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Early this summer, before I was pregnant, Joe, my mom and I planned a long weekend trip to California wine country. All along, I told myself that if I wasn’t pregnant on our trip, I would think of it as a consolation prize, and if I was pregnant and couldn’t drink, I would be celebrating our baby. Truth be told, I got super sick the first 24 hours of our trip, throwing up three times. Thankfully drinking a little extra water and keeping a full stomach seemed to help!

So, while I might not have gotten to drink my way through Napa and Sonoma, I certainly enjoyed the weather, the food and the beautiful scenery that California has to offer. I think I may have asked Joe 15 times if we can find a way to move to California, but the real estate prices alone scared me away! I think we’ll just stick to visiting for now.

We visited more places than what’s included below, but for your sake I only listed places we loved and would certainly visit again! Check it out:

FLY
We flew on our beloved Delta Airlines and took a nonstop flight from Minneapolis to Sacramento. I know a lot of people fly into San Fran when they visit wine country, but we’ve flown into Sacramento twice and wouldn’t do it any other way. The airport is quiet, lines are short and traffic is pretty minimal.

STAY
Villagio Inn and Spa in Yountville
We have stayed in Yountville both times we’ve visited the area and highly recommend it! It’s quiet and quaint and is home to some of the area’s most amazing restaurants, like The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery. The hotel had the most wonderful breakfast every morning and a beautiful pool with cabanas and comfortable lounge chairs. Staying there was a bit on the pricey side, but we got one room for the three of us, which made it more reasonable.

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EAT
Redd Wood in Yountville (below)
Located in Yountville, this Italian restaurant had great pizzas and pastas as well as salads. The menu was a nice mix of fresh and inventive while also classic and comforting. We all had the meatballs and they were to die for!

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Mustard’s Grill in Yountville
We ate there last time we visited the area, and it was just as good this time around. Joe had a Mongolian pork chop that I am determined to recreate. Yum!

The Red Grape in Sonoma
We ate here on a whim the night we arrived and we were starving. Great pizzas and salads and a beautiful patio!

Joe Madison GOtts

Gotts

Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena (above)
I appreciate a good burger place, but I really appreciate a burger place that also has amazing salads and healthier options. Joe and my mom got burgers and I had the chicken sandwich, all of which were amazing. I also had a killer kale and Romaine lettuce salad that helped the meal from feeling too heavy.

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Bouchon Bakery (above)
Of course we couldn’t resist! Go first thing in the morning and avoid the lines for the best selection.

DRINK
Hall Winery in St. Helena and Rutherfod (below)
We visited the Hall Rutherford location last time we were in California and had the most amazing experience. This time we visited their St. Helena location (which is larger and less exclusive) and it didn’t disappoint! Hall wines are a favorite of ours, especially their Kathryn Hall Cabernet which is crazy expensive but totally delicious. (My doctor gave me permission to have a sip or two, and this was one of the sips I decided to splurge on!)

Tastings at Hall are more premium tasting experiences ($40/$60 per person depending on your tour) but worth every penny. Make reservations in advance!

Hall Wines

JoeMadisonHall1

Mom Madison Joe Hall

Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma
My childhood friend, Emily, works out in California with her husband, Cody. Emily works at Ram’s Gate Winery so of course we had to go visit! It was a bit of a trek out there but totally worth the extra miles! It was by far the most beautiful winery we visited and the view, food and wine were delicious. If you can, make a point to get out there on your trip.

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VISIT
Healdsburg (below)
This was about an hour drive from where we were, but I was dying to visit this adorable little town, having read about it in magazines and on the web multiple times. We enjoyed an afternoon in Healdsburg browsing shops and walking around. We drank great coffee at Flying Goat Coffee and got our first baby item for Baby H (a Sophie the giraffe since we couldn’t find any cute gender-neutral clothing) at Cupcake Children & Maternity. We also make a little trek to Jimtown Store, which was filled with charm. I wish we had been there over lunch because the menu looked amazing!

Jimtown
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! If you have any Napa/Sonoma recommendations to add to the list, please feel free to include them below. There are so many places to visit that it’s hard to get a great list in a single trip!

Madison

PS: See our last trip to wine country (2 years ago!) HERE.

 

 

photoThe first evidence of a growing bump! (above)

Hello again! I feel like it’s been forever since I checked in with you all. California wine country was absolutely wonderful and I plan to put a full travel post together soon, but travel posts always take me such a long time. In the meantime, let’s sit down and have some good old fashioned girl talk about babies, body image and maternity fashion, shall we?

I’ve always been so excited to be pregnant and have a family of my own, especially given the rocky road we’ve journeyed to have this baby, but, given my body image struggles of the past, I was more than a little nervous about seeing my body grow and change over the 9+ months of pregnancy.

I don’t want this to come across as complaining in any way, because as I mentioned we are so very thankful,  but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that seeing your body grow and change and having it be out of your control can be extremely unsettling at times, especially when you have a rocky body-image past.  I’ve been careful to watch what I say and monitor my thought processes about my growing body, appreciating what my body is doing (growing a human!) rather than what scares me, like the extra pounds and squishy bits that weren’t there before.

One of the things that’s been helpful is to buy and wear clothing that fits my body in its current state, rather than trying to fit into items that used to fit a certain way and now fit quite different. Since I’m on the tall side, I’m just barely showing shy of 15 weeks, meaning most maternity clothes don’t seem necessary but some of my old favorites (especially the waist-defining dresses I love) don’t fit, either.

Last week I went shopping and picked up a handful of dresses from Banana Republic and Gap Outlet that are looser and stretchy, meaning my bump will have some room to grow. I also picked up a shift dress from Anthropologie that I should be able to wear for months to come.

As far as maternity clothes go, I would love your suggestions! I recently splurged on a dress from Hatch Collection (the Afternoon Dress in black if you’re interested) which felt like a total indulgence. Since wearing Hatch exclusively isn’t in the budget, I would love to hear where you found the best fun, trendy and affordable maternity pieces. Anywhere I should be looking ?

Madison

Healthy Mexican Chicken Soup 1 | Espresso and CreamI know it’s August, and I’m supposed to be posting all about summer produce and salads and using up the last of what summer has to give us. But here in Minnesota, we’re experiencing a bit of a cool down that has me convinced fall weather is just around the corner, which means we’ve got football and sweaters and comfort food to look forward to, along with about 10,000 different ways to eat pumpkin. Believe me, I’m excited.

Today, in honor of cooler temps and the start of college football season I’m kicking things off with a soup recipe that’s healthy, easy and incredibly filling. Every time I make soup, I wonder why I don’t make soup more often. I think somewhere deep down inside I have this idea that soup has to be difficult, when in reality it’s just a matter of throwing whatever you have on hand together into a single dish.

One of my biggest requirements when it comes to soup is that it has to be thick, not watery. I don’t mind the flavor of broth-based soups, but when it comes to eating soup for dinner, I believe soup has to be thick and hearty in order to really satisfy. Instead of adding cream to this soup, I blended up a can of white beans into the base to give the soup thickness and body without adding a lot of fat. An added bonus? The beans provide fiber and extra protein, in addition to the chicken.

I hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and watch more football than humanly possible! Also, don’t forget to enter the Food Should Taste Good giveaway before time runs out!

Healthy Mexican Chicken Soup | Espresso and Cream

 

Healthy Mexican Chicken Soup for Two
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • Juice from ½ of a lime
  • Additional fresh cilantro, shredded Mexican blend cheese and tortilla chips, if desired
Instructions
  1. In a medium stockpot over medium high heat, heat olive oil. Add onion to pot and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until onions are tender and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne to the soup and cook 1 minute more, stirring frequently.
  2. Pour chicken broth into pot along with the beans. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until nearly smooth but some texture still remains. (Alternately, you could use a blender, just make sure the liquid isn't hot.)
  3. Add the chicken, cilantro and lime juice to the soup and bring mixture to a simmer. Spoon into bowls. Top with additional cilantro, shredded cheese and tortilla chips, if desired.

 

 

Food Should Taste Good Intro | Espresso and Cream

Today I’m hosting one amazing giveaway on E&C that includes a $100 Visa Gift card and a bunch of other amazing goodies! Keep reading to find out how to enter below!

With football season right around the corner (!) I’m gearing up football entertaining season. Joe and I are both huge football fans, and I feel as if our house is always open to people who want to watch the games. Of course there’s no way I would have people over and not serve food to eat. Sometimes we go all-out with burgers and dips and some type of dessert, but more often than not we keep things simple with chips and dip. I find I’m much more likely to entertain if it doesn’t become a stressful affair.

So when Food Should Taste Good asked me if I would be interested in working with them to promote their products, I jumped at the chance. Joe and I eat a lot of Food Should Taste Good chips year round because you can feel good about what goes into making their chips. Plus, their tortilla chips are all gluten-free; and while Joe and I don’t eat gluten-free, it’s nice knowing we are providing friends and family with a g-free option when we entertain.

In my sampling box, I received the olive, guacamole and blue corn tortilla chips. I guess it goes without saying that we loved them all, considering I didn’t even have a chance to snap a photo of the bags before Joe insisted on opening them all and sampling each variety. Thankfully, I had a chance to steal a few of the olive chips for the recipe below!

Greek Salad Cups | Espresso and Cream

This fall I’ll be sharing a handful of recipes with you that incorporate Food Should Taste Good products that are perfect for game day or casual entertaining. I’m super excited about today’s recipe because it’s cute, portable and a bit on the lighter side. I don’t know about you, but I always appreciate when there is a veggie option to break up all the heavier dips and spreads.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but salad cups are a great way to get veggies into the mix. Serving the salad in individual cups makes it easier to eat and looks a lot cuter than a big bowl of salad. I served these little cups to friends last week and they were so easy to make that you better believe they will be making another appearance sometime soon!

Now, if you’re still with me, there’s an amazing giveaway below! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out. There are a handful of ways to enter, so make sure to get your name in the hat for this prize package that includes a $100 Visa Gift card and a selection of Food Should Taste Good chips, among other things:

Giveaway Package Includes:
(1) $100 Visa Gift card
(1) 9-Piece Square Dipping Set
(1) Nostalgia Electric Fondue Pot, including 6 forks
(1) Stainless Steel Snack Bowl
A variety of Food Should Taste Good products

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Greek Salad Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, Snack
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • ½ medium English (seedless) cucumber, cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 2 oz pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • ¼ cup Greek-style salad dressing
  • 1 heart of Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Food Should Taste Good olive tortilla chips for serving
Instructions
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cucumber, grape tomatoes and olives. Add dressing and toss until evenly coated.
  2. Place some of the lettuce into 8 small plastic drinking cups. Top with some of the cucumber mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon crumbled feta on top of the cucumber mixture. Serve cups with Food Should Taste Good olive tortilla chips.

 

This post is brought to you in partnership with Food Should Taste Good. All thoughts and opinions are my own

Summer Bounty Rigatoni Bake 3 | Espresso and Cream
As I’ve grown in my faith over the years, I’ve learned more and more that what we get in this life (both good and bad) is so rarely directly related to how many good works we do or how many times we stumble and make mistakes along the way. Of course that’s not to say that when we make mistakes there aren’t consequences, but I think that subconsciously I’ve lived with the mentality that if I do enough good in this world, then good things would happen to me.

Along the way I’ve realized that this simply isn’t true and that God doesn’t work on a system of tallies and check marks on a to-do chart. Our stories are mapped out by Him with purpose and intention, specifically designed to grow us in different ways.

This past year has been difficult, filled with lots of tears and more than my fair share of fearful moments. Many times along the way I asked God, “Why not us? Why don’t we get a baby like so many other people? Why do we have to lose our little ones?” But now that we’ve been blessed with this little miracle baby, I’ve been overwhelmed with feelings I didn’t expect. More than a couple times I’ve broken down in tears asking God, “Why me? Why do we get this miracle?” I feel so incredibly undeserving of this gift God’s given us and of the prayers people have prayed on our behalf.

Summer Bounty Rigatoni Bake 1 | Espresso and Cream
I guess my garden is an appropriate example of how you don’t always get what you “deserve” in life. We’ve given our little garden everything it needs to grow and be fruitful, including plenty of water and weeding and the like, and yet our harvest has been completely disappointing. Just a handful of zucchini and yellow squash, no peppers, the rabbits ate our green beans and our spaghetti squash never came up.

Thankfully our tomato plants have done relatively well and we’ve just started experiencing the overflow of tomatoes from our garden. I can’t tell you how many batches of this homemade tomato-basil sauce I’ve made (maybe 4 or 5 in the last handful of weeks?) but it’s quickly become a staple in our house, transforming even the most basic pasta dish into something special.

When I served this baked rigatoni pasta to Joe last week, his eyes lit up and he quickly declared this one of the best things I’ve ever made. Considering how much I’ve cooked for him over the years, that’s saying something, friends. An added bonus? It’s easy to prep this dish in advance, cover and then cook it up when you get home from work at the end of the day!

Summer Bounty Pasta Bake with Fresh Homemade Tomato-Basil Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (my cloves were on the larger side)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • ¾ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Pasta Bake
  • 2 cups rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are completely broken up and the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the cream.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, tomato sauce, zucchini, feta cheese and chicken. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Top with the Italian cheese blend and grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until cheese is melted and zucchini is tender. Spoon into bowls to serve.

 

 

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