Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken Taco Chili

It's as good as it sounds.  Trust me.

So many people I know swear by their crockpots, especially on the weekends.  Dump it all in the pot, turn it on, and come back hours later to a delicious meal.  I am not one of those people, but keep wanting to use it more.  Iowa Girl Eats (love her!) posted a recipe a couple of weeks ago for this chicken taco chili, and I'll been thinking about it ever since.  It's originally from Skinny Taste so not only is it delicious but healthy to boot!

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

1 onion, chopped
1 16-oz can black beans, drained
1 16-oz can kidney beans, drained
10 oz package frozen corn kernels
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
24 oz (3-4) boneless skinless chicken breasts
chili peppers, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine onion, beans, corn, tomatos and sauce, cumin, chili powder, taco seasoning and chili peppers if you're using them in a slow cooker. Place chicken on top and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro. Also try it with low fat cheese and sour cream (extra points).
Servings: 10 • Size: 1 1/4 cups • Old Points: 3 pts • Points+: 5 pts
Calories: 203.7 • Fat: 1.4 g • Carb: 33.3 g • Fiber: 10.0 g • Protein: 16.9 g

Based on IGE's recommendations, I cooked it for 4.5 hours on high, and it was perfect.  The chicken was tender and everything was delicious together.  I served it over a bed of white rice.  We were both so hungry when it was ready, we didn't even think about cheese, sour cream, salsa or chips!  And it makes a ton for yummy leftovers.  You could even serve it in a tortilla one night to change it up a bit.

Homemade Chipotle burrito bowls!  Black olives optional :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What do you want to watch tonight?

Like so many other people, we are excited for all of the new seasons of tv shows to begin!  Our DVR is back to working full time for us!  I love the DVR, I really can't remember what it was like before we had one.  Now we watch what we want when we want to.  We don't have to worry about when things come on and either missing a show or changing our schedule to fit the networks' schedules.

We are looking forward to both our favorites starting again, as well as finding some new ones to watch (like we need more...)

Here are some of our favorite returning shows:

We are still into Grey's Anatomy, even though it's been a tough road.  This will be Grey's 8th season on ABC.  Over the years, we've had a love-hate relationship with this show.  It was definitely better this past year, so hopefully it will keep being good!  We have caught up a smidge and watched the first one two hours, and it was as intense as the past seasons!

Because of the 2 hour Grey's premier last week, ABC's Private Practice will premier it's 5th season tomorrow.  This is one of the other dramas that we have on our list.  It's been quite a ride with them, and I hope the new season will be just as good as the last!

One of our very favorite shows is Top Chef.  We are so excited for November when the 9th season will begin, this time in Texas!  Beginning the season with 29, they will narrow it down and take 16 "cheftestants" to Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.

We are also looking forward to some new shows this year:

This one's just 'new to me.'  I'm finally going to get on the train and see what all the Modern Family fuss is about.  People have been talking about this show for the last 2 years, and I keep forgetting to put it on the DVR schedule.  So it's time.  I am thinking about going back to the beginning and renting the previous seasons so I'm up to date!  I watched the 2 from last week and literally was laughing out loud, so I'm really excited to be part of the cool kids now.

Up All Night on NBC looks like it's going to be hilarious, I'm really excited for this new one.  I haven't seen the premier yet (thanks DVR) but I've heard good things so far!

I'll be interested to see what else pans out in the new show category.  Pan Am is getting a lot of hype, so I wonder how it's going to be received.  I caught the second half of Prime Suspect while husband was watching it over the weekend - it seems really intense.  I can only do so many "shoot 'em up bang bang" shows.  I don't do scary, so American Horror Story will not be on my list...We watched Whitney too, which looks like it could be funny if they don't try so hard to be funny.  

What do you watch?  Am I missing any good ones?!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend snapshots

Last weekend was a fun and packed 3 days!

Dinner at Lyon Hall in Clarendon and our last Nats game of the season, complete with a "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" shake from the new Shake Shack. 

A last minute decision to make the trip to College Park for the WVA-MD game

Went downtown to 'our bar' to celebrate the recent marriage of a good friend, and wish him the best of luck as he moves to Roanoke next week.

Joe "Johnny Drama" Brown, you'll be greatly missed!  Visit often :)

And despite being out late Saturday, I was wide awake at 7:30 am Sunday morning.  After an early trip to Wegmans, I spent most of the day in the kitchen.  Brownies, dinner for a friend who just had a beautiful baby girl, a massive batch of breakfast burritos and this delicious chili...

Recipe to come this week!

This weekend wasn't quite as exciting...DVR catch up, laundry, couch time and other chores. 

We did venture up to MD on Saturday to visit my cousins for dinner, and had a blast!  It is unusual for us to get together when it's not a holiday, and without the parents.  We had a great time laughing, telling stores, and dancing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

I love fall!

While it's a cloudy, humid, rainy day here in Northern VA, I'm so glad that it's the first day of fall!

The temperatures are getting cooler, but are still beautiful and crisp.  I love the days that are warm enough to not need a coat, but still have a bit of a cool breeze in the evenings.  The leaves are changing, wine grapes are being harvested, it's football season, and the holidays are on their way.

The summer is wonderful - beaches, umbrellas, cookouts, baseball, sunscreen, flip flops, long days, sunshine - we all love summer.  But fall.  Oh how I love the fall!

It's finally time to pull out beautiful, soft, cozy sweaters and pair them with dark jeans and great boots.  Throw on a hoodie when you're running to the store.  Use the seat warmers in your car!

It's time to snuggle on the couch under a blanket and drink a delicious red wine.

Wait...I do that all year long...anyway...

It's time for all of the great fall activities, especially in this area.  We are close to apple orchards and wineries and there are fun fairs and harvest festivals.  I love spending time outside during the fall, breathing in the crisp air after a summer of humidity.  I love going to football games and tailgating.  Soon enough there will be really cold days with snow (yuck) and wind...winter is coming....

But in the meantime, I'm so glad fall's finally here.  I hope you find some fun festive things to do during this beautiful season!

Happy First Day of Fall!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Final day in Napa

Sunday morning in Napa Valley was another cool, foggy morning.  We wanted to get another good walk in after all of the rich food we'd eaten the night before at Redd.  This time I took my camera as we were walking through Yountville and past some beautiful vineyards.  

I love this one - huge, fully grown, wild Cabernet vines next to brand new ones.

After a delicious Masion Fleurie breakfast, we made 1 winery stop before our brunch reservations.  We stopped into Raymond for a tasting.  Their tastings are typical Napa style - 3 different tastings of 4 wines at 3 (expensive) prices - $15, $20, and $25.  We picked the middle one with several Syrah options.  The expensive one was for the 'Crystal Room' which is this totally funky, club like room.  While the sales pressure was a little much, the guy was pretty nice.  The wines we tasted were $40 each, and after a $20 (not refunded with purchase) tasting fee, that made their bottles pretty pricey.

Napa was definitely busy that day!  We'd never seen traffic like this...

We headed back into Yountville for brunch at Ad Hoc.  Our favorite west coasters, good family friends who live in Sausalito, drove up to join us.  It was so fun to see them!  As always, we shared good winery and restaurant finds, talked about our parents, and enjoyed catching up.

Brunch was just fantastic, of course!  Everything is served family style on large beautiful trays and pans.  The salad was crisp and fresh.  The steak and eggs - oh man.  Mushrooms, potatoes, delicious steak and scrambled eggs.  We all wanted to lick the pan.  And the carrot cupcakes.  I'm not a big carrot cake fan but let me tell you.  We all thought about eating the paper just to get every last crumb.

After saying goodbye to the Pierces, we went to our last winery of the trip, The Terraces.  It was a wonderful spot to end the amazing trip.  Nate, one of the winemakers, was our guide and he was fantastic.

Sitting on some incredible real estate on Silverado Trail, tucked behind an very unassuming gate, Terraces winery is an amazing place full of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel vines.  Nate put us into their utility golf car and we headed off to check out some vines and views - just look at this one!  It's amazing - you can almost see all of Napa Valley from the top of their property.

We were literally riding through the vines.  It was great!  Along the ride, we stopped in one of their stone buildings dating back to the 1880s.  This one houses their balsamic vinegar barrels.  The lesson in balsamic aging was super cool, and we got to taste it straight out of a few barrels, tasting the difference. It was really interesting to see how it's aged in the different size and wood type barrels.

See how the size is graduated?  After 1 year, they go in and use the smaller one to fill up the larger one to replace what's evaporated.  Then they cover them with the cheesecloth and wait another year.  Each barrel is made from different wood type, and they have a significantly different taste between the different types.

Then we went back into their 'tasting room' which doubles as a guest house above their wine making facility.  We tried several of their wines, and really enjoyed our time chatting with Nate.  He showed us different blending options, and how really simple wine making can be.  A splash of this, a splash of that...swirl, drink sip.  We had a great time with him, and could have hung out with him all day.  If they come out with a fifty-fifty-fifty blend, that was all us :)

We hated to say goodbye to Nate and to Napa, but it was time to head south to SF to fly home.  The view out the plane window of the fog over the city was amazing - the fog rolling in over the city was ridiculous.  You could see it swirling from the air!

We love California wine country.  Some people go to the beach, we go to California.  It refreshes us, and we love to learn about new restaurants, wineries, winemakers, and try new things.  This was our 5th trip in 4 years, so please, if you're heading there don't hesitate to contact me with questions about places to go and see.  I love to talk about Sonoma and Napa, and would love to help you find great places to visit! 

And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog posts...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saturday night in Yountville

Saturday night we had reservations at one of the Yountville restaurants we hadn't tried yet, Redd.  But first - we went to my favorite, Ad Hoc, for a quick drink.

We ate at Ad Hoc on one of our trips last year, and it's just amazing.  It's one of Thomas Keller's restaurants - he's the acclaimed chef of The French Laundry, Bouchon in Napa, NY and Vegas, and Per Se in NY.

We snagged a spot at the bar and each enjoyed a glass of wine.  Ad Hoc was originally just a temporary restaurant that was to be changed to something else, but it was so popular when it opened, they kept it.  It's a set menu each night, and they don't announce the menu until the day of.

After soaking up some of the atmosphere from Ad Hoc, we walked next door to Redd.

This restaurant I feel gets a little overshadowed by all of the other restaurants in Yountville.  This little town in the heart of Napa Valley is just full of incredible restaurants by highly acclaimed chefs.  Redd was really wonderful, I'm so glad we put it on our list.

The food was so delicious.  We talked with the sommelier, Garret, who was fantastic.  He was really nice and stood and chatted with us for a while, and kept checking back to see how everything was.  

We started with Sashimi of hamachi, sticky rice, edamame, lime ginger sauce.  It was amazing.  We also had the appetizer size of the lamb bolognese.  It was comfort in a bowl - I wanted to crawl into it!

Then we had the special - it was salmon with an olive compote and artichoke puree, I think - it's of course not on the menu so I can't just go copy it like the others...but it was REALLY good.  We shared everything, and it was all amazing.

At the end of the night, Garret came over to say goodbye, and saw that I had tried to pull the label off the wine bottle.  I collect them...and this one just wouldn't come off.  He vanished with the bottle and came back a few minutes later, carrying the label.  It was so sweet that he'd taken the time and effort to get the label off for me - it was just a perfect note to end our evening on.

I highly recommend Redd, and hope to get back there on our next Napa trip.  We headed back to the hotel to get packed up and ready for our last day in California.

Monday, September 19, 2011

To Napa we go!

Over the mountain and through the woods, to Napa we go!

We packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel and made the long drive over the mountain to the other side of wine country, Napa Valley.  Our style tends to be more of the Sonoma way, but our last few trips we've been better about spending at least one day in Napa, and have found some wonderful wineries.  Also, the restaurants in Yountville are just amazing. 

First things first - lunch.  Now, it may seem a little odd to do lunch first...but we had to work for it.

In an attempt to do something new and different on this trip, we signed up for a CIA Enthusiasts cooking class at the Culinary Institue of America Greystone, right in the heart of Napa Valley.  We decided on the Bold Flavors from Tuscany class, and were so excited to go.

Little did we know it was an emersion class....

We got there and the group sat around this big table in an enormous, beautifully clean kitchen.  Then the chef, fully dressed in her chef outfit, came and chatted for a few minutes, handing out a packet of recipes.  Then we were directed to select a station, and informed that we should get going because we'd be eating in an hour and 10 minutes.  Eating what we'd cooked...on our own. 

Our recipes were potato gnocchi and radichio and onion crostini. 

Have you ever made gnocchi from scratch before?

Yeah, me either. 

It was a crazy hour and a half by the time we got everything plated, but super fun.  I'm so glad we picked something more challenging because we were able to ask some questions and received guidance along the way.  Gnocchi isn't something I would have attempted at home, but it was really not that tough and soooo good...

Especially with the brown butter and sage sauce that we made.  Mmmm.

I think my favorite line of the day was husband shouting that he was 'in the weeds' and felt like he was on Top Chef...while he tried to saute onions and top some crostinis with cheese and the onions...while I attempted to kneed, roll, cut, and boil gnocchi. We both felt like we were on Top Chef with the race of the clock, and I was channeling my inner Fabio with my gnocchi!

We all shared our dishes with the rest of the class and spread them out on a huge counter buffet style.

Everything was really delicious, and we had a great time trying the different dishes! 

Completely stuffed and slightly exhausted from the 'class' we raced off to our first wine appointment. 

WAY up on a hill mountain, we pulled up in front of a beautiful rustic gate at Outpost Winery. Iyla was our host, and she was wonderful.  We tried their Grenache, Zinfandel and Cabernet wines.  She gave us a great tour all around the property, through the newly (that week) finished guest house(s) and out into the vineyard.  The wines were delicious and views one of a kind.  She's from Pittsburgh, so we shared some east coast stories.

The white grape bins are everywhere, just waiting to be filled when Harvest comes!

Leaving Outpost, we worked our way back down a little bit and stopped at Ladera.  Ladera is a beautiful, small Napa winery, mostly focused on estate Cabernets. 

Their Cabs were nice, but we typically don't drink too many cabernets.  But we did snag a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc to take home!

One more stop for Saturday, and it was at Failla Wines.  Jeff, affectionately called Honey Badger by the folks at Outpost, was a great host.  We all got a good laugh when we called him Honey Badger, as we'd been instructed to do...apparently there's a youtube video that explains it all!

Jeff was very knowledgable about the wines and the Failla story - it was great to listen to him.  We really enjoyed our visit!  It's a beautiful setting tucked back in, and they have a big table set up for people sit around during the tasting.  There were 3 other couples there and we did the tasting together.  It was interesting to share stories about other places in Napa with the couples.

After saying goodbye, we headed down to Yountville to check into our inn for the night.  We discovered the Four Sisters Inns on our first wine country trip, and fell in love.  We've stayed in several of them, and this was our second time at Masion Fleurie

It can be expensive to stay in some of the fancier suites, and our less expensive room is tiny, but it's still lovely. It's wonderful to walk to the restaurants and cafes in Yountville, and their homemade breakfasts at the inn are amazing.  I'm not sure I could stay more than a couple of days in this room, and the bathroom's mini-sized, but it's still really nice. 

Drinks at my favorite, Ad Hoc, and dinner at Redd awaited us on Saturday night!  We freshened up, changed clothes and walked the couple of blocks to the main part of town.  It was a beautiful night and every restaurant was just a buzz with people out on the town!