Cranberry Scones with White Chocolate Rum Glaze

When I arrived back from my Christmas visit on Sunday, I went straight to the kitchen to quell my boredom. When I get bored, I bake. I made my famous Peppermint Bark, and I decided to bake a breakfast treat to use up dried cranberries. The first thing I did was to soak the cranberries in some sweet vermouth to add some zing to them before adding them to the Scone mixture later.

I adapted a scone recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. After all, this cookbook has produced some pretty awesome recipes in the past and I expected the same. I tried one scone and knew that this recipe was a winner.

Now, I love to up the wow element in anything that I bake. Since I had some leftover dark rum from a Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie recipe I made before Christmas, I figured that this would add a different dimension to the white chocolate glaze that would be drizzled over top of the scone. This glaze not only added a wonderful butter rum hint…it only added some flavor to the bland white chocolate.

Cranberry Scone

2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cold butter, cut into pieces
2 beaten eggs
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. dried cranberries, soaked in sweet vermouth, drained

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine beaten eggs, whipping cream, and cranberries. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing dough for 10 to 12 strokes or until dough is nearly smooth. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges.

Place wedges on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush wedges with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12-14 mins. Let scones cool a little.

Meanwhile, fix the White Chocolate Rum Glaze.

In a microwaveable safe bowl, melt 1/2 c. White Chocolate chips on high power for 30 seconds. Stir, and place back in for another 20 seconds. The mixture will be clumpy, so add 1 tbsp. dark rum and a little milk. Stir until it reaches a creamy consistency. Drizzle over the scones.

Winery Review: Naked Mountain Winery

If you travel westbound on I-66, there are several great wineries to choose from during your trip towards I-81 or Front Royal. For one, I like traveling on the winding country roads in search of a good Virginia winery. Two weekends ago, my boyfriend wanted to test out his truck in order for it to pass the dreaded vehicle emissions test. We drove west to visit North Mountain Vineyards, and along the way, we passed the signs for Naked Mountain Winery. I mentioned this winery to my boyfriend about stopping by, since I have never been there, and he said we stop by this one on the way back.

After the visit to North Mountain, I was excited to try out Naked Mountain. First, I had heard some great things about their white wines. In fact, one of my friends raved about their Chardonnay, and this intrigued me more since I was on a white wine kick. Normally, I love the full bodied taste of red wines, but ever since visiting some great wineries in upstate New York, I have been reverting back to white wines. Upon traveling down the winding driveway, we arrived to find a packed tasting room. I always like to say that the sign of a great winery is often determined by the crowded nature of the tasting room.

As soon as we found a tasting area, we got to sample two amazing chardonnays. The 2006 Chardonnay had a wonderful taste of oak and citrusy hints. It did not taste like it was fermented in oak, rather steel, since the finish was crisp. On the other hand, the 2007 Chardonnay was perfect. I think I might have found a Chardonnay from Virginia that I love, since it had a creamy taste with hints of vanilla and apple. The 2007 will pair well with any chicken, seafood, or pork dish that I prepare. The server even recommended pairing this wine with apple pie. While we sampled their Chardonnay-Riesling, I eventually settled on purchasing the 2007 Chardonnay.

The server moved on to the reds, which was particularly exciting for both me and my boyfriend. We love red wines. If you served us a glass of Cabernet Franc, we would be happy with this decision. We started off with the Cabernet Franc. Virginia is the capital of Cabernet Franc, and I don’t think another state could compare with this title. I had Cab Francs in Ohio and upstate New York, but none of those could compare to those in Virginia. The Cab Franc from Naked Mountain was smooth and had a great balance in tannins. This could seriously pair well with a charteucerie plate.

The second offering was the Scarlet Oak Red, and this wine was our favorite.  This wine would complement my kitchen sink pizza and a good steak.  It had a smooth, yet spicy taste.  The flavor was complex, as the wine consisted of 45% Syrah, 45% Mouteverde, and 10% Tannat, but it finished with hints of berry.

The Merlot was also a good smooth tasting wine, and there was no doubt that I was torn on deciding which wine to buy.  This Merlot was blended with Cabernet Franc, Tannat, and Petit Verdot.  This wine had hints of oak, cherry, and vanilla, and this would pair well with Elk and Venison.

There were two pre-release wines that we sampled:  Raptor Red and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Raptor Red was very good, as it was a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Cab Franc.  The wine was medium bodied, and the taste was smoky.  While this wine would pair well with a cheese platter, I found myself leaning more towards the Scarlet Oak Red due to its smoother taste.  The Cabernet Sauvignon was also good, as it tasted more of plum and earthy hints.  This wine would pair well with cheeses too.

By the time it came to purchase the wines, my boyfriend and I had a hard decision to make concerning the reds.  We were sold on the 2007 Chardonnay, but we were torn between the Cabernet Sauvignon and Scarlet Oak Red.  Eventually, we decided on the Scarlet Oak Red due to the complex flavors.

This winery is a hidden gem, and there is no doubt that there will be return visits in the future.

Winery Review: North Mountain Vineyard

Two Saturdays ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing on what we should do for the day.  Eventually, it led to us looking at the Virginia Wine map and deciding whether to go down to Charlottesville for the day or head westward towards Front Royal.  Since we were looking for a different change of pace, we decided to make the drive west towards I-81 for leisurely drive.  Before we left Fairfax, we decided on North Mountain Vineyard.

Upon arriving at North Mountain, we noticed there were a lot of cars in the lot which was interesting considering that the weather was gloomy. When we entered the tasting room, there was not a lot of room at the counter considering a large group was finishing their tasting. We found a spot and began tasting the wines. Initially, I was not impressed by the winery until we tasted the Oktoberfest and Mountain Sunset Apple Blush wines.

Oktoberfest is the wine that will complement any German dish, including my personal favorite, spaetzle. The wine had great fruity aromas with a sweet, crisp taste.

Mountain Sunset Apple Blush was a blend of apple wine and riesling. This wine was also sweet and crisp tasting, and it would complement any pork dish.

In the end, we bought both wines. North Mountain is nice, as you have great scenic views around and it is an oasis off I-81. Will I go back? Probably not at this point. If I do, it will be to purchase the Oktoberfest wine.

Charming Christmas!

Well, after another long break, Charm Offensive Cooking is back. There are some recipes that I have tried out over the holiday, along with some fabulous wines.

First, let’s begin with two recipes that will be in the recipe box from now on. The other recipe has already been made successfully over time and has won rave reviews from friends and boyfriend alike. Peppermint Bark is a time honored Christmas tradition, but there are two healthier dishes that won rave reviews.

When I went to visit my parents’ house, Mom came up with a wonderful idea of making Kale Chips and served these along with Turkey Burgers. One day, Mom was watching Rachael Ray on TV and was impressed by the fact that Ray created this awesome recipe out of vegetable that many despise as much as brussel sprouts. The kale chips were filled with flavor, even if it was the simple use of sea salt and olive oil.

Kale Chips
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

1 large bundle of Kale
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to broil (if you have a broiler, place it on high heat). On a cookie sheet, combine Kale with olive oil and sea salt. Broil chips until crispy (3-4 minutes).

The other recipe is one I tried for my boyfriend’s birthday. This recipe, Garlic Chicken with Creamy Tomato Pasta, came from Paula Deen’s magazine, and it definitely won me over due to its simplicity. It is one of those recipes that you can easily cook in one pot and you can adapt it due to your taste. I served this with Garlic Parmesan bread and ended the evening with Blackberry Cobbler.

Garlic Chicken with Creamy Tomato Pasta
Adapted from Cooking with Paula Deen, March/April 2010

3 C. Cooked Rotini Pasta (you could also try this with Penne or Rigatoni)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut in bite size pieces)
1 shallot, sliced
1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 C. baby spinach

In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, shallot, bell pepper, and garlic; saute until chicken is done. Add tomatoes, cream, and italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and stir in pasta and spinach. Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.

With every good dish comes a good wine to complement it. For the pasta dish, I served it with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah from Thirsty Owl Wine Company. Thirsty Owl is one of the wineries that I visited during a trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Located off Cayuga Lake, this winery offered a spectacular views along with good wine. They also had an onsite restaurant, which served an amazing cheese plate.

Across the road from Thirsty Owl was Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, which also offered spectacular wines. Cayuga Ridge offered an excellent Chardonnay, along with an awesome sparkling Cranberry wine and a great Riesling. I served the Cranberry Frost as a dessert during Election night festivities, but it would have worked well with a Christmas dinner too.