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Category Archives: Sta. Rita Hills

2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara in just a few short days! This year the conference is being held in Santa Barbara County, which I am very excited about. Although I have not yet been to Santa Barbara for wine tasting, I have become increasingly interested in wines from this region so I can’t wait to get to the source and learn more about the terroir.


Santa Barbara County is most well-known for it’s Pinot Noir, but there are several other varietals that thrive in this climate, including Chardonnay and Riesling. There will be many opportunities to taste the wines of Santa Barbara during the conference, from partners like Sanford Winery and Bridlewood Estate Winery. I also plan to do my own pre-conference tasting on Thursday afternoon, when I will visit Babcock, Foley, Gainey, Dragonette and Alma Rosa – or as many as time (and tolerance) allows. Any other suggestions?


But this conference isn’t just about Santa Barbara wines – there is so much more! There are breakout groups for blogging technique, search engine optimization, wine certification, tasting like the pros, and other tips to improve your blog. We will also sample wines from Portugal and Greece, as well as other blends from around the world.

I’m eager to learn more about the business of wine blogging, but I am also very excited to meet a community of bloggers. There are many veterans of the conference – and also a lot of newbies like myself – from all around the world! I’m lucky that I live so close because it’s only a 4.5 hour drive down the 101, but some people are traveling all the way from New York, France and London.

I can’t wait!

Turkey and Farro Stuffed Peppers

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I was lucky enough to have Sissy drop in for a night this past Sunday! Although she lives in LA, she frequently comes up to the Bay Area for meetings and to see her family, and usually we’re able to get together for dinner at the very least. On Sunday – since we’re both trying to be healthy and save money – I decided to cook for her! After giving her a variety of meals to pick from, we settled on turkey stuffed peppers. I looked at a few recipes on Yummly to get some inspiration and then put together my own concoction.

stuffed pepper

Turkey Stuffed Peppers (makes 4)

  • 1/2 cup dry pearled farro
  • 4 bell peppers (green or red)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 8 button mushrooms, diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey (half thigh, half breast)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan or Mexican blend)

In a small pot, add farro to 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a low boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes at a low heat, or until farro has absorbed most of the water. Pour out any access water and set farro aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, chop tops off peppers and remove seeds and stem. Dice the tops of the peppers and add to a bowl with the zucchini and mushroom, then set aside.

sauteed veggies

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add garlic, onion, parsley and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until onions soften. Add zucchini, diced pepper, and mushrooms and continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Add turkey, salt, cumin and oregano and sauté until turkey is browned. Add tomato sauce and 1/2 cup chicken broth and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Add the farro and mix to combine, then remove from heat.

stuffed peppers

Place the whole peppers (with tops cut off) in a baking pan that is at least 1 1/2 inches deep. Carefully stuff the peppers, then pour the rest of the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes. Once done, top with shredded cheese and serve immediately. If you prefer your stuffed peppers to be more saucy, top with some warmed tomato sauce.

Sissy and I thought the peppers were great, but I could have added some more spice – maybe a serrano pepper would do just the kick. I served this meal two different wines: Red Car 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir and Melville 2012 Estate Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills. Both wines worked well, but the herbal notes in the Melville lent to a better pairing for this hearty meal.


There are so many different ways to make stuffed peppers, but I have to say that I prefer farro to rice (surprise, surprise), and I love adding extra vegetables to the mix. What is your favorite way to prepare stuffed peppers? Share in the comments section!

Collaborative Chicken & Dumplings

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Something wonderful happened a month ago; Annie P. moved into the apartment that I share with KDD, becoming our new roommate! The transition has been pretty smooth, and I am very pleased with the increase in collaborative cooking in the kitchen. Since Annie P. and I have lived together, we’ve made roasted pork loin with lemon-garlic broccolini, Brussels sprouts and ham pizza, and most recently, chicken and dumplings with mushrooms.

BA cover

The chicken and dumplings recipe was featured on the February 2014 cover of Bon Appetit. When I first read the recipe, I flagged it but figured it would be something which I would have to devote extra time because it involved a minor amount of “baking” – which I define as anything that uses baking powder, something I tend to avoid at all costs. But after a closer look, I realized the dumpling assembly was in fact much easier than I originally perceived. Still, I was happy to assign this part of the recipe to Annie P. while I worked to prepare the stew. We made only a few changes to the original recipe, but the most relevant was the cooking of the dumplings in the actual broth – which I highly recommend.

Chicken Stew with Mushrooms (serves 4-6)

  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 whole chicken legs, with bone and skin
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms (i.e. crimini, porcini, shiitake, maitake, oyster)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper

Dumplings (makes 10)

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (don’t skimp on this!)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

photo 3

In a large Dutch oven (6-8 quarts), crisp the bacon over a medium flame. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; once cooled, transfer to a small dish. Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken legs with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Cook chicken, skin side down, in the same pot over medium heat until skins are deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn) – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

photo 5

photo 1

Cook the mushrooms in the same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.

photo 2

Add wine to the pot and simmer, until reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves and broth, then season with salt and pepper. If you can’t fit all the broth, add enough to fill the pot (you can add the rest 2/3 of the way through the cook time). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer partially covered for 2 hours. Check the stew every 20 minutes to skim off the layer of fat that settles on the surface.

Beginning the stew

Beginning the stew

The stew after the mushrooms are added

The stew after the mushrooms are added

Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling batter. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy), and set aside.

After the stew has cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken legs from the pot and plate in shallow bowls. Using two spoons, drop small spoonfuls of dumpling batter into the broth. Cook for 5 minutes on simmer, turning the dumplings halfway through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to the bowls with chicken, then use a ladle to add the remaining stew to the bowl (be careful not to include any bay leaves or thyme sprigs).

photo 1

Cooking the dumplings in the broth

Turning the dumplings

Turning the dumplings

The flavors in this stew were rich and earthy and the layers of ingredients melded together perfectly, probably thanks to the base of bacon fat used to crisp the chicken and sauté the vegetables. The texture of the dumplings was almost like a soft scone. I loved the addition of lemon zest to the batter, as it provided a tangy freshness to the dish that complemented the savoriness.

photo 4

The final dish

As great as the stew was the night I made it, the leftovers the next day were even better! I particularly liked the softer texture of the dumplings after the batter had rested in the refrigerator overnight. So I highly recommend making enough stew to give yourself some leftovers for dinner the next night. Here are some tips on how I prepared and stored my leftover stew: Before transferring any extra stew to a container, remove and shred any remaining chicken from the bone into the broth. Discard the bones, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Store leftover dumpling batter in a separate container. Reheat in a pot and add 1-2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and a few fresh thyme sprigs; simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Cook the dumplings in the broth for five minutes, turning halfway through. Yum all over again!

Pair this dish with an earthy 2011 Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, such as Melville 2011 Estate Pinot Noir or MacPhail 2011 Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir. The cool ocean breeze in the Sta. Rita Hills combined with the rocky soil makes this is a great region for fuller-bodied Pinot Noir, and the 2011 vintage shows bold flavors of coca-cola, vanilla, nutmeg and blueberry, which will nicely compliment the earthy tones in the stew.

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