Pasta with Whiskey, Wine, Spinach and Mushrooms

I have been a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s cooking blog for years. I have mentioned her here before, and she even commented on my Poached Egg and Avocado on Toast recipe on Tasty Kitchen (eek!). I have loved watching her and her family in real life on her Food Network Show, and when I make her recipes, they are always boyfriend-friendly.

Tim loves whiskey (ha), and when Ree posted recipe for pasta with whiskey in it, I knew he would love it. The only problem is, we are trying to eat healthy, and with lots of carbs and cream, it wasn’t the best option. So I took matters into my own hands and adapted Ree’s recipe to be a little healthier, but still delicious.

This is my healthy take on The Pioneer Woman’s Pasta with Whiskey, Wine, and Mushrooms. I added spinach, used extra onion and mushrooms, and swapped out most of the cream for Greek yogurt. I left the alcohol proportions the same (why not?!), and swapped regular pasta for Barilla Pasta Plus. At 316 calories per serving, it was diet friendly and “cowboy-approved!”

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Tomato Risotto

I have to tell you: I’ve fallen in love with risotto. It’s versatile and able to incorporate whatever produce I have on hand. It is an elegant dish but just takes a little time and a lot of wooden spoon action. It’s a great way to showcase spring ingredients while still feeling cozy on cool evenings…and while I don’t need an excuse to stand at the stove sipping white wine, this certainly is a romantic way to do it.

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Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Fava Beans

The last time I had risotto was about eight years ago. I was somewhere in France with my mom and brother, and we found this cute little restaurant with dark wooden booths and dim lighting. I ordered a dish of mushroom risotto, and it was so incredibly rich that I was overwhelmed in just a few bites! I enjoyed what I ate it, but was left with the impression that risottos are rich and heavy and didn’t feel the need to order any for several years following.

That all changed during a luncheon at work. The Chefs made a spring pea risotto with fresh peas, pea shoots, and Creme Fraiche. The following weekend for lunch, our Sous Chef, Treaver, made a carrot risotto that tasted like the freshest carrots ever. After those two amazing risottos, I became temporarily obsessed and knew I needed to figure out how to make risotto on my own!

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Halibut and Vegetables en Papillote

Tim and I have a fantastic 2011 resolution (one that we actually started in December – how’s that for being early birds?)…and let me start out by saying that it was his idea! We are trying at least one new recipe each per week. It has to be either a food or cooking technique that we have both never tried, and those are the only rules. My secret goal is to show him how non-meat dishes can be filling and delicious.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce the most fail-proof, delicious, healthiest way to cook fish: en papillote! Papillote sounds fancy and French, right? So misleading (ha)…it just means that you fold parchment paper into a little pocket, add fish, veggies, and wine, and let it bake for a few moments. The fish and veggies steam in the packet, and you end up with the most tender, flavorful fish imaginable.

This was probably the most fun we’ve ever had cooking together, and having our own individual packets made it easy to customize our dinner to our individual tastes – definitely a great date night cooking recipe!

Can you tell whose papillote was whose?

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Potato-Leek Soup

Living in wine country is pretty amazing, and working in wine country is even better. I get to help brides plan their weddings, coordinate big fancy dinners, and even host fashion shows! On December 11, Central Coast Fashion Week is coming to JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery! It is going to be spectacular. I spent yesterday in the barrel chai (aka cave) with the talent of three models, a producer, a photographer, a videographer, and a hair and makeup artist. Models in tutu’s among the barrels? Yes please! Be sure to watch their website and Facebook page for the photos.

sweet life laur

There is nothing like nine hours with teeny models to remind you that due to consuming an excess of fine wine and cheese more often than not, you maybe have a few pounds to lose. And that maybe you should ditch the croissants for a healthy and delicious soup…like this one.

This is the second time this year that I’ve posted a Potato-Leek Soup recipe (find the first here), but this one is so good I must share. I recently read through many, many pages of David Lebovitz’ blog about living and cooking in Paris, as another thing working at JUSTIN has done for me is make me realize that I am dying to learn French. So that’s that…enjoy!

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Taleggio-Stuffed Mushrooms

I’ve got to admit it – I’m a total cheese snob. I blame my foodie parents – I got wedges of brie in my preschool lunchbox when the other kids got string cheese. My first winery job, at Vihuela in downtown Paso Robles, was fabulous because we shared a space with Vivant Fine Cheese – therefore, I lived on a strict diet of wine, cheese, and baguettes for almost a year (sorry, arteries!). I learned so much from Danika, from wine and cheese pairing to the particularities of making the perfect platter – what an education!

“More Taleggio? Do I need to stage an intervention?!” Yes, this is what Danika said to me when I was last in her shop. My mom and I have been obsessed with Taleggio lately! We usually just eat it on slices of baguette or on Triscuits, but this weekend I decided to get creative and tried it on stuffed mushrooms. If you like earthy, you will love this combo!

Taleggio is a soft, Italian, washed-rind cheese. A washed rind means just that – the cheese is periodically washed in a saltwater brine (or wine or beer!), which creates the ideal conditions for a red-colored bacteria to grow and impart a pungent smell and taste onto the cheese. Taleggio is nice and stinky, but has a surprisingly mild flavor. It is great on its own, and also makes a great gourmet grilled cheese. Visit your local cheese shop and try it – I think you’ll love it!

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Sweet Life Laur on the Your California Show!

Exciting news! Sweet Life Laur is on this week’s Your California Show! Host Randy White calls it a “Must Go-To Blog” in the introduction, and he called me Paso’s Rising Star on his Twitter! Wow!

If you’ve found me because you listened to the show, Welcome! I hope you enjoy my site. Please feel free to post any questions or comments about my recipes, and let me know how they worked for you when you try them. I love to hear success stories (or, un-success stories – I’m happy to help you fix it for next time!). Please “like” me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, too!

On Your California, Randy interviews people from around the state who are involved with some form of wine, food, or travel. Earlier this week, Randy contacted me and asked if I would be on his show, and of course I said yes. (Listen to the clip for the full story of how he even found me). I was so excited when I heard from him, I couldn’t even believe it! The next day, I did the interview over the phone on my lunch break. Since it was a phone interview, I don’t have a cool picture of me in the studio with headphones and a mic to post…but maybe next time!

I mention Vivant Fine Cheese, Pier 46 SeafoodMeritage Wine Tasting Lounge, and Nature’s Touch in my interview, but I didn’t get the chance to go into how important it is to support the local economy. These are wonderful people who carry wonderful products and they should not go without mention…so a BIG thanks to them and more!

The segment is going to air on The Krush 92.5, our local Central Coast radio station on Sunday, September 4 at 10:00 am and Tuesday, September 7 at 6:00 pm. Although I encourage you to listen to the whole thing, my segment starts at 20:15. You can also download the free Podcast if you want to keep my voice on your iTunes forever…ha!

Just a little disclaimer: my content is not to be used freely. I want you to enjoy my photos and try out my recipes, but if I find them in a book or elsewhere online and you haven’t asked and linked back to me and given me proper credit, you’re in trouble…seriously. That being said, making one of my photos your desktop wallpaper is totally okay…but don’t blame me if your stomach growls every time you look at it!