Like everyone who lives far from where they grew up, I connect often with people where I used to live – Florida and the east coast. While my friends and family in Tampa struggle with floods and hurricanes, my husband and I endure the drought-ridden California land (not to mention earthquakes). Having moved from a state flush with water, it’s been an adjustment to restrict water usage. But adjust we have. We catch water in the shower while it heats up, planted drought-tolerant plants in our front and back yards, and adopted the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” in the toilet mantra. This last one has been, to say the least, not fun but if it gets us where we need to be, I’m cool with that.
Read more: California Lifestyle: New job, the drought and the miracle of Stitchfix
It’s turkey time again and let the wine buying begin. Wine enhances any meal, but especially this one. Sharing a bottle, sharing memories and sharing stories about the year that just passed are always better over a glass of vino. Since everyone’s table looks different across the country, I’ve always preached that people should just drink what they like during The Big Meal. But, should you want some guidance, here are a few Thanksgiving wine tips as well as recipes to get you started.
Read more: Thanksgiving wine tips and recipes
With my Florida roots, I love all things Cuban. The Cuban culture has firmly ensconced itself into the roots of Florida cooking and I’m there to welcome it with open arms. And mouth. The uniqueness comes from their slow-cooked dishes like Ropa Vieja, roasted pork rubbed with warm, aromatic spices and the pervasive use of their bountiful citrus in Mojo dishes. This Cuban style ahi tuna recipe reflects the best of what the cuisine offers — lime, garlic and cumin. Serve it with a crisp Pinot Gris, medium-bodied Pinot Noir, Italian Chianti or a hoppy IPA.
Read more: Seared Cuban style ahi tuna recipe
I get whiplash from all the health studies that are released… one week you can eat this and the next, oh, hell, no. It’s tough to figure out the stuff you should eat. Now, I take everything with a grain of salt, and learn for myself. Take the low fat diet. For years, I swallowed that line of BS but once I started getting educated, I learned that one obnoxious, egotistical dude in the 60’s was behind the entire low fat theory. Hammered hard for 40 years, now 50%+ Americans are obese. Go figure. Things are starting to slowly change, since the paleo diet has taken hold and people are… gasp… losing weight. Paleo isn’t for everyone — I espouse many of the tenets, but not all — but there are plenty of takeaways that are tried and true (and tested).
Read more: Stuff you should eat: Nuts, eggs, and the produce rainbow
Behold a photo gallery of fave wines from my afternoon spent at the 2015 Taste of Sonoma, part of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. A storied and epic wine event hosted by MacMurray Ranch in the heart of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, it’s impossible to try all the wines poured. Most of these recommended wines hail from the Russian River Valley or Sonoma Valley tents where I spent the bulk of my time exploring. And explore I did! Found a few new wineries (or, at least, new to me) that are killing it: Attune Wines, Canihan Wines, Talisman Wines and Viluko Vineyards. And reminisced with old flames like Inman Family Wines, Three Sticks Wines and Dunstan Wines. These boutique bottles won’t be at a store down the street, but on a website near your mouse or finger. Taste of Sonoma is by far the premier tasting festival of the season and is very well organized. If you haven’t had the pleasure, put it on your bucket list.
Read more: Best wines I tasted at 2015 Taste of Sonoma Festival
Things get interesting when you’re sitting around our Sonoma County kitchen with a friend from Tampa… who is into concocting fantastical cocktails. Like this Hendrick’s gin cocktail recipe… perfect for lounging about, playing cards or sharing laughs on the patio. Recipe courtesy of Rishi Ramkissoon.
Sonoma Sweet Tart
1 ounce Hendrick’s gin 4 muddled blackberries (or any
Read more: Refreshing gin cocktail recipe: Sonoma Sweet Tart
Every summer, I grow my own tomatoes. Giddily and enthusiastically. Almost to a fault. I receive my heirloom seed catalog each winter, earmark the hell out of it and plant new varieties each year — starting the seedlings indoors during February for a late April outdoor planting. Watching them grow (quite impatiently, I might add) is a uniquely geeky pleasure since I know what comes to fruition after all the loving nurturing. The harvest! If you follow me on Instagram, you won’t really see pictures of my pets or family… but red, yellow, and green heirloom tomatoes.
Read more: Awesomely easy heirloom tomato salsa recipe
It’s damn hard finding a Pinot Noir worth drinking under $20. Really, really hard. Some might even say under $30 is challenging, but I’m not that hard core. But forget under $15… it’s normally sweetened grape juice with a touch of earthiness likely added in with wood chips. But occasionally, if you look and wish hard enough, you can find a wine treasure that you can enjoy everyday without feeling the pinch too much. I tried the Mark West 2013 Pinot Noir in a blind tasting lineup and pretty much everyone (from wine novices to wine pros) thought it was solid. Especially for the low, low price of $12.
Read more: Wine review: Mark West 2013 Pinot Noir California
The Rhone Rangers, a group of wine producers who have a passion for Rhône grape varietals, spreads the gospel of grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne… all descendants of France’s Rhône Valley that grow quite happily in areas around California. Especially Paso Robles in the south-central area of the state where the intense heat coaxes these grapes into a ripening groove. Rhone Rangers holds regular tasting events across the country to introduce wine lovers to the beauty of these often overlooked yet sublime varietals. If you see one in your town, run to get tickets.
Read more: Wine reviews: Four Rhone style wines rocking my world
If you’re still reading this after seeing “gluten-free” in the title, then welcome. Many people don’t make it this far when “gluten free” is included. During my food allergy food cleanse, I discovered that I’m gluten sensitive. I’m not celiac or anything serious but post ripping into anything wheat-based, I get bloated and feel crappy. So I started eating as gluten free as I can. And that ain’t easy in our culture. As a former pastry chef who studied and used gluten for a living, it has been a tough, lonely road. But I’m learning to bake GF (as it’s called in this world and you’ll see on labels) while trying to avoid the scary sounding ingredients like xanthan gum, which acts as a thickening agent in the absence of gluten. It’s easier than you might think and you might even feel more comfortable after scarfing a few of these down.
Read more: Cookie recipe: Gluten free chocolate chip cookies