Monthly Archives: September 2014

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Soup


I love Fall and I am lucky to live in Northern Nevada where we enjoy four seasons. Our autumn air is crisp at night but the days are still sunny and warm. Our local produce changes from tomatoes and summer squash to delicious root vegetables and winter squashes.

Winter squashes are comfort food and their deep yellow and orange flesh provides carotene, vitamin A and fiber. Their natural sweetness is enhanced by roasting. Continue reading

Smoked Salmon and Shrimp Chowder

Smoked. Salmon and Shrimp chowder

I adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine’s recipe for Smoked Salmon and Leek Chowder. Their version called for whole milk, 3 tablespoons of butter and heavy cream. Try reducing the cream and butter in most recipes to reduce the saturated fat and calories. Substitute olive oil for some of the butter to increase the healthier monounsaturated fats. Most recipes can be modified while retaining or improving the flavor profile. Continue reading

Sisterhood of the Traveling Wine Glass, Day 2, Platypus Tours

Day Two with “The sisterhood of the traveling wine glass.”

Napa Valley

We had no plans for our second day in Napa so my sister suggested a full day wine tasting tour with Platypus Wine Tours. I admit I was reluctant to spend a day with strangers on a short bus driving around Napa, but in the spirit of “the sisterhood of the traveling wine glass”, I threw caution to the wind and off we went with Platypus. As it turns out there is no safer or more pleasant way to explore the Valley than with Platypus Tours. Our tour guide and driver, Mike was delightful (with a sassy top note and a lingering finish).

I really don’t know if you can arrange to see the smaller venues on your own. I wouldn’t know where to start nor do I want to do my own research especially on a quick trip. Platypus and your driver have done all the work for you. According to Mike, he chose our venues after he got a feel for the group. Our group was apparently fun but not rowdy, thoughtful but not snobbish. Makes you wonder where the rowdy, snobs get to go. I’m glad I didn’t find out.

Our first stop was at Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford.

Grgich was the largest winery on our tour and the tasting was in a lovely courtyard overlooking the vineyard. It is open to the public and I would recommend it to the white wine enthusiast although their Zin, Merlot and Croatian Grgic Vin were delicious as well.

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976 when the respected French judges declared the 1973 California Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, the finest white wine in the world. Putting California on the wine map. Their Chardonnay and Fume Blanc are still made in the French style. They are delicious, complex and pair well with food.

Grgich Hills is an organic and solar-powered vineyard.

And then the real Platypus adventure began!
Hopper Creek Vineyard

Napa, Platypus Tours

Our experience at Hopper Creek Vineyard was priceless. We tasted incredible wines and were entertained and educated by charismatic Darren, our tour host. In 45 minutes with Darren I increased my wine appreciation by 100%. He was funny, irreverent, engaging and probably a wine genius. We learned to appreciate the wine with all of our senses and if you come to my house, I will show you my wine parlor tricks for dating wines and sorting out the subtle differences between blinded wines. This is a must see vineyard but only if Darren is around to entertain your senses.

Hopper Creek is a boutique six-acre Yountville vineyard that produces about 3.5 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot per acre annually. They purchase additional premium grapes from top growers in Sonoma County to round out their portfolio with Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Petite Syrah. You can purchase wines at the vineyard which is open for retail sales but you won’t find their wines anywhere else.

An urban winery?
St. Clair Brown Winery is a gem. They serve delicious food paired with their incredible hand-crafted wines in the middle of an outdoor urban garden. They bring beauty to the center of Napa.


St. Clair Brown Winery, makes small lot, incredible hand-crafted wines. All aspects of the wine production are conducted in their state-of-the-art facility in downtown Napa.
They make about 200 cases or less of each of the wines that they produce. Their portfolio includes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Rosé of Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and a sweet Muscat.

A must see in Napa!




Napa, Platypus Tours

Last stop Razi Winery

Courtesy of Razi

Courtesy of Razi

Courtesy of Razi

Courtesy of Razi


Razi Winery is small with a beautiful modern tasting room where the delightful owner pours generous servings of his top notch wines. The setting is relaxed and intimate. I bought two bottles of exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon that will be even better decades from now. (Translation: stupid expensive but so yummy.) I justified the cost by telling Mr. D that I will store these precious bottles until my first grandchild is born in 5-10 years. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. I’m sure my sister will help me drink them when the time comes, at which time I will thank her again for suggesting Platypus Wine Tours for our perfect day together.

Be well and savor the journey. Oh and be brave and make new friends. Never drink and drive. Please drink responsibly. You knew there had to be a health lesson in here somewhere.

Two Days in The Napa Valley, Wine Country. Sisterhood of the Traveling Wine Glass


Today’s health message: Relax and enjoy the journey.

My sister and I try to meet for a girl’s weekend every Fall which I have just this minute named “The sisterhood of the traveling wine glass”. I had nothing planned for my week off from work so I called my sister on a whim and suggested a trip to Napa. Being Nevada girls who’ve grown up on shaking ground we completely disregarded the recent Napa earthquake. The sisterhood is fearless. We once traveled to Hawaii two days after a typhoon that left Maui with extensive flooding and closed beaches, so why would we let a few earthquake aftershocks deter us? We wouldn’t and we didn’t.

At the last minute, I found a perfect little house to rent on VRBO.COM with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchen, wifi and an outdoor courtyard with a hot tub for less than the cost of a downtown hotel room. Continue reading

Pumpkin, Sage & Cauliflower Cream Soup

It’s pumpkin time again. Use cauliflower to thicken and add a creamy texture to soups this Fall.

I'll Cook, You Wash

Why can’t I be super productive for two days in a row? On Saturday I had a perfect day – had a really good cup of coffee (thanks to my sister for gifting me my best friend and lifesaver – a Keurig), made a great dinner and did an insane amount of unpacking. I’m talking about finding things I thought I lost, setting up systems (laundry, grocery lists, junk drawers, takeout menu drawers, stationery drawers) to keep my house in order, filing, washing…I even organized my gift wrap! I found manuals for appliances and electronics that I don’t even own! Insane. I still didn’t find my Mom’s muffin pans though so do me a favour and keep your fingers crossed.
I’m sure a lot of you do this already, but part of trying to organize my life as much as possible includes keeping spinach, pumpkin and a number of other…

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Smashed Purple Parsley Potatoes

Smashed Purple Potatoes

Every wonder what to do with purple potatoes? You could make purple potato salad which usually ends up being gray. Blue/ Purple potato soup, that is so passé after Renée Zellweger cooked it for Colin Firth in “Bridget Jones’ Diary”. Purple mashed, maybe not. Purple potato slices with crème fraîche and caviar, maybe if I ate caviar which I don’t. I just read Angie’s post today with Rainbow Kale Pizza using purple potatoes. Now that sounds delicious.

Out of ideas? I did the research for you. Here’s a recipe to showcase your purple potatoes in style. Notice how the salmon color contrasts with the purple potatoes. Tasty and visually pleasing. Enjoy! I’m taking my color coordinated meal to Fiesta Friday with hosts Angie, Andrea and Sylvia

Blue smashed parsley potatoes

Select potatoes and garlic.

Blue smashed parsley potatoes

Finely chop fresh parsley and garlic , salt and pepper, mix with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Blue smashed parsley potatoes

Boil potatoes until tender, smash with a heavy drinking glass into smashed rounds.

Top potatoes with the parsley, olive oil mixture and bake at 400 F for 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve warm with your main dish. I baked a salmon filet wrapped in foil for 20 minutes along side the potatoes. Salmon is fabulous with a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Blue smashed parsley potatoes

Baked salmon and blue smashed parsley potatoes

Apple Almond Crumb Pie

Apple Almond Crumb Pie

September is Hunger Awareness Month so stay tuned for posts about food insecurity and inequality in the coming weeks. The Northern Nevada Food Bank is my favorite charity. I feel strongly that we have a civil responsibility to feed our citizens. The Food Bank supplies assistance to seniors, children, poor college students, and many of our neighbors who we would never know are often hungry. If you live in Nevada here is a link to the food bank. You can help by donating time or money to feed Nevadans. If you don’t live in Nevada then Google “food banks” in your community. Consider dedicating one blog post this month to highlight hunger in your community. Together we can make a difference.

Many of us have blogged about being inundated with bushels of fresh fruits and vegetables at this time of year. I have been brainstorming how we might distribute garden surplus to our neighbors in need of healthy produce. I stumbled upon, literally, an idea while I was walking the little man in my own neighborhood. I had to step over perfectly ripe fruit falling unclaimed onto the sidewalk. Continue reading