We spent the weekend away with our dear neighbors at Gorham’s Bluff in North Alabama. If you’ve never heard of it, you should.

Turns out February is the perfect time for a middle of nowhere escape perched high above the Tennessee River.

There was biking, tree forting, picnicking, hiking, dining, reading, curling up by several fires, field frolicking, and cartwheeling.

Lots of cartwheeling.

Our cottage was the one with the bird’s eye perch on top.

Being away with my better half and friends who feel like comfortable family was a refreshing jolt for the winter doldrums.

Here are a couple of yummy recipes we made for the trip.

White Cheddar Pimento Cheese

Especially easy when you use your food processor to shred the cheese. May be made in advance.

1 pound white cheddar cheese, grated
1 small red onion, chopped
2 (4 1/2-ounce) jars pimentos, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
White pepper to taste

Combine cheese, red onion and pimentos. Mix garlic with mayonnaise, add to cheese mixture; blend thoroughly. Add white pepper and stir well to blend. Serve with crackers.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (Claudia Fleming, The Last Course), from Lottie+Doof

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well.

In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. return dough to refrigerator for an additional 15 minutes. Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Do not reroll scraps, if using cookie cutter. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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