Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to get rid of wine stains

One of the biggest problems with wine - red wine in particular - is that sometimes it ends up where it's not supposed to be. Your new (really expensive, of course!) white shirt or an upholstered dining room chair are prime targets for wine spills. Here are some ways I have been successful in wine stain removal:

Clothes: Wine removal when out and about. I discovered Tide to Go in a tasting room in Paso Robles, CA. I was wearing a light colored top and dribbled some wine down the front of it. The woman behind the tasting counter whipped out a Tide to Go pen and offered it to me. A few swipes later, no more spot! I now take them wherever I go, especially wine tasting.

Clothes and Linens: Wine removal at home. I use a one-two punch of Wine Away and OxyClean:

1.      Treat with Wine Away. I spray a good amount on the stain and let it sit for 3-5 minutes, per the directions on the bottle. You may need to repeat this.
2.      Treat with OxyClean. If there are still stains (likely the stain will have turned blue), you may need to treat the stain with OxyClean. I like to spray it first with OxyClean spray and then soak in a sink of cold water and OxyClean powder. How long you soak will depend on the stain. I have gotten stains out with as little as a one-hour soak and as long as a weekend soak (you will need to change the water a few times if you are soaking this long).
Upholstery: First, resist the urge to put water, club soda, etc. on the stain. Instead, spray the stain with a good amount of Spot Shot and blot with a clean white towel. I usually do this a few times. At this point, you will still see a stain. Go away and leave it alone. Check again in a few hours or the next day and the stain should be gone.

A word on fabrics: With the exception of upholstery, the treatments I describe above are best for washable fabrics. If you get wine on something that is dry clean-only, don't put anything on it and get it to a dry cleaner as soon as you can. I had someone spill an entire glass of red wine on a light blue jacket once and I stupidly put water all over it trying to get the stain out. The water made water rings and was actually worse than the wine stain. Needless to say, the jacket was ruined.

 And ... don't forget ... it's always best to take action on a stain as quickly as you can and never put something in the dryer without first checking to see if the stain is gone as the heat may set the stain.

 If you have some great tricks for wine removal please let me know!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to make pizza on the grill

Looking to add something new to your grilling repertoire for summer? Consider grilled pizza. Interested but not sure how to do it? Tried it and had a failure?  If any of these apply to you, read on ….

I learned the pizza on the grill method from my next door neighbor last summer. It’s pretty easy and it works!  It’s more of a method or a process than an actual recipe. I have photos to show you want each step of the way is supposed to look like. Factors such as how thick you roll out your crust, your grill heat, toppings, etc. make it difficult to be exact.

Get ready
·        Prep your ingredients: You’ll need pizza dough and pizza sauce. I typically just buy the sauce and dough. Pizza is supposed to be easy and buying these two ingredients saves a lot of time and work.  You’ll also need toppings (meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.) and sauce. Fresh basil and dried oregano are nice to use as a finishing touch.

·        Heat your grill to high (we use a gas grill)

·        Heat oven to broil

Gather your tools
Old baking sheets are great for transport/baking your pizza and are useful in case you want to cut pizza on sheet. A pizza peel is also helpful for getting the pizza on and off the grill - see below for the pizza peel in action.

Start cooking
1)    Shape dough using a small amount of flour. You don't need a rolling pin for this. Just use your fingers to push and pull at it to get it to the desired thickness. As you can see from the photos, we have not yet mastered round pizza - we're working on that.

2)    Grill dough on high for a few minutes on one side only
3)    Put toppings onto grilled side of the dough
4)    Take pizza back out to the grill and grill for 3-5 minutes until the bottom is done - a pizza peel is helpful here (watch it carefully so it does not burn!)
5)    Put pizza in the oven under the broiler for about 3 minutes to continue to cook/melt the toppings
6)    If desired, top with fresh basil and dried oregano.
7)    Slice, eat, enjoy!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Check it out - Glassybaby

If you need a pretty things fix do yourself a favor and navigate over to the Glassbaby website. Haven’t heard of Glassbaby? Let me fill you in … they are wonderful candleholders in many different colors, like little gems. They are created by hand in Seattle, WA.  I need to warn you, they are sort of addictive. You really can’t just have one.  You will get one and then progress to three and then to seven and so on, just so you know. Oh, and to make it even sweeter, they are very civic-minded and give money to cancer charities and other causes.
They are perfect on the table at your next dinner party (or even your dinner table tonight!) to hold either candles or a low flower arrangement. I use one to hold a bunch of colorful pens on my desk.

Check out their photoblog today!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homemade Ice Cream - It's Easier Than You Think!

I started making ice cream about three or four years ago.  I don’t make it often, but whenever I do love the results.  It’s great for a dinner party dessert because you can fix it, freeze it and forget it until  time to serve. It’s something that not a lot of people make and it’s not that difficult, so you get something unusual for not a lot of effort which is a win-win in my book.
I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker that’s nothing fancy but I have been really happy with it. I tend to keep the freezer bowl in the freezer all summer so I can make ice cream without any pre-planning (if the freezer bowl is at room temperature it can take 24 hours to freeze).
Making the ice cream involves a few steps, but all are pretty simple.  Always start with good ingredients such as high quality vanilla (I use Penzey’s double vanilla) and whatever cream/milk the recipe calls for. This is not the time to go “light,” unless that is what your recipe calls for.  Read the recipe through and get your ingredients out and measured.

Here are the steps for making salted caramel ice cream, which is a custard-based ice cream (like a classic vanilla or chocolate ice cream):

Start by making a custard on the stove - just follow the steps in the recipe and you will be fine!

Your custard is done when you make a clean mark on a spoon with your finger

Straining the custard gets out any stray bits of cooked egg

A water and ice bath helps bring the custard to room temperature
Once you have your chilled custard, put it into your ice cream maker and process according to the directions that came with the machine (I usually process for 22 to 25 minutes).  When your ice cream is finished processing, it will be the consistency of melted soft serve ice cream and will need some freezer time.  Put it into a container and freeze for at least a few hours before serving.  And that’s it!
A note about timing: If I can, I stretch the process out over at least a day, mainly so that the ice cream has adequate time to chill/freeze . It works something like this:
Evening of day 1: Make custard, put in ice bath and then in refrigerator
Morning or mid-day of day 2: Process ice cream in ice cream maker, put in freezer
Evening of day 2: Serve


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Use Your Pretty Things

I was pulling out china plates and bowls for a recent dinner party and I saw the creamer for my china’s coffee service in the cabinet. I looked at it and thought “it’s so pretty but I rarely use it”. I pulled it out and decided to put a few roses in it and display it in my guest bathroom during the party.

It got me thinking of all of the pretty things I have that rarely see the light of day and how sad that is.  I am going to make an effort to use some of them going forward. So watch for future posts on that.
Take a look around your house  - what pretty things are in hiding that need to be displayed, if only for a few days?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Food Epiphany: Truffle Salt

Today I’d like to introduce you to what one my friends calls his “secret weapon” for grilled meat.  It’s truffle salt. What’s truffle salt you ask? It’s salt mixed with truffles (the mushroom kind, not the chocolate kind … although that would not be bad either).
Truffle salt is a great addition to the spice and salt line up in your kitchen. It’s great on roasted meats. It adds salt (of course) plus the taste of truffles. Truffles are a bit “meaty” to begin with, so they are an excellent match with grilled meats. It’s also really good on popcorn, along with some butter of course.
It’s not particularly cheap, but you don’t need to use a lot to get the flavor. It’s a perfect gift for any cook you know or a nice present for yourself. Try some the next time you grill a nice steak!



Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Freeze a Frosted Cake

I was telling my sister recently that I got a birthday cake two weeks in advance of when I needed it (the bakery is 100 miles from my house and I was in the neighborhood) and then froze it.   She said, “You froze a frosted cake? How do you do that?”  I told her how and she said, “You need to tell people how to do that.” So, hopefully this qualifies as “telling people how to do that.”
Here’s how you freeze a frosted cake: 
Purchase the cake or make it, including frosting it.
Put the cake in the freezer. If it’s in a bakery box, just leave it in the box. If it’s not in a box put it on a plate or something else that you don’t mind having stuck in your freezer for a bit of time. Freeze for a few hours or overnight.  Don’t forget about it.
Take the cake out of the freezer and out of the box if using a box.  Carefully wrap the cake loosely in foil. Put the cake back in the box and return to the freezer. Keep it there for no longer than a few weeks as cake is pretty absorbent and I think it will start to have freezer taste if you keep it in the freezer too long.
When you are ready to eat the cake, take it out of the freezer and immediately remove the foil. Allow the cake to thaw at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tips for Serving Wine at the Right Temperature

The weather is warming up (or will soon!) and it's time to talk about wine temperatures. Getting wine temperature right is a really easy thing to do that does not require any special equipment beyond a fridge and countertop. Making sure your wine is served at the right temperature will enhance any bottle of wine.

I have found that most times white wines are served too cold and red wines are served too warm. And I can tell you that it really makes a difference to the taste of the wine. Here are some quick and easy tips you can try to get your white and red wines to the right temperature.

White wines: If you are getting ready for a party you are probably chilling down your white wines in the fridge. So, here is what you do - about 1/2 hour before serving the wine take it out and set it on the countertop. Let it get a bit sweaty and it should be good to go. I would especially do this for Chardonnay or Viognier as these are heavier wines that benefit from a bit of heat (relatively speaking – don’t hold them over the stove or anything) so that that they can open up a bit. For crisper wines such as Sauvignon Blanc I think you should drink them fairly cold so I’d be inclined to leave those in the fridge or put them on ice.

Red wines: I am willing to bet your reds are stored in a closet or on the countertop so you are probably starting off with a bottle that is warm. About 1/2 hour before serving put the wine in the fridge and let it get a bit chilled. I know, I know, you are not supposed to chill reds. I am not talking about ice cold, just chilled a bit. You can also put the wine into an ice bucket filled with ice and water (this works well in restaurants). This will bring the wine down closer to cellar temperature (which is 55 degrees).  The exact temperature reading does not matter, what are you shooting for is getting the wine down to a temperature that is lower than the ambient room temperature, especially if it’s a hot day.

 If you find that you are often chilling down wines and want an even easier way to do it, consider getting a wine chiller sleeve. They are fairly inexpensive and come in two sizes – one that fits a regular bottle and a slightly larger one that is made for a Champagne bottle but also works really well for fatter wine bottles such as those used for pinot noir. I always have several in my freezer.