I would like to introduce Lydia Hoke. Lydia is one of my dearest friends and my first deep friendship outside of my sisters. She has touched my life profoundly and will always inspire the way I live, simply by knowing her, and observing how she lives out her life. When I think of Lydia, I think of a life lived beautifully. Beauty simply is part of her - her home, her child, her food…everything. And it all is so naturally done. Here is a little glimpse of a beautiful life in her own words….
I am one of those people who loves spending the day in the kitchen preparing a meal for guests or even just my own family. It is my purpose. Putting a dinner together is also more than just preparing a meal. I enjoy setting the table, arranging a centerpiece, lighting candles, or putting together a playlist. My sister used to say when we were preparing for a special event “that it’s all in the details.” This is so true, even when it comes to cleaning your house before your guests arrive. No one wants to come into a dirty house, it is uncomfortable and can make you feel (as a guest) that you are inconveniencing them by being there. Hospitality takes work. It isn’t always easy to find the time, but it is a fulfilling gift to you and your guest. Something my husband tries to remind me of is, that even if our house isn’t the way I wish it looked, we are not having people over to “show-off” and that we want them to feel comfortable and welcome.
For everything there is a season and it is a good thing to remember when you feel sleep-deprived and weary at caring for your family and keeping your house clean not to mention showing hospitality! Not too long a go, I had a newborn, and then a really clingy baby and I am just now starting to feel like I can relax and cook and do projects when he is around. In fact, he loves to help and by letting him, he is learning to be a servant. Nap-time used to be the only time I ever got things done and I used to run myself ragged just trying to get everything done before he woke up. I had to learn to lower my expectations (which were ridiculous) when we were at that place in our lives. I still kept a clean house and made meals and had people over. I just didn’t make Julia Child’s Braised Beef (which, when you have the time is worth it!) or anything too time-intensive and didn’t care if I hadn’t done my hair that day. The thing is, I have always wanted a child in my life and if that meant less sleep, more messes to clean, and simpler meals for a time, that was just fine- I hope I can go through it all over again soon! Oh, and never underestimate the powers of caffeine. Even if it doesn’t seem to give you that energy boost you so desperately need, taking the time to make a nice cup of coffee or tea always gave me a great excuse to sit down and enjoy it. In fact, I didn’t become a daily coffee-drinker until I had my son, in the morning it was my reward for getting up and my iced-coffee in the afternoons became a favorite ritual especially when I got to share it with a friend.
Here is what I do for a homemade latte: First, I use my Bialetti stove-top espresso maker. Before my dear friend gave this little gem to me I used to brew really really strong coffee in my french press. This tastes great, but if you are like me and crave the taste of your local coffee shop’s latte but realize just how much your habit is starting to affect your budget you can try this. The espresso maker makes espresso so, when you add your milk or half and half it doesn’t water it down like when you add it to brewed coffee. I don’t add any sweetener, just a good bit of milk and a splash of half and half or cream and coffee ice cubes (reserve leftover coffee in ice cube trays and freeze for your next drink, these guys won’t water down your drink!) If you are feeling particularly indulgent a bit of sweetened whipped cream will hit the spot. And don’t forget the straw-it makes the drink a little more official if not more fun. Cheers!
Another thing I learned from my mom was to have a “go-to” meal or dish for those times that you unexpectedly need one. Mine, is a chocolate tart I came across when I was first married in a Gourmet magazine. I love it because I nearly always have the ingredients on hand and even though I make it quite frequently I never get over how incredibly delicious it is!
Warm Mocha Tart
For the Crust:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and a 1/2 tsp. salt. Melt 12 Tbs. butter, then add 1 tsp. vanilla and stir into flour mixture. Press into 10-inch tart pan. Place in oven and bake until light golden, about 20 minutes. Turn oven off.
Meanwhile in a medium saucepan combine 1 cup heavy cream, 3 tbs. butter, 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp. ground coffee. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Right before the tart crust is done stir in a 1 beaten egg and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour through a strainer to remove any lumps and pour filling into tart crust. Place in oven (that is turned off but still warm) and bake until tart is set. It should jiggle slightly when moved, about 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Bon Appetit!