Monday, February 21, 2011

Raspberry Delight Brownies

Last summer, Mr. ValleyWriter and I spent a lovely afternoon on the Connecticut Wine Trail. Our first stop, the Connecticut Valley Winery, had several great dessert wines. One of them was called Raspberry Delight - a white grape wine infused with fresh raspberries. It was slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so, and we thought it would make a great summer sangria.

We ran out of summer before the raspberry sangria came about, so into the back of the fridge the wine went. As I was cleaning out the fridge the other day, I saw the bottle and remembered something the winery owner had said about using the wine in place of water in brownies. And so, when a craving for brownies hit today, I knew what I was making.

The Raspberry Delight wine adds just a slight hint of raspberry flavor to these brownies, but elevates them to a slightly more elegant dessert. Of course, serving them with a glass of the raspberry wine itself never hurts!

Raspberry Delight Brownies
(Makes a 9x13 pan of brownies)

1 c. granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. raspberry wine
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper (or spray with oil).
In a saucepan, heat sugar, butter and raspberry wine until melted. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted. Whisk in eggs until well blended.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.
Spread brownie batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 325°F for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out (mostly) clean.
Cool completely (or as long as you can hold out!) before cutting.

In a dessert mood now? Check out these other great sweets at Sweet as Sugar Cookie's Sweets for a Saturday roundup.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Quick Trip to the Land of Sunshine

Last Wednesday, I spent my day snow blowing, shoveling and otherwise freezing my butt off cleaning up after 2 storms in a row that socked us with about 18 inches of snow.
 (Yes - there really is a mailbox in there... somewhere)
(The 29 inch snowbank outside my front door)

On Saturday, I was 3,000 miles away enjoying sun, sand & warmth:
And flowers:
And cupcakes!!
Yeah... can you tell I was a little excited about that cupcake?!
Mr. ValleyWriter was traveling again for work and I was lucky enough to join him for the weekend in sunny California. It was a very quick trip involving more airport meals, airplane-as-bed and time zone changes than most people would consider handling in a weekend - but it was totally worth it just to get away from the white stuff & the cold.

We spent the weekend putzing around southern California - checking out the Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Port, the beaches and even Downtown Disneyland. (If you're not in the know on this, Downtown Disneyland, in Anaheim, is a little shopping/entertainment district right outside the Disneyland Parks. They have a Rainforest Cafe, big Lego store (where you can even play with the merchandise!), live music, beautiful fountains and gardens, and more. It's a good way to spend a few hours strolling around. And it's FREE!! Even parking is free for the first few hours!)

Of course, we definitely enjoyed some good eats, as our stomachs often guide our amblings. At Disneyland Downtown, I went to The Cupcake Store and got the strawberry shortcake cupcake featured above. I know everyone is saying that cupcakes are so last year - but it was a darn good cupcake! Perfect buttercream (not too sweet), moist, fluffy cake and a delicious strawberry baked right inside. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

I hope to have at least one more post about my trip, as we found an awesome breakfast place in Encinitas that deserves mention. But I'm waiting on the pics from the hubby's iPhone. Hope to have - and share - them soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tortellini Soup

As I mentioned in my last post (thanks for all your thoughts, BTW - very interesting!), I do use convenience items sometimes. Working full time outside the home and being in charge of a whole lot of snow removal lately, there are days when I just get started on dinner at 7:30 or 8 and I want a warm, home cooked meal in a hurry. This tortellini soup definitely fits the criteria. It uses a couple of prepackaged items and comes together in about a half hour, even though it tastes like a soup that's been simmering all afternoon.

Tortellini Soup
(adapted from Betty Crocker's Fix-It Fast Family Favorites)

1 (0.9 oz.) envelope vegetable soup mix
5 cups water
2 small carrots, sliced thinly
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 cups frozen beef tortellini
grated parmesan (optional)

In a large pot, mix together vegetable soup mix, water and sliced carrots. Cover and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, rinse spinach thoroughly and spin in salad spinner to remove excess water. Chop roughly.
Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add spinach and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach is just wilted, stirring often.
Add cooked spinach to boiling soup mixture.
Add frozen tortellini and bring back to a boil. Cook 10-15 minutes until tortellini is tender.
Spoon into bowls and top with grated parmesan, if desired.

(This also makes for great leftovers the next day - just leave the parmesan off until you're ready to serve the soup.)