Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Hello friends!

This week's cheap wine of the week was a bit of surprise. I needed a dry white to cook my scallops with Sunday and definitely didn't want to use any of the Cakebread Chard we had for the meal. When Mom and I were at Whole Foods, we picked up a Quail Creek Sauvignon Blanc for $5.99 that I thought would just be a good cooking wine, but not really worth drinking, especially next to the Cakebread. But since there were three of us, and only one bottle of the chard, we ended up drinking it as well. And it was really quite nice. Light, but acidic, and nice and citrusy. Brad and I enjoyed it. And $5.99? You really can't beat that!

Here's a picture of it at our dinner.

(PS ~ Someone we know didn't really like one of the bottles I suggested from TJ's a couple weeks back... Brad and I liked it both times we had it... but this is just a reminder that these are cheap wines of the week, not super-amazing-awesome wines of the week... don't expect them to be perfect... just something to enjoy for an everyday deal... so enjoy them for what they are!)

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Look, I instituted a new tradition, and I already broke it! My mom's been in town all weekend, which has been lovely, but it means I missed the Sunday deadline for this week. The recipe wrap-up on Monday will have to suffice. And strange internet doings mean I am barely making the Monday mark, it is almost Tuesday already... sad...

So I cooked a lot this week, and forgot to take pictures for most of it. There are two meals I'll share, though. One was a turkey mushroom burger that was a little bit of a leftover meal. I had the buns leftover and the lettuce and the mushrooms and the cheese. All I needed was a tomato and the turkey meat. Sauteed mushrooms and garlic and shallot mixed in with the meat and salt and pepper and garlic salt, with a little basil thrown in for fun. Topped off with some delicious white cheddar, and we were good to go. Yummy!

The second meal is one Mom and I made Sunday night after church. Brad and I had gotten her a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay on our trip to Napa as a surprise. So we had to find a recipe that would pair nicely with the wine. Scallops Charleston was the winner. We used bay scallops, because they were a ton cheaper, so we had these little bits of scallops in this delicious mushroom wine sauce all topped with a great Gruyere and broiled to perfection. We served it with wild rice and some of Nana's famous green beans she canned for us. Oh my word. It was fantastic. Not liking scallops very much, I don't know when they're done very well. But between Mom and I tasting them as we cooked, we get it just right. And I liked these scallops a lot. Who wouldn't like something bathed in mushrooms and cheese? And it paired with the wine really well. We finished off our night with a round of Rummikub, some hot cider I spiced (and spiked with a touch of rum), and Good Will Hunting. Very good night.

And here's Mom and Brad enjoying our little family meal!

Happy fall to you all! Next week, a true Sunday post, I promise.

I Bet God Has Fun Coloring Trees in the Fall

I just wanted to give you all a peek around our neighborhood this week. While the rain has come for the weekend, it has been truly gorgeous the past couple days. So check out the wonderful leaves!

This is the view from our living room across the street

This is the view out of our kitchen window

And this is that same street, the cemetery lined with these great red trees

A house down the street, with a perfect fall montage

Even the squirrels are enjoying the weather!

This is a school in our neighborhood and there are all these great trees with their beautiful coloring

And across the street from the school is our great little church, Holy Trinity North Side!

Hope fall is treating you all well wherever you are as well!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

New tradition! I was talking to my mom and her IT guy last night because I'm going to help start her business' blog. One of the points he made was that in blogs, people like to expect some patterns or consistency. Good point Aaron. I'm going to use that for my own personal gain. So, from now on Wednesdays will be "Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesdays" and Sundays will be "Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up Sundays". Other random tidbits will be spread throughout the week.

So for this week, the cheap wine of the week isn't actually a wine at all. It's a beer. Yes, we have jaw-droppingly selected a beer as our delicious cheap thing to drink with a meal this week. And, actually, for a beer, it really isn't that cheap. At $7.99 for a four-pack, it's slightly gourmet. But if it were a bottle of wine, it'd be really cheap, so we're using it!

I was at Whole Foods trying to find a beer and needed help from the beer guy. I told him I know next to nothing about beer, but I like Hefeweizens. He looked at me crazily and said "well light wheat beers aren't in season right now." In season? C'mon Whole Foods, don't go all organically freaky on me. Beers have seasons? Add that to the things I didn't know. But as he explained it, it made sense. People don't want light, crisp beers right now as the weather gets colder. They want big robust beers they can curl up in front of the fire with. Well that's all very well and good for beer people. But for a beer wimp like me, I do, in fact, want a light crisp wheat beer to drink. So he grudgingly offered this as an option. Turns out, it was perfect. The beer is Ommegang Brewery's Witte Beer. It's got some good wheat to it, it's not too heavy, it's got a little bit of orange flavor and a little coriander (I kid you not, I picked up those notes without reading the label, where they were clearly spelled out). Very yummy. Great with the shrimp salad I made.


I didn't take this picture. As you've probably noticed, I am not this professional.

So if you're at Whole Foods sometime soon then pick this up. Or wait till next summer when it's "in season" and indulge then. Enjoy!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Apparently Brad's been bragging about my food, and is sad I didn't put up pictures of one of our dinners this week he told Jonathan about. I guess if it doesn't end up on the blog, it didn't happen! So I shall do a little weekly dinner wrap-up Wednesday's meal and tonight's.

Wednesday I was experimenting and it actually turned out really well. Brad voted for shrimp as a protein and I thought of a salad topped with shrimp. Brad asked that the shrimp "have a little color or crunch" so the best I could think of was a slightly breaded shrimp fried in a little half butter/half olive oil mixture for some browning action. I was skeptical about the shrimp, since they tasted almost a little sweet, but pairing with the spinach and sliced bell pepper salad was a lucky break. Everything ended up marrying really well. A thick homemade balsamic vinaigrette finished it off.

As for our cheap wine of the week, I wanted something with some acidity and that wasn't too heavy to pair with the shrimp salad. Whole Foods had this white bordeaux on sale, it's a 2008 Chateau Lamothe de Haux Bordeaux Blanc. It's a 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 20% muscadelle blend. Very light (we both agreed it was "almost like water" and way too easy to drink), and a great pairing with both seafood and the crispiness of the peppers and spinach. For $10.99, I'd buy this again. We're not big white people but for a meal like this, we needed it.

For tonight I needed a protein-rich meal. I've been tracking my daily calories and exercise using SparkPeople, which has been great. It's a good way to stay aware of what I'm putting in and what I'm working off. And today, SparkPeople said I needed a lot more protein for dinner if I was going to get enough for the day. So I made chicken, serrano chili, and white cheddar quesadillas. Good protein, and great flavors. Here's the recipe from Food Network. A good reminder of the southwest and home. And I made some guacamole, which never used to be a big deal, but out here it has been impossible to find good avocados. My first attempt, they were super green. My second attempt, they looks and felt great but were all brown and spotty inside. Finally today, they worked out perfectly. Yummy yummy guac, Hamilton style.

For the quesadillas, I got to break out my huge stainless skillet and flip these massive 14" tortilla sandwiches in them instead of just folding the tortilla over. Making them in the skillet helps give that great color on the tortillas as well. They were spicy (next time I'll seed the serranos before chopping them), but very good.

Hope you all had great weeks! We did, and, as you can see, we enjoyed our food!


Our old small group in San Diego is having a Friendsgiving tonight (the timing is in honor of Canadian Thanksgiving). I really wish we could be there with them to share in this probably awesome night of food and laughter and fun. Being with that group of people means you always have a great time and feel warm and fuzzy with friend love. And besides, there are a ton of awesome cooks, so the food at these things is sweet!

Since I can't be there to add in my bit of food (and the winery's donation of cheap or free wine), in honor of the night, I made something here in Chicago. I hope they can enjoy it through pictures. We miss you guys and hope it was a great night!!

To ward off the chill, I made a great chicken soup/stew with a ton of garlic in it. It totally cleans you out and warms you up. In a related note, we got our radiators turned on today! Yay! The boilers had been broken and it was getting pretty chilly in our apartment. Our little space heater was working way overtime. So now it's warm and toasty in here! Though there are a ton of whistles and burbles and knocks that are going on. Apparently normal.

Anyway, enjoy!

Halloween in Chicago

So Halloween's kind of a big deal over here. Apparently everyone relishes the last holiday before the retreat to their houses for 6 months. I've really never seen so much Halloween decorating on a street before, so I had to share it with you, my blog friends. Check these pics out! These are all houses within a block of our apartment. Sweet orange and black and purple (the all hallows eve color of the year, apparently).

Both these houses are all lit up and spidered out.

Orange Christmas lights, lit pumpkins, and lawn ornaments... par for the course around here.

Someone even decorated the stop signs on one corner for fall...

And for some cute lawn decoration, some pumpkins and a giant stuffed spider (really, someone threw this huge stuffed spider out onto their lawn... crazy)

There are a ton of skulls and gravestones around as well, but they're scary so I didn't take pictures of them. This hasn't inspired me to go decorate as well, but I think it's pretty cool. Good neighborhood spirit!

Quick Update Time

Hello all!

Just a quick life update. Life is good, though I'm in a little bit of a transition time and I'm trying to process what God has for me in my life. And I've been alternating between stressing out and getting frustrated, and just sitting back and realizing God has it under control. But at small group tonight it came to me as we were going around for prayer requests that everyone is in a time of transition in their lives. A couple of us are looking for work, a couple of us are going to school, one couple put an offer in for a house, one girl is getting involved in some new Bible studies with some new people. We are all going through some sort of transition period. And honestly, that will probably never stop. Once you get the job you have to find your niche, then you get promoted, then you find something new. Or once you get the house then you get the dog and then you think about having a family. And so on and so forth. So if I don't start leaning on Christ and His perfect plan now, then in all the next transitions, I'll be as lost and confused as I felt sometimes this week. Time to remember to focus on Jesus.

But at least I know that even if life is confusing, there is always good food to cook! I've neglected taking pictures of food this week, so I'll put up some not-as-great pictures of tonight's meal. It was a Cassia original (the basic quiche proportions I stole from Barbara Bush, but the inner workings I made up.) Chicken Andouille Sausage Quiche with cilantro and green onions and lots of spices inside. Mmmmmm. It was spicy with a little hint of sweetness from the crust. Yummy!

Cheap Wines of the Week

I'm a bad cheap wine of the week reporter! So, I shall rectify that right now and post not one, but two cheap wines of the week, and a special bonus wine of the week. So that should fill my quota from the last couple weeks.

First, my go-to cheap wine, Origin Malbec. It's in every grocery store there is and it's always on sale because grocery-store-wine-buyers have no idea what Malbec is and are afraid to try it. I'm a fan of the Origin line of wines because they are a cheap way to get a sense of different varietals. I'm not saying they're great wines, they're not. But they're good enough for $5 and they do help you explore some different wines you might not have tired before. Brad and I particularly liked the 2008 Malbec. I figured it out, and we've had every vintage of this wine from '05-'08 in the course of our wine drinking years, and this one was really good. So, 5 bucks, decent wine, in the grocery store... give it a try!

Next up is a find from Trader Joe's. Stonehedge Reserve Petite Syrah (yes, they spell Petite Sirah with a "y", oh well). Ever since Don Reha bottled the new estate Petite Sirah at Orfila, I have rectified my former dislike of the varietal (you were right Tania!). Big, spicy, yummy, and rich... it's a good thing to try. And then on our Napa trip on the way out here we got to try some more really good ones. So I saw this at TJ's and thought we'd try it out. It turned out to be a nice option. Some good raisin and a little cocoa on the finish, and just a rich, smooth ride to get there. I think it was $10.99, and it's something we've bought twice now and just a good dinner wine. (PS, this goes better with homemade white pizza than with homemade enchiladas, the chipotle was too much for the wine, the pizza balanced nicely.)

And for our bonus wine, a signed bottle just for me! I went to a winemaker's tasting night Tuesday at Que Syrah (bad pun, good wine), our local wine shop down Southport. Murrieta's Well, a winery in Livermore, CA was there showcasing a few of their wines. For coming out of Livermore, the wine was really quite good. And Sergio Traverso, the owner, knew Alejandro Orfila, the owner of Orfila, so we got to chat about that for a while. It was a fun night with some good wine, and I came away with two of their reds, one of which Sergio signed for me! If you can't read it, the inscription says "To Cassia, All the Best! (and come back to CA) Sergio." Adorable.

Happy bargain hunting in whatever it is that makes you smile this week!

Birthday Weekend

Brad turned 26 yesterday! And in honor of that momentous occasion, Tom and Lori got to come out for the weekend and hang out with us. It was really great to see them, and even more fun to show them our new little life out here. I love that now they'll have a visual picture when we say we're going to church or walking past Wrigley Field. It was a great weekend of just hanging out.

Friday we wandered downtown and went to The Gage restaurant for dinner (found a Bien Nacido Merlot to drink, which was pretty fun since my old winery also sources grapes from the Bien Nacido vineyard). Saturday we went to Ann Sathers for some huge breakfast food, we got to go to a Cubs vs D'Backs game at Wrigley (see pictures and video below), thanks Mom and Dad and Tim Chelgren!, then we played an epic game of Settlers that Tom came from behind and beat us all at, then we went to a local brewery and watched USC mercilessly beat Cal. Sunday they got to come with s to our first-ever church-wide celebration downtown, where all four congregations came together for a big celebration of what God's doing through Holy Trinity. It wasn't quite the small church feel, but it was an awesome time of vision and community.

All in all, very fun! Thanks for coming out parents! Brad had a great birthday full of friends calling and Facebooking, and capped off with some Margie's ice cream shakes with some friends and staying up way too late with them. Awesome. We are praying for God to keep doing great things for Brad this next year. It's going to be a year full of new decisions and new ideas, and we hope that Brad keeps finding new ways to show Jesus through his art. But man, 26 just sounds old! (And I'm still a fresh, young 25 for another 6 months...)

Here are some fun Wrigley Field stadium pictures. It's a great place to watch a ballgame. And we got some great seats, right behind home plate, so we could really see the whole thing.

The Cubs ending up beating the Diamondbacks pretty badly, and it was fun to see the whole crowd get really into it. The raised the W (for win) flag high after the game and everyone sang the "Go, Cubs, Go!" song, which was really funny.

And here's just a few more pictures of us enjoying the game, Brad was being a good photographer so he isn't in them, sadly.

To finish it all off, here's a great video of the Seventh Inning Stretch, a classic Cubs tradition. The guest of honor singing it was legendary Cubs player Ryne Sandberg, which was pretty cool. The Cubs' fans are really pretty fun to see. We had a great time!


That thing up there is what I'm blogging on today. I know it kinda looks like a glass pacifier or something, but this little thing made me so excited last night! So, what is it, you ask? It's called the Vino-Lok, made by Alcoa, and it's a glass wine closure. It's made out of all glass except for plastic around the ring that helps seal the bottle. Production of them started in 2003 and they really haven't caught on in the wine world. I have never seen one on a bottle before and it was really fun to find one. The claim is that they will help protect the wine from air and also add no extra flavors like a synthetic cork might do.

Everyone is trying to find a "better" closure than natural cork because of the "corkage" problem. Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 1% - 10% of wines are "corked" because of improper harvesting, production, or cleaning of the cork, resulting in the release of the chemical TCA. This is no good because you spend all this money on a bottle of wine and then open it and it's all ruined. It's like sticking a bottle of wine in your super-hot trunk and ruining it, only it's not your fault. So scientists are trying to create a better closure that won't have the TCA problem. Except that no-one has been able to recreate the specific properties of natural cork, namely that as a wine ages most of the air is kept out, but a very little bit leaks through the cork's pores and allows for proper aging of wine. So if you're going to be drinking your wine within the next year (90% of the world's wine is consumed within 12 months of purchase) than it's worth not risking the corkage and using a synthetic cork or screwcap or Vino-Lok. But if you are making a fine wine that deserves to be aged, then natural cork is the way to go.

Honestly, I'm a classical kind of girl with this. I love the feeling of popping a cork in a wine bottle, and though the Vino-Lok is better than a synthetic or a screwcap, it's still not classic, and I'm just prejudiced towards real cork. I was super excited to see one on a bottle, and it was cool and pretty, but nothing beats real cork for me.

The way I've learned any of this has been through the book To Cork or Not to Cork by Geroge M Taber. He also wrote The Judgment of Paris, which is the book the recent movie Bottle Shock was based on. Both books are really interesting and really well-researched. I've learned tons just through these two books. What made last night even more fun is that I had just picked up To Cork or Not to Cork at the library yesterday as a good re-read. So I got the book that taught me about corks and other closures and then I find one of those other closure in the same day! Fun!