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My dad lives out of state and we only get together a few times a year, making those visits very special. While it takes some coordination we always get together at the start of the new year and it has become our tradition for my dad and the kids to make pasta together.

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Over the past five years we have tried a variety of pastas – lasagna noodles, plain noodles, spinach and beet flavored fettuccine – every year is a new experiment.010511 148

This year we opted for a simple ricotta filled ravioli served with a mushroom and pancetta sauce. It was delicious and a wonderful way to end our season of eating.010216 a (1)

If you haven’t made pasta before I highly recommend you give it a try and to make it even better, make sure you get your kids to help. It is a wonderful hands on activity, easy for the kids to do and gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. It is one of those things that gives a big wow factor, but is easy for all. 010511 146

One of the great things about pasta is you don’t need any special equipment. A pasta roller is helpful, but not necessary. You can use a rolling pin to flatten and a knife to cut it into shape. If you feel you really want to use a pasta machine I recommend heading to the thrift store. I always see them in our local stores, usually for less than $10.  We got ours for $5.00 a few years ago. Granted it doesn’t have the attachment that lets us attach it to the table, but we use an extra set of arms to hold it in place and it has served us fine for the last 5 years.

We like to make our dough right on the table. It’s a little risky and can be messy, but if you work carefully it is actually easier than using a bowl.010511 125

To start make a big mound of flour on the table (or in your bowl). Shape it in to a volcano with a hole in the middle. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and olive oil together. Pour it in the volcano hole and then, with a fork, slowly start incorporating the flour into the eggs.010216 (18) 010216 (22)

Once it has formed into a rough dough begin kneading until smooth. Let the dough rest, at room temperature, for at least an hour. Then you get to move on to the fun part – rolling and shaping the dough

As I said you don’t need a pasta roller, but it is really cool to watch a thick piece of dough quickly grow into a long and thin sheet with just a few passes through the roller. 010511 129

After a piece of pasta is rolled into a thin sheet it is time to shape it. Again, you can use a specific tool to get the job done, or simply use a knife to cut the pasta into the desired shape. This year we had gotten my Dad a ravioli cutter as a Christmas gift, so we put that to use.

pasta cutter

Image courtesy of Amazon

There are a lot of different types of ravioli cutters and pans, but the handheld cutter is my favorite. It cuts and crimps at the same time, but most importantly it seals the two sheets of pasta together tightly so the cheese doesn’t leak out when cooking. 010216 a (5)

Once all the dough has been shaped it is time to cook and eat. Simply cook the pasta the same way you would store bought pasta and enjoy!

Below are the recipes for the pasta dough and the sauce. Experiment, share and enjoy!

Pasta Dough  (printer ready)

1 lb (about 4 cups) all purpose flour
5 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil


In a small bowl whisk eggs and olive oil together, set aside. Mound the flour on a large cutting board, or table. Make a wide hole in the center of the mound and add the egg mixture. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the eggs. Once the mixture has come together use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead until smooth, it will take about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover the dough and let rest at room temperature for at least one hour. Roll and cut dough into desired shapes.

Mushroom and Pancetta Sauce (printer ready)

½ cup pancetta diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 cups wild mushrooms (any combination of oyster, cremini or shitake)
1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
Olive oilDirections:
In a large saute pan, drizzle olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once oil has heated add pancetta and cook until lightly crisp. Add mushrooms, lightly season with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic allow it to brown slightly then add stock. Raise heat to medium high. Continue cooking until stock has reduced by half. Add butter, stir continuously until butter is melted and sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Enjoy!

Apple Bread

For me this sweet moist bread represents why it is important to keep recipes and share them with family and friends. Growing up Mrs. K, the mom of my best friends, use to make this bread for us every fall. In junior high and high school it was a wonderful treat to come “home” and find this on the counter. When we were in college she made this when we came home for Thanksgiving break and always sent me back to school with a loaf. When I moved out of state I only got to enjoy this bread occasionally, but it was always a treat when I did get it. Every fall I thought about asking Mrs. K for the recipe, but always decided “I’ll get it the next time I see her.”

apple bread

This summer Mrs. K unexpectedly passed away. So this fall when faced with a bowl full of apples I knew it was time to finally get the recipe. Surprisingly neither of Mrs. K’s daughters ever got the recipe, they to thought there would always be time to ask her for it. After going through 2 recipe boxes the recipe was finally found and shared, and for the first time another generation is making this much loved apple bread.

Apple Bread    printer ready

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 apple, finely diced
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dates, roughly chopped

Preheat oven 350. Grease and flour 9×5 loaf pan.
In large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix until combined. In small bowl combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add flour to butter and mix until combined. Stir in milk. Gently fold in apple, walnuts and dates. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

printer ready

Gaylord and Ice

Thanks to Washington Family Magazine we kicked off the holidays in style this year. A few days before Christmas my family packed our bags and headed across the Potomac to the Gaylord National Hotel.  We spent two nights at the hotel, had the opportunity visit ICE, something we have been wanting to do for a long time, and just relaxed. It was the perfect get away and start to Christmas week.

Visiting National Harbor has been a holiday tradition for us for the past couple of years.  We usually go over check out the tree in the harbor, stop by Build-a-Bear, watch it snow in the Atrium, visit Santa, have dinner then head home.  This year we did all that plus more.  We enjoyed a leisurely morning in the room watching tv and sleeping in, then had a delicious breakfast at Pienza.

After breakfast we checked in to ICE, got our big blue jackets and explored all the amazing ice exhibits. We went down the slides a dozen times and walked around just amazed.

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We warmed up with some hot cocoa then headed out to see the rest of National Harbor.  It was a cold rainy day, so we didn’t do much walking, but managed to find our way to the Peep store and Build-a-Bear, where we found a couple of new friends.

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The kids enjoyed an afternoon of swimming and if it were up to them would have spent all night in the pool.  There were lots of kids for them to play with and the only thing that was missing was a poolside cocktail for the parents.

Before heading to dinner at National Pastimes Bar and Grill we explored the hotel looking for reindeer in the Reindeer Round Up Scavenger Hunt and stopped for a quick visit with Santa.

This was the first time we have had a staycation and not only would I recommend a staycation to others, I would recommend scheduling one around the holidays.  It was the perfect way to start Christmas week.  Instead of stressing and rushing around finding more and more that we needed to do we packed our bags, slowed down and simply enjoyed time together.  This get away was on the elaborate side for our family, and not something that will become a holiday tradition, but thanks to Washington Family Magazine, the Gaylord and ICE it will be a memory that we will always have.