This cake came to me in a snow-covered dream. I woke up Sunday knowing I had to do three things: shovel my driveway, take my kids sledding, and bake something. It’s no secret I love to be snowed in; I view it as nature’s permission to let everything go — I don’t stress about it, I don’t complain about it, I just let it all go. Northern Virginia was in the epicenter of the recent “snowzilla” storm. We had historic snowfall and the world shut down for a few days. It was pretty wonderful. I’ll be back at work tomorrow, so while I’m enjoying my last day of snowed in freedom, I thought I’d hop back on the blogging wagon and share this wonderful, easy recipe. No mixer required, and I bet you have most of the ingredients in your pantry. Continue reading →
I have been away too long, and I thought today was a good day to change that. For reasons I won’t divulge, I haven’t felt much like writing, sharing, or being social lately. The wind was knocked out of my sails, I lost my inspiration, my mojo, my zing. I am still not 100%, but I miss writing, so here I am. Continue reading →
I recently discovered that one of my favorite food magazines, Saveur Magazine, is taking nominations for their annual food blog award. So, I thought I’d combine “Throwback Thursday” with my request for your nominations. I’m including my favorite and most personal blog posts. I hope you’ll revisit them, or read them for the first time, and if you like them and feel I am worthy, hop over to this link: Blog Awards 2015, and cast your nomination for little old me. You never know… You can nominate me, and all of your other favorite food blogs, until March 13th, then go back and vote on March 30th. I’ll be sure to remind you. Continue reading →
You know that saying, “Virginia is for Lovers”? It’s one of my favorite things. Most bumper stickers offend me or make me roll my eyes, but this one warms my heart every time. I like to think of it as an incomplete sentence that can be completed in so many different ways. Virginia is for lovers… of trees, of snow, of thunderstorms, of rolling hills, of horses, of juicy peaches, of perfect summertime tomatoes, of fireflies… but most importantly, Virginia is for lovers of Virginia.
There is something about this state. It gets under your skin and into your soul. I am a Virginia girl, and as much as I love to travel, Virginia will always be my home. When I’m gone I miss it; I can’t wait to get back and get my fix.
Virginia is temperamental and imperfect, moody and often unpredictable. There are traits of Virginia that even lovers of Virginia don’t love, but there is always a reward.
Winter is long and cold, but then come those intoxicating first days of spring, when, suddenly, everything is green and blooming and overwhelmingly beautiful—like you’re experiencing it all for the first time. The smell of lilacs floating by on a spring breeze gets me every year.
Late July and early August are often too humid, but just to get us through, Virginia gives us the best peaches and tomatoes (and tons of other good things—those are just my two favorites).
And when you’ve had your fill of tomato sandwiches and vanilla ice cream with peaches on top, summer gives way to fall, where Virginia never fails to impress. The leaves turn to gold and auburn, the air gets crisp and the evenings get chilly. The smell of a fire on a cool evening, yep, it gets me every year.
Virginia is a place for people who aren’t afraid to wait for the good stuff. Virginia is reliable. Virginia never lets me down. Virginia is one of my favorite things, and always will be.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I thought about doing a Thanksgiving or Christmas post… but for some reason, I just didn’t; it didn’t feel right. I have tons of holiday recipes, as I’m sure you do, too. I just think the holidays are so intensely personal that I didn’t want to impose. That might seem silly, but that’s just how I felt.
So, Christmas—my favorite time of year—has zipped by, and I have cooked and eaten everything in sight and had lots of fun doing it. And here I am, thinking about what to cook and what to write about next… But first, I think I’ll write about my version of the holidays—what makes them special to me—if for no other reason than to help me accept that Christmas is, in fact, over—like a therapy exercise.
For me, the holidays are about food, family, and smells. The smells I remember from my childhood—the smells that never change: Celery and onion cooking in butter for stuffing; warm buttery graham cracker crumbs being pressed into the pan for a cheesecake crust; the smell of a real Christmas tree; peppermint sticks—the real ones—that my dad taught me how to drink milk through. These smells make me remember being a little girl, they make me remember the magic of Christmas: Leaving my Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, and leaning my sleepy head against the cold van window, looking up and being sure—every year—that Orion’s belt was Santa and his reindeer; waking up on Christmas morning to find the tree had been decorated with candy canes and tinsel by Santa while we slept; Cold, cold eggnog; bowls full of oranges to be peeled and nuts to be cracked; lying under the Christmas tree and looking up through the branches; the kitchen counter lined with cooling cheesecakes. These little traditions and memories make Christmas special and personal, and I love continuing them, tweaking them, and of course starting a few new ones.
Without a doubt, the biggest tradition I’ve continued is that of my dad’s cheesecake. Every Christmas he made dozens of them for everyone we knew. My brothers and I helped him, and he’d scream at us if we ran through the kitchen while they were baking, insisting that they would “fall” if we shook the floor too much. When I was about 19, I started to really cook on my own, and the first thing I tackled was my dad’s cheesecake. I read dozens of recipes, compared techniques, temperatures, timing, and after many changes and variations, came up with my cheesecake. When my dad tried it, and told me mine was better than his, it was like I had won the cooking Olympics. So now, every Christmas, I get funny stares for the obscene amount of cream cheese I buy, and I bake cheesecakes for my friends and family, just like my dad used to do.
Something new I’ve started is making monkey bread on Christmas Eve to have for Christmas morning breakfast. I started it with my son several years ago; his job (which my daughter now helps with, too) was to roll the dough balls in butter and then into the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture—messy, fun, and perfect for little hands. It rises overnight in the fridge, and bakes while we open presents. About two years ago he did an assignment at school about traditions, and guess what he wrote about. Monkey Bread. This is the stuff that warms my heart; this is why we have traditions!
Another new tradition is peppermint bark—something I don’t think I ever had as a child. I have my own secret recipe. I use my signature double sifting method to separate the crushed peppermint into three different size categories. It takes a little extra effort, but my kids love watching the “fairy dust” technique. It makes it more like candy, and gives the white chocolate (which I’m not normally the biggest fan of) some real texture and flavor—almost a crystalline crunch. I’m pretty proud of it, and it’s a sweet, festive homemade gift that takes two ingredients and hardly any time.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly (especially to my daughter) is the cookie decorating. Santa needs cookies. A messy, can’t-be-rushed activity that always results in giggles and creativity. The googly eyes were a new addition this year. I think they must become part of the tradition.
These are my traditions—the things that are special enough to wait all year for. The things that have me missing Christmas already. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year (full of lots of good food!).