Sometimes I miss the snows I remember us getting as a kid. It seemed when a storm came through we would always end up with a foot or more of snow, and it seemed to happen several times a year. There were years that school would be out for a week or more at a time because we got so much snow. We would get up early and turn on WSIG to listen for the school update, which meant we also had to listen to all the road updates, people calling in saying a cow got out of their field, and their call in swap & shop.
When I was about 12, a new family moved into the neighborhood. They had a daughter, Sheila, and she quickly became my best friend. We’re still best friends to this day. Her mom, June, who’s recipe for zucchini bread I use, was a stay-at-home mom. On snow days, all us kids in the neighborhood ended up at their house before the day was done. They had a long yard that sloped down. A few passes down the hill on an old inner-tube and the snow would pack enough to really pick up some speed. We would spend what seemed like hours tubing and sledding. Sheila’s stepdad would come out and have snowball fights with us when he’d have a day off.
When we would go in, June would have a whole spread of snacks ready for us. Sometimes she would make hot cocoa and I think it was the first time I saw somebody make it with real cocoa, sugar, and milk, with big marshmallows on top. We just had packs of hot chocolate at home every now and then. If we felt fancy, we’d get some with the mini marshmallows in the mix. But anyway, she would fill up a mug for each of us and there would be some kind of treats on the table. One day we were all sitting around the kitchen table working on a craft project she gave us and she put a dish of chocolate chips on the table, from a bag she kept in the freezer. It kinda blew my mind. It had never occurred to me that you could just eat chocolate chips from a bowl. On the rare occasion that mom would make homemade chocolate chip cookies, we might get a chip of two from the bag, but they all went in the cookies. It felt so extravagant to just eat a dish full of them! I thought, wow, I bet this is how rich people live. Because of that, I have always kept a bag of chocolate chips in the freezer, just to pour some out in a dish and treat myself with them when I want to. And, when I do, I always think of June, always.
Their first Christmas with us we all came in from playing and she had popped bowls full of popcorn, but not for us to eat. She gave each of us a needle and a spool of thread and we strung up long strings of popcorn to put on the trees and bushes in front of their house. I’m sure some strings went on the tree and we probably took some strings home to put on our own trees.
That first Christmas and winter after they moved in was the best. June always made our days fun and interesting. She would give us projects to work on, crafts to do, play music, and just let us play. She’s been gone nearly a decade now. Alzheimer’s took its tole on her. The last winter she was alive, she was living with Sheila. My dad was sick at the time as well and I spent lots of weekends traveling back and forth to help him and visit. Sheila lived along the way, so I would try and spend one night there either going up or coming home. That last winter we got quite a bit of snow and on one of those quick weekend trips I got stuck at her house. I spent an extra couple of days with them. Her husband and kids were gone to work and school or to visit his parents, I can’t remember, but I know they weren’t there. It was just me, Sheila, and June. June still loved to listen to music, so we had it playing. We set up some snacks on the coffee table, made some hot cocoa (and probably opened a bottle of wine or two), and watched the snow get deeper and deeper outside. At one point Sheila took her mom’s hands and they began to dance to the music playing. Johnny Mathis was her favorite. We all sang and suddenly June began to cry a little. Sheila wiped her tears and the song changed and we continued on. She and I have talked about that moment since and Sheila doesn’t remember it. I think it just blended in with all of her days then. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that June remembered. For a moment she saw us kids playing, drinking hot cocoa, singing to the music playing, and having fun. She remembered.
It is one of my fondest memories that I hope I always carry with me.
Here are some recipes inspired by that first winter. Enjoy!
3 cups of peeled, cored and chopped apples (About 3 ripe apples)
2 cups fresh cranberries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup oats
2/3 cup plain flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
Dash of salt
1 stick butter, cubbed
4 heaping tablespoons prepared mincemeat
In a mixing bowl, toss apples and cranberries with orange zest and juice and set aside for about 10 min. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Toss to coat well. Let sit while you prepare topping.
For the topping; in a mixer or food processor, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and spices. Give it a pulse to mix. Cube cold butter and add to oat mixture. Mix on a low speed until butter is combined and mixture looks like meal. Spoon on mincemeat and stir to distribute, but don’t mix up completely.
Pour apple and cranberry mixture into a 2 quart baking dish. Spoon crisp topping over, covering entire mixture.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until crisp is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 min before serving. Serve plain or with cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate Cherry Cordial Moonshine Brownies
1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup Old Mill self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup regular cocoa
1/4 cup Old Forge Distillery Chocolate & Cherries Moonshine
18 – 24 cherries from the moonshine, chopped
1 stick butter melted
2 large eggs
Sift together sugar, flour, salt, and cocoa. Stir in coffee moonshine, melted butter, and eggs. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Mix well and spread into pan. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons OFD Vanilla Bean Moonshine
Mix confectioners sugar and moonshine until all sugar is incorporated. Spread over cooked brownies.
Hot Cocoa Blocks
I got this recipe from King Arthur Flour. Click here is the recipe!
Chocolate Dipped Orange Crisps
These are so easy to make and I love the flavor of chocolate and orange together. I got this recipe from Ellie Krieger. Click here for the recipe!