Monthly Archives: March 2011

Gewurztraminer Mango Dessert Topping

I can barely pronounce, let alone spell, “gewurztraminer.”  But one thing I can do with it?  Make a delicious dessert!

Today’s wine of the week comes with a twist.  I received this lovely bottle of Washington Hills 2008 “Paradise Peak” Gewurztraminer for my birthday and it has been chilling in my refrigerator waiting to be used for the past couple months.  Surprised that I waited?  Hah, me too.

But to be honest…I’m not much of a gewurztraminer fan.  It’s wine, so obviously I like it, but it’s usually too sweet for me.  This bottle provided a better balance between sweet, tart, and crisp flavors from the fruity notes, but it reminded me of Welch’s Grape Juice.  There was no “wine” bite to it that led me to slowly sipping.  Rather, I could have easily downed the bottle in one go. 

I did not, for the record. 

Still, I wanted to use it up somehow and so I concocted this recipe.  I’m a big fan of cooking fruit in wine and then serving it with ice cream or yogurt for dessert.  It’s something that looks fancy when presented in a nice wine or martini glass, but is so so simple.

Gewurztraminer Mango Dessert Topping
Makes enough for two

1 ripe mango, diced
2 strawberries (fresh or frozen), sliced
1 cup Washington Hills 2008 “Paradise Peak” Gewurztraminer
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. water
dash of black pepper (secret ingredient!)

In a small saucepot, heat mango, strawberries, and wine over medium heat for a minute.  Add in sugar and water, stirring until it dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let wine cook off and reduce for 15 to 20 minutes.  About half-way through cooking, add the dash of black pepper.  It really livens up this dish!  Then keep an eye on the sauce so that the wine doesn’t cook off completely and start to burn the fruit.

When liquid has cooked down substantially and the mixture is mostly fruit, it’s ready!  Remove from heat and let stand for a couple minutes.

Spoon a small amount of yogurt (or ice cream) into a wine glass.  Top with half of the mango mixture and eat immediately.  The glass gets a little steamy from the heat of the dessert topping, which just adds to the fun. 


The mango and gewurztraminer definitely made this a tart topping, but it balances really well with the creamy yogurt.  Now I need to find a wine to fill in the void in my fridge left by my used-up birthday bottle.  🙂

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How To: Make Your Own Hummus

Have you noticed the rising food prices in grocery stores?  How could you not, right?  Lots of foods are getting more and more expensive each day, especially foods that are pre-made.  One such item:  hummus.

I love hummus!  Love love love.  In the traditional recipe, it’s made with garbanzo beans, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and tahini which is simply sesame paste.  Tahini is not difficult to find in stores nowadays, so just ask a clerk if you’re not sure which aisle to find it in.  It may seem expensive (usually around $5 – $7 for a 16oz. container), but that amount will last you a very long time.

In my local grocery stores, I’ve noticed Sabra and Athenos brands of hummus selling anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99 for a 10 oz. container.  That’s preposterous.  Because for roughly half the amount of money, you can make twice as much hummus, and it’s just as delicious.

In this version, I subbed out the garbanzo beans for navy beans simply because that’s what I had on hand.  If you’re looking for the traditional hummus, then use garbanzos.  Enjoy with fresh vegetables or as a spread on sandwiches.


Navy Bean Hummus

1 – 14.5oz can of navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
squirt of lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tahini
2 or 3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. cumin (optional)

In a blender, combine beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and water.  Blend on low for about a minute until spread is smooth.  You may need to add a little more water to get it to loosen up.

Add in salt, cumin, and oil.  Blend for another 30 seconds and adjust seasonings to taste.  Store in a tightly sealed container.

The best thing about hummus?  It’s extremely versatile.  Next week I’ll share some of my favorite hummus adaptations, so stay tuned!

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Filed under How-To, Money Savers, Recipes

Comfort Food

To me, one of the best feelings in the world is when you get home after a very long work week and know that you have a day off (or two, if you’re lucky).  It was a very comforting thought to know that when I left work yesterday, I had one whole day awaiting me in which I could do absolutely anything that I wanted to do.  It was only natural that I wanted food that comforted me last night.

If you asked 10 random people on the street what their top comfort food was, I bet that at least a couple of them would say pasta.  I would even venture to say that out of that 20%, one or both would say pasta with alfredo sauce.  Alfredo is the definition of comfort — rich, creamy, warm, and cheesy.  While all these things are wonderful, it doesn’t make alfredo the healthiest sauce either.  I decided to make a few changes to make it a little lighter in terms of fat and calories, but not give up anything on flavor.  I think it’s just as yummy as alfredo that you’d get at your local Italian restaurant and doubt you’ll even miss the heavy cream.

Meg’s Penne Alfredo

Serves 3

6oz. penne pasta
1 tsp. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. flour
2/3 cup skim milk
4oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried ground mustard
8oz. Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Firm (about 2/3 of package)
dash of ground nutmeg

In a large pot, boil water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

In a pan, saute garlic in butter over medium-low heat.  When butter is melted, add in flour and stir well to combine.

Slowly add in milk and bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes while milk lightly boils until sauce thickens slightly.  Reduce to medium-low heat.

Add cheeses, tofu, and all seasonings to sauce.  Break up tofu with a spoon and allow cheese to melt, taking about 5 to 7 minutes.  When cheese is done melting, transfer sauce to a blender and blend for 30 seconds or so until smooth. 

Add sauce to drained pasta and stir to combine.  Top with fresh parsley or more parmesan and enjoy.

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The Past Three Days…

Here are some photos of what I learned, ate, and saw in the past three days at my conference.  It was a very enjoyable experience and I met or reconnected with many great people in the hospitality industry. I did many fun things in a very short time, and wanted to share through the pictures (all from my phone, sorry if they’re a little blurry).  Enjoy!

In the past three days, I saw cherry blossoms bloom at the nation’s capital…

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I sampled world class food from around the world including fried clams with onion slaw, sushi made to order, Fluffer Nutter sandwiches (I was in heaven), freshly pressed beet juice with parmesan crisps, and duck confit.

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IMG_20110323_203155 (598x800)           IMG_20110323_192800 (800x586)

I was able to live out a day in the life of my dream job as a Top Chef judge and sample dishes created by top chefs from 8 different countries and watch them compete in the Copper Skillet Competition (watch it here!).  Two of the most interesting dishes – sweet saffron risotto and champagne gelatin with gingersnaps.

IMG_20110324_124154 (598x800)           IMG_20110324_132227 (800x598)

I experienced Cisco’s Web-Ex technology by participating in a hybrid meeting (combining virtual and face-to-face together) and also heard fantastic jazz singers from Howard University.

IMG_20110324_161210 (800x623)    IMG_20110325_103844 (800x599)

I learned a lot (and did a lot more than eat), and had a very successful conference.  I fly back to NC late tonight and then it’s back to work tomorrow.  Regular posts with recipes should resume shortly as soon as I digest all I ate this week.

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Customer Service Isn’t Dead

Lately, I’ve noticed a steady decline in the customer service I’ve received. 

Exhibit A – At Wal-Mart this past weekend, I had to listen to a food demonstrator yell at her adult child by cell phone about how he needs to properly care for plants at his house.  She seemed to have no idea that a long line of people wanting pizza samples formed or care that everyone knew her 30+ year-old son’s name and shortcomings by the time they got a small sample.

Exhibit B – Yesterday, I caught a 6am flight to Virginia.  I packed breakfast the night before so that I could eat it before I boarded.  Unfortuantely, I forgot to pack a spoon, so I walked over to a small food store and asked for one.  The first person I asked simply said, “Yeah, we have them,” before going back to looking at her shoes.  The second person I asked just groaned and asked, “Well, are you buying anything?”  I was honest and said, “No”, and he begrudgingly gave one to me.  I would have rather paid for it and received decent service than be given a plastic spoon by two people that clearly were not in the mood to be helpful.

Those recent experiences really made me question the presence of customer service in today’s world.  To me, it seems to have disappeared quite a bit.  Which is ironic because I’m in Virginia for a conference that focuses on how to better serve customers through a variety of means (food and beverage options, meeting room facilities, technology, etc.). 

Even so, up until yesterday, I was seriously questioning whether I could find good service anymore.   Luckily, my thoughts were turned around and life proved me wrong by sending a driver named Jay my way.

Yesterday was very busy/stressful for me.  I woke up at 4am, my flight was at 6am, I had an important meeting from 9 to 10:30am in downtown D.C. and then needed to get to the conference center I’m staying at by 12pm in order to make rehearsal for a presentation I have to give tonight.  To make my life easier, I hired a sedan service to get me where I needed to be.  Specifically Jay’s Sedan Service.  I owe my sanity to Jay, as he provided the best customer service I’ve received in a very long time…

Right before my plane took off, I realized that I had left necessary papers at home for my 9am meeting.  Luckily, I had Jay’s e-mail and sent him a frantic message from my phone along with the attached documents and asked him to print them for me.

When he met me at the baggage claim, he told me he had been unsuccessful in printing them but had another idea.  He then went to the United Service Oragnizations (USO) office and begged them to let me print the documents.  He may have fibbed and said that I was bawling my eyes out over not having this paperwork and that he couldn’t handle driving me into D.C. while I was a hot mess.   I apologize to all service men and women for taking advantage of the “cry baby tactic,” but it worked and I was able to print my documents.



Jay then drove masterfully through hectic morning traffic and got me to my meeting on time.  After I came out, he made a couple stops to help me relax and get my mind off of how stressful the morning had been.  He took me down to the Potomac River and stopped so I could get pictures of the cherry blossoms.  He then drove to Starbucks (it was 11am and I hadn’t had coffee yet…I don’t know how I survived) and treated me to the best cannoli I’ve ever had from a little Italian store. 

Spending a couple hours with him in the car yesterday completely turned around my mindset about service and showed me that excellent service is out there if you look for it.  You just have to filter through a few bad apples to find the gems.

Speaking of gems — it’s Virginia wine week!

I haven’t had time to sample one yet during this trip, but I have had Jefferson Vineyard’s Chardonnay in the past and it is delicious.  Definitely recommend it.

Off to more meetings!  Hopefully there will be lots of good food tonight!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day…

…a day late! This no computer thing has put a bit of a damper on my posting abilities, but at least it allows me to extend the holiday for a bit longer.

Yesterday made me think about the word “green” for obvious reasons. Being the nerd that I am, I looked it up. gives a whopping total of 33 definitions!  That’s a substantial number, but I actually think there could be more.

“Green” was an apparent theme throughout my day yesterday, and thought it would be fun to share how many ways one word can mean a different thing based on the context.


For starters, I made sure to wear green clothing to show my spirit for the holiday.
Definition #1 – “Of the color of growing foliage.”

I ate my greens at lunch yesterday.
Definition #22b – “The leaves and stems of plants, as spinach, lettuce, or cabbage, used for food.”

After my training class ended, I went for a run and saw many bright greens filled with sunbathing, relaxed UNC students (yes, I ventured into enemy territory).
Definition #24 – “A piece of grassy ground constituting a town or village common”

I had my hair cut by a green stylist at a salon on the main drag in Chapel Hill.  He had only been on the salon’s floor cutting hair for a month but did a nice job!
Definition #7 – “untrained; inexperienced


I felt green when mid-shampoo, I was told to evacuate the salon because the fire alarm went off.  This led to almost 200 hair stylists and their clients flooding onto the main downtown thoroughfare in Chapel Hill in the middle of the afternoon.  While I could have been annoyed or embarrassed that I had sopping wet hair and a black gown on in public, the whole experience was hysterical to me and very enjoyable.
Definition #11- “full of life and vigor”


A good stylist checked his client's highlights while we were evacuated.


I think that last definition is the one of my favorites for the word “green.”  It goes along with joie de vivre quite nicely.

Hope you all enjoyed the holiday!  Let’s hope I get my computer back soon!


*All definitions from

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Duh, whining!


Sorry, just need to whine for a moment. And yes, that’s whine with an “h” not wine. Though I’d much rather be doing that.

My laptop caught a virus last night and I’m currently in the process of learning what caused my precious child to get sick. It’s sad how attached I am to my computer. But I really felt like a concerned mother when the screen turned bright blue and the word ALERT started popping up in red all over like it was chickenpox on a preschooler.

I’m putting the health of my baby in the hands of some very competent doctors know as Best Buy’s Geek Squad. I’m sure they’ll make her better in no time and give her a special booster shot to try and prevent this from happening again.

Not without a hefty price tag, of course.

Unfortunately Best Buy doesn’t take Cigna. And last I checked, I can’t list an electronic device as a dependent. Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to fork over a co-pay when your computer needs a check up?

Anyway, I digress….

I will get through this. Really I feel bad because I have a delicious soup recipe to share with you. But it will have to wait until Baby Toshiba gets a clean bill of health.

Well, I think I’m done whining and will now move onto wine-ing. Because I definitely could use a glass after all this. Thanks for listening. 🙂

Gallo’s Sauvignon Blanc is waiting for me back home. It was on a huge markdown at the store this week. It’s light, refreshing, and very easy to drink. Which may be a dangerous thing for me after all my anxiety today.

So here’s a toast to all you geeks  tonight and for the work that you do. It is very much appreciated.

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