Hearty & healthy lunch recipe: Kale-quinoa salad

I came across this kale and quinoa salad recipe (on BuzzFeed of all places!) and thought it was too delicious not to share.  With the fall and winter season comes heartier dishes, but I love how this meal can still be filling without making you want to crawl under your desk and nap for five hours.  It’s quick and easy, and perfect way to honor the seasonal veggie.

I recommend using fat free feta for the lightest cheese option, and definitely throw in those cranberries to add a little sweet note to the dish.

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped into 1” pieces
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup crumbled fat free feta cheese
salt and pepper
hand full of dried cranberries

The full recipe and directions can be found here on BuzzFeed Food.

Bon appétit!

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Vino series: Best American Wines

This was my third class at Chelsea Wine Vault, and I must say, I’m addicted.

Steve was been the instructor all three times but at this point I don’t think I could – or would want to – take a class with anyone else.  His wine knowledge astounds me, he has an incredible sense of humor and I always walk (or stumble:) away learning something new.  I’ve also noticed, and he has affirmed, that the class size has become increasingly bigger as more people express interest in the courses.

After expanding my knowledge surrounding the big and bold reds of Washington and exploring the bountiful wine selection among France’s Loire Valley, I was ready to hear Steve’s recommendation on the best wines America has to offer.  If you want the best sparking wine in the world you go to Champagne.  The best Chardonnay?  Burgundy.  But what about the United States?  Where is the best sparking wine and Pinot Noir?  Well, you want to know how awesome Steve is?  He prepared a convenient cheat sheet that outlined all of the varietals we were sampling in class and where they grow best.  I have shared this helpful little nugget with you below.

So, want to know the best of the best?  Here you go:

1.  Roederer Estate Brut NV (Anderson Valley, Mendocino County – $24.99)  This crisp sparkling wine hails from the “new, emerging hotspot for Pinot Noir” in the U.S., Anderson Valley, with 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.  I learned that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grow very well in the same environment, making this beautifully balanced and super reasonable priced sparkling wine a hit on my list.  It made it’s way into my shopping cart and I think it will be a perfect apéritif for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

2.  Ravines Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, New York – $17.99)  “What do you think of when you hear Riesling,” Steve asks.  Everyone responds in unison, “Germany” or “sweet”.  Well, we knew this was a Finger Lakes wine, but apparently the terroir is very similar to Germany making it an ideal environment to grow Riesling.  We were all so surprised to taste the more delicate, acidic and mineral finish of the wine.  It tasted nothing like most German Rieslings I’ve tried – all so sweet, almost like a dessert wine .. the reason I’ve never been a fan.  Despite the very similar terroir, the sunlight hits the region differently and, of course, the treatment of the wine is what really differentiates the taste across vineyards. Steve says there are some excellent drier Rieslings but the Germans keep all the good stuff for themselves.. so apparently I need to book a flight to receive a more rounded point-of-view and understanding of the German Riesling varietal.  I think I need to favor a few more before I’m convinced Germany moves up on my list of wine region destinations.

3.  Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Chalk Hill, California – $28.99) Two things affect the taste of your glass of wine: 1) the temperature of the room you are drinking in and 2) oxygen.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Steve has us do two rounds of tastings for the wine so we can see how the flavor profile and aroma changes in our glass over time.  It’s very interesting for the whites because it does get a little warmer, yet if you are drinking at home you are most likely placing your wine bottle in the fridge.  This sauv blanc changed the most drastically the second time around, where it started with a smooth apple crisp profile and developed to a more savory herbaceous aroma, where many caught scents of onion, garlic or scallions.

4.  Gary Farrell Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, California – $34.99)  From tasting the Sauvignon Blanc to the Chardonnay, one thing we noticed right away was the difference in the viscosity of the wine.  Something else Steve taught me – the fuller, thicker tannin wine generally is grown in the warmer weather regions and the smoother wines in the cooler regions.  How come?  The sun and heat dries the grapes, creating a thicker skin.

5.  Alloro Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon – $44.99)  I loved the perfect balance of the sweet fruit, black cherries and subtle spice in this Pinot Noir, but just a little too expensive for me!

6.  Seghesio Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California – $28.99)  Fun fact – this is THE ONLY wine that has been on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List seven times – all within a twelve year time frame!  Although the Zinfandel varietal hails from Croatia, it is really only grown in America – and has been for over 125 years! If I hadn’t purchased two bottles of the below cab sauv and the sparkling wine, I probably would’ve picked this up as well.  It’s a great find!

7.  Trust Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley, Washington – $34.99)  If you read my post on Washington reds you’ll see this was my favorite wine I left with from that class.  Despite the heftier price tag, my one regret is picking up only one bottle.  Ever since that class in May I’ve been on the lookout for another with no luck.  Well, I was besides myself when I walked into the store and saw the bottle on display, only to find out Steve purchased more from the supplier so he could highlight it in this specific class.  Someone asked him out of all the wines, if he had to pick one to go home with, which one would he choose.  He said this one.  It’s really that remarkable.  Another thing I learned is that Cabernet Sauvignon generally carries pricier tags because it ages so well.  Essentially meaning I can love this wine, but need to find a new favorite variety pronto!  Along with my sparkling wine, this bottle will be a Thanksgiving treat this year with the family.  Hope everyone comes thirsty!

Here’s the list of where the varietals grow best (thanks again, Steve!):

Sparkling wine:

  • Sonoma County
  • Willamette Valley
  • Los Carneros
  • Anderson Valley
  • Rio Grande River Valley

Riesling

  • Washington
  • Finger Lakes
  • California’s Central Coast
  • Michigan

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Napa Valley
  • Chalk Hill
  • Long Island

Chardonnay

  • Russian River Valley
  • Sonoma Coast
  • Napa Valley
  • Virginia
  • Santa Maria Valley

Pinot Noir

  • Russian River Valley
  • Sonoma Coast
  • Los Carneros
  • Santa Ynez
  • Finger Lakes
  • Willamette Valley
  • Santa Barbara

Zinfandel

  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Amador County / Sierra Foothills
  • Napa Valley
  • Sonoma County
  • Paso Robles

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Napa Valley
  • Paso Robles
  • Alexander Valley
  • Columbia Valley
  • Walla Walla