The Colors of the Wine Country.
That’s actually the name of a kids book I bought from a local winery, but it could easily describe the little weekend getaway I just had in Sonoma. You could also call it the Perfect Weather & Gorgeous Scenery of Vineyards as Far as the Eye Can See.
Based on my vacations last year to France you can see that I’m a sucker for the wine scene.
My parents generously gave the family a trip to Cali for a 4 day mini vacation & my in-laws graciously watched the kids. Winning.
Well, sort of, I was basically the designated driver, but that didn’t stop me from soaking up the scenery and delicious food. We stayed in a house near Glen Ellen, spending most of our time visiting Sonoma wineries. At least we’ve settled the debate on where I’m retiring.
Sonoma is definitely more “laid back” – less appointments required, a little more casual and down-to-earth. It’s truly wonderful…you can drive around and literally see vineyard after vineyard, popping in where you like and taste fabulous wines.
And we ate a lot, of course. Mustard’s Grill, Fremont Diner, the girl & the fig. By far, my favorite meal was at Olive & Vine in Glen Ellen. I will be forever trying to recreate their roasted chicken. Apparently, I’m going to start brining my chicken before I roast it. Yum, yum.
We hopped over to Napa for an afternoon, though, and had the most lovely day with more gorgeous views and a delicious spontaneous lunch.
We had a few discussions, you can call them, about the use of selfie sticks and the proper way to plan the days’ activities…for instance, some (i.e. me) were a little more excited about the morning spent in Jack London Park vs others who wore dresses, heels and wine clothes. 4 kids – we can’t all be alike, right?
No question, this vacation will most definitely go down in the books as a
good great one. Sonoma, I’ll be back!
Brrr. It’s cold.
And, that’s fine, it IS still February. But, once it’s March, well, then my expectations head in a different, warmer direction.
March means I’ll have my own house again. And unpacking til next march.
Since it’s pretty chilly out there, and I keep making soup, I thought I’d share a few of my keep-the-belly-warm soup ideas. Because sometimes we all need a little inspiration, right?
Endless opportunities to customize chilli. I love making it!
My go-to base in soup making. Great for dinner
or and lunch.
Homemade tomato soup. It is the Lenten season…
A classic that never fails.
I have a bunch of others, here. Of course, I’m always experimenting with new soups, too. Most soups taste better the next day so I try to make enough for leftovers.
And, I have a little helper to really make it fun & interesting.
It’s that time again…time to talk about our favorite things! It’s been awhile, so let’s discuss what we love! I love this conversation! And explanation points, apparently! !!!
There seems to be a theme with many of mine. Not too surprisingly, my French vacations have rubbed off on me considerably. Not a bad thing, I just didn’t realize this would be the case 4 months later. Oui.
First, ahem, the wine. 90% of what I’m buying is French wine. My main love is the grenache grape, so delicious. It’s actually a Spanish grape, and it’s found in the Chateauneauf-du-Pape region red wines. I love most Cotes du Rhone wines, but the CdP wines are my favorite (I blame the grenache). Get yourself some!
Cheese. You probably saw that one coming. My 3 current favorites: Toscano (I think this is exclusive to Trader Joe’s, coming in black pepper, cinnamon dusted and Merlot…all yummy!), Triple Cream (because single and double just isn’t enough) & Sartori MontAmore. So. Good.
Herbes de Provence. Yes, Provence is the most lovely place on earth. No, there’s nothing too spectacular about this dried spice blend (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, savory and sometimes lavender), except that I have found a way to put it on everything. Soups, eggs, veggies, meat. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Coffee. I have 3 kids, no explanation needed.
Okay, so let’s talk about the non-French loves of my life….first, I am having lots and lots of english muffins for breakfast. Not to be confused with real muffins, lesson learned via my daughter. No, I’m referring to the “round breads.” If I’m not making an egg sandwich, then I’m topping them with peanut butter & honey, butter & brown sugar, peanut butter & jelly along with some chopped pecans, or nutella. Filling and delicious.
Hard Boiled Eggs. I’m working on perfecting my boiling method. I’ve made enough, Lord knows I should have figured this out by now. If I do, I’ll share. Great for a quick breakfast or snack, for us and the kids.
How about some non-food favorites?!
Music-related, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. Love, love.
Since I don’t know what going to the gym is like, I have been working out to T25 two or 3 times a week at home. It’s tough but it’s only 25 minutes. Good enough for me.
I’m reading the Bible and French Kids Eat Everything. The first, well, because I feel better when I do. The second: I refuse to believe I’ll have picky eaters. Things got a little out of hand when the twins were born (hard to imagine, right), so we move into our new home next month, which means new routine. I keep warning my daughter…wish me luck.
Speaking of my new home…words cannot express my excitement for my new
house kitchen. It’s going to be perfect.
50 shades of gray. I’ve always been obsessed with the color gray (rumor has it I have worn gray on gray once or twice). Finally, when it comes to decorating, I’ve been able to let my inner gray come to life. The silver shades are hot on my purchase list. I’m working on a purple/silver theme for my daughter’s room (with the request for some yellow).
So, that’s it for now. Have a great weekend!
Hiiii. From Kansas City. We are (almost) home & it feels so good. We are getting closer to normal & routine. The boring, nothing-exciting-to-talk-about-life.
Not that my life is talk-worthy, not to confuse you. It’s just been, well, chaotic.
It’s all relative, though, right? Relative, like I’m living with my in-laws, and the relative to what we’re comparing. In other words, life.
My boys have reached the absolutely adorable phase. My daughter turned 3 last month, but sometimes I wonder if she turned 10.
And, I’m looking for a job (!). One outside the home because, let’s be real, this stay-at-home-mom job is wayyy harder. Afternoon soap operas and mani-pedi’s, ha! It’s more tiring, too, and I’m still trying to figure out how that is so.
The *important* news is that I am getting my own house, my own kitchen, next month! I’ve been busy looking for inspiration for decorating this lovely thing I will call home & it’s been so incredibly exciting. I can’t wait to share some of this news because I’m literally shopping everywhere: Crate & Barrel to Wayfair to Ikea to local KC shops. And, our usual stops: Target & Costco. And, Amazon, of course.
Part of this new routine means I’m cooking more. I love making this tomato soup, so I wanted to share it (again). It’s just a staple. I’m on this Herbes de Provence kick, but I often use basil or Italian seasonings. Sometimes I add a little bit of V8 juice or crushed red pepper; I adjust the half-&-half to meet the consistency I want. The finishing oil is a new (& great) addition to serving the soup.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 med yellow onion, chopped
3 med carrots, chopped
3 celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp Herbes de Provence (basil or Italian seasoning blend)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 28oz can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 can fire-‐roasted tomatoes
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
1 – 2 cups half-&-half, to desired consistency
Optional: shredded Parmesan cheese, Garlic or Tuscan-flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery & carrot, cook until soft, about 10 min. Add garlic & seasonings; cook 1 min longer.
- Add tomatoes, broth & tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & simmer 30-40 min. Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until mostly smooth.
- Add half & half, additional seasonings, sugar & Parsley, as needed, & serve with Parmesan cheese &/or olive oil on top.
Fall has fallen. As in, the temps have dropped, the trees are bare and the snow is covering the ground. Blah. Not exactly what I had in mind for mid-November.
I love the colorful trees and light jacket weather, so I’m hoping Mister Polar Vortex is just hiding my friend fall.
I suppose he is…til next Sept.
Bundled it is.
Since it is technically still fall, we’re making pumpkin food! Pumpkin is good for you & great for baking. And, these kids of mine have loved the pumpkins via pancake form. They are very soft, not too sweet…perfect with a little powdered sugar for the little boys and dessert-like when served with chocolate chips & syrup for the big kids, e.g. adults. And my daughter. Pancakes are basically a vehicle to getting syrup into her mouth.
Don’t let this smile fool you. She actually had a small fit when she didn’t see enough chocolate chips in her pancake. With the help of my chocolate-obsessed parents, she’s developing quite the chocolate tooth. My dad takes the saying “life is short, eat dessert first” a little too literally.
This pumpkin pancake recipe makes a ton of pancakes. I freeze a bunch for the next week. Yum!
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
dash of nutmeg & cloves
2 cups milk (I’ve used skim, 1% & whole)
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 tbsp melted butter
chocolate chips & chopped pecans, to taste
whipped cream, for garnish
maple syrup, powdered sugar for serving
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & spices. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, pumpkin puree, butter & eggs.
- Fold dry ingredients into wet & stir just until combined. (Optional – stir in chocolate chips & pecans; or sprinkle on top of cooked pancakes.)
- Heat griddle over medium/med-low heat & grease with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Pour aprx 1/4 cup of batter on hot griddle for each pancake. Cook each pancake 3 min or until bubbles begin to form. Flip & cook an additional 2-3 min or until browned.
- Sprinkle pancakes with (additional) chocolate chips &/or pecans and whip cream. Serve warm with syrup & powdered sugar.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.
I guess some things do not get old. Meaning: exploring French vineyards, eating lots of cream & butter in the form of French cuisine, wine for every lunch, great company. We may as well call this the wine, cheese & bread tour. After all, Lyon is the gastronomy capital of France, which is an obvious title after spending a few days there. Our goals for the trip included such challenges like drink wine at every lunch, get into double digits on pastries consumed, check off eating all the key Lyonnaise dishes (more on that later), go on a couple wine tours so we can pretend to know what wines we like, etc. Lofty, lofty goals.
Let’s talk about what we discovered. This trip was enjoyed with my sister & husband via Paris, Dijon & Lyon (mainly Lyon).
Similar to my trip to Paris last month, our day in Paris was intense. Land mid-morning: eat pastries & coffee. See the Mona Lisa & eat more pastries. Hop on the city bus to see the Eiffel tour, Notre Dame & Champs-Elysees. Pretend we are going to buy purses at the Louis Vuitton store. Get lost (that seemed to be a theme for us). Parfait.
Next up, Dijon. We shopped the city (hello, moutarde de Dijon) & went on the most amazing tour of Bourgonone vineyards. See: views.
We also stumbled into a “Vins, Pains, Fromages” event in Beaune. Right?! I paid & entered…& then I asked my husband and sister if they wanted to attend. Seemed obvious. This is the event I fell in love with Brillat-Savarin cheese (it’s the triple cream). Because, y’all, the cheese in France…
Then onto Lyon we went, our final destination for the week. Husband worked during the day, so my sister and I explored Lyon via getting lost & eating.
We are tripadvisor people. Thus, we ate at many of the top tripadvisor restaurants, including Le Musee (twice!), Les Terrasses de Lyon (Michelin star), Archange (my favorite & the #2), Le Poivron Bleu (great wine selection, via my husband) & Bernachon (hot chocolate aka melted chocolate in a cup).
It appears Lyon is a little gem in France. Paris gets all the hype, but I much prefer Lyon. Lyon is known for its bouchons. These old, small, authentic restaurants serve classic Lyonnaise dishes: quenelles (fish-egg-soufflé served with lobster/crayfish sauce – too hard to explain, you must go to Lyon to understand), salad Lyonnaise (lettuce, lardons, croutons, poached egg), Saucisson Brioche (delicious sausage served inside Brioche bread), local cheese (take some, leave some) & I believe all sorts of strange foods (yes, we ate the pig cheek).
Other activities included a tour of the Roman Museum & amphitheater. A wine tour of northern Cotes du Rhone & an afternoon at the Vigneron-Independant. Shopping in various forms. Strolling down the cobblestone streets of Old Lyon, the Vieux & La Croix-Rousse. Spending (a significant amount of) time in Les Halles de Lyon. A quick walk-through the miniature cinema museum (not worth the #3, tripadvisor) & several walks through the amazing Parc de la Tete d’Or. Kind of like a park, zoo & botanical garden all-in-one.
You guys, it was fun! I feel like it didn’t really happen. Lots of memories to be thankful for.