Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Trip-Washington Nilla Cherry Pudding

Several years ago I was at my parents house and in semi-seriousness announced to my dad that for my 30th birthday I wanted to take a trip with him. I said that I wanted to take a driving tour of the Northeast, visiting battlegrounds, historic sites, eat in local diners and pubs and all the other things that my husband, mom and/or sisters wouldn't ever want to do. He placated me and said "OK" and kind of laughed it off as another one of my flights of fancy.

2 weeks ago he made good on his answer of "OK" and off we jetted to Washington DC as the first stop of our 10 day journey. As our plane was descending on DC we flew over the Potomac River, past the Capitol building, amazingly close to the Washington Monument and over the reflecting pond. With my mouth agape at the beauty of our nation's capitol at dusk, I knew before we even touched ground in DC that my trip could end there and I would be happy. Lucky for me it was only just beginning.

Once we acquired our rental car, we drove straight into the heart of DC. We pulled over to take pictures of the Washington Monument aglow against the night sky. Eventually we parked and traipsed past the Reagan Building over to the White House. Now you may think that viewing the White House at night with iron bars and a vast lawn between us would be a little anti-climatic. It was anything but. With few other tourists around and powerful lights illuminating the facade of the manor, it was amazing. I stood there thinking of all the men and women who resided in those hallowed halls, of all the meetings, negotiations and deals that took place there and was awe-struck by the history and magnitude of that simple, white house.

The night wore on and we enjoyed a wonderful meal in Virgina at Mike's American Grill and retired to our hotel. The next morning bright and early we took the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. We passed by somber, white markers with names long forgotten and some that are surely still fresh in the minds of their families. We stood before John F. Kennedy's eternal flame and visited the grave of his brother Bobby. His life may not of ended on as tragic a note as any of his brothers, but Edward Kennedy's plot was perhaps even more stirring because of the newness of it. There wasn't even any grass on it yet, just a mound of dirt covered by a mesh-like tarp. We headed over to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and watched the Tomb Guard walk his paces.

Later in the morning we made our way back to the Metro and into the city. We took pictures of the Supreme Court, walked the shelves at the Library of Congress and stood beneath the Capitol Rotunda. We visited The Smithsonian Musuems of Natural Science and American History, where we saw the Hope Diamond, Julia Child's Kitchen and Archie Bunker's chair. We toured the National Mall and stared up again at the Washington Memorial, climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and wandered along the Reflecting Pool. We visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,which most unexpectedly made my eyes water as I viewed the names of fallen soldiers etched in granite. We saw more significant and historical buildings than I can list here.

With both of us tired and hungry we hopped on the Metro for the last time and returned to Virgina where we had dinner at an East coast Italian chain called Bertuccis. I fell asleep that night thinking of the grand landmarks I just witnessed and looking forward to the other grand landmarks I would see in the days ahead.

This week I will be posting recipes inspired by the places my Dad and I visited and the dishes we ate on our trip. This dessert is in honor of the cherry trees (fruited or not) that line DC and of course the notorious fable of little George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Enjoy.

Washington Nilla Cherry Pudding

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
43 Nilla Wafers
2 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2 cups Cool Whip
Additional Nilla Wafers and Northwest sweet cherries, for garnish

Prepare pudding according to package directions using milk and adding almond extract. Spoon 1/2 cup pudding in bottom of 2-quart serving bowl. Top with 8 wafers, a generous layer of cherries and 2/3 cup pudding. Stand 10 wafers around outside edge of dish. Continue layering 11 wafers, cherries, 2/3 cup pudding, 14 wafers, cherries and remaining pudding. Cover, refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. To serve, spread whipped topping over pudding; garnish with additional wafers and cherries if desired.


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