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Tag: summer

Wine at Home

Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole & Chardonnay

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole

If you’re anything like me, you live for the amazing fruits and veggies that come around during summer, but still, the quarantine hasn’t been great for your summer bod. Not being able to go to the gym and being stuck at home with a stocked fridge and an overflowing wine closet has physically put me more in a winter state than a summer one. Because of this, I’ve included some alternatives to certain ingredients and some optional steps, as to offer healthier versions of this scrumptious summertime supper. This cheesy summer squash casserole has become a go-to recipe for my family because it’s so easy to make!


Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole

Cheesy Summer Squash, Cauliflower, & Macaroni Casserole

Makes about 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 12 oz. (about 4 cups) zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 oz. steamed cauliflower
  • 12 oz. steamed broccoli
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn kernels
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheese blend (medium cheddar, Jarlsberg, and even a lite blend are fine), separated
  • 1-1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, separated
  • 3/4-1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, separated
  • Optional: 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 (6 oz.) packages of macaroni and cheese (I used Annie’s organic mac and cheese with 12g protein for a healthier alternative to regular Kraft)
Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and cook until soft and browned.
  3. Add sliced zucchini and squash. Season with pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, until soft.
  4. In a large casserole tray (I used a 9″x13″ tray), break up your steamed cauliflower and broccoli into 1″ chunks. Sprinkle with pepper, cooked corn kernels, 3/4 cup shredded cheese blend (optional), 1/2 cup parmesan (optional), 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional), and melted butter (optional).
  5. Evenly spread cooked zucchini and squash on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on top.
  6. Prepare your macaroni and cheese as directed on package.
  7. Evenly spread your prepared macaroni and cheese over the casserole pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese blend, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs. Add pepper to taste.
  8. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling inside and the top is crispy and browned.
  9. Enjoy with a slightly chilled bottle of our McGrail Family Chardonnay!
Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this delicious summertime casserole at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine Cocktails

A Virtual Trip to Italy via Sparkling Citrus Aperitivos

If you’ve ever been to Italy, or almost anywhere in Europe for that matter, you’ve probably at least seen an Aperol spritz or have maybe even enjoyed one yourself. If you haven’t, you’re probably wondering what the heck an Aperol spritz is. It’s the drink of summertime in Northern Italy and much of Austria. Plainly, it is some combination of Aperol, soda, Brut wine, orange slices, and ice.

Aperol: Italian Aperitivo and Amaro

Aperol is a bittersweet, orange, classic Italian aperitivo. Aperitivos, or apéritifs in French, are dry, light, and bittersweet drinks that are usually slightly alcoholic and served prior to dinner, in order to “open up the palate” or stimulate one’s appetite before a large meal. In Northern Italy, if Aperol is not served as the aperitivo, then usually a dry vermouth, a dry wine, or Campari (akin to Aperol, it’s a bittersweet, orange classic Italian aperitivo, but with a higher alcohol content) is served in its place. Alongside aperitivos, small, dry, finger-food snacks, such as green olives, nuts, cheese, prosciutto, salami, chips, or crackers are typically served. In Europe, people tend to eat much slower than Americans do and leisurely enjoy their time at the table, before, during, and after dinner, which is why aperitivos are such an important facet of European culture. Even digestivos, or drinks to be enjoyed post-supper, exist! If you’ve ever had an Amaro, a bitter, herbal, citrus, and/or floral Italian liquer made from brandy, it’s most likely you have sipped on a digestif; however, Aperol and Campari, which are aperitivos, are actually considered Amaro.

Austrian Spritz

The term “spritz” is not Italian, but rather comes from Italy’s northern neighbor, Austria. Between the years 1805 and 1866, Austria actually possessed what is now much of Northern Italy, though the two countries still share a border today. Because Austrians found Italy’s acidic white wine unpalatable, they would often “spritzen” up their wine with a splash of sparkling water or soda, which is how the term “spritz” was coined. Just like in Italy, you can order an Aperol spritz nearly anywhere in Austria, albeit it’s less likely to be served with the same pre-dinner snacks you’ll find in Italy.

Brut Sparkling Wine

Since I’ve discussed the first two ingredients of an Aperol spritz, I will finish with the most important ingredient of an Aperol spritz–the sparkling wine! Sparkling wine, has many names around the world, depending on the country and region in which it’s produced, what grape varieties are used to produce it, and the amount of residual sugar, or lack thereof, in the wine. Most Italian sparkling wine is called Prosecco. While Prosecco is sometimes associated with being sweet, it can also be dry or somewhere in-between sweet and dry. There are four basic categories to indicate how sweet it is: brut, extra-dry, dry, and demi-sec. Because there’s already a considerable amount of sugar in Aperol, the type of Prosecco that is traditionally used in an Aperol spritz is Brut–the driest. Our Gracie Sparkling is also a Brut, which is why it works so well in an Aperol spritz!


An Italian-Inspired Playlist

One of the things I love about an Aperol spritz is that it can make you feel like you’re sitting on a piazza on Lake Como, with wisteria growing overhead and a nice cool breeze blowing through… until you realize you’re stuck at home in a global pandemic. What I’m trying to say is those initial first sips are always spectacularly refreshing. To lengthen that first-sip feeling, I’ve created a “Virtual Euro Trip” playlist, so that Lake Como fantasy can last just a moment longer.


Aperol Spritz with Gracie Sparkling Brut

INGREDIENTS:
  • Ice
  • 3 oz. Aperol (can be found at almost any grocery or specialty liquor store)
  • 3 oz. Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • 1 oz. unflavored sparkling water or soda
  • 1-2 orange slices, for garnish
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Fill a wine glass about half way with ice, or with about five large ice cubes.
  2. Measure out Aperol and dump into glass. Pour an equal amount Gracie Sparking Brut into glass (you will have to eyeball this part; it’s a lot more difficult to measure, because it’s bubbly). Top with a splash of sparkling water.
  3. Add 1-2 halved orange slices inside glass for garnish. Enjoy on a warm summer day with our “Virtual Trip to Italy” playlist!

I hope I’ve inspired you to enjoy this breezy Italian classic cocktail at home! Please let us know if you make any of these dishes. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!