Spaghetti Squash with Crisped Sage and Walnuts

I have never made spaghetti squash before.  We've done butternut, acorn, and others but never spaghetti.  So when I saw a recipe that included crisped sage I had to try it.

I LOVE, yes LOVE fried sage leaves.  If you haven't had them, try them, they are delicious.  I especially like them in a browned butter sauce over squash ravioli but that's a different recipe!

This one was simple, slice the squash lengthwise and microwave (yes microwave!) for 20 minutes or until you can stick a fork in it.  Let it rest 5 minutes.  While it's resting, toast up some chopped walnuts and saute some chopped sage in olive oil.  Mix it all together, season with salt and pepper and you have a delicious side!

We had tasty pig (otherwise known as pork tenderloin) rubbed with Penzey's Northwoods Fire rub then grilled, some roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary and the squash for dinner.  Delish and the kitchen smelled so good with all those great herbs!


The Official Recipe for the Squash:

Ingredients:
1 (about 2 1/2 pound) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil (I used the Black Walnut variety from The Olive Grove)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I added some whole leaves as well, I love sage)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place squash halves, cut side down, in microwavable dish.  Cover with wax paper and microwave on High until tender when pierced with a knife, 18-20 minutes.  Turn over squash and let cool 5 minutes.  Remove seeds.  (I removed the seeds before I cooked it).  With fork, scrape squash into large bowl.

While squash is cooling place walnuts in a small skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until toasted, about 3 minutes.  Transfer walnuts to a plate.  Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add sage and cook, stirring constantly, until crisp, about 30 seconds.  Pour oil mixture over squash; add walnuts, salt and pepper and toss to combine.

The last thing I had to try...

As many of you know, we recently purchased some new kitchen toys for me.  One of which was a Kitchenaid dual-fuel, dual oven range with five, count 'em 5, burners!

I've used every feature of the range except that middle burner.  Today was the day!  Dave's been asking for pancakes and I thought that long burner would be perfect for my griddle.



I whipped up some pancakes flavored with vanilla and cinnamon with fresh raspberries, blueberries and hickory nuts, our favorite!

Yep, that burner is great for pancakes.  It evenly heats up my cast iron griddle which was tricky with my old range.  With the old range I had either a back burner that was a simmer with a normal front burner or a front mega-burner with a back normal burner so I could just set them to the same setting and go.  Inevitably one side of the griddle would be hotter than the other.  Not so with my new big burner!

We added some bacon and some Yulupa Sparkling to round out a nice weekend breakfast!

'wichcraft - Cheddar with Smoked Ham Poached Pear and Mustard 'Wich

I decided to try a recipe out of one of the other cookbooks I bought at the Border's going out of business sale.  This time I picked one out of 'wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal--And a Meal into a Sandwich by Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar.  I picked the Heritage Smoked Ham & Cheddar with Pear and Mustard 'wich to try first.

Here is a LINK to the recipe.


This sandwich is actually on the menu at Tom Colicchio's restarant in NYC!



Delicious and so easy!


I prepared the pears, not sure what they would really taste like.  The poaching liquid was sugar, cider vinegar, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick and whole cloves.  This mixture is simmered for a few minutes, then the pears are added and a couple minutes later they are ready.  They were amazing!  And luckily they keep in the frig so I'll have the left-overs for something else.


The recipe calls for a panini press.  A piece of kitchen equipment I don't own.  Shocking, I know.  I had to improvise!  It worked just fine!

I served the 'wiches with a mixed green salad that I topped with a vinaigrette made with a cinnamon pear balsamic and some fresh cut fruit.  Of course, this was accompanied by a nice chardonnay!  It is Saturday afternoon after all!

Two more great Ina Garten Recipes

I am most definitely getting my money's worth out of the Barefoot Contessa "how easy is that" cookbook.  I made two more tonight and we loved them both.

Last night I asked Dave what he wanted for dinner tonight.  He ask if there was anything I wanted to try.  I told him to go get me my Barefoot Contessa cookbook!  We settled on Lemon Chicken Breasts with Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts.

As the cookbook title implies, both of these were very easy.  Yes, there are more than 5 ingredients and yes you have to chop things but it really is a throw it together and have dinner in an hour meal.

The recipe for the chicken calls for "good olive oil".  I opted for a lemon infused olive oil from The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.  It was lemon chicken after all!  As I was putting it together my husband commented "oh we're having real chicken".  I guess we've been doing too many boneless, skinless breasts lately!  He made the "real chicken" comment a couple more times during dinner!
The "sauce" is simply olive oil, garlic, white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.  Heat the oil, saute the garlic a little add the rest and it's sauce!

This is poured into a 9x12 baking dish.  Right.  I own 9x13 baking dishes so that's what I used!  It was perfectly sized.

While that was cooking I started the couscous, also very easy!  I LOVE this couscous.  It is so good.  I keep toasted nuts on hand so I didn't have to toast pine nuts.  Even if you have to do this step, it takes a matter of minutes.  In the cookbook Ina makes a comment that "if you can boil water you can make this couscous".  She's right!  You saute the onions in butter until tender, add chicken stock (sorry Ina I didn't make my own), bring to a boil, add the couscous, turn the heat off, cover and wait 10 minutes.  It was perfect!  Stir in some parsley and the toasted pine nuts and you have a perfect side.

And you MUST pour some of the pan sauce over the chicken and the couscous to serve.  It is delicious!
To round out our plates I sauteed some asparagus in a chipoltle infused olive oil and finished it with a raspberry infused balsamic vinegar.  Both from, you guest it, The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.
This was so good, not only did my husband have a second helping of the couscous, he had a second chicken breast!  I guess I should serve him "real" chicken more often!

Barefoot Contessa - Steakhouse Steaks with Roquefort Chive Sauce

OH MY!  These were by far the best steaks I have ever cooked.  Partly, I'm sure, because we splurged and bought good, fresh cut filets mignon rather than cheaper ones, but I'm sure the recipe had a little to do with it!

This was yet another recipe from the Barefoot Contessa's "How Easy is That?" cookbook.  Unlike the Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies which, while easy I'll admit, were quite putzy, this recipe was easy, just plain easy!

I tied and dried the steaks (Julia Child would be proud) then rubbed them all over with the salt and pepper.  They were placed in a very hot cast iron skillet (I love my LeCreuset) and seared on all sides.  I dotted them with butter then put them in a 400 degree oven until they were a perfect medium (neither of us like our meat bloody... ).




The sauce was a snap to make.  Heat the cream until it reduces by half, add the roquefort cheese, chives, salt and pepper and it's done!

I served the steaks with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus (on sale!) sauteed in garlic infused olive oil and finished with an 18-year balsamic.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

Oh, and Dave won't let me get away without informing you that my oven has now been "christened" as he likes to put it.  The cast iron pan with 20 ounces of steak in it was a bit heavier than I anticipated and I brushed my arm against the 400 degree door.  It blistered before I could even get ice on it!  Even with that glitch in the mission, the steaks were outstanding!

I thought yesterday would be hard to beat....

Today was equally as good as yesterday.  Better?  Maybe?  But at least as good.  Don't forget to click on the pictures for a closer look!

We slept in.  I slept for 11 hours.  I don't know when the last time was that I slept that long.  I generally am allowed 6 maybe 7, on the weekends maybe 8, never 11.  I couldn't believe it.


We had brunch reservations for 10am.  Of course, still on CST, we were wide awake at 6:30.  Today we blew off the treadmill and just dawdled.  We got showered and dressed and sat in the comfy lobby couches reading until about 9:30, time to head to breakfast.

We ate at Worth Our Weight.  Worth our Weight is a culinary apprentice program.  "WOW apprentices are young people from 16-24 who have faced major challenges in their lives, including foster care, difficulties with the law, homelessness, and significant family disruption. We provide tuition-free culinary and restaurant management training. WOWs program invites these young people into the greater world of food—sustainable farming, professional cooking, and access to high-quality food prepared by chefs and food service professionals—as well as provide them with the skills to prepare quality food for themselves. Under the leadership of Executive Director Evelyn Cheatham, WOW employs team based learning and emphasizes responsibility, accountability, and interdependence – skills that support success in any endeavor." 


I heard of WOW on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives just before we left for CA.  We were lucky enough to be able to get a reservation.  The restaurant has about 7 tables total.  It is attached to the Boys and Girls Club building in Santa Rosa.

As with Ana's, it didn't look like much.  Inside, it still didn't look like much.  But the food! We were seated and given a plate of baked goods and a plate of fruit.  On the plate of baked goods were a cold bread pudding, a corn bread muffin and a biscuit.  These were served with the best strawberry jam I've ever had.  As with Ana's salsa, I resisted the urge to lick the little serving vessel clean!  I really liked the bread pudding.  It had chocolate in it!  Dave was a fan of the corn bread muffin.


There were 5 or 6 options for the entree.  I selected the Florentine omelet and Dave had the huevos rancheros, one of the entres that was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.  My omelet came with the best augratin potatoes I've ever had (and I'm not a huge fan of cheese and potatoes).  These were delicous!  The huevos rancheros came with pulled pork, also delicious.


We also got dessert!  When we'd finished our entrees they brought over a maple custard and a chocolate pot de creme.  OH MY the chocolate pot de creme!  It was the perfect texture, just between pudding and fudge and oh so chocolaty!

There are no prices on the menu at WOW.  Everything is on a donation basis.  I wonder how many times they are just taken?  We thought the breakfast was every bit as good as the one we'd had in our hotel on Friday morning, if not better, so we paid accordingly!

Our next appointment was at 12:30 at Kunde for the Mountain Top Tasting.  We had a little time in between so we visited their neighbor, and one of our favorite wineries, Kenwood.  Lauren let us taste anything we wanted, a perk of being a wine club member!  They were having a SALE!  Splits of their yummy sparkling.  A whole case for just $36 and we are wine club members so it was discounted 20% for us and shipped to the house.  I think that was case #5 for this trip.  YIKES!

We still had about a half hour before the Mountain Top tasting so we just sat in the beautiful courtyard of Kunde, soaked up some vitamin D (I'm deficient you know!) and read our books until it was time to go.

Heather, our host for the trip, told us it would be a private tour as we were the only ones signed up.  Just as we were about to leave another group decided to join us.  At first we were bummed.  They couldn't seem to get organized.  One was eternally on his phone, one was always running off for something (a jacket, the bathroom, etc) and one was an older French gentleman who seemed to be very crabby.  We finally got in the van for our trip up the mountain.  Afterwards we were thrilled.  They were hilarious! 

Jean-Paul, the crabby Frenchman, wasn't crabby at all.  He was a riot.  "I don't like wine."  He wouldn't let Heather pour him anything, yet he'd taste out of his wife's or his daughter's (Shannon) glass.  The daughter's boyfriend (Sam) put the phone away once we got going.  He was apparently very interested in the Master's.  They poked and prodded at each other all the way up.  We had great conversation!

Jean-Paul owns his own printing company.  He wanted me to get him the General Mills cereal box printing contract.  Yea, I'll get right on that.  He was hungry and he "didn't drink wine" so he just wanted to go.  We suggested Cafe Citti, just down the road as we love it.  The others didn't want Italian, he just wanted to eat!  They went on and on!

On the way up the mountain we learned that several scenes from one of our favorite movies, Bottle Shock, were filmed on the Kunde property, including the scene in "France" for the competition.  You can imagine what Jean-Paul thought of that scene!  We were lucky enough to drive right past the boxing ring used in the movie!


The tasting bar at the top of the mountain was unbelievable.  We could have stayed there all day.  The weather was perfect, the view breath taking and the wine delicious.  But, we did have to come down.







When we arrived in the tasting room there was a 6 month old black lab there to greet us!  She was about as well be haved as Cabby.  Ok, she was better (but still not still enough to photograph)!  Dogs are allowed everywhere here.  I love that!


One of our conversations on the mountain brought up Ridge winery so we decided to head back to Healdsburg and visit Ridge.  They have four or five Zinfandels, one of which I love.  Of course my notes are home in my book so I couldn't remember which was the one I loved.  Of the ones we tasted, none blew me away so, amazingly, we left a winery with no wine!

It was such a gorgeous day we decided since we were in Healdsburg again, we'd stop back at Seghesio, buy a bottle to have with dinner, and sit in their courtyard and read for a while.  Our seats in the sun...


The winery closed up at 5 so we headed out to dinner.  We decided to try a place that had been recommended by a couple we met at the wine tasting on Saturday.  After a couple wrong turns (the place is literally in an alley) we found it.  It was good, not great, but good.  I had halibut and Dave had a steak.  We did have a delicious appetizer, crab spring rolls (that were actually egg rolls I think.. they were fried).


Now we're packed up ready (not really!) to go home tomorrow.  There's just never enough time here.

It was a wonderful vacation.   I highly recommend this part of the country for a vacation.  We prefer Sonoma to Napa.  It's less rushed, less commercialized.

So sad we have to go home tomorrow... BUT... we have lots of great wine heading to the house and I have brand new appliances waiting for me so it's not all bad!

A Perfect Day

It's going to be very hard to top today.  It probably won't happen for a very long time!  We were up early and in the fitness center then off to find breakfast.  We had no recommendations from anyone so we Googled "best breakfast in Healdsburg" and a few things came up.  We didn't want a chain, we wanted something local.  We copied down three addresses and decided to go to the closest one, Ana's.


It didn't look like much.  A small "cafe" in the middle of a strip mall.  It was a "look up at the menu" place with just a few options but it sure smelled good.  You could tell from the clientele it was a "local" place.  We decided to stay.  Dave had a breakfast sandwich and I had eggs and bacon.  We were expecting styrofoam plates, we were surprised with real plates and very good food! 

As we waited for our food we watched Ana take very personal care of every guest that walked in the door.  It was just Ana and one other person in the place.  She practically danced around the front of the store getting lattes, sandwiches, coffee, whatever was needed.  She did it all with a smile.  She was amazing!

The salsa, obviously homemade, was really really good.  We resisted the urge to lick the bottom of the little bowl in which it was served.

Because we're still on CST it was only 9am after we finished breakfast so we decided to check out downtown Healdsburg.  We found an Oakville Grocery!  We didn't know there was one of those outside of Oakvillle!  If you ever visit, you have to visit the Oakville grocery IN Oakville.  Since we'd been there, this one would do.  We found these very cool plastic wine glasses modeled after the Riedel O series.  We picked some up.  They will be great for the deck in the summer or for traveling!  They were a whopping $4 each!

Dave wanted more coffee so we sat in a coffee shop for a while, in the sun and waited "patiently" for it to be time for our wine tasting at Seghesio.  Finally time! 
It was a bigger class than we had ever been in and headed by the VP of something-or-other for Riedel in the US.  This tasting was different from others we'd gone to in a couple of ways.  First, the glasses were all already full of wine.   Usually the glasses are all empty so you can pour the wine into each one to taste the differences.  Second, each wine was paired with a different salumi.  Yes, salumi, not salami!



Salumi is the umbrella term for Italian-style cured or preserved meats, meaning that salami is in fact a type of salumi. Although salumi is usually pork, any meat that is cured, preserved, or fermented can be a salumi.  We had four different meats.  Unfortunately my notes are packed safely in the box with my glasses, which is going to be shipped home by our friends at the Seghesio winery!  I remember there was one made of wild boar.  It was really good!  We also got to taste two additional Zinfandels during the class.
The tasting lasted two hours after which we shopped!  We were told that there was no more Home Ranch Zinfandel!  We would have to wait until May to get it in our wine club shipment.  Say it isn't so!  Enter Andy!

The first time we visited Seghesio we met Andy.  The tasting room was practically empty that day and we had fun tasting wines and chatting with him.  He was so much fun that he won our "prize" for the trip, a Wheatie's box with his picture on it!  (This year's winner is Ana!).  Andy "found" us some of my very favorite wine in the warehouse and got it ordered to ship!  He also took care of shipping the wine glasses from the tasting so we wouldn't have to deal with them on the plane.  We love Andy!  He may be getting something special this year too.

After the tasting Dave wanted to check out the Charles M. Schultz museum.  We drove there with the sun roof and windows open!  It was in the low 70's and sunny, a perfect day!  After a brief stop at the actual Charles M. Schultz museum for the artist (where I got the cool toy linked to below) we found the museum that had all the airplanes!



LINK to my new toy!




We decided it was time for "linner".  We'd had breakfast at 8:30, slices of salumi at the wine tasting and nothing since, it was now almost 3pm.  We went back to Healdsburg and stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Healdsburg Charcuterie.  Dave had a steak sandwich and I had a burger which left room for dessert!  Chocolate cake with vanilla gelatto and caramelized bananas with caramel sauce.  YUM!

We walked the square one more time stopping in the world's greatest candy store, Powell's Sweet Shop, before heading out of town.
This is just half of the store!

A complete set of Snow White & the Seven Swarfs Pez dispensers!

Willie Wonka playing on the TV surrounded by autographed pictures and real golden tickets from the movie!

On the way back to Santa Rosa we decided to stop at J Winery.  It's one we had wanted to stop at last time we were here but ran out of time.  We're glad we did.  We got there about 10 till 5.  They close at 5!  They let us in anyway.

Their chardonnay was so good we bought a bottle.  I tried a couple of their sparkling wines which were also very good but I think we can get those at home.  Dave tried a couple of pinot noirs, but didn't love either of them.  The fun part was the two women from southern California who were tasting next to us.  One was a wine snob want-to-be who argued with the person serving the wine about origins of different wines.  He told her that if he was right she had to join the wine club.  He pulled out the "wine bible" for her to look up the answer to whatever they were arguing about (we didn't really care).  She was wrong, she admitted it, but I don't think she signed up for the club! 

From there it was back to the hotel for a nap!

Tomorrow we're having breakfast at Worth Our Weight and doing a "Mountain Top Tasting" at Kunde.  Since we are now wine club members there it's just $15 each!  What a deal!  We're hoping to get to Cafe Citti tomorrow too.

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