31 December 2015

Impressions of Wine Country - by Richard Sheppard - Book Review and Giveaway

Impressions of Wine Country Review and Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com

Is 2016 the year you'll travel to Northern California wine country? If you'd like to but can't, you can do what I did: Be an armchair traveler via Richard Sheppard's Impressions of Wine Country. Then when you actually make travel plans, you'll have the advantage of the "insider's" perspective. Wine aficionados will appreciate Richard's talks with some the region's winemakers and growers.

Watercolor is my favorite medium, and Richard is a master of the medium, capturing people, animals, buildings, plants, food, wine, everything, in a way that pulls you right into the scene. He takes us through the year, month by month, introducing us to people and places through well-told stories as well as more than 170 vivid watercolors.  

This giveaway is open to
readers anywhere in the world!

I've been a fan of Richard's work for several years since I discovered The Artist on the Road blog, and I was so glad to be able to have a book to hold in my hands and enjoy away from my computer. Hmm ... perhaps sipping a glass of wine in the gazebo while I dream of Napa Valley and Sonoma.

The book might make you envy the artist and his life in wine country, but it might also ignite in you the desire to look at wherever you are with a fresh eye. Even if we don't draw or paint, art is a way of looking at life; and we can all do that! 

Wineries mentioned and/or pictured include: Bacigalupi Family Winery, Bella Vineyards, Benziger Family Winery, Chateau Montelena Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Christopher Creek Winery, Duckhorn Vineyards, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Envy Winery, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Glen Ellen Winery, Imagery Estate Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards and Winery, Joseph Swan Vineyards, La Crema, Limerick Lane Winery, Lyeth, Mazzocco Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, Quivira Vineyards and Winery, Ridge Winery, Robert Goyette Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Toad Hollow Winery and Tofanelli Family Winery.

Impressions of Wine Country Review and Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com

This giveaway is open to readers anywhere in the world who are 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person, please) and please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday January 6. 

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday January 7. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern on Sunday January 10, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

Disclosure: The artist/author is providing the book for this giveaway. I have received no compensation. The views expressed here are entirely my own. As always, I tell my readers what I really think!

24 December 2015

Cocktail Party Foods - Easy and Elegant HDs

Sausage Pinwheels - Easy and Elegant Cocktail Party Canape / www.delightfulrepast.com

Hors d'oeuvre--which I just call HDs because, let's face it, nobody, myself included, can pronounce it--get short shrift at Delightful Repast because I don't give a lot of Smart Little Drinks Parties. But here are three of my tried-and-true HDs and three more from some blogger friends. 

Gougeres - French Cheese Puffs (below)

Cocktail Party Foods - Easy and Elegant HDs / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sausage Rolls (below) are a British classic. I recommend my Ruff Puff (quick puff pastry) for them. Make lots because, whether they are "in" or "out" at a particular time, everyone loves them!  

Sausage Rolls - Easy and Elegant Cocktail Party Canape / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sausage Pinwheels (the top photo) were made with my homemade sausage, but you can use any sausage you like. Sometimes I make my own puff pastry and other times I use a good frozen puff pastry.

The following three are from three of my favorite food bloggers. And you'll find nine more at my previous Cocktail Party Foods post, for a grand total of 15. So let's get this party started! What is your go-to "signature" HD?

Spinach Artichoke Dip Jalapeno Poppers - The View from Great Island

Chipotle Shrimp Wontons - Cooking on the Ranch

Ricotta Roasted Red Pepper Crostini - Noshing with the Nolands

Eggnog with Cooked Custard Base / www.delightfulrepast.com

Always offer plenty of alcohol-free beverages. For winter parties, might I suggest my Eggnog? You can make one pitcher with brandy (or other alcohol) and one without; or just leave out the alcohol and add a bit to individual servings for those who want it. 

17 December 2015

Mince Pies - A British Classic with Easy Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Mince Pies / www.delightfulrepast.com

If you made the Mincemeat last week and got your mince pie tin, you're ready to make Mince Pies! The Mincemeat recipe makes enough for four dozen of the pies, but I just make them a dozen at a time; so my pastry recipe below is formulated to make just enough pastry for a dozen. If you have a bit leftover, just save it for the next batch or bake it as cookies.

(I got distracted by the cat and overbaked these a few minutes, but they were still good!)

Mr. Delightful isn't crazy about mincemeat, so I'm going to make a batch of mince pies for him that are half mincemeat and half finely diced apple. If he doesn't like that, I guess I'll have to accept the fact that he's just not a mince pie kind of guy!

A popular holiday season treat in the UK, mince pies are wonderful all winter or anytime of year. They would be perfect for an afternoon tea, but I'm not going to have time this month or next to give one. A trio of them make a delightful after-dinner dessert with coffee or tea.

Mince Pies - A British Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

The pastry is easier than regular pie crust, in that it is a shortcrust, rather than flaky, pastry. You really don't have to worry about chunks of butter, keeping everything cold, not handling it too much, etc. Just make it quite carelessly, rolling and re-rolling all you want. You really can't mess it up.

Mince pies are good at room temperature, but they are grrrrreat warm. Never serve them cold. If you're making them ahead, just pop them into a preheated 350F/180C/Gas4 oven for about 5 minutes. You'll be glad you did!

What are you baking this week?

Mince Pies

(Makes 12 little pies)

The Shortcrust Pastry

1 1/4 dip-and-sweep cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce/28 grams) unsifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

The Mincemeat

About 1/4 of the Mincemeat recipe (about 1 1/8 cups)*

* It depends on how full you fill your pies. I use about 1 1/2 tablespoons per pie.

1 You can easily make the pastry by hand, but here are directions for food processor method. Add flour, powdered sugar and salt to work bowl of food processor; turn on for about 3 or 4 seconds to combine. Add chunks of butter; pulse to a crumb texture. Add egg yolk and water; pulse until the dough starts clumping together. This is to be a crisp, more cookie-like crust, rather than a flaky pastry; so there's not quite the concern about over-processing. Flatten slightly into a 4- to 6-inch round disc, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2 On a very lightly floured sheet of baking parchment, roll out all the dough, for both tops and bottoms, about 1/8 inch/3mm thick. Cut 3-inch/8cm rounds for bottoms. OR Before rolling out the pastry (for just the tops), use a #60 (1 tablespoon) scoop and place a scoop of dough in each of the 12 cups of the mince pie tin. With your thumbs, press the pastry in each cup. Roll out remaining pastry on a lightly floured sheet of parchment, and cut out either stars or circles about 2 to 2.25 inches/5 or 6cm in diameter for the tops.

How to Make Mince Pies / www.delightfulrepast.com

3 Put about 1 1/2 level tablespoons of mincemeat in each of the 12 cups. Top with pastry. If using round tops, crimp the edges and cut a slit to allow steam to escape. If using star tops, just lay them on and press the points against the edge of the bottom pastry.

Note: Save any leftover pastry for another batch or another use. You can even bake it as not-too-sweet cookies!

4 Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place mince pie tin in a rimmed baking sheet. My pan fits perfectly inside a 13x9x1-inch quarter-sheet pan. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Mince Pies / www.delightfulrepast.com

Disclosure: Some posts contain links to my affiliate account at Amazon. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my links, I receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, which I use toward the expenses of running this blog. Thanks for supporting Delightful Repast when you shop at Amazon!

10 December 2015

Mince Pies - But First, The Mincemeat

Homemade Mincemeat / www.delightfulrepast.com

My mincemeat recipe makes enough for a regular 9-inch pie; but as much as I love my homemade mincemeat, a big slice of pie is just too much.

That's why I make the lovely little mince pies of my childhood that are so popular in Britain this time of year. You can make-do, I suppose, with muffin or mini muffin tins; but I recommend getting a proper mince pie tin.

So order your tin, then make the mincemeat. It needs to mellow out for a few days in the fridge anyway. By the time your tin arrives, it will be ready.

Mince Pies - But First, The Mincemeat / www.delightfulrepast.com

As you know, I use all organic ingredients but don't necessarily specify it in every recipe. In this case, I specified organic oranges and apples because their skins are going into it so you can't peel away the pesticides and wax.

There is plenty for multiple batches of mince pies (4 dozen pies the size I make), which is good because you're going to want more! Forgot to mention, nobody puts meat in mincemeat these days, but some do use suet. Apologies to my English grandmother and mother, but I'm not heading down to the butcher shop for a piece of suet. I prefer butter. 

About storage: I've stored a batch of mincemeat in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. For longer storage, I freeze it. If I wanted to store it in the cupboard, I would water-bath can it in pint jars for 25 minutes. 

Lots of recipes, even by famous English cookery experts, would have you just put the completely cooled mincemeat in sterilized jars, cover with waxed discs, slap the lids on and put them in the cupboard. Delia Smith says, "The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard - I have kept it for up to 3 years." Sorry, Delia, love you, but that sounds a bit dicey to me!

So order your mince pie tin, make your mincemeat, and come back here next Thursday for the Mince Pies recipe. Okay, are you with me? 

Mincemeat for Mince Pies / www.delightfulrepast.com


(Makes about 1 quart/4.5 cups)

2 medium (7 ounces/198 grams each) organic or unsprayed and unwaxed oranges for peel and juice
3/4 packed cup (5.25 ounces/148 grams) dark brown sugar
1 packed cup (5 ounces/142 grams) dark raisins
1 packed cup (5 ounces/142 grams) light raisins
1 packed cup (5 ounces/142 grams) dried cranberries
1/4 cup (1 ounce/28 grams) whole almonds
1/2 cup (4 ounces/ 113 grams) unsalted butter
2 large (7 ounces/198 grams each) organic or unsprayed and unwaxed Granny Smith apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup (3 fluid ounces/89 ml) brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Scrub the organic, or at least unsprayed, oranges. Cut a bit off the end of each orange. Cut just through the skin in four vertical segments. Remove each segment of skin in one piece. Cut each vertically into strips somewhere between 1/8- and 1/4-inch (about 4 mm) wide, then cut the strips into dice the same size.

2 Measure 1/2 cup (1.75 ounces/48 grams) of the diced orange peel into a 3-quart saucepan. Add 2 cups of water. Bring to boil, and boil gently for 5 minutes; drain. Repeat.

3 Add brown sugar and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice to the drained peel in saucepan. Bring to boil, and boil gently for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, measure out and chop the dried fruits and almonds. Scrub, but do not peel, the apples. Cut them into dice the same size as the orange peel; measure out 2 packed cups (8 ounces/226 grams). After the peel has cooked in the sugar for 20 minutes, add the diced apples, chopped fruits and nuts and the butter. Stir in the spices and salt. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring in the brandy and vanilla extract at the last.

5 Pour into glass storage container or two pint jars. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for up to a week.   

03 December 2015

Tregothnan Tea and Teapot Review and Giveaway

Tregothnan Tea and Teapot Review and Giveaway - And Tea Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

Tregothnan has been at the top of my Next Trip to England Must-Do List ever since I learned of it several years ago. Imagine, tea growing in England! Theirs is a fascinating story you'll want to read on their website.

(Normally, I wouldn't be doing two giveaways in a row, but lots of people are looking for gift ideas just now, so ... And this one is open to UK and EU, as well as US, readers!)

The Teapot

Tregothnan recently sent me their teapot as well as four black tea blends for review. As regular readers might already know, I'm rather particular about my teapots. Of all the faults a teapot can have, the worst, by far, is a dribbly spout. Apparently, Tregothnan shares my view as the teapot designed for them has, in their words, "the best non-drip spout we've ever come across."

The Tregothnan Infusion Teapot can, of course, also be used with teabags; but I like that it includes a stainless steel infuser to hold loose leaf tea (I always use loose leaf). Its spout did indeed prove to be non-drip, something I insist upon. When I buy a teapot in a shop, I actually test it (with cold water) on the spot. That has raised a few eyebrows over the years, but frequently a shop owner has concluded that it's a really good idea.

It's a small pot, 17 fluid ounces/500 ml (3 teacups or 2 mugs), just right for my solo tea-drinking throughout the day. If others are joining me, I use a larger teapot; I have sizes ranging all the way up to 3 quarts.

Tregothnan Tea and Teapot Review and Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com

The Teas

The first tea I brewed in the teapot was GREAT British Tea, created by Tregothnan for Number 10 Downing Street (Recognize the Prime Minister's address?) in honour of the GREAT Britain campaign. It is a hearty blend of Cornish tea leaves and Assam, making the strongest of their brews.

I like to use 3 grams of tea for every 8 ounces of water, so for the Tregothnan pot I used 6 grams of tea, which was 3 level US measuring teaspoons. I did a 4-minute brew. That might be a little stronger than you like if you don't put milk in your tea. Sometimes I drink it plain, and when I use milk it's just a teaspoon or two. No sugar.

On my next tea break, I brewed a pot of the Classic tea. After 3 minutes I poured a cup to be tried plain. After another minute I poured another cup--a bit stronger to stand up to a splash of milk (I always use 2%). Then, just for fun, I stirred in 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Wonderful, but by no means necessary.

Later I brewed a pot of the Earl Grey loose leaf tea. Earl Grey, one of my favourite teas, can be very good or, more often, very bad. The characteristic bergamot is often overdone (one major brand tastes more like pine cleaner than tea, and I was recently served one with overpowering lavender!). Not the case here. The Tregothnan tea blended with imported Assam has just the right amount of bergamot. The 4-minute brew of this subtle blend was perfect.

The Afternoon tea blends the English-grown Tregothnan tea with imported Darjeeling. Since I never add milk to Darjeeling, I didn't add any to my 4-minute brew of this lovely tea that has been referred to as a "delicately refreshing blend." (I know, I know, I drink a lot of tea!)

If you're new to tea, see How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea. If you have any questions, just ask me in the comment section below. I'm always happy to answer tea questions. And if you are in the US, UK or EU, be sure to enter the giveaway!

Photo courtesy of Tregothnan

Tregothnan Tea and Teapot Giveaway 

This giveaway is open to residents of the UK and EU as well as the US who are 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person, please) and please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday December 9.

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday December 10. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday December 13, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline). 

Disclosure: Tregothnan provided product for review purposes and for the giveaway. The views expressed here are entirely my own. I always tell my readers what I really think!
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