Monday, February 11, 2013

A Texas Wine-Country Escape

My last newspaper travel article was about a small town and pastoral valley in California's Sonoma wine country.  Beautiful scenery, great wine, makes me thirsty to think about it.  

And reminds me of a Texas wine region a lot closer to home. Yes, there are Texas vintners making wine well worth drinking. Wine-lovers cruising Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 find multiple wineries and tasting rooms pouring Texas-made wines that make a person glad to lift a glass.

But a wine region isn't complete without lodging and dining.  And Fredericksburg offers unique dining and hundreds of B&B's.  Among my favorites is Rose Hill Manor, a sophisticated country lodging.

The rooms are large, appealing and quiet; the porch rockers face a miles-long view of the Hill Country; and a boardwalk leads next-door to Pedernales Cellars, a seriously-good winery making award-winning varietals.

If I time it right, I can watch a glowing sunset from my table at Austin's, the restaurant at Rose Hill Manor, while I savor a seasonally-inspired dish like  Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachio, Truffle and Pancetta.  

Hedonism in the Hill Country.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hearty Lentil Stew

We all find our own comfort.  This toothsome stew is one of my cold-weather favorites. A few minutes prep, about 35 minutes on the stove, and Denny and I sit down to steaming bowls of delicious goodness.  

Did I mention healthy?  Three things to love: the dish is low-fat, the brown rice and lentil combo forms a complete protein without the addition of meat,  and it adds fiber to the diet.  Works for folks on gluten-free diets too. 

The easy part is cooking the rice and lentils together.  The secret is choosing lentils and rice that need the same cook time.  I favor green lentils and Texas Best Organic Brown Jasmine Rice, with a cooking time of about 30-35 minutes, purchased at HEB, the national grocery store of Texas. If you aren't fortunate enough to live in Texas, check your store for another brand with a similar cooking time.

Hearty Lentil Stew
Serves 6-8


4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock** 
~ 2 tsp Herbes de Provence, or a mix of dried rosemary, thyme and sage
~ 1 tsp kosher salt
~1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
1 cup brown jasmine rice or whatever rice you like that cooks in about 35 minutes
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 oz. baby portobella mushrooms, washed & sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chopped roasted red pepper

Bring the stock to a boil in a 4 quart sauce-pot over medium-high heat.  Add salt, pepper, herbs, lentils and rice.  Stir well.  After the mix returns to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and set the timer for 35 minutes.

While the lentils and rice simmer, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet.  When hot, add the onion and green pepper, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and cook until soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they've begun to release liquid.  Turn down the heat and add the garlic, stir until fragrant then remove from heat and cover.

Check the lentils and rice when the timer goes off.  If either is not tender, stir and replace the lid for a few minutes. It's OK if the liquid isn't all absorbed.  

When rice and lentils are tender, remove from heat and add the vegetables and any accumulated juices.  Add the roasted red pepper.  Mix well and serve.

Like most stews, this is better the second day.

**A few words about chicken stock: If you don't have homemade on hand, buy for flavor--it deepens the dish. I do a chicken/turkey-stock project about 4 times a year and freeze in 1 cup jars. No salt, so I can add as needed to any dish.  The cups only take a few minutes to thaw in the microwave.  

But stock-making is another post...  

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.