Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Wine Tasting

I spent the MLK holiday wine tasting in Northern Virginia with Pam, Kasia, and Lupe. We toured the Potomac wine tasting trail, located near Leesburg, VA, about an hour outside of DC. The first stop on the tour was at Tarara Winery. This winery was the largest and most impressive vineyard we visited. Tarara was beautiful with a large tasting room and beautiful patio overlooking the vineyard and and a large pond. At Tarara after tasting several wines, we decided on a bottle of Cabernet Franc blend and sipped it in the tasting room by the fireplace with rosemary crackers and smoked gouda.
Next on the Potomac Trail, was the Lost Creek Winery. The Tuscany styled tasting room was open with a large fireplace, and we were the only guests. Our host rushed us through the tasting, mostly because she said she was hungry and her lunch was waiting. None of the reds here really impressed me, so I bought a bottle of sweet white. I don't usually drink white, so it was great to have the opportunity to taste something I wouldn't normally drink. I ended up buying a bottle of Vidal Blanc/Chardonnay with hints of apple. While this probably was my least favorite winery of the day, I am interested in returning for their wine making process tour.

The last stop was the Hidden Brook Winery, which is located just down the road from Lost Creek. Hidden Brook's tasting room was a cozy log cabin. Our host at Hidden Brook, Deborah, was very knowledgeable of the wine as well as the local wine economy. She really made our experience special by offering her personal and professional opinion of the wine as well as recommending other local wineries and restaurants. Hidden Brook offered a great selection of delicious rose and dessert wine. I bought a bottle of Rose and was really excited about it but...the bottle ended up breaking on the way home :( so we'll have to go back and get another!

Before we left Leesburg, we decided to grab some lunch. We stopped at a local pizza place, which Deborah recommended to us, called Fire Works. Fire Works is opening another location in my neighborhood, so this was a great opportunity to get a sneak peak. The pizzeria offered many of the local wines we had just tasted, as well as a great beer selection. I shared the "French Connection" pizza with Lupe. It had prosciutto, chicken, brie, apples, roasted onions, diced tomatoes, and was finished with a Dijon cream drizzle. I was hesitant about the brie, but it was delicious!

Overall, it was a great day and I cannot wait for the weather to warm up so I can go back and really enjoy the beautiful vineyards. All three of the wineries we visited are a perfect place for an afternoon with good friends, a picnic basket, and of course a bottle of wine!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Linguini with Walnut-Basil Pesto

This pesto was awesome and super easy. After toasting the walnuts in the oven, I finely chopped them in the food processor with some fresh basil, fresh parsley, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil and blend well. To finish the pesto, add a little freshly grated parmesan. Toss whole wheat linguini in the pesto and garnish with fresh parmesan.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

My kitchen is stocked with baking supplies leftover from my holiday cookie baking extravaganza, so I made these delicious cookies the other night. I truly believe that there is no combination more delicious than chocolate and peanut butter. This recipe is a little time consuming and about half way through I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. However, the labor of stuffing each cookie with the peanut butter/powder sugar combination was definitely worth it. DELICIOUS! 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugars, butter and 1/4 cup of peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, beating to combine. Stir in the flour mixture and stir to combine, blending well. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together powdered sugar and remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter until smooth.

5. Pull off a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough and flatten with your hands. Take about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter mixture and place it in the center of the chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball and roll the cookie in the sugar. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about a 1/2 inch thickness.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Let stand on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.