What could possibly be better than going on a tour of wine country with four of your best friends?

How about if those four friends also have to be phenomenal cooks?

I just got back from a trip to Sonoma with my college girlfriends, and while vineyards were certainly the high point of our trip, one of my other favorite parts of the trip was gathering with my friends in a beautiful kitchen every night and taking turns cooking and sharing our joy of food with each other.

4 1 10 Wine Country 142Wine Country Kitchen, Best Friend Cooks.

We were there for 3 nights, so we shared cooking duties – each of taking on appetizers, side dishes, main entrees, and of course, dessert.  Many of the meals were as healthy as they were delicious, so I thought I’d share them here.

Our first night there, Jess was in charge of the main entree.  Her meal was a variation of a recipe she’d come across in Real Simple, and it was exactly that – but very delicious too!  She grilled both London broil and chicken (catering to our various preferences) and cooked couscous on the stove.

4 1 10 Wine Country 163 Grill Master Jessie

She also caramelized onions, tossed with pine nuts.  The onions/pine nuts were tossed with spinach, and an olive oil / balsamic mix and then the steak and couscous were placed on top.

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Simple, but delicious, and we all loved it.  (Paired with the Friends Red from Preston Vineyards.)

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A few notes about couscous if you’ve never tried it… it’s definitely a love/hate kind of food.  It’s fluffy, and a little bit like orzo or rice.  It’s a whole grain, which means it’s a great source of fiber, b vitamins, niacin and selenium.  It’s about calorically equivalent to rice.

(Picture does not represent the following… my portions were a little larger today!  But here are some stats: 3 oz steak, ¼ cup cooked couscous, 1 cup spinach with a 1T:1T oil/vinegar mix = 345 cals, 33g protein, 17g fat (3.5 sat), 10 g carbs.  Lots of yum.)

I was working on a class I’m teaching on whole grains and I guess that inspired this salad.  It was made from leftovers but it was absolutely delicious.  It was 1 cup of cooked wild rice (cooked with chicken stock the night before), about 4 toasted walnuts chopped up and 1/2 oz of feta cheese.  The combination of the oil in the nuts, the salt in the feta and the starch of the rice was perfect.

Wild Rice with Feta & Walnuts

Wild Rice with Feta & Walnuts

293 calories for the rice salad, plus I had a salad with my own homemade dressing which is 63 calories per tablespoon.  I usually count 10 calories for a straight up veggie salad, so total count was 356 calories.  I didn’t end up finishing it all, it was so filling.