Archive for category Appetizers, Sauces and Sides

Universal Keto Yum Yum Sauce

20190205_194815It’s been interesting and fun playing with recipes for our new ketogenic lifestyle.  Particularly as I was recently gifted with an Instant Pot by my amazing sister, Bridget.  I spent the first six months using the Instant Pot exclusively for bone broth – cuz it makes it really, really well.  But thought that was kind of a waste of a cool tool, so started experimenting with real recipes.

I’ve never been a big “rib” eater.  It just seemed like so much work for such little reward.  But the Vino Man had a craving and I thought it would be fun to put the Instant Pot to the test.  The Instant Pot did great.  But the challenge was trying to find a delicious rib sauce that worked with a keto diet.  For those of you that haven’t read the label on your barbecue sauce, you should check it out.  The most popular barbecue sauce in my Google Search was Sweet Baby Rays.  It has a total of 18 grams of carbs in 2 Tablespoons.  Yikes, that’s half my carb allotment for the day.

I’m going to point out here that this sauce is keto-ish.  It includes tomato paste, which does have carbs in it, but you don’t use very much and it goes along way.  If you can find Thrive Organic Market tomato paste – it has a total of 3 grams net carbs in 2 T.  I tried several different combinations of flavors before I hit the jackpot.  I call this my Universal Yum Yum sauce because it’s great on ribs.  Awesome on barbecue.  Fantastic on roasted salmon and makes an amazing Stir Fry sauce.  Keto or non-keto, frankly, you could put it on rocks and it would make them delicious.  Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy.

2/3 c. Coconut Aminos or Wheat Free Low Sodium Soy Sauce* (please see note below)
1/3 c. Red Wine – I used our Bella Rossa
2 T Tomato Paste – the lowest carb version you can find
1-3 T Swerve sweetener (powdered sugar version as it dissolves best)* see same note below
1T Balsamic Vinegar

It doesn’t get much easier than this.  Put everything in a small saucepan.  Heat it over medium-low heat until it starts to simmer.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes (depending on how thick your coconut aminos are) or until it thickens.  Watch it, because it will scorch.

(note:  I’ve discovered that different brands of coconut aminos have very different flavor profiles.  I’ve also discovered that when you are keto, your taste buds get quite sensitive to sweet flavors.  So.  Start the sauce with 1 T of sweetener.  You can always add more.  For most of the coconut aminos I’ve tried, I use 1 – 1.5 T of Swerve.  For soy sauce, which is much saltier – even in the low sodium versions, I typically use the full 3T.

Instant Pot Ribs with Universal Yum Yum Sauce
3 lbs baby back ribs (my butcher does a rib he calls “sweet & sour” ribs.  They are baby, baby backs and they are delicious)
2 T garlic powder
1 T your favorite seasoned salt – check the label, many contain sugar
2 C. chicken broth or water
1/4 C. cider vinegar
2 bay leaves (if you have them.  If not, it still works great)

Rub the ribs with the seasoned salt and garlic powder.  Refrigerate them for 2 hours or overnight.  My Instant Pot requires 18 ounces of fluids to use the pressure cooker mode.  If yours is different, adapt the amount of liquid to fit your device.  Add the liquid to the IP.  Place the trivet in the bottom of the insert.  No trivet?  Make a couple of lemon sized balls of aluminium foil and put them in the bottom.  You are just trying to keep the ribs out of the cooking liquid.  Coil the racks of ribs around the inside of the pot.  Place the top on the IP, make sure the valve is set to sealing.  Use high pressure mode and set for 45 minutes.  Let ‘er rip.  When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.  Then go ahead and carefully vent.  Preheat your broiler.  Pull the ribs out carefully with tongs because they are a) hot and b) fall off the bone tender.  Put them on a cookie sheet and brush each rack with about 1/4 c. Yum Yum.  Pop under the broiler for two to three minutes to let the sauce carmelize a bit and the ribs brown.  Put another couple of tablespoons of Yum Yum on the plate, then put the ribs on top.  Any left over yum yum sauce can be put in a pint jar and kept in the fridge for several days.  Try it to glaze salmon.  Or stir fry some chicken, pork or beef and your favorite veg – then add the Yum Yum at the end and stir to heat through.

This recipe makes me so happy.



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Going Keto

corn and padron peppersI am currently researching (my fave thing) and David is evaluating treatment options for his prostate cancer.  When we come to a decision, we’ll share some sites that really helped us.  But until then, let’s talk ketogenic diet!!  And, cuz that’s who I am, the recipe for this not-strictly-keto corn/pepper dish is below.  Just scan down if you want to skip the keto stuff!

While a diet that features unlimited bacon sounds like a gift from the nutrition gods, The Vino Man and I have decided that a ketogenic diet is not for wimps.  And while I am NOT a medical expert or a nutritionist, I’m happy to share a few of the roadblocks we hit resources that really helped us on this journey.  As a reminder, this is the book that started it all for us Fat is Fuel.  There’s also lots of great info on Dr. Mercola’s website

When you go ketogenic you are basically pushing a reset button on your body and teaching it to burn fat in addition to carbs.  Burning carbs is easier for your body.  Burning fat is harder.  Your body naturally wants to take the easiest route (thank you evolution).  Additionally, so many of the environmental toxins we absorb on a daily basis are fat soluble.  When you start burning fat, those toxins are released into your system.  Here’s a great post for newcomers to Ketogenic diets.

Roadblock:  Keto flu.  Sure most of the websites and books reference it.  But I don’t think they tell you quite everything.  And full disclosure – this hit me more than David.  But let me just say – Keto Flu Sucks.  Totally.  This is your body pushing back trying to get you to eat carbs.  AND it’s environmental toxins flooding your blood stream.  For me it lasted 7 days.  Stuffy head, streaming nose, insomnia, irritability and incredible muscle cramps (yep, they call it flu for a reason).  On day 4, I actually woke up at 2 in the morning, ready to give up and just go eat a damn potato.   On day 5, David and I were standing toe-to-toe in the kitchen screaming at each other because I put cream in his coffee.  Oh yes, fun times.

But if you do a little research (before you start the diet – not after:  learn from my mistakes). Part of the cause is electrolyte imbalance.  You can’t drink Gatorade (39 grams of carbs in a 1/2 bottle serving).  So at this suggestion of this great website, I ended up adding a little Himalyan Salt to my water bottle and I started taking Magnesium.  And eating Avocados.  Lots and lots of Avocados (potassium).  Much, much better. This website has a great recipe for an electrolyte balancing drink.  It does not taste particularly wonderful, but it helped.  This drink is from the ketodiet app.  There is a free version of the app which has some great keto recipes!

Additionally, this website gave the the great tip to have 1 square of 70% Cacao before bed to help release tryptophans.  I’m never going to say no to chocolate and it may be psychosomatic, but I do sleep better.  It has lots of other tips for surviving the start of your keto diet as well.

chorizo-and-spinach.jpgRoadblock:  Cooking Breakfast.  Well you know I love to cook.  But breakfast is just not my meal.  It’s not fun food.  It’s in the morning.  Just ughh.  But after your 8-10 hour nightly fast (also known as sleeping), we discovered it’s really, really important to get some calories in you (reference the cream screaming fit mentioned above).  We’ve figured out that we pretty much just have dinner leftovers for breakfast.  Or eggs.  Lots of eggs.  I actually had to google “how many eggs per day is too many?” when I felt like I was going to start clucking.  We are so thankful for our friend Angela – she keeps a flock and is a wonderful source of pasture-raised chicken eggs – which are better than any other eggs in the world.  We are also thankful for our friend and wine club member Kimberly who is very experienced cooking Paleo/Keto and loves to cook. She gave us the idea for this spinach, chorizo, avocado dish that is full of good fat and really sticks to your ribs.  Follow her on Instagram – @foodfamilywine.

RECIPE – Padron Pepper & Corn Saute (photo at top of page)

OK, corn is not strictly keto – certainly not during the induction (first) phase.  But when Talley Farms puts it in your harvest box, you just have to go for it.

2 ears fresh corn
3 C of whole Padron Peppers (or other small, mild pepper like Cubanelle, Banana or even small Poblanos)
2 T of coconut oil (the roadblock in my next blog post)
1 t. Avocado oil
1/2 onion, peeled and cut thinly in long strips (root to end)
3/4 t. sea salt
1 t. chili powder
1/4 C Feta cheese

Shuck corn. Remove the corn from the cob by placing a coffee cup in a bowl, put the stalk end of the corn on the cup, holding the tassel end of the corn and carefully slicing downward parallel to the stalk so that the corn falls into the bowl and doesn’t scatter everywhere. Or use this cool shucker thing – which I have ordered but haven’t tried yet.

Melt the 2T of coconut oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the Padron peppers.  Saute the peppers until the skin sears – 4-5 minutes – stirring frequently.  Sprinkle the salt over the peppers.  Add the Avocado Oil and the onions to the skillet.  Continue to saute until the onions lightly char and the peppers start to soften – maybe 3 minutes more.  Add the corn to the skillet and saute until the corn starts to take on color and char a bit – probably 4 minutes more.  Add the chili powder and stir.  Remove from heat and stir in the feta cheese.  The coconut oil, corn, cheese and peppers marry beautifully together!  We’ve done this as a side dish, but we’ve also filled a roasted portabella mushroom cap with this mixture and topped it with a fried egg – also AMAZING.



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When life gives you home-made Pastrami…..

rueben-pizza-smallMake Reuben Pizza!

We love our Wine Family.  They know we love to cook and we love to eat.  So when Tom B. smoked us a Pastrami, we immediately thought about a Reuben Pizza that Linda G. made for us a couple of months ago.  It’s not really complicated enough to call a recipe – may be we’ll just call it assembly instructions.  But it will definitely be featured in our Superbowl party this year.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:  Thousand Island Dressing.  Canned Sauerkraut.  Pastrami.  Swiss Cheese. Pizza Crust. PS, if you want to make any of this from scratch – awesome.  But sometimes I love/need a pantry supper.

Start with your favorite pizza crust.  I’m a fan of the Pizza Dough In a Poppin’ Fresh tube.  But this also works really nicely with a premade pizza crust like a Boboli.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (or whatever temperature is appropriate for your preferred crust).

Top your pizza crust with Thousand Island Dressing.  Rinse and Drain the Saurkraut.  Scatter the sauerkraut on top of the dressing.  Chop the pastrami and scatter on top of the sauerkraut.  Top with slices of swiss cheese.  Bake until the cheese is melty and bubbly.

See?  Easy Peasy.  And delicious.  Thanks Linda and Tom for the inspiration.

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Roasted Portobello Mushroom Caprese

A big, bold wine doesn’t always need to go with a  meat dish.  Our new Tango (Syrah/Petit Sirah) blend is just amazing with this hearty vegetarian dish!  This is a perfect starter, or use like a salad.  ENJOY.

2T Butter
2 Cloves garlic, diced
4 large Portobello Mushrooms
4 fresh mozzarella cheese balls, sliced thinly
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
Fresh Basil – leaves only, sliced in chiffonade
¼ C Balsamic Vinegar
2 t. Brown Sugar

Set your oven to 400 degrees and place one oven rack on the second rung from the bottom, and another oven rack on the second rung from the top. Melt butter and garlic together in a microwave safe bowl. This will soften the garlic flavor a tiny bit. Prepare the mushrooms by removing the stem (save them to use in soup), and using a teaspoon to scrape out the brown gills. Brush the mushrooms, inside and out, with the garlic butter mixture. Put mushrooms on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Start with a layer of tomato, then a layer of cheese, the tomato, then cheese (you see where I’m going with this) until the mushroom cap is full. Make sure to finish up with a layer of cheese on top. Put the baking sheet with the mushrooms in the oven on the rack at the second rung from the bottom and cook for 10 minutes.

While the mushrooms are cooking, make the balsamic glaze.  Or just pull it out of your fridge, cuz you should always have some of this on hand.  When in doubt, put Balsamic Glaze on it!!  You could put it on rocks and they would be delicious.  To make the glaze, put the sugar and vinegar in a very small sauce pan over medium high heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer for 8 minutes or so – the glaze should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Turn the oven to broil and move the pan with the mushrooms to the rack at the second rung from the top. Broil mushrooms until the mozarella turns bubbly brown.

Pretty plating – put some nice arugula on a plate. Put two mushrooms on top of the arugula. Drizzle the mushrooms and greens with the balsamic glaze. Sprinkle the fresh basil shreds on top of the whole shebang. Mmmmmmmmmmmm

Don’t know how to chiffonade basil? Here’s a great tutorial on YouTube.

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Cab-Tastic Barbecue Sauce

Do you like your BBQ Sauce Sweet?  Spicy?  How about a super easy sauce that’s a bit of both. This is one of those recipes that looks a bit complicated because it has more than 3 or 4 ingredients. BUT, I’ll bet you have most of these in your cupboards anyway! If you can’t bring yourself to use the Morovino Cab in the sauce (and I can’t really blame you), use any full bodied red.

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ t. smoked paprika
¼ t. cumin
1 C. Morovino 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (or other full bodied red)
1 T brown sugar
½ C. Ketchup
2 t. Sriracha sauce (Asian hot sauce)
1T soy sauce
1T cider vinegar
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce
½ C orange juice
2 T orange marmalade

bbq chickenThis is one of those recipes that looks a bit complicated because it has more than 3 or 4 ingredients. BUT, I’ll bet you have most of these in your cupboards anyway! If you can’t bring yourself to use the Morovino Cab in the sauce (and I can’t really blame you), use any full bodied red. In a saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic and smoked paprika in the olive oil until garlic turns light gold – about 1 minute. Add wine and brown sugar and simmer until reduced by half(ish)–about 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except the marmalade and simmer until they start to thicken a bit. Finish by stirring in the marmalade. Let cool before using.

This sauce is lightly sweet and lightly spicy. Try it with meatballs on a sourdough roll for a yummy meatball sandwich. Marinate cut up chicken overnight in ½ the sauce, remove the chicken to the grill, then use the other ½ of the sauce for basting. It’s YUMMY on pork tenderloin, or use with a pork tri-tip in the slow cooker for a pulled pork sandwich.

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Pasta with Creamy Avocado Sauce

Pasta with Avocado Sauce

Pasta with Avocado Sauce

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite vegan blogs (Oh She Glows) – which you should definitely check out.  The sauce is also amazing on zucchini noodles for a refreshing summer salad!

Serve with Morovino 2012 Sangiovese (but any of our Barberas are also awesome with this)

2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 tablespoon citrus olive oil (I like Robbins Family Farm Mandarin Olive Oil, but lemon or other orange olive oil works just as well. Don’t have citrus olive oil – no problem it’s delicious with plain extra virgin olive oil, too)
1 ripe medium avocado, pitted
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (1/4 t if you use 1T of lemon juice, 1/2 t if you use 2T of lemon juice – the salt balances out the acidity)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 lb bay shrimp (the tiny salad shrimp)
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
Zest from the lemon
1/2 lb of your favorite pasta (I like fettucine with this)

While your pasta – whatever kind you like – cooks, make the sauce. Cuz Avocados turn brown pretty quickly – this sauce is not a make ahead. OK, Kids, this is pretty simple. Place everything through black pepper into your food processor or blender. Actually, I use my “knock-off” magic bullet for this, cuz it works perfectly! If the sauce feels a bit thick, add 1 or 2 T of the pasta water to the blender.

When your past is cooked, drain it and place it back in the pot. Add the avocado sauce and toss until combined. Put it on a big plate (or individual plates). Top with lemon zest, shrimp and feta. Yummmmmmm.

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Bleu Cheese Biscuit Donuts

OK, I’m moving this amazing recipe to the blog page so it’s searchable and easier to find, because we’ve had SOOOOOOOO MANY people asking for it.  Enjoy!


1 package large/grand refrigerated biscuits (you know, the Pop-the-tube-against-your-counter kind)
4 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
honey for drizzling
a dab of butter

Cut refrigerator biscuits in quarters

Cut refrigerator biscuits in quarters

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Pop the biscuit roll against your counter (I just LOVE doing that).  Then cut each biscuit into quarters.


Nestle the biscuits together haphazardly

Nestle the biscuits together haphazardly

Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Place the quartered biscuits around the bottom of the 9 x 13 dish nestling them pretty snuggly together (do NOT reassemble the biscuits they should be in a sort of haphazard pattern).

Scatter the cheese crumbles across the top.  Make sure the bleu cheese crumbles get into any gap between biscuit pieces.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits are browned.bake per instructions
Take the pan out of the oven, let cool a few minutes then drizzle the top of the whole shebang with honey.  This is a great appetizer (my friend Alexandra calls them Bleu Cheese Biscuit Donuts).  Or a yummy side dish to a main course salad (like poached pears, bacon and arugula).  These Bleu Cheese Biscuits are highly addictive, so it’s a good thing they are easy to make.

Not only is this a great recipe, it’s an awesome technique!  Don’t have Bleu Cheese and honey?  No problem.  Put the biscuits in the baking dish, then brush the top with your favorite jarred pesto and sprinkle parmesan on top.  OR brush the top of the biscuits with a nice, fruity olive oil, then sprinkle Feta cheese and Kalamata olives on top.  You are limited ONLY by your imagination (try sprinkling grated cheddar, bacon bits and green onions on top – mmmmmmmmmmmmmm).

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Avocado Salad Dressing/Dip

New Year, New Diet.  I found the recipe for this creamy Avocado salad dressing on Facebook, and, with a few tweaks, it has become my favorite! It also makes a great “guacamole” style dip for veggies.  How Easy is This??:


1 baseball sized Avocado
2 T Golden Balsamic (or lemon juice)
1/2 C. Low Fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 t. Chili Garlic Paste (or other hot sauce)
1/4 C olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 t. salt

Put all ingredients in blender.  Whirl.  Put on salad!

(Mrs. Vino’s Note:  I tried using less salt, but the result just wasn’t as good so I suggest using the full amount.  And, depending on the size of your Avocado, this dressing can get pretty thick.  Try thinning it down with a little extra balsamic or water if you need to – it’s still delicious).

Have a favorite recipe?? I’d love to share it.

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Easy Breezy 10 Minute Microwave Ricotta

This is for my sister Kelly who visited and wanted this recipe.  Had it again last night and realized I never sent it to you – sorry, Kel!  I forgot to take a picture of this before I ate it (it was really good), so I’ll take another one soon and add to post.


2 c. low fat milk
1/2 c. non fat Greek Yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2T Cider Vinegar)
Zest of Said Lemon
1/4 t. salt
Lemon Pepper to taste (optional)

It’s always easier if you zest the lemon first, then juice.  So zest the lemon with your microplane grater (If you don’t have on this is the best food tool ever) and set the zest aside.   Juice the lemon and set aside.  Take a strainer and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. OK, now you are ready (time elapsed 4 minutes)  Put the milk and the Greek Yogurt in a 4 cup microwave safe measuring cup.  Strain the lemon juice into the milk/yogurt mixture (pulp is OK, but you don’t want seeds in there).  Give 1 quick stir with a fork to break up the yogurt.  Put the measuring cup and milk mixture in the microwave and microwave on high for 4 minutes.  Remove the the milk mixture and give it a couple of more stirs with a fork to break up the big clumps of Ricotta.  Carefully pour the mixture into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let sit for 5 minutes.  After 5, bundle up the ends of the cheesecloth and give the mixture a bit of a squeeze to squeeze out some of the extra moisture.  Put the ricotta in a small bowl and mix in the lemon zest and salt with a fork.  Add Lemon Pepper if you are using it.  Refrigerate ricotta til you are ready to use it.

SO, HOW TO USE IT:  My favorite 10 minute dinner is to boil up some Orzo pasta, then toss it in a bowl with some olive oil, salad shrimp, lemon pepper, diced green onions and halved cherry tomato.  Top the plates with a couple of heaping spoonsful of fresh Ricotta – easy, light and delicious.  Or, it’s great on top of a salad, or double the batch and use it to fill pasta shells.  .  . the list is endless.

OPTION 2:  If you make the ricotta with the lemon juice then add the zest.  Add sugar instead of salt and some diced up raisins.  Then use it to fill the center of a poached pear and drizzle the whole thing with honey and top with some roasted slivered almonds.  Oh yeah, that’s good too.

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Edamame Hummus

At the recent wine club party, Mrs. Vino debuted a “hummus” made with Edamame. It’s one of my FAVE super easy, super healthy appetizers.  It’s a beautiful fluffy dip for veggies or rice cracker.  It’s also pretty good tossed with Asian noodles as a cold salad.  This dish is absolutely wonderful with Morovino’s new Dry Riesling.  There were numerous requests for the recipe, so here you go!


1 16 ounce bag of frozen shelled Edamame, thawed
2 T yellow Miso (red or white Miso works too, but Yellow seems to be the most readily available)
2 T warm water
2 T grated ginger (use your microplane grater and it’s about 2″ of ginger root)
2 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 t. Chili Garlic Paste

Mr. Vino is not a fan of very spicy dishes, so Mrs. Vino uses 1/4 t of Chili Garlic Paste.  If you prefer a spicier dish, just stir in more chili paste at the very end of the dish.

Disolve the Miso in warm water to create a paste.  Add all the ingredients into the bowl of your food processor.  Process til smooth.  Add a bit more rice wine vinegar or water if you need to thin it out a bit. Put it in a pretty bowl, then top it with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil if you like.  YES, it is just that easy.

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