The Magic of Bubbles

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What is it about bubbles?  Is it the anticipation? The way they reflect the light with swirling colors?  Perhaps it is the challenge of blowing the biggest bubble or the chase as they float out of reach. Children of all ages can easily become absorbed in the magic on a sunny afternoon.  That doesn’t change in adulthood.

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Any afternoon becomes an occasion when you accept the invitation to play. Here are a few bottles of Monday wines for any occasion.

Codorniu Clasico is cava made from  Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada.  I bought it for mimosas but it was fun by itself.  Stone and tropical fruit, dry, bright, tasty.  A great bottle for the price point of around $8. An even better bottle when shared with friends.

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Anna de Codorniu Brut NV* is from the same family but this bottle is composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. The bubbles, delicate, the color, straw yellow.  Tropical and citrus notes combine to create a balanced bottle of bubbles that is impressive, especially at $15. It was just the right bottle to celebrate my friend’s end of a grueling semester.

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Ruffino Prosecco** was sent to me to create a holiday cocktail they suggested.  I had every intention of doing just that, but when I got home on NYE to discover I was missing the cranberry juice, I improvised.  (The cider was for the littles). The original cocktail was:

Sweet and Spiced Holiday Sparkler

3 oz. Ruffino Prosecco DOC

3/4 oz. apple cider

3/4 oz. cranberry juice

1 tsp. maple syrup

squeeze of 1 lemon wedge

Instead I made:

Five Spice Sparkler

4 oz. Ruffino Prosecco

1/2 tsp of Five spice Syrup***

Squeeze of Meyer Lemon

While the first cocktail looked yummy, I generally prefer less juice, more booze and bubbles.  The one I came up with was delicious if I do say so myself.  On its own, I find the Ruffino a little bitter in the finish but the syrup and lemon worked well with it.  I’ll be making that again.  Holidays or not.

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*This wine was provided by Gregory White PR as a media sample.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.

**This wine was provided by Nike Communications as a media sample.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.

***Five Spice Syrup (approximate recipe)

1/4 c sugar

TBSP Five Spice Powder

1/8 c water

Combine and heat, stirring until syrup consistency.

Resolution 1: Drink More Tempranillo

It was nearly two years ago when I first delved into the wines of Ribera del Duero at the Drink Ribera campaign here in Austin.  I was completely impressed with the diversity and quality for the price point.  That remains.  The more I try, the more I want. So when the people of Gregory White PR asked if I was interested in sampling some, I jumped all over it.

To share the love, I chose to open them on New Year’s Eve with two other couples from the neighborhood.  We decided on a Spanish potluck to pair with the wines.  Here’s what we made:

Cheese Plate

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon and Candied Ginger (recipe at end)

Berbere Lamb Meatballs (recipe at end)

Papas Bravas with Smoked Paprika Aioli

Pincho Ribs with Sherry Glaze

DSC_0569Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is just thinking about it.  My dear friend Laura made the last two items.  Laura is the friend that always knocks my socks off with her effortless, amazing cooking.  The papas were baked instead of friend, the aioli was with a mayonnaise base instead of from scratch but you’d never know. Keep that in mind for quick prep. I don’t generally care for ribs.  It could be a Pavlovian reaction to “fat” from growing up during the fat-free craze, but they just aren’t generally my thing.  I ate four of these and couldn’t stop picking at the crispy edges.  They were divine. The meatballs were a hit with everyone, juicy and full of flavor.  The kale, a great foil for the rich dishes and, well, anything wrapped in prosciutto is awesome.

We opened two wines with the meal. I’ve learned from experience that if I am opening multiple samples, I open them before guests arrive to evaluate with a clean palate and sharp mind.  That way I can relax and enjoy the evening and let the wine flow, as it usually does.

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2011 Tinto Ribon Crianza

This wine is 100% Tempranillo, aged 12 months in American and French oak. Brilliant color, ruby with a hint of violet. Warm berries on the nose.  Medium body, red fruit, tight tannins, spices and herbaceous with rich nuances.  Fresh, long finish.

2012 Erial Tradicion Familia ($22)

16 months in French and American Oak. A deep saturated color with intense nose of black plums and baking spices.  Tight tannins and leather, well integrated blue and black fruit, powerful mouth feel.  Of the four wines, this felt like the “grandfather”, and rightly so. The grapes are sourced from 80-year-old vines.

2009 Pata Negra Reserva ($16)

24 months in barrel, 12 in bottle before release. Deep maroon and plum in color.  Black fruit, plums, spicy vanilla.  Strong chewy tannins, structured like a thick cedar post.

2010 Emina Prestigio ($32)

I had this on another night with a play on Yankee Pot Roast. If the Erial was the grandfather, this is the family Patriarch. 16 months in French Oak. A deep, brooding color.  Vibrant black plum weighted by spicy tannins. Bossy acid, bold and mature tobacco leaf and vanilla.  This wine means business.

Part of the wonder of wine is how one grape can be so diverse.  Soil, conditions, season, age of the vine effect the grape.  These four from the same AVA but from four different years.  Add in the choices of the winemaker and you never know what you are going to get with Tempranillo.  That’s why I love it so and why I am resolved to try more Tempranillo in 2015.

Here is your challenge. Sometime this year, have a Tempranillo party.  Every guest brings one. Young or old, Spanish or domestic. High Plains in Texas or Sonoma County. Take notes and compare. No matter what your taste in wines, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find one (or ten) that you like.  It is a great exercise in developing palate and a great lesson.  Just because you had one (fill in the blank) that you didn’t care for doesn’t mean that you don’t like that grape.  That lesson could be applied in all are of our lives, don’t you think?  With that, I’ll wish you happy tasting. ¡Salud!

Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon and Candied Ginger

Massage Kale with Olive Oil (lemon or regular)

Add finely chopped candied ginger

Salt to taste

Lemon Zest

Lemon juice

optional:Chopped nuts or seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds)

 

Berbere Meatballs

2 lbs Ground Lamb

1 Onion diced, sautéed

2 eggs

2 TBSP Berbere seasoning

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients.  Make 1-2 inch meatballs.  Brown them in pan, finish in the oven at around 300 for about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.

{These wines were provided as media samples by Gregory White PR. No other compensation was received and thoughts and opinions are my own} 

 

Last Minute Gift Idea-Texas Tuesday

So, it’s Texas Tuesday, but I am a bit congested thanks to our favorite winter visitor, cedar pollen.  I didn’t want to open anything special so I am simply offering an idea for a very last-minute gift.  I always like to give Texas wine because so many people just don’t know what they’re missing.  Even locals have never tasted the wines that are being made just down the road so I do my part to remedy that.

I was a teacher in my past life and know that I rarely splurged on a bottle that was more that $15.  I also know that there were many nights that I felt absolutely spent and welcomed the reprieve of a glass of something tasty.  So, I often give my children’s teachers the gift of wine.  For Thanksgiving, I gave her a bottle of Gundlach Bundschu Gewurtraminer, a favorite with turkey.  For Christmas, I gave her a bottle of Pedernales Cellars 2012 Tempranillo.

I chose this wine in particular because I find it both elegant and approachable.  It is a grape that is unfamiliar to some, but so diverse and available in several local stores.  Also, if they love it, they can drive west and sample more of what the producer has to offer.  Medium bodied, red fruit with layers of baking spices and a touch of earth. It is complex enough to hold up to almost any fare, but smooth and soft enough to drink alone.  But to make sure that doesn’t happen, I paired the wine with some Mexican Cocoa almonds.  Cocoa, cinnamon, and a little cayenne would be a great compliment to the wine.  The addition of a homemade snack to compliment the wine gives it a more personal touch.

If you are looking for a white, I’d suggest taking a pairing from Kuhlman Cellars and doing some Marcona almonds with herbs de Provence with a bottle of their Roussanne or McPherson Cellars Roussanne.

Here is the recipe for the almonds:

Mexican Cocoa Almonds

Whisk an egg white until frothy. Add a teaspoon of Vanilla.

Toss about 3 cups of almonds in the egg white.

In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 TBSP good quality cocoa, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt.  If you’d like also add the zest of an orange.

Toss the almonds in the sugar mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Allow to cool before bagging.

What are your favorite Texas wine gifts? And what snack would pair? Wishing you and your family the merriest of days. Cheers!

Inspiration, a Challenge

I haven’t been doing a lot of “inspired” cooking lately.  Instead it has been more like, “what can I quickly throw together that is nutritious, easy, and can sit?”  Between playground and homework, dishes and Legos, dinner needs to be made.

Inspired cooking happens when you have the time, minimal distractions, and the impetus to go beyond.  Typically it is the weekend, when you can open a bottle of wine and lose yourself picking thyme leaves and slicing shallots.  It happens when the seasons start to change and the heartier meals bring comfort.  It happens when a loved one has requested something or when a birthday demands a celebration.

Last month, I was the winner of the Wandering Gourmand Beer versus Wine Challenge and with that comes the privilege of choosing the next month’s contest.  The inspiration came in the form of my husband’s birthday and his request for Chicken Saltimbocca.  If you’ve had it, or looked up how to make it, you know that there are a variety of takes on this classic Italian dish.  It can be veal or chicken, rolled or flat.  Some people choose white wine, others use Marsala.  The staples are thinly pounded meat, sage, and prosciutto.  In typical form, I read through several recipes for ideas and cook times and then go with it.

I purchased thinly sliced chicken breast.  The pounding is my least favorite part (don’t ask why) and when you are cooking for 9, every bit helps. I decided to use saute the mushrooms ahead of time with butter, oil, and garlic.  when they were wilted, I threw in some chicken broth and Marsala and let them cook a bit longer.  I put the mushrooms in a bowl and used the same pan for the chicken.

I dipped each filet in flour, salt, and pepper, then sautéed them in the seasoned pan with butter and oil.  About 4 minutes on each side.  I placed all the chicken breast on a baking sheet and covered them with sage leaves and prosciutto.  I then baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes, until the prosciutto was a little crispy.

While they were in the oven, I reheated the mushroom with more broth and Marsala which I thickened with about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.

You could take this dish in many directions.  Use any of the above variations.  My husband has put provolone on top.  I’ve served it with sage polenta, acorn squash with braised leeks.  You could do garlic mashed potatoes or french bread.  Any vegetable would work, but I like a salad with a little shallot vinaigrette.  The acid cuts the rich saltiness of the dish.

So what to pair with this dish?  I tried a few wines and had my favorites.  But I want to hear from you.  Pop over to the competition on Wandering Gourmand and make your suggestion.  Any beer, cider, or wine you think would make the dish shine.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Cheers!

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My Achilles’ Heel-William Chris Enchanté

There have been a few moments in life that I have surprised myself with my own strength. Hiking the Na Pali coast, natural childbirth (x2), and the Dr. Junger Clean Gut diet that I have been doing for the past 14 days. No coffee, alcohol, grains, sugar, fruit, or fun. I resisted pizza (x2), cut an Italian cream cake without a lick. I made apple crumb pie and while others oohed and aahed, I had raspberries with almond meal. We held dinner parties, a football party. Nothing swayed me. But last night I crumbled. My Achilles’ heel, it turns out, is William Chris Enchanté.

I would say that I’d had a perfect track record until last night, but that wouldn’t be the case. I went to both the pick up party and industry party at William Chris last week. I had the tiniest of tastes, then dumped or shared, except for the Enchanté. I couldn’t resist; no dumping for this gem.  But honestly, that’s some dang good will-power.

IMG_4404Then last night, we made a belated birthday dinner for my father-in-law who is visiting from Sonoma. My husband and I teamed up to make something delicious that I could eat without cheating. We decided on grilled lamb chops with rosemary. For sides I made acorn squash with braised balsamic leeks and a kale salad which I massaged with avocado, garlic, lemon juice and salt. I was home free. Until my husband asked me to pick the wine.

I tried to pick something I wouldn’t mind missing, but it was staring at me. I knew it would be perfect. Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Petite Verdot. The acid, bright cherry, subtle tannins. It was too much. And I knew that if I opened it, I would not be able to resist.

So I did what any Texas-wine loving, soft-spined woman would do. I listened to my “gut” (ha,ha) and declared it Splurge Sunday. And I’m so glad I did.

It was honestly one of the best pairings I’ve had in a long time. Each dish brought out a different nuance in the wine. A bite of acorn squash brought out subtle notes of baking spice. The lamb complimented the earthy Malbec notes. After the kale, the bright red cherry notes shined.

It’s not easy to impress my Sonoma father-in-law but the 2013 William Chris Enchanté did just that. How impressed was he? Well, I am writing this from the back seat on our way out there. Well done, gentleman. You made a believer out of him and broke my will. But it was well worth it. I may have to create my own “cleanse” that allows wine in moderation.  The question is, do I pretend it never happened and continue to day 21?  Or just avoid everything but wine on the weekends?  I’ll be pondering that, but in the meantime, I’ll be planning my Texas Wine Month post-cleanse splurge. Cheers, y’all!

 

Salad Days

The heat and humidity are picking up here in central Texas, so sometimes I need to keep it really simple in the kitchen.  I scratch plans for anything that requires turning on the oven and improvise.  Last Wednesday was one of those nights.  I was in the mood for a rose so I opened a sample I recently received from Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Pinot Noir rose to be specific.

Good floral and herbal notes on the nose, palate was similar with subtle red fruit.  A bit of a bite at the end when sipping but that faded when paired with the food.  I had the hubs grill some Brat Hans Spicy Italian chicken sausage  (you can find it at Whole Foods) and threw together a salad of fennel, grape tomatoes, and basil with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.  I love it when pairings works surprising well. The fennel complemented the sausage and the wine.  The sweet basil brought out the herbal notes in the wine. It was ridiculously simple and ridiculously good together.

This was the second rose I’ve tried from the Finger Lakes region.  The first, I didn’t care for, but this was a nice, easy food-friendly wine and well priced at about $15.  It is fun to see more pink coming from more places and I’ll keep my eye out for more.

Not one to waste good fennel, I incorporated it into another, very different but equally tasty salad.  The main dish was grilled red snapper with herbs and lemon zest.  This time I used butter lettuce, blood orange, fennel, and pistachios with a rice wine and honey vinaigrette.  So simple and super tasty.  What would I pair with this meal?  Sauvignon Blanc, of course.  I love it all the time but when the temps rise, I crave the crisp acidity of a good Sauv Blanc.

Because today is Sauvignon Blanc Day in the wine world, let’s spend a little more time on this perennial favorite.  So here is the thing about SB and me.  I love it all.  Okay, almost all.  Whether the label says Sancerre or Fume Blanc, New Zealand or Chile, I am usually a fan.  This would be a great place to tell you my favorites, but that is just the thing.  I don’t have any.  I am constantly trying new ones, and pretty consistently happy.  There are a few bigger names that I don’t feel the need to buy again, but if it is poured, I will enjoy it.

This past Monday I had the pleasure of trying two from a region typically associated with fantastic Zinfandels.  The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley were in town and I had the good fortune of dining with them at Justine’s Brasserie.  The first two wines poured were Sauvignon Blanc and they were equally delicious.

The first wine from Fritz Underground Winery was 90% tank fermented with 10% done in French oak to soften the wine.  Beautiful tropical notes, great acidity.  A very elegant wine.  The second was from Dutcher Crossing.  They add a little Viognier which comes through in the nose and the texture.  Again, great tropical fruits, stone fruit, and citrus.  The people were as wonderful as the wines.  More on this to come.

So what are your favorites salad wines?  Any favorite SBs I need to look for?  For that matter, what are some favorite summer salads you can throw together quickly and painlessly?  I’ll be sharing more of my faves as the summer swelter begins.

{The Fox Run was received as a media sample and the dinner was part of a media promotion.  I received no other compensation and the thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

Calling my Name- Bodegas Protos

Wait, did you hear that?  Oh, there it is again!   It happens every time I’ve opened a bottle from Ribera del Duero.  It is Spain calling my name.  It’s been happening more lately.  Maybe the voice is getting louder and more persistent, but the voice is balanced and never too much.  They are lively little wines.  Zesty, spirited so maybe that is how it keeps jumping in my cart.  Or maybe it is the fact that our kitchen remodel has me looking at value a little more.  The region is packed with value.

Recently, one even showed up on my doorstep!  Fate?  Kismet?  A sign from above?  (Ok, it was a sample from Gregory White PR but no matter.)  The voice was clear.  From the bright fruit, the acid to the depth of flavor without the heavy tannins, this wine speaks to me.  It was from Bodeagas Protos, the 2011 Tinto Fino.  And it was yummy.

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I paired it with a flatbread for happy hour.  It is a new go-to appetizer.  Easy, quick and impressive.  I take store-bought pizza dough, spread it on my pizza stone, brush with olive oil.  Throw on some garlic powder, Italian herbs, salt and pepper to taste and thin strips of prosciutto.  Bake for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, slice grape tomatoes.  Toss tomatoes and arugula in olive oil.  When the flatbread is done, cover with veg and shaved parmesan.  Cut into rectangles, or whatever you want, really.  Simple.

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It paired really well: the smoky flavor of the prosciutto, peppery arugula, salty parm all complemented the wine.  But, really this wine is so easy to drink, so versatile you could go in many directions.

I first became acquainted with the region last year at the Drink Ribera event in Austin.  My crush has only gotten bigger.  I have yet to see this wine in the stores yet, but I’ll be stalking the Spain aisle.  And dreaming of the day we can meet in person.

{This wine was received as a sample from Gregory White PR.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

Dinner with the Don

2009_2[1]Last fall I was invited to a dinner in Houston hosted by Concha Y Toro to introduce their 2009 flagship wine, Don Melchor.  The winemaker, Enrique Tirado, would be hosting the event which included a vertical tasting of the wine.  It sounded like a fabulous event, but without much notice, I couldn’t get away.  Fortunately for me, the company representing *Don Melchor, Gregory White PR, knows how to make a great impression.  As a consolation, they sent me a bottle of the 2009 to try at home.

So I did what any food-loving, wine-loving person would do.  I researched the menu from the event and did my best to create a meal worthy of the wine.  I invited some friends, those friends, that I knew would really appreciate the wine and we made our own event.

Grown in the Puento Alto Vineyard in the Maipo Valley of Chile, on vinestock that hails from the Bordeaux region, the fruit in this wine has the potential to rival any Cabernet from around the world.  Enrique Tirado’s natural talent and dedication to research have elevated the wine to cult status.  Each final blend is tasted with Jacques Boissenot, one of Bordeaux’s most well-respected consultants.  Old world vines, new world soil, old world methods, new world research.  It is truly an expression of the best of both worlds.

According to the Examiner article, the wine worked really well with roast lamb with fennel.  So, I headed to the local Farmer’s market to get a couple of racks of French cut grass-fed Lamb rib from I.O. Ranch, well worth the extra stop if you are in the Austin area.  And if you don’t, they ship!  From Johnson’s Backyard, I picked up fennel, turnip, and carrots.  My goal was to use what I knew about the wine and to bring out earthy notes with the root vegetables.  I used my brother-in-law’s rack recipe.

20140129-113950.jpgSear the lamb rack on high heat, 2-3 minutes per side.

Coat the rack with a combination of goat cheese and Dijon mustard.  Then coat in seasoned (rosemary, salt and pepper) Panko bread crumbs.

Cover the tips with foil so they don’t burn.  Roast on a rack at 400 degrees until medium rare. (20min depending on size)

20140129-114010.jpgFor sides I boiled and mashed equal parts turnip and Yukon gold potatoes with horseradish, milk, butter, salt and pepper.

I roasted whole carrots with sliced fennel, leeks, olive oil, salt and pepper for about 45 minutes.

When the lamb was roasted, we pulled it, let it sit for about five minutes, sliced it and then drizzled it with au jus, frozen from the Christmas Prime rib, which I reduced.

We decanted the wine for about an hour.  Aromas of black fruit, cassis and berry.  Spice, tobacco, and cocoa.  The flavors echoed the aromas with big, smooth fruit, velvety mouthfeel, layered finish.  The elements of spice and tobacco were there but in balance with the fruit.  It paired beautifully with the dish.  The earthy lamb and turnip, the sweet fennel and carrots, the richness of the au jus with the soft tannins.  It was fantastic.

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This wine is in the very special Weekend Wine (or holiday) category with a price point of $125.  As I’ve said before though, if you are cooking at home, you can justify a splurge in the wine realm.  Rack of Lamb and Don Melchor at home or a crowded Prix Fixe chicken dinner and paying $75 for a $25 bottle on Valentine’s Day?  No contest.

It is hard to rival the experience of delving into new wines with the winemaker, especially wines of this caliber.  Of course I wish I had been there.  But I will also say, it is hard to compete with dinner at home with those you love.  Many thanks to the people at Gregory White PR for the invitation and for allowing me to “join” from the comfort of my crazy home.

*This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  The opinions are my own.

Less is More-Clean Slate Riesling

There was a time when a meatless meal would be cause for a mini-revolt.  But I’ve gotten better at creating delicious, satisfying vegan meals and my husband’s gotten better about not complaining.  Less meat is just better for your health and the environment.  It’s a win-win.  Less is more.

There was a time when my day was so crazy and I was so overwhelmed that I wanted a glass of wine every night.  Now I get a break during school hours and am more in the groove of the SAHM thing.  So instead of having a Monday wine on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I generally have one or two glasses of something tasty, once or twice a week.   Less is more.

I have had a few samples of wine that I have been meaning to try, but when you drink less, you drink less.  So yesterday I opened a bottle of Clean Slate Riesling that has been in my refrigerator for weeks.  I’m glad I did.  The wine hails from the Mosel region of Germany which is known for producing some great Riesling.  While choosing most German Rieslings can be intimidating because of their classifications, this one is straightforward.  A look at the label will give you a good hint about what you are getting.

Clean floral and fruit notes with little residual sugar and a lot of minerality.  Just as the photo indicates.  Citrus, stone fruits, and a little spice.  When people ask about minerality in wine, I always think of the smell of slate.  I think of climbing on slate river beds as a child and the taste of your hands after.  No, I didn’t go around licking my hands as a child, but it happens, right?  If you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, open a Mosel Riesling.

With a price point around $10, it is a great Monday wine.  I wish I’d opened it on Monday, in fact, because it would have been perfect with the meal I made.  I was in clean-out-the-fridge mode so I used what I had and it turned out to be, in my husband’s words, the best vegan combination I’ve made so far.

I cubed and roasted some butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and then added mint.  I made brown rice with sautéed leeks, currants, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice at the end.  I also roasted brussel sprouts which I finished with a little Sriracha and lemon juice.  It was delicious.  The warm, fall flavors with a little heat would have paired perfectly with the wine.

You may have read that I was cutting out this, that, and most things in between.  I was really strict at first, then I loosened up on the weekends.  But after two months without the weight budging, I got discouraged and my husband started to complain.  Understandably.  So I adopted my sister’s 80/20 lifestyle.  Eat in the anti-inflammatory way 80% of the time, but when I’m at someone’s home or on date night, I’ll loosen up.   And if I have a sample begging to be opened, I’ll open it.  I’ll just pair it with something healthy.  I’ll still make overall health the goal, but I’ll lighten up on the rules.  Less is more.

Here’s the Skinny

And by “skinny” I mean the low-down, the nitty gritty, the scoop. Not my waist-line.

So I am now at day 13 of being wheat-free, dairy-free, nearly sugar-free. You’ll notice that I did not say alcohol-free. I have done a little imbibing on the weekends. Coffee and a drink or three have been my weekend treats. But overall, I have been a clean-eating fool. I’ve basically been doing the anti-inflammatory diet and I think I feel better and the scale is showing some results. It hasn’t been as hard as I imagined and I have found some tricks that are worth sharing. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

1) I can actually have coffee without milk

I’ve used So Delicious coconut creamer and it’s not bad. It’s not milk, but I will survive.

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2) Detoxinista

She has some great Paleo and Vegan recipes. The Harvest Breakfast Cookies saved me the first week. Easy to make, delicious, and healthy.

3) Vega One shakes

A vegan protein powder with tons of great stuff- maca, probiotics, omega 3, greens, antioxidants. Good stuff. The Vanilla Chai with frozen blueberries tastes great and lasts. It’s not cheap, but it is on sale at Whole Foods right now.

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4) There’s usually an alternative

Swap Brown Rice Syrup or Maple syrup for sugar. Swap coconut oil for butter. Swap Coconut/Buckwheat/Spelt(related but different from wheat, not for celiacs but fine for someone like me) flour for wheat/white flour. The internet is such a wealth of inspiration and information. It has given me a new challenge in the kitchen that is actually enjoyable.

5) Cashew cream sauce

Makes a great alternative to peanut sauce, salad dressing, cheese, etc. Delish. I made Veggie enchiladas with brown rice tortillas, cashew cream in lieu of cheese for me, cheese for the fam.

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6) Chia pudding pops

Blend chia seeds, cocoa powder, almond butter, coconut milk, banana, sea salt. Pour in popsicle molds. Healthy fix for the sweet cravings.

7) I can have a glass and still lose, but not more.

Whether it is the inflammation, the calories, the dehydration factor or all of the above remains to be seen but the scale goes up or stays the same when I have more than one. Regardless, I know that I can stay on this long-term as long as I can have a glass of wine here an there. Which means I will have more to write about. On that note…

8) I’ve got another writing gig

Starting next week I’ll be doing some guest writing for Living Direct’s wine blog, blog.winecoolerdirect.com. I’ll send links or you can check the site directly. Next week I’ll start with a piece on South African wines. We will be drinking them (and more) with “those friends.”  Stay tuned.

Happy weekend!