I have a teensy confession to make. I'm sort of a wine snob...in that I absolutely refuse to drink boxed wine.
So we "tapped the box." Is that the proper terminology for how you open a box of wine? I've had no experience with this - hubby had to open it.
But once it was open and flowing, I was pleasantly surprised. It was...actually good. I don't think I would be able to tell the difference between this and a comparably priced bottle of wine. It wasn't too sweet, which is the kiss of death for wine for me, and which I have discovered is the main downfall of inexpensive wines. It's like they put more sugar into it to mask the terrible flavor.
But FishEye didn't. This wasn't too sweet. It's a shame it's 65 degrees and rainy outside today, because this would be perfect scorching-hot-July-weather wine. It's so light! I don't think I was expecting that. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it.
I still don't think I'll go for generic boxed wine (think Franzia), but if I see FishEye boxed wine on sale at Bi-Lo again, I'll definitely grab some. It's the equivalent of four 750-ML bottles for about $15ish bucks (depending on where you buy), so this would be SUPER for a party. My only (very minor) gripe is that our midget fridge is too small to continually keep a box of wine in it (so maybe I should just get red? I could leave that on the counter!) Other than that, I highly recommend it. Wine snobs, unite...and step off your pedestals and try FishEye Wines.
Disclaimer: I received a $15-off coupon from BzzAgent to purchase this wine and review it in exchange for my honest opinions.
The little things are always the ones that get me most - the unexpected card, the surprise candy bar, the little gesture to show me someone cares. So it's no surprise that when it comes to food, there are a few little things lurking around my kitchen and pantry that make my gustatory life a lot more satisfying. Check out the list below for the edible must-haves in my home.
Publix Roasted Garlic Bread
This ain't your average garlic bread. It's a delicious sourdough-type loaf with whole cloves of roasted garlic. You barely need any butter or olive oil with it. Because the garlic is roasted, it has almost a sweet flavor, but there's still enough flavor for it to stand up to fragrant Italian foods. It keeps really well, also. We have the Publix deli slice it for us, and we put it in the freezer, only pulling out what we need for each meal. Simply pop in the toaster oven, and you're good to go. We have been known to stop by Publix to pick up a loaf "just in case," even when we know there's half a loaf already in the freezer - it's that good. Do yourself a favor and check this out the next time you're having Italian.
Runner up: Publix's Sunflower Bread
Light Champagne Vinaigrette
I'm a big fan of salad dressing, but here's the caveat: I LOATHE mayonnaise. I do not keep it in the house (poor B!), and I have very few mayo-based dressings. I like blue cheese with wings, and ranch with fries, but on a salad? Mayo dressings are too heavy on lettuce. This dressing, however, is not. The perfect mixture between tart and sweet, with a good blend of spices, this stuff is wildly addicting. You can't tell it's "light" dressing. If your salads are a little blah, keep this on hand to spice things up.
Runner up: Newman's Own Light Oil and Vinegar.
Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea
With my Lorelai-esque obsession with coffee, it's probably a surprise that I actually drink and enjoy hot tea, but I do. A lot. But good tea is hard to find. Some tea is too sweet, some too bland, and some you just don't like. This is both tart and sweet, very flavorful without being fake-tasting. It's decaf, so you can have it any time of day. When coffee just won't do, grab a mug of this and warm yourself from the inside out.
VERY CLOSE runner up*: Yogi "Bedtime" Tea
*This was a truly impossible choice. The only reason the orange won is that I have some hesitancy about drinking tea to relax you in the middle of the day. I have enough trouble staying awake as it is. But flavor-wise, it's a tie.
Trader Joe's South African Spice Blend
What is there to be said about this that I haven't already said (like here, and here)? It's smoky. It's spicy. It makes a delicious addition to meat, vegetables, soups, chilis, and side dishes alike.
Runner up: freshly cracked black pepper. I go through TONS of the stuff.
La Crema Pinot Noir
My two criteria for a good wine are, 1) that it be red and 2) NOT be sweet. I can't stand sweet wines. Bleh. Give me smoky, leathery, spicy, oaky, whatever. If I wanted something sweet, I'd be having one of those dippy girly cocktails. I don't want sweet wine, and this wine isn't. It's subtle and light so that it doesn't overpower fish or chicken, but it has a really fantastic spice to it on the back end so it stands up to hearty or strongly spiced foods. At $18 at Costco, $22 at Green's (cash or debit), and $24 or so at Total Wine, it isn't exactly an everyday kind of wine. But we always try to keep a bottle in the house because you never know when you're going to cook a meal that just DEMANDS a good wine.
Runner up: Alamos Malbec. It's the anti-sweet wine, and I love it.
Trader Joe's Crunchy Cookie Butter
I was extolling the virtues of cookie butter to a coworker, who, for some insane reason, does not like Nutella (seriously, how do you not love Nutella?). She asked, "But what do you EAT the cookie butter stuff on?" Honestly, a spoon works just fine. And much to B's chagrin, I frequently just dip a finger into the jar from time to time. It's good with pretzels or crispy breadsticks or anything savory, to balance it out. But my favorite is on apples. Just crunchy enough, just soft enough, just juicy enough, apples make the perfect pairing for cookie butter. You have to get the crunchy kind, though - it's the best. Cookie butter with crumbled cookies IN it? Um, hello. But then again, I'm the girl that likes extra-crunchy peanut butter. If you're one of those weirdos who insists on smooth peanut butter, maybe you should stick with the regular cookie butter, too. Amateurs... ::shaking my head::
Runner up: Nutella. Duh.
Prima Pasta Spinach-Mozzarella Ravioli (aka "Crack")
Yes, there are days (a LOT of them lately, it seems) where I just cannot get my ass in gear and cook a legitimate dinner. Sometimes we get takeout. Sometimes we eat leftovers in the freezer. Some days I just eat Girl Scout cookies. But when we need something fast, cheap, and NOT dessert, this is my go-to. It's been my go-to well before I met B. Back then, it was even more crucial, because I NEVER cooked. Spinach mozzarella ravioli every single weeknight, and takeout on weekends, that was the routine. My mother nicknamed it my "crack" because I had to have a bag. Truly. Back in those dark and lonely single-girl days, it was pretty much all that stood between me and starvation (or diabetes). Now, it's just a useful and easy filler for those days where we don't want to spend money on takeout but need food easily and quickly. Boil for 6-8 minutes, drizzle with a TINY bit of olive oil, and sprinkle the parmesan cheese/spice blend on top. Done.
Runner up: Girl Scout cookies. What, you think my taste buds changed just because my relationship status did? Huh-uh.
We'll get to the food in a minute, but first, I need to say just one thing:
GO HEELS! BEAT dook!
But I digress. Harvest salad - a must-make. Perfect for Tuesday Night Salad Night because it's filling but still light so as not to weigh me down after yoga. It's perfectly appropriate for regular-food-Thursdays. And it's man-approved. B really likes this salad. I think it's the bacon. How can you not love bacon?
This UNC alum has a game to watch, so I'll leave you here with the recipe (which is an adaptation of this). And I promised you a song, so I'll also leave you with this:
Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
ringing clear and true,
singing Carolina's praises,
Hail to the brightest star of all,
clear its radiance shine
Carolina, priceless gem,
receive all praises thine.
I'm a Tar Heel born
I'm a Tar Heel bred
and when I die
I'm a Tar Heel dead
So it's rah-rah Caro-lina-lina
GO TO HELL, DOOK!
Harvest Moon Salad
Lettuce (we generally use mixed greens, or whatever's on hand)
grilled chicken, diced
1-2 fresh pears, chopped
chopped pecans (walnuts work well in a pinch)
bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled
feta cheese (sometimes we use blue cheese, depending on what we've got)
Poppy seed salad dressing
Light balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Mix 1 part balsamic vinaigrette to 3 parts poppy seed dressing. Toss well with ingredients. Amount of ingredients can be left up to your tastes or to whatever you have around the house.
Cheer for the Tar Heels.
My apologies to you, sweet and faithful readers, for my little hiatus last week. For starters, B was out of town for work until Thursday, so I didn't do much (okay, any) cooking. Also, this wedding planning stuff is slightly overwhelming. Although I will say, last week alone I ordered my wedding dress and paid the deposits for both the church and the reception venue. I was also able to set up a meeting with a potential photographer for tomorrow. So go me!
In addition, last week I did some house cleaning because we had guests this weekend! B's cousin and his wife came to visit us. We've gone to Atlanta to visit them a few times, so it was nice to host them for a change. And because they are always such wonderful and gracious hosts, we knew we wanted to give them a special visit to Greenville. So on Saturday, we took a little trip up to Victoria Valley Vineyards.
We began the day with a little wine tasting, then lunch and a split bottle of wine on the patio. The weather was absolutely perfect - sunny, breezy and a little cool. It was nice to be able to sit outside and just enjoy ourselves.
We then went downtown and gave them a tour, including a trolley ride. We even did some shopping, and the boys wound up buying more than the girls. Not sure what happened there. Then, as though wine wasn't enough for one day, we tasted moonshine at Dark Corner Distillery. Needless to say, after we got done with all that, I needed a nap before dinner.
Dinner was the 3-course Foodie Fest menu at The Lazy Goat. After fried goat cheese, Brussels sprouts, steak frites, and peach pie, plus complimentary sparkling wine, I was STUFFED. We all were. But it was delicious and totally worth it.
But the best part, the really best part, was getting to celebrate mine and B's engagement with my future cousins-in-law. I am SO grateful and happy to be marrying into a family that's actually really excited to welcome me. EVERYONE (my family, B's family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances alike) has been so thrilled and happy for us, but it means a lot to me that all my future in-laws are actually happy about it. Some people don't get so lucky, you know? It's with a grateful heart that I will soon be Emily S. :)
Our poor wedding photographers. They kind of have their work cut out for them.
...does not constitute an emergency on mine. That's what my mother has told me my entire life, anyway. I personally think we need to edit this: a failure to fully read a recipe on MY part does not constitute eating dinner at 9:30 on B's part.
You see, I was going to make these beauties with dinner. Sunday night is my FAVORITE night to cook because I'm not exhausted and frustrated from a full day of work and an hour or so at the gym (or being dragged around the park by my 85-pound Lab). I save up all the things that I REALLY am excited to make for Sunday night so I can fully enjoy them without hurrying through it just to get dinner on the table. And I was really excited about those beans.
When in doubt, just pour a glass of wine and cook on! Also note I'm repping the 336 with my Childress Vineyards glass. If you're ever in Lexington, NC, check them out!
But alas, at 3:30, after we had done some work around my house and I woke up from my book-induced nap, we decided to run errands. This included grocery shopping - until I finally read the recipe fully and saw that they needed to simmer for TWO HOURS. By the time we got all the errands done, picked up the dog, and started prepping dinner...yeah, that just wasn't going to happen.
I have already been given a cooking rule. After one unfortunate night when I attempted to make THREE new Pinterest recipes in one meal (main dish AND two new side dishes), I have since been banned from making more than one new recipe per meal. Main, side, dessert...I can pick one. No more. B makes me stick to this pretty strictly...because he's the one who has to step in and rescue/save me when I get in over my head. Anyway, now we have Emily's Cooking Rule #2: read the recipe fully before deciding to use it for any given meal.
So, out of desperation, we 86ed the two-hour butterbeans and landed instead on these collard greens. I LOVE cooking and eating collard greens, and I have to give my Yankee boy props - he loves eating them when I make them. They include bacon, so they have to be great, right?
Oh my gosh, they gave me a knife!
In addition, we're also having chicken with Cackalacky sauce (sweet, tangy, SPICY goodness) and mashed 'taters. This is clearly a southern meal, in case you're slow to catch on. And it was incredibly delicious. Everything came together perfectly, despite not quite going to plan. Guess I'll save my butterbeans for a Sunday when I've got my act together. Stay tuned!
Like I said: when in doubt, just pour a glass of wine.
My massive pile o' collards.
My sweet furbaby and cooking buddy, Luna-bug. Come on, this recipe started with me frying bacon. Did you really think she was going to stay away??