Archive for category Mrs. Vino’s Ramblings

Introducing Morovino Small Batch” Wines!

We are so excited to have received TTB approval on our new “small batch” label!  Several of

small-batch-petite-sirah-14-set_frt_ttbjpegs

Small batch wines are hand crafted in quantities of 50-75 cases.

you have asked why a “small batch” label when we are already a very small producer (2,000ish cases/year)?

We are a small producer tasting and selling out of a destination beach town.  Because our town is so exceptionally beautiful, we are lucky enough to get repeat visitors – people who come to see us every six months, or even once per year.  We call these customers the Morovino “irregulars”.  We’ve sensed some frustration with our irregulars that they visit and taste a wine, but when they come back 6 months or a year later, they can’t get the same great wine they loved on their last visit.

Our core Italian varietals – Dolcetto, Barbera and Sangiovese – are typically produced in 200 – 300 case lots.  While that’s small to most producers, we typically expect to sell out of a 300 case lot in a bit more than a year. The “small batch” label is to help identify wines that were produced in lots of 50 – 75 cases.  These are wines that will move in and out of the tasting room quickly (probably a 3-4 month lifespan). The cool new label will help our customers know that if they LOVE a small batch wine, they might want to consider getting an extra bottle – it probably won’t be around the next time they visit.

Plus, Mrs. Vino is just loving the burgundy background.  Small Batch wines should be in the tasting room by the end of February.  We hope you come and check them out!!

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Tips on Traveling with Wine

Welcome to Summer!  It’s time for backyard barbecues, picnics at the beach and other jolly outdoor times!  It’s the time for chilled crisp white and rose wines and light and luscious barbecue reds.  With many parts of the country exhibiting significant heatwaves, Mrs. Vino thought she’d take a moment to talk about wine and heat.

There is one phrase guaranteed to strike chills into Mrs. Vino’s heart in summer.  That phrase, uttered after a wine purchase, is “I’ll put this in the car.”  While I completely understand the desire to not have to carry around a bottle/six pack/case of wine while tasting and buying wine, let’s take a quick look at what the National Weather Service says happens to a car interior in summer.

Heat Temperature TableThe far left column shows the exterior temperature.  The columns then show the temperature in degrees over the time frame of 5 to 60 minutes.  So at an exterior temperature of a balmy 80 degrees, within an hour the interior temperature of your car is 127.  Realistically, exposure to temperatures to over 90 degrees, even for a short time, can “cook” your wine.  A great indication that your wine has been in your  car and exposed to heat for too long is that either the cork has started to pop out or the neck of the bottle  under the foil is sticky and wet.  Have a bottle of wine sealed under screwcap in the trunk of your car?  You won’t get any hints on that bottle – you won’t be able tell that wine has cooked until you try to drink it.

So what is “cooked” wine?  Well it certainly won’t kill you, but it won’t taste very good either.  Cooked wines have lost the delicate balance of fruit, tannin, acidity and sweetness.  They frequently taste a bit pruney or like stewed fruit.   What should you do it your wine has cooked?  Well put it in the fridge and try to bring it back down to 60 or so degrees, then drink it as soon as possible.  Like today.  And be ready to put it aside for cooking, or even pour it down the drain if it tastes off.

When travelling, treating your wine as if it is a carton of ice cream or a basket of fresh, perfect berries.  If you are wine tasting during the summer (or warm winter, spring or fall days), carry an insulated cooler and a couple of ice packs in your car.  Wine should go into the cooler at the last possible moment.  Most wineries will be happy to hold your wine until you have finished your tasting tour – then just swing by and pick it all up on the way out of town.  At Morovino, with a 2 bottle minimum purchase, we’ll deliver your wine to any of the local Pismo or Avila hotels!  If you are traveling with your wine, it should be in the passenger compartment of the vehicle – hopefully where there is air-conditioning.  If you are comfortable with the temperature, your wine should be comfortable too.

So please avoid tragedy and don’t leave your wine (or your dogs or your kids) in a hot car this summer!

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Treasure Every Moment.

It is a source of some amazement to me that the simple act of cleaning out a cabinet can be as meaningful as an archaeological dig.

On a recent evening Mr. Vino foolishly opened my recipe cabinet. Yes, cabinet. Not box, not folder, not drawer. I have an entire kitchen cabinet (3 shelves) devoted to my love of cooking. The majority of the contents of these 3 shelves came tumbling out on top of Mr. Vino that evening. Cleaning out the recipe cabinet was on my list of things to do. Looking at Mr. Vino’s expression, cleaning out the cabinet quickly moved to my list of things to do . . . . tomorrow.

Excavating through the cook books, recipes handwritten on post-it notes (Mrs. Vino’s favorite storage tool), and all my other sources of culinary inspiration was a journey through time. I found the cookbook I put together for my sisters, the Christmas after my father passed away. Dad got his love of cooking from his mother and her mother before her, but he had a particular fondness for HIGHLY UNUSUAL ingredients. To this day, I don’t think any of my sisters have made his recipe for Sumatran Spicy Tripe.

Digging deeper, I found the recipes from my weight loss period (note to self, bring those out and start using them). In order to lose 65 lbs in 6 months, I taught myself to cook in an entirely new way. Weight loss, I discovered, is simple math. You have to burn more than you take in. And, when you cook, adding more of the higher-calorie ingredients does not always make a better end result; but when you add more of the lower calorie ingredients (i.e. veggies) it is much more filling.

In the very back corner of the middle shelf, I found my mother’s recipe box. My mother was an absolutely amazing woman. Ten plus years after her passing, I still miss her each and every day. Cooking wasn’t her passion, it was her chore. I had completely forgotten that she had a recipe box. I hadn’t seen it or opened it since we cleaned up her possessions so many years ago.

It was made of gray metal; small, solid and cool in my hand. Completely innocuous. Really more of an office product than a kitchen tool. As I opened the box, I smelled pepper, lemon and cinnamon. The recipe cards had yellowed and some had crumbled around the edges. I think it’s rather telling and very indicative of the era when women were supposed to find joy in cooking that none of the recipes in her box were written in her own hand.  In my recipe cabinet,  EVERY book, magazine and Post-It is covered with my own notes, thoughts and suggestions.

Mom’s recipe box is most closely tied to my memories of the holidays. As the holidays approached, Mom, my sisters and I would all gather around the recipe box to decide what cookies to put in the holiday gift packages we prepared for teachers, family and friends. Amazingly enough, every year we made the same confections: Bourbon Balls and Sugared Walnuts. Looking through the recipe box now, I realize why. Bourbon Balls and Sugared Walnuts are the only confection recipes in the collection.

My mother’s passion wasn’t cooking. Her passion was her children. But every recipe she prepared was filled with love. I may have inherited my love of cooking from my grandmother and great-grandmother. But from my mother I learned that no matter how simple a dish, if it is made with love, it is nourishing.

With love from my mom and me, here is her classic recipe for Bourbon balls updated to be used with Il Tesoro (chocolate raspberry port) or other dessert wine.

Treasured Bon-Bons
1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped (or use the pecans that are already chopped fine)
1 1/4 cups finely crushed (about 1 dozen) Chinese almond cookies (or Vanilla Wafer Cookies–about 16)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup Il Tesoro or other fortified dessert wine
Additional ½ cup powdered sugar, for rolling the balls in when finished

Toast your pecans by putting them in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. You can toast them whole, or chopped–if they are chopped, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THEM, they will toast really quickly. Continually move the skillet back and forth over the burner like you were making Jiffy Pop (for those of you old enough to remember Jiffy Pop). You can tell when the nuts are toasted by smell, more than appearance. They will start to smell a bit like popcorn too. When they start to smell toasted, pour them out of the pan onto a plate and let them cool.

Pulse the cooled pecans in your food processor to finely chop (if you are using whole pecans). If you used chopped Pecans, omit that step.  Put chopped Pecans in bowl, then place cookies in your food processor to crush. Put the cookie crumbs in the bowl, too. Add the first ½ cup powdered sugar and cocoa powder and stir to combine. Add the corn syrup and the Tesoro and stir well. Chill the mixture for 10-15 minutes (if you are making these on a cold day, this may not be necessary).

Use a teaspoon to help you make 1″ balls. You are going to roll the balls in the second ½ cup of powdered sugar, so put the second ½ cup of powdered sugar on a plate or in a pie tin. I use the dry hand/wet hand technique. I roll the balls (kind of sticky) in my left hand, then put them on the plate with the powdered sugar. Use your right hand (dry hand) to roll the balls in the powdered sugar, then place them on a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper.

Once the balls have all been made, put them in an airtight container and store in the fridge. These are waaaayyyyy better if made several days in advance. The flavors mingle and get happy!

Happy Holidays and remember to TREASURE every moment.

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Tasting Room Etiquette

We are lucky enough to get a number of newer wine tasters in the tasting room.  If you haven’t visited a wine tasting room before (or even if you have), here are some great tips on things to do (and not do) to ensure that you (and those around you) have an enjoyable experience.  And, since Mrs. Vino doesn’t want you to think this is another “Rant,” in an effort to be balanced, I will soon post my thoughts on a “Wine Tasters Bill of Rights,” things that ALL wine tasters should be entitled to in a wine tasting experience.

WINE TASTING ETIQUETTE

1.  Please come to the tasting room unscented.  Nothing is going to mess up the experience for your fellow tasters faster than overuse of perfume or cologne.  About 75% of wine tasting is experienced through the sense of smell and heavy perfumes can completely overwhelm the aromas of wine.

2.  In a related note, if you are going to smoke, please do so at least 20 feet away from the tasting room door.  And, please, give yourself a minute to air out before you walk back in the tasting room.  You may not notice the smell of smoke on your clothes, but your fellow tasters will.

3.  If you can’t be nice, be vague!  Some wines you are going to like and some wines you are not going to like.  Since wine tasting is a collaborative experience your comments effect the experience of everyone in the tasting room. Please avoid making overly negative “witty” comments about the wine.  While leather and barnyard notes in a wine may not work for you, they might be delightful to the person standing next to you.  Your negative comments will color their experience of the wine – a simple “This really isn’t my style of wine” or “This is not the wine for my palate” shows class and intelligence.

4.  Use your “inside” voice.  I fully appreciate that wine tasting is a social experience, and it’s natural that the more wine consumed, the higher the level of volume in the tasting room.  Please remember that while your party is enjoying itself on the left side of the bar, on the right side of the bar I might be trying to discuss our wines with other guests or sign up a wine club member.

5. If you are coming in a group, please make sure to notify the tasting room in advance so we can make sure that we have adequate staff to ensure your experience is enjoyable, educational and entertaining. (Please see previous rant).

6.  If the tasting bar is full, step up to the bar, get your taste and a brief overview of the wine, then step back and let someone else have an opportunity.  Or better yet, come on a weekday.  When things are less busy you will have much more of an opportunity to chat with the tasting room host or hostess.

7. Everyone savors at different speeds.  But shooting the wine like whiskey tells the tasting room host/hostess that you are really only in it for the buzz.  Taking a little time to finish your wine sample may actually net you a slightly larger pour or, maybe an extra taste or two.

8.  Crackers (or other foods) are provided to clear you palate between wines.  They are not “snacks.”  And they certainly are not “lunch.”  And, by no means should you put the bowl down on the floor and feed them to your dog.  (Oh yes, yes indeed, it has happened.)

9.  Visitors new to the tasting experience (and those who have been tasting all day) should avoid over-enthusiastic swirling.  If you keep the base of the wine glass on the bar while you swirl, you can avoid “decorating” your neighbors and yourself with the wine in your glass.

10.  We know that wine tasting is recreation for you.  But selling wine is my livelihood.  If you enjoyed one of more of the wines, please consider purchasing a bottle or two.  In most cases the cost of the tasting does not cover the cost to pour you a flight.  Support your small local wineries that are passionate about bringing you amazing handcrafted vintages.

Tasting room staff really appreciate a patient, polite visitor.  Being a gracious guest may reward you with additional tastes, discounts, recommendations and much  more.

Next Up:  Wine Tasters Bill of Rights.  Some thoughts on what you are entitled to at every tasting room you visit.

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Mrs. Vino’s Rant

Mrs. Vino considers herself to be a pretty easy-going person with a philosophy of “Live and Let Live.”  But there is one thing that I just cannot stand:   Bachelorettes.  Over the past 5+ years, Morovino’s tasting room has seen many Bachelorette parties.    In almost every case, Bachelorettes have been rude, whiny and obnoxious.  We’ve seen far fewer Bachelor parties than Bachelorette parties, but HANDS DOWN I’d rather pour for a group of tipsy bachelors than bitchy bachelorettes.  Even the bachelor party that insisted on paying for a wine tasting for the blow up doll and the bachelor party that offered to let me autograph the bachelor’s . . . appendage were preferable to 99% of the bachelorette parties I’ve worked.

Bachelorettes, I’m sorry if this post offends you (OK, actually I’m not really sorry).  But Mrs. Vino is here to help.  If you are a Maid of Honor, Bridesmaid or Friend planning a Bachelorette party at a winery or wine tasting room- here are a couple of suggestions and guidelines that will help make you a welcomed guest instead of a nuisance – resulting in a fun time for all!  Non-bachelorettes, these rules are also true for wine tasting with any group of over 6 people.

1.  Call in advance – if you are bringing 7+ people to a tasting room on a busy weekend afternoon, please call in advance to let them know you are coming.  In addition to this is just being good manners, the tasting room staff can then ensure that they are adequately staffed and prepared to give your group excellent service.    The follow up to this is please show up when you said you were going to show up.

2.  Many Wine Tasting Rooms are Family Venues – so please don’t put your penis-shaped wine charms on the glasses without asking first if it is appropriate.  And please don’t wear your penis-shaped tiara unless you check first to see if kids are present.

3.  Expect to Pay for Wine Tasting – in today’s challenging economic climate, many wineries are using complimentary or discounted tasting coupons to introduce their wines to new customers.  In general, tasting coupons are not intended to be used by large groups.  Don’t be bitchy if we expect you to pay for wine tasting.

4.  Don’t Bring In Your Own Food – without checking first.  You may want to take a cupcake break, but please don’t bring out food without the permission of the tasting room staff.

5.  Remember the Tasting Room is a Business – please keep your volume and your pitch down to normal social levels.

6.  Buy Wine – I understand that wine tasting is recreation for you.  But wine sales are my livelihood.  In the past 5+ years, more than 90% of the time bachelorette parties leave without making a single bottle purchase.  If you are paying less than $10 for a wine tasting, that fee does NOT cover the actual cost of pouring a tasting flight for you.  That’s right ladies, pouring for you actually loses me money.

And the exception:  Several weeks ago we had a delightful group of bachelorettes in the tasting room.  They were polite. They were considerate.  They were charming.  They expected to pay for their wine tasting.  Each of the seven bachelorettes walked out with a bottle and we were delighted to comp the tasting for the entire group.  Ladies, you know who you were and we appreciated you!

Mrs. Vino is sorry if she sounds bitter, but having 3 back-to-back unexpected bachelorette parties through the tasting room just did me in.  It’s so frustrating to watch wine buyers (carrying bags and boxes from other local tasting rooms) come up to my door, then turn away when they see the penis-bedecked bachelor girls taking over the tasting bar.

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5-Minute Friday (comfort food)

No prefab meal for tonight’s 5 Minute Friday!  Because Mrs. Vino is in the mood for comfort food.

For some reason I’ve been craving the comfort food of my childhood – a Tuna Melt with Tomato and a pickle!  Thank goodness this great meal can be put together in 5 minutes.  And, I have the perfect pairing for it – our brand new, not-released-to-the-tasting-room-yet 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose.  I make my tuna salad with Greek Yogurt instead of Mayonnaise to lighten it up a bit and add a bit of diced celery and green onion for texture.  The yogurt adds a bit of brightness and freshness to the tuna.  It’s still plenty creamy, though.  So the really crisp 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose is perfect to pair with it.  Oh yeah, and if this is truly my comfort meal, there has to be potato chips!  And, if you spritz your chips with Truffle Oil – it goes from good to gourmet!  The salty, earthy truffled chips really bring out the fruit character of the wine.  Watch the blog next week for Mrs. Vino’s experiences with her brand new microwave potato chip maker (AWESOME) and learn about one of her new obsessions.

It really doesn’t matter how simple the meal – a good wine pairing will elevate it to gourmet (well, the Truffle Oil doesn’t hurt, either).

So here’s my question to you all – Do you have a 5-Minute comfort food?  And, if so, what is it!

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Thank you, Termites!

As some of you know, Casa d’Vino was recently treated for a termite infestation.  I think I owe a giant “Thank you” to the termites because that treatment led us to a stay at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort.  We’d heard so many good reviews about the property from our guests – and, of course, The Gardens of Avila is one of our favorite restaurants so it was a no-brainer to decide where to stay.  We hadn’t had a vacation in several years so our 2-day getaway was really important to us. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful location, better service or a more relaxing stay.

We scored a West Meadows Suite (Thank you, Marina) which is almost larger than the condo we vacated.  The highlight – a private hot tub on the deck.  Over the course of our two days, we managed 6 soaks in the hot tub (perhaps a new Sycamore Mineral Springs record??).  At the end of the stay we were pruny, but happy!

We still had to work, so we didn’t have as much time to explore as we would have liked.  We did get an opportunity to walk around the facilities which look

The Labyrinth

absolutely beautiful.  And we walked the labyrinth and Meditation Garden, which I just loved.  I am in the process of framing some of the photos I took in the meditation garden as they make me relax just by looking at them. My only regret was that we didn’t have enough time for a class in the Yoga Dome (OK, actually I didn’t have enough time, I can’t really see Mr Vino doing Downward Dog)!

The Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort is a GREAT place to stay if your are visiting Avila!

We had already taken advantage of Restaurant Month to dine at The Gardens, so we decided to mix it up a bit.  We enjoyed dinner at the Custom House one night and the Ventana Grill on the second night.  Both meals were absolutely incredible and I’ll do review in a future blog.

I’m so glad we stayed very local.  It just reminds me of what an exceptional place Avila Beach is.  Avila Beach is the perfect destination for relaxation.  It is filled with amazing friendly, efficient, helpful people.  The hotels and restaurants offer a superior experience and are definitely worth visiting.  In these challenging economic times, it’s so important to support our local businesses.  Please make an effort to dine at our great local restaurants, get away at our fabulous local hotels, and, of course, enjoy the many diverse local wineries.

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Harry’s Beef Burgundy & 2nd Chance Pinot Noir

Tonight we are excited to have the amazing History of Painters playing for our Friday Night Live Music series, so it will be a late, late night.  That means it’s 5 Minute Friday!

Tonight’s prefabricated 5 minute dinner (OK, it’s actually a 7-8 minute dinner) is another choice from Costco – Harry’s Beef Burgundy with noodles.  Hmmmm, what’s the perfect pairing with Beef Burgundy??? It must be a burgundy-style Pinot Noir!  We are so lucky to have amazing Pinot Noirs on the Central Coast, but to pair with this meal, I’m going with a classic traditional European style Pinot.  And, I don’t need to go too far – 2nd Chance Winery is just across Landing Passage from Morovino.

2nd Chance Winery’s 2009 Pinot Noir made from Clone 667 is earthy, rich and lighter than some of the California styled Pinot Noirs.  I love the minerally, loamy notes to it.  Harry’s Beef Burgundy has a nice light sauce.  You can definitely taste the red wine in it.  The beef is tender and the noodles are perfectly al dente after 7 minutes in the microwave.

Sure, it’s not a trip to France.  This nice microwave meal is tasty all on its own. But when you pair it with the beautiful and elegant 2009 2nd Chance Pinot Noir – it’s as close as I’m going to get at 8 p.m. on a Friday night.

Enjoy!

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Five Minute Friday

Welcome to a new feature in The Practical Kitchen – 5 Minute Fridays!

As much Mrs. Vino enjoys her time in the kitchen, there are just days when it is just NOT gonna happen.  I’ve discovered a couple of things:

1.  There are some really tasty pre-cooked dinners out there that can be microwaved in 5 minutes.
2.  When those meals are paired with the right wine, it elevates the whole experience to something special!
3.  If you light a couple of candles and play some nice music while you are eating your 5 minute meal and suddenly you aren’t as tired anymore.

Morovino is now doing live music on Friday evenings from 5 – 7 p.m.  This means that Mrs. Vino usually gets home around 8 p.m. and is way, way too tired to cook.   So every Friday, The Practical Kitchen blog will feature a different prefabricated 5 minute meal paired with a different local wine.  If you have favorite pre-cooked meals, I’d love to hear about them.

Costco’s Monterey Gourmet Foods – Seafood Lasagna paired with Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino

I always approach prefabricated seafood a bit cautiously.  But the Monterey Gourmet Foods Seafood Lasagna offers really tasty, tender shrimp, scallops and fish.  The sauce is creamy, the noodles are tender, it has great seafood flavor and it’s not overly salty.

Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino is an amazingly crisp, full bodied white that  has the perfect balance of acidity and creaminess to pair with the lasagna.  It’s beautiful Citrine color sparkles like a jewel in the glass.  It has great citrus notes and a lightly floral nose that I just love.  But if you want to try this wine, hurry.  I believe Peloton is almost sold out of it!

So fire up the microwave, light the candles, turn on some George Winston or Liz Story, take a deep breath and . . . enjoy.

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Mrs. Vino has a new obsession!

(actually several)

Over the holidays, I got a bit more time to “play” in the kitchen.  And, I’ve discovered several new obsessions that I just have to share!  My holiday gift this year was a microwave potato chip maker from the “As Seen on TV Store” – more on that later in the week.  Our holiday dinner was a roast duck – the side benefit of roasting a duck is the amazing jar of pristine duck fat you end up with if you do it right – more on that later, too.

Right now I want to share with you my newest obsession – yes, I actually dream about it (and so does Mr. Vino)!  CHICKEN BACON.

I don’t know where I first heard/read/saw/learned about Chicken Bacon.  But a couple of weeks ago, I was removing the skin from some bone-in Chicken Thighs to make Braised Thighs and Greens (on the blog under main courses).  As I was going to throw the skin away, the memory of Chicken Bacon flashed into my head.  The Thighs and Greens were delicious (and healthy) and I saved the skin for th next day.

Chicken Bacon is pan-fried or roasted chicken skin.  I mean SERIOUSLY roasted.  Roasted til it is brown and crispy and all the fat has been rendered off.  It is crunchy.  It is chickeny.  It is bacony.  I couldn’t find a calorie count for it anywhere, but since you render off ALL THE FAT, it just can’t be that bad for you.  And it’s delicious.  Really delicious.  So delicious that I think Mr. Vino would eat cardboard if it had chicken bacon on it.

Here’s how it works.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the skin from your chicken thighs (or breast, or go crazy and get a whole chicken nekkid).  Chicken skin is slimy, so use paper towels to grab it and pull it off if you are having a hard time.  Rinse the chicken skin and pat it dry.  Lay the skin out flat on a rimmed baking sheet.  Please note, that rim on the baking sheet is VERY IMPORTANT – cuz the fat renders off . . . in liquid form.  Meanwhile back to the flat skin – try to get out as many wrinkles as possible.  Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper.  Or your favorite seasoned salt.  Or MY favorite, a sprinkle of garlic salt.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast until the skin is brown and crisp – probably about 40 minutes, but check it after 20 minutes.  Pull the baking sheet out carefully as there will be some liquid chicken fat sloshing around the bottom.  Use a spatula to remove the crispy skin pieces, put them on a paper towel and blot them dry to remove even more fat.  After it cools, either eat it immediately or put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge where it will keep for several days.

OK, so how do you use it???  I use it anywhere I’d use bacon bits.  So far:  to top a salad, to top a risotto, to make a CBLT (chicken bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich), to top green beans, on a baked potato, eat it straight out of the pan as a salty, crunchy snack (it’s hard not to).  The possibilities are endless.

I’ve seen some recipes where the chicken skin is marinated in a sweet salty sauce (like Hoisin) and they call it Chicken Candy.  Haven’t tried it yet – am still loving it in its pure bacon form!

Frugal cooking doesn’t mean using the cheapest ingredients – it means using the best ingredients thoughtfully and never wasting anything.  As my Grandma Vino used to say:  don’t skimp on anything you are putting in your stomach, but don’t waste it either!

Cheers!

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