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!

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