Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade Wheat Crackers -- with a kick!

This weekend we found ourselves overstocked on hummus and completely out of crackers -- a very sad situation indeed. Not wanting to drive to the store, I decided to make my own homemade wheat crackers. We like things spicy around here, so I kicked them up with some cayenne, but that's a totally optional ingredient. Here's the full recipe:

Homemade Wheat Crackers
(Adapted from AllRecipes.com; makes about 35 crackers)

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup water
sea salt, for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, stir together white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder. Slowly mix in olive oil and water and stir just until dough comes together. 
Place the dough on a long sheet of parchment paper. Roll out into very thin (almost as thin as the paper) rectangle (or as close as a rectangle as you can get!).

Cut the dough into squares and sprinkle with sea salt.

Carefully transfer the dough (still on the parchment paper) to a large baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°F until evenly browned. Some thicker crackers (such as those in the center) may need to go back into the oven for 5 minutes or so to full crisp up. 

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Beer-Braised BBQ Chicken

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Smart & Final #CBias #SocialFabric.

We eat a lot of chicken for dinner in this household. But to avoid the "chicken again?!?" comments from the peanut gallery (aka my husband), I try to shake up what cuts I use instead of always going for the default boneless skinless chicken breast. With grilling season upon us, bone-in cuts are especially appealing. They tend to hold up better on the grill, keeping their moisture and resisting over-cooking. For this recipe for Beer-Braised BBQ chicken, I used chicken leg quarters, which are the thigh and drumstick portion. The dark meat works great with the beer & BBQ flavors.

2 First Street chicken leg quarters
1 (12 oz.) bottle beer [I used a lager]
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
2 Tbsp. First Street apple cider vinegar

This recipe has two stages, but I promise both are easy. To start, we place the chicken leg quarters in the crockpot and cover with 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and a bottle of good quality beer:

Cook for 3-4 hours on low, then transfer the chicken to a medium hot grill. Baste frequently with a grilling sauce made from 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (I find most BBQ sauces are too thick for basting; the vinegar cuts this down).

After about 15-20 minutes of flipping and basting every few minutes, the chicken is grilled to perfection and ready to enjoy!

The ingredients for this recipe were purchased at Smart & Final. First Street chicken leg quarters will be on sale next week for $0.89/lb at all Smart & Final stores. #ChooseSmart

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Trip to Wine Country - Napa Valley (Part 3... the end)

On Sunday, our last full day in Napa Valley wine country, we enjoyed a beautiful morning at the pool before heading out in the afternoon for 3 more wine tastings.

First, we went to Louis M. Martini Winery, which was right across the street from where we were staying in St. Helena.

Louis Martini is known for their cabernet sauvignon, which happens to be my husband's favorite varietal, so this was a must stop for us. They have a couple of different tasting options, and we each chose a different one so we could share and try more wines. Though this winery is set up like some of the bigger wineries with a common tasting bar that you have to find a spot at, I didn't feel rushed or treated like cattle. The person doing our tasting took his time with us and shared lots of interesting facts about the winery and the wines. The only downside is that this really is more of an urban tasting room, as compared to the other more lush, natural landscapes we'd been in at Saturday's wineries. No matter, though, because we really enjoyed the wines and ended up taking 2 bottles home with us... the collection grows.

Next, we took a drive down the Silverado Trail to the town of Napa itself and Clos du Val winery.

With Clos du Val, we were back to the beautiful, natural winery setting with the vineyards right out front (and behind, and to the side) of the tasting room. I especially loved all that ivy growing on the front of the building - so pretty and romantic!

We have ordered Clos du Val at a number of restaurants because it is always consistently good wine. This held true at our tasting as well. Again we split 2 different tasting options - the regular and reserve - the get the full experience. From the winemaker's signature Three Graces White to the class pinot noir to the reserve cabernet, we loved all of the wines we tasted. So much so that we decided to join the wine club and get regular shipments. Our first one is set to arrive later this month - I can't wait!

After Clos du Val, we took a snack and walk break before heading over to O'Brien Estate Winery on the other side of town in Napa.

Fun fact: an "estate wine" is one that's grown, fermented and bottled all on site at 1 vineyard. All of O'Brien's wines are estate wines. Many of the wines are also given romantic names (Seduction, Passion of the Heart, etc.) and include poetry on the wine label. Despite the lovely outdoor setting and unique presentation, I wasn't blown away by these wines. They seemed very average to me--drinkable, but for the most part, not worth $50+/bottle. I did really enjoy the Seduction wine, however, so we bought a bottle of that (tasting was free with a bottle purchase, so with tastings at $20/each, we pretty much evened out).

6 wineries in 2 days, plus free tastings each night at The Harvest Inn, and we amassed a respectable, but still manageable little Napa collection to enjoy at home:

I hope you enjoyed my Napa trip report. This was our first trip, but I hope it won't be our last. There are so many wineries to try - do you have any favorites you'd suggest for next time?