Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's my blogiversary!

Can you believe it?

I've been blogging for 3 years!

It all started with a post about Pork Chops. Now I occasionally get paid to write a post. I've been invited to be on Anderson Cooper, people send me things to write about (like wine!) I went to the Napa Valley Film Festival and got to meet Adrien Grenier (hello gorgeous), attended BlogHer Food and the Wine Sisterhood conference.

Crazy, right!!?

And so fun.

I'm a Member of the Clever Girls network where I'm friends with some really cool cats, including a girl named CAT!

I've written sponsored posts for the Napa Valley Film Festival, Heart of Haiti, Cheerios, Star Olive Oil, Sante Nuts, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Yahoo, Marzetti Salad Dressing, Cube Dog and Walgreens.

I joined a writing club called The Red Dress Club which then evolved into Write on Edge. It became much more than a writing club for me. I made real friends.

I was featured in the Marin IJ Newspaper in January. A mind blowing and very cool experience.

I've run into people in the grocery store who have commented on my recipes. I have to tell you, it kind of made me laugh. I know my blog is called "What's Cooking?" but let's be real. That's really not my strength!!!

The blog started because I wanted to learn how to blog for my client. I like to eat and drink wine so that's why I named it what's cooking. Fast forward three years and I finally have a blog in the works for BevMo! Yay!

I could never, ever, have predicted I would be where I am today when I started this little project. I can hardly wait to see what the next three years brings!

Thanks to all of you for following me, commenting, and being the best friends and family a girl could have. I love you all!



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adoption: The Road to Kyra

I have a guest post today!!! Please read this essay by my friend Karen Lynch.

Karen and Kyra
We met about 6 years ago at a China girls playgroup shortly after we moved from Connecticut to California. She has written a story about her adoption experience and is looking to get it published.

Please vote for her essay on Facebook. The winner of the contest will get to meet with a book publisher! Click here to link to the story, then click the "like" button at the end of the story.

Thank you!

# # # # #

The Road to Kyra
by Karen Lynch

“Look, Mommy! Lil Sis. “

Aidan pointed to the personalized license plate on the car ahead as we drove to school. We had been searching everywhere for signs that his baby sister would soon join our family, our variation of I Spy.

The wait seemed interminable. There were, of course, the reams of paperwork. Then, countless referrals we had extracted from friends and employers, people willing to testify we were a wholesome, or at least, wholesome-ish family. Next came the home study. After a frenzy of cleaning, we welcomed a social worker to scrutinize our house, and interview our biological sons.

But the biggest obstacle to bringing home our baby girl from China was my husband. Greg, nearly 50, said he was done parenting small children. Our boys were finally self-sufficient, and Greg was ready to find a large comfortable spot on the couch and vegetate.

Parents adopting from China speak of the red thread, an invisible string connecting the future parent to an orphan on the other side of the world. A red thread had mysteriously woven itself through my heart, though I had no idea how it had happened. But it felt no different from being pregnant with a long-desired baby. I was certain my daughter was in China, and I was relentless in my quest to bring her home.

Greg, however, was not experiencing the red thread phenomenon. A fiscal conservative, he had calculated most of the foreseeable moves in our lives. Adopting a child was not one of the foreseeable moves on his flowchart.

I tried to unravel the red thread from my heart. With my husband so adverse to the idea, wouldn’t it be foolhardy to risk my marriage for this stranger? But my daughter was not a stranger. Though I had yet to see her photograph, she was inexplicably as real to me as Keenan and Aidan, our ten and seven year old sons.

When he realized I would not relent, Greg agreed to couple’s counseling. Susan was nearly Greg’s age, and her adopted multi-racial toddlers played harmoniously in the backyard with their older siblings during our sessions. Our counselor’s parental status was a fortunate coincidence, not, as Greg jokingly accused, part of my diabolical plan. Greg expressed his concerns. Would she be healthy? Would she have some obscure medical condition? Suffer from attachment disorder? These were valid considerations. Finally, he allowed me to begin the paperwork, with the caveat that he reserved the right to change his mind. There was no enthusiasm in Greg’s surrender, but I took the small victory and ran with it.

Aidan was dieing for a little sister. He imagined she would adore him, and he would share his vast years of life experience with her. Keenan was neutral, willing to go along with any path we chose.
Because Greg’s agreement felt so tenuous, I began reaching out to God, the universe, or anyone else out there who might be interested: Please help me bring Kyra home.

In desperation, never before a spiritualist, I called upon Greg’s mother. Grandma Bee died two weeks after Keenan’s birth. My mother-in-law and I had a close, if too brief, relationship. She often told me though she adored her sons, she had always longed for a daughter. Bee will understand, I thought. Who knows? Maybe she can help me from the after-world? I teased Greg that I now had his mom in my corner.

And so for months, as Greg waffled, I petitioned Bee to help bring her son around. Aidan and I gained courage whenever we encountered the Lil Sis car on the road. We cheered with excitement the day we passed a car with the plate: Kyra. Twenty months passed. I thought of Kyra constantly, and the idea that Greg might back out gnawed painfully at my stomach.

Finally, in August, the adoption facilitator called us. At the sound of his voice we each ran to grab an extension in a different room.

“You have a baby,” said Norman, speaking quickly. “In Jiang-xi province, 15 months old.  Abandoned in cardboard box at 10 days old.  Birth mother left note with birth date and time, June 19. Travel date is September 13th.”

I put down the phone and met Greg in the hallway. This was it. If he backed out now, could I ever forgive him? As he embraced me, my 6 foot, 210 –pound, lug of a husband was crying. I braced myself, certain he was about to hit me with the devastating news that he simply could not do it.

“What?” I said.

“Did you hear her birthday?”

“Yes, June 19th.”

“That was Mom’s birthday,” he said.

His surrender was complete. A month later, Kyra would be in our arms.

# # #

Thank you for your vote!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My lottery plan.

Have you ever thought about what you would do with your lottery winnings when you win?



Of course you have. Everyone has. It's fun to dream about all the things you'd buy or do with the money.

I've had this really strong feeling about the lottery lately. It could be because it's been in the news. I don't know, I just had this feeling I should buy a ticket.

So I did.

How cool would it be if I won!

I know exactly what I'd do with the money.

1. Pay off our debts.
2. Pay off the mortgages of our immediate family members - my parents, my sister, brothers, my nieces and nephews, brother and sister-in-laws
3. I would buy us a house.
4. Set up a trust for Kiddo! here in Mill Valley.
5. Set up a college scholarship for kids that want to study the arts - dance, music and art.
6. Set up a foundation for small business. I would want us to be like AFLAC. We're there for you in emergencies. We would give 1x only "gifts" to help out when times are tough.
7. Pay for my mother-in-laws retirement care
8. Buy Don a new car
9. Go shopping for new stuff. For. Sure. And it won't be at TJMAXX.

I told Elli my plan, up through #7,  and she thought I was nuts.

"Why would you give away all the money? That's crazy." She was looking at me like I really had the money and had indeed gone crazy.

"Elli, we'd have so much money we wouldn't need it all. I would love to give back to people that need it. Plus, I'm just saying what I would do IF I won."

She sat there thinking about this.

"Okay." she said with a sigh. Will you buy me something?

"Elli, remember, we haven't won yet. This is only make believe." sigh

"I want an iphone 4G. Will you get that for me?" she said smiling.

I want to be back in 5th grade where all I want is a phone.

"Yes. I promise to buy you an iphone if we win."

Someone has to win. Why not me?

# # # 

I just checked the lottery website.

We didn't win.

wah waaaah.

In fact there were no winners for the Mega Millions drawing.

I really thought we were going to win. Maybe I am crazy! My gut told me we were going to win.

Totally misread that one. And now I'm out ten bucks. Damn.

The estimated cash value is now $341 million.

hmmm. More like $341,000,010.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wine Blending at Conn Creek in Napa

Have you ever gone on a trip and done something so fun you can't stop thinking about it? That's what this wine blending experience was for me! I got to play wine maker for a day. Pure heaven!!!!

It was an amazing experience that I got to share with all my new Wine Sisterhood friends.

I wasn't exactly sure what "blending your own wine meant." Would we be climbing on barrels drawing samples with a syringe? Would we be holding our glass up to big tanks grabbing a sip? My mind was full of ideas on how this might work.

We were quickly taken from our bus to the AVA room at Conn Creek which was beautifully set with barrels lining the walls, wine glasses on the table, brochures and pens carefully layed out, and a nice little taste of wine waiting for us. 

Aaaaaah, this is what they meant. I pictured something much more rustic.

Silly me.

We started out by tasting the Cabernet from Conn Creek. Everyone loved it.

All of us immediately thought, "ooooh, I want to make wine just like this." The challenge of duplicating what their master wine maker created was on all of our minds. After tasting a few barrels we all quickly realized it was going to be much harder to duplicate that Cabernet than at first it seemed.

That didn't stop us from trying! We got right in there and started tasting. It was a little overwhelming at first. But after getting a few sips everyone got into it and started bouncing from barrel to barrel. We all diligently wrote notes about each and every one so we could go back when it came time to blend.

My strategy was to mix a little bit of all my favorites.  I was finally ready to fill my beaker. I had calculated what percentage of each would make the perfect blend.

I filled the beaker, then poured it in my glass. I sniffed it, swirled it, then tasted it. It was awful! It was really earthy. And you know how I feel about earthy wine.  I must have mixed up my notes, because I never would have picked an earthy wine as a favorite.

I quickly started over, this time going back to my favorites for a quick taste to make sure I still favored them. I then added more of the "spice" wines which are Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to give it the flavor I wanted. I finally liked the result and was ready to fill a big beaker.

The next step is to grab one of these wine bottles and a funnel. COOL!!


Once it's full you bring it to this handy contraption which pops the cork right in. Then it's time to name your wine and make the label.

I named my wine Clickety Clack Cabernet. I kind of forgot to put Cabernet on the label. Oh well.

It will be ready to open Memorial Day weekend. I can't wait to taste it!!!!!

If you're planning a visit to St. Helena make sure you book a visit to Conn Creek AVA tasting room. I've done a lot of wine tasting since moving to the Bay Area. But this was one of the most unique tasting experiences I've ever had. I'll never forget it, and would love to do it again with Don and my family.

It's no surprise they received the honor of winning the International "Best of Wine Tourism" award. The place is awesome. 

Conn Creek Tasting Room
Sun-Fri 11:00am-4:00pm
Sat 11:00am-5:00pm

8711 Silverado Trail, St. Helena CA 9457
1.800.793.7960 // 707.963.9100 ext. 1

I'd like to give a big shout out to the Wine Sisterhood and Conn Creek for this amazing experience.

Thank you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Redd Wood Restaurant in Yountville

Home-made pasta at Redd-Wood.
Have any plans this weekend?

Head to Yountville and check out Redd Wood Restaurant. The space is super cool. The food is farm fresh and delicious, service was friendly and efficient, the wine list and cocktail list is interesting and inventive, and the booth was mighty comfy.

Oh, and they will make an amazing bowl of pasta with butter for the kids if you ask.

I love doors. And they have a beautiful door on the side of the building.


Gorgeous booth by Pollin's Interiors!

Interior design by Erin Martin Design in St. Helena.
the wine list

Don enjoying a glass of vino
Elli and her Shirley Temple
Asparagus, onion, prosciutto, and a fried egg. SO DEEELISH!

So what else is on the menu you ask?

They have delicious appetizers and meat and cheese plates, brick oven pizzas, salads, pasta, sandwiches and entrees like roasted quail, ribeye, braised oxtail, grilled snapper and some pretty tasty sweets on the dessert menu. The most intriguing item? The limited availability RW burger which is only available after 9pm. Sounds perfect after a day of wine tasting!!!

You can check out their full menu here.

Pizza, pasta and sandwiches $10-$16
Entrees $24-$28/pp

Yountville has become a mecca for amazing cuisine. You could definitely spend a whole week exploring restaurants in this teeny tiny town.

6755 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94559

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tasting wine like a pro

I taste wine all the time, but I'm no pro.

I just like wine.

Don and I are always trying something new. In fact, we hardly ever buy the same thing twice. And now that I work for BevMo! I get even more opportunities to try wine.

One thing I'm still learning to do is pair wine and food together for a harmonious union.

When it's done right everything tastes so much better. When it's done wrong, it can be really wrong. You might think there is something wrong with the food, or the wine. When the reality is they were not meant to be together. Kind of like Ben and Courtney. No, wait, they deserve each other. More like Sandra Bullock and Jesse James or Demi and Ashton. I knew they would never work out.

I participated in a really fun wine + food pairing session at the Wine Sisterhood conference a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to share it with you. It's simple to do and would be fun with a bunch of friends. You just need 5 bottles of wine and a simple plate of food to do the exercise.

The tasting was led by Leslie Sbrocco, famous wine aficionado, judge, TV host of Check Please Bay Area, founder of Thirsty Girl, and really funny lady. She had us in stitches with her Kathy Lee Gifford stories.

Leslie Sbrocco
We looked at the wine, swirled it, smelled it and of course tasted it. No vigorously sloshing it around or slurping. That's weird. Just a quick swirl to open up the wine, sniff and sip.

Everyone enjoyed mixing and matching the different wines with the different foods on the plate to see what tasted good together, and what tasted great together. Nothing tasted bad. In fact, we all the loved the nutty Parmesan sample so much we all wanted more.

They poured us a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Noir and Cabernet. The food was a lemon, strawberry, Parmesan cheese, honey and another cheese which I didn't taste because I thought it might be goat cheese and that is one cheese I don't eat. baaaaaah

There's no right or wrong way to do this. The idea is to try the different wine flavors with sweet and salty items so you can taste how they work together.

Give it a try with some friends and let me know what you think!

I like the thirsty girl logo and tag line so much I joined the crusade. Now I'm a thirsty girl. Click the logo to find out more about what the thirsty girls are doing.

**This is not a sponsored post. I'm just a goofball, giving them a plug.**

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wine Coasters

 How fun are these coasters?

And this wine stopper?

Elli and I arm wrestled over the coasters to pick our favorite.

She got swirl.

I got smile.

Don got nuthin'. He didn't want to play. That's how we roll around here.

I got the pack of coasters and stopper in my goody bag from the Wine Sisterhood conference. They were donated by The Spit Bucket, which just happens to be based in Napa! I love home-town goodies.

I love goody bags.

They're only $19.99 for the set. Don't you think they would make a great gift?!

Shop here for your very own coasters and other cool stuff. >>> TheSpitBucket

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Updated post in 2017 when I realized my BevMo! images were no longer there since they deleted the amazing blog I created for them. waah.

Jameson, Ginger and Lime
I've been pinning and promoting Irish cocktails, food and treats all week. I feel like I've done St. Patrick's day for about 10 days now.

There is one recipe that has been on my mind.

The shamrock shake. Dang you McDonald's.

I found this knock-off recipe on Real Simple. I'm pretty sure some ice cream is in my future.

Don is not a big fan of corned beef and cabbage, which is a bummer. I love it. He hates it. The mere thought of boiled meat and stinky cabbage makes him shiver. So if I want it I'll have to go somewhere else to get it.

I really don't want the house smelling like cabbage anyway. Plus now that I really think about it boiling meat is pretty gross and weird.

Here are some of the things I've seen this week that look really yummy. 

Guinness, Whiskey & Irish Cream Cupcake from Brown Eyed Baker
Midleton Mule with Jameson

What are you making? 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley

Remember when I wrote about the Zinfandel festival about a month ago? Well I've been meaning to circle back and tell you about some of my favorites, but I've been busy working and goofing around on Pinterest and haven't gotten to it.

It's a good thing I took pictures of everything I tasted or I would never have remembered. This is a good tip for everyone out there. If you're in a restaurant and love the wine just grab a quick picture. There are some great wine apps you can use to organize your favorites but I'm not that organized. It's just one more thing.

When I came home and told Don how much I loved what I tasted he didn't really respond. He's not a big fan of zin. So I went to the store and picked up two bottles of the Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Zinfandel.

"You have to try this. You're going to love it." I told him.

I poured him a big glass.

He swirled it. Sniffed it. Tasted it.


I'm staring at him.

"Do you like it?" I ask.

"It doesn't take like Zin." he said. "It's good. I like it."

Duh, I told him it was awesome. Sheeesh. 

"I know, right? It's not totally jammy and heavy. It's awesome."

Seriously though, I knew he would like it because it's a blend of Zinfandel and Sirah. The two grapes are perfectly suited for each other. The Sirah give the Zinfandel grape a really nice spicy zip.

As I tasted my way around the festival I realized I really liked all the wines from Dry Creek. So my friend Rachel and I just stayed focused on trying those because she loved them too.

Here's a list of my favorites and pictures of all the labels. There were some from Lodi and Napa that I liked too. But pay close attention to those from Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma. Those were my favorites.


Main & Geary is a private label wine only sold at BevMo!
This one too. Although the Zynthesis is from Lodi.

Peju - Napa Valley

Dry Creek Zinfandel

SALDO - made by Orin Swift

If you're out and about in a wine shop, or in a restaurant, give one of these a try and let me know what you think! I may start a "I LOVE DRY CREEK VALLEY" club. You could be my first member.