Sonoma Birthday Trip

Hubby and I share the same Birthday month of May. We usually go to Napa Valley because it’s  a short trip away and it’s sooooo relaxing.  It’s not called Wine Country for nothing.  There are so many vineyards to go wine taste at , you can easily end up  drinking enough  to forget  you were supposed to be at work two days ago.

This year we stayed at The Fairmont Mission Inn in lovely Sonoma. What I love about this place is the spa on the premises called Willow Stream Spa which sits on top of an ancient mineral spring used by the Native Americans for it’s healing powers. This spa offers many services such as your typical facial, wax, massage, and mani pedi. The best part  is the thermal spring mineral baths they have. There is a bathing ritual which includes, exfoliation shower, warm mineral pool, eucalyptus steam sauna, whirlpool, and dry sauna.  You can enjoy unlimited lemon water in between, and hot tea and fresh fruit after the ” bathing ritual.” When you feel you’ve detoxified enough at the spa, you can head outside and relax by one of their  pools and enjoy a drink or lunch.

For dinner you can either have the driver from the Inn drive you to downtown Sonoma in the company car ( no fee, but you have to take taxi back to hotel) and try one of the many restaurants there, or you can stay on the premises and enjoy a dining experience at the Inn’s restaurant called Sante.  We chose the latter, and we’re so glad we did.  The staff at Sante is so knowledgeable and attentive about each item on the menu, and every ingredient that goes into that menu and how they all come together to create such a delicious and visually pleasing dining experience.  They have two options when it comes to the menu.  The Chef’s Tasting Menu, which includes nine courses for $149, or you can choose which ever courses you want from their regular dinner menu.  We didn’t do the Tasting Menu, but a group of four next to our table did and let me tell you that I haven’t heard God’s name being called out so often in quite a while, especially when they were tasting the  Chef’s Cheese Selection!

For starters we had the Salad of California Delta Asparagus and the Chilled Ahi Tuna Tartare and both were equally delicious.  The asparagus was perfectly steamed and seasoned, and the tuna melted in your mouth.  When they place each course in front of you they explain in detail what is on your plate that you will be eating, and where it’s been sourced from.  There are about five different kinds of organic breads that you can choose from ( try them all, they are delicious),  served with samples of a hand churned butter from France,  a local salted butter, and a side serving of  salt flakes.  I want to personally thank that Frenchman, or woman, sitting somewhere churning butter by hand.  It’s so worth it.

For the entrée I had the Slow Braised Lamb Shank and my husband had the Pan Seared Diver Scallops and neither one disappointed.

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For desert we shared the Valrhona Hazelnut Chocolate Torte, so rich and decadent.  Perfect with an after dinner coffee or digestif.

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Cafe Sante  serves breakfast/brunch, which we tried the following morning.  You get a nice sized coffee carafe  for $5 and many delicious menu choices from Dungeness Crab Benedict to Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and everything in between.

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From the cafe we headed out to St.Helena and stopped at one of our favorite wineries, V. Sattui.  Here, you can wine taste for $15 up to 5 different wines.  If you decide to buy a case of 12 bottles( which we did) the wine tasting is free.

IMG_5589The wonderful part about V. Sattui, besides their wine and beautiful grounds, is that they have a deli where you can cheese taste( I highly recommend the Ewephoria), purchase sandwiches and other homemade salads and items, and have a picnic at their picnic area.  On the weekends they have outdoor BBQ oysters, shrimp, and pizza as well.

 

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Don’t forget your picnic blanket,  you’ll want to take a nap after all that good food and wine!

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Do you have anything to add to this article? Let me know in the comments. Cheers!

Pancakes, it’s what’s for (insert meal here)

Ahhh pancakes.  It’s that versatile flat cake that can be either sweet or savory, and eaten anytime you desire.  This version is a basic one and super easy to make. You can add other ingredients to them to make them your own version.  I added a super ripe banana that was about to go bad and made banana pancakes! I make them a day ahead and freeze them in a ziploc bag.  When re-heating  pop no more than 3 pancakes at a time in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes or until heated through, and serve with your favorite toppings.

Basic Pancakes (makes about 20, 3in pancakes)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3  tbsp unsalted butter melted+ 2 tbsp extra for cooking the cakes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk gently until combined.  In a separate bowl gently whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter.  Add wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix gently until moistened, don’t over mix if you want fluffy cakes.  Turn stove to med heat. Brush your pan with small amount of melted butter and using a small ladle cook 2 to 3 pancakes at once, depending on size of your pan.  I use a 16in pan which can fit 4 pancakes.  Cook pancakes until slightly bubbly around edges, flip and cook the other side about 15 seconds more.

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Place pancakes on a cooling rack if you plan of freezing, or on a plate if you can’t wait to chow.  Just be careful, they are HOT!

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Creme Brulee(GF)

Oh Creme Brulee you’re so rich, smooth, sweet  and decadent…wish every man could take an example from you. This French dessert meaning ” burnt cream” dates back to the 1600’s, but it wasn’t until 1980 that it made it’s way back to the French cookbooks, and good thing it did! Served at the fanciest restaurants, you can easily make this at home. Don’t believe me? To be honest with you my 10 year old made this specific one pictured here for Mother’s Day dinner, all by herself ( well she needed help taking the heavy pan out of the oven.) Top with your favorite berries for a little zing!

Creme Brulee ( makes 6, 7-8 oz ramekins)

  • 1 QT heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 QTS hot water ( I use my electric tea kettle for this, but use wahts best for you)

Preheat oven to 325F. Place cream, vanilla pulp and bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring to a gentle boil. Do not leave this unattended you’ll be crying over spilled cream, not to mention the extra cleaning you’ll have in store. Remove cream from stove and cover. Let rest 15 minutes.  Remove vanilla bean and save for another recipe, they are not cheap.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 C sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and light in color. Add the cream a little at a time while whisking continuously.  Pour the liquid into the 6 ramekins and place in a large cake pan or roasting pan.  Take the pan and place onto rack positioned in the middle of the oven.  Pour the hot water into the pan until it comes halfway up sides of ramekins.  Take great care not to spill any water into the custard cups or it wont set properly.  Bake until set approx 40 minutes.  Remove pan from oven, take out ramekins and refrigirate at least 2 hrs.  Divide remaining sugar among the 6 ramekins and using a torch melt sugar until golden brown and slightly bubbly and crispy.  Dig in friends!

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The Burning Light that is a Mother

Mother’s Day Sunday.  Most mom’s social media feeds will be filled with pictures of flower bouquets, designer purses, jewelry, hand drawn cards and other gifts they have received  this special day.  They will post how loved and special they feel, and how they wish this day will never end.  And why should it end?  Should mothers only be celebrated one day a year ? After all , they don’t just take care of their family one day out of the year, or cook one meal, do one load of laundry, hug their child when they are hurt and kiss their tears away ONE DAY A YEAR.  Mothers don’t stop being mothers after Mother’s Day is over.  It’s a lifelong  position.  One that can’t be quit when the “job” is  too hard, or the “pay” is  severely cut back and the benefits at times seem dire.  It is a long and educational journey, being a mother.  One that’s absent of regret, and full of unconditional love. Mothers are that fire that never stops burning when you’re cold, that flicker that always lights your path no matter how dark it gets, and that angel on your shoulder that guides you to the right fork in the road.  Sure we don’t always listen to that angel, or keep that flicker high enough to light the long journey ahead, but in the back of our mind it’s a comfort to know we can reach for it when we are in need. Celebrate your mother each and every day because one day that fire will cease to burn, and that flicker of light will no longer be, and that torch will be passed on to you so you can forge a path of enlightenment for your own children. Happy Mother’s Day, and Every Day !!!

 

 

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Feel like baking…..but not really? You want to make something good but don’t feel like spending much time making it.  I know that feeling… plus a few bananas going bad along with it.  So, banana bread came to mind.  It’s sweet and versatile, and the leftovers, if any, can be tomorrows breakfast.  PB+J sandwich? Why not. Maple syrup and whipped cream…umm yes please! Remember you can substitute the chocolate chunks with nuts or dried fruit if you please, or just leave it plain and simple.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar + 1 tbsp for top
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium bananas mashed
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl add the oil, sugar, sour cream, and eggs.  Mix well until homogenized.  Pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture and gently incorporate.  Mix in the mashed bananas.  Gently fold in the chocolate chunks.  Pour mixture into the loaf pan and sprinkle with the 1tbsp sugar and cinnamon. Bake 50-60 mins.  Remove from oven and gently run a butter knife along all edges of the pan to release the banana bread.  Let cool 20-30 mins, invert onto a cutting board.  Slice gently or… rip apart and enjoy!

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Hooker

Spent my afternoon hooking, slippers that is.  I’ve been fulfilling some orders for my Etsy shop.  Aren’t these adorable? Grab your very own pair  here. They come with a travel bag so you can take them with you on that fabulous summer vacation you have planed (did your heart just skip a beat because mine did.)

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L’eggo the Eggo…..

And all the ingredients you can’t pronounce that come along with them. You know, the eggos from the frozen section at your local grocery store.  Sure they’re an easy breakfast item…..with the texture of cardboard and taste to match.  With a whisk and a waffle iron you can make these delicious, fluffy waffles with ingredients you already have in your pantry and fridge. Cool them on a cooling rack, then freeze them in a ziploc bag or container, and pop them in the toaster in the mornings. This is a basic recipe which you can easily adjust.  Add chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, etc.to make them your own. Your children and wallet will all live in harmonious balance….ok maybe just the wallet.  Double or triple the recipe, these go fast!

Basic Waffles ( makes 6, 8in waffles, or 24, 3in ones)

  • 1 3/4 Cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar ( you can add more if you like them sweeter)
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cup  Milk
  • 4 Tbsp Butter Melted
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Whisk  all  dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium bowl gently wisk the eggs, milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk just enough to incorporate.  Cook them on your waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

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