Thursday, March 27, 2014

The "Spirits" of Family Season 2

     That time of year again, that time when you finalize and bottle your second round of wine making.  As posted before my cousin and I started taking over the family tradition of making homemade wine.  Last year we did it strictly with the grapes from our parent’s arbors growing in their backyards.  This year we thought we would try something a bit different.  We added two other flavor additions: Black Currants and Black Cherry.  Our attempt at making close to a good Cab, which we love to drink.

     After our first year of learning the ropes of what to do things moved a bit quicker this time around.  From juicing the grapes, adding the right amounts of yeast and other additives, racking, racking, and more racking, to eventually stopping the fermenting and back sweating to bottling, everything seemed a bit more comfortable this year. We did do some things differently this time.  We racked earlier than the previous year and more often this time around. The only mishap this year was we got large corks than last time which created its own comical moments of trying to insert without creating a mess. 

     We are sticking with the brand of our wine, Binato, a combination of our two names Irish/ Italian.  The name for each year though will change as we do a different recipe.  This year as we wanted it a bit darker and more body, we chose the name Bevanda Del Diavolo, (drink of the devil).  Something mysterious, dark, and sexy at the same time.  We designed the label by incorporating a Celtic demon figure.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  The taste was different this year.  Not as "grapey" as before.  You could taste the different fruit additives.  It also had a bit more body this time around.  Still a light bodied wine but good.  Guess we have the "Spirits" of family down pact almost.

Mashing again


Our new stirrer

Removing the must

Racking stage 1

After rack 1

After second and third rack



Final product

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Orange Honey Chicken

Orange Honey Chicken

     A traditional Chinese dish that you can easily find in any American/Chinese restaurant on the buffet along with other typical take out items is that of Honey Chicken.  I thought about taking that item and spinning it with a new twist. Another flavor that you might also find in Asian cuisines: orange.  I thought it would be a perfect idea to combine the sweetness of the honey and citrus of the orange and add it to a great Chinese fried chicken.  Served it over a little lo mein noodles and you find yourself with a good weeknight meal.  Orange Honey Chicken.

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 4 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs rice wine
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup soy
  • 1 tsp diced ginger
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp diced garlic
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbs cornstarch

In a small bowl combine the egg whites and cornstarch.  Cut up the chicken into bite size pieces.  Toss into the cornstarch egg mixture. Heat a wok over medium high heat with enough oil to fry some chicken.  Toss in a few pieces of coated chicken and fry until golden brown. About 3-5 minutes each side. 

     Remove and drain.  Once chicken is all complete I discarded the oil into a receptacle.  With a little oil still left in the wok quickly sauté the ginger, orange zest, and garlic until fragrant.  Pour in and mix the rice wine, orange juice, soy, and honey until the mixture becomes thick.  Toss back in the chicken and coat.  Serve over your favorite lo mein or rice dish.  Another homemade Chinese dish that you can add to your recipe box. Serves about 1-2 people.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Luck of the Irish: Beef and Guinness Pie With Colcannon

Beef and Guinness Pie and Colcannon

     It's that time of year, where everyone becomes Irish for the St. Patrick's Day festivities, at least here in the States.  Luckily, I can proudly call myself one without having any guilt to only using it as an excuse to drink heavily. I am just as proud of my Irish heritage as my other.  Growing up we had a few Irish dishes here and there only if eating at my paternal grandmother’s house or if my father decided to cook something.  While I was in Ireland a couple years ago my cousin had this wonderful dish on our last night in Dublin, a piping bowl of Beef and Guinness Stew.  We sat there and ate our wonderful dishes.  I had already had another stew on our trip and was attempting to eat something different every day. (Keyword here is attempted).  I will admit I did my fair share of eating Coddle and the famous breakfast many times.  Anyways, her plate of beef and carrots in a nice thick brown broth were fantastic.  I had seen it on many menus, whether alone or in a pie.  It is as famous of a dish as their Cottage/Shepherd's Pie or Irish Stew.

     During St. Patrick's Day it has become a tradition now at my house that I cook a traditional Irish meal and have family and friends over. We eat, drink, laugh, and typically go out to the bar.  This year we actually stayed in and played games.  Anyways, the point of this post is about the wonderful traditional dish that I made.  I am giving you two different recipes for this meal; one for the Pie and one for the wonderful side dish.  Another typical dish you will find in Ireland, Colcannon.  Colcannon is a simple mashed potato dish with a twist.  Add in some sautéed kale and green onion and you have a tangy, peppery, mashed potato that no one will push away.  Please enjoy my St. Patty's Day Meal.

Beef and Guinness Pie

  • 1 1/2 lb chuck roast
  • Flour
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 cups carrots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/3 cup Guinness
  • 1 1/3 cup beef stock
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1/3 can crushed tomato
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire
  • Salt/ pepper
  • 4 Store bought pie crust dough rolls

     Take the 1-1/2 lb chuck roast and slice it into bite size pieces.  Dust the beef with flour.  In a large sauté pan brown the beef in 2 tbs butter.  Once brown remove from the pan and set aside.  In same pan sauté the carrots, onion, and garlic in another 2 tbs butter just until fragrant and translucent.  Next pour in the stock and Guinness.  Scrape up the bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan.  Once the mixture is simmering toss in the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, tomato, and Worcestershire sauce. Turn heat down to very low, cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Stirring here and there to make sure the mixture is not sticking. If after an hour and a half  the sauce has not thickened to your liking you can create a slushy by removing some of the juice and adding it to more flour to create the thickener that you would then pour back in and incorporate.

     I took the store bought pie crust rolls and made six individual small pies from the dough provided by cutting them into smaller shapes.  You can create one large pie or as many small ones as you want.  As mentioned if using store bought small pie pans this recipe makes just enough for six people to enjoy their own little meat pie.

     Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile create an egg wash and brush the mixture over each pie.  Cut slits into the top of each pie to allow the steam to escape.  Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the crusts appear golden brown. 


  • 4 russet potatoes
  • Small bunch of kale
  • 1/2 cup diced green onion
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/ pepper

     Peel and dice the potatoes up into small bite size pieces.  Boil in a pot of water until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain the water and toss in the butter and about a 1/3 cup of milk.  Mash the mixture into a smooth mashed potato. In a side sauté pan sauté the kale, diced green onion, and some red pepper flakes in some olive oil until nice and tender. Stir into the potato mixture, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.  Serves 4-5 people. 

     If you are not feeling the slightest bit Irish or ready to dance the Irish jig when you've finished with this dish, you my friend do not appreciate good cuisines.  Hope you all enjoy this Irish classic.  Definitely makes you realize that Irish cuisine is as good as any other.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014



     Well it's that time of year when Carnivale or Mardi Gras are in full swing.  When the Lent season starts and people fast for 40 days.  I thought for the spirit of the season to make a traditional New Orleans dish.  If you have ever been to New Orleans you know that they have some of our country's best cuisine.  A combination of Cajun, Creole, French, African, etc.  You name it, it has influenced this areas dishes.  I decided to try my hand at Gumbo.  Now whether this is a Creole or Cajun version is not known to me.  I have researched that the difference is based on what you use as a thickener.  One uses okra and the other uses a roux.  One uses just seafood, the other uses a combo. A similar ingredient is the trinity of vegetables: onion, celery, and green pepper.  I'm no expert but this is my version and I hope you all like it.  It reminded me of my last trip to the bluesy city. The taste, the smell, the spirit, and the warmness that is New Orleans.  Please enjoy my version of a classic: Gumbo

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3 small Andouilli sausage links
  • 20 medium shrimp
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 5 tbs flour
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 small celery stalks
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-cup beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 lg bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbs Cajun seasoning
  • Hot sauce
  • Rice

     In a large Dutch oven brown your chicken breast on both sides.  Toss in your sausage and brown a little bit.  Remove and sat aside.  In same pot, (I actually did this step in another pan but you don't have to), melt your butter and whisk in your flour. 

     Whisk the roux until it turns a nice dark brown color.  Roughly about 20-25 minutes. 

     Toss in your diced onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic.  Stir around until the vegetables become softened.  Pour in your stocks, crushed tomatoes, and stir in your bay leaf, thyme, and seasoning.  Bring to a simmer.  Dice up your chicken and sausage and toss back into the pot.  Simmer on low for about 1 hour.  Before serving toss in your fresh shrimp and simmer for about 5-7 minutes until shrimp are cooked.  Serve around a nice bowl of white rice. Hope you enjoy this fantastic sample of New Orleans cuisine. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Panna Cotta With Blackberry Sauce

Panna Cotta with Blackberry Sauce
     A traditional Italian dessert that is not too sweet or too heavy is Panna Cotta.  I had this theory that if you make plain Panna Cotta and add some sweetened cereal that the combination could taste just like a bowl of that specific cereal. The local grocery was having a sale on fresh blackberries, so what better thing to make than a blackberry sauce to pour over the homemade Panna Cotta.  The flavors complimented each other.  The creaminess of the custard, the fruit flavors of the berries, and the sweetened crunch from the cereal all came together in a fantastic spoonful of delight. The dessert was quick and easy to make in no time.  I borrowed a simple recipe for the Panna Cotta off line.  Panna Cotta with Blackberry Sauce. 

  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1-cup heavy cream
  • 1/2-cup sugar
  • 2 vanilla extract
  • 6 tbs Ice water
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • Sweetened corn cereal

     In a medium saucepan over medium high heat combine the half and half, cream, and sugar and gently cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is fairly warm.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine the water and gelatin.  Pour in and mix the cream mixture into the gelatin mixture.  Pour into individual ramekins or small bowls and chill overnight.  Serve with your choice of berry sauce.  I combined mine with a fresh blackberry sauce. 

     I took a small bunch of fresh blackberries and combined them with 3/4 cup of sugar and heated on the stove until the berries began to break down.  Added in a tbs of lemon juice and viola, a nice berry sauce to pour over and serve with the panna cotta.  Top with some crumbled sweetened corn cereal and you have yourself and interesting twist on a traditional Italian dessert.  Serves 8 in small ramekins.