11.14.2017

{Travel} A Day at Snow-Line Orchard in Oak Glen, CA

One of the best parts of growing up in the midwest is the fall. The colors, the weather, college football & best of all, trips to the cider mill...it doesn't get any better.  Now, don't get me wrong, living in LA & having almost perfect weather all the time is nothing to complain about. But around this time every year, I always find myself missing the midwest.  Luckily for me, I'm not alone.  One of my dear friends who lives in LA is also a fellow Michigander & bonafide genius. After talking about how much we loved going to cider mills as kids, she discovered Snow-Line Orchard & Winery.  Only a mere 92 miles from my house, Snow-Line had everything we were looking for; cider, doughnuts & fall. 
Ok I cheated..this pic is from last year.  We went a bit later this year & missed some of these insane colors. I definitely recommend going in October!
Midwesterners, if you're looking for a tiny slice of fall in southern CA, LOOK NO FURTHER.  NON MIDWESTERNERS, IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT IT'S LIKE IN THE MIDWEST IN THE FALL, LOOK NO FURTHER.  Sorry, I had to yell because people need to KNOW about this place.  Nestled away in the small mountain town of Oak Glen, is paradise.  The temps dropped a solid 15 degrees by the time we arrived, the colors were vibrant & the doughnuts...THE DOUGHNUTS. 
There's only one flavor of doughnuts (apple cider of course) because you don't need any other flavors.  The best way to enjoy them is straight off the assembly line. When they're hot, they literally melt in your mouth.  I brought J home a dozen & they were still good that evening, but by the end of the 2nd day, they'd lost their magic. So when (not if) you buy these tiny little bites of heaven, plan on eating them that day or the next at the latest.  But really, good luck keeping them in your house for longer than 24 hours. I also brought home a quart of cider, but I wasn't paying any attention & accidentally brought home cherry apple cider.  This is a mistake I do not regret...it was DELICIOUS.
In addition to the beautiful family-owned property & amazing doughnuts, Snow-Line has a wonderful market filled with all kinds of apple & fruit products, baked goods, beverages of all sorts, baking tools...OH & a wine tasting room.  Need I say more?  In addition to my apple treats, I also bought apple salsa & a honey bourbon bbq sauce I plan to use somehow in the crock pot.  You can also get lunch at Snow-Line at their outdoor bbq hut. We were content with our cider & doughnuts, but the brisket sure did smell good.
Snow-Line isn't the only apple orchard in the area.  There are quite a few different orchards & this year, after paying homage to Snow-Line, we wandered over to Los Rios Ranch.  In addition to a similar market, they also had a petting zoo & a corn maze.  This orchard seemed a bit more family oriented as there was a ton more space for kids to run around.  We didn't stick around for too long, but their baked goods looked INSANE.
 Nearby is Oak Tree Village which is a small little town filled with shops, petting zoos (I do have mixed emotions about those) restaurants & whole little community.  But, our favorite stop is this amazing antique shop that was once the village school.  We always have such great success there finding fun vintage items!
Overall, traveling to Oak Glen is quickly becoming my favorite fall activity & I only wish it was closer so I could indulge more often!  Have you been up to Oak Glen? If so, I'd love to hear about your favorite things to do up there!
I mean...this view. 





10.19.2017

{Recipe} Quick & Easy Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip


Updating this 5 year old recipe today! This dip has become SUCH a staple for football games, parties, a random Tuesday...no shame people, no shame.  I love updating old posts because it gives me a chance to re-read where I was in my life when I made various foods.  It's so fun to see how things in my life & this blog have changed!  I hope you enjoy this recipe just as much as I do!

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If you've been following, J & I recently moved into a house! J had the brilliant idea to have a house warming party the 2nd week we were in the house.  I was very excited to try out some new recipes because it's not often I cook/bake for other people.  I was all ready to spend the night before/day of baking & cooking...and then I found out I had to work. Television doesn't stop for parties!

So the next couple recipes that I post were literally made as people were arriving at the house/already drinking & having a grand ol time.  Some I forgot to take pics of the ingredients (this post included...but who really cares about that) and some I forgot to take pics of different steps.  The important part here is the party was a success and all this yummy food I made was gone the next day.

This dip was gone within 30 minutes of me removing it from the oven. Guess I should have made more! What I love about this dip is there is very little prep time. All the ingredients essentially just get mixed together and thrown in the oven. Big thanks to Closet Cooking for the awesome recipe.

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Serves: I don't even know how to answer that
Cook time according to Closet Cooking: 30 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 30 mins!
How difficult was this for Rachel to make? EASY!

Ingredients:
1/2 (10 ounce) pkg frozen spinach, thawed & drained
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained & coarsely chopped
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup shaved parmesan
1/4 cup mozzarella, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix everything in a large bowl & mix well.  If your spinach is frozen, nuke it for a few mins before tossing it in. Works like a charm.
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Spread evenly in baking dish (you can really use any size....I used a quiche dish & took about 5 mins off the baking time since the dish is so shallow.
Bake until the sides are bubbling & the cheese has melted & turned golden brown on top. About 25-30 minutes. Serve!
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10.17.2017

{Travel} Wine Country Part 2

Yesterday I shared the first half of our trip in various parts of the Napa Valley (catch up here.)  These two posts were challenging to write given the current state of Northern California.  The fires have been devastating to watch unfold & it's going to be a long time until the valley can restore & regrow. Unfortunately, one of the wineries I'm sharing about today was completely destroyed by the fires. My heart breaks for the family that owns Paradise Ridge &  all those that have been affected.  Please consider donating to one of the following organizations during this extremely tough time.  I cannot express enough how wonderfully kind & accommodating everyone was to us no matter where we went; it truthfully felt like we were in another country. The people who live & work in the affected areas deserve a gushing post about how amazing our experience was because they are all amazing.

Ok last day of our trip...

Every time I told someone we were taking a trip to Napa we were met with "Oh, you HAVE to go to Sonoma."  So on our last day, we went to Sonoma!  Since we didn't have as much time as I would have liked to really explore, I took the advice of a family friend & booked the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley to take us around to their favorite spots.
The trolley took us to 4 different wineries & included a picnic lunch at one of our stops.  We got lucky & had some awesome people touring with us!  First stop of the day was at Imagery Estate Winery.
Imagery Winery is really unique in that every varietal has a different label designed by an artist. Artists from all over can submit samples of their work & if Imagery feels like they're a good fit, then they work together to create a design. Each bottle was so different & unique!
Let us not discuss the color difference between my legs & J's...
From Imagery, we headed on to their sister winery, Benzinger Family Winery. First, we took a little tram around the property & stopped various times throughout the winery.  We ate grapes straight off the vine & drank Chardonnay smack in the middle of the vineyard ...oh & did I mention the viewers were STUNNING??
Benzinger stores their wine in caves too!
We continued the tasting inside their tasting room & after purchasing a few bottles, we had a nice picnic lunch.  
After lunch we headed on to the Paradise Ridge Tasting Room where we did a chocolate pairing with our wine tasting. Yes, you read that right. CHOCOLATE PAIRING.  AND this was no ordinary chocolate. Each piece was crafted with unique herbs & salts to help bring out the flavors of each wine.  The program was initiated by the best friend of the daughter of the owner of the winery, Annette. She was SO warm & welcoming & even gave us all a complimentary glass of sparkling wine before we started.
A closer look at those chocolates...
This was such a unique experience & it breaks my heart to know that the winery is gone.  But based off their social media, they will rebuild & will be better than ever. 
After Paradise Ridge, we headed to our final tasting at the small family owned winery, Mayo Family Wines
There may have been some rowdy non sober ladies who were encouraging us to take kissing pictures...which we never do because who wants to see that? This one is much prettier.
The trolley dropped us back in the Historic Sonoma Plaza around 4pm. Given that it was our first time in Sonoma, we decided to explore a bit. It is SUCH a cute town with tons of fun little shops...I could have spent an entire day just wandering around!
Of course I had to pop into this little indie bookstore where I walked out with 4 books totaling less than $25 thank you very much.
So it's pretty safe to say J & I fell completely in love with Napa Valley. So much that I've been figuring out how I quit my job, move up there & just drink wine all day.  We were both so sad to leave but cannot wait to plan our next trip there!
Driving to the airport on our way home :(


Overall Tips!
-Do your research!  There are over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley so it can be a bit overwhelming.  We chose to hit some of the larger wineries since this was our first trip & we got to go on some really great tours & learn a ton about wine.  On our next trip, I definitely want to hit some of the smaller wineries & skip the tours. 
-So many places offered multiple tasting & tour options, but things book up quickly.  So make sure if there are specific things you want to do, PLAN AHEAD
-Restaurants book up too! If there are specific spots you've heard of or want to go to, make a reservation & make it early.
-When booking your trip, make sure you plan according to the seasons.  The best time to travel to the wine country is September - November during harvesting season, though beware, this is when prices rise just a bit! 


10.16.2017

{Travel} Wine Country Part 1


So this has been a bit of a difficult post to write.  A few weeks ago, J & I were fortunate enough to spend 2 days in San Francisco (catch up here) & 3 amazingly beautiful & peaceful days in the Napa Valley & Sonoma before the disastrous fires broke out.  I was so excited to share the wineries we toured & food we ate, but after seeing & learning about all the devastation, it seemed a bit frivolous to post about our trip.

After mulling it over for a few days, I decided to go ahead with my original post because we had such a wonderful time, I want everyone to see what an incredibly special place the wine country truly is.  Everyone we met was so kind & so genuinely proud of what they do, it would be a disservice to the people we met, not to share about our fabulous trip. But instead of just simply posting, I'd like to bring a little awareness to some organizations that are seeking help.   Please check out this list of places looking for aid & consider making a donation. Every little bit helps.

It's important to note, all the wineries mentioned in this post & the post tomorrow are currently closed due to the fires. So if you're planning to visit any time soon, please double check the wineries are open!
OK, let's get to it.  We stayed at Hotel Yountville in, well, Yountville.  The hotel was absolutely lovely. It was exactly what you'd expect & want in wine country while being walking distance from town.  These photos do NOT do it justice. Really, just go to the website.
When we left San Francisco, we headed straight for Gott's Roadside in St. Helena.  A staple in wine country, these burgers were SO GOOD & perfect after our trip out of the city.
After we were completely stuffed, we headed over to Round Pond Estate where we had scheduled an olive oil tasting.  We arrived a bit early, so we took advantage of their tasting room & tried some of the wines while enjoying the stunning views.

After the wine tasting, we headed across the street to where the olive oil is made & tasted.  We chose the Mill Tasting experience which included some delicious small bites handcrafted by their insanely talented chef. This was definitely one of the more unique experiences I've had when it comes to olive oil!
First we tasted 4 different oils in the blue jars. Then we moved on to food. Each tiny bite used a different oil. 
Course 1: Burrata with tomatoes, a smoked salmon popsicle & a piece of watermelon & goat cheese. Before you even ask, nope, I don't remember what oil we paired with each treat.
Course 2:   We moved on to 2 different vinegars & tasted them in an incredibly unique way. First, we dipped a sugar cube in the vinegar & quickly sucked the vinegar out before the sugar cube imploded...which does happen.  Then we dipped prosciutto wrapped greens & a little sausage bite in the vinegar for a different type of taste.
Course 3: This was the best of all...desserts!  The sad thing though, they were all so good I don't even remember what we ate.  Clearly there is a fig & there was a lemon custard situation, but does it even matter? Everything below was just delicious.
Tip: If you want to do an olive oil tasting, make a reservation.  The experience is so unique, there were only 4 of us in our tasting & they only do a few tastings each day. So book ahead! If you want to just hit the wine tasting terrace, you don't really need a reservation there.
After finishing up our tasting, we decided to head back over to Yountville & explore the tiny little town.
One of the local jaunts Yountville is known for is Kollar Chocolates. Quite possibly the prettiest little chocolates I've ever seen, I almost felt bad eating them!
For dinner, we went to Bottega in downtown Yountville. Owned by chef, vintner, sustainable farmer, author, & Emmy winning TV host Michael Chirello; let's just say everything we ate basically melted in our mouths. 
Tip: Make a reservation! On a Sunday night, this place was packed. I can only imagine what a Saturday or Friday night would be like.
Chef Chirello's vision of ravioli...heaven. Pure heaven. (Yes, that's an egg in there)
We might have closed down the patio...
On Monday, we began the day hitting the infamous Bouchon Bakery. Any blog, pin, review, website etc. you read about Napa, this bakery is mentioned. We wanted a quite bite before hitting our first tasting, so what sounds better than pastries & coffee?!
Our first tasting of the day was at  Sterling Vineyards. We decided to do the Silver Experience which included a sit down tasting paired with meats & cheeses.  But first, in order to get to the tasting rooms (yes, rooms), we had to take an aerial tram up the side of a giant hill. Seriously, the viewes... 
Once we got to the top, we started with a quick tasting on their lower level.   The staff was so friendly & welcomed us with an extra pour or two. 
Then we headed upstairs to our sit-down tasting on their private outdoor terrace where we tried 4 different select wines paired with the most INSANE cheeses & sliced meats.  Our wine conniseaur Kenny Rogers (yes, that was his name) was SO kind & after I told him I really enjoyed the Chardonnay, he went in back & brought out a reserve Chardonnay that wasn't technically part of our tasting, but he insisted I try it. It was by far the best white wine I've ever had.  But in addition to the wine,  the Prairie Breeze White Cheddar from the Milton Creamery...LIFE CHANGING. Like so life changing I bought cheese off their website. I've never bought cheese off the internet before, but it had to be done.  
After the tasting, we took a self-guided tour of the winery & estate which included 3 more tastings as we traveled throughout the estate. So if you do that math, we were up to somewhere between 8-10 tastings each. 
Harvesting! It seriously smelled so good.
The tour ended on their STUNNING patio where more wine & cheese were available for purchase.
I did NOT want our time at Sterling to end, but we had another tasting we had to get to.
Tip: If you want to do one of the seated tastings, you need to make a reservation in advanced. If you want to just hit their terrace via the tram & take in the incredible views while enjoying a glass of wine & some ridiculous cheeses, no reservation needed!
Up next we headed to the 2nd oldest winery in Napa, Schramsberg Vineyards.  Known for their sparkling wines stored in caves, we had to choose the Cave Tours & Tastings.  We got a tour of their caves where they store up to 2 million bottles at one time. I mean, there were bottles everywhere we looked!
Then we did a seated tasting back in their tasting room where we got to sample 4 different types of bubbles as well as a cabernet because why not?
For dinner, we headed to local Yountville restaurant, Brix.  They're known for their patio & views of their garden, but by the time we got there, it was pretty dark. All of the greens & vegetables served with dinner are grown in their own garden!
 Of course I forgot to take pictures of our actual meal, so instead you just get us & not even at the restaurant, but at our hotel before going out. We had fish & steak. Delicious.

OK, that's it for the first two days of our trip. Tune in tomorrow for the  our last day of the trip when we traveled to Sonoma.