Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's Baking? November: Savory Treats

This month, Jey of the Jey of Cooking chose to have us all bake something savory. Originally I wanted to make some cheesey biscuits or crackers, or something with lots of herbs. But alas, I was only at home for about half of the month, so things got a little tricky. And on top of that, I am full-on in the Christmas rush for my etsy shop! Which is great, but it means I'm not cooking much... or at all.

But tonight! Tonight I decided to utilize all the leftover turkey my parents gave us. What to do, though? This year I got sick and didn't get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my entire family, and therefore missed Uncle Bob's chicken pie, which is the FAVORITE dish at Thanksgiving. Turkey? whatever. We go for the chicken pie. It's a huge tradition, and Uncle Bob's is amazing. So having missed that, I thought, I should try to make my own version! Huge success. This is my top recipe for leftover poultry.

Chicken Biscuit Pie
adapted from

2T unsalted butter
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 mushrooms, quartered
1/2t salt
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
herbs of your choice (I used 1T of a poultry seasoning blend from Stonewall Kitchens)
1/3 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
leftover chicken or turkey (original recipe calls for 4 cups, I used about 2 and it was enough)
freshly ground pepper

In a 9in oven-safe skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions and salt. Cook for about 4 minutes. Add the herbs and then the flour, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes, til thickened. Add the turkey/chicken, bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Now make the biscuits.

Biscuit topping
2 cups flour
1T baking powder
1/2t salt
1t sugar
6T butter (original recipe says 7)
3/4 cup milk

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then rub in the butter 2T at a time with your fingers. Stir in the milk, stirring until just barely combined. Place the biscuit dough on a floured board and knead for a few seconds, then roll out to a 10in circle, to fit over the chicken veggie mixture (or just break into single serving-sized pieces). Place the biscuits on top of the chicken/veggie mixture and bake at 425F for 40-50 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

This was delicious! It's pretty quick: baking it takes a little time, but it's quick and easy to put together. The biscuit top was light and fluffy but with a nice crust, and the chicken and gravy mixture was so flavorful with the herbs and pepper and veggies. I usually don't put mushrooms in chicken pot pie, but now I realize I really should!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Celebrating Lilly's Birthday!

If I can't celebrate with Lilly herself, what better way to pay tribute to her than to go window shopping?

November 10th was a terribly rainy and dreary day in MA. I had a few etsy orders I needed to work on, but honestly, I couldn't bear the thought of sitting in a chilly, grey (especially because the walls are light blue and silver) room and watch the rain out the window all afternoon. Instead, I took a little drive over to E.A.Davis in Wellesley (which, actually, wasn't the smartest thing- the roads were terrible!) and played dress-up. I hope I don't start annoying the salespeople. Usually I don't ask for help, but they're very well-trained there and help you no. matter. what. Believe me, I'd love to have bought something, but the two items I loved most were of course the most expensive (by far). And so I'll wait. But hey, this way I have a wonderful Christmas list!

Let's start at the beginning.

I tried a mix of Fall 2011 and Resort 2011. I had a mental list of Resort I wanted to try, but sadly most of those items were not in the store, or just not available in my size.

First, I tried on Rebecca. I didn't care for Rebecca on the model, but in person I noticed it has a nice , slightly full 3/4 sleeve. It also has a zip up neck in back, which is interesting- very nice if you've done your hair/makeup before putting on your sweater! Despite my expression, I like Rebecca more than I expected, although I wish she weren't quite so long. I most likely won't purchase Rebecca unless she's at a great price, mostly because of that length. Otherwise she fits true to size.
Rebecca Sweater
cotton/nylon/silk blend, available in Island coral and Black. $128

Next, I grabbed the Resort 2011 Elsa. Now, I've heard the CDC (woven) Elsa fits differently than the cotton (knit) Elsa. But I was not aware that Fall 2011 and Resort 2011 CDC Elsas also fit completely differently. Here I am in Resort 2011 CDC Elsa, size L. She's pretty big.

So when the helpful saleslady happened by, I asked for a M.

Ah, MUCH better. With this top, I've jumped on the Elsa bandwagon. It's a great flowy, loose yet still pretty and stylish top. I don't even need to go into the awesome print, do I? I'm perpetually on the hunt for a pretty top that's not super low cut. A few years ago it was nearly impossible, the only non-low-cut tops I could find were crew necks (blah!), but now it's getting much easier.

But I also tried on a solid Fall 2011 Elsa. In a L.
Fall L and Resort M fit me about the same... hmm. Beware, girls! I mean ok, Fall 2011 is a little roomy, but nowhere near Resort L. Solid navy would be more useful, but that print is fab... such choices!!

Elsa, Resort in Snorkel Blue Greens with Envy, available in Navy Hot Hot Hot, Black Skip on it, and hotty pink Greens with Envy, for $158, Fall available in navy, black, white, hotty pink, lagoon green for $138.

Next, we have the Rivia Flounce top. I've seen this on other girls and decided I loved it, but ugh it runs big and I'm between sizes. Here I am in the L. But it's still adorable, and I just hope you aren't between sizes like I am!

Rivia Flounce Top
$68, Available online only in black, but at E.A. Davis in hotty pink and navy.
Cotton jersey

Next, the Mandy V neck t. I mostly just grabbed it for the sake of trying it, not because I particularly loved it. But I was very pleased with the results, possibly because Starry Blue Drama Queen is an awesome print. However, it runs small- here I am in an L.
Mandy V Neck T
Cotton Slub

Here's one of the day's favorites! The Gwyn sweater, from Resort 2011! This is a cashmere sweater, a simple V neck style but with some lovely, subtle yarnover stitch details on the front and down the center of the back. She runs a tad small, unfortunately- since I usually wear a cami under sweaters to prevent against an itchy back. But oh, such luxury to wear... normally I get fussy and vain and skip things I'd have to go up a size for, but this one is worth it.

Gywn Cashmere Sweater
in oh so many pastel colors!

Here's another Resort pick. It's one I really don't love. Like the Cassie, the Ritchie has received rave reviews everywhere. It's cut like Cassie, but with long sleeves with buttons on the ends. And... fits me like a smock. Blah! It runs true to size though, here I am in an L. I will not be buying it: however, this is a great print.

Available in Hotty Pink Let's Go Bananas, also in Hotty Pink Frilly Ferns. Silk/cotton jersey

Let's get back to things I liked.

The Shailene is like a Shauna with prettier sleeves. She fits true to size or slightly big (I'm wearing a 12 and she's roomy). This is Black Dodies Coral Embroidery, and while coral-red and black aren't really my colors, I love love love the style. Having that ruffle at the sleeve and the V neck with contrasting stitching are lovely touches. I really hope Shailene pops up again!

Shailene, $298
in Black Dodies Coral Embroidery

Here's another I love! The Helena Sweater dress. I picked her up, expecting to dislike her, but oh, like the Jonah and Shauna, I love. And again, the ruffled cuff! Plus that ruffle on the bottom. I would love to pair this with a murfee, it's such a classic, stylish dress just begging for some great accessories. Sometimes you need something simple! She fits perfectly true to size, this is an L.
Helena Sweater Dress, $198
Merino Wool

Here's a Fall 2011 pick. Fiona! Fiona kind of fits like a Lulu; however, she's a knit. She fits true to size in the Fall 2011 sizing, although one small complaint: having a side zipper in a knit maybe isn't the best idea. Can you see the weird bump on my hip a little under my hand? That's the end of the zipper. I'm hoping maybe this particular one was stretched out. Regardless though, this has a great neckline and is shaped well. It's also available in brown and ivory colorblock, and navy and hotty pink colorblock, which would be my pick- since I already have a Heel Yeah dress!
pictured in Heel Yeah Jacquard for $188, also available in colorblock for $178.
Heavy cotton jersey

New favorite! The Blayney Ruffle. Now, I've been after this dress in Let's Get Gingky (from Fall 2010), for a LONG time, but haven't had any luck finding it in my size. So this was the first properly-fitting Blayney I've ever tried on... and now I'm hunting even harder for one! This is a L, and I now know that I'm a M in the Fall 2010 version- so watch out! That's a huge (and potentially very frustrating) difference. Some say the ruffle isn't so great if you're busty, but personally, I like it. It may require a little sewing to keep the wrap-over neckline from gaping open, but that's a quick and simple fix. It's a very flattering cut, and it has pockets! Yay!
Blayney, $268
in Starry Blue Drama Queen and Bright Navy Bravissimo
silk/cotton knit

I've saved the best for last. This is Jeannette. I have no idea when Jeannette debuted, since I've never seen her before, and there was only the one of her. First shipment of Fall 2011, perhaps? Regardless, I didn't expect to love her when I picked her off the rack, but like so many things, oh I do! She is a lace dress with same-color lining, and a crepe-y trim on the ends of the cap sleeves and hem. She is simply cut, but very classic, elegant and flattering. And she has an unexpected low back (I won't show you, all the pictures were even more unflattering than normal). She has an exposed gold zipper, which I honestly don't care for, but whatever, I'll deal with it in this dress. This is at the top of my wish list. This is a size 12, she's a little roomy but very comfortably so.
Jeannette, $298
in Hotty Pink and Black

Hopefully some time in December E.A.Davis will get some more Resort 2011 so I can try on the TayTay, Adriana and Joy Tunic Dress. Until then, I'm scouring Ebay for Palm Beach fit pants, in any color, fabric, length. These pants fit as if they were made especially for me, and I'm in love with them. Good pants are so hard to find.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Traipsing down the CT Wine Trail

Last weekend we had a freak snow storm. In our town, we got about 5 inches of very heavy, wet snow. Schools all over were canceled the next day, and many people were without power. We were lucky, we only lost our phone/dsl. The biggest problem with this storm was that fall had come kind of late, so most of the tree still had their leaves, which are excellent for collecting the heavy snow and weighing the poor tree down.

My parents, on the other hand, lost power for 9 days. So by day 7, they'd had it, and came to visit. And we decided to try a little section of the CT wine trail.

I'm going to give you my frank and honest opinions about these places. I would be happy visiting each one again. All of these were in the northeast section of the state, along I-395.

Holmberg Orchards, in Gales Ferry
Their tasting room is this adorable tiny little shed. If you need to use the restroom, I'd wait til your next stop. Sorry, but I just have to say that- you know if you're hitting several wineries in one day, you WILL have to make a pitstop at some point. Don't do it here. Anyway, the wines.
We tasted four wines: a pear, a peach, and 2 styles of ciders. The pear was good, the peach was actually very peachy yet not overly sweet like many peach wines are. But they both paled in comparison to their ciders. If you like a light, sweet cider, these are for you. The Russet Cider is similar to Magner's (an Irish cider that can be a little tricky to find, at least in New England), and the Cortland was a little sweeter, a little heavier. I looooved the Russet. Best part? $7.99 a bottle (750mL, wine bottle size)! Tastings were $6 each you get to keep the very cute glass (which we left in my parents' car... oh well)

Maugle Sierra, in Ledyard.
Oooh, add this one to my favorites list. Their wines aren't cheap ($18-24), and the tasting is $10 for 6 wines (you get to keep the glass), but the tasting room is open, airy and relaxing, their wines are good, the guy behind the tasting bar was so full of information about the wines, and! they serve fancy pizzas. I liked their white wines (House White - chardonnay with a splash of vidal; Sunset White, a very crisp vidal that I'd enjoy in the summer), their rose (St Croix) was very interesting (in a good way! the kind of wine you sip, make that posh wine connoisseur face and say "hmm" before you take another sip), but I really loved their reds. The House Red is a St Croix blended with Merlot. Of course I've forgotten what it really tastes like now, but when I tasted it I decided I'd buy a bottle. Then we got to the Sunset Red, a blend of St Croix and Cabernet Franc. Now, Cab Franc is currently my favorite red, and I'm also newly fond of St Croix, so then I changed my mind to decide I'd get a bottle of this. So finally we tried the St Croix, which is just as good as the previous, but without the Cab Franc flavor mixed in. Clint wanted to buy this one, but we ended up with the St Croix/Cab Franc, partly because it was cheaper, and party because he also really enjoyed it.

I'm definitely returning to Maugle Sierra, just to do a tasting and hang out.

Dalice Elizabeth, in Preston.
This was a cute little place, situated on a lovely lake. I'd love to come here in the summer and sit out on their patio. For $10 we tried the Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Sangiovese. I think by this time I was a little crocked, so I don't remember anything in particular about these wines, aside from really enjoying the Cab Franc and Sangiovese. I felt the Merlot was a little thin, not much body to it. Mostly I remembered encountering a group of women celebrating one of their birthdays, who all worked at a pub that's just opened a new location about 2 blocks from our house- this is exciting, we love walking to dinner. One nice touch is that the grandmother of the young guy manning the tasting room made all sorts of relishes, pickles and apple butter that are sold in the shop. Love that!

Heritage Trail, in Lisbon.
This was another cute place I'd like to return to. Their tasting room is a cafe, and they offer a cheese and wine pairing for 2 for $25. The wine-only tastings were $7, and we didn't buy any wine because on the tasting list they were outrageously expensive- $24-42 a bottle! That's insane. I'm hoping they were priced like that because it's a cafe, and those were the prices to order a bottle of wine for the table or something. Honestly, I didn't really care for any of their wines, they all tasted slightly thin and metallic, but the atmosphere was great. We were unfortunately in a hurry at this point so couldn't stay and enjoy- I'd especially loved to have done that wine and cheese pairing!

Sharpe Hill, in Pomfret.
We didn't get to a tasting, but I promise you, I will be back there. Their tasting room is a smallish room with a super high ceiling so it just has a great effect when you enter. They've decorated with all sorts of farmy old-timey things- I especially loved the 7 gurgling cod pitchers. The bathroom is kind of fascinating (the line is super long because everyone has to look around- the room is all shelves, with interesting knick knacks on the shelves), and the sink is made out of a solid piece of carved soapstone.
We didn't get to a tasting here because we had dinner reservations, and the tasting bar was closed by the time we finished eating. However! This was one of the best meals I've had in at least a month. I had lamb chops with mint jelly, sauteed brussels sprouts and some kind of boring-looking yet fabulous-tasting rice. I had the Red Seraph, a Chianti-style blend of St Croix and Cab Franc (no, I can't get away from that blend!), which was recommended for the lamb... and I can't really say if I ordered the wine for the lamb, or the lamb for the wine. They were both excellent.
Clint had the jerk chicken with some sort of delicious bbq sauce and mango salsa. He gave me his grilled bananas (:-D). Dad has steak delmonico which he practically inhaled, so I can only assume it was good. Mom had scallops that were prepared simply but perfectly. And we all had Princess Louise Birthday cake for dessert- a simple white cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry puree- the perfect ending.

And we have one more!

The following day, we visited Taylor Brook in Woodstock. Hands down, best wine tasting deal of the weekend- possibly in all the 20 wineries I've been to in CT thus far. For $6 you can taste all 13 wines. You can't keep the glass, but honestly I don't mind that- we have such a big wine glass collection from all our tastings that it's kind of a hindrance.
I won't go through all their wines- 13 is a lot (bring a DD or a picnic. Seriously. Clint and I shared a single tasting, and it was still quite a lot for me). I enjoyed them all, but particularly:
the Traminette, a sweet, light Gewurztraminer
the Cranberry Riesling, a Riseling base with fermented cranberries added. A dangerous drink, since it tastes so much like juice.
Autumn raspberry, a riesling with raspberry essence added
Raspberry Rendezvous, a raspberry dessert wine that's not overly sweet
the Merlot, which isn't listed on their website but is a nice, light, 100% CT grown Merlot grape wine (we bought a bottle).

it's nice there are so many wineries clumped together in some sections of the state, a winery tour is a lovely way to spend a sunny weekend day.

Another good clump you can knock off in a day is over in Litchfield County, the northwest section of CT. We visited CT Valley, Jerram, Land of Nod, Miranda, Sunset Meadow, and just barely missed Haight-Brown, all on one Saturday afternoon. It's too bad they all close at 5pm!