Chocolate Pie (Oh, my!)

One of my goals for 2016 is to eat more pie.

Just kidding.

I have no plans to eat more pie. I have no plans to eat less pie either.

My parents gave me a deep pie dish for Christmas. And since I’ve also been hankering a chocolate pie, I consulted my favorite cooking site, Pioneer Woman. I hit the jackpot. (No surprise there!)

Here’s Ree’s Marlboro-Man-Approved Chocolate Pie recipe.

And here’s my finished product, (it’s not the best picture, but I didn’t want to breathe all over it trying to get a better one):

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I haven’t sliced the pie yet, (it’s for New Year’s Day dinner), but I licked the spoon, the spatula, and the pan (because I have no shame). The pie filling is wonderful! Unless something happens, like I drop the pie plate getting it to where it’s going (which could totally happen), this is another successful Pioneer Woman recipe from start to finish.

Note: I used 6 ¼ ounces of Baker’s unsweetened (bittersweet) chocolate plus ¼ ounce of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate—because I got scared that it would be too bitter. Not that ¼ of an ounce would make much difference, but it appeased my neurosis. For the moment, anyway.

If “Eat Mor Choklit” is your motto for 2016, consider giving this pie a try!

High Time for Afternoon Tea

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Afternoon Christmas Tea at The Duke Inn’s Fairview Dining Room – Durham, North Carolina

I consider tea one of the good gifts God has given us to enjoy. At Christmastime each year, I look forward to a formal afternoon tea—a special celebration I usually indulge in at The Washington Duke Inn, (with some exceptions).

For me, afternoon tea at this time of year is as much about the festive decorations as it is the brew, the savories and the sweets. I’ve written about and photographed The Duke Inn at Christmastime before, so this year I tried to take pictures from new perspectives.

For instance, I snapped the entry hall Christmas tree from a different direction:

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Honestly, it looks pretty much the same from every angle. But this year, I also took a picture of one of the ornaments on the tree—proof of the fine details that might be missed when looking at the whole:

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I believe I spotted a new tree this year. It was quite a hit—several folks stopped to get their pictures taken in front of it:

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I also tried a different flavor of tea. With a bit of hesitation,  I chose the vanilla almond black tea. It was delicious. (Shew!)

After the tiny sandwiches, cheeses, bite-size sweets, a scone smothered in clotted cream and lemon curd, plus two pots of tea (restraint begins tomorrow), I ventured to the other side of the Inn where the Golf Shop is located. I’d never been there before, (Have you seen me play golf? It’s not pretty!), and found Christmas decorations there as well:

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Finally, to prove that I was actually at the Inn, not just stealing pictures off the Interwebs and claiming them as my own, here I am in the lovely sitting room that’s between the dining and the conference center wings.

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(photo credit: B Sullivan)

The Duke Inn never disappoints; and I’ll look forward to next year when once again—Lord willing and the creek don’t rise—it’s high time for afternoon Christmas tea.

Overnight Guests of Grantsville, Maryland

Less than three hours from the big city bustle of Baltimore and Washington DC, Grantsville is home to 1,000 residents and host to visitors seeking country respite.

Travelers are not strangers to this quiet, western Maryland town. In the 1800s, the area was a stagecoach stop along the National Road, a route which created a pass through the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio Valley westward. In those days, road-weary souls often stayed at The Casselman Inn—a National Register Historic Place that is still open to guests.

Although a new route (US 40) has long since replaced the Old National Road, the original route still passes through Grantsville—and passes by The Casselman Inn.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn recently with some of my family—partly in honor of my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary (wow, right?) and partly because of the town’s annual Christmas in the Village. … But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the Casselman.

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The Casselman Inn is second generation family-owned and operated.

Come on "inn" and I'll show you around.

Come on “inn” and I’ll show you around. (photo credit: Lisa Morrison)

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The front parlor, with its deep window seats, is simple and charming.

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The Inn has been known by many names over the years, including Dorsey’s Inn. The two-room Dorsey Hotel Suite is the crown jewel of the Inn.

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One of the sitting areas in the Dorsey Suite.

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The Dorsey Suite mixes modern conveniences with antique elements.

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The Inn offers two more rooms (such as this one), plus 40 rooms in the motor lodge next door.

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Christmastime is a great time to visit The Casselman Inn. — Grantsville, MD

About a quarter mile down the Pike is Penn Alps Restaurant and Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which hosts the annual Christmas in the Village (now in its 31st year), and features local artisans and their wares. Here are a few photos from this year’s event:

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The circa 1776 Glotfelty House is now a weaver’s studio. (Hurry sundown for the lighting of the luminaries!)

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Looking through the window of Lynn Lais’ pottery studio, some of his lovely work is on display along the windowsill. Nary a year goes by that my parents don’t buy a piece or two from this talented potter. (In fact, that’s my Mom and my sister inside purchasing their pieces.)

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The woodturner’s studio, a circa 1913 schoolhouse, was bedecked in laser lights. Incidentally, I have an exquisite (and functional!) rolling pin from this artisan (Gene Gillespie) that features a multi-colored design of local and exotic woods.

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Spruce Forest Artisan Village with all the luminaries lit.

Walking around the Village can work up an appetite. The adjacent Penn Alps Restaurant provides stick-to-your-ribs comfort food as well as lighter fare for those thus inclined. I wasn’t thus inclined. I savored every bite of my oh-so-tender hot roast beef sandwich, real mashed potatoes and gravy, and almost-as-good-as-Mom’s cup of German vegetable soup.

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I’ll spare you a food photo and show you the Christmas tree in the entry of Penn Alps Restaurant — Grantsville, MD

For the after-dinner sweet tooth, a little further down the Pike is the Hilltop Fruit Market. But don’t let the name fool you—it’s home to Candyland, too!

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The Hilltop Fruit Market, home of the illustrious Candyland, is located along the National Pike in Grantsville, MD. (There are at least two more rows of candy not shown in this picture! Some of it is old fashioned candy or hard to find, or both!)

With visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, our sleep was sweet and we awoke to the smell of sticky buns baking and bacon crisping. Breakfast at The Cassleman Restaurant was free with our stay. I’m not sure which was more enjoyable, the food or the delightful conversation we had with the locals at a nearby table.

While the bustle of busy-ness has its place, (indeed, those who made our stay memorable were working quite hard to do so!), there is much to be said for slowing down and savoring the moment. This Christmas, I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy the season. (In fact, I hope that I am able to slow down and enjoy the season!) And for those, like Charlie Brown, who find themselves asking, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”, this scene along Main Street in Grantsville beautifully depicts the reason for Christmas:

Grantsville_Nativity_Scene

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:11

Big Taste: Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! (And if you follow a church calendar in which Easter Sunday marks just the beginning of the Easter season—a fifty-day period that spans the observance of Jesus’ resurrection, His ascension to Heaven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit upon Christians on the Day of Pentecost—then I hope this season has begun with great joy.)

I’ve been craving cupcakes lately, so I decided to make some in celebration of Easter Day. I searched the ‘Interwebs’ for a scaled-down recipe and found a promising Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes recipe at a deliciously appealing website called celebratingsweets.com. The recipe yielded five (5) cupcakes.

Whipping up the batter was straightforward, and the cupcakes baked in about 17 minutes for me. The icing came together in less than five minutes, resulting in a smooth and creamy consistency. (Oh yes, I licked the beaters. And scraped the icing bowl clean, too.)

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Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes (recipe by celebratingsweets.com).

My photo doesn’t do them justice—food photography is not my forte, but I’m willing to work on it one delicious treat at a time.