Celebrating the Pride of Mount Vernon

“Ladies and gentlemen!…The moment you’ve been waiting for!…The pride of Mount Vernon!…George Washington!” (From Hamilton)

I decided that, since we’ve enjoyed Christopher Jackson’s portrayal of George Washington in Hamilton so much, and since I knew we’d be watching Hamilton again for Washington’s Birthday today, I should also make the whole day a celebration. Actually, this was just the kind of festivity we needed at the end of February in the time of COVID-19! We started with coffee cake for breakfast…cherry, of course!

I got into the spirit of the Day in Animal Crossing:

The highlight of our celebration (other than watching Hamilton, of course), was dinner. I found four new recipes on the Mount Vernon website, all based on recipes from Martha Washington’s collection…chicken chasseur, popovers, carrot fritters, and stewed parsnips. Everything was delicious, but even I was surprised by how popular the fritters were!

Not too bad for a Monday night!

For dessert, I made pie. Cherry pie (of course!):

I threw in some ice cream for fun:

George Washington was a flawed man, as we all are, but he was a great leader for our young country, and I think these words from his farewell address to the nation sum up his character well:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Eleventh Month

This is the penultimate month of a year of pandemic cooking. I certainly didn’t intend to do this for an entire year, but I also had no idea what a pandemic would look like or how long it would last when I began.

I guess after the last wrap-up, which was full of holiday meals, this one is pretty tame. We did celebrate a birthday and Burns Night in the last month-plus, and had a few family favorite dinners along the way, too.

Of course there wasn’t as much baking as last time, but we still made quite a few treats, including our traditional Epiphany baklava, a birthday truffle tower, and an amazing white chocolate lemon cheesecake:

Next month, I’ll finish up this year of pandemic cooking…I’ll probably cheat a bit, and wait until closer to the end of month to wrap things up, to make sure both of our family’s March birthdays get included in the summary!

Tasty Tuesday–A Look Back at Festive Feasts and Holiday Baking

I often take a look back at the holiday baking I did from Thanksgiving through Epiphany; this year, I thought it would be fun to look back at all of the holiday meals and treats we’ve enjoyed, starting with Thanksgiving dinner:

We had our pick out dinner on Christmas Day this time:

And our fancy Christmas dinner on the Sunday after Christmas:

Of course we had our traditional New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar:

And a special New Year’s Day dinner to start the new year right:

And finally, our Ryan’s Birthday/Epiphany feast:

On to the baking. There were pies for Thanksgiving:

And several cakes throughout the season, for St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Jesus’ Birthday, the fancy Christmas dinner, and New Year’s Day:

We baked so many Christmas cookies!

And an obligatory “other” section, for things like lussekattes, coffee cake, and even some special holiday beverages:

I put in a little extra effort this year, to make up for the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere or do most of our normal Christmas activities. In the end, I think we’ll have a lot of delicious memories from this holiday season!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Tenth Month

This has been a good month for cooking! We’ve had some favorite meals and some special meals, and we even had two different dinners from Portillo’s, because this time when I ordered our Italian beef and sausage combo I added in an order of tamales (totally delicious, and we have enough left in the freezer for another meal!). I’ll admit I was a little worried about being able to find everything I needed for all of our culinary traditions, but while I did have to enter a few more stores than I would have preferred, in the end I found everything that was necessary.

We also baked all of the things. I’m shocked there are any baking supplies left in our town. The kitchen still smells vaguely like a bakery!

And a few special beverages for the holidays…hot chocolate from our New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar, wassail (which I’ve made a few times in the last two months), and homemade eggnog, which is a real treat!

You’d think that would be the end of fancy meals for a while, but Ryan’s birthday is tomorrow, so we’ll have at least one more special dinner in the next month!

The Top Five–Food Photos of 2020

Today’s “Top Five” continues in the home and focuses on food photography. If there’s anything I’ve done a lot this year, it’s cook. I already did a lot of cooking to begin with, but between not being able to go out to eat at all, and wanting to find something nice I could do for my family at home, I upped my cooking game (in my opinion, anyway). And while I was cooking a lot, I decided to work on my food plating and photography, too. I actually think I’ve improved a lot this year, so at least I learned something!

The first picture I chose is from the very beginning of the year, when I made Beef Wellington for Ryan’s 40th birthday on Epiphany:

We have had shawarma so many times this year. It’s always a pretty meal because it’s so colorful…this is my favorite picture of that dinner:

I’ve also done a lot of baking this year, including this lovely carrot cake:

I found a new recipe for potato-parsnip soup, and not only was it delicious, it looked beautiful!

And finally, a picture of the dessert I made to accompany our fancy Christmas dinner on Sunday. I love the colors and textures in this picture!

Food can be a tricky thing to photograph, so I’m going to keep working on improving my skills!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Ninth Month

Well, the holiday season is upon us, so not only is this a look back at the food I’ve been cooking over the last month or so, but also our first meals of the 2020 holiday season…Thanksgiving and its leftovers! We also got to try out the newest concept from Beast Craft BBQ, Beast Southern Kitchen and BBQ, which was a nice treat, and a nice break for me!

Of course a main feature of the holidays is baking. We’ve not only made our weekly cookies, but also a fleet of pies for Thanksgiving! Oh, and a pumpkin roll for Saint Nicholas Day:

The best holiday meals are yet to come, and all of our Christmas baking!

Pie Day 2020

Happy Pie Day!

We baked eight pies today. Not a record, but still a lot of pies, and our house smells like a bakery!

Caramel-apple (Bunny made this one, and it’s definitely the prettiest of the bunch!):

Lemon meringue:

Cranberry-apple:

Peanut butter:

Pecan (Someday I’ll make a pecan pie that actually looks pretty, but until then, at least it tastes good!):

S’mores:

Butterscotch:

Pumpkin:

Now we just have to wait until tomorrow to dig in!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Eighth Month

Kind of getting tired of cooking, but we have tried quite a few new and delicious things in the last month or so (and we got to have Pizza Hut and White Castle, too!):

I don’t think we did quite as much baking over the last month…we did keep making cookies every Sunday, and we also had a few other special treats, including a birthday cake:

The holidays are yet to come, so the cooking and baking is really just beginning!

Tasty Tuesday–Our Favorite Cookies, with a Twist

I’ve shared our favorite cookie recipe before…now it’s time to take a look at our new twist on it!

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 cups of your favorite baking chips
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, eggs, and egg yolks until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the baking chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets (cookies should be about 3 inches apart). Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven.. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Ready for the First Day of School?

I’m not going to lie…I’m not really sure that I’m ready for the 2020-21 school year. If I’m totally honest, I’m kind of dreading it for several reasons, and the top reason actually has nothing to do with COVID-19. Instead, I’m apprehensive because it’s Turkey and Bunny’s last year of homeschooling. That’s right…this experiment that we began in 2008 when they started kindergarten is now coming to a close, at least for them. And I’m afraid I’m going to spend the entire school year crying, as each “last time” comes up.

But, our homeschooling experiment is far from over, especially now that Moose is joining us at home while doing distance-learning for at least the first semester of his first year of high school (which, again if I’m honest, is a little scary to me), so one way or another, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for our most unique and challenging year of homeschooling (which includes two twelfth graders, a 9th grader, an 8th grader, and a 3rd grader) yet!

First, a look at some of the fun we’ve had in the last week of summer vacation, including Lego-building and cookie-baking. We may not have been able to travel this summer, or even do the usual local stuff we would during the summer, but we still managed to have fun experiences!

Tonight was our annual “Farewell to Summer” dinner, this time a mail-order meal from Portillo’s, which mirrors a dinner we had shortly before summer break began.

A summer classic for dessert…root beer floats:

Plus some Frango mints, another little taste of Chicago:

This year’s first-day-of-school outfits are Animal Crossing themed. It’s a good reflection of our summer, and they were pretty easy to get in a time when clothes shopping can be a little challenging.

The school room has been cleaned and organized…it looks pretty much like it did for most of last year, with the keyboard being the most recent (but not really new anymore) addition:

I prepared the schultüte for tomorrow, too:

So that’s pretty much it. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be, and our 13th year of homeschooling begins bright and early tomorrow morning!