Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Millionaires.jpgIngredients

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup corn syrup

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt Chocolate

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (6 oz chopped fine, 2 oz grated)

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 13- by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Crumble dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into an even thickness. Using a fork, pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Using a sturdy metal spatula, press on the entire surface of warm crust to compress (compressing crust while warm will make cutting finished bars easier). Cool crust to just warm, at least 20 minutes.

For the Filling: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is homogenous and sugar is melted 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping corners of the saucepan, until mixture registers 235 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness. Let cool until filling is just warm, about 20 minutes.

For the Chocolate: Microwave 6 ounces chopped chocolate at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds until fully melted but not much warmer than body temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 ounces grated chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. Spread chocolate evenly over the surface of filling. Refrigerate shortbread until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting.

Using foil, remove shortbread from pan and transfer to cutting board; discard foil. Using a serrated knife and sawing motion, cut shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6 ½- by 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3 ½ – by 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into equal 10 pieces. (Shortbread can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment, for up to one week.) I just cut mine into squares, so they are not too big, as they are quite rich. (but yummy)

I like to put on parchment paper on a cooking tray after cutting and separating the cookies to freeze, then you can keep them a bit longer.

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Why Does Wine Give Some People Headaches?

Image result for graphic of wine bottle

The answer to this age-old dilemma is rather complicated.

IRed Wine Headache phenomena experienced by so many people that it has its very own Wikipedia page could be explained by health professionals, and whether or not casual drinkers should be concerned.

Wine-related headaches are actually one of the center’s topmost cases but knowledge is limited.

The type of oak casket used in fermentation may play a role, but it’s not clear which oak is worse.  Some who experience wine-related headaches wonder if they are actually allergic to sulfites. This is rare, and there are more sulfites in white wine, suggesting it isn’t that.

Wine drinkers could be suffering from dehydration, given that alcohol acts as a diuretic (this is true for all alcoholic drinks), which is the root of the problem for many. Another explanation may be a depletion of magnesium:  Alcohol is a major depleter of magnesium,  chronic headache sufferers seek out 400mg of magnesium supplements per day, and see if that doesn’t help.

There’s not much-published research on wine headaches: Teague unearthed a 1988 Lancet study, titled “Red Wine as a Cause of a Migraine,” where two groups of drinkers were asked to drink either red wine or a substitute (diluted vodka disguised as wine) to see if migraines came exclusively from one or the other. The participants chugged down 300 milliliters, around two glasses, and waited to see if they were affected.

The results, however, weren’t clear: some participants developed headaches, while others did not. One possible lead suggested that tyramine, a naturally occurring compound found in both food and wine, has previously been found to trigger migraine headaches but the amount of tyramine in both red and white wine is less than 2 milligrams per meter.

Histamines naturally produced in most wines, another possible culprit. There is not much evidence for the theory.

But another expert explained why histamines could be an issue told Food & Wine that genetics could play a part in how you digest and metabolize wine. In the case of histamines, certain genetic dispositions (or medications) could mean you’re not metabolizing histamines effectively, which means that symptoms like facial flushing and headaches would be much more common after even just a few sips of wine.

But maybe the simplest explanation is the possibility that hears us out you may be hung over.

You should consider your case serious if you notice an immediate reaction to the first glass of wine you’ve tasted,  One drink of red wine can trigger a migraine if you’re sensitive to it, but one glass of red wine probably isn’t going to give you a hangover,

The bottom line:  Magnesium supplements may help if you’re experiencing a deficiency, but not if your levels are normal.

More research is needed to pinpoint the cause of wine-induced headaches, but identifying the issue may help you minimize it as much as possible: talk with your healthcare provider if you feel that histamines may be the issue, or if you experience a magnesium deficiency. And make sure you’re properly hydrated before enjoying a bottle with friends.

 

Why Does Wine Give Some People Headaches?

The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

wine-punts-inside-2.jpg

Are they trying to shortchange you some milliliters of vino? Most likely no. But the real reason isn’t entirely clear.

Wine bottles are elegant. Their sloped necks come to a gentle peak. They’re supported by a stout but the understated trunk of a bottle. The color, typically rich sap green, absorbs color and emits a warm glow in the light of a kitchen or bar. The bottles themselves are sometimes as much a work of art as the wine that’s inside them.

But there’s one bit of the typical wine bottle that remains elusive: the bottom. The “dimple” or bulge at the bottom of many wine bottles is known as the “punt,” and it’s not entirely clear why it exists.

Wine bottles have had punts as long as the earth has had wine bottles, it seems, and until we have the capability to time travel, we’re left to wonder how the tradition of wine punts started and, perhaps more importantly, why we still do it today.

Do punts help winemakers cheat you of wine?

No, most punts are so small you’re not losing a single teaspoon. Some, yes, are more pronounced, but if this were really used as a cost-saving measure, you could bet most bottles would have exaggerated punts to make a good season’s wine supply stretch a bit more.

Are punts a sign of quality?

If you do a quick Google search on the theories behind wine bottle punts, you’ll quickly stumble across speculation that suggests higher quality wines have bigger punts because the bottle is more stout and sturdy. (More glass is needed for the longer punt, the theory goes, and wealthy winemakers can afford the more expensive bottles.) That’s just simply not true. A punt will tell you as much about the quality and taste of wine as the label will. That is to say, very little.

Do punts help wines cool faster?

This holds some merit. Punts increase surface area, so bottles in fridges or buckets of water might cool faster. But this theory is busted when you realize punts have been present on wine bottles long before anyone had heard of coolant for a refrigerator or even ice for that matter. So while it may help get your whites crisp and cool today, that’s not why punts exist.

Do punts collect sediment?

They actually do, but that’s not likely the reason they’re there. Sediment forms at the bottom of bottles as wine sits and ages. If you decant the wine, the sediment may remain in the valleys between the punt and bottle wall. That can help with flavor.

However, there’s no guarantee the sediment stays in place. It’s a happy byproduct of the punt’s existence, but it doesn’t seem that’s why punts were used in the first place.

So why do wine bottles have punts?

Truthfully, beats us. The best theory seems to be that wine bottle makers of yore needed a way to make sure their bottles stood flat on a table. The bottoms of hand-blown bottles may round out slightly as they cool. They may even have a sharp point because of the tools the glassblower uses. To keep this from happening (and bottles of wine from teeter-tottering off the table), glassblowers could have pushed up ever so slightly to create what we know today as the punt.

Now that most wine bottles are made by machine and are far sturdier than bottles made decades and centuries ago, the punt isn’t perhaps necessary. Instead, it seems to be a vestige of bygone days.

 

The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

Chicche Verdi Del Nonno

GNOCCHI WITH BROWN BUTTER AND SAGE

 

A regional dish from the Italian province of Parma, these plump spinach gnocchi are excellent sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  A regional dish from the Italian province of Parma, these plump spinach gnocchi are excellent sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

SERVES 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb. russet potatoes, unpeeled
Kosher salt, to taste
4 oz. spinach
14 cups semolina flour, sifted, plus more
2 eggs, beaten
18 tbsp. unsalted butter
16 leaves fresh sage, minced
14 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan

Instructions

Put potatoes into a 4-qt. pot of salted water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until potatoes are tender, 25 minutes. Drain; let cool. Peel potatoes; pass through medium plate of a food mill into a bowl.
Meanwhile, heat a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and 1 tbsp. of water; cook until wilted. Press on spinach in a sieve to extract liquid. Finely chop spinach; stir together with potatoes and semolina and form a well in the center.
Add eggs and salt and, using a fork, beat eggs into potato mixture.
Transfer dough to a work surface dusted with semolina; knead to combine.
Divide the dough into 6 portions. Roll each portion into a 1⁄2″-thick rope. Cut ropes into 1⁄2″-wide pieces; transfer to a semolina-dusted sheet tray.
Melt 10 tbsp. butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat; cook, swirling, until butter browns, about 6 minutes.
Add sage and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat; set aside.
Working in 4 batches, add 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. oil to a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add dough pieces and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 3–4 minutes.
Transfer to a baking sheet.
Wipe out the skillet and repeat with remaining butter, oil, and dough pieces.
Toss dumplings and brown butter sauce in the skillet until hot.
Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.
Chicche Verde  .jpg
Here is the photo of my version.  Served with a lovely red wine!
Would definitely make for friends.
I made the gnocchi about three in the afternoon, and just put them all together right before dinner.
Yummy~
Chicche Verdi Del Nonno

Chocolate Caramel Cake

This is my go-to cake for special occasions, as every always loves it. But you do have to love chocolate ~ Caramel ~ English Toffee!  It is a simple recipe, but the add-ins make it rich and delicious.

Chocolate Cake with Caramel .jpg

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (King Arthur available at Amazon)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • One jar of the best caramel topping you can find, kept in the refrigerator to make it harder.
  • English Toffee
  • Big Malted Milk Balls

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.   Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. Then line with 9″ round parchment paper and spray again.  (I buy the pre-cut rounds by Wilton – available at Walmart)
  • For the cake:
  • Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  • Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  • Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut each layer in half so you have four layers.
Putting it together:
  • Make the Chocolate Buttercream recipe shown below.  Pipe or spoon a ridge of the buttercream all around the outside of the first layer.
  • Fill the center with the now hardened caramel
  • Put on the second & third layer and repeat
  • Frost the cake with rest of the frosting (there always seems to be a bit too much)
  • Put the English Toffee in a ziplock bag and crush with your rolling pin or meat pounder.
  • Decorate how you like with the Malted Milk Balls

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

Serve with Champagne and have a wonderful time.

Chocolate Caramel Cake

15 Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings

15 Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings

Choose the Right Wine:

Ray Isle

Overwhelmed. Baffled. Bewildered. That’s how most people feel when shopping for wine. Our executive wine editor went undercover as a wine salesman and uncorked seven solutions.

Suppose you walk into a grocery store looking for chicken soup. But instead of a few well-known brands, you find an entire wall of chicken soup—hundreds and hundreds of brands. Plus, the chicken soup ranges all over the place in price, from 50 cents to 50 bucks a can. And in case that isn’t enough, every year, every single chicken soup is slightly different. Some years are better (sun is shining; chickens are happy; great taste); some years are worse (chickens get hailed on and feel like hell; taste like it, too). So if you buy the wrong brand of chicken soup from the wrong year, you’re going to have a way less pleasurable soup experience than if you’d bought a different can. Anyone sane, walking up to a wall like that, would have to think to themselves, “Man, what is with all this ding-damn soup?”

Now, instead of chicken soup, think Chardonnay.

Recently I spent a few weeks working in wine stores around the country. I wanted to get an on-the-ground read on wine in America today. Way back when, in the antediluvian 1990s, I worked for a wine importer and spent a lot of time hanging out in stores. These days, the number of wines on the market is vastly larger, but at the same time, there’s far more information about wine available to anyone with an internet connection. I wondered: Were people more baffled by all those choices? Less? Did consumers stick to the tried and true, or had we become a nation of wine adventurers, lighting out for the territories with nary a look backward? I figured the best way to find out was to don an apron and start selling wine.

If you drive down Cotner between Pico and Olympic in Los Angeles and take a left just before the 405 on-ramps, you’ll find The Wine House. Big and warehouse-y, crammed full of wine (over 7,000 selections), it’s a destination for bargain hunters and Burgundy collectors alike. Jim and Glen Knight, whose family owns the place, thought it totally reasonable to let an itinerant wine writer parachute into their store and pretend to be a salesperson. (Possibly this was lunacy on their part, but who was I to argue?)

Ray Isle

But back to Chardonnay. The Wine House sells about 600 different Chardonnays. At Western Market in Birmingham, Alabama, where I also worked a stint, there are more than 300. Super Buy-Rite, outside the Holland Tunnel that separates New York City from New Jersey, sells 400, from nine different countries. And as Dwight Shaw, the manager of Total Wine & More in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, told me, “People come in and say, ‘Where’s your Chardonnay?’ and I tell them, ‘It’s this entire aisle.’ And they just freeze.” That’s because the Chardonnay aisle at that particular Total Wine is about 50 feet long.

When I asked customers to describe what they found the experience of buying wine to be like (once I ditched my disguise and revealed what I was actually up to), they used words like “daunting,” “overwhelming,” “confusing,” and “total crapshoot.” Even with all the easy-to-access wine knowledge out there on the internet and in magazines at their fingertips, people still feel like they’re drowning in an ocean of wine. (In case it’s any comfort to everyday wine shoppers, people in the wine business often feel that way, too.)

But here’s the other thing I learned from my time selling wine at these stores: There are some simple ways to get your bearings and become a more empowered wine buyer—starting right now. Wine shoppers of America, take heart! Here’s what to do.

How to Buy Wine at Any Store

1. Buy your wines from a store with employees who actually can help you. Skip the usual unstaffed supermarket aisles, and avoid places like a store I stopped into recently, which had all the soul-draining fluorescent charm of a methadone clinic and seemed to be staffed by the undead. And if anyone ever makes you feel dumb, walk right out and find another store.

The truth is, the best wine stores are the ones that are staffed by people who love wine. One reason I could sell some guy I’d never met before an entire case of German Riesling when I was in L.A. is because I really love Riesling, and he was getting into Riesling, and we got to talking—and when it comes to wine­, passion is infectious.

2. Ask for help. It is the first, best thing you can do. During a stint on the sales floor, I was surprised and amused by how gender roles shaped how people did their wine shopping. Men, when I asked whether they could use help, typically said no. Then they’d go off and look at random wine bottles, in case their lack-of-needing-help hadn’t been made fully clear, and then five minutes later circle back and say something like, “Actually, I was looking for…” Women, more often, simply said thank you and told me what they were trying to find, a far more effective strategy that I’d say everyone should learn from.

3. Be sign-savvy. Those little signs that hang on wine shelves (“shelf talkers”) typically are placed there by the wholesale rep who sells that wine. Their basic purpose is to convince you to buy this wine rather than that wine. (And handwritten ones work better—i.e. move more wine—than preprinted ones, something wholesale reps know.) But that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful. Shelf talkers that say something like “staff selection” with a particular person’s name are most often there because some actual human being on the store’s staff really likes that wine.

4. Take a picture. If you ever have a new wine you like at a restaurant, or anywhere really, take a picture of it with your phone. Otherwise, you’ll forget what it was, and even die-hard wine geeks like me have a hard time narrowing down requests like, “I’m looking for this wine … I think the label maybe has elephants on it?” (Though I actually did know that one: Michael David Winery’s Petite Petit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it in stock.) Consider using a free app like Vivino or Delectable to help keep track of the wines you try.

5. Be as specific as you can. If you say, “I’m looking for a medium-priced Chardonnay,” which I heard more than once, that’s hard to parse. Most good stores will have wines ranging from $5 a bottle to $500 or more, and your idea of “medium-priced” is probably not the same as a billionaire’s (unless, of course, you are a billionaire). By “medium,” one customer I spoke to meant $15; the next person who used exactly the same word meant $50.

But being specific doesn’t have to mean talking like a master sommelier. You don’t have to whip out your Burgundian terroir skills and say, “Ah yes, do you happen to have any Corton-Charlemagne’s from the Aloxe side of the hill, perhaps from the 2013 vintage?” Instead, try describing what you plan to cook that evening, and ask for a wine to go with it, or mention a specific bottle you had recently that you loved, and ask for something like it; or even mention a bottle you had that you didn’t like, and ask for something different. Think of the clerk you’re speaking to as a walking, talking Google search (though maybe don’t tell them that). The more specific your query is, the more useful the output will be. Katherine’s letter “C” wine is a good case in point. The price range she mentioned and the fact that the wine had been a gift were enough for me to suss out that she was probably talking about Caymus Special Selection Cabernet.

6. Be a wine buyer, not a beverage buyer. A lot of people shop for wine the way they do any other drink, they want a six-pack of beer, or a carton of orange juice, or a bottle of Merlot, and their hand moves to whatever brand name is most familiar. That’s beverage buying, not wine buying (at least that’s how I think of it). Being a wine buyer simply means being curious: about something new, about something different, about why the clerk talking to you thinks a certain wine is good or why it’s a great value, about what “Valpolicella” or “Assyrtiko” or “premier cru” means. Wine rewards as much interest as you put into it.

For instance, here are some of the subjects that wine professionals I know  are obsessing about right now: Corsican wines; offbeat Loire Valley subregions like Anjou and Saumur; “natural” wines; grower Champagnes; lesser-known and more affordable Bordeaux appellations; Ribeira Sacra and Gredos in Spain; cru Beaujolais; volcanic soils (and any wine on earth that comes from them); Chenin Blanc; Portuguese wines; winemakers exploring alternative California varietals—the list goes on. But aside from that orange wine request I got in L.A., the number of times anyone asked me about any of those things was exactly zero. Now, admittedly, that’s partly because people in the wine business are obsessed with esoterica. It’s because customers don’t know what to ask for, so they default to the usual suspects: California Cabernet and Chardonnay; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; Argentine Malbec; Pinot Noir, particularly $20 or under; Champagne (by which most people mean “any wine with bubbles”); and rosé, which is now a year-round phenomenon. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you like, but truly there is so much more to discover.

7. My final takeaway is for people who sell wine. After talking to a few hundred customers in several different states, I was blown away by how into wine people are these days. Sure, left on his or her own in an ocean of 7,000 bottles, someone may grab for the nearest name-brand Cabernet. It’s like reaching for a life preserver. But most of the time if I simply asked, “What kind of wine do you like?” that might lead us anywhere—to a small-production Valpolicella Ripasso from Italy like Tommaso Bussola’s Ca’ del Laito, or a Riesling from Germany’s great Helmut Dönnhoff, or a quirky Oregon Gamay from an up-and-coming young winemaker. Share your passion for wine with your customers—ask them what they’re making for dinner, or share your favorite varieties or regions (though maybe go light on wine-biz buzzwords like “soil character” and “minerality,” as most humans won’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about). As Jim Knight of The Wine House said to me, “What I see this year more than ever is people being more willing to take advice, to be open to new things.”

Which gets me to the other word I heard customers use all the time: excited. We really are living in a golden age of wine in the U.S. today, with more great wines from more different varieties and places than ever before.

Let’s all go buy a bottle and drink to that, together.

Choose the Right Wine:

White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

One of my dear friends is turning 70 tomorrow and a lot of people are giving her a party on a Tuesday.  Since I work I had to come up with an “appetizer” to share that could sit in my car and be made with what I had in the pantry.  So Brownies are not exactly an appetizer, but I don’t think anyone will complain.  These should be yummy.  Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 7.49.46 PM

People think that box mixes produce the perfect combination of chewy and moist brownies. Results should be at least as good as a mix without all the processing and questionable ingredients without dirtying many dishes. For one-bowl brownies with the proper level of chewiness both butter and oil is used. Using both cocoa and unsweetened chocolate add to the intense chocolaty richness and create a platform of flavor for any add-ins. By being strategic with the addition of ingredients, saved dishes and combined the batter all in one large bowl. Baked on the lowest rack in the oven, the brownies cooked nicely on the bottom and edges without overcooking and drying out. Folding white chocolate chips into the batter and swirling in raspberry jam gave the brownies colorful character and a fruitiness to offset their deep chocolate flavor.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 ½ cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips

I used a combination of milk and semi-sweet as that is what I had on hand. 

cup raspberry jam
White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

Drinking Wine might be good for you!

basic-glass-shapesI do love my glass of red wine with dinner in the winter and a little white in the summer.  This article just came out talking about the benefits of drinking a couple glasses of wine or beer everyday.  Since most of my friends enjoy a glass of wine (more than on occasion) I thought it might be good to share.

New research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference found that moderate drinking is linked to a longer life. Drinking about two glasses of wine or beer a day was linked to an 18% drop in a person’s risk of early death, an even stronger effect than the life-preserving practice of exercise. The results came from the 90+ Study, a research project out of the University of California Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders that examines the habits of people who live to at least 90.

Though the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal, it triggered a spate of booze-praising headlines. But can alcohol actually help you live longer? Researchers have gone back and forth on that question for years. Here’s what the research really says about alcohol and health.

Alcohol may be linked with longevity

The new study isn’t the first to link alcohol with a long life. A 2015 study of people with mild Alzheimer’s, for example, found that moderate drinkers were less likely to die during the study’s follow-up period than teetotalers. A large 2017 study also found that light and moderate drinkers were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who never sipped. Red wine, in particular, is often singled out for its anti-aging benefits, usually because of a compound called resveratrol,  though that explanation may be a little oversimplified, and more research is needed.

Many of these papers come with caveats. Most of them are observational, meaning they can detect patterns in a dataset, but not cause and effect. That means it’s hard to tell whether the beverages themselves are imparting longevity benefits, or if the health effects come from other lifestyle factors common among moderate drinkers, such as a strong social network. Plus, most research focuses specifically on moderate drinking, which is typically defined as no more than a drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Research has generally not found health benefits for people with heavier drinking habits and, in fact, a recent report says that alcohol abuse is contributing to a decline in U.S. life expectancy.

Alcohol may or may not be good for your heart

The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular health is perhaps the most contentious of all. Quite a few studies have linked moderate drinking with better heart health, but some researchers have questioned these findings based on something called the abstainer bias: the idea that many non-drinkers teetotal because they have other health issues, or because they’re recovering from addiction. Including these folks in studies could skew the data to make people who don’t drink look unfairly unhealthy, and to falsely equate booze with health benefits.

A large 2017 study looking at alcohol and heart health, however, was designed to eliminate the possibility of abstainer bias. It still found that moderate drinking may protect against heart attacks, strokes, chest pain and fatal heart disease.

Alcohol may be associated with cancer

The link between alcohol and cancer is strong enough that the American Society of Clinical Oncology came out with a new warning in November underscoring associations between drinking and at least seven types of cancer. The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer has been particularly well-studied, with scientists theorizing that alcohol may increase estrogen levels and therefore feed breast cancer. Other research suggests that alcohol may disrupt DNA activity, potentially leading to cancers of the breast, colon, liver, mouth and esophagus. These risks may be even more severe if you have certain other habits, such as smoking and drinking hot tea.

Alcohol may contribute to weight gain

It’s easy to forget, but alcoholic beverages are often quite high in calories. Regularly imbibing, then, can sneakily contribute to weight gain and obesity. Those can come with their own set of health problems, ranging from heart disease to type 2 diabetes.

The bottom line

There’s still a lot scientists don’t know about drinking, but the research clearly suggest that moderation is key. While it’s smart to cut back if your drinking veers into bingeing territory, there’s likely no reason to stop drinking if you do so in small amounts — just as you probably shouldn’t feel compelled to start sipping if you don’t already.

Drinking Wine might be good for you!

Let’s have a Chocolate & Wine Party

chThe famous cheese tray for a party appetizer always shows up and we enjoy it.  I don’t eat any milk products, so always have goat and sheep cheese as there is now a wonderful assortment of them.  But why let cheese hold court one more time.  Why not have a chocolate tasting party, along with your wine tasting.  What chocolate goes best with each wine.  It is such an easy and fun idea!

You could put together a selection of chocolate desserts as done in many elegant restaurants, but since chocolate bars  have gotten a lot more intriguing lately ,why not just offer several of the wonderful ones now available.

Last year we took my granddaughter on a tour of Theo Chocolate, made locally in Seattle.  the diversity of what they offer was remarkable.  I personally like the Scotch Chocolate.  I brought it home and my sweet husband ate every last one.  I laughingly told my son that accompanied me on the tour and brought me a gift of it next time he came to visit.   Cocoa beans like wine grapes taste different depending on where they’re grown, with soil, weather and other elements playing a factor as some beans and the resulting single-origin chocolate may taste bright and fruity, while others might be deep and smoky, .

Here is one suggested way to have the tasting:

  1. Choose four or five chocolates. Much more and  you will overwhelm your guests and their palate.
  2. To keep it more interesting Pick different styles of chocolates . I might suggest that you have one dark, one milk, one white, one 100 percent and one infused.
  3.  It does not take much and this is not a contest to see how much chocolate you can eat. Break up the bars before serving and keep the plates small and simple.
  4. Choose traditional accompaniments like fresh and dried fruit, but maybe add a little cheese & crusty bread.
  5. it is good to include palate cleansers like green apple and lemon water. You can decorated each plate with scatter coco nubs, curled or grated  chocolate.

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You can taste and compare any way you think might work. You can taste it like wine with out the swirl.  Smell a piece, take a small bite, chew it a couple of times, then let it melt on your tongue.

As you let the chocolate melt in your mouth, add the cheese, bread or other food, and chew slowly. See which one works best ( for you) with which chocolate. Take a sip of lemon water or a bite of green apple between chocolates to clear your palate.

This is not serious stuff!  This is meant to be fun.  Now add a little wine and you have a party.  Since I personally like wine I would have as many types of wine as I have chocolate to see what works together best.  It is always interesting, because no two people taste everything the same.

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Have fun and happy tasting!  Bet you’ll like it!  Cheese-and-Chocolate-Pairings

Let’s have a Chocolate & Wine Party