Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wine 101 & A Cocktail Recipe #HEBJoyville #sponsored

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation in the form of products and a gift card from H-E-B for my time and participation in the H-E-B Virtual Progressive Dinner. Although we have material connection to H-E-B, any publicly stated opinions of H-E-B and their brands remain my own.

Welcome to Day 2 of HEB's Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner! Today is Drinks & Wine Day, hosted by ME, Ashley! Be sure to post your favorite holiday libations on Instagram and tag @HEB and #HEBJoyvilleSweeps for your chance to win an HEB gift card!

Alright, so, keep up with me here: The recipe on this post is for a cocktail, but the information in the post is about wine. Because as talented as I may be in the bar and kitchen, I'm not quite at the level where I can help you bottle your own wine. Not yet, anyway. Got it? Okay. Cool. (Plus, why would you need to when HEB carries such a kickin' selection?)

TL; DR: Read on for a wine lesson, scroll down for a cocktail recipe.

As some of you may know, I attended a tiny artsy-fartsy college in Boston. In order to pay the exorbitant rent while I studied, I worked nearly full time at a busy Italian restaurant outside of Fenway park. One of the things they were big on was wine suggestions. During my time there I learned some quick and dirty tricks that will help you pair wine like a pro... or at least enough that your guests will THINK you're a pro ;)

Thanks for the swag, HEB!

The 5 S's
This was how we learned the proper way to taste wine. If you see any errors, forgive me (and let me know in the comments!) it's been a little while...
1. See - First step is obviously to LOOK at the wine. Notice the colors--is it a full, deep red? A light, rose color? 
2. Swirl - This technique is twofold. Gently swirl the wine and notice how the liquid slides down the inside of the glass. Fuller wines will slide slower, lighter wines will slide quicker. Swirling also aerates the wine a bit, releasing the aromatics.
3. Smell - Now that those aromas are swirling up in the glass, stick your nose in there and take a whiff. What do you smell? Fruit, oak, caramel, vanilla... see if you can pick up the different flavors before you even taste it. 
4. Sip - Take a sip and, if you're like me, resist the urge to gulp it down. Let it settle on your tongue. Are you tasting the flavors you smelled before? Roll it around a bit.
5. Savor - This may look funny, but now you need to get some air in there. Take a small breath and move the wine around as you do so--like a little kid blowing bubbles, but backwards. The flavors should be popping now.

There you go! Now you can taste wine like a pro, and impress your wine guests with a demonstration when you serve your selection of holiday wines!

And now... for pairing. We all know this simple rule: Red Meat = Red Wine. White Meat = White Wine. Right? Well... kind of. In reality, you pair wines by body, not by color. So heavier whites are going to pair with anything from chicken to veal, while lighter reds can pair with beef or chicken.

A Few Wine Pairing Tips
(I am by NO MEANS a sommelier, these are my personal rules I go by, and they might help you, too!)
  • Pair by body: heavier wine = heavier meat
  • Pair by sauce: red with red and white with white applies better to pastas. Pasta with red sauce pairs better with a red wine, same for white.
  • How do you pair smokey or spicy dishes? Lighter, sweeter wines, like a Rosé or White Zinfendel, OR look for wines that have spicy notes in them which will complement the flavors.
  • Dessert Wine: If you're drinking a sweet wine with dessert, make sure it is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert you're enjoying, or else it will make your dessert taste bitter.
  • Red with red, white with white is fine... only if you can't remember anything else.
  • Not brave enough for fancy wine? Sangria is a lovely cocktail-wine hybrid that is tasty no matter what your entree. 

Ashley tip: drink whatever wine you want! If you HATE reds or can't stand Chardonnay, the fact that someone's telling you it'll go nicer with your entree then what you really want to order isn't going to do much for you. 

And now... for the cocktail recipe!


A good rule of thumb is to offer one signature cocktail at your party, and leave a few basics out for those who just want to do a rum and coke. I typically make a big batch of sangria, but if you want a more personal, holiday-themed cocktail to make for guests, I'd go with this. I call it my Cranberry "Texan" Mule, a take on a Moscow Mule. Spicy ginger beer and tangy cranberries combine with vodka for a lovely holiday drink!

Cranberry Texan Mule
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz cranberry simple syrup (see below)
  • 1/2 cup ginger beer
  • ice
  • lime wedge, for garnish

For the Cranberry Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
-Prepare the simple syrup: Over medium heat, mix together the water and sugar until sugar has just dissolved. Add cranberries and zest, and stir lightly. Bring heat down to low, and leave on heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a jar (berries and all!) and refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

-Fill a glass with ice (if you have a copper cup, go for it!) and pour vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup over the top. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently. Serve with lime wedge, and extra cranberries for garnish.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Story of This Turkey - How to brine and cook a turkey!

Due to leaving my camera in Massachusetts, it's been kind of tough to pull recipes together. Thankfully I FINALLY have it back, woo! Major props to the fiancé for lending me his camera for turkey day though. It's a little older and harder for me to work with, so forgive me if the pics aren't top quality... moreso my lack of skill than his camera.

So this is from Thanksgiving, but I've been dying to share it with you. Considering tomorrow starts the HEB Virtual Progressive Dinner, I thought it'd fit in nicely to kick off the week.

If you need a reminder... Here's the Lineup for the Week:

Monday 12/8: Table Décor by Handmade Mood

Tuesday 12/9: Drinks/Wine by yours truly ;)

Wednesday 12/10: Appetizers by Confections of a Foodie Bride

Thursday 12/11: Main Course by A Zesty Bite

Friday 12/12: Desserts by The Baking Fairy

And don't forget about the Instagram Contest! Check my previous post for more details.

Now, for this turkey... I went back to Massachusetts for my mom's birthday over Thanksgiving, and the fiancé was working the actual holiday. We were a little sad at the idea of not having Thanksgiving leftovers, so I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner five days early with a few close friends.

I'd never in my life cooked a turkey before, and I was very excited to take on the process of making THE. PERFECT. TURKEY. I consulted the expert, Alton Brown, and some family know-how, and the results (as you can see) are pretty dang perfect!

Juicy, flavorful, and a good blend of new and old techniques. I even made homemade gravy to smother it with. All in all, my first turkey was a success!

Tips: Don't stuff the turkey with stuffing! Cook stuffing separately to ensure a juicy bird. Save the giblets to make THE BEST GRAVY EVER! Save the bones (and any veggie trimmings you have leftover) to make stock.

The Perfect Turkey
(Recipe based largely on Alton Brown's Good Eats)

  • 1 turkey, ~12 lbs
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 gallon stock (I used a combo of veg and chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 ginger knob, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 gallon of water

For Inside the Turkey

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 apple, sliced in half
  • 1 onion, sliced in half
  • 1 cup water

Herbed Butter

  • 2 sticks room temp butter
  • 2 tablespoons herbs de provance
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil

-In a large stock pot, combine the salt, brown sugar, apple cider, stock, peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick. Heat over medium-high heat, until salt and sugar have dissolved. Bring to a boil, then take off heat and cool to room temp.

-Combine the ingredients for the herbed butter, stirring so that all ingredients are well combined, and place in fridge until ready to roast turkey.

-In a 5 gallon pot, place turkey and cover with brine and 1 gallon of cold water. Let sit in fridge overnight.

-When ready to roast, pat turkey dry and place on a roasting rack. Combine cinnamon stick, apple, onion, and 1 cup water in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds. Drain water off, and place in the cavity of the turkey.

-Gently make cuts in the turkey's skin, and take cubes of the herbed butter and place under skin. Do this over the entire bird.

-Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Cut a piece of tinfoil that will cover the breast of the bird. Spray lightly with cooking spray, and set aside. Roast bird for 30 minutes at this heat.

-Remove from oven and place apron over breast. Bring heat down to 350 degrees F and roast for 2 and a half hours, or until internal temperature reaches 161 degrees F.* Let rest outside the oven, covered, for 15 minutes before carving.

*Alton suggests a fancy-pants thermometer-alarm here, but I don't have that. So I just checked periodically with a regular meat thermometer.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

#HEBJoyville Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner #sponsored

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation in the form of products and a gift card from H-E-B for my time and participation in the H-E-B Virtual Progressive Dinner. Although we have material connection to H-E-B, any publicly stated opinions of H-E-B and their brands remain my own.

Hello again, friends! I know it's been a while, but I have some good news: 1. I FINALLY GOT MY CAMERA BACK! Let's all breathe a sigh of relief that my usual recipe posts will be back, full force. And 2...

I am joining up with HEB and 4 other bloggers (Handmade Mood,  Confections of a Foodie BrideA Zesty Bite, and The Baking Fairy) to bring you HEB's Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner! For the week of December 8th, we'll be posting all the components you'll need to have a kicking holiday gathering. If you've heard me gush about the amazingness of HEB, you know how thrilled I am for this. I'll be providing the booze in this virtual dinner party, and I couldn't be more excited!

Y'all know how much I love the booze.

Here's the Lineup for the Week:

Monday 12/8: Table Décor by Handmade Mood

Tuesday 12/9: Drinks/Wine by yours truly ;)

Wednesday 12/10: Appetizers by Confections of a Foodie Bride

Thursday 12/11: Main Course by A Zesty Bite

Friday 12/12: Desserts by The Baking Fairy

In addition to these amazing holiday tidbits, EVERY DAY next week you have the chance to win a $100 HEB gift card just by instagramming your favorite holiday dish/drink/décor in the theme of the day with the hashtag #HEBJoyvilleSweeps and tag @HEB (so, on my day, post your favorite holiday drink!) and you're entered to win. You can enter each day of the dinner, so that's five chances to win!

So there you go. Check back here for my drink recipe on Tuesday, and be sure you're following us all on the usual social media channels so you don't miss a single piece of this dinner party. Can't wait to see you there!

And oh yeah, here's a sneak peek of Tuesday ;)