ad hoc chocolate chip cookies

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It’s been almost three weeks since I came back from Sonoma and Napa Valley. I’m still longing for that great wine and, of course, more Thomas Keller treats! The easiest ad hoc recipe to find and make on a whim where these ad hoc chocolate chip cookies. The recipe calls for two types of chocolate and surprisingly no vanilla. The best part is that you don’t need to soften your butter beforehand, as the recipe has you beat the butter into submission in your stand mixer! Yay! You can find the recipe here.

Oh, and don’t worry. I’ll be posting my ffwD make-up dish early next week!

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I’M BACK!

After spending a relaxing week in Sonoma and Napa Valley, where the wine flowed freely, the evenings passed coolly, and time ticked by just a little slower, I’m back to real life here in Chicago. Although I usually don’t post photos of my trips (e.g. Hawaii), I did ask the blogging community for suggestions on where to go/where to stay/where to eat while in Wine Country, so I had to share. Here are some highlights!

-In Sonoma:
20130721_105918 Gundlach Bundschu Winery hosted the GunBunFunRun, the main reason for my trip. The race start was on the winery’s property (in the distance) with a wine station set up 100 yards from the starting line (just to the right of the foreground)!

20130724_090908 Here’s the Sonoma farmhouse where we stayed for three nights. It had an awesome deck which made for lovely breakfasts and dinners.

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20130724_090534 The property also grows its own wine grapes right behind the deck, which produces about 200 bottles of wine every other year.

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Grilling was paramount for meals we made at the farmhouse, even dessert! 20130722_204945

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Although I did manage to bake one thing: Fine Cooking’s heirloom tomato and cheese pie made with homemade biscuit dough. 20130723_200244

We also found this hidden gem in the Sonoma town square for lunch. 20130723_134523

Sonoma ended with dinner at the girl & the fig. 20130724_175606 A special thanks goes out to Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva, who sent me a bundle of helpful information and recommendations for my Sonoma trip, including recommending the girl & the fig!

-In Napa:
Robert Mondavi Winery. By far my favorite winery during this trip. I’m a pretty big nerd, so I loved taking the specialized educational tours and tastings. 20130722_095559

20130722_104600 This is Doug. He conducted our wine tastings basics class. Although I’m pretty familiar with how to taste wine, it’s always good to learn other methods, as he encouraged us to do. Doug and the class were informative and entertaining. I mean, it’s wine. How is it not entertaining?

20130722_121618 This is David. He hosted our exclusive cellar tasting which was held in one of the two tasting rooms in the cellar itself. This tasting included a cheese and charcuterie accompaniment. David was very knowledgable of the wine and the area. One of wines, a 2005 cabernet sauvignon reserve, was so impressive that a couple of investment bankers bought a case to ship home to New York. Because of Doug and David, my friend and I both joined Robert Mondavi’s wine club. We’ll be receiving special Mondavi wines four times a year starting in September!

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20130725_122124 This is Richard Miami, a native Napton. He lead our signature tour and tasting. His energy and excitement made you want to spend the rest of the day at Robert Mondavi. Although our tour was supposed to feature only three wines, he threw in an extra tasting of Mondavi’s moscato d’oro! I highly recommend requesting Doug, David, or Richard Miami as one of your guides.

And how do you spend time in Napa without stopping off in Yountville for some of Thomas Keller’s cuisine? 20130721_211134 ad hoc for dinner.

20130725_110826 addendum for a picnic lunch featuring his famous buttermilk fried chicken.

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Bouchon Bakery for a pain au chocolat, a chocolate chip cookie… 20130725_114732

… and six giant macarons: espresso, vanilla, hazelnut, coconut, pistachio, and caramel. 20130725_114915

There were so many other stops we made, including Cakebread Cellars, Oakville Grocery, B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards & The Olive Press, and approximately 36 hours in San Francisco that I didn’t cover here. But, overall, it was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to go back!

IN WINE COUNTRY!

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Sonoma and Napa Valley to be exact. See you in a week!

A Moment to Reflect

Sandy Hook Elementary

The tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting is horrific, painful, and senseless. But the fact that most of the victims were children not much older than my two nieces is especially difficult for me to swallow. During this holiday season, please hug your family members just a little bit tighter. Just because.

HAPPY EASTER!

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy holiday!

Homemade Vanilla Bean & Lavender Cupcakes

Fresh strawberry garnish

Organic mint leaf garnish

Organic lavender garnish

TwD: White Loaves from Baking with Julia

Hooray! This is my first week participating in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group, who accomplished the phenomenal task of baking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours cookbook. Now, the TwD group is tackling Baking with Julia, also written by Dorie Greenspan.

Our first assignment was to bake white loaves. This recipe makes two regular-sized bread loaves, but one of my loaf pans didn’t survive the move. So, I made one regular-sized and four mini-loaves.

I was very excited to try my hand at yeast-dough baking in my new place, so I set aside a whole Saturday afternoon to work on the recipe. I took extra care and followed the instructions to a tee, including making sure the room temperature was perfect during the dough’s second rise. Yeah, I went there. And, the precautions paid off because this was my first truly successful attempt at yeast bread where I didn’t feel the need to make excuses for my final product! These loaves were definitely worth the time and effort, which wasn’t as bad as I thought, and they tasted pretty delicious. I’ve used the bread for sandwiches, toast, tartine and even as an onion soup topper!

As an aside, I’d like to do a little plug for my blog because it’s the Featured Food Blog of the Day for Tuesday, February 7th on Foodista.com!

My post on Nigella Lawson’s red pepper hummus will be featured on Foodista’s homepage, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Because of this honor, I set up a Facebook page for Yummy Chunklet here! I would love for everyone to do the Facebook thing and like me, comment on my wall, and drool over my photos! I’ll be doing mini-updates on dishes I’m working on and posting teaser photos of the same. Also, let me know if you have a Facebook page, and I’ll like you as well!

To see how other bloggers fared with Julia Child’s white loaves, check out the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. Or, head over to this week’s hosts, Laurie or Jules, to get the recipe.

Foodista Food Blog of the Day!

Great news! Today, Alisa from Foodista informed me that my blog had been chosen as the Foodista Food Blog of the Day for Tuesday, February 7, 2012! On that day, my post, Nigella’s Red Pepper Hummus, will be featured on the Foodista homepage for 24 hours, and Foodista will be posting shoutouts of my blog on their Facebook and Twitter pages. How exciting is that?

I think this is a sign that I should create a Yummy Chunklet Facebook page. Actually, I’ve been contemplating the idea for awhile ever since I was chosen by Tom Hynes as a featured food blog on PR Newswire’s blog, Beyond PR. So, while the Yummy Chunklet Facebook page is under construction, please make sure to check out Foodista on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 when I’ll be the Foodista Food Blog of the Day! A big thanks to Alisa and everyone at Foodista for this honor!

HAPPY NATIONAL BUNDT DAY!

November 15th is National Bundt Day. And in honor of her love for bundt cake, Mary the Food Librarian has been making a bundt cake everyday for the past 30 days! She invited food bloggers to join in the festivities and post a bundt cake today as well. Last year, I joined the festivities and made a bear claw bundt cake!

This year, I made a cinnamon pear pistachio bundt cake, which is a twist on Cooking Light magazine’s apple-cinnamon bundt cake.

This recipe was a snap to assemble. My only slight worry was pouring the final layer of batter over the pear-pistachio mixture as the cake batter isn’t very spreadable. But, a few delicate turns with a spatula did the trick.

The cake turned out great, and I received a lot of happy reviews from my office staff and the Afternoon Drive Crew!

On a side note, I was recently a featured food blog on PR Newswire! I was thrilled at this honor and couldn’t have been happier with Tom Hynes’ review. (Read here.) Make sure to check out PR Newswire for Bloggers as it has several resources to help market your blog!

Also, head over to Mary the Food Librarian’s blog to see this year’s round-up! Happy National Bundt Day!

The Liebster Blog Award & My Blogaversary!

Recently, A Dash of Sugar and Spice awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. This award is for “blogs you like who have less than 200 subscribers, and who you feel should have more.” Since we all can’t be The Pioneer Woman, I’m truly honored that my little blog has been given this award! I appreciate any award I’m given, even if I don’t always pass them on. However, this one is special since it shines the spotlight on “the little guy”. I’ve always seen my blog as a fun diversion; an extension of the enjoyment I find from just being in the kitchen cooking and baking. Any recognition I receive is the icing on the proverbial cake! (Don’t get me wrong, though. If my blog turned into some huge international success story or opened doors to opportunities, I wouldn’t thumb my nose at them!) Anyway, it’s my pleasure to pass the Liebster Blog Award onto these much-deserving bloggers:

Happy Domesticity

Inside a British Mum’s Kitchen
Jasmyne Tea
Ryan Bakes
Tasty Mayhem

To the five bloggers awarded, feel free to pass on the award if you want. You guys deserve boatloads of followers!

With all that aside, October happens to be my blogaversary month. At least, that’s how I’m counting it. Technically, sometime in August 2011 would’ve been my true one-year, but the only comments I received at the beginning were from people I knew. It wasn’t until October 2010 that I received my first comment from someone I didn’t know (Elaine at California Living) thanks to the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group! That being said, I want to do something fun for my first year blogaversary. Every person who comments on this post will be entered in a drawing to receive a $100 Amazon gift card. If you aren’t connected to a blog, leave your email address.

You’ll also notice that I have 53 subscribers. So, those 53 subscribers get an additional chance at winning a separate $100 Amazon gift card. However, my sister (Codename: DSN Engineer) told me that anyone subscribing to my blog via RSS Feed or Google Reader might not appear in my site stats, so let me know in the comments below if you subscribe via RSS Feed or Google Reader, and you’ll be entered in the “Subscribers” drawing as well! And, just for fun, I may even do another gift card for those who newly subscribe to my blog as of this post! The drawing will occur when my sister (Codename: Chunklet’s mom) visits later this month, and I’ll announce the winners on Halloween! The deadline for entry is Sunday, October 30, 2011 at midnight CST. FCC Disclosure: All gift cards were purchased by me.

Seven Link Challenge!

Three Cookies tagged me to take part in a Seven Link Challenge! The concept is simple. Highlight a post of your own in each of the seven categories listed below. Then nominate 5 bloggers to do the same. It’s a chance to show off posts you were particularly proud of or garnered more attention than you expected!

There are only two rules: 1) publish a link specifically for the categories below, and 2) nominate up to 5 bloggers to take part. Here are my chosen links for the following categories:

1. The most beautiful post: In my opinion, hands down, the photos from my Brown Sugar Oatmeal with Roasted Peaches and Pecans post looked amazing.

2. The most popular post: Vanilla Profiteroles for ffwD! I suppose I could’ve gone with the most number of views, but this post garnered the most comments I’ve received so far.

3. The most controversial post: Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce. From reading the comments, I never knew people had such strong opinions over the zester vs. microplane debate!

4. The most helpful post: I overcame my fear of poached eggs with this ffwD post. It helped me learn to like eggs prepared in ways other than scrambled!

5. The post that was surprisingly successful: My failed citrus-berry terrine. Turns out, my fresh kiwi was the culprit for the gelatin not gelling. But, everyone (including myself) seemed okay with the slushy idea!

6. The post that did not get the attention it deserved: The post where I made Julia Child’s Reine de Saba cake. Granted, the photos are crazy looking, and I literally had been blogging for less than three months at this point, but come on! It’s Julia Child! However, now that I’m thinking about it, I’ll probably make this cake again, do another post, and see what kind of response I get. It will be a lot better looking this time around, I promise!

7. The post I am most proud of: Of course, it would be the post dedicated to my niece (Codename: Chunklet) on her second birthday! I’m so proud of her! Plus, I’m proud of myself with the Yo Gabba Gabba cupcakes I made for her because it was my first attempt at making and dyeing marshmallow fondant.

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers to give them a chance to brag about some of their favorite posts they did! I love reading their blogs and would like to find out what their personal favorites were.

1. Roger Stowell at Camerahols/Food, Photography & France. If you haven’t been reading this blog, you’ll be blown away by the amazing photographs and wonderful anectodes.

2. Meri at Meri-Goes-Round. Her current series of posts include topics ranging from television to vacations. Her thoughts are always amusing to me!

3. Greg and Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. I can’t get over the fact that they’re located so close to Arkansas (my home state) even though they live in Texas. It’s such a fun read!

4. Kitchen Belleicious. Speaking of Southern cooking and baking, this blog is one of my favorites. You’ll always find a recipe winner here.

5. Inside a British Mum’s Kitchen. I love reading this blog because it’s interesting to read a different take on a “familiar” dish from some “across the pond”. Love it!

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