Happy National Drink Wine Day!

Did you miss National Drink Wine Day earlier this week?  That’s okay–you can make up for it today.  Go ahead now and don’t even feel bad about it.  This is a judgment-free zone.

Speaking of wine, Kelly and I recently enjoyed a Sonoma wine tasting here in Phoenix hosted by The Wine Road.  The venue–the popular wedding site and locally famous Wrigley Mansion–is a romantic and historic landmark which neither of us had visited before, despite both of us being Phoenix natives!  The home is palatial and sophisticated with beautiful gardens and an even better view of the entire city.  A must-see for anyone who lives here.

It was wonderful to meet and talk with so many wineries from Sonoma County.  Coincidentally, over the years I’ve become a fan of nearly any red wine from the Russian River and Alexander Valleys, and I was happy to learn more about the other regions in northern Sonoma County from all the knowledgeable winemakers who attended this tasting.  It goes without saying that  this area of the country gets some great weather, and the tasty wine and  the photo slideshows which many brought with them sold us that we need a trip to Sonoma and soon!


Two wineries caught our attention and for two different reasons.  Alexander Valley Vineyards in Healdsburg makes many great wines, but their Sin Zin is not only delicious but also something that we can buy here in Arizona.


The other winery of which we became big fans is Carol Shelton Wines in Santa Rosa.  Not only does Carol own the winery and make the wine, she traveled to Phoenix and poured it herself!  We liked several Zins that she makes from a few different regions in California, but she suggested we try a chilled rosé.  Kelly and I both heavily favor zin, cab, and malbec but we humoured her–and she was right!  Her Rendezvous Rosé was crisp and fruity and begs to be enjoyed by the pool on a warm day.  We loved it.  She was so nice to chat with, and her enthusiasm was contagious.  I hope we can visit again one day!CAROL-SHELTON-WINES-4-13-1024x687

We wrapped up the evening enjoying appetizers and chatting with the Dry Creek Inn.  The resort looks so tranquil and scenic and now I really want to make a trip up there.

Seriously, how good does a trip like this sound?!  A quick flight up the coast for a relaxing long weekend enjoying the scenery and the wine?  Yes, please.  I visited WineRoad.com and appreciated that it’s easy to use and has up-to-date information.  It seems like a decent resource if we ever do get plan a trip there.

Cheers, everyone!


All opinions are our own and we were not compensated for this post.

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

More Ninja Fun: Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce

I like to eat spicy things.  Almost nothing is too spicy for me.  When I go to Buffalo Wild Wings, I order the Mango Habanero wings.  When I go to the hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, I shock the owners when I order my dish extra spicy (I must not look like an “extra spicy” kind of person).  When I make salsa at home, I use habaneros or ghost peppers.

It was obvious that when I saw the recipe for Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce in the Ninja Ultima Blender Inspiration Guide I had to try it.  The original recipe puts Serrano red chilis (stemmed, quartered), 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar all in the single serve tumbler with the bladed lid, docked to the Ninja Ultima Blender and on pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency, then simmer on the stove for 6 minutes.

The adaptations I made:

I couldn’t find red Serrano chilis anywhere here!  I used red Fresno peppers, which are larger but still pack a lot of heat (in the form of capsaicin, not a handgun).

I couldn’t find rice wine vinegar, so I checked the Internet and it seems as though rice vinegar may be used in place of rice wine vinegar.  I already had rice vinegar, so I just kept my fingers crossed that the Internet wasn’t lying to me and hoped for the best.

Lastly, I added a lot more garlic than the recipe suggested, and I used less brown sugar.  I wish I wouldn’t have skimped on this part, because I think the full amount of brown sugar would disguise the bit of bitter aftertaste.  So don’t try to save calories by skimping on the sugar.

Chili Sauce ingredients Chili Sauce blending Chili Sauce simmering

I plan to use this sauce when I make Thai chicken lettuce cups, or mix it with cream cheese for a chip dip or mix it with Ranch dressing to use when I want something to dip my pizza slice in.  The consistency and versatility reminds me a lot of sriracha sauce, which means you can use it on anything.  Sriracha is even in the yogurt shop near me, as a topping!  I like spicy, but even I’m not crazy enough to ruin frozen yogurt with sriracha.

So, enjoy!  If you have more recipes for something spicy, or something you use your Ninja blender for, post it in the comments below!

I was compensated for this post but all views are my own, as usual.

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Ninja Curry!

I was asked to be part of a promotion for Ninja Kitchen. In return, I was sent a Ninja Ultima Blender.  Let me tell you about it:

I’ve been dying to try my new Ninja Ultima Blender since I found a recipe for Thai Chicken Coconut Curry in the recipe guide which came in the box. Actually, there are various recipes that intrigue me including White Cheddar Cauliflower Soup, Ground Chicken Lettuce Cups, Chili Garlic Sauce, and the Ginger Pear Wakeup breakfast juice. The versatility of the Ninja Ultima is convenient–as is its high capacity (72 ounces), its sturdiness, how simple the control panel is to use, and its ability to be thrown into the dishwasher.  It even comes with single-serve tumblers!  The tumblers have an adapted lid, so you toss your smoothie ingredients in to the 12 ounce tumbler instead of the big pitcher, screw on the special lid which has blades on the inside, turn it upside down, fit it onto the base and flip on the switch!  Super convenient and easy to clean!

Ninja Ultima Blender




So, I made the curry recipe found in the recipe guide yesterday and it was too good not to share.  If you already have your own curry recipe or taste preferences you can always alter and customize the recipe as you desire, but the original recipe that I’m posting here is pretty tasty.  Of course, I’ve never met a curry I didn’t like–if the word curry appears in the name, I’m eating it and asking for seconds.

3 cloves garlic
1 white onion, diced
3 cups light coconut milk
3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons red curry paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground turmeric

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
4 cups cooked vermicelli noodles (or rice, if you prefer)
bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chopped cilantro leaves (for garnish)


1.  Add oil to a saucepan and saute garlic and onion until softened.
2.  Add coconut milk, broth, curry paste, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and turmeric.  Stir to combine, then allow mixture to cool.
3.  Transfer the cooled curry mixture to your Ninja Ultima Blender.  Or, transfer it while it’s still hot if you think you can do it without burning or splashing yourself (this is what I did and I came out of it okay, but it’s still safer to be patient and wait for it to cool).
4. Plug in, select Speed 1, and flip up the switch to START.  Slowly increase up to Speed 6 until smooth.  Flip switch up again to stop.
5.  Add oil to the saucepan and begin browning your cut up chicken.  Start your rice or noodles at this point.
6.  Remove pitcher from the base, flip up the spout cover, and pour curry mixture into the saucepan and over the chicken.  Simmer until your starch is ready.  Plate it up and garnish as desired.

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There are a few keys to this recipe:
1)  Don’t omit, or even skimp on, the lime juice!  It adds such fresh flavor and brightens the dish.
2)  Don’t worry about chopping/dicing too finely.  The onion needs to be in small pieces so that they cook through, but in the end it’s all going into the blender for pureeing
3)  Do use your Ninja Ultima Blender to puree the curry soup mixture.  Skipping this step will result in a lazy looking, chunky soup and curry should be smooth.  This step only takes about 20 seconds, and then you can toss the blender parts into the dishwasher and enjoy.
4) You could easily leave out the chicken for a #meatlessmonday dish, or add tofu.  Or substitute shrimp or scallops for the chicken and that’d be delicious, too.

There you have it:  easy and delicious!  What recipes do you use your Ninja Ultima Blender for?

I was compensated for this post but all views are my own, as usual.

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Double Double Trouble Trouble

2014 is shaping up to be a great year: the kids are having stellar academic success, we’ve avoided the flu and RSV (a constant concern at our house due to the twins’ weakened respiratory systems), pitchers and catchers report in just nine days and the pieces around our charity golf event are all falling into place.

But for my parents, January 2014 has something in common with January 2007:  they are unexpectedly expecting twin grandbabies.  Again.  Out of scores of aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of the family, the only people to become pregnant with multiples are my sister and me.  I don’t know if my parents wonder what they did wrong with us or what they did right.  Two daughters, two sets of twins?  Like my sister and I didn’t overachieve the hell out of the 1990′s enough??  I’m still waiting for the delayed reaction of the cardiac variety on the part of either of my parents, but suffice to say they’re keeping that Gerber Baby life insurance company in high heels these days.

Until 2007 the last set of twins born on any side of any of our families occurred in 1932.   I’ll never forget surprising my folks with my ultrasound picture showing Kyle & Lauren cozily gestating together.   Imagine everyone’s surprise not too long ago when my sister announced she was pregnant with twins!  Actually, all I can recall from that moment was my husband and I literally pointing and laughing at her.  I know–we express our love and support to each other in unique but profound ways.

Twins!  Sure, it’s a blessing and all that, right?  Everyone wants to have twins, right??  Double the trouble and double the fun, right??  Yes, and no.  Truthfully I don’t personally know of anyone who felt this way when they found out they were pregnant with twins.  Not that those perky, positive pregnant women don’t exist, but if I may be frank–don’t call me Frank–the only women I know who say that are women who don’t have twins.  Because the truth is that the reality that comes with an ultrasound with more than one handsome little devil in the frame can be overwhelming.  Not just one nursery needed now, but two–I hope your house is big enough.  Sometimes the backseat of your car isn’t even long enough to accommodate twin car seats if you also have an older child in a booster, so have fun measuring your car’s dimensions and then maybe trying to afford a new car.  One baby is a lot of work, and twice the number of babies are sometimes more than twice the amount of work–and let’s hope you can afford double the daycare expenses.  And for some of us, a pregnancy with multiples becomes a high risk pregnancy, and suddenly getting your pink and blue nursery or buying those Thing 1 and Thing 2 onsies seem like really shallow reasons to have ever wanted twins.  And double the fun?  How about double the co-pays, every doctors’ visit, every time–beginning the instant when Baby B is born.

Okay, so maybe I’ve scared your collective ovaries into never ovulating twice in the same cycle.  It’s not that twins aren’t great–but they’re great because they’re YOURS, not because their formative weeks were spent with a womb mate.  If your twin pregnancy, birth, and first few months at home don’t give you a heart attack, watching your two wee ones becoming aware of their world, learning to smile, growing up with each other as best friends and co-conspirators are really the best things about having twins.  You just have to get through the hard part at the beginning.  It really does get better.  I promise.

And whatever you do, pack a hospital bag every time you have an ultrasound–I learned that lesson the hard way.  Figure out when the least convenient time would be for you to be hospitalized for a few days and that’s exactly when your cervix will prematurely dilate.  It’s science.


Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at byrdsforacure.org.