Earl Grey Madeleines

Earl Grey Madeleines


Light, soft and bursting with flavor, these earl grey madeleines are a fun and easy dessert that everyone will enjoy. With a hint of earl grey and sprinkling of fresh lemon, these are a perfect cookie to serve alongside tea or coffee.


Somewhere between a cake and a cookie, madeleines are a light, pillowy and almost feminine cookie that are perfect for teas, brunches, or a special dessert! While they seem fancy, madeleines are actually incredibly easy to make (and even easier to eat!). 


Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 lemon, zested
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon earl grey tea leaves
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Whisk together dry ingredients, flour through salt. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar together with a hand mixer until light, about 5 minutes.  Add zest. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, mixing on low speed. Add the butter in two batches, mixing on the lowest speed until just combined. Gently fold in earl grey tea leaves.

Press plastic wrap to the surface of the batter, and then cover the top of the bowl again in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight - this is important so your madeleines develop that characteristic hump.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease madeleine pan with baking spray (I like this coconut oil one). Fill each well with 1 tablespoon batter. Don't worry about spreading the batter throughout the well, it will do that on its own when it bakes. Bake in the preheated oven 7-8 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then remove from pan. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

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Kirsten Bell
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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins


Lemon poppy seed muffins are one of my favorite muffins of all time. Their flavor is light, with just a hint of bright citrus, with a fluffy almost cake-like consistency. Pure perfection.

Whip up a batch of these easy homemade muffins for a fun weekend treat, and after school snack for the kids, or for breakfast slathered in delicious lemon curd!



When I set out to make these muffins, I knew two things. First: the lemon needed to be present, but not overpowering. Second, they needed to be moist (sorry, it's late as I write this and I can't think of another word).

There's lemon in both the muffins themselves, and also in the glaze. I love that it's fairly subtle, and the glaze is really where you get that zesty lemon flavor. Don't skip the glaze, it's so easy to make and really makes all the difference!

As for moisture, that comes from a few different places. First, I love using buttermilk and yogurt in baking. If you look through my recipes, you'll notice that a lot. The reason is that dry baked goods are my worst nightmare, and buttermilk and yogurt (or sour cream) are a baker's best friend! Plus with all the flavor options of yogurt it's a fun way to add extra subtle vanilla or honey flavors. I also used half brown sugar in this recipe, because brown sugar holds moisture better than granulated sugar on its own. So, there you have it.



Ingredients: 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vanilla full-fat yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice and zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line a muffin tin, and set aside. Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and eggs. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add the melted butter, and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the greased/lined muffin tin, filling each well all the way to the top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick come out with moist crumbs.

For the glaze: Add the powdered sugar to a small bowl. Add the lemon juice a tablespoon at a time, until all of the powdered sugar is dissolved, and it's the consistency of a thick paste. If you want your glaze to be super lemony, stir in lemon zest.

*Note: Allow the muffins to cool before unwrapping them if you've opted to use liners, as warm muffins have a tendency to stick! (If you can resist!)










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Kirsten Bell
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24 Hours in the Willamette Valley

24 Hours in the Willamette Valley


A few weeks ago Jordan and I visited the Willamette Valley for the first time. Home to two-thirds of Oregon's wineries, and known especially for their Pinot Noir, the Willamette Valley is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and foodies alike! Our visit was a quick one, having only one full day for wine tasting in an area that could have occupied us for weeks!


There are eight Willamette Valley AVAs: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Van Duzer Cooridor, Willamette Valley and Yamhill Carlton. For our quick trip, we decided to focus on visiting wineries in one AVA so that we could spend more time tasting wine, and less time in the car!  If you don't know which AVA to focus on, is there one winery that's on your "must visit" list? Find out with AVA that winery is in, and there you go!

Most tasting rooms in the area open at 11 and close at 5/6. To maximize time, I recommend eating a big and protein-heavy breakfast, packing some cheese and crackers for if you get hungry later, and arrive at your first winery at exactly 11! 


For us, our must-visit winery is Stoller Family Estate, which is located in the Dundee Hills AVA. I talk more in-depth about our experience (and food and wine tour!) in the blog post here. We loved their wines at first sip, and ended up joining their wine club because we loved it all so much! If you find a winery where you enjoy every single wine they pour for you, you're soul mates. Join the wine club!

One thing I love about Stoller Family Estate is that they have wines across a large price range, and they are all exceptional. I opened up this 2016 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir for some friends the other night, and they were all so pleasantly surprised at the quality for the price point (this one is $30)!

While I'd happily enjoy any of their wines, my very favorite wines from Stoller Family Estate are from their Legacy Line: 2016 Helen's Pinot Noir and 2016 Nancy's Pinot Noir. At $75 a bottle, these wines for me are special occasion wines to open on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I think it's great to have wines in your collection that are easy to open on an average Wednesday, and some really special bottles that you look forward to opening all year, and when you do it's like Christmas morning level excitement!




Jordan and I usually gravitate toward red wines, but are beginning to appreciate whites more and more. Especially during the warm summer months ahead! I couldn't find the exact Chardonnay pictured below on their website, but I highly recommend this Chardonnay and this rosé for refreshing summer wine! And you know what that means? You'll just have to make a trip to visit Stoller Family Estate yourself to taste the rest!




The second tasting room on our itinerary was White Rose Estate. Their tasting room is so unique, and I told Jordan as we walked in that I felt like we were in a Game of Thrones tasting room! (Hold the plotting and revenge, please!).

We really enjoyed tasting these wines because they are all so incredibly unique. White Rose Estate is one of the few wineries that focuses on the Neo-Classical Objective. You can read more about what that means here. We found all of the wines to be complex and spicy in all the best ways. These are definitely wines I would enjoy with a meal, and their Pinot Noirs have enough structure to be paired with a variety of flavors.




I loved having the chance to visit their barrel room, which is build into the hillside with the tasting room directly above. The warm, ambient lighting and smell of wood barrels and earth is hypnotizing! And by the way, the landscape photo at the very start of this blog post was taken directly outside the White Rose Estate tasting room! Even on the misty day we visited, the views were beyond beautiful!




Our final stop of the day was Domaine Drouhin, just a hop, skip and a jump away from White Rose Estate. One of Domaine Drouhin's coolest features is their family history in winemaking, originally (and still!) making wine in Burgundy, France. They describe themselves as "French soul, Oregon soil" which felt very accurate!

Domaine Drouhin offers a French Soul, Oregon Soil: Tour and Comparative Tasting, during which you will have the chance to taste wines made of the same grapes, grown 7,500 apart in France and Oregon. We had the chance to taste a few of the wines back to back, and it was such a fun experience. When we come back to the area, we'll definitely sign up for that tour and tasting!


We really enjoyed all of the wines tasted at Domaine Drouhin, and I was especially blown away by their 2018 Edition Rosé! Lighter and spicier than most of the rosé wines I've tasted, I kept getting a subtle hint of anise that was so intriguing and made me want to keep coming back for more! We bought a bottle of the rosé to take home, and I can't wait to pop it open!

The Willamette Valley is such a beautiful, fun and delicious spot for wine tasting in the Pacific Northwest! We really appreciated that all of the wineries had a very friendly and collaborative feel, and were happy to recommend other wineries to visit in the area.

We now have a mile-long list of wineries to visit next time! If you've visited and have favorite wineries, be sure to comment below - I'd love to hear about them!
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Kirsten Bell
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Cookies and Cream Cake

Cookies and Cream Cake


If you're a fan of cookies and cream ice cream, you have got to try this cookies and cream cake! Rich, dense and full of cookie goodness, this cake is what dreams are cookie lovers' dreams are made of! The cake is made with cream cheese, giving that characteristic vanilla cream taste, cookies baked into the cake and pureed into the frosting, and covered with chocolate ganache. Every bite will send your taste buds into a tizzy!


I love fun and unique cake flavors. You can obviously tell that by looking through all of my cake recipes here! It's just so much fun to serve guests a cake they can't find in the average bakery. What's especially great about this cake recipe is that it's really easy! An easy recipe that will impress guests? That's what I'm all about!



Cake Ingredients: 

2 cups all-purpose flour (I like Bob's Red Mill)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (I used Tillamook)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups oreos, roughly chopped

Frosting Ingredients: 

2 cups butter, softened
5-6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup finely crushed oreos (I crushed mine in the food processor)

Ganache Ingredients: 

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease and line three 6" cake pans. Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. Add the cream cheese and buttermilk, mixing until all ingredients have come together. The batter may look piecey at this stage, which is ok!

Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until just combined. Stir in the oreos by hand with a spatula, making sure they're evenly distributed within the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pans, and bake about 38-42 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, and then add the vanilla extract. Add the finely crushed oreos, starting the mixer on low and increasing the speed to high for about 3 minutes. If the frosting is too wet, add another cup of powdered sugar. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon of heavy cream.

For the ganache: Heat the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl for about a minute, or until the chocolate chips are completely melted. Allow to cool slightly, and then drizzle down the sides of the cake, finishing by covering the top of the cake as well. Let set in the fridge until hardened before adding any frosting decorations on top.




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Kirsten Bell
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A Visit To Stoller Family Estate

A Visit To Stoller Family Estate


Last weekend Jordan and I had a chance to visit the ultimate wine region of Oregon - the Willamette Valley! Neither of us had ever taken a trip to this Pinot Noir destination, and it was well worth the trip. The wines were delicious, people were friendly and welcoming, and the area was absolutely beautiful!

Our main reason for making the trip down was to visit Stoller Family Estate. Upon arriving, we were greeted by families picnicking on the front slope, dogs playing, and a feeling that despite their amazing success, Stoller really is a family winery.


The property at Stoller Family Estate is so beautiful. Even if the wine wasn't as delicious as it is (it's really good, I'm getting there!), I'd be happy to just hang out on the 399 acres of grounds! They have three beautiful guest houses, and we were lucky enough to stay in one. We were able to take a sunset walk with views of the vineyard, sipping our wine. When we come back soon, we plan to stay at one of their houses again! We couldn't have asked for a better location or more comfortable space.


The highlight of our visit to Stoller was hands down the Gastronomic tasting & tour. If you're in the area, this is a must! Each wine was so thoughtfully and perfectly paired with the food, and all of the food was chosen based on what was locally in season so the flavors were bright and delicious. They hold this tasting for private parties, so you and your friends can enjoy this special event together! Jordan and I were raving about this tasting all weekend, and kept saying we can't wait to come back and do it again.



The menu for the Gastronomic Tasting & Tour is seasonally dependent, so it's always different! Their chef thinks of new delicious and creative dishes each time, so every experience is unique to you. I think that's so fun, and makes the experience even more special.



On our menu:

Pairing 1: First of the season compressed watermelon, husk cherries, basil and white balsamic. Paired with 2018 Willamette Valley Pinor Noir Rosé.

Pairing 2: English pea farro risotto. Paired with 2016 Reserve Chardonnay.

Pairing 3: Roasted diver scallop, sweet corn succotash, black eyed peas. Paired with 2016 Elsie's Chardonnay. 

Pairing 4: Pan roasted salmon. Summer squash, saffron butter sauce. Paired with 2016 Helen's Pinot Noir.  (This was my personal favorite of the wines! We're going to get a bottle to enjoy for Thanksgiving, and I can't wait!)

Pairing 5: Filet mignon with morel mushrooms, green beans and chimichurri. Paired with 2016 Nancy's Pinot Noir. 

Pairing 6: Lamb chop, rainbow carrots, pinot reduction. Paired with 2014 History Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.


Thank you to Stoller Family Estate for hosting us, and providing this wonderful experience. As always, all opinions are my own.


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Kirsten Bell
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