cookie exchanges, parties and family gatherings. For the last two years I have given a cookie plate to close friends and family I see for Christmas. I like to include a variety of flavors for those that like things sweet, chocolaty, vanilla like, fruity or sour. To make the cookie plate look festive I also try to choose cookies that have color. I saw this cookie in several sites and thought it would be perfect to add color to any cookie plate.
Christmas Pinwheel Cookies are two sugar cookie doughs rolled up together to form a swirl of color. Think of it like rolling a sushi roll or a sponge roll. You can also change the colors and sprinkles for different special occasions and holidays.
Sugar Cookie Mix
1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
1 stick of butter
1 egg
(or use your own sugar cookie recipe)
red food gel color

Mix sugar cookie mix with flour. Add butter and egg to mix. Once thoroughly mix, remove half of the batter. Add food coloring to batter still in bowl and mix until all batter turns red.
Roll each batter into same size rectangles on parchment paper. Place each on separate baking sheets and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Place dough on top of each other and roll tight from the longer side. (I trimmed any excess to form a rectangle before rolling.) Spray roll with water.
Place sprinkles on a baking sheet. You can also shake the pan so that they all spread evenly.
Roll dough on sprinkles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or freeze up to 2 months.
Remove from refrigerator and cut roll 1/4 inch slices. Place cookie slices on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy the yummy colorful cookies!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving! Anyone have any good desserts? I've always wanted to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake, so this Thanksgiving I made it! I looked through several recipes and combined them to come up with an easy and yummy recipe. The crust is made with ginger snap cookies to balance the flavors with the pumpkin. It was delicious, not too sweet so that you can add whipped cream as a topping.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 cups ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
6 tablespoons of melted butter

3 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
15 oz pumpkin puree
1 cup whipped cream
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Mix crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of springform pan.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3. Beat in low speed cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Mix in pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices. Add one egg at a time. Pour into crust.
4. Bake for 1 hour, turn off oven and keep pan in oven for an additional hour. Remove pan from oven and let it cool. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.
5. Enjoy!!!
Tips: Place pan in a water bath for better results. Cover bottom of pan with aluminum foil. Put the pan in a larger pan filled with water. The water should reach about half way up the springform pan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wine Delicious as a Cupcake

Last weekend I took a trip to Costco, which is known for price discounts on bulk products. Well, wine at Costco comes in a single bottle and with a discount! The Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay and Red Velvet are available at our Costco for under $7.00. I have seen them at other stores for about $10 regular price and about $8 on sale.

The Cupcake Vineyards caught my attention the first time I saw their name. Cupcake...cupcakes are delicious! And then wine...great combination! Their slogan is something I like to follow, "Live Deliciously." They carry a variety of wines including 5 whites, 7 reds and 2 sparkling wines. My goal, to try them all!

The wine with the most cupcake-like name is the Red Velvet. What a great idea to name wine Red Velvet! The wine is a red, in case you didn't assume by the name, a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. I tasted cherry, chocolate and dark fruit flavors. It had a subtle sweetness, so subtle that I wouldn't classify it as a sweet wine.

I had red velvet cake at my house. So I thought, I've got Red Velvet wine and red velvet cake; why not have them together? Oh my, the wine just got better! The flavors of the two collided in my mouth and tasted AWESOME! I highly recommend this wine next time you're having a piece of red velvet cake.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Jelly time...

November is not only Pomegranate month; it is also Peanut Butter Lover's Month. It's Peanut Butter Jelly time...

All of the Peanut Butter Lovers out there, read on because you'll want to try this Peanut Butter Jelly Pie.

Graham Pie Crust
1 (8oz) cream cheese package
1 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 Cool Whip container
Peanuts (optional)
Mix peanut butter and cream cheese until fully incorporated. Add powder sugar and mix. Add vanilla, then cool whip. Once mixed well, pour half of the contents into the crust. Smooth the top. Spread the jam of your choice. I used strawberry preserves but you may also use raspberry jam, blackberry jam, whatever you like in you peanut butter jelly sandwich. Carefully spread the rest of the peanut butter mixture to not blend the jelly into the pie. Finish by topping the pie with peanuts. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight until firm. When the wait is over, cut a piece and enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sweet Madonna Inn

This weekend I attended an event at the historic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. This place has so much to see. Even the men's restroom is popular with its waterfall like area. (I wont get into specifics, but you can imagine.) Many of its decorations are pink, Mrs. Madonna's favorite color. Madonna Inn has 110 rooms each decorated to a unique theme. During your stay you can shower under a waterfall in your room. If you are driving by San Luis Obispo, I'd highly recommend to stop by to look around, have dinner or have a piece of their famous cakes!

At the event this weekend, we had the Pink Champagne cake. It is white cake filled with Bavarian cream, covered with whipped cream and topped with lots of pink chocolate curls. The filling goes so well with the cake. It melts and blends in your mouth as you take every bite. It is no surprise why this cake is their most popular cake.

The Madonna Inn Bakery sells a variety of cookies, cream and fruit pies, cakes, cupcakes and chocolates. Cakes are what they sell most, so many as 50 cakes per day!
Check their website for prices and their variety of sweet goods available.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrating the Pomegranate in the Central Valley

November is Pomegranate month!

To celebrate the pomegranate, the Madera Chamber of Commerce held its first annual Pomegranate Festival and Celebration. It was a weeklong of events to celebrate the pomegranate in the valley, including a kick off run, evening dinners and a festival.

To take part in the celebration, I attended the Pomegranate Festival last Saturday at Appellation California. Over 1,000 people attended the festival to enjoy pomegranate infused meals, juice drinks, honey, and of course, wine! Families, don't be discouraged to attend next year, this was also a family event. Children could enjoy coloring, dancing, games, and a large sling shot to throw pomegranates at a target. What kid doesn't like playing with a sling shot?

The infused food I enjoyed the most was You Sweet Thing Pomegranate Wine Jelly with Twin Pomegranate Wine. It was sweet and delicious like Twin Pomegranate Sweetie wine. Unlike other infused foods, there was no searching for pomegranate flavor. As soon as you took your first bite of the cracker with the jelly, full pomegranate flavor and full wine flavor. Yummy!

Twin Pomegranates Wine was also present at the festival with the Sweetie and Sparkling Wine available for tasting. The Sweetie wine is their recent released wine. It is not as sweet as other dessert wines but "semi-sweet" and "slightly tart" like a pomegranate. Forget picking at a pomegranate for its seeds, drink a glass of Sweetie wine and you've got the pomegranate taste you are looking the good feeling you get from wine. :)

A new pomegranate wine to taste at Appellation California is the Pomegranate Sangria. It is so new; they are still making it right now. They are yet unsure where they will carry it other than at Appellation California. The sangria is fruity; it is like pomegranate seeds juice plus some sugar to avoid the tart flavor. This would be great to go along with thanksgiving desserts.

Great job to the Madera Chamber of Commerce and all sponsors in executing a fantastic 1st annual Pomegranate Festival and Celebration!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Candy Overload Cookies

Did you have less trick or treaters than expected? Did your children come back with too much candy? Or did you get overly excited with the Halloween candy at the store's clearance racks?

I've got a solution to this candy overload. Make cookies!

You've seen M&M cookies, so why not Kit-Kat cookies? Reese's cookies? Whopper cookies? Maybe Kit-Kat, Reese's, M&Ms and Whoppers in one cookie!

Just follow this recipe then add any candy of your choice.

Cookie recipe modified from Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
candy of your choice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put butter, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Paddle at medium speed until ingredients come together.
  3. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour and mix until thoroughly integrated.
  4. Chop the candy that will be used for the cookies and mix into batter.
  5. Spoon batter into baking trays covered with parchment paper.
  6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

I used Whoppers, Reese’s, chocolate M&Ms and peanut butter M&Ms. I also placed some batter in a separate bowl before adding all the candy to make different cookies.

Whopper cookies, Whopper and M&M’s cookies, Reese’s cookies, Reese’s and peanut butter M&Ms cookies.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dirty Halloween Cupcakes

What comes to mind when you think about Halloween? Candy, costumes, pumpkin carving, creepy creatures...

For my work's Halloween party, I signed up to take dessert. Surprised? Chocolate is popular at work so I made chocolate cupcakes. To give them a Halloween twist, I used chocolate "dirt" and creepy worms for decoration.

What's your favorite Halloween treat?

Worms and dirt cupcakes:

chocolate cupcakes


chocolate cookies

gummy worms

Bake chocolate cupcakes according to directions and wait for them to cool before decorating. (If you don't, the icing will melt) Then ice the cupcakes with the frosting of your choice.

Finely chop chocolate cookies (I used chocolate Oreos.) to be used as dirt. Spread cookie crumbs on frosted cupcake. Then place a gummy worm on top.

You're done! It is an easy idea to dress up your Halloween cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taking a sip...or gulp of the San Joaquin Valley

Last weekend I attended my favorite wine event by the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association, the Fall Wine Cornucopia at Chukchansi Park, Fresno. It's the closest wine event to home and at a reasonable price.

As you enter the park, you are given a glass to roam free in wine playground. With over 25 wineries present, and unlimited servings, where to begin? I begin tasting the white wines as I've seen in other events. In between your tasting, there are restaurants giving food samples, great to slow down the effects of alcohol. :) While sipping your wine, you can view local artists work of images of the valley, wine production and nature.

Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where they are stomping on grapes? Well, you can do a reenactment of the scene at the event. Large tubs are available for you to stomp on grapes and a kiddy pool to rinse your feet and get back to the drinking...I mean, tasting, of course.

The winery employees present are all knowledgeable on their wines. If you like their wines, you may sign up for their newsletters or take brochures describing their great wines so you can purchase them at a later time. Also, as you leave the park some wines are available for purchase.

Our all around favorite is the Quady Winery, which specializes in dessert wines. They offer an excellent Orange Muscat, Electra, refreshing and great for a summer gathering. For more information check out their Facebook page or website.

Hopefully I've encouraged you to attend next year's event on Saturday, October 27, 2012. Mark your calendars!

Monday, October 24, 2011


It’s National Dessert month, and it was my birthday yesterday. I’m starting a new year with a blog sharing my sweet encounters with desserts and wine. My favs!

On Sweet Sundays, I will post dessert recipes that I try, and come with delicious results. Maybe it will become an addition to your recipe collection! When I visit sweet shops, I’ll review the desserts I taste and give you the 411. You’ll get to see the behind the scenes and how-to’s on some of the custom sweets I create. This is a special treat for my blog followers and not seen on my facebook page. :)

I also enjoy tasting new wines. I am a beginner when it comes to wine and wish to become knowledgeable on the subject. Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month will be Wine Wednesday. You’ll join me as I travel the road to understanding the complexity of wine. I will share information on wine tasting events, wineries and trying new wines. Fortunately, I live in the San Joaquin Valley which is surrounded by many vineyards. I travel to the central coast throughout the year, giving me the perfect chance to visit vineyards and try wines from the central coast!

I hope I’ve peeked your interest!

See you Wednesday for an overview of Fresno's Fall Wine Cornucopia...