All posts tagged wine

Green Beans with Apple Cider

Published February 29, 2016 by jenmatteson

If you don’t have apple cider in your fridge this time of year, you are adulting incorrectly. I suppose it’s past prime apple season, but it’s still a perfect winter warmer. Not only is it delicious on it’s own (or with a smidge of brandy), but it’s great for cooking, too!


We eat a lot of vegetables in our house, but I feel like I’m always doing the same thing with them. Sauté in olive oil, salt and pepper, serve. Repeat. If you want to add a little excitement to your hum-drum vegetables, add cider! This is a quick, simple twist on green beans, which add just a little bit of sweetness. If you don’t have cider, don’t be afraid to use white wine. I did the last time I made these, and they were fantastic!


Green Beans with Apple Cider

Source: Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 8


32 oz green beans
olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup apple cider
salt and pepper


1. Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add green beans and boil for 4-6 minutes, or until tender, but with a bite. Remove from heat and drain beans. Set aside.

2. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the onions and cook until beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cider, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

3. Add beans to the pan with onions and cider. Toss to coat, salt and pepper to taste.

Utilizing Your Ice Cube Trays

Published February 14, 2013 by jenmatteson

Do you ever need just a little of something, but don’t know what to do with the rest?  It happens to me all the time with tomato paste.  Recipes frequently call for 1-2 tbsp at a time, but not an entire can.  I don’t want a bunch of open cans in my fridge, or the stress of trying to use it up before it goes bad.  So, this is a wonderful alternative!  Spoon it out into ice cube trays.  Once they are frozen, pop them out and place them in a zip top freezer bag.  Viola!  When you need just a little, you’re all set.
Freezing tomato paste in ice cube trays

Freezing tomato paste

You can use this trick with many things other than just tomato paste.  Here is a list of great ways to use this same strategy:

  • Homemade Pesto: I made a huge batch last summer and froze it in ice cube trays.
  • Chipotle in Adobo: Be sure to blend or chop the chipotle, otherwise you might not get some pepper in all the cubes.
  • Coffee: Makes for great iced coffee.  Also, I just read this great blog post from my friend, Ashley, who uses these cubes in after dinner drinks.  My coffee-cube after dinner drink is an adapted version of her recipe.  Genius!
  • Leftover Herbs: Chop up, place in trays and fill with water to stock/broth.  Add to soups, sauces and stir fries.
  • Leftover Wine: But seriously, what is that?
  • Stocks/Broths: Great to add to many dishes for extra flavor.
  • Fresh Squeezed Juice: Perfect for when you need 1 tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • Heavy Cream and Buttermilk: Great for that little leftover you couldn’t use up before it goes bad.  You won’t be able to whip heavy cream once it’s been frozen, but you can still use it in sauces and baking.
  • Fresh Berries: Freeze fresh berries with a bit of water to throw into drinks and smoothies.

Here’s another helpful tip when using your cubes:

  • 1 cube = 2 tbsp
  • 2 cubes = 1/4 cup
  • 4 cubes = 1/2 cup
  • 8 cubes = 1 cup

What do you like to use your ice cube trays for?

Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce

Published February 12, 2013 by jenmatteson

Nate loves scallops. Whenever we go out to eat, and there are scallops on the menu, there is a 95% chance that is what he’s ordering. I find it adorable that he sometimes confuses scallops with scallions. Easy mistake when reading it on a menu – not like he looks at green onions and thinks they are scallops. If that were the case, I might be worried.

Simple ingredients make the best dishesScallops









Anyway, today is his birthday, so I wanted to make something special for him. I was really hoping I didn’t screw anything up, because wouldn’t that be a crappy birthday present? Even if I did, I would hope he would have been satisfied with his birthday weekend. We had a fabulous dinner at the Capital Grille in Minneapolis on Friday night. I am not kidding you – this was the best steak I have ever had. They were cooked absolutely perfectly, and the rubs they use are to die for! For dessert, he got the creme brulee and I ordered the flourless chocolate cake. My goodness, it was so delicious! On top of that, we had superb service. It’s too bad we waited for so long to try this place, but it was well worth the price tag! If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it.


Another reason he should be satisfied for his birthday (even if I did screw up the scallops), is that I got him a smoker. He’s been talking about this since we moved in. Nate doesn’t do a lot of cooking, though he does most of the grilling. Not that he’s incapable, but he just doesn’t do it. For this reason, I’ve put off indulging his fascination with a smoker. But, I found one that was a smoker and roaster, which my brother said was highly recommended by his customers, so I went with that one. Plus, bonus, it was in my budget. He was like a little kid on Christmas morning opening it up.


In case you are wondering why my pictures have a green tinge…it’s because I have a green case on my phone, and when I use my flash, it reflects off the side – I just realized this last night.  Duh.

Searing the scallops

Tarragon Butter Sauce









But, let’s get back on track. The scallops. I found this recipe on Food and Wine – my trusty standby for classic recipes. Nate and I both like tarragon, though it’s certainly a flavor that people generally hate or love. We are the latter! I served them over a bed of wilted spinach, with just a bit of lemon juice. I always seem to underestimate spinach – so much turns into so little! Either way, it was yummy. Surprisingly, I did a pretty good job on the scallops. I probably could have seared them for one minute more, but I was following the recipe and was more worried about over cooking them. My guess is that my pan wasn’t quite hot enough. They still had a nice color to them, and they tasted amazing. The pics aren’t too great, as I took the pictures around 6 PM, when it’s already dark out 😦

Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce

Nate said they just melted in his mouth. The tarragon butter sauce was the perfect complement. I thought the tarragon might be a little to overpowering for the delicate scallops, but they actually complimented each other perfectly. I now will not be so terrified to make scallops again – though I doubt I’ll make them often seeing as though they were $22/lb 😮 Another bonus, one more thing checked off my 30 before 30 list!

Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce

Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine
Servings: 4


2 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp butter
1 lb sea scallops, dried well
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 bunch fresh spinach
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup dry white wine
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon


1. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil with 1/2 tbsp of butter over moderate heat. Season scallops with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Put half the scallops in the pan. Cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on second side and just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil with 1/2 tbsp butter in pan and cook remaining scallops. Remove and place on paper towel.

2. Reduce heat to low, and add spinach to pan. Turn several times to coat in pan juices. Add lemon juice, and quickly remove from pan as soon as leaves have wilted. Divide spinach on plates and place scallops on top of spinach.

3. Wipe out pan. Return pan to moderate-low heat and add wine. Boil until reduced to about 2 tbsp, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to lowest setting. Whisk the remaining 4 tbsp butter into the wine. The butter should not melt completely, but just soften to form a smooth sauce. Add remaining 1/2 salt, lemon zest and tarragon. Pour over scallops and serve.

The best picture of course is the one where Charlotte thinks this is her plate.

Charlotte trying to snipe my dinner - but a great shot of the scallops in the top right corner!

Save the Date!

Published December 20, 2012 by jenmatteson

We’ve (I’ve) had a busy last few weeks!  I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that I announced our engagement not too long ago, and we’ve set a date!  Sorry, but if you haven’t received yours, that means you aren’t invited 😦  But don’t take it too personally; we are only inviting 13 people to join us for our nuptials in Sonoma, CA.

I just wanted to share our adorable Save the Dates.  We used wine from Kunde, the family estate that the ceremony will be held at in Sonoma.

Save the Date

What are some cute ideas you’ve seen for save the dates?Save the Date

Ladies Wine Workout

Published November 16, 2012 by jenmatteson

In the past, I’ve always had a handful of ladies over for wine tasting, but this time, I decided to just have my two besties.  Not only does that make finding a date that works much easier, but that will give us a good chance to catch up.

We’ve all been friends since middle school, and though we’ve definitely gone our separate ways in many aspects of our lives, I am still very close to each of them at heart!  I thought a small intimate tasting would give us a chance to catch up with few distractions.

This tasting was a little different from others that I’ve hosted.  In reading my very favorite magazine, Food and Wine, there was an article titled “Wine-Tasting Workout: Train Yourself to be a Better Wine Taster”.  While my general rule of thumb for tasting wine is ‘if it tastes good to me, then it’s good’, I’m always open to refining my palate and expanding my tasting vocabulary.

This particular article focused on six key things that wine pros are evaluating when judging a bottle of wine: body, tannins, acidity, sweetness, aromas and flavors, and oak.  Because each exercise called for at least three different wines (that would be over 18 bottles), I narrowed it down to three exercises (tannins, body, oak) and two wines from each, making a more manageable 6 bottles for the three of us.  All six workouts would be an excellent tasting activity for a large group.  And don’t worry about any “wine snobs” in your group.  I guarantee that they’ll be able to learn something from these exercises!

Food and Wine tends to suggest wines that I cannot find in my local wine shops, so instead of getting the exact label, I focused on the region and grape to get something pretty similar to what they recommend. I listed F&W’s suggestions as well as the wines that we tasted.

In the end, I think we all learned more about wine tasting and how to better describe flavors.  We’ll have to follow-up on the other three categories that we didn’t get to try this time.  This night may or may not have ended in a dance party (including a guitar from Rock Band), so I’m thinking the 6 bottles we had was plenty (and no, we didn’t finish them all – just the reds 😉 ).

Of course we couldn’t have a wine tasting without some snacks!  During the tasting, we snacked on zucchini fries, sweet potato fries with chipotle in adobo dipping sauce, and an antipasto platter.  After the tasting, we headed into the kitchen to make some pizzas (pesto chicken with caramelized onions, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic hummus, and pepperoni with veggies and mariana).  For dessert, we indulged in a delicious peanut butter pie.

Wine-Tasting Workout


What defines body in wine?  In my opinion, body is one of the more simple qualities in wine to pick out.  “Body is the sense of weight or richness or heaviness, and even the feeling of viscosity that a wine leaves in your mouth,” says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.  Typically, a wine with more body has more alcohol and comes from warmer climates.  This is because the grapes have more sugar to be converted into alcohol.

How does body affect pairing?  When pairing wines and food, it’s essential to match body with body, so the wine is not too heavy or too light for the dish.


4 glasses
1/4 cup of each skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk, and heavy cream

Directions: Taste each milk in ascending order of richness, beginning with skim and ending with the cream.  Consider the texture in your mouth; the skim milk will dissipate quickly, while the cream will coat your tongue.  Next, taste wines from lightest to full-bodied.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Northern Italian Pinot Grigio: 2011 Tiefenbrunner
2. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: 2011 Kim Crawford Marlborough
3. White Burgundy: 2010 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc
4. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay: 2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County

1. Valpolicella: 2011 Tedeschi Lucchine
2. California Pinot Noir: 2010 Dutton Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard
3. Chianti Classico: 2009 La Maialina
4. Zinfandel: 2010 Ridge East Bench

We tried:
1. 2011 Riff Pinot Grigio  
2. 2010 Rodney Strong Chardonnay from Sonoma County

Our findings: I have to admit that we all felt pretty silly sipping different kinds of milk out of shot glasses, but when we switched the wine, we really could tell the difference in body.  The Chardonnay was closest to the whole milk, not quite a cream, and the Pinot was similar to the skim.  Crazy!


What are tannins?  Tannins are compounds in grape skin, seeds and stems that contribute to the structure, complexity, texture, and ageability.  Tannins can create a drying, slightly bitter sensation in the mouth.

How do tannins affect pairings?  A more tannic wine will pair nicely with rich foods and meat dishes.  Tannins cut through fat, and in turn, the fat softens tannins and make them more approachable.


3 mugs
3 black tea bags
hot water

Directions: Pour 8 ounces of hot water into each of the mugs.  Place one tea bag in each mug and start a timer.  After 2 minutes, remove the tea bag from first mug.  After 4 minutes, remove the tea bag from the second mug.  After 8 minutes, remove the tea bag from third mug.  Let tea cool.

Taste the tea in increasing steep-time order, swishing the liquid around in your mouth before swallowing.  Notice how the teas become more astringent as the steeping time increases.  Next, taste wines in increasing tannin order.

Food ane Wine Suggestions:
1. Beaujolais: 2010 Potel Aviron Côte de Brouilly
2. California Merlot: 2009 Simi Sonoma County Merlot
3. Bordeaux: 2010 Château Bellevue Bordeaux Supérieur

We tried:
1. 2010 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Red Burgandy
2. 2010 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux

Our findings:  I’ve always felt that tannins were difficult to judge, and mostly because no one could really describe to me what they tasted like.  The steep time in the teas really defined what a non-tannic and tannic wine tastes like.  The Beaujolais was so smooth and left almost no residual dry taste in your mouth, where the Bordeaux was heavily tannic and comparable to the tea steeped for 8 minutes.


What does it mean for a wine to be oaked? When oak barrels are used in winemaking, they develop their toasty, caramelly, vanilla flavors from being fire-charred.  The barrels can be toasted to different levels, depending on the winemakers preference, and can be used to hold the wine during fermentation and/or aging.  Older oak seems to have a more subtle affect on a wine’s tannins, structure, and overall flavor.

How does oak affect pairings?  In general, oaky wines don’t pair well with most food because it can overwhelm the food’s flavors.  However, bold-flavored grilled dishes can be a nice match as the char from the grill mellows the wine’s oakiness and highlights the vibrant, juicy fruit flavors.



Directions: Skewer a marshmallow and roast it over a flame on a gas stove until it’s charred.  Oakiness in reds leave the impression of campfire smoke or the smell of a burnt marshmallow.  Next, taste wines in order of unoaked to oaky.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Sicilian Frappato: 2011 Tami
2. Chianti Classico: 2009 Rocca delle Macìe
3. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: 2009 Groth

We tried:
1. 2010 Coltibuono Chianti Classico
2. 2009 Pine Ridge Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon

Our findings: Oak is another aroma/flavor that wasn’t very clear to me.  After charring our mallows, smelling, then smelling the wine, the “campfire” smell really came through in the Cabernet.  The Chianti had very little oakiness, so you could still smell it a tiny bit.

Recipe Swap: Penne Rosa with Shrimp

Published September 21, 2012 by jenmatteson

It’s time for another recipe swap, and this month, I was assigned Carrie’s Sweet Life.  Carrie is a fellow Minnesotan, and though we’ve never met in person, I feel we at least have some sort of  a local connection.  I was excited to see that I was assigned her blog, but definitely faced with a tough decision.

So many of her recipes looked wonderful, but in an attempt to add more seafood, and not as much chicken, I settled on Penne Rosa with Shrimp.  **Now that I’m looking back to link her blog, I’m seeing a new recipe for Honey Banana Peanut Butter Muffins.  I will be back!

In Carrie’s evaluation of her penne rosa, she said it was good, but she didn’t love it.  There wasn’t an indication as to why she didn’t love it, but I of course interpreted this as needing more flavor.  I made a few minor additions in an attempt to really bring out some deeper flavors.  One thing that stuck out to me is that there was a minimal amount of seasoning, so I added some fresh basil and red pepper flakes.  Additionally, I added a little white wine to amp up the flavor of the shrimp.  Instead of mincing the garlic, I sliced it so there were a little larger pieces throughout the pasta.  I love that.  If you don’t, mince your garlic.

The result was fabulous.  Nate and I really enjoyed this pasta, and the leftovers were almost as good (leftover shrimp just never seems the same, but the pasta was excellent!).  The red pepper flakes and basil was a nice combination of heat and flavor, and who doesn’t love a little wine in their shrimp pasta??  The picture doesn’t do it justice – in my opinion, penne is not photogenic.  Also, it’s starting to get dark earlier 😦

Penne Rosa with Shrimp

Source: Adapted from Carrie’s Sweet Life
Servings: 4


12 oz whole wheat penne pasta
olive oil
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry white wine
9 oz fresh spinach, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


1. Cook penne according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2. In a large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to soften stirring frequently, about 5-8 minutes.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and tomatoes and cook until garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute.  Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Increase heat to medium and add shrimp.  Add white wine and cook until shrimp become bright pink and are almost cooked through (don’t worry, they’ll continue to cook), about 4 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Stir in spinach and cover.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together marinara sauce and Greek yogurt.  Once spinach has wilted, add sauce to pan and turn heat back on low.  Add in pasta and stir until well combined.  Stir in basil.  Serve and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Why go out when you can make your own?

Published March 23, 2012 by jenmatteson

I wouldn’t at all consider Olive Garden an authentic Italian restaurant, but for some reason, the rare times I do go there, I have to get the chicken Marsala.  I don’t know what it is, but I absolutely love it (okay, I do know, it’s the mushrooms).  Well, instead of going to the Olive Garden and filling up on bread sticks and salad before I even get my meal, I’d much rather make my own chicken Marsala.

This is a quick classic chicken dish that I can easily get my mushroom fix from.  I like a bit thicker sauce, so I added a tablespoon of flour.  If you like it thinner, omit the flour.  And yes, those are frozen carrots on my picture with fresh broccoli.  I didn’t have a lot of broccoli and needed to add more veggies.  Don’t judge!

Chicken Marsala


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 tbsp
salt and pepper
4 shallots, sliced thinly
2 cups porcini mushrooms (or whatever you have on hand), sliced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp butter

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Place chicken breasts under plastic wrap or in a plastic bag and pound to 1/4-inch thickness.
2. In a shallow dish, mix 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken breasts in flour mixture, and tap off excess.  Place in skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through and browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and cover with foil.
3. In the same pan,  cook shallots until soft over medium heat, about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and garlic and cook for 2-4 minutes.  Add wine and let the alcohol cook out, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken broth and sprinkle in remaining flour.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Finish with butter.
3. Once butter is melted, add chicken breasts back to the sauce until heated through.  Serve chicken breasts with mushroom sauce over the top.

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