Easy Plants for Your Home Garden
We're sure you've seen all the pictures of people learning how to make homemade sourdough loaves but if you're not one who loves to spend that much time in the kitchen, there are a few other hobbies you can pick up as we continue to shelter in place.
This week we celebrate Earth Day, a day where we acknowledge the importance of taking care of our environment and giving gratitude for all that nature provides. Why not use this week to turn your thumb from brown to green by starting a small garden at home? Don't let the idea of gardening feel overwhelming; there are a variety of plants that grow easily with just a little bit of care. Besides the obvious beauty that plants and flowers offer, there are studies that show that gardening helps boost our mood, and getting our hands dirty with soil boosts our immune system. Besides, humans need a little sunlight too.
Here are some of the plants we love that we're sure you'll love too!
Pansies are great for containers, borders, and they offer reliable color almost year-round.
Tomatoes are a lot easier than you might think. Even just one plant can provide you with plenty of fruit throughout the season. You can start them from seed, find starter plants at the nursery, or even purchase hanging baskets if you live in a small space.
Mint is one of the easiest plants of all. Be sure to keep this in a pot as it's highly invasive. It's the perfect plant for the warmer months; stick the leaves in water for a refreshing change or combine them with club soda, rum, lime juice, and simple syrup for mojitos!
Lavender looks beautiful, offers a wonderful scent, and can also be added to foods and drinks. A lavender lemonade sounds delicious.
Aloe Vera is a succulent and if you are one who forgets to water, succulents are your friend. The added bonus of Aloe Vera is that it also has healing properties. You can snip off a part of the plant to rub on a cut or sunburn to speed up healing.
Arugula and lots of other lettuces grow easily in the ground and in pots. They grow quickly and can be harvested multiple times before they require replanting.
Color Your World
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso
We believe that making wine is also like making art. It's about the application of science and technique, but also involves an element of play, particularly when it comes to blending. You have to take your time to really get to know the grapes and the resulting wine, finding harmony as you layer the flavors. We're not painters, but we imagine this is what it's like for the artist when they are trying to find the perfect color.
In order to get back in touch with our sense of play, we're playing old school games like Uno and Battleship, keeping our brains sharp with word puzzles, and scribbling in some coloring books. It turns out that coloring has actual health benefits, too!
- When you sit and color, it relaxes the amygdala, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. In the time of COVID-19, participating in activities that reduce stress and anxiety makes your immune system more resilient and makes you a happier person too.
- Coloring before bedtime is a great tech-free ritual that helps improve the quality of your sleep. Many of us like to binge our favorite shows right before bed, or, even worse, we scroll on our phone until we can't keep our eyes open any longer. Studies show that too much screen time before bed ruins your ability to get a deep, restful sleep.
- You can improve your focus. Coloring requires concentration, but not too much. It's kind of like meditation: you are present but just breathing through the process. As many of us continue to work from home, strengthening our focus can help us have a more productive day and reduce distraction.
Who knew that something so simple could be so helpful? We decided to make a little something for you to download and print for the next time you take a little break. We made a Ruby Hill themed crossword puzzle and a coloring sheet for you. Grab a glass of wine, relax, and let your inner-child come out and play!
To save the pages, simply right-click and select "save as." You can then print them from your computer. Need a little bit of wine while you chill? We're offering curbside pick-up this week with a special offer for our new Grapeful Rosé. Check out our newsletter for more information.
A Day for Chocolate Cake
Photo by Chelsea Craig for Bon Appetit
When we think of Easter, we think back to our childhood and the fun of tearing open the baskets, fingertips sticky from candy. But we're adults now, and we have to save the candy for kids. So this week, we're sharing something sweet and chocolatey to add to your Easter menu. This recipe comes to us from Bon Appetit. It's called the Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake, but we're pretty certain it can be an Easter Cake or a cake for any day. After all, is there ever a day that isn't perfect for Chocolate Cake?
We think our Ruby Hill Solera Dessert Wine pairs wonderfully with this sweet treat. On the nose, this wine has aromas of jam, toasted almond, and hazelnut. The rich mouthfeel offers flavors of blackberry jam, dried plum, and cocoa. The sweetness of this wine marries well with the sweetness of the chocolate cake. We're sure you'll be delighted with this flavor combination too.
If you're still in need of some wine for Easter, take a look at our Easter Wine Basket. We've put together four wines that will pair well with your Easter menu plans - Solera included!
Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake
¾ cup vegetable oil, plus more for pan
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1¾ tsp. vanilla extract, divided
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bars (do not exceed 64% cacao)
½ cup heavy cream
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup powdered sugar
- Place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°. Using your fingertips, grease bottom and sides of a 9" round cake pan with vegetable oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, smoothing to eliminate air bubbles. (It may sound fancy, but making a parchment circle is easy! Place pan on a piece of parchment, trace circumference with a pencil, then cut it out.)
- Whisk 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, 1¼ cups granulated sugar, 1¾ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. baking soda, and 1¼ tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl. Sift ½ cup cocoa powder into bowl, then whisk to combine. (You can stop here and package these dry ingredients in an airtight container to create a sort of DIY cake mix if you want!)
- Whisk 2 large eggs, ¾ cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in a medium bowl until well combined and creamy, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, mix egg mixture into dry ingredients until fully incorporated. It will be thick and pasty, that's okay!
- Warm 1 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to just a bare simmer—make sure it doesn't come to a boil. Whisk warmed milk into batter until lump-free and just combined; do not overmix.
- Immediately transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap pan a few times on work surface to encourage some of the bubbles to escape.
- Bake cake, turning pan halfway through, until a cake tester (or toothpick!) inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, 40–50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: Fill a medium pot with 1" water and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Combine 4 oz. chocolate chips and ½ cup heavy cream in a heatproof medium bowl, place over saucepan, and reduce heat to low (make sure bottom of bowl is not touching water). Stir occasionally with a spatula until chocolate is melted and mixture is homogeneous and thick. Chill ganache until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes (you can mix with a spatula to encourage cooling). Alternately, mix chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 10-second bursts until melted.
- Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk 4 oz. (room temperature!) cream cheese, ¼ cup powdered sugar, and remaining ¾ tsp. vanilla extract and ¼ tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl until very smooth and no lumps remain. Beat in cooled chocolate ganache on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until frosting just holds its peak and is well combined and a little thicker, about 1 minute. You don't want to overbeat because the frosting can become too stiff.
- Run a butter knife around edges of pan. Invert cooled cake onto a plate and peel off parchment. Invert again onto a platter.
- Top cake with frosting, spreading evenly across the surface. Make some decorative swooshes with a spoon, if desired. Slice and serve.
Not close enough to pick-up your wine this weekend? We're still offering complimentary shipping when your order contains 6 or more bottles. Find your favorites and have them delivered safely to your home.
3 Ways To Celebrate the Good in Life
It is nearly impossible to go through the day without hearing one more news bite that adds another worry onto our already full plates. We watch as our family, friends, and community members navigate the new and ongoing uncertainties surrounding work, school, and life due to the global pandemic. In times like these, it is even more vital that we find ways to see the good happening around us. One of our favorite sayings is, “What you focus on expands.” We are trying our best to find ways to focus on all that brings a little smile to our faces at the end of a long day. Here are a few ways you can stay connected to joy and celebrate the good in life.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Many studies show the benefits of journaling on our mental health, but many avoid it because it seems hard or time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be! One easy way to stay connected to joy is with a Gratitude Journal. First thing in the morning or right before bed, simply write five things for which you are grateful. Keep this practice up every day and feel your heart fill with joy for all the little things in life.
Have a Candlelight Dinner for No Reason
Fancy dinners at restaurants are not an option, but why not bring the romance home? No need to wait for an anniversary or a birthday to create a special moment. Cook your favorite food or place an order for pick-up from your favorite local restaurant (check www.visittrivalley.com for a list of local restaurants and businesses with delivery and pick-up options). All you need are a few candles or a string of Christmas lights to add some ambiance. Pull out the cloth napkin and the fancy glasses. Use this time to talk about the best parts of your day. Pop open some sparkling and toast to the good in life. We're celebrating Wednesday with a bottle of Ruby Hill Sparkling.)
Send Handwritten Letters
Make a list of all the family and friends you miss, those near and far. Instead of sending a text or Facebook message, take a few minutes to write a quick note. Be it long or short, everyone loves a surprise letter in the mailbox. And since that’s as far as most of us can travel these days, you are bound to put a smile on their face.
How else are you staying connected to joy and celebrating the good stuff in life?
Enjoy complimentary ground shipping when you order 6 or more bottles.
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