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  • quick & easy chicken

    Quick Easy Chicken cover Picmonkey

    By Linda Gassenheimer


    2015 American Diabetes Association

    ISBN: 978-1-58040-563-8

    Soft Cover, 140 pages  $9.95


    Quick & easy chicken is subtitled “Diabetes-Friendly Recipes Everyone Will Love.”  This reviewer has little familiarity with the nutritional needs of diabetics, but will assume that a book endorsed—and actually published by—the American Diabetes Association will contain recipes appropriate for people dealing with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions.

    We do see quite a lot of cookbooks, however, and can judge quick & easy chicken by the same standards we’d apply to any of them. This is not a beautiful, coffee table book with gorgeous photography of the dishes. In fact, other than the cover shot, it contains no photos at all. To succeed it must rely on the recipes and their presentation. In that regard it’s a hit.

    If most supermarket chickens are not as flavorful as those that went on American tables a generation or two ago, these days they are reliable and a great source of inexpensive protein. And there’s nothing to stop the shopper from moving up to pricier and possibly tastier versions of this ubiquitous bird. Author Linda Gassenheimer has presented a myriad of ways to treat this most versatile of main course meats. She also has included some lighter soup, salad and sandwich options. No matter how eloquent the prose introducing the recipes or how famous the chef whose name is on the cover, a cookbook is more trouble than it’s worth if it’s not easy to use. Fortunately, this is not a problem with quick & easy chicken.

    After a few pages of introduction, Gassenheimer takes the reader to chapters segmented mostly by style of food. If not all the 21 recipes in All American Classics  are the ones your mother might have served you, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy. Some, like Devil’s Chicken with Sautéed Garlic Potatoes, seemed a bit exotic, but we were intrigued by Oven-Fried Chicken with Creamed Corn and Lima Beans. Now that sounds like a solid and satisfying meal of the sort that Mom—or Grandma—used to put on the table. From the Asian/India  recipes, Curry-Kissed Chicken with Rice and Carrots also appealed. On page 72 we saw the Gorgonzola Chicken with Fresh Linguine and Sweet Pimentos—one of the Mediterranean  suggestions. The recipe does not include instructions on how to make fresh linguine, which admittedly is a lot of work. It’s a stretch to think most home cooks have easy access to a store selling fresh pasta, but different boiling times are included for both fresh and dried pasta. Following the directions faithfuly should yield good results. This recipe and all the others are presented with the typical instructions for cooking method following the ingredient list.

    What’s unusual, though, are the ancillary instructions. Preparation and timing are critical for any cooking endeavor and highlights listed in the Countdown  give simple, yet invaluable sequencing help. Two other additions are Shopping List  and Staples, detailing what you’re likely to already have on hand (flour, olive oil, etc.) and ingredients specific to the preparation of each recipe. Helpful Hints  follow each recipe. These look like they would be useful for the novice and might even include a few tips that would benefit the experienced cook.

    Nearly all the recipes call for using boneless and skinless chicken. Some might wonder if such instructions might mean stinting on flavor, but after all, the title does say “quick & easy.” And avoiding all the fat in the skin probably speaks to the “Diabetes-Friendly” theme. That these recipes are helpful for those with diabetes and pre-diabetes conditions—a significant part of the population—is laudable, but they all look healthful for a general audience, as well. Most of these dishes really sound tasty and likely will inspire the reader to conclude, “I can make that.”

      --reviewed by Dan Clarke

  • Pinot Noir Summit Moves to New Location

    Christian PicmonkeyChristian O'Kuinghttons of the Atlantis

    TASTE News Service May 22, 2015 – After 12 years in San Francisco, the annual Pinot Noir Summit is moving. Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine has announced her organization has entered into a partnership with the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa to host the event in Reno on July 24th and 25th. Under the direction of sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons the Atlantis is recognized for an exemplary wine program.

    The Pinot Noir Summit, the culmination of the Annual Pinot Noir Shootout competition, has become the largest competition of Pinot Noirs in the wine world. For the past three months over 450 Pinot Noirs have been evaluated by the Affairs of the Vine judging panel.

    Each wine is tasted blind at least twice in a series of tastings by these professional judges. No more than 32 wines are evaluated during a single session. This approach assures that each wine is assessed fairly with clarity, concentration and without palate fatigue. The best of the best are judged at the Pinot Noir Shootout finals on May 30th in San Francisco.

    The inaugural Summit at the Atlantis in Reno will recognize this year’s top wines and producers as part of a two day celebration. Though events on Friday the 24th are limited to those in the wine trade, consumers are invited to enjoy Saturday’s schedule. Included are morning seminars about this varietal, followed by a Pinot-pairing lunch. The afternoon features a unique tasting billed as the Wine Lovers Pinot Noir Challenge, in which attendees will blind taste (taste without knowing the producer of the wine) and rate 40 of the top wines as selected previously by the professional judging panel. Results of this judging by consumers will be announced at a Grand Tasting & Awards ceremony in the evening.

    “I learn more each year and bring that knowledge to the next Pinot Noir Summit making it better than the last,” commented organizer Barbara Drady in predicting this year’s event to be the best yet.

    Editor’s note: More information about the 2015 Pinot Noir Summit and the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa can be had by visiting Affairs of the Vine and Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

  • May 22, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

    Framboise bottle Picmonkey

    Framboise (N/V)


    Pacific Rim


    Alcohol: 16.5%

    Suggested Retail: $14 (375ml)


    “We could smell the essence of raspberries the moment the cap came off this bottle. When poured into just one glass, this non-vintage (NV) fruit wine provided a perfume for the whole table. There was a lushness—almost a viscosity—in the nose that was repeated in the taste.

    “The fruit, fortified by grape spirits, comes from the state of Washington. Two varieties of raspberry are used; Morrison (80%) and Meeker (20%). With a residual sugar level of 20%, it is quite sweet. Though two-to-three percentage points higher in alcohol than a typical table wine, there’s no unpleasant heat to the finish. However, though it tastes great, a sip of this wine is really a mouthful.

    “The Pacific Rim Framboise seems like a quality product, albeit an unusual one. And how would you use this wine? Well, you could serve it chilled as an after-dinner drink, as you would a digestive or a glass of Port. You could also mix it with carbonated water for a sophisticated, lightly-alcoholic drink, or enhance a white wine by adding an ounce or two, as you would add cassis to make a Kir.”

    Food Affinity: “It’s hard to imagine just pouring a glass of Framboise to accompany any savory dishes, but a small glass of it might be a delightful companion to a simple dish of vanilla ice cream or a slice of raspberry cheesecake. It could also enhance an experience with a good chocolate mousse.”

  • May 22, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

    ruination 2 Picmonkey

    Ruination 2.0


    Stone Brewing Co.

    Escondido, California

    Style: Imperial or Double IPA

    Alcohol: 8.5%

    IBUs: 100+

    Serving Style: 12 and 22-ounce bottles and kegs (our sample from draft)

    Availability: Year-round in 41 states and some limited int'l. distribution


    Appearance:   “Clear golden color with creamy white head.”

    Aroma:   “Hugely hoppy. Oodles of citrus and tropical fruits.”

    Taste:   “Big in one sense, in that those hops (Citra, Simcoe, Azacca, Magnum, Nugget and Centennial) are so prominent. However, it drinks easy—almost ‘sessionable,’ but at this alcohol content, you wouldn’t want to pour down more than a couple of glasses. Piney and resiny, it’s quite bitter (check the IBUs), but will please a lot of fans of this style.”

    Food Affinity:   “At first it seems difficult to figure food pairings for a beer this big. However, even at eight-point-five, it’s about 40% less alcohol by volume than the average table wine. Maybe we have to think more creatively. Perhaps a full-flavored fish, such as salmon, napped with aioli or a lemon and butter sauce.”

        --guest review by George Lane, a Brit who remembers that IPA means India Pale Ale


    Editor’s note:   “At the time of this review, four beer fans were sampling 6-ounce glasses of both the original Ruination and its 2.0 replacement version. Three of us preferred the ‘old’ Ruination, considering it better balanced. The fourth taster liked the in-your-face assertiveness of the new 2.0 (obviously, our limited consumer sampling was less than ‘scientific’, but did generate a lively late afternoon discussion).

    "Some of us wondered why the brewery would keep the name of a proven crowd-pleaser, but change the recipe. Would this be another marketing disaster like the ‘New Coca Cola’ of some years ago? At this point nobody can say for sure, but visiting Stone’s website we found that the brewery’s rationale was pretty strong (hops not available when the first Ruination came on the scene, changing tastes of the craft beer lover, etc.). Apparently, they’ve put a lot of thought into the change and had good responses from consumers who sampled test recipes prior to introduction of the new product.

    "You can get a much fuller explanation by visiting stonebrewing.com yourself (they also have pairing suggestions for foods in all categories of a multi-course meal, as well as cigar selections to accompany the Ruination 2.0)."