Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wine Me Up!

Here's the back story....about Costco and 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards in Eagle, Idaho.

I watched the CNBC special "The Costco Craze: Inside the Giant Warehouse" and was totally awestruck with their wine buyer, Annette Alvarez-Peters.  Annette started at Costco as a buyer in the auto parts division, and worked her way through a bottle or two of vino and is currently the buyer for one of the largest retailers of wine in the world.

On my last visit to Costco, as I was getting my 30 count pack of toilet paper, I struck up a conversation with the associate driving the pallet reloading t.p.   I said something like "Costco's #1 seller of all products is toilet paper, right?"  He said yes it is, and bottled water comes in second.   We were chatting about the CNBC special and he told me the story of when Annette Alvarez-Peters visited the Boise Costco, and fell in love with 3 Horse Ranch wine.  Annette's request of the 3 Horse Ranch Vineyard is that they produce more of the wine so she could stock it in more Costco warehouses.  The producers have a small operation and can't fulfill the request of Costco, but something tells me they should be looking at expanding, and if they aren't, well, they are losing a boat load of money.

I had to try a bottle, my arm was getting twisted, and of course the clue to a good buyer (me) is to see which of the product brand has fewer items on the shelf.  The white wine, 2011 Estate Vivacious, was low in inventory which told me people love it and are buying it!  

2011 Vivacious

A lightly oaked, perfectly balanced blend of two great white Rhone varietals, a most beautiful marriage.  Blending the voluptuous mouth feel and aromatics of the Viognier grape to the more acidic, floral side of the Roussanne grape expresses the terroir of our vineyards as well as any wine we have produced.

3 Horse Ranch Vineyards Wine.  $12.  Made by Idaho families in Eagle, Idaho. 

Mexican Casserole

Taco in a Pan!  Savory ground beef and sausage, ranch style beans and diced tomatoes layered with corn tortillas topped with lots of cheese screams ... Taco!  Taco!  It's a quick meal for a busy night, or yummy enough to share at a party.
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground sausage
  • 1 can Ranch beans (undrained)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes w/garlic or your favorite blend
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 12 oz. package corn tortillas
  • 3-4 cups shredded cheddar or mixed cheese
  • 2 T. chili powder (optional)
Brown ground beef and sausage in large skillet.  Drain.  Mix together beans, tomatoes, mushroom soup, chili powder, and add to meat mixture and heat thoroughly.

Line a 13x9 pan with tortillas (I break my in half so they fit nicely).  Layer with 1/2 meat mixture.  Make another layer of tortillas, and add the remaining meat mixture.  Top with shredded cheese.

Bake in preheated 350' oven for 30 minutes.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Garden Gazing Ball with Mini-Lights

My inspiration gazing ball was found in Florida (the mecca of cool garden lighting  and up green lights on palm trees).   I went into one of my favorite garden shops Palm Harbor and found a simple gazing ball they stuffed with white Christmas lights.  $40.   I knew I could make my own once I got home.

I bought the gazing ball at Lowe's for $19 (blue ones in 2012, and my fav amber ball I found in 2011 sadly it broke last spring).  I took the cap off of the gazing ball, threaded 100 white lights into the ball, plugged it into an extension cord, plopped it on a plant stand in my flower bed, and once it got dark, I had a beautiful glowing gazing ball in my garden!   Several friends have done the same and love their gazing balls as much I do mine!  Make sure the gazing ball is not opaque, and clear somewhat to let the white lights shine through.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sugar Cookie Bars

These cookies will have you whistling dixie in no time!
Your kids will love them as much as the cut out kind, and the ladies (and gents) will be begging you for the recipe.
Sugar Cookie Bars
about 60 bars (depending on how big you cut them)

Cookie Dough
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 teas. almond extract
1/2 teas. baking soda
1 teas. vanilla
1 teas. baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour

1 /2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
 3-5 tablespoons milk
1 teas. vanilla
food coloring (I use gel food coloring from Michael's for more intense color)
  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the sugar, butter, egg and cream cheese until nice and frothy, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla and almond extract, beat for one minute.
  • In a small bowl, combine the baking soda, baking powder and flour.  Stir together until all incorporated.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat for about 2 minutes.
  • Spray with Pam, or use a Silpat liner, a large jelly roll pan (cookie sheet).
  • Press the dough into a large jelly roll pan. 
  • Bake at 350' for 20 minutes.
  • Let cool completely (I put mine in the freezer for a few minutes to quick chill).
  • In a medium bowl or stand mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese.  Beat about 2 minutes.
  • Add the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and food coloring.  Mix for 1-2 minutes until smooth.
  • Frost the cooled cookies.
  • Cut cookies into bars using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  Enjoy!