When Wine Just Won’t Do

Question: What can be used as a substitute for wine in cooking recipes?

Although I am a tried and true lover of wines, some of my good friends are not.  In fact, some are complete tea-totalers – no alcohol of any kind passes their lips.  I can appreciate that choice as long as they can appreciate mine to imbibe responsibly.  And they do.

This year several of us decided to go in together on an Xmas Eve dinner.  You know, divvy up the dishes and gather together to enjoy a holiday repast.  I won (some might say lost) the coin toss for main dish.  In addition I agreed to make a couple of sides.  After some discussion back and forth among our crew, my contributions turned into a rib roast, braised cabbage and pan roasted shallots.  I had never made any of those before, and I’m not really much of a cook.  Thus, I hit the cooking sites online and found recipes for my dishes that looked like they would be very tasty.  Only problem was that the cabbage recipe called for beer and the gravy for the rib roast called for red wine.

OK, I knew they make those non-alcoholic beers or malt beverages.  So I bought a six-pack of O’Doul’s.  One problem solved!  Now I needed to tackle replacing wine in the gravy ingredients.  And that gave me serious cause for concern till I consulted the internet once again.  As I browsed sites opining on the subject of replacing wine in recipes, I noticed that many sites suggested using juices – grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice (for white wine).  While the sweetness of a juice might not be right for all recipes, I didn’t think it would harm the gravy.  Seeing that folks seemed to have varying opinions on what to use, I decided to go with a juice that would add flavors I enjoy finding in a wine.  Thus, I ended up with cranberry/cherry juice as my substitute for the red wine.

Using the juice definitely changed the prep time.  Given that the wine has alcohol which evaporates fairly quickly, it took my gravy quite a bit longer (about 30 minutes instead of 10) to cook down into an appropriate consistency.  Once it did, though, it was a perfectly good gravy.  In fact, everyone liked the gravy, and my tea-totaling friends in particular couldn’t stop praising it – how flavorful it was and how well it complemented the rib roast.  I know I was pleasantly surprised with the results!  But of course I simply smiled, thanked them, and took another sip from my glass of Petite Sirah.  And so, regarding the question that began this post….

My Answer:  It depends a great deal on what you’re making – everything from vinegar to juice and more

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Meatless Monday: Best of 2013

A recent study quoted by a number of online media sources, including the New York Daily News, shows that a diet high in animal protein helps stave off cognitive decline in elderly individuals. HOWEVER, you have to get there first. And to do that … “The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality,” said … Eileen Crimmins, AARP Chair in Gerontology at USC.” I read that and immediately thought of A Crust Eaten’s tasty-looking recipes in the Meatless Monday posts. Which of these will I try first? Don’t know yet, but I am definitely aiming to make it to senior status! lol  I look forward to finding the right wines to pair with these and other veggy dishes.

A Crust Eaten

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Over the past six months or so, I’ve tried to post one vegetarian recipe a week to encourage people to think outside the meat and potatoes box when it comes to dinner. All of the recipes are listed under the Meatless Monday section on the Food page, but below are some of my favorites and ones that we come back to again and again.

I hope that 2014 will bring even more inspiring vegetarian recipes for me to share with you as I try to be even more creative with vegetables. Happy New Year!

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