Thanksgiving Wines - Tips and Suggestions

Thanksgiving wines have a lot of competition at the table. There are so many flavors in a relatively small area, it is impossible to find just one Thanksgiving wine that will complement all of the dishes. When buying Thanksgiving wine, it is important to find a balanced wine that will not be overwhelmed by all of the seasonings and rich food so often prepared. Avoid a super-dry wine, as the taste of these will be lost. Also, a very heavy-bodied wine will overwhelm some of the lighter dishes available. In this list of 10 Thanksgiving Wines, I have included some general styles of wine as well as specific wines that we enjoy. The specific wineries I've linked to are places we've visited in our travels or wines we have purchased retail. We've received no compensation for this post.

10 Thanksgiving Wines:

1. Pinot Noir - This can be either a red or white wine, and is sometimes included in champagne. Most pinot noir wines I've tasted have been semi-dry and medium bodied, successfully converting this former white zinfandel-only drinker.

2. Riesling - It is possible to find German Rieslings in the United States priced under $20 per bottle. Avoid dry or sweet Rieslings. A lighter Riesling with a medium body will satisfy those who can't drink red wines.

3. Rose - The universal wine. Please avoid boxed varieties.

4. 7 Deadly Zins - This zinfandel blended by Michael-David, while a little heavier than many, and has a balance of several flavors. We've been able to locate this wine during our travels around the United States.

5. Stone Hill Winery's Chambourcin - From Herrmann, MO hails this medium-bodied wine that complements heavy and lighter dishes. Stone Hill Winery will ship to several states.

6. Breitenbach Wine's Roadhouse Red - We enjoy this wine from the heart of Ohio's Amish Country with many types of food. Don't let the semi-sweet designation fool you. This is not a syrupy wine and will appeal to either merlot or semi-sweet wine drinkers. Breitenbach Wine's will ship, with a 21 year old signature required.

7. Ridge Winery's Switzerland County Red - From the birthplace of commercial wine-making in the United States comes another wine that will please semi-dry or semi-sweet drinkers. The Ridge can ship only in Indiana, but is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Louisville, just 15 minutes from I-71.

Completely worth the stop at The Ridge Winery Tasting Room, right on the banks of the Ohio River. They've expanded the tasting room and offer a lot of special events.
8. Lanthier Winery's Cranberry Grande - Cranberries. Thanksgiving. Perfection. Unfortunately, Lanthier Winery does not have an online store. Plan a road trip from Cincinnati or Louisville and follow the Indiana Wine Trail to Madison, IN. As a bonus - they offer a free bottle for every five you buy.

We love to visit Lanthier during the holiday season because they always have dozens of beautifully decorated trees.
9. Breitenbach Wine's Cranberry Wine - Sweet and tart, this wine is always available in mid-November.

10. Ice Wine - A very sweet and decadent dessert wine, ice wines are made from grapes that have been permitted to freeze on the vine. The majority of ice wines are produced in Canada, but it is possible to find good, affordable ice wines from the Great Lakes region.

Don't be afraid of wine. In the words of William Shakespeare "Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."

Fast, Easy Homemade Marinades and Rubs

Our first night vacation meal every time we rent a cottage or condo - Marinated Steak, baked potato and 3G Salad!

In our kitchen, meat is the centerpiece of meals. While I have a few basic techniques that haven't changed much in 25 years - frying chicken is one example - we do like to play with flavors. Creating rubs and marinades takes almost no time at all, yet can completely change the taste and texture of old favorites and standbys.  With a few simple standard ingredients kept on hand, anyone can create a marinade or rub to rival expensive packaged convenience items. All of these recipes can be increased for larger quantities.

Steak Marinade - serves two

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced (adapt to your taste)
several grinds black pepper
pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 - 10 oz. ribeye steaks

Combine all ingredients, then pour the marinade over the steaks that have been placed in a zip-top bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but it will be fine for several hours or overnight. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before grilling in order to let the meat lose its chill. 

Rub for Pork

2 tablespoons ground sage
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients. This will rub all sides of 3 pound pork loin roast or both sides of 8 thick-cut boneless pork chops. The rub can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Dry Rub for Smoking Pork Shoulder or Ribs

You can make the rub in larger quantities and store in an airtight container.

4 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons ground sage
3 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
an 8-9 pound pork shoulder/Boston Butt

Combine paprika, sage, sea salt, garlic and pepper in small bowl. Rinse pork with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on baking sheet. Rub yellow mustard over all sides of pork. Then, completely coat mustard with dry mixture. Place in refrigerator to allow crust to "set", until smoker is ready. Follow manufacturer's instruction for indirect cooking.


Kabob Marinade - serves 2

¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
pinch sea salt
several grinds black pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined. Brush over 4 10-inch vegetable or meat and vegetable kabobs placed in shallow baking pan. Place in refrigerator, turning occasionally until ready to grill. During grilling, baste kabobs occasionally with leftover marinade.


Pesto Chicken Roulade

Chicken has found a larger presence in our diet over the last year. We both enjoy it, but sometimes it's just hard to come up with something different. A gal I work with mentioned buying some stuffed chicken breasts at the store, and one of them was a pesto and something. I mentioned it to Harry and we decided to give it a try.

Roulade is simply a fancy term for "roll-up". The chicken breasts we buy at Lanning's are HUGE and this would easily serve four people. In fact, I think I made it one night when we were kind of tired and it was the only thing we ate - and still had leftovers. I've taken the leftovers to work and heated in the microwave with no issues.

This isn't really a recipe that can be measurement specific. Count on one large breast for every two people you plan to serve.

I trimmed the extra fat from each breast, then put it inside a zip bag. It's great therapy to pound the dickens out of a piece of meat.

I use the zip bag because I'm not fond of raw chicken juice flying around the kitchen.

After the chicken, the ingredients are pretty simple. I used about a half-cup of pesto to cover both breasts, about a half-cup of parmesan-romano blend, one-third of a cup of mayo and just enough panko to coat. Use your own homemade pesto, mayo and crumbs, along with your fresh-grated cheese. We've had to make some sacrifices (read: cut some corners when we don't have hours to spend in the kitchen) since we both went back to work full time.

The pesto isn't coated too thick, nor the cheese - go with your own tastes. In the end, we found a nice balance between the chicken and the filling. I learned by error that pesto can be overwhelming if I use a too-heavy hand.

Then, roll up the chicken from the long side. Place seam side down on your work surface. I did all of this on the paper that the chicken was wrapped in.

I might have gone a little heavy with the mayo on this try. Trust me when I say the mayo does nothing more than seal the moisture in and keep the crumbs attached. After this was cooked, we didn't taste the mayonnaise. The chicken, however, was SO juicy.

Sprinkle on a coating of panko (I've also used regular dried bread crumbs with success) and place the breasts in a pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until your thermometer reads 160 degrees.

The crust browns nicely at 350. I wouldn't recommend going much higher - the crust might brown too quickly and the chicken get dry before the inside is cooked through.

Harry sliced the Pesto Chicken Roulade and it came out rather nicely for our first attempt at something like this. The bruschetta was yummy too!

As I said above, this is more for an idea of what else to do with chicken. Pound your breasts flat, smear them with ingredients you enjoy, roll it up and bake it.



Finding inspiration...

It's easy to make excuses. I can say it's because I'm working full-time. I can say it's because our hours are so jacked up that we only have a few hours each evening for Debbie and Harry time. But I know in my heart those are just excuses. I have plenty of computer time every single day. I've been up for a little over two hours. I've just kind of fallen into a (bad) habit of just surfing each morning until its time to go to work. On the weekends, we'll sit beside each other and surf, pointing out cool things we find.

And then this happened:

I have been wanting to do a weekend runaway to Cleveland (yes, Cleveland, Ohio) for ages. I finally pouted long enough that Harry agreed. On the agenda: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, lunch at Bahama Breeze (don't judge me), a winery or two, the casino and B Spot, and Nirvana.

So we planned a weekend in October, found a hotel within walking distance of the rail station and headed north. Friday night, we took the train to the Horseshoe Casino and had burgers and fries at B Spot. Google it. It hurts my heart that we were not impressed. I'll still try a stand-alone B Spot and give it one more shot.

Saturday morning was the day I was waiting for: Cleveland's West Side Market! Our primary mission was all about the sausage. But, which stand to choose? We made a circuit of the entire market looking at the options. Our first stop garnered butter, cheese, gnocchi, and pierogi. We picked the shop we would buy our walleye. And then, and then...we bought NINE different types of sausages. Smoked, double-smoked, hot, mild, fresh.

We visited Great Lakes Brewing Company, Bier Markt and Market Garden Brewery. I posted pictures to Facebook via my smarter-than-me-phone of our travels and finds.

It was fun. I wanted to do more.

We did this:

And we did this:

Then we did this:

Which was part of this:

And I even had a burst of creativity with the labels:

A few other things happened that kept reminding us of what we used to love to do: play in the kitchen and create food. In the real world we live in right now, it's impossible to jump back into the farmers market thing. It just won't support us anymore. But, over the last couple of months we've had many discussions about how to take it to a level that we can sustain while still working full time.

I'll go into more detail in the coming weeks. I'll also do full posts explaining the pictures. Debbie & Harry's Kitchen needs a makeover and some love for the old posts. It feels very good to be writing this. Oh, how I've missed it all.


Heritage...A to Z through our kitchen

Courtesy mmagallan at
In most everyone's kitchen, there are certain intangible objects that influence the way we cook. In our kitchen, heritage plays as much a part of our meal planning as a love of great food or a desire to experiment.

Harry's family is a blend of Danish and hills of eastern Kentucky. On my side of the fence, I have the roots of eastern Tennessee and the Canadian Maritimes. During our childhood years, we've found a constant. We both come from homes where both parents worked. For the most part, weeknight dinner was usually a meat, potatoes and some sort of vegetable. When Harry and I are short on time for cooking, we usually fall back to those heritage meals.

In my house, corned beef wasn't just for St. Patrick's Day. Mom loved a New England boiled dinner and we probably had it a few times a year. The smell of the slow cooking of the corned beef brisket would fill the house. Then, the aroma got turned up a few notches as Mom added cabbage and rutabaga along with carrots and potatoes. In all these years, 2012 will go down as the year that I finally believe I got my boiled dinner to turn out just like Mom's.

There weren't a lot of dinners Harry would like to repeat from his mother. He told me if he judged pizza by the first one she ever made - which was the first time he ever ate pizza - he never would have eaten it again! But, Harry loved his mother's meatloaf. Through most of my years, while I loved Mom's meatloaf, I was just never able to replicate it on my own. I'm sure the reason is that she has a recipe card somewhere that she still follows to the letter today.

Mom blended her fishing-village family's food heritage with that of Dad's family. Slow-fried southern style chicken with milk gravy. In the summer, I always looked forward to fried green tomatoes (just flour, salt & pepper - none of that batter crap!) and fried okra (these were fried in corn meal, salt and pepper - again no batter!). In the summer, we put up food for winter - strawberry freezer jam, green beans, tomato juice, freezer corn, Lady Ashburn pickle relish.

Through our years, our tastes have changed. Our travels have led us to enjoy foods from around the country and around the world. But, our family heritage still finds its way into our kitchen.

Grill...A to Z through our kitchen

Harry's rolling his pennies for a grill like this! Thanks to Jack880 over at Wikimedia Commons

As a noun, it is a device. As a verb, it is what you are doing.

Grills come in just about every size and shape you can think of. There was a competition where we live, “Monster Barbecue Build Off”. Build or modify an existing grill and then have a cook-off. Voting for the best grill and judging for the best ribs. You can not imagine some of the grills that were built. 

With the arrival of warmer weather our cooking moves outside for at least three or four times a week. A grill is not just for meat, we use it for vegetables and fruit as well. Squash, tomatoes, peaches or apples done on the grill lend a unique and delicious taste as a side dish or incorporated in the main dish. You don’t have to buy your fire roasted tomatoes from your local grocer. And a combination of meat and veggies on a stick, (Kabobs) makes a delicious light meal. 

But I digress; I often do that where food is involved. The GRILL! Stay within your budget but do not go cheap. This is one where you really do get what you pay for. The most important part of the grill is the burner controls and burners. Or if you are a charcoal purist, the gridiron for the charcoal is very important. We have both; we use the charcoal smoker to slow roast and the gas grill for general cooking. We also have a portable grill for our camping trips, one that folds down. 

Pick the right grill for the type of grilling you will be doing. Decide on how many burners you need, do you need a side burner for pots, a rotisserie attachment? (A whole pork loin basted often and turning slowly over low heat…now I am hungry). Infrared warmers, warming racks, the list of features you can have on a grill is extensive and expensive. In one of the stores we shop there was a ready made outdoor kitchen for only twenty seven hundred dollars. Ahh, no. 

It is as simple as this, the grill can be used for weekend gatherings of family and friends and/or used for daily cooking, providing and unique and tasty flavor for whatever dish you are preparing. 

It is time to break out the grill, buy the charcoal or gas, fire that puppy up and let the neighbors know that summer is here. Good grillin. 

And as always, batteries not included.


Crockery, Casseroles and Cookbooks...A to Z through our kitchen

Having a kitchen of my own for nearly 30 years, I've collected an eclectic mix of, well, everything! There's very few items that I could ever need, even for a once-off dish or catering gig, in which I don't have the proper means to cook it or serve it. And many of these items come with so many memories.

In the foreground is a bean crock. I've actually only used it successfully once, for Christmas dinner this past year. The memories belong more to my mother. The bean crock came from Grannie, and Mom can remember beans for supper every Saturday night when she was a kid. Since Mom is, um, 20 years older than me, you can imagine how old this crock is.

With the bean crock are two bowls I received when Gramma passed away. Now, there's a very famous blogger who claims to channel Lucille Ball. Well, I do channel Lucille Wright - except I've never tried to make her banana pudding. While I use the larger bowl in the back for raising bread, I remember Gramma filling either of these bowls with banana pudding with a baked meringue crust. If the dinner was for a big holiday, Gramma used the large bowl. If it was "supper" preceded with a phone call saying "well, I just had a few things that needed to be cooked", she used the small bowl.

Out of all these casserole dishes, only three were purchased during my adult years. The small square in the foreground - great for a chicken pot pie just big enough for Harry and I - belonged to a set of Corelle dishes I needed for my post-divorce kitchen. The top two round casserole dishes on the back/right were purchased in 1983. Everything else came from Gramma's kitchen. They are all so sturdy and lend themselves to baking as well as serving when I feel the need to be proper and serve at the table. Which isn't very often.

I've culled my cookbook collection drastically over the last 18 months. With the dark corners and the strange early morning light, I could not get a proper picture. I have it whittled down to just about 100 cookbooks now. The ones that get the most use, not surprisingly, are some of the old, heritage cookbooks from Gramma's collection.

I have a few "celebrity" cookbooks that I turn to often. Cat Cora, Harry's dream girl, finds her way into our kitchen often with "Cooking from the Hip". I'm particularly fond of Justin Wilson, who was a celebrity cook long before the Food Network made everyone a celebrity. Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist Entertains" taught me that it was possible to serve guests without going overboard.

Of course, with the Lucy mantra of "We got plenty!", I hope I can be forgiven for always going overboard.

Is there an item in your kitchen that was passed from a previous generation? Or, do your children jokingly fight over who will get a certain item when you are no longer in need of it? I'd love to hear about!
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