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Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

Tracking PixelThis is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Line 39 Wine, and our opinions expressed here are our own as always. Content for 21+/

When the holidays come around, I always get excited about entertaining at our house. There’s just something special about having friends over when the air gets chilly, sitting around a fire and enjoying each others’ company. This year we’re celebrating the holidays with Line 39 Wine, and that is bringing next level festivity to our neck of the woods.

Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

From California wine country to our house with love, the wines from Line 39 Wine are easy to enjoy – distinctive yet totally approachable. Growing up in Northern California, I was surrounded by wines and grew up to like several varieties that matched my palate. Line 39 Wines are from this area, and are literally named for the region. The 39th Parallel runs through this part of the California wine country. The result is the perfect climate for making good wine. Perfect name for a winery too!

Line 39 Wine sent us a few bottles to try out, so of course we called a friends to come over and share a glass or two. Since we were in the holiday spirit, it was fun decorating the house for the season in advance of our friends arriving.

Decorating the House for Fall

I don’t know why gourds make me laugh so hard, but they always do. There is something inherently funny to me about their odd shapes, random striped patterns and gnarly warts. I just love them. In years past, I may have perhaps been accused of over buying gourds in my obsessive need to decorate with them. This year was no exception, and I went to three different markets to collect just the right menagerie of gourd misfits to place around the house. Throw in a couple ears of brightly colored Indian Corn and BOOM! We’ve got Fall up in here.

Before our friends rang the doorbell, we had the charcuterie platters ready, the Line 39 Chardonnay chilled and the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon corked and breathing. And the gourds artfully arranged, of course.

Red or White?

As our guests get settled, the first question is always the same red or white? To this day, I still cannot predict what someone will answer when asked if they prefer red or white wine. Is it their mood? The kind of day they had? Or maybe it’s the siren call of their taste buds demanding a certain flavor profile? Honestly, we have a lot of friends that are sommeliers or close to it, and I still cannot predict what to pour for them. That’s why we always have both a bottle of red and white on hand.

Line 39 Wine sent us a couple of different options to try, and both are delicious.

Red

Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon – This smooth red packs plenty of flavor, with fruity/chocolate hints that don’t overpower. Our wine expert friends said they detected notes of blackberry, pepper and dark chocolate in this rich ruby red pour. It’s suggested that this wine pairs well with hearty dishes like short ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, and slow cooked pork shoulder. Although not an expert myself, I know what I like. And I like the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon a LOT. We served it with our charcuterie board containing salume and other cured meats, sharp bleu cheese and fresh figs.

White

Line 39 Chardonnay – A solid Chardonnay, Line 39 has bottled a rich, medium-bodied wine that is both crisp and refreshing. Among our group of friends, we have several that favor Chardonnay almost exclusively and they loved this wine. Oaky and fruity, Line 39 Chardonnay lightly tickled our palates as we eased into the evening. Pair this wine with roasted chicken, poached fish and other lighter fare. At the end of our little party, there was no Chardonnay left. I guess that tells you the popularity of this wine – in our crowd anyway.

At our house, we served Line 39 Chardonnay with Camembert cheese, crackers made with raisins and nuts, and fresh slices of sweet and tangy persimmon I scored at the farmer’s market.

Easy To Find

Line 39 Wine can be found in most places wine is sold, and comes in at a good value for approximately $11 per bottle. The quality versus price ratio on these wines is darn good. A quick search via the Line 39 Wine website showed me at least a dozen locations where I can buy these wines. They are all within a very short driving distance from our house.

Entertaining for the Holidays

With Hanukkah and Christmas coming up, we have lots of reasons to celebrate with Line 39 Wine. We’ll be pouring Line 39 Chardonnay and Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon at our house. Maybe we’ll bring a bottle or two over to a friends’ party as a host gift too!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Line 39 Wine.


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Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

I make my mom’s favorite family recipes all the time, a legacy of her Italian upbringing and my half-breed desire to keep that connection alive. One of my kids’ favorites from Nana’s Cookbook is her Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe.

Fresh ingredients for chicken piccata

Fresh ingredients for my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe were sourced mostly from our local farmers market.

 

Traditionally, chicken piccata is known for its capers and white wine sauce. Sometimes a little lemon juice is added for flavor, but our mom was a BIG lemon fan. Her version includes the juice of two large lemons, and boy is it delicious!

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe is actually pretty easy to make even though there are several steps. Although mom made hers with chicken breasts, I prefer boneless and skinless chicken thighs for more flavor. I’ve gotten this recipe down to a quick and easy method, which I am happy to share with you here.

lemony chicken piccata flavor ingredients

Fresh squeezed lemon juice, capers and chopped Italian parsley are key ingredients in my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe.

 

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

(serves a small herd)

  • 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 large lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup capers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups Italian bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 lbs pasta of your choice (depending on how many people you are feeding!)
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Prepare the chicken

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, pour ½ cup olive oil and set on low heat.

Flatten the chicken thighs between two pieces of wax paper, using a kitchen mallet. (If you don’t have a mallet, you can use the flat bottom of a small pot.) Pound the chicken flat to about an inch or so thick.

breading chicken for piccata recipe

The three part breading process is critical to the chickens flavor and crispiness.

 

In three separate bowls, put the flour, scrambled eggs with salt and pepper, and bread crumbs. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour to coat, then the egg mixture, then finally coat with bread crumbs. Raise the heat on the frying pan to medium, and cook each piece of chicken until browned on each side. Add olive oil as needed to keep the pan bottom well coated for frying. When browned, place the chicken into a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.

chicken thighs frying

Breaded chicken thighs are fried crispy in olive oil before adding the other ingredients.

Create the sauce

 

In the same frying pan, add another ½ cup olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, lemon juice, parsley and capers. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to combine flavors.

making chicken piccata

Now that the sauce has been cooked, pour it over the cooked chicken and pop into the oven.

 

Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts, making sure to spread evenly. Sprinkle with basil and pop into the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. When you remove the pan, the juices should be bubbling.

While the chicken is in the oven, cook the pasta, drain and put back into the pot. Coat with about ¼ cup of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking.

chicken piccata in baking dish

Straight from the oven, this Lemony Chicken Piccata is tangy and crunchy.

Plate It Up

 

First put a healthy scoop of pasta on the plate, then top with pieces of chicken and ladle juices over both. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and serve with a side vegetable like broccoli rabe or asparagus.

chicken piccata ready to serve

And voila! The finished and plated chicken piccata looks quite delicious.

 

I hope you enjoy Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe as much as our family does!

Family of cooks @2Dadswithbaggage

For such a little woman, Mom was a dynamo – particular in the kitchen. Miss you Mom!


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Eating Insects and Tasting Mezcal in Mexico

Eating Insects and Tasting Mezcal in Mexico

*Our visit to the Riviera Maya was hosted in part by the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba, and we are grateful for the experience. As always, the content and thoughts expressed here are our own.

On a great family vacation to the Riviera Maya recently, we had the opportunity to try something out of our comfort zone. One evening our hosts at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba asked us to an insect dinner party. That’s right, we eat insects. Well more precisely, Triton and Jon ate insects while Sophia and Ava gagged at the thought. We did get to wash this feast down with a healthy tasting of Mezcal, so we learned, tasted, laughed and grimaced. Turns out eating insects and tasting Mezcal in Mexico is pretty darn fun – and delicious!

Now let’s correct any of your pre-conceived notions right up front. We did not eat live, slithering bugs like some twisted episode of Fear Factor. These insects are a delicacy in Mexico, thoughtfully prepared by the Fairmont’s Chef Fernando in very artful presentations. Although maybe not for the squeamish, we were game. We sat down inside La Laguna restaurant, ready for anything.

Fairmont Mayakoba Chef serving insects

Chef Fernando brought his insect creations to our table, while we warmed our palates with shots of mezcal.

Eating Insects and Tasting Mezcal in Mexico

Insect Degustation

In Mexico, people have been consuming insects throughout history, first as an important source of protein since meat was scarce. Now in many nice restaurants, insects have become a delicacy prepared carefully with other tasty ingredients. Honestly if you can get past what you are actually eating, the overall combinations are really quite good.

The Fairmont Mayakoba has become well known for their culinary masterpieces created with insects. The experience is available for $75 per person, and pairs three dishes with a sampling of Mezcals.

insect sampler at Fairmont Mayakoba

Our sampler platter of edible insects was colorful and delicious.

Chapulines – Grasshoppers

These are the largest and probably hardest to overlook as actual insects, with little legs clearly visible. Prepared by boiling and then frying, they crunch in your mouth like a tortilla chip but softer. These little grasshoppers are fairly common, and are organically raised on farms feeding on only the best alfalfa.

At the Fairmont Mayakoba, chapulines (cha-poo-lee-nays) were served atop a blue corn tortilla, dotted with sour cream, avocado puree and crumbly white cheese. The crunch of the insects is complemented by the creamy sauces and the rich corn flavor. It was really quite good. We each ate the entire serving, while the girls squirmed. (They were served cheese quesadillas).

edible grasshoppers in Mexico

These grasshoppers still had their legs and antennae, but they tasted fantastic.

Escamoles – Ant Eggs

Tiny white capsules, escamoles are look much like risotto in appearance. Difficult to harvest and only available a short time during the year, the ant eggs are considered a true delicacy. Escamoles (es-cah-moe-lays) are often called “Mexican Caviar” for their appearance and expense.

Our tasting experience had the Fairmont serving them up atop a savory cheese pudding-like concoction. Meant to be consumed at room temperature, this one had a consistency some might find difficult. Triton found it unappealing and did not taste it more than once, but I liked it. The escamoles tasted buttery and soft, blending with the cheese for a pleasant bite.

Hormigas Chicatanas – Ants

These little guys are actually leafcutter ants that are found in the wild all over the Yucatan. They are pretty large in comparison to American house ants. To prepare the chicatanas (chee-kah-tah-nahs), they pull off the legs, heads and such. Although toasted to a crunchy crisp, their bodies still delicious for eating.

edible ants in Mexico

With the legs and heads pulled off, these ants just look like raisins. Kind of.

Our servings at the Fairmont started with a blue corn sopapilla (soft, thick tortilla-like), with a crema and cheese. The chicatanas were placed on top, and then garnished with pickled something – I think they were diced radishes. This one was my favorite and I scarfed it right down. Of course, we ate this one last and had been tasting several bottles of mezcal, so that might have helped!

Mezcal Tasting

While we were working up the nerve to eat the insect concoctions, a very nice gentleman from the bar was instructing us on the finer points of Mezcal. Tequila is a type of mezcal, made only from a certain type of blue agave plant only grown in the Jalisco region of Mexico. Anything else in this family of liquor is called Mezcal, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of varieties made in Oaxaca and all over Mexico.

Tasting Mezcal and Tequila in Mexico is like sampling fine wines.

Smokey Flavor

I always thought ALL mezcals have a strong smokey taste, but I was corrected. All mezcal is created by torching the hearts of agave plants in pits dug in the ground. This process condenses the juices and adds a smokey flavor. Some mezcal is left to ferment with the smoke intact, resulting in a bottle tasting of the fiery way it was processed. Other mezcals begin the same, but are processed, filtered and distilled differently in a way that removes the smoke flavor.

Colors and Nuances

Mezcal comes in many colors, just like tequila. It can be crystal clear, honey colored or even dark amber in tone. Not unlike fine wines, each distillery has its own special touches that add flavor tones, nuances and other tastes to their mezcals. Our instructor helped us pick up tones of cherry, chocolate, cinnamon and even juniper among others. The process of tasting five different liquors was hugely enlightening. And delicious.

lesson in mezcal tasting

Our leader taught us how to discern flavors unique to each Mezcal we tasted.

My favorite mezcal in the tasting was bottled by Gracias a Dios, and was called Tobalá. Triton like the bottle of Gracias a Dios Cuixe. Either way, we left happy!

 

 


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Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

My mom was a resourceful cook, creating delicious meals with limited resources. She grew up in a poor family of Sicilian immigrants, and learned to cook from my nana by adapting recipes from the Old Country to more modern American ingredients. Mom taught me many of her secrets, and I’m happy to share with you one of our family favorites – Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe.

preparing globe zucchini for stuffing

Any type of zucchini can be used, and we like globe zucchinis because they look so cool.

 

Summer is the perfect time to make this dish, since zucchini is in abundance at farmers markets and backyard vegetable gardens. Although you can make this recipe with any type of zucchini, I found the globe zucchini variety at our local Little Italy Mercato. They are fun to hollow out and use as natural cups to hold all the cheesy goodness.

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start with four good size zucchini. Whether you have globe zucchini or the regular type, hollow them out like you would a pumpkin at Halloween. Set aside the insides – we will use them in the recipe.

stuffed globe zucchini

Hollowing out globe zucchinis, we stuff them with a mixture of sausage, mushrooms, cheese and other goodness.

 

Mom would plop the hollowed zucchini in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften them. I have skipped this step once or twice when making this dish. It really depends on whether you want to enjoy the finished product with a knife and fork, or more softened like a casserole.

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 4 zucchini (globe or regular)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (best freshly made from the butcher)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 medium (or 1 large) portobello mushroom, cubed
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (mom made her own but who has time for that?!?)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I used a mix of Italian cheeses readymade from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup romano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

portobello mushroom ingredients

Any mushrooms can be used in this recipe, and we prefer portobellos for their flavor and flair.

 

Take the sausage out of its casing, crumble and fry in a pan with oil, onions and garlic. Add mushroom and insides of zucchini, cooking until just tender. Combine the sausage mixture in a bowl with bread crumbs, egg parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchini until heaping, and place in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 125-30 minutes or until tender.

caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes

As a nice side dish, we love to serve sliced heirloom tomatoes topped with buffalo mozzarella and chopped fresh basil.

Serve with a dash of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

 

rototilling the vegetable garden 1971

Mom was willing to tackle anything when I was growing up, including this rototiller sesh getting our vegetable patch ready for planting zucchini and more.