I’ve pretty much decided that the best trips involve lots of wine, good food, and great people. :-)
My friend Jen is getting married in December!! Since all of us are so spread out around the US, and because what is better than a fun trip, we all met in Portland for her Bachelorette party.
The weather was gorgeous! We missed out on the Texas heat and the rainy days of Oregon and were hit with sun and digits lingering around the low to mid 80s. Perfection!
Portland has a cool weird vibe- just watch an episode of Portlandia and you’ll get the idea. Amazing restaurants. Here’s just two that stood out: an Indian street food place called Bollywood Theater with hung lights and an open kitchen in the center. Unbelievable ice cream flavors at Salt and Straw – I would have tried all of them but settled on one scoop of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Yes!) and Strawberry Balasmic. So different!
The highlight of the trip was the winery visits on Saturday- three- each with rolling hills and vines for miles. We headed out from downtown in a stretch limo with the cutest 80 year old driver named Jake or Jack. I think I called him the wrong name toward the end of the day. hahaha At one stop Jessie had the idea of rolling down the window and taking paparazzi pics- this one was totally taken when the driver was heading back from a visit to the port-a-potty. tehe
The first winery- Elk Cove Vineyards
I want to say we tried 5-6 wines. There was a fundraiser for the local animal shelter going on so dogs were all over the place. Peanut would have fit right in!
Up next was my favorite- David Hill Winery. The tasting/selling room was inside a beautiful house surrounded by flowers and rolling hills.
Or maybe it was because we stopped for lunch and made by Jen’s cousin Lauren– which was cheeeeeeese!! and the best tuna salad I’ve ever had! and I don’t even really like tuna salad! I actually asked for the recipe the day after I got home and made it um about 3 hours after she emailed it. We also had tomato salad and whoopie pies- could it get any better?!
I pretty much ended up with a massive plate of food- and promptly decided the tasting wine was not going to be enough. I mean with this view, a full glass of wine is absolutely necessary. Can I move in? I’ll bring my own squirrel chasing dog.
The Andiri Winery & Vineyard was pretty gorgeous too with a patio area surrounded by vines.
I brought out some hand models to take pictures with some cookies I’d brought along. They say “Last Fling before the Ring!” and there might be some gold bling on the bling bling. :-D
We tasted 4 different types of Pinot Noir and they were Fabulous!
We could see the mountains over the vines!
I loved Portland and being able to spend time with such close friends! So much fun! Congratulations Jen & Russell! You can invite me to drink wine any time!
Ian is here! With more bread baking tips!
I ask Ian a billion questions whenever I’m thinking about making bread or just randomly. One important question came up when I was making a loaf of bread, while giving updates via Facebook at each stage to Ian. I was taking a peak in the oven with 10 minutes to go and it was looking pretty brown. Having not thought ahead, I rushed to my laptop and asked Ian- How do I know when my bread is done!!!!!
There are three signs to a baked bread! The first (and my favorite), it will sound hollow when knocked on. The next, and one that I’m very familiar with, stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean! Then, if all else fails, take it’s temperature! Baked bread will be at 200ºF or about 93ºC.
My bread was hollow sounding, and at right about 170 when I tested it (but it had been out of the oven for about a minute so the temperature had dropped quite a bit), and the toothpick was clean! Can’t wait to cut into it tomorrow!!
Be sure to check out Ian’s baking vlogs over on YouTube on The Baking Chin!
Have a tip? Let me know! I’d love to feature you on the next edition of “Baking Tips!”
One of the things I love about summer is berries! Especially blueberries-myrtilles in French. I even bought two blueberry bushes two years ago in hopes of having bushels of blueberries on my doorstep. Apparently they are pretty finicky. After producing a grand total of 10 berries they magically disappeared while I was in France. I still have hope for blueberry bushes in the future though, a large vegetable garden, a cow, and maybe a pig. Peanut will be there too of course. :-D
While I daydream of blueberry bushes, I will make these muffins. This is my favorite recipe, usually I’ll throw in blueberries that are in the freezer from going blueberry picking in west Texas. If that isn’t the case, frozen wild blueberries are amazing, or in this case, a mix of berries.
Tips Tips! To avoid the berries sinking to the bottom, toss them with a bit of your dry ingredients. This will help them stick in the batter.
Another tip: Frozen berries will bleed in the batter. I was using all fresh for this batch so I didn’t have this problem. But if you do use frozen, fold in quickly with a spatula just until incorporated. The more you stir, the more purple your batter will be. (Totally fine with me though… Go Frogs!)
And since I can’t resist- there’s more tips after the recipe title. Happy Muffin Baking!
Epic Mixed Berry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
This recipe is SO good it’s my go-to muffin (when I’m not feeling a pumpkin muffin). A couple quick tips: Sprinkle the top with raw sugar for a crunch. Use whole milk for the best flavor. Toss berries (either a mix, or not!) with a little of the dry ingredients to keep them from ending up on the bottom of the muffin.
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups berries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
raw sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare your muffin tin. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined.
Measure the milk and add a glug of vanilla to the measuring cup. Set aside.
In a bowl, toss the berries with a spoonful of the dry ingredients.
Now let’s combine it all! Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Then add the milk/vanilla beating until combined. Don’t overmix!
Remove the bowl from the mixture and fold in the berries with a spatula.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
oh caramel- I love thee as much as I love chocolate and the two of you, just .. oo la la! Horrible for my waistline.
This week’s tip comes from my friend and fellow avid baker…….. drumroll!….. Tina!!!!! This was something important that we learned while making the St. Honore cake at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Just imagine lots of cream, puff pastry, circled with cream puffs dipped in caramel and you’re there. In heaven.
Caramel used to scare me but after you make it a bajillion times, you find there was nothing really to be scared of in the first place.
There are all different ways of making caramel: Dry with just sugar (oh yes!), sugar/butter/cream, sugar/cream, a pinch of salt and some vanilla here and there, and even with a ton of milk and sugar and then letting it simmer away until the two caramelize.
What applies to all! Tina’s tip: Take caramel off the heat before it reaches your desired color! For the St. Honore we actually took the caramel off the heat maybe a couple seconds after it started turning a beautiful caramel color. It was light, but the color will continue to develop in the pot after you take it off the heat.
Here’s another interesting tip: Going for a deep caramel? The point of no return caramel? Well, there actually is a point of no return. Watch it very very carefully and you will see a very thin string of smoke come up. A couple seconds more and you have burned caramel, or you’ve added the cream as soon as you saw the smoke, it’s bubbled up and you have an awesome dark thick caramel. You might have also added in a little chocolate too at this point that melted as you stirred it into the caramel. whoa I’ll stop! drooling.
Got a tip? I’d love to hear it! Leave it in the comments below or send me a message and I’ll feature you in an upcoming post!
Yesterday I was over at my friend Peter’s house teaching his kids Sophie and Abby how to bake! We made the nearing celebrity status browned butter brownies, pastry crust, and then folded together whipped cream and a lime curd I’d made the day before to make a delicious berry/lime tart. yum! oh and Frozen was on in French in the background. It was pretty great. :-D
Peter made this video and I’m kinda disappointed that he didn’t include us spinning around in circles and jumping up and down. hahaha Love it! Had such a great time with these kiddos!