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!