Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sage and Rosemary Shrimp and an Italian White

Momma was asked for suggestions for white wines regarding summer food recipes .

Momma Explains: Many summer chefs have limited knowledge concerning the varied possibilities involving white wines especially the offerings from Italy or Spain, since most people only look for reds from these regions. Italy and Spain both offer unique varietals and I hope you will leave your comfort zone and try them. Remember to read any information either at the store or on the wine label which would indicate possible meal accompaniments or flavors that the wine offers. I found a delightful Italian white, Campo Al Mare, Vermentino Di Toscana 2006, which makes a perfect enhancement for my simple but delicious, Sage and Rosemary Shrimp. You may serve the shrimp over pasta or as an hors d'oeuvre. If you do serve it over pasta make sure you prepare enough shrimp in rosemary and butter to properly coat the pasta. ( Only al dente pasta will do )

Momma's Shrimp with Sage and Rosemary: Melt 1/4 pound butter, or one stick of butter and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in large fry pan. Do this on a medium temperature then stir together as butter melts, add two minced cloves of garlic and one pound of shelled and deveined shrimp. Sprinkle the cleaned shrimp with some sea salt and pepper to taste. The shrimp is best fresh but if you use already cooked you MUST shorten your cooking time or the shrimp will be tough. As the shrimp turns pink, flip over and add about one tablespoon of roughly chopped sage and one small sprig of Rosemary. Rosemary is a strong herb so you do not want it to overpower the dish. As soon as the flipped side of the shrimp is pink, then the shrimp is done. Remove the Rosemary sprig and discard, squeeze one lemon wedge into mixture and stir, turn off heat. Check and make sure your shrimp is pink on both sides. This literally cooks in minutes so don't go putting on a load of wash while this simmers. Toss your shrimp, oil & butter dish so all shrimp have been coated with the varied elements. You can just gently stir with a big spoon too. Now you are ready to pour your chilled wine, which has been sitting out after refrigeration for awhile. Remember, whites are not served directly from the fridge but they are served chilled. Grab a big loaf of crusty bread and enjoy !
If you will be serving this with pasta, make sure you start the pasta BEFORE the shrimp as the pasta will need to be ready at the same time. I usually double the shrimp recipe for one pound of pasta. Garnish the dish with extra lemon wedges and some sprigs of Rosemary for those who want a more pungent mouthful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Children at a Funeral

Momma knows that at sometime we all must deal with the passing of a loved one. How do we handle the whole funeral setting with children?

Momma Explains: When I was nine, my dearest grandmother died and I was devastated. I did not really understand death nor its ramifications but I knew I loved her desperately and wanted her back. My parents, in an effort to shield the children, did not allow us to attend the wake nor the mass and burial. To this day, I still wish that I had attended. I needed to be allowed to mourn.
Not every child can handle the images and experiences of a wake and/ or funeral service. The viewing is far more difficult for a child and you must reflect on each child's maturity when deciding on their presence at the wake. Some children want to be part of this mourning process, while others stay as far from the casket and mourners as possible. You and your child should think that out and decide. Now, while the wake or viewing is an individual decision, I believe that the service part of the funeral should be a family affair. As a family we support and participate in family life together, and death is a part of the life process. Children need to learn that we have a process to death and a way to provide comfort to ourselves and others. Children need to mourn and be loved during a loss, they should not be shut out. Talking things out with your children will provide them with an opportunity to share their feelings and concerns. Often young children are frightened that their parents will die soon too, or that they themselves will die. There are good books available to help you approach the topic and I would have one available for the sad time when you need it. Do not forget the children as the adults organize and collate the funeral service. Let the children help make the scrap book or collage, if they wish. Let the support, the prayer and love embrace all ages as you mourn. Death is a part of life and we need to be parents that bring their children full circle in life's experiences so they are prepared for all that they will face in life and in death.

Youth give me Inspiration

Momma was asked to help a friend's daughter who had car trouble after driving about 800 miles. Momma expected to find a very frustrated and depressed young lady but that was not the case.

Momma Explains: Cross country trips can be daunting, but for the young recent college graduate, who have limited funds and unlimited energy, it is an adventure. A young lady, I know came east to attend a wedding and drove the long trip alone, happy to be a part of her friends joy. Once near her destination her car ( which she has only owned for less than 6 months) began to experience gear malfunction and transmission problems. She did not panic but went on to the wedding and then after the festivities called her parents for guidance. Her parents, of course are about 700 miles away. They asked some questions and decided to call the local road side assistance and then dialed me to see if I could give her some advice. I drove over to where she was diligently and patiently waiting for her tow truck, it took about an hour. Here she was, just having driven hundreds of miles, attended a wedding dressed in a beautiful yellow dress and sitting serenely waiting for help. When the mechanic did a quick observation, he indicated she probably had transmission problems which would be expensive to repair and also that she would not be able to return to the mid-west until the repairs were completed. To further complicate and exasperate the story the young lady had just landed a job and was expected to start immediately. At this point I was ready to pull out my hankie and start wondering what the heck this poor kid was to do, the little rise of panic was setting in for me. Luckily, this girl was made of better stuff, she was made of faith and spirit. She called her dad to explain the situation and when he asked her what she would do she replied' Well, I guess I will pray about it and let the Lord take it from there." WOW, talk about having her head on straight and more importantly her incredible belief that God will somehow manage to unburden us when we need it. In all situations, good and bad, the Lord is there for those who ask. Kelly thanked me for my help but it is I who owe her. She reaffirmed my belief in the wonderful youth who are coming of age, she reminded me that God can do ALL things, she redirected my thoughts to a bigger picture and outcome and most of all she made me smile to see her sitting in her lovely yellow dress just happy to be a part of this glorious gift we have been given, called LIFE. Thank you Kelly, get home safely.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cherry Raspberry Reduction Sauce

Momma had a great conversation with Cynthia from the Bottle Shop of Spring Lake. What did we discuss?

See full size image

Momma Explains: Why, we discussed wine and food pairing and our own personal preferences that make our cooking unique.
The Bottle Shop ( bottleshop.com) is one of my favorite wine stores, it offers a distinctive array of wines and spirits as well as a warm and friendly atmosphere. Each of the Murray clan are knowledgeable and helpful and make the entire wine buying experience a joy. I always learn some new wine tidbit, taste a superb cheese or catch a great buy from the many advantageous sales available.
Recently I tried Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac, Syrah-Grenache , Recolte 2007. This gem just danced when combined with my cherry-raspberry reduction sauce. You can pour this sauce over either pork or chicken. I chose pork.
Mommas Cherry -Raspberry Reduction Sauce
Chop 2 shallots and simmer in one stick of butter till softened, add 1 cup chicken stock, add salt and pepper to taste, add about a tablespoon of fresh thyme if available. If you do not have fresh thyme just skip it, dried will not do, and let mixture simmer. Mixture should have a nice flavor so a pinch of salt is not enough but add to your salt preference.
In another pot add one cup of the Syrah-Grenache, 2 cups pitted cherries (sweetened canned are fine), one small package of frozen raspberries ( about 10 oz. )and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir while cooking and reduce till syrup like, this will take at least 20 minutes so start the cherry sauce first . After it is thickened then combine with the chicken stock mixture. While the syrup is reducing fry your pork chops or thin chicken cutlets. Now, either add your cooked chicken or pork to the sauce and let simmer about 7 minutes or so. Do not let it burn.
I use thin pork chops, batter dip and fry in olive oil first. They cook very quickly but use a meat thermometer if you prefer. The cherry flavor in this wine explodes when accompanied by the reduction sauce. I would get two bottles of this Domaine Notre Dame, it is so good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

College Kids Return Home

Momma spoke with many other parents who have College students now returning home. What was an anticipated reunion has become an INVASION !

Momma Explains:
Before our children left for college we diligently loaded them up with new supplies necessary for their survival in the academic circus and dorm jungle. From aspirin to sheets, small refrigerators to popcorn cases, we shopped it all. We sent then off fully armed to face LIFE ON THEIR OWN. What we forgot is that they would be returning with ALL their newly acquired paraphernalia and any other items they managed to salvage during their stay at school. These items now are scattered, literally, through out the house. Hampers, Boxes, Microwaves, Clothes, Bedding, Books ( yes they did actually purchase some) , a multitude of stuff including the moldy refrigerator that must now only be used for the benefit of science. This collection has managed to invade hallways, garages, rooms, kitchens and any unused crevice available. It is the clutter of chaos decorative theme, and you must now navigate normalcy out of this. Short of torching it all in a big pork roast for the neighborhood, I really think each parent should be provided a SANITY SHED from the college. After all, those schools are charging quite a sum to house and educate the child, they do not provide the extemporaneous necessities so we do, but for goodness sakes, let them house them in a school provided SHED. What a great way to stimulate the economy, we need SHED makers, and SHED shippers, we could rent the SHEDS for a nominal fee. This is SHED housing, right on campus. Then, when the student returns to school all the mold, germs, and articles will have been safely housed at their school. Okay, now what parents are going to support this idea, lets get the economy off to a great start. SHED-mania for our sanity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wine Serving Temperature

Momma was asked what someone should do with wine that they had put on the kitchen counter in bright sunlight, it had sat there for a long time.
Momma Explains: Take that wine and go christen a boat, you do not want to be drinking that !

Wine is a fairly complex potion and it is affected by sunlight, heat, low and high temperatures plus many other internal and external components. Each grape, each wine is best served at a temperature which will enhance not mask its qualities, or in the case of the sun drenched kitchen
" COOK" the wine into nothingness.
Serving white wine straight out of the refrigerator makes them taste like water. Wine is aromatic, it involves not only the sense of taste but the sense of smell. Your refrigerator is set at between 35 - 40 degrees F. The only wine that you would serve close to that temperature is ice wine , served at about 43-44 degrees F. Okay now don't panic and think you need to go buy a chemistry thermometer. Most whites can be served fairly safely at 45 -55 degrees. Chardonnay is served at the 55 end while Champagne is best at about 45. There is room for discrepancy but don't over chill your whites. Just let them stand out at room temp for awhile. So doing my mental math ( I won't bore you with the formula for degree rate of increased temperature) Take your white wine out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. Wine will warm up in the glass, in the room and in the hands. In Momma's family it does not spend much time in the glass or hand.

Red Wine is the most abused wine around. Red wine is often complex and higher in alcohol than white so if you serve it at room temperature, ( given room temperature which is really about 70 degrees F.), then let it sit in a glass and then wait a bit, UGH, it is ruining the whole bouquet, complexity and flavor. The wine is not meant to be served at room temperature. That whole idea originated prior to insulation and controlled heat. Years ago people actually had cellars, cold, damp places that were about 55 degrees and they stored their wine and some root vegetables there. In those earlier times a home was cool compared to our homes. So room temperature as the term originated was really closer to 60 degrees F. Now, I know most of you buy your wine the day of your party, that is fine . Just cool your red wine down before serving by putting it in a basin with ice and water ( water helps the cooling process) but I will not be giving a lecture on thermodynamics at this time. Just stick your bottle of red in an ice/water bath for about 30 minutes, especially if it has been sitting around your 70 degree home all day or in a store. There are charts available to tell you ideal serving temperatures for red wine, and though there is disagreement among connoisseurs, this is a quick version of consensus. Beaujolais, Port, and Chianti at about 55-59 F. Rioja, Pinot, Bordeaux and Shiraz at about 61- 65. This is a rough chart but it will give you a general idea as to the potential that temperature can have on your wine experience. You could even experiment on your own with friends and start with the wine at a lower temp then let in warm up as it sits out and try it again, eventually as you manage to drink the entire bottle of wine you will realize there was a point at which the wine was more enjoyable. Personally, I do like my Chianti cool as it rounds the acid but locks in the flavor to accompany my favorite Italian dishes.
Just remember, Whites do not get served directly from the fridge and Reds do not get served directly from the counter. Wines have so much flavor to offer, serve them at the right temperature and for goodness sakes, go out and buy the large size wine glasses. Those pathetic shot glasses with a stem that they serve at many a wedding are not going to help you appreciate all a wine's nuances.
My favorite glasses are Riedel but the large stores like Sams or Costco sell a cheap alternative that will do just fine. If you are drinking wine then you deserve to be enjoying all the aspects that make wine so delicious. Remember " Sorrow can be alleviated by a good sleep, a bath and a glass of good wine ", Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Remembering to give Thanks

Momma knows we do not wake up each day just full of energy and excitement but we can wake up to joy.

Momma Explains: One year I decided to get up each morning and thank God for something in my life. I would do this each day with out any repeats. At first I thought it would actually be a challenge to find that many things to be grateful to have BUT was I surprised as the list grew. First, we need to start by recognizing the small things in our lives that have made us happier, or our lives easier. Sometimes it is something as simple as the clouds in the sky, which give us beauty and rain and a great game of imagination if you watch them. Friends, family, food, birds, flowers, herbs, trains, computers, all took on a different light as I saw gratitude in their presence. I suddenly found that I was noticing things and people around me, noticing their value and my thanks. I offered thanks for the drivers who take my garbage each week, bless them. I offered thanks for pencils, really, pencils. Imagine when all they had was ink and quills? Our lives are so full of people, moments, items, and luxuries that we take for granted. Often the most minute items are the ones that we would be distraught if we had to live without them. For example, how would you do with out matches? Man did discover fire quite awhile ago, but every time we need to light the candles on our table, in the bathroom or more importantly on a birthday cake, have you ever been thankful. You should be, my icing would be running off the cake if we had to wait for me to rub flint and sticks to strike a spark. It is actually a joyous experience when you begin to realize all that you have for which to thank the Lord. Suddenly we are far richer than we knew. Try this THANKS game for a week, have the children participate. See what they discern as gifts and feel yourself responding to the joy of knowing that we are loved for we are so blessed, just look at the clouds.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sizzling Sandwiches

Momma has a friend who calls because her son is bringing home some college friends for lunch before they go to a game and she does not know what to make, what will they eat and drink ?

( they all must be 21 to be served any alcoholic beverage and be responsible as to intake.)

Momma Explains: If college age or mid twenty something boys are coming over just take your refrigerator and dump the contents on the table. No, Momma is kidding but those boys like to eat and they like to eat hearty, meaty food. They like to drink too, beer and believe it or not wine is now very popular amongst the younger set. They will wash all of it down with water and/or soda. I try to keep a supply of water and soda but you can always ask them to pick it up on the way over. Hey, you never go anywhere empty handed !
I like to serve a red wine with these meat sandwiches, a very well balanced, great buy is one from Chile. Fundo Los Naranjos, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007. This wine can be shipped to order too.

Sizzling Sandwiches
These are my version of a panino, an Italian grilled sandwich. (Panini is plural) You MUST use a grill pan , if you lay these flat in a regular frying pan they will soak up all the olive oil and be too greasy. Go to the bakery or a good market that has the large hard crusted loaves of Italian bread. The loaves look like footballs or domes. The bread is sliced to your desired thickness and brushed with olive oil. Place greased bread, greased side down on some wax paper or similar and load with meat, veggie, and cheese combos. Listed are two of my families favorites.
Panino Prosciutti
Place a large slice of good mozzarella to fill 2/3 of bread, layer a few slices of Prosciutti, roasted red pepper and a large basil leaf or two. Put the panino together and follow the instructions on your grill. Panini grills are available or use a grill pan and put a heavy pot to press down on sandwich. Oil your grill pan as well as your bread.

Panino Meatball( okay you need to have meat balls in the house, for Italians that's like having eggs in the refrigerator, but you could make a batch and freeze some for such a case.)
Slice meat balls into 1/2 inch slices, I make meat boulders so mine go pretty far when sliced. Then layer with sliced provolone and spinach leaves, you can spread some red sauce on top and cover with remaining sandwich half. Grill as instructed.

The guests often love to create their own sandwiches but if you are feeding several big boys, I would make these in advance and keep them covered and warm in the oven. If you start out with your ingredients at Room Temperature, they will grill quickly so you can make several sandwiches in a short time. Try the wine I recommended from Chile and remember to serve it at
about 60 degrees. If you need to put it in the fridge for a half hour or an ice/water bucket, do that. I am going to speak to wine temperatures in my next Wine and Food Harmony blog.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Discovering the wonders we have

Momma sees us all rushing from one thing to the other.We all seem so tired of the over scheduled lifestyle and stressed from its demands. What is the answer to finding some peace and balance?

Momma Explains
: In order to meet our expectations of super parenting,we have tried to be excessively supportive for so many of our children' s interests and activities. So much so that every element, every sport, every lesson, and every activity has become a priority. It is a misplaced concept because everything secondary has become a priority. Family functions now take a back seat to sporting events. Church attendance must be squeezed in if possible with our activity schedules. As for service work, well, can't someone else volunteer for that. The funny part is that we have done this to ourselves. So for a vacation, we then actively seek an escape that is a retreat of sorts, a non active, vacation. Yet, we are escaping the hectic life we created. We should not need a retreat from life but a treat from life.

What happened to those slow days of summer when you could join a neighbor for a chat while the kids played, take a drive just to see the changing leaves of fall, or just sit down in our own yard and enjoy the peace that surround us. When did life become so busy we forgot to see the beauty around us and the gifts given to us but instead pushed ourselves to keep an agenda that simply wears us all out. To me the most perfect example of the beauty and inquisitive nature of man is when a young baby first recognizes his or her hand. They marvel at this treat they have found. They hold their precious little hand directly in front of their eyes and slowly pivot the palm first one way then the other. This infant continues to repeat this same awesome task over and over again. The child recognizes with awe the wonder he has been given, and I am sure begins to think about the possibilities this discovery now affords. There is no need for an agenda for the infant, he just enjoys the moment of discovery.

When is the last time you took the time to look at the wonder of your own hand? It is a tool designed by a master craftsman. A tool that allows us the freedom to dress, eat, play, create, love and discover. It is a gift we sorely miss if it is injured and yet when have you said a quiet thank you to the master craftsman for His gift and all the good you do with that hand. So, momma wishes us all to find one day this week to take a look at our hands and all the wonders around us, slow down, just this one day, do something good and fun with your hands. Take the same joy that the infant experiences when he first discovers his hand and share your hand. Maybe you could even hold someone's hand as you take the time to see the wonder around you, bake a cake, go for a walk or examine a flower. Time is swift, our days are bound by time, so take the time to pivot your hand in wonder and smile and think about the possibilities and treats.
Momma Thanks : A very gifted photographer, Meghan Callen, who shared some of her "discovery" shots with momma. To see more of her fabulous work please check out meghancallenphotography.com

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cheese steak ravioli with basil

Momma had a some additions to her dinner count and she had not even expected to cook that evening as she had been out all day. Did Momma panic?

Momma Explains: I never panic as long as I have pasta of some sort in the house. Since necessity truly is often the mother of invention, when I learned that I had unexpected guests to dinner, I just started opening my pantry, fridge and freezer. The result was a new dish for our family that was quite filling and quite a hit. I served it with Castano 2007 Monastrell which enhanced the basil portion of this dish. My new hit is called Cheese steak ravioli with basil, it is a creamy sauce and very filling so a simple salad or raw veggie platter is all you need to complete the meal.

Cheese Steak Ravioli with Basil

You will need about 4 pounds of ravioli, I use the four cheese ravioli bag from Costco.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, when hot add 7 frozen chopped steaks
( I used frozen chopped steak from Costco), salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Cook steaks thoroughly, chopping with spatula as they cook until they are fairly shredded. As they cook, drizzle about 1/4 cup more olive oil and 8 tablespoons of butter, stir and keep cooking on medium heat. When the butter and oil have been blended add 1 cup finely chopped basil ( I used fresh basil) if you do not have fresh basil convert the prepared basil accordingly. I would approximate it to be about 2-3 tablespoons prepared basil paste. Mix ingredients and add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, stir and add 1/2 cup red tomato sauce or 2 tablespoons tomato paste in 1/2 cup water. You should stir all ingredients and taste, it may need more salt and pepper. Meanwhile boil a large pot of water and add plenty of salt to the water, I prefer Kosher salt and do a palm-full. Cook raviolis as directed, they cook quickly so get that table set fast. I spoon my ravioli out by hand with a large mesh strainer to prevent breakage. Then I pour the steak sauce mixture over the ravioli and toss very gently. as we were eating we sipped the Castano and enjoyed our hearty and impromptu dinner. This is not a very wet sauce, it just coats that large bowl of ravioli. If you want a wetter sauce just cut down on the amount of ravioli.