Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session


Posted by Becca On January - 21 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This is not a recipe for someone who is new to cooking or isn’t willing to spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen; be prepared to spend around 2 hours working on the prep & another hour in the actual cooking.  In the end, though, the time and effort are worth it, especially if you love Greek food (like I do) and can’t always go out for it.  Though it would be more “Greek” to use ground lamb in this recipe, I most often use ground beef and have found it to be just as tasty as it is with lamb.


  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 qt. milk
  • 3 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs (I like to use the herb & garlic)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Brown the slices quickly in 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Set aside & cover to keep warm.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are brown.

Add the ground meat and cook 10 minutes.

Combine the tomato paste with the wine, parsley, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Stir this mixture into the meat and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove the mixture from heat.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Make a white sauce by melting 8 tablespoons of butter and blending in the flour, stirring with a whisk.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter/flour mixture, stirring constantly.

When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove it from the heat.

Cool slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, and ricotta cheese.

Grease an 11×16 inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with bread crumbs.

Arrange alternate layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Pour the ricotta cheese sauce over the top and bake one hour, or until top is golden.

Remove from the oven and cool 20-30 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Taco Stew

Posted by Becca On December - 29 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

During a recent trip to my in-laws, I watched my mother-in-law prepare a hearty stew for the current group of hunters she had visiting their deer lease.  I came in while she was already half-way through the process, so I didn’t get any information on the full “plan” for her stew.  On the way home, I contemplated the ingredients she was using & an idea for a quick, easy stew started coming to my mind.  I wanted something that was hearty & warm for the cold winter & combined my love of the flavors of the Southwest.  Thus, this recipe was born.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pkg. Goya Sazon with Coriander & Annatto (orange box)
  • 1 lb. ground beef (venison or buffalo works well, also)
  • 16 oz. 2% milk Velveeta cheese
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 7oz. cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans (partially drained)
  • 1 15 oz. can ranch beans  (partially drained)
  • 1/2 15 oz. can whole kernel sweet corn (drained)


Taco Meat Preparation

Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place ground beef in skillet and sprinkle first seven ingredients over ground beef and mix well.  Brown the beef.

Stew Preparation

In a large stock pot, cut the Velveeta into 1 inch cubes.  Slowly melt over medium heat, stirring constantly.

When the cheese is completely melted, stir in the diced tomatoes and chopped green chilies and increase heat to medium-high.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the browned taco meat, black beans, ranch beans, and corn.  Stir well.

Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, and sliced avocados.


A spicy, warm, filling stew calls for a beverage that can match it.  For this, I like to go to one of my all time favorite brewing companies: Samuel Adams.  One of the reasons I love this company so much is their seasonal brews.  There is a wide variety of them that change with the seasons and there is always something perfect for whatever mood you are in.  The perfect beer to balance out the spice of this stew is the Winter Lager.  It has a hint of the spices we all connect to the colder months and it matches the richness of the stew.


This is a stew that had a very classic, predictable recipe as my jumping off-point: the basic queso.  But then, it takes a turn & became pure experiment (yet still remained incredibly comforting).  So it would seem only fitting that the perfect album to listen to while making it is one which begins as “familiar” but then turns on you…in a cozy sort of way.  The Tallest Man on Earth’s  (also known as singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson) album, The Wild Hunt first catches the listener with an incredibly familiar sound: Bob Dylan’s reedy voice and finger-picking guitar.  But then, he catches you by surprise by bringing a slightly modern twist to classic folk music.  It is an album that is simultaneously  soothing  and invigorating.

Italian Spinach Braid

Posted by Becca On August - 16 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This dish has recently become one of my favorites because it is just fun.  It’s fun to make, fun to eat, and incredibly yummy.  It is a pretty flexible dish that can be served as a meal or as an appetizer.  It reheats very well, even in the microwave which I thought would make the bread soggy.  It seems to be a pretty kid friendly dish (just don’t tell them there is spinach in it), particularly when served with pizza sauce for dipping.


  • 1 loaf (1 lb) frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 8 oz roughly chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Romano/Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Pizza sauce (optional) for dipping


Roll thawed dough into a 12×9 rectangle.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain any fat and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.

Spread beef mixture lengthwise down the center of dough.  On each long side, cut 1 inch wide strips 3 inches into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling.  Pinch the ends to seal.  Brush with egg white.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with pizza sauce.


Something that so closely, but not quite, resembles pizza just cannot be paired with a wine.  I love wine but it just doesn’t seem quite right with this dish.  So, instead, I turn to something much more fun (not to say that wine isn’t fun): beer.  While I generally prefer imported beers, there is one American brewery that I enjoy immensely and that is Samuel Adams.  They have a great range of beers that can meet the tastes of almost everyone.  I particularly like to pair this dish with their Summer Ale, one of their (obviously) seasonal brews.


A dish as fun to make as this one deserves music that is equally fun and joyful; music that you just can’t help but get up and move with it is playing.  For this, there is no better musician than Bob Marley whose music is about celebration, love, and carries within it a pure joy for life.   I dare anyone to not be moved to dance and sing along when Marley’s music is playing.  Though I love all of his music, my favorite album to listen to for this dish is Legend, which covers a nice spectrum of his songs.