Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Treats.

Merry Christmas friends! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Every time I go home, my mom and I excitedly share with each other the things we've been wanting to cook. We usually start with a list of 5-6 things that we've read about or seen on Pinterest, then narrow it down to 2 or 3 based on what my mom already has in her pantry. (She keeps a VERY well-stocked pantry, by the way!) Thanksgiving weekend was no exception! We made caramel corn (which was TO DIE FOR) and perfected the art of the microwave praline. Both were stand-out recipes and ones I will keep in my folder of favorites for a long time to come! I wanted to share those 2 recipes with you, along with one more I made today that screams "Christmas!" Enjoy! xx

Microwave easy and ABSOLUTELY to-die-for! We let several people try them, and everyone loved them! Recipe below.

Enjoying the caramel corn and the scent of my favorite Christmas candle!

A tin full of homemade caramel corn is a perfect Christmas gift for friends or neighbors!

This recipe is one my mom has made several times, and it never fails to impress! 
It's from one of her Southern Living cookbooks, and as you can see from this picture, she tried it back in 1988! That's what you call a "tried and true recipe!" We popped the popcorn the old fashion way, using white popcorn kernels. Also, we both agreed that you can make the caramel recipe as shown and either double it or half it again, just to make sure ALL those kernels get covered with the goodness :)

Another great gift idea! So yummy!
Recipe and image found here.

Adapted from (the amazing) Easy Does It: Winners & Favorites

1/2 pint whipping cream
1 pound light brown sugar
2 tablespoons margarine 
2 cups pecan halves*

Microwave whipping cream and brown sugar on HIGH for 11-13 mins. (we did 13 minutes, but should have done 11 based on how powerful our microwave is) Stir in margarine and pecans. Stir until not shiny. Working very quickly, drop onto foil by tablespoon. Yield: 24 pieces.

*We used pecan pieces, as that's all we had. Hence the shape of our pralines. You can use either one. Same amazing taste :) Also, pralines can be a little high maintenance. For tips on how to make them behave, go here.

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My fabulous mom's Pinterest: (She's got some good stuff) 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthy Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I have stumbled upon the BEST fall cookie recipe.... They are moist. They are filling. They are tasty. And the best part...... They are HEALTHY and super easy to make! No butter... no added
sugar. You can thank me later. Happy Election Day, friends! xx


Recipe is from the cookbook, The Gathering of Friends Volume 1.


1 package Spice Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines)*
1 package Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Hershey's)
1 egg
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (real pumpkin; not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and drop on a greased cookie sheet, by teaspoon or (if you want bigger, like I did) a tablespoon. Bake cookies 10-12 mins.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

*Use the cake mix powder only. Do not mix it up, first, with the eggs and oil.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Ol' Raisins & Peanuts.

....better known as GORP! I am going to a Halloween party tomorrow and needed to make a quick but YUMMY snack so I wouldn't arrive empty handed. My mom gave me this recipe that a friend gave her years ago. Supposedly, it was a staple in the Tri-Delt house at Ole Miss! There's no other time of year that is more perfect to whip up a batch of this tasty, colorful gorp :)

This makes a HUGE batch, so it might be a good idea to share with friends at a Halloween party or trick or treaters on Halloween night! Enjoy! xx

Tri-Delt Mix:
1 package butterscotch chips
1 package of milk chocolate chips
1 package, each, plain M&Ms and peanut M&Ms
1 box raisins 
1 jar salted cocktail peanuts
Optional: candy corn

Dump everything in a big bowl & mix! Easy enough!
(I used the brand names of all ingredients listed because I wanted the flavors to shine, but I am sure you can use any brand of chocolate/butterscotch chips, raisins, etc. and it would turn out fine.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's talk about Fall.

After moving back from Las Vegas, where it was regularly 100+ degrees, I gladly welcomed fall. Usually I am not quite ready to let summer and their magical nights go. This year...I am! I've been fully embracing the pumpkin and apple recipes flooding blogs and Pinterest, the amazing boots in stores, and the brisk mornings I've been waking up to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite fall things! What do you love when it comes to fall? Enjoy! xx

I made this yesterday, and it's wonderful! I feel good about putting it in my coffee, as it's all natural without all those crazy ingredients! Get the recipe here. (Picture via)

I've had cleaning eat pumpkin oats almost every morning for the past week... with pumpkin coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Overkill? I think not...

These are a fall staple for me: Apple Cheddar Scones 
Picture via Smitten Kitchen

In my rushed quest for organic canned pumpkin, I picked up 2 cans of organic canned sweet potatoes.
Oy. I googled and found a healthy muffin recipe and tweaked it a little, using whole wheat flour instead. See recipe here.

Onto the fall fashion....

I've been putting together some fall inspired outfits, including these boots!

Just got these Vera Wang boots, and they have been in heavy rotation with the onset of fall.
Find them here in Nashville at The Perfect Pair!

I am obsessed with scarves year round, but the fall is when they come out in full force. Check out my favorites...

This Chan Luu scarf is my favorite! It's huge, which is what makes it so versatile. 
Plus, y'all know how much I love me some leopard print ;) I wear it with a plain white or black t-shirt, boyfriend jeans, and flats/wedges ALL the time. (Sorry honey! HA!)

Another favorite brand of scarf: Love Quotes
I own the hot pink and black one, and they both get worn all the time! Find a color that suits you and/or a color you wear a lot... you will love it! You can find them here, here, and here.

If you get anything for the fall season, invest in a great pair of boots: short or tall & an amazing scarf. 
They are both versatile, classic pieces that you can wear all sorts of ways! 


Follow me on Twitter here. (@lindsayhjak)
See my Pinterest page here.

P.S. Also making this whole wheat pumpkin bread (thanks Mandy!) and this simple fall dessert this weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Napa Vacation. Part 3.

This was the highlight of our trip... On our last full day in Napa, we hired a driver for the day. What a GREAT choice! I highly recommend doing that at least one day while you are in Napa! My dad and I did a lot of research into which company we wanted to hire. We wanted one with a great reputation, but we didn't want one of the bigger, more commercial limo companies. He and I agreed we wanted to go with a smaller company so we could get a more boutique and personal experience. TripAdvisor helped us out A LOT! (not only in finding a driver but for many other aspects of our trip) We found a name that kept popping up and had amazing reviews: Napa Valley Wine Excursions.  Paul Bailey, a Napa native, started his own company to give people 5-star service and share his first-hand knowledge of the Napa Valley. He has many strong relationships with some of the most exclusive wineries in Napa, which we were lucky to experience a few because of those relationships! He was kind, funny, extremely helpful, and we enjoyed having him as company the entire day. Bonus: He's also a photographer and took pictures of us the entire day. A couple of weeks later, he emailed us beautiful, edited pictures of our fun day. No other car/limo service offered that! Call Paul Bailey at Napa Valley Wine Excursions first when you're planning your Napa vacation!

See his TripAdvisor reviews here.
Website here. Facebook here.

Paul and I worked closely to plan the perfect day in Napa. We wanted to visit a couple places we had heard great things about, but Paul really wanted to plan a few stops himself. He told me we wouldn't want us to miss these hidden gems he knew about but weren't on the typical tourist's wine route. SOLD! I am so glad we listened to him, as his picks were among our favorites of the trip! Paul picked us up from our hotel (Which I HIGHLY recommend and will write about more later) and we began our day at Cakebread...

Dolores Cakebread has beautiful gardens on the grounds! We decided it was a photo-op. Naturally.

We were there during bottling, and these are all the empty boxes waiting to be filled with wine.

In one of the tasting rooms, the entire ceiling was covered with Cakebread corks...except for 2 loners. Our guide said there were around 20,000 corks up there!

Next, was our favorite stop of the trip. Not only for the wine, but because of the incredible experience we had tasting and learning about it. Caspar Estate is a perfect example of what Napa wineries should be about: intimate knowledge of wines, one-on-one tasting experience, and take-your-breath-away views. Caspar had all of these in spades! Take a look....

We got out of the car and walked up to this... Every one of us gasped at the view! 

It was a panoramic view of the entire Napa Valley from the top of a mountain!

Here's the setup that we had all to ourselves for a private tasting!

Caspar isn't "open" to the public, so you can only do private tastings upon appointment. Thanks to our driver, Paul Bailey, we got to experience a wine tasting like never before!

Our incredible setup: 2008 and 2009 Caspar Cabernet, cheese from the local area (including Cowgirl Creamery that we LOVED), and olives, honey, and olive oil that are made right there on the Caspar grounds! Talk about impressed...we wanted to buy everything right then and there! 

That honey was to die for! Well...everything was. The three of us (parents, brother, and me) joined the wine/food club. Can't wait until October when the shipment comes! 

Getting the VIP treatment was such an unforgettable experience... especially with THAT view!

An informal history of Caspar Estate & great info about the grounds and wine from one of the owners.
Photo courtesy of our driver, Paul Bailey

Definitely our favorite stop of the whole trip!
Glad Paul worked with us and knew we wanted small, boutique wineries and experiences or otherwise we would have never found this hidden (wine) oasis! 

Next stop was Frank Family Vineyards. My bff, Ashley, raved about this place and made sure it was on my list of wineries to visit. She and her husband loved the red wines from there, and since we're a red loving family, I knew this was a place we must visit. (Thanks Ash!) We were all SO glad we did! We absolutely loved the wines, and the guy who gave us our tasting was so funny and interacted with us the whole time! 
If you go, ask for Dennis (who I hear is incredible and hilarious) or Vince (the guy we had). 

Having an absolute BLAST at Frank Family Vineyards!

Y' CUTE is my "little" brother?

Another recommendation from our driver was Salvestrin Winery. We had a private outdoor tasting with Joy, who was quite literally a joy to be around! She had the most outgoing, kind personality!

Their Estate Cab and Estate Petite Sirah were our favorites! 
Request Joy if you go! She will make your day :)

We still weren't tipsy had some steam left, so Paul asked us if we wanted to try and squeeze one more tasting in at another off-the-beaten path, appointment-only winery. Let's be honest... we all said YES!
He called a friend who worked at The Terraces at Quarry Vineyards. The friend told him to bring it on, so we left for our last winery - once again - feeling impressed at how well Paul reads his clients and knows his stuff. Little did we know that we would end our trip on such a fun note....

We walked in to see this....the tasting room....

Eclectic artwork and furniture from local artists in Napa & San Francisco....

The room was decorated around this red wine barrel with lucite, done by an artist in SF.
   We knew this tasting would be fun! The owner had just walked in after being on the tractor, about to give an interview with a PBR in hand. (that says it all, right?!) We were tasting, joking, and laughing so loud, the owner stopped the interview and came over to meet us - and of course, drink some wine with us! We ended up listening to music, dancing a little, and learning a lot about the down-to-earth vineyard owner. These were the most affordable wines we came across the whole trip, too. Not only were they affordable, they were amazing wines made by great people. Who doesn't want those qualities - and memories - attached to the wine they drink? We certainly did!

None of us are white wine lovers, but we all ended up loving their Chenin Blanc! Another fave was their Zin & Cab Franc! Check them out here

Enjoying ourselves immensely. Obviously.
They also make balsamic vinegar (the real way) on the property!
Ask for Tim, the owner, when you go. You'll leave there dancing - and not because of the wine ;)
Our last night, we had dinner at Mustards Grill, another one of Cindy Pawlcyn's restaurants. We loved it so much! The pork chop came highly recommended by - literally - everyone so naturally I got that. So so good!!! Definitely put this on your Napa restaurants list!

That concludes our Napa trip! (Here is Part 1 and Part 2) 
Hope you enjoyed reading about it and the commentary I had on the places we visited. Please comment and let me know your favorite wineries and restaurants. I plan on taking my little honey back there soon so he can experience it like I did! Below is a guide I made when we were planning our Napa trip. I put several hours into this, so I wanted to share it with you guys. It breaks up Napa into small towns/areas and what's in each place, i.e. wineries, shops, and restaurants. That way, I felt I could know my options in each area and plan accordingly. I didn't want to drive to one end of Napa, only to have a tasting appointment at the other end right after. These are places that I went or came highly recommended to me by friends and/or locals. (**denotes places we loved!)

Napa/Downtown Napa:
-Winery Tasting Rooms
-Oxbow Public Market (go here to try Ritual Coffee Roasters!)
-Domaine Carneros (Boon Fly Cafe is near here)**
-Also near Domaine Carneros: Scribe Winery** and Ram's Gate Winery** and Artesa
-Del Dotto**
In south Napa, there's a great produce stand called "D&S Produce." on the corner of Stanley Lane and Hwy 121/12. 
Napa Thrift stores: Community Projects (downtown Napa) and Goodwill on Imola

-Stags Leap
-Robert Sinskey
*Ma(i)sonary Art Gallery & Winery
-Paraduxx (Duckhorn's sister winery)
-Pine Ridge
Yountville deli (lunch option)
-Girard Winery
-Jessup Cellars
-James Cole
Redd*** heard great things about!

Big Ranch Road: 
-Biale (Great Zin; known for their "Black Chicken" wine)

-Silver Oak
-Miner** amazing; ask for Scott and do cave tour & tasting
Mustards Grille is near here. 
Lunch option: Oakville Grocery

-Conn Creek
-Rutherford Hills
-Elizabeth Spencer
-St. Suprey
-Sequoia Grove
-Alpha Omega
***The Terraces (we LOVED this!)
**Caspar Estates (located on the Mayacama Mtns) AMAZING experience with great views, great cheeses, and they make their own honey and olive oil
Rutherford Grill (restaurant)

St. Helena:
-Heitz Cellars
-Joseph Phelps
-Freemark Abbey
-Orin Swift
Gott's Roadside & La Condesa near here for lunch/dinner.
*St. Helena Olive Oil & another olive oil store is "Olivier" which we loved!
Goose and Gander
-Market Burger
-Cook (great chocolate cake here)

Diamond Mtn/Calistoga:
-Frank Family** great wines & ask for Vince or Dennis
-Chateau Montelena
-Cafe Sarafornia is here, for breakfast!

Howell Mtn:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Napa Vacation. Part 2.

Here is part 2 of our fabulous Napa vaca! Enjoy!

Sunday: My dad really wanted to go on the Napa Valley Wine Train, so that's what we did on Sunday morning! It was such a lovely experience, and it was great to drive up and down the whole Napa Valley to see the beautiful scenery.

Picture of our dining car, that had window all up and down so you could see the views whizzing by.
We had a 4 course dinner and enjoy these views...

Monday: We went into Sonoma to shop for a bit, then went to a winery that a local shop owner recommended called Scribe Winery. What a CHARMING winery it was! We all loved the laid back environment, views of the Carneros Valley, and the fact that their wines, bottles and labels made with such purpose. After Scribe, we went right down the road to a place that multiple people recommended to us: Domaine Carneros. We really loved this place! We sat on the patio, enjoyed a couple of cheese plates, and of course - some fabulous sparking wines and pinot noirs. Our last stop of the day was at Miner Winery where we did a tasting and cave tour. Their wines were mostly red, and we ADORED them...esp the Oracle wine! (Put all of these wineries on your Napa list!) For dinner, we ate at the famous Bottega! YUM!

Views from Scribe....

The picnic table where we sat to have our wine tasting!

They even had a rope swing for the adventurous brother :) 


Patio where we sat and had our tasting.

View from Domaine Carneros.

Such great sparkling wines!

Our table :)

The fam (minus my little honey) in the caves at Miner.

Our fave! The 2006 and 2007 was the best!

One of the private rooms you can rent at gorgeous!


Chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega. 

Copper water glasses at Bottega, which my mom and I fell in love with and promptly ordered! 

The grounds right outside of Bottega.

Everyone told us to get their truffle fries as an appetizer. Let's just say this entire plate was demolished in under 10 mins! SO SO GOOD! Behind the fries was our other to-die-for app: the heirloom tomato plate. It had fresh mozzarella and balsamic caviar on top, which was something I had never had/seen before. Little "beads" of balsamic vinegar that popped in your tasty!

We all got something different, but I think mine was the best....hehe. I got the special, which was blue cheese risotto, grilled peaches, and melt in your mouth short ribs. Drool. 

We went light with dessert since the meal was so filling and decadent. 3 sorbets: raspberry, nectarine, and mint. Perfect ending to an incredible meal! 

I know I said I'd do our trip in two parts, but I lied. Our last day in Napa was the highlight of our trip!!! We hired a driver, and he took us to some AMAZING places we would have never found on our own! Plus we ate at one of Napa's most talked about restaurants (besides Bottega), so I wanted that to be a post all on its own. This one was getting too long anyways :) PLEASE check back soon... you won't be sorry! It has some insider places that you will want to check out when you go yourself!
Plus, I am adding a helpful guide at the end of the next post with all my picks/suggestions by region. That will help you plan your trip so much better than randomly driving all over the valley, wasting time in traffic or on the road between places. If you missed part one of my Napa trip, click here!

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