Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Twelfth Month

One final monthly wrap-up to round out a full year of pandemic cooking. Well, a year-plus. I stretched this one a little long, because I wanted to come full circle with the two birthday celebrations that were part of the beginning of the pandemic last year, and celebrated within the last week this year. I can only hope that by the time March 2022 rolls around, we’ll have a more “normal” set of birthdays!

We tried a few more new recipes in the last weeks (I made picadillo and gnocchi for the first time, as well as carrot fritters!) , and had several celebrations, including Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, a dinner for Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, and Turkey’s and Chickadee’s birthdays. We also indulged in both Beast Craft BBQ and Wing Runner.

I made lots of desserts and baked goods this month, too, including Oreo truffles, my first attempt at homemade pączki, a cherry pie, popovers, Frango mint brownies, a cannoli cake, pies for Pi Day, a Guinness cake, more cookies than I can count, and birthday desserts in the forms of a trifle and an elephant cake. We also had a Green River Soda cheesecake shipped from Eli’s, and it was amazing!

So there it is…a full year of cooking through a pandemic. I’ve pushed myself hard over the last year to make more special meals for my family, because it was one of the few things I could actually do for them. I also worked hard to try new things, because it was something exciting in the midst of a very dull time. When I look back on this period in our history, I hope I’ll remember the special meals and weekly cookie-baking sessions with Bunny as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dark time!

St. Patrick’s Day in the Time of COVID-19

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can you believe this is the second time we’ve celebrated this holiday in the time of COVID-19?!? Of course, last year, we really didn’t know what we were in for yet, and this year, we’re all hoping that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but either way, our family celebration remained largely unchanged, although this year, we did start celebrating pretty early in the month with Shamrock Shakes (almost impossible to find in our area this year, so when we did pinpoint a location that was offering them, we jumped on it!) and a Green River Soda cheesecake from Eli’s:

We started the day with Lucky Charms and the leprechaun trap…spoilers, we didn’t catch him (again!)!

We read all of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day books, watched all of the Ireland episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe we have on disc, and also watched Aerial Ireland. I really enjoyed “Shamrock Day” in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While it wasn’t a huge event like some, there were some special items, including what look suspiciously like Shamrock Shakes!

I also enjoyed giving a few of my favorite neighbors a Shamrock Suit to match mine:

The highlight of the day (for me at least) was dinner. I love corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings!

And of course we had Guinness cake for dessert, which is a family favorite!

We had a nice St. Patrick’s Day, as we always do, but I really hope that next time the holiday rolls around, things in the world are a little more normal!

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!