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It’s no secret I’m a wine girl, right? I mean, I drink wine, I make wine, I cook with wine and I drink wine. Oh wait, I already mentioned the drinking wine part.

Years and years and years ago I made the  unfortunate mistake of using cooking wine to enhance a recipe. You know the stuff I’m talking about – usually it’s found in the aisle with Worcestershire sauce and whatnot.

Why did I consider it a mistake? Because the gourmet meal I was attempting to make tasted like the cooking wine, which tasted more like Mad Dog 20/20. In other words, it tasted horrible.

No offense to those that actually drink Mad Dog 20/20 because they enjoy it, not because they’re forced to drink wine out of a bottle nestled in a brown paper bag. Ahem.

I was nonetheless intrigued when I was asked to try out Holland House Cooking Wines, since I’d seen their name pop up here and there in various recipes and cooking sites, as well as spied them on a shelf. Bring it on!

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I received one each of Marsala Cooking Wine, White Cooking Wine and Sake Cooking Wine

Can I be honest here for a minute? My rule of thumb when cooking with wine is to always always use a wine you would actually drink out of a bottle. Well, OK, maybe not literally out of a bottle, unless that’s your thing. Put it in a glass, first.

My reasoning behind that is if you don’t like the taste of a particular wine, that’s how your food is going to taste. Which is one of the reasons my gourmet meal failure transpired all those years ago, using a bitter vinegar-y tasting cooking wine.

So good news / bad news – Holland House is way better than that rancid stuff I used years ago. It doesn’t have that Mad Dog 20/20 vibe at all. So there’s that. 

Because I’m picky about taste and flavors (and often attempt to channel my inner Gordon Ramsay when cooking), usually I’ll taste test any wine products that are going into the food I’m preparing. And no, it’s not an excuse to drink more wine. As far as you  know.

This time I decided not to do a taste test before using the White Cooking Wine, because they all have an abundance of added salt to enable them to be called ‘cooking’ wine:

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I always limit my salt intake because I already have an extreme case of water retention all the time, so I don’t need to feed the bloating. I decided to do a blind test with a recipe I’ve been meaning to make, and this gave me the perfect platform in which to do it.

What dish, you ask? Slow Cooker Chicken with Wino Mushroom Sauce, of course. OK, I changed the name a bit, since I changed the original recipe to meet the demands of my people. 

I gathered the necessary ingredients:

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Notice it’s a very simple recipe, not a lot of ingredients. Not pictured is the milk and fresh garlic. Don’t worry, the recipe is coming. I used a combination of boneless skinless chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken tenders.

I mixed all the ingredients together (except for the chicken, duh!) and added the Holland House White Cooking Wine as the final step:

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Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of yourself pouring wine (or anything) into a giant measuring cup? Awkward!

I mixed all the liquid ingredients (with the few non-liquid ingredients, if you’re following along and tend to be literal) all together, placed the chicken in the bottom of my handy dandy crock pot, then poured the mixture over the top to cover:

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When there was about an hour left of the cooking time, I used two forks to shred up the chicken and stir it all together. Then made some Angel Hair pasta and dished it up:

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We (meaning I) was in such a hurry to eat, I neglected to get the plated food ready for its close-up. It looked great when it was completely plated – I added a side of buttered asparagus spears and home made crusty bread before serving it up to my peeps.

General consensus was that it was pretty good – everyone polished off their plates, so there’s that. But I was trying to figure out what was missing… 

It was then that I decided to take a sip of the cooking wine for a taste test after the fact, extra salt be damned. It didn’t taste like wine.

Which I expected - after all, with the added salt technically it wasn’t supposed  to taste like wine-wine. But then again, it’s cooking wine,  so it’s supposed to at least have the flavor of wine, right?

I’m sure my palate is spoiled by all the wine tastings I’ve participated in over the years, or when making wine, making sure the flavor and bouquet is just so,  so I’ll have to take the taste with a grain of salt. Pun intended.

It doesn’t taste like any Chablis I’ve ever had – it didn’t taste like wine at all. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, then had an epiphany that it tastes like really good chicken stock or broth.

Now don’t get me wrong – the flavor was OK, but I was expecting more of a wine  flavor. So if you want more of a wine  flavor in your recipe, make sure you use your favorite wine.

And the fact that it didn’t have that strong wine flavor was certainly not bad thing – I’m pretty sure the kids liked it better without the strong winey taste. And, like regular wine, the alcohol content gets burned off during cooking, so there’s no worries there, either.

Since I hadn’t had a chance to try the Marsala Cooking Wine or the Sake Cooking Wine, I figured I’d better to a taste test on those for the sake of this post. I know, the things I do for you, right?

They didn’t taste like chicken stock, so that’s a relief. The Marsala had a very faint hint of Marsala – but definitely salty. Same deal with the Sake – salty Sake.

But remember, since I’ve reduced my salt intake in a big way, when there’s added salt to anything, I notice that above and beyond all else. So someone who ingests lots of salt may not get that salty mouthfeel when tasting these cooking wines. And obviously cooking wines are not meant to put in a glass to drink, either. Or out of the bottle. 

That being said, I can definitely see using them in appropriate recipes if you want to make sure you have a hint of flavor of Sake or Marsala without the overwhelming flavor of Sake or Marsala. If that makes sense. 

If you use a different brand of cooking wines, stop.  Holland House is way  better than the other brands – their flavors are more robust, and they’re the perfect option to get that hint of flavor without being too overpowering. 

Would I use them again? Absolutely!  I’ve been perusing their website and have already bookmarked some of their delicious sounding recipes to try with their various flavors of cooking wine. They have a well-rounded selection, that’s for sure:

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I’m jonesin’ to try out the White Wine with Lemon, and want to see how their Red Wine version stacks up, too. I will keep you posted on future experimentation for sure!

You can learn more about Holland House Cooking wine at their website www.hollandhouseflavors.com as well as Facebook and Youtube. (the videos are great with excellent tips!)

Ready for that recipe? Here you go!

Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion (or 1/2 small onion, diced)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 to 2 fresh garlic cloves minced)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or cream for more richness)
  • 2 (4 ounce) can mushroom pieces, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste, or favorite herbs and spices to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper or herb/spice of choice. You can either place them directly in the slow cooker, or give them a quick sear in a frying pan depending on preference and time.
  2. Mix together the soup, onion, parsley, wine, garlic powder, milk and mushroom pieces. Season to taste.
  3. Pour soup mixture over the chicken in the crockpot, cover.
  4. Cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours, or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Serve over pasta, rice or couscous.

Notes

If you don't prefer as much sauce as we do, you can halve all the ingredients in the recipe except the chicken.

http://stacysrandomthoughts.com/2014/08/holland-house-is-not-your-ordinary-cooking-wine-review-and-slow-cooker-chicken-wwine-mushroom-sauce-recipe/

Do you cook with wine or cooking wines? What are your favorites?

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A big thank you to Holland House  for providing the product for review. No other compensation was received for this post, implied or otherwise. The opinions are all mine and not influenced by any outside sources. See my Disclosure Policy here.

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TomodachiLife

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If you like playing video games, there’s a new one out you really should check out. Tomodachi Life has become Princess Nagger and my newest addiction.

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Doesn’t that look cute? It seems to be the only game in recent days that actually pulls her away from Minecraft, Spore and Pokemon – so that’s saying a lot.

What I really like about it is unlike other progressive-type games we’ve played, in this one you get to create your own character (aka Mii) from scratch, or use a previously created character from your Mii account. Princess Nagger created a new character for this game:

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Yep, that pretty much looks like how she looks with her Tweenitude these days – though creating a frowny-faced character makes her smile. Wouldn’t that be considered an oxymoron?

As you progress with the game, you create different people (and hope they get along with each other). Each created character has a unique personality – you set up their individual traits, and you can even give them different voices as you customize their options.

You don’t want to know what voice Princess Nagger gave her character. Totally uncharacteristic, but definitely hilarious!

Once your Tomodachi people take on a life of their own, they may not always agree with you. Just like you and me, they have likes and dislikes, so there may be come personality clashes amongst your people, or they might not like the clothes you dress them in or the food you feed them.

It’s kind of fun to mess with them, though – their reactions when you feed them something that’s specifically on their list they don’t like is hysterical! 

They each also have their own personal screen with the personality traits, and a list of likes and dislikes. Princess Nagger likes having her character ‘hang out’ with her other characters:

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And yes, one of her character’s names is “Colonel Flame” (Col. Flame).

You set up different life goals, too – some of your Tomodachi islanders may want to get married and start a family. Some even play mini games with you – no two Tomodachi games are alike, since they you personalize each and every one of them.

If you like having fun with a game, this one absolutely fits the bill! You can buy Tomodachi Life at Best Buy – they have some great sales coming up that include Nintendo Bundles (I’m definitely checking those sales out – Christmas is coming quickly! Hey – don’t shoot the messenger!)

Playing games as a family, we like to utilize our various game consoles – as Princess Nagger has gotten older, it’s gotten even more fun, and Little Dude is starting to get the hang of different games, too.

But when we’re running errands or hanging out in waiting rooms, having handheld devices is a lifesaver for our sanity. Ahem.

Princess Nagger has the gambit of devices, but her ‘go-to’ favorites are her Nintendo ones – the GameBoy, Nintendo DSi XL and her recent acquisition for a very early Birthday present, her Nintendo 3DS XL.

Little Dude is enamored by her various games, and loves to watch her play, but hasn’t been interested in playing games on a handheld until more recently.

I’m thinking for him the Nintendo 2DS will be the better way to go, since it’s more robust than the DSi’s and 3DS which should hold up to his rough-and-tumble personality.

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The 2DS plays all the great 3DS and DS games, plus you can take videos and pictures using your 2DS just like the other systems. So I know Little Dude would have as much fun on the 2DS as Princess Nagger has on her DSi XL and 3DS XL for sure.

Who knows, maybe Santa will surprise him at Christmas!  I know, there I go again…

But there’s great news – Best Buy has some hot offers coming up! This weekend is Labor Day weekend, so naturally there will be some great sales like this one:

8/29/2014 – 9/1/2014 Online only, save $30 on the Nintendo 2DS system – regularly $129.99, with the savings you only pay $99.99! 

But wait, there’s more! 8/31/2014 Online only, save $5 on select 3DS games, including Tomodachi Life – make music videos, write songs and watch your Mii’s perform your creations. And don’t forget, you can have them wear goofy outfits while on stage!

Go crazy, get creative, have fun! 

Do you have any favorite video games?

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Note: I am being compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free, but all opinions are mine and not influenced by outside sources. See my Disclosure Policy here.

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Monkey in a Ball

by StacyUncorked on August 26, 2014 · 9 comments

in Wordful Wednesday,Wordless Wednesday

Anyone familiar with video games has probably heard of the game “Super Monkey Ball”. If not, it’s a game where these cute little monkeys are running around inside a ball on crazy tracks, picking up bananas and gold coins as you go, trying to reach the goal before time runs out.

You are basically the monkey character, and you have to make sure you get through the levels without the monkey in the ball falling off the edge of the track you’re rolling on. It’s really cute:

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It happens to be one of our favorites to play as a family on the Wii – though the Princess Nagger and hubby tend to be a little more on the competitive side. All in good fun, though!

Needless to say, when we were at my dad’s company picnic a few weeks back, there happened to be a giant field with two giant balls to run around in.

Maybe I should refer to them as ‘spheres’…

Naturally my two monkey minions wanted to run around in them, and of course I’m all about the photo op. Little Dude did a stand up job running around in one of those, while a dude guided the sphere across the field and back:

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Princess Nagger took her turn and had a great time, too:

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She noticed the other guide dude wasn’t hovering and walking back and forth with the other ball – more or less a free-for-all, so she decided to go again, this time without the guide dude supervision so she could race really really fast – you know that need for speed:

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With great speed comes the possibility of taking a tumble:

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But no worries, as you can see those things are super padded and cushy, so recovery is swift:

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Would you run around like a monkey in a ball? 

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