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Three Great Red Wines for Less Than $20.00

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I had a pretty busy week and didn’t have much time to cook, but I can always make time to drink… Seeing that I’m on a budget, I’m always looking for deals, especially when it comes to wines. Here are three wines that are under $20.00 and taste great.

The first wine is the Solar de Castro Rioja Vendimia Seleccionada, 2009. This wine is from Rioja Spain. Wine Advocate says it “Offers up an enticing nose of balsam wood, leather, Asian spices, lavender, and black cherry. In the glass it is smooth-textured, spicy, incipiently complex, and sweetly-fruited…outstanding volume, impeccable balance, and a lengthy, pure finish.” I am not that well versed in wine tasting, but I really enjoyed this bottle.

The second wine is the Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010. This wine is from the Napa Valley. The winery describes it as “intriguingly aromatic, this wine opens with bold notes of black raspberry, ripe black cherry, tobacco and the smoky toast of new French oak. A rich array of flavor follows ranging from blackberries and Mexican chocolate to cherry reduction sauce and even a hint of Herbs de Provence. The ripe, full fruit flavors are held in check by its moderate acidity and hearty tannins resulting in a beautifully balanced Cabernet Sauvignon with a toasty wood finish.”

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Simple Greek Salad with Arugula

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To go along with the lamb gyros, I decided to make a very simple Greek salad with my favorite green Arugula. I like the peppery and spicy qualities that it has, and it works great in salads.

Ingredients:
1 tomato, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese
14 ounces baby arugula

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In a mixing bowl, toss the garlic, onion, and olives with the oil and vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let this mixture marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. This will help the flavors marry and take the sharp bite out of the red onions. When you are ready to serve, stir in the dill and feta and pour over the arugula. Be careful no to drench the greens, only using enough dressing to slightly coat them.
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Lamb Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

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One of my favorite foods that is quick and cheap is a Greek gyro. For this dish I used a recipe created by Alton Brown for the gyro meat, since I had no idea how to even begin making it. The key to this recipe is that you don’t need the rotisserie that is traditionally used and can still achieve a very similar taste. I also used Naan bread instead of Pita, because I like the taste and consistency better.

Ingredients for Gyro:

1 medium onion, finely chopped or shredded
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Naan bread

Ingredients for Tzatziki Sauce:

16 oz. plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

For tzatziki sauce, place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

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Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Process the onion in a food processor for 20 and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. Continue reading

Cheeseburger with Grassfed Beef, Aged Cheddar, and Caramelized Onions

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There’s nothing better than a burger cooked correctly using fresh and quality beef. I decided to keep it super simple this week. Below are detailed directions on how to cook the perfect burger with simple toppings (serves 2).

Ingredients:

1 lb. grass fed 80/20 ground beef
2 freshly baked sesame seed buns
2 slices aged sharp cheddar
1 yellow onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

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To start off, you want to get the onions caramelizing. Slice the onion into very thins strips. Place in a pan on medium heat with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Allow the onions to cook for about ten minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt and sugar and stir to incorporate. Cook over medium low heat for about 45 more minutes. If the onions begin to burn, add a little bit of water the to pan. Once the onions have taken on a toasty brown color and have melted down, remove them from the heat and set aside.

Get a charcoal grill preheating with the coals on only one side of the grill.
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Halibut En Papillote with Vegetable Ratatouille

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Continuing with the fish theme, I picked up a beautiful piece of halibut from the store and decided to do a very classical and healthy preparation called en papillote (French for “in parchment”). In this recipe, I sliced various vegetables super thin and scaled them on the top of the fish. Using this method of cooking results in a very moist and flavorful result.

Ingredients:

1 filet halibut
1 zucchini sliced in 1/16-in. rounds
1 Japanese eggplant sliced in 1/16-in. rounds
1 yellow squash sliced in 1/16-in. rounds
1 Roma tomato sliced in 1/16-in. rounds
1 sprig parsley
4 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 400°. Pat fish dry and sprinkle salt and pepper on the top. Crush the garlic and mix with the olive oil and lemon juice and set aside.

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Place the filet on the parchment paper. Place the sliced vegetables alternating between types along the type of the fish as shown in the picture. Pour the infused olive oil all over the top of the vegetables and sprinkle with more salt and black pepper. Arrange the bay leaves and parsley on the top. Continue reading

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad with Soy Vinaigrette

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I haven’t done any fish dishes for the blog yet and I wanted to make something on the lighter side. At the store, they had some beautiful and fresh Ahi tuna. I decided to make a simple salad with the fish barely seared and raw in the middle.

Ingredients for Tuna Salad:

1 fresh Ahi tuna steak
2 avocados cubed and tossed in lemon juice
3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
Handful of greens or sprouts (I used beet tops)
Radishes sliced thin
Salt

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce

For the vinaigrette, whisk all of the ingredients together and place into the fridge.

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Take the tuna steak and cut into thick even strips. Season evenly on all sides with salt. Mix the black and white sesame seeds together and coat the tuna steak evenly. Rub a grill pan with oil. Place the tuna steak on a preheated grill pan on medium-high heat and sear on each side for about 1 minute and remove.
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5 Minute Microwave Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream

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I’m not the biggest fan of sweets and desserts, but when I do get that late night craving, nothing beats a brownie with ice cream. I got back late last night from a three-day music festival called Coachella. I was so exhausted, that I couldn’t even make it to the store, so I decided to make a recipe with things I had in my pantry. This is an extremely simple recipe for a brownie that believe it or not, you can prepare and cook in the microwave in less than 5 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 scoop vanilla bean ice cream

Remove the vanilla ice cream from the freezer, so that it is easy to scoop.

In a 12 oz coffee mug, add water, butter, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Whisk well.

Then, add the cocoa powder and whisk well until mixture is incorporated. Add the sugar and flour and whisk thoroughly. Microwave from 60-90 seconds. I like my brownie fairly chewy, so I leave it in for the lengthy time. If you want yours molten in the center, put it in for less time. Continue reading