Risotto, Running and REM

Wake me up because I’m tired of dreaming. It’s Week 9 of the stay-at-home order, although some of you may have started quarantine either later or earlier than me. I typically never recall my dreams, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to vividly retell what took place during REM before I’ve had my morning espresso. Some nights I’m being screamed at by someone because I forgot my mask, or I’m lost in a supermarket, or living back in Canada (I’ll get to that next week.)

Lockdown Dreams

I wondered if I was the only one who was having weird dreams, so after doing some searching, I discovered that scientists have documented why and how the coronavirus is affecting our dreams. There’s even a website called Lockdown Dreams and you can share your experiences with others. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for some people, but frankly, I’m tired of remembering. Why would I want to read about other people’s life-like nightmares?

Running

I began running around five years ago, but really started taking it more seriously and working on a mind-body regimen about a year ago. Where getting in a car to go basically nowhere hardly gives me pleasure, running now gives me a sense of freedom and purpose to weekends with nowhere to go. Running is my superpower. What’s yours?

Vineyard in Piemonte © Shutterstock

Daydreams Are Different

For a week I daydreamed about making Risotto with Sausage, drinking Barbaresco (see below,) and most importantly, taking a virtual trip to Italy. Thanks to Wine by the Bay in Miami, a Saturday tour of Pier Paolo Grasso’s Azienda Vitivinicola Pier (located in Treiso, Piemonte) gave me a chance to forget those stressful trips to the supermarket and an inbox filled with work requests mixed with a barrage of breaking news headlines.

The Zoom event was perfectly orchestrated by Wine by the Bay’s owner, Stefano Campanini. After signing up, a small group of “travelers” received a bottle of Barbaresco and video link to a pre-recorded demo by Sara, Pier Paolo Grasso’s wife who explained step-by-step how to prepare the dish. While we had lunch in our kitchens, the Grasso’s enjoyed dinner overlooking their vineyard! The video tour was divided into three parts starting with a 360° look of the estate; followed by the cellars; and concluding with the bottling and packaging areas. In between, we chatted, ate lunch and drank the wine pensively, but filled with excitement because we could hear insights from the winemaker himself!

Possibly it was the 14% ABV, but by glass number two, I felt like I was sitting in the same room with everyone. Imagine, guests from Washington, Texas, Florida, Quebec, and Piemonte enjoying this great experience together!

Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007 © Lisa Morales

The Wine: Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007

The Nebbiolo grapes used for this Riserva come from La Fenice vineyards. After vinification in steel, Piccola Emma 2007 was matured for ten years in 50hl oak barrels. Bottling took place in December 2018.

The wine sports a charming garnet color, a rich and elegant olfactory emerges, initially dominated by notes of red currant and morello cherry jams which, in a short time, reveal hints of dried violet and undergrowth as well as a slight blood tinge; a vertical balsamic vein runs through the bouquet giving it an intriguing olfactory three-dimensionality.

Note: I didn’t write this description. You can read the full review here and run it through Google translator if you don’t speak Italian. You can find some more history of the winery and a nice photo of Pier Paolo and Sara here.

Risotto with Sausage Ingredients © Lisa Morales

Risotto Recipe

If you hadn’t read this far, you would have missed out on the best part, or maybe the second best part, or equal parts. Alright, the wine and recipe tie for first place!

While it was not the first time that I’ve made risotto, it was the first time that I’ve made it with a newly opened bottle of Riserva red wine. Trust me, those tears shed from losing a half cup of Pier Paolo’s Barbaresco to this dish will quickly dry up when you taste your perfect pairing!

  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 4 – 6 cups of hot chicken stock
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp of Thyme
  • ¾ c of chopped Baby Portobello mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 c of Piccola Emma (or quality red wine)
  • 4 sausages each cut into thirds (I simmered the sausage in a bit of water until almost cooked and had acquired a little bit of color.)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 c of grated Parmesan cheese (save some for topping the dish or shred some more and reserve until the end)
  • 1 tbsp chopped Parsley

Using a wooden spoon, gently sauté the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent.

Add the mushrooms and Thyme and stir until soft adding more olive oil if needed.

Stir in the Arborio rice and coat with oil and lightly toast.

Add the wine, stir and simmer until it evaporates.

Add the first 3 or 4 ladles of stock until the rice is just covered with broth. Let the rice gently simmer, stirring frequently.

Repeat this step a few more times until the rice is “al dente.” When you run your spoon down the bottom of the pot, the rice will separate and you see a clear line.

Remove from heat and stir in first the butter until it is melted and combined, followed by the Parmesan cheese.

Cover for a 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: Since I had prepared this ahead of time because I had a work commitment before the trip, I left the rice warming over another pot filled with some steamy, hot water. If your rice dries up, you can add a splash of broth (or cream) to make it creamier.

Risotto with Sausage © Lisa Morales

The End Is A Beginning

This pandemic has thwarted our sense of purpose and to work without the reward of time off or a vacation is extremely hard. However, dreams help us prepare for adversity. So when you wake up, keep remembering that where the bad dream ends, there’s still a day filled with possibilities, plus a daydream or two to keep us going — This too shall pass.

“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Note: Dr. Jonas Salk first tested his vaccine against the polio virus in 1952 before announcing to the world in 1955 that a viable vaccine against the feared virus was now a reality.  Albert Sabin followed Dr. Salk a few short years later by licensing an oral version of the polio vaccine in 1962.

Resource: Talking about your dreams may be a good idea if you are feeling anxious. Read more here.

You too can take a trip with Wine by the Bay! Visit www.winebtb.com/events.

Taco Talk on Cinco de Mayo

Fast and Easy Homemade Taco Dinner Recipe

It’s Week 8 of the Florida stay-at-home order, although things are slowly starting to open up. However, if you take a look at traffic and social media, you’ll know that people are flocking to the marinas and any open recreational spaces – public beaches are still closed. We may have to redefine “slow.”

Who’s making Margaritas? (Shutterstock)

It’s also May 5th or Cinco de Mayo. Typically, bars and restaurants are crowded with people who don’t mind invading each other’s personal space while downing Margaritas and Mexican-ish finger food. You’ll have to grab your Mexican food curbside this year and hopefully, bought your Margarita Mix and Tequila earlier than today. Since liquor sales are way up, you last-minute planners may find yourself drinking wine, like me!

May 5th

DYK that May 5th is the 126th day of the year since 2020 is a leap year? According to Wikipedia, this day marks the approximate midpoint of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern Hemisphere. There are also 239 days left in the year. However, who’s counting because since the start of the pandemic, we’re just taking life one day at a time. And, even if you remember what day of the week it is, it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Cinco de Mayo Parade in Chicago (Shutterstock)

Cinco de Mayo

I don’t know much about Cinco de Mayo other than it’s a day when people get drunk and eat tacos. So just in case you don’t know much more than me, I figured it’s time to dig a little into the history. First of all, it’s not Mexican Independence Day – that’s on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo officially commemorates the anniversary of an early victory by Mexican forces over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not the anniversary of the defeat and expulsion of the French forces by the Mexicans, which occurred in 1867.

It’s also not a United States national holiday, but is meant to be a day to celebrate Mexican culture, plus the achievements and experiences of Mexican-Americans. So narrowing down the day from celebrating achievements and culture to a drunken, Tequila fest is really sad. However, not surprising: 💰kaching 💰.

Feeding Five Under 25 $: Making Soft Tacos/Tostadas from Scratch

Since this is a recipe blog post, I’m not going to go far into taco history. If you’d like to feed your food geekiness, I urge you to read this article by Smithsonian Magazine. Otherwise, I see tacos in this way: You can purchase a bag of Maseca® corn flour and chop up and season leftover meat, quickly feeding a lot of people for just a few dollars! So, that’s what I did.

Homemade Taco Seasoning © Lisa Morales

Taco Seasoning found on Gimme Delicious

Clean the tomatillos and cut in half. Place them half side down on a baking sheet along with the garlic cloves and peppers. Broil until charred.

  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (I used smoked paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • Add all the spices to a mason jar. Cover tightly and shake.

Tip: 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning is equivalent to 1 packet of store-bought taco seasoning.

Salsa Verde made with roasted green tomatoes. © Lisa Morales

Salsa Verde from Kitchn

  • 1 pound tomatillos (about 12 medium)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium serrano or jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion (1/4 medium)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons water

Note: The original recipe says peel the garlic cloves, but I left them on and then removed them from the skins once broiled.

While the tomatillos, garlic and peppers cool, chop up the onion that has been rinsed under water.

Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend to the desired consistency.

Tostadas with chicken and sausage, served with white bean chili (recipe to be posted in a future blog.) © Lisa Morales

Soft Tacos/Tortillas/Tostadas (Found on Kitchn, but this recipe is also on the corn flour bag)

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine)

Mix the flour and salt and then add the hot water. Stir until combined.

Knead the dough with your hands directly in the bowl. Add more water or masa (sparingly) to get the desired consistency: it should feel like playdough.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 15 – 30 minutes. Note that it won’t rise like regular bread dough.

Roll a few tablespoons of the dough to make golf ball size balls.

Flatten with a tortilla press that is covered with plastic. ]

Note: I don’t own one so the bottom of a small pot worked and then I just tossed it by hand to thin it out a bit more. The plastic wrap separating both of the flattened ball helps.

Warm a cast iron skillet on medium heat until you can feel the heat an inch above the surface.

Cook the tacos on each side for about 2 minutes.

Remove and keep tacos warm in a dish towel.

The Filling

I’ve used, on two separate occasions, leftover beef and chicken combined with sausage as the filling. Gently warm the meat in a pan and add some of the homemade taco seasoning. Combine and add a few tablespoons of water and then simmer until the water evaporates. Remove from heat and cover the pan to keep the filling warm and moist.

Homemade Tacos with Salsa Verde, guacamole and toppings with a side of plantain chips. Use a mandolin to thinly slice green plantains. © Lisa Morales

Toppings

I used shredded cheese, homemade guacamole, salsa verde, tomatoes, sour cream and a dash of sriracha. However, choose your own and what you have on hand.

The End

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you are planning to make your Cinco de Mayo just a little more authentic and before you get drunk, think about the great things that Mexican-Americans have contributed to the US.

Mexican actor and director Gael Garcia Bernal on red carpet at the closing ceremony during the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival at Berlinale Palast.
(Shutterstock)

Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It changes like dialects. ~ Gael Garcia Bernal

Recommend Reading: Gael García Bernal: ‘The pandemic has taught me that I need something to say.’ Or, if you don’t have time to read this article, give his statement some thought: There’s something more straightforward now in how we see things – it’s stronger, more elemental and pulsating. We’re so emotionally charged. Artistic expression can affect us for the better, making us feel we’re all in this questioning together.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Tag me in your taco photos on Instagram! 👍🏻

Death by Chocolate and Wine

Here we go! Week 7 of the stay-at-home order and I’m thinking about death. How can we not think about it when we read the numbers each day in the news? Keeping the statistics in mind, there’s a high probability that someone close to us may die of COVID-19 related complications. We dart through grocery stores like the living dead, avoid eye contact, and grunt through masks only when we must speak.

I have thought about leaving the ones I love behind and spending my last moments alone. I worry for elderly family members and the people I don’t know personally, but put their lives at risk each day—grocery store workers, healthcare professionals, bus drivers, etc.

I had a high school English teacher who loved New Orleans and jazz. He once told us that if there was a nuclear war, he’d accept his doom provided that he had a steak dinner, a glass of red wine and Louis Armstrong playing.

His philosophy stuck with me and I’ve decided that if I must face my fate, my last meal will include a steak and a glass of wine, but also some form of Death by Chocolate. You’ll find a recipe for this chocolatey namesake below, but first a little…

Death by Chocolate History

The first death by chocolate took place in Mexico in the 1600’s when some rich parishioners couldn’t stop eating chocolate during Mass. This prompted a ban by the Bishop who then met his fate after drinking a poisonous chocolate concoction. Read the full story here.

Death by Chocolate Cookies (found on Delish.com)

  • 1 c. butter, softened (or shortening)
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in 1 cup semisweet chips and dark chocolate chips.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until centers are set, about 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then place on cooling rack to cool completely.

Make ganache: Place remaining 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a bowl. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream over low and bring to a gentle boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

Dip cookies halfway into ganache and sprinkle dipped side with flaky salt. Let harden before serving.

Notes: I used milk and white chocolate because that was what was available at the grocery store. However, next time I’ll look for better quality chocolate and use semi sweet and dark as called for in the original recipe.

The light sprinkle of sea salt is key! I waited until the ganache set a bit before adding it so that it could not only be sensed (you really don’t taste salt—it accentuates the flavors,) but also be seen.

2015 Oremus Mandolás – Tempos Vega Sicilia
© Lisa Morales

The Wine: 2015 Oremus Mandolás – Tempos Vega Sicilia (100% Furmint, Hungary)

This dry Tokaji immediately triggered a memory of a late night snack at Bar Casa Julio located next to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I ate fried calamari and drank fino sherry. Now, it would be totally incorrect of Wine Newbie me to say that Oremus Mandolás is like fino sherry. It has a dry sherry feel and I can imagine having it with lightly salted, fried seafood.

Before I return to the earth (6 feet under that is,) you’ll find me sipping this dry Tokaji while soaking up the sun. Read more here. (BTW I enjoyed Oremus Mandolás on its own and would not recommend having it with either steak or Death by Chocolate cookies.)

It can be purchased in person or online at Wine by the Bay, Miami.

Recommend Reading: Brian Freedman’s article for Forbes magazine and Taste of Hungary.

Facts: Mandolás was the first dry wine produced in the region of Tokaji. February 1 is International Furmint Day.

Let’s drink to the hard working people. Let’s drink to the salt of the earth ~ Mick Jagger

Share your Death by Chocolate Cookies photos with me by tagging me on Instagram; and let me know what meal and wine would be your “last supper,” in a comment below.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Back to Basics Breakfast Recipes

Here we are, Week 5 (or longer) of the stay-at-home order and begrudgingly accepting our new norm. One thing I know is that I’m learning to be more resourceful. Nothing goes to waste and everything gets added to the pot, so to speak.

Tip: To limit how many times that you need to visit the grocery store, make sure you buy two types of vegetables or fruit: short and long-lasting. I go through things like spinach near the beginning of the week and leave the less-perishable ones for later. Here’s a good guide to some long-lasting choices.

For this week’s “Feeding Five Under 25 $,” it’s back to basics and business. Here are a couple of fast and easy breakfast recipes that you and your loved ones can grab and go. Okay – not grab and literally go, but get on with the day from the desk at home.

Using oats makes both recipes gluten free. Use an egg substitute and non-dairy milk product to make them vegan.

Baked Banana Oatmeal Cup Recipe (found on YouTube)

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8th teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas depending on their size)
  • 2 pastured eggs
  • 1.5 cups of unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
  • Craisins (or any dried fruit)
  • ¼ Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Bar crushed into small chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray or coat with coconut oil or butter.

In a large bowl combine oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In a separate bowl mix together mashed bananas, eggs, and milk until well combined.

Pour milk mixture over oat mixture and stir well to combine.

Evenly divide the oat mixture between all 12 muffin cup and then top each one a piece of chocolate and a few craisins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and cooked through.  Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Baked Steel-Cut Oats with Sunflower Butter (adapted from NY Times Cooking)

  • ¼ cup sunflower butter (you can use peanut butter or almond butter, but I needed a nut-free version)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Fresh or defrosted frozen fruit for serving.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium shallow casserole or baking dish, combine 3 cups boiling water and the sunflower butter and stir until smooth-ish. (Don’t worry about a few lumps.) Stir in oats. Season the mix with a big pinch of salt, and some cinnamon or nutmeg if you like.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through. Taste and if the oats aren’t cooked enough, let it bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Garnish with fruit and serve. (There’s no sugar in this recipe so add honey or a raw sugar if you need this dish sweetened.)

Helpful Resource

Health Benefits of Eating Oats

I know it’s getting tougher by the hour and there seems to be no end in sight. Although the stress level is high, let’s try to keep it in check, be considerate, and…

What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast? ~ Anthony Bourdain

If you make these recipes, be sure to post a photo and tag me on Instagram.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

The Socially Distant Easter Menu

If that isn’t a depressing headline, I don’t know what is. Here in South Florida, we’re into what should be Week 4 of the stay-at-home order, although the state itself didn’t declare a full shutdown until last Friday. From the looks of traffic, I’m not sure if everyone is listening.

For those of us who are heeding the mandate, the unnamed days are feeling longer and restlessness has evolved to anxiety and often, anger. I myself can fully understand why we no longer cage animals. I’m even starting to question the idea of zoo “habitats” — maybe captivity should only apply to animals that can’t survive in the wild.

Pandemic

I was curious to know when was the last time that people couldn’t go to church on Easter Sunday. DYK the year? In 1918, during the Spanish Flu. Read more here. Although dubbed the Spanish Flu, the virus originated in New York.

Feeding Five Under 25 $ — A Fast, Family Meal

Let’s face it. The people who are telling us what to do with our “extra” time, may not be managing a family indoors or feeling a pandemic-related, psychological fatigue. So, today’s meal inspiration and pairing isn’t either labor intensive or expensive. However, it will look and taste great!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Salad and Tomato Orzo paired with Pinot Noir

The bacon wrapped pork tenderloin recipe can be found on BonAppetit.com.

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, make a paste from the finely chopped garlic cloves, rosemary, fennel, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Rub the mixture onto the pork tenderloin and wrap the pork with about 6 pieces of applewood smoked bacon to completely cover it.

Add the whole garlic cloves to the baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Refrigerate for a few hours.

Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking at 425º. Since I have a double oven and the top oven is not full size,  found that 425º was too high for the entire baking time. About halfway through, I reduce the oven to 375º.

Orzo with Tomatoes (adapted from NY Times Cooking)

  • 6 cups of water (and salt)
  • 1 c of orzo (feeds 5)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • olive oil
  • parsley and/or basil chopped (total 1 cup)
  • ¼ Parmesan cheese

Cook orzo based on package directions. Drain.

In the same pot (dried), gently sauté the tomatoes and garlic.

Stir in the orzo to coat evenly with oil and distribute the tomatoes.

Remove from heat and add parsley/basil and cheese. Cover and keep warm.

Note: this is a great prepare ahead side dish easily warmed in the microwave or on low heat stirring frequently.

Shaved Fennel Salad (from Simply Recipes)

  • 1 fennel bulb, shaved paper thin with a mandolin
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp of chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley
  • 2 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese

Gently toss together all of the ingredients.

Note: I prefer to top the salad with the shaved Parmesan rather than toss it in, especially if making it ahead of time.

The Wine: 2017 Comtes de Saint-Martin Bourgogne

I was looking for a French wine made of 100% Pinot Noir and turned to my favorite, local wine shop for advice: Wine by the Bay. Great value (under $25, yay), but an even greater wine that was a perfect pairing to the Socially Distant Easter Menu.  Think of this wine as that first breath of warm, spring air filled with a delicate song of new life.

A little bit of wine info because I can’t resist an opportunity to learn. Comtes de Saint-Martin is located in Beaune where you can enjoy Bourgogne (Burgundy) wines, hike, bike through the vineyards and enjoy fine dining.

It’s impossible to find anything about this winery or the wine. Should you wish to read more about Pinot Noir, native to Bourgogne, and its distinct characteristics visit this link.

I’m never too old for an Easter Egg Hunt, especially when searching for Cadbury Creme Eggs!

A Different Kind of Celebration

Whether or not you celebrate Easter or Passover, at least try to remember that it’s Spring. Although we shall mourn the loss of many, let’s turn to the beauty of bud break and birds chirping and remember that…

“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.”

– Doug Larson

Recommended Reading

Follow me on Instagram @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

The Cookie Has Crumbled: Chocolate Chip Cookies and History

Feeding Five Under 25 $

It’s now Week 3 of the South Florida shelter in place order and I’m craving bad carbs, saturated fats, salt and sugar.

I’m crumbling and probably you are too. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a hurricane that will blow into the Atlantic in a few days. This is our modern day Hiroshima — a silent and invisible cloud looming over the entire earth. We can’t just change the channel and tune it out because it’s someone else’s war. It’s a world war and we’re in it together.

That being said, I think we deserve some chocolate. If you’re home schooling the kids, the smell of yumminess baking and the reward of cookies after lunch will most certainly get them through the morning classes with ease and give you some well-deserved comfort.

I did not adapt this recipe and it’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on New York Times Cooking. Although there’s nothing original about a Chocolate Chip Cookie, with this recipe you are biting into some history (pass that DYK on to the kids!)

The History Lesson

In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband. Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and ½-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.

The Recipe

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 2 large eggs

2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I’m not sure who came up with the saying, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “C’est la vie.” Whoever did though, probably didn’t live through a pandemic.

It’s impossible to shrug this off and small doses of comfort food or comforting are needed each day. Rather than mask your feelings, I suggest that you confront them. Here’s an article titled, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus” that has helped me put this into perspective and if you really need help, reach out to a friend or for professional help, but just remember…

“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” ― Catherine Aitken

If you need professional help, here are some resources:

Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $: Easy and Vegan-Friendly, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars. (Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means stop.)

Beaches are closed in South Florida.

Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?

Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic.  Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.

Work Day Breakfast: One or two oatmeal bars, fresh fruit and a homemade Tumeric Shot.

Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.

Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:

Use an egg substitute and gluten-free flour if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°

  • 1 c Crisco
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ c of Chia seeds
  • 1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
You can mix this by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer.
  • With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
  • Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and whisk until smooth.
  • Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix and Vanilla.
  • Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
  • Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried fruit until combined.
  • Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a pan with parchment paper.
  • Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
  • Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until golden.

Notes:

Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.

Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.

If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt as a topping or eat them on the spot!

From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.

Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and stay strong!

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming

Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ : Easy Flatbread Skillet Recipe

I live in South Florida and as the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID_19 continue to rise, everyone is running around trying to find the basic food and household necessities fearing that everything except essential businesses will shut down. Wait! Everything has shut down, but things are moving faster than the Florida Everglades wildfires, so I temporarily forgot.

With parents struggling to work at home and also home school the kids, there are more meals to make. Items like bread, eggs and meat are hard to come by or not available.  Rather than buy supermarket convenience food,  I’ve put my mother’s World War II “how to feed a family” strategies into place.

Periodically on my blog, you’ll find tips on how I’m, “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” dollars. Keep eating healthy and exercise because that will help you manage the stress.

Here’s my first “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” recipe:

Cast Iron Cooked Flatbread Filled with Leftover Meat

1 package of active dry yeast

2 tsp of sugar

1 c of warm water (115°) – use only ½ c of water for the yeast

2 ½ c of all purpose flour

1 tsp of salt

3 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ c of water and reserve the other half.

Wait at least 5 minutes until the yeast becomes active. The top will resemble beer foam.

Combine the flour and salt. I use a mixer with bread hook, but with a spoon is fine. Slowly add the yeast and then the olive oil and the water (you may not need all of it) and blend until almost combined. I do the rest by hand and then knead until everything comes together and you can form a smooth ball. You don’t need to knead it too much, but here’s a ‘how to’ video.

Coat your mixing bowl with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a (warm water) damp tea towel.

Go do something else for an hour. I chose to run outside because it’s a great way to get some Vitamin D and restore my sanity while in quarantine.

The dough should double within the hour. Punch it down and remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a tube and cut into six even pieces.

I used semolina flour, but any flour for rolling will do. Sprinkle some flour onto a rolling pin and roll into a thin disk. You can also rotate and stretch the dough like you’d do when making pizza. See this link which BTW is my favorite pizza dough recipe.

Heat a cast iron pan on medium until it is very hot (think pizza oven hot!) Add one of the rolled out dough pieces and watch it bubble up quick. Wait about 3 minutes and take a peak. You can flip it when it’s golden or get the charred look. Cook for another 3 minutes.

Note: A cast-iron pan gets very hot, so lower the temperature slightly if you think the dough will brown too quickly.

To keep the flatbreads warm and moist, wrap them in a tea towel.

I filled the flatbreads with leftover carné con papas (beef stew) from the night before. Shred the meat and chop the potatoes into small pieces. There wasn’t a lot of meat left so I added some chorizo too. Top the meat with chopped tomatoes, avocado, shredded cheese and cilantro. I didn’t have sour cream, but it’s healthier without it.

If you’ve read this far and hopefully making this recipe, I hope you’re now sharing my joy of creating something wonderful to eat. More than that, here’s a great time to stop watching the news or checking social media. You’ll have a yummy distraction for yourself and make your loved ones very happy.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Wine by Numbers: My Take on Tasting Notes

When it comes to what’s in your glass — that sumptuous work of art, do you resign to the visceral or let a wine rating or tasting note dictate your opinion?

Tasting Notes

While I understand that tasting notes are needed in the industry as a means to sort, order, classify and make a wine brand marketable, should the rest of us be controlled by this numbered rating? Must we fill our thoughts with aromas of wildflowers or forest floor before we even take a sniff or sip?

Wine Newbie Me, is not trying to diminish in any way the credibility of the world’s wine experts and big names such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, or James Suckling, just to name a few. In fact, I learn a lot from them and love to read their reviews and articles, especially Jancis Robinson.

Or, if you explore (hashtag) #wine and try to keep up with the ever-growing Instagram and Twitter world of sommeliers and wine lovers, you can become easily swayed by the next up-and-coming wine critic’s notes because he/she has over 30.5K followers. That’s fine I guess, but before I get called self-righteous, I do have a point…

The Mom Factor

Would you tell a mother that you know more about her child than she does? You better not — that is if you value your life! I imagine a winemaker might not be so quick to react as strongly as your mother. However, he or she is the creator of the wine: from the soil tilled, to the excitement of bud break, to the blisters on the hands. He/she loses sleep over that unexpected wind, rain or cold spell, or even Corona Virus!

The winemaker is ever present. He/she celebrates the joyful moments and courageously plows through the suffering (pardon the pun.)

He/she too can express in words the wine better than anyone else.

With that being said, I found this little poetry in motion.

Baron de Brane Margaux 2015: Château Brane-Cantenac

Henri Lurton is the composer of what he describes, “Une vraie valse de fruits rouges, arrivés à parfaites maturité. La robe est grenat, intense et profonde.” — A waltz of red fruits at perfect maturity. A garnet dress, intense and profound.

Bottles from the world’s greatest wine producers have a story to tell and when you go beyond the tasting notes and pairing recommendations, you’ll find both the history and the story. By story, I mean what is present and what the possibilities can be.

Learn more about Château Brane-Cantenac at this link.

I found the the Baron de Brane Margaux at Wine by the Bay in Miami.

“The truly free man is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.” ― Jules Renard

Until next time… When it comes to what’s in your glass (or life for that matter,) be truly okay with “You Say Tomato and I say Toe-mah-toe” – just know what you love and love what you know.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Food and Wine

Whether it’s what I call my “Kitchen Lab” experiments or opportunities to attend wine tastings and seminars, or travel adventures, here are some highlights.

Follow the details on my Instagram stories @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape.

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Margaux paired with a long "To Do List." #MyArtEscape 📝 I'm just loving this wine: Baron de Brane Margaux 2015 @chateau_branecantenac from @winebythebay . 👉🏻Keep reading… • 🔻 Sometimes I try too hard. I plan out my meals like I plan out life. It’s just a bit too rigid. Two weekend meals came and went and neither one worked with this wine. So, I gave up. 🤷🏻‍♀️ After working 5 hours on Sunday without a break, I decided to go back to this wine and enjoy it by itself. 🍷 • 🔻 A glass of wine and some wine reading became the perfect pairing. The need to shorten the never ending "To Do List" dissipated. • 🔻 I delved into the Château Brane-Cantenac website, first testing my long lost French and then switching to English. • 🔻 Henri Lurton is the composer of what he describes, “Une vraie valse de fruits rouges, arrivés à parfaites maturité. La robe est grenat, intense et profonde.” — A waltz of red fruits at perfect maturity. A garnet dress, intense and profound. • 🔻 Ah those words…they’re the swirl of a dance in 3/4 time! 🍷 🔻 “Since 1992, Henri Lurton has continued the journey that his father and ancestors began. Although a proponent of innovation and new technology, Henri is careful never to lose sight of the traditional values that remain an inherent part of Brane’s identity. Above all, he is proud of the unique terroir, and recognises the need to treat the soil, vines and grapes with immense respect as he carefully steers Brane’s future course.” • 🔻 🍇Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc • 🔻 ❓DYK: In 2015 Henri Lurton started Bodegas Lurton @henrilurton in Ensenada, Mexico? I'm curious. 🤔 • 🔻 #winewednesday #IFWTWA @ifwtwa1

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Lunch with Chiara Soldati, owner of La Scolca winery in Piemonte, Italy.

2011 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, Italy)

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A wine not for the “faint of heart.” #MyArtEscape 🍷❤️ Keep reading…👇🏻 • 🔻 I’m a red wine girl and love a wine that I can sink my teeth into. The Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 by @antonellisanmarco is just that and rates high on my #Yummy list. I paired it with Braised Beef Ragu (👉🏻swipe), but to me, it screams for Standing Rib Roast and Parmesan Rosemary Potatoes. It’s definitely a big or holiday dinner wine and I’ll just have to get me another bottle (ahem @winebythebay) & get back into my Kitchen Lab.• 🔻 🍇100% Sagrantino: Considered as Italy’s most tannic grape. AKA Sagrantino di Montefalco before 2009, is a style of Italian wine made in and around the commune of Montefalco in the Province of Perugia, Umbria. • 🔻 ⛪️ Fun Fact: it’s believed that the origin of the word “Sagrantino” is “sagrestia” or “sacristy” in English. Yes, they might have been serving up Montefalco Sagrantino at Mass and with that 14.5% ABV…happy parishioner! • 🔻 📝Notes: Intense ruby red in colour. To the nose rich and powerful, ethereal and very complex. Typically characterised by notes of fruit and aromatic herbs, featuring citrus, cherry, wild berry, mint and oregano. On the palate this wine is very structured, with firm and integrated tannins. A wine that is best expressed with a long bottle ageing. [ ✏️by Antonelli San Marco 📷by Me]

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