Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday night "Mystery Date"

No, I don't have a mystery date. It's more exciting than that. We get to play Mystery Date - the game. Wait! Don't go.

There is strategy and chance, and cute boys behind a door, but it's really boring. It's not as much fun as I remembered. You just go in circles hoping to get the 3 cards you need to open the door and then hope by CHANCE that you have a match. Otherwise you start over.

It's not my favorite game, but Elli likes to play it. And being the nice mommy that I am I play it with her once a year. See how nice I am? Lucky for me, last time we played I got really lucky and won early. Thank heavens. Because I'm usually ready to pack it up after about 4 minutes.

I'm not a very good sport when it comes to playing games. I kinda like to win. Not a big fan of losing. Just ask my family. I perfected the art of moping when I was a kid.

I remember when Don and I were newly married and we played Sorry! with his sister and her family and I totally SORRY'd her and did it in a very sassy way. I'm pretty sure I yelled S-O-R-RRRRRR-Y . Cuz that's the way we played it when I was growing up. I seriously thought everyone played it that way. I guess not.

Don's eyes shot out of his head and they screamed "What are you doing? Be nice." I don't know. How do you play Sorry? Isn't the whole point to win and Sorry people. Sheesh.

Well, since then I have learned to have some tact and be kinder when Sorrying nice Baptist folk. Everyone else is fair game.

But back to Mystery Date.

Remember these?

and the mystery door?

Yeah!  I got the snowboard dude! I win!!!

So, Elli, who won? hee hee hee


That's right. And whose the best Mommy kid ever? That's right. You.

Lucky for me, she's a good sport. Another lesson I can learn from an 8 year old.  It's never too late.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Plum Blossoms

I know I've already said this, but I just love spring. I love all the flowers. I'm not a huge fan of all the RAIN, but rain brings flowers so I'll get over it.

We have a plum tree out by our front sidewalk that is so beautiful right now. The little white blossoms are so gorgeous and dainty. Next will be the leaves, then the plums. Elli loves this tree. It's small enough she can climb it and she likes picking the plums when they're ripe. She doesn't really like eating them, just picking them.

We haven't had much blue sky lately, but the plants and flowers don't seem to mind.




Almost looks like snow doesn't it? Thank goodness it's not!

"The Plum Blossoms" by Henri Mattisse, 1948 

I learned from my friends at Wiki that the tree originates from China. Some blossoms are pink like in the Matisse painting, some are white, and some are red. Our flowers are as white as snow.

I just love looking at this painting. It almost makes me want to try and paint something. Almost.

**Note: As far as I can tell from Wiki, I'm ok to use the image of this Matisse painting here, something about public domain. But if one of my 15 readers has an issue let me know and I'll yank it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Chip Cookies

Yesterday was a rainy, gray Sunday. So Elli and decided to make some cookies. We were too lazy to leave the house so we were going to use what we had. The plan was to make Chocolate Chip Cookies. But once we got to the kitchen we discovered we were out of chocolate chips. Boo. We have a huge box of truffles in the pantry that were from Christmas (which haven't been opened) so we thought we would chop them up and use them to make Chocolate Truffle Chip Cookies.

Seems like a good idea, right? Simple enough to chop up truffles and use them in place of chips. Well, let me tell you, we're keeping it real here at "What's Cooking?" and it's definitely NOT a good idea. In fact it's a really, really, bad idea. I'm no cooking scientist but something funky happened in the oven and out of the oven popped this!!!

This is how they looked going in.


And this is how they looked after 10 minutes. Holy schnikes! This is not cool at all. Elli and I were very sad.  What to do, what to do? We've only baked six cookies.  


We called Don into the kitchen. "DON! There's something wrong with the oven. Look at the cookies!!!" Because it couldn't possibly be something we did in mixing the dough. He immediately broke off a chunk and said, "Well, they taste good." That's like telling the lonely girl at the dance, "Well at least you look pretty."  I want it all!  I want them to taste good AND look good. Is that so much to ask for?

Elli was a good sport about it.


THE COOKIE IS AS BIG AS ELLI's FACE. We were laughing so hard. We were bummed, but it was funny. The cookies were a huge disaster. 

So instead of tossing the dough, we decided to cram it into a brownie pan and bake it. Hoping for a miracle as you can see. Not sure what we we thought would happen, but baking them was now the plan. And here is the result. Another BUST.


So, instead of having yummy cookies to snack on all week we have nuthin. No cookies. No brownies. No new recipe creation to brag about.

Which gets me thinking. How many times does it take a recipe maker/chef/cook to create something until they get it right?  Obviously, I'm not a recipe maker. I'm a hopeful recipe follower. I'm not sure I could take the dissapointment! We had such high hopes. And then CRASH.

Lucky for me and the family I stick pretty close to recipes. I may make a minor tweak but that's it. Because I'm OBVIOUSLY no recipe creator, and have complete respect for those that do. So thank you to my favorite bakers and chefs out there: Martha Stewart, Nancy Silverton, Ina Baumgarten, Giada De Laurentis, Bobby Flay, Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin...there are so many of you that I follow. Thank you. I owe you big time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena

Last weekend we went to Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena for lunch. We had two reasons to go there. One, was for lunch. (duh) The restaurant had just opened the day before so we wanted to check it out. The second, was to check out the cushions Pollin's had made for their patio to see how they looked.

Everything was fantastic - the lunch and the cushions! I highly recommend it for lunch or dinner. If you go at lunch you can check out their flower and plant nursery and visit with their sweet chickens. If you go in the evening you can hang out at one of their awesome bars. They have one inside and one outside.

They have an amazing wine list. They serve their own Long Meadow Ranch wine and other wines along with a full bar (I think.) We each had a glass of Cab with lunch and it was quite tasty.



Looks pretty comfy, huh?

This is the place to have a glass of wine and hang out. That is a bar at the far end. I wonder if you can reserve a rocker?

The food is really, really good. The flavor of the food is so fresh and tasty because they use the freshest, farm-stand vegetables available. You'll wonder why all restaurants don't do this. It will be one of the those meals that you just savor every bite and look forward to the next visit.

Plus the decor is really cool inside and out. The attention to detail with the light fixtures and the use of wood and granite and metal is very rustic yet contemporary at the same time.





View from our dining table looking into the garden/nursery.

We started out their their cheesy biscuits which were so light and fluffy we couldn't stop eating them.  Then we had the beef special of the day - Grass-Fed Sirloin steak with Chimichurri sauce, crispy potatoes and a salad made of watercress. ooooooooooooooh so good. The steak was so tender it was like cutting butter. I couldn't eat the whole thing, probably because I had too many biscuits, so I have some yummy leftovers. Woo hoo! Of course we couldn't leave without dessert. We shared a piece of Meyer Lemon pie. Which was really, really good. It had home-made graham cracker crust, meringue, sweet and tangy lemon, mmm, mmm, mmm. I didn't get a picture. You'll just have to trust me.

This place is going to start getting really busy, so I highly recommend making a reservation.

How many restaurants have fresh flowers and vegetables right outside the window. And the cutest chickens? And yes, spring is here in Northern California. Come on out! The flowers are blooming and it's a beautiful thing.





Farmstead Restaurant and Winery at Long Meadow Ranch
738 Main Street (next door to Tre Vigne)
St. Helena, CA 94574

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beautiful Napa Scenery

One of the things that I really love about Napa is the scenery. I love the hills and the vineyards. But sometimes it's the simplest things that are the most beautiful. Like the mustard plants that are in bloom right now. Add a cute little smile, or a country home, and it's just spectacular.

Elli's good friend Susana.

BFF's Susana and Elli screaming because they saw some ants. "Sit still" I yell, "we're almost done!" And then an ant bit me.  Nice.

I took this one as were were flying by on our way back to Napa from St. Helena. I love how the motion blurred the mustard flowers. 

Are you ready to come visit????

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snickerdoodle, Snickerdoodle, what a funny name!

I love Snickerdoodles. I also love to laugh, and the name Snickerdoodle makes me smile and laugh. It's a silly name for a super duper yummy cookie.

I had an up and down day yesterday and so did Don. So I decided I would make Snickerdoodles when I got home. Even before I started dinner - I wanted to make the cookies. One thing I love about these cookies is that I ALWAYS have the ingredients on hand - flour, sugar, butter, cream of tarter, cinnamon, you know, basic pantry stuff. So anytime we're craving a sweet treat we can always whip up a batch of Snickerdoodles.

Cinnamon is a key ingredient in Snickerdoodles. I buy my cinnamon from Penzeys Spices. They have all kinds of Cinnamon. I used Penzeys Chinese Cassia for the cookies. Really nice cinnamon flavor. The color is a bit darker which is why the cookies look so golden.

I don't have a Penzeys store nearby like I did in Connecticut. So now I order on-line, which isn't a bad thing. They usually throw in a freebie spice with your order, which is nice, and such a great marketing idea.

I have a recipe that I've been using for a while. It's an easy dough to work with - not too sticky, easy for kids to use, too. But you have to watch the cooking time. You do not want to over-bake Snickerdoodles. In fact, it's preferable to under-bake them. We like the cookie to be soft and not hard and crisp.

So if you're craving some cinnamon goodness here's the recipe for you. Click Snickerdoodles and watch people smile when you ask them "Would you like a Snickerdoodle?"


2 3/4 cups all-purpose four
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs
1 1/2 + 1/4 cup sugar, plus more if needed
2 t. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 400ยบ with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
2. Sift together dry ingredients: flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
3. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small scoop (1 1/4 oz) to form balls of dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in the center and begin to crack, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. Store in an airtight container.
4. I move the cookies off the cookie sheet immediately to cool so they don't get too crisp. We like them soft!!! 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wilfred's Top 10 BevMo 5c Sale Wine List

Ok. That's a long title. But that's exactly what I'm about to share with you. It's the BEST valentine I could possibly give everyone I know. Ok, all the peeps over 21 that is. It's Wilfred's Top 10 list of wines that are in the current 5c sale.

Who is Wilfred you ask? (gasp!) He's the Cellarmaster at BevMo. He's a wine master, all around funny guy, quite the foodie and my friend.

So shoppers, get your cart ready.......and remember, the price I have listed is for the first bottle. The second bottle is JUST 5 CENTS. If that doesn't make your heart flutter than I don't know what will. Well, I can think of something, but I'm not going there!!!!

Wilfred's Top 10 List

1. '08 Powder Keg Zinfandel, $19.99 - 91 PTS Wilfred Wong
2. '07 Kenwood Zinfandel, $27.99 - 91 PTS Wilfred Wong
3. '07 Line 39 Petite Sirah, $14.99 - 90 PTS Wilfred Wong
4. '08 Zolo Gaucho Unoaked Chardonnay, $15.99 - 90 PTS Wilfred Wong
5. '08 Fortress Sauvignon Blanc, $14.99 - 90 PTS Best Buy, Wine Enthusiast
6. '08 Bivio Pinot Grigio, $14.99 - 90 PTS Wilfred Wong
7. '07 Hahn Syrah, $14.99 - Gold Medal, 2010 SF Chronicle Wine Comp
8. '08 Unruly Red, $11.99 - 89 PTS Wilfred Wong
9. NV Kumbaya Red Table Wine, $9.99 - 88 PTS Wilfred Wong
10. NV Barefoot Bubbly Chardonnay Champagne, $7.99 - Double Gold Medal, 2009 SF Int'l Wine Comp 9

So there you have it. You can start shopping now at I think they have some booty on sale too. Pirate's Booty that is. Ha.

Oh Happy Day!

Wilfred, thank you so much for your list. Here's a link to Wilfred's blog on with his review of Powder Keg Zinfandel.

And to Don and Elli, Happy Heart Day!! I love you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm in Cheeseburger Heaven

I was craving a cheeseburger yesterday. I didn't want a fast food burger, I wanted a home-made burger on sourdough toast with carmelized onions, a big, fat, tomato slice, and swiss cheese. And I knew I wanted french fries and coleslaw too. Hopefully the rest of the family will be happy with this!

aaaaaaah..... so juicy and delicious. It totally hit the spot.

Doesn't it look good? I want to grab it right now and take a bite. The carmelized onions were so sweet and delish on the burger. I'm actually making my mouth water as I talk about this burger and stare at the photo. And carmelized onions are so easy to make. Slice up an onion (I used a red onion) throw them in a non-stick pan with a teeny bit of butter and let them cook until they are golden brown and sticky-like. This will probably take about 15 minutes.

Of course Elli didn't want a burger for dinner. Kids. I usually make her eat what we're eating but I just didn't have the energy to argue with her. So I baked a breaded chicken breast for her (with the Ore Ida Country fries) and she was happy.

I have to tell you too, the coleslaw was fantastic, too. No picture. But all you need are two things. A bag of shredded cabbage or broccoli. I've been using the broccoli mix - love it. And for the dressing use Marie's Coleslaw dressing. It is so good. It has the right amount of sweetness and tanginess. And it tastes homemade. Love that. I've taken it to parties and people ask for the recipe. hee hee hee.

Of course we had wine too. A nice glass of Mark West Pinot Noir. Yes, I drank Pinot and liked it. And yes, I probably had more than one glass. It was Friday night after all.

All this talk of food has made me hungry. Must eat now. Bye.