Celebrate 4th of July with "Presidential Fare"

It’s no secret that one of my great loves is travel.  Nothing gets my heartbeat pumping like an opportunity to see new things, experience new adventures and taste new foods.

Last week our family had the opportunity to do “all the above” when we traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 129th annual summer convention of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).  We arrived at our hotel about 7 p.m. on Monday, June 18.  We grabbed a burger at the Cadillac Grill and called it an early night.

It’s a good thing we were well rested because “Day 1” was packed full of activities and fun memories!  We left our hotel by 6:30 a.m. for the White House, where we were scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. tour of the White House.  (Remember, this early hour felt like 5:30 a.m. since D.C. is in the Eastern Time Zone and we live in the Central Zone.)

Our kids greatly enjoyed the White House tour and were eager to see more of the city.  Our next stop was the Newseum, or the Museum of News.  This is probably my favorite museum of all time.  As a journalism major, I could’ve spent a couple more hours there.  (Well, maybe even the day!)  This museum was fun for the whole family because it was so interactive.  We got to try our hand at reporting the news live, complete with a teleprompter and microphone.  We saw pieces of the Berlin Wall, watched an emotionally griping movie about the journalists who covered 9/11, and peeked Inside Tim Russert’s office.  Our kids greatly enjoyed the 4-D Time Travel Experience.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to visit all Top 10 Things to See at the Newseum because we had scheduled a mid-afternoon tour of the U.S. Capitol.  Lucky for us, our Capitol Hill tour was filled with great suprises.  As we were walking through the halls of the Senate, The Honorable John McCain stepped through the chamber doors.  He took time to talk with us and even posed for a picture.  (This was a true “wow” experience for our 11-year-old son.)  After such an event-filled day, we spent a low-key evening in our hotel.

“Day 2” of our trip marked the first day of the ASTA convention, so John was tied up in business meetings and general sessions all day.  I opted to “take a vacation day” and joined our kids for an ASTA-sponsored spouse’s / children’s trip to the International Spy Museum and the Smithsonian.  I’m so glad that I went on this tour as the live-action spy adventure is a must-do for anyone who meets the age requirements.  Here’s how it’s described online:

Think of it as a live-action spy adventure. Only you’re the spy. This one-hour-adrenaline-fueled fest is no exhibit. It’s simple, really. You have to locate a missing nuclear trigger before it ends up in the wrong hands. No pressure. Just crack a few safes, decode some messages, and interrogate a suspect double agent.

Our adrenaline was pumping.  Our imaginations were running wild. And our creative juices were flowing.  It was a fun time for our entire ASTA group.  After we “captured the double agent,” we toured the museum where we learned about buttonhole cameras and lipstick pistols.  It was crazy stuff – just perfect to hold the attention of my two pre-teens.  That afternoon we toured the National Museum of Natural History.  My kids expected it to look like scenes from A Night at the Museum.  Although it didn’t really resemble the movie, they couldn’t have had a better time looking at all the unique animals.  They had fun with the computerized cameras, one which shows how you would’ve looked as a homo sapiens in prehistoric times.  (Personally, I found my prehistoric photo to be frightening! But, I greatly enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Hope diamond.)

“Day 3” included a water taxi ride to Mount Vernon, which includes a beautiful mansion overlooking the beautiful Potomac River.  This 50-acre estate, formerly the home of George and Martha Washington, also includes fruit and vegetable gardens, a pioneer farm site and even a distillery and gristmill.  Even though I have visited Mount Vernon at least three times previously, there is still more that I’d like to see on my next visit.  Someday I’d love to attend an Independence Day Celebration at Mount Vernon to watch as costumed staff make one of George Washington’s favorite desserts.

To celebrate the Fourth of July “Washington style” in the Midwest, click here for Martha Washington’s Great Cake recipe.  NOTE:  This recipe makes enough to feed an army.  Other recipes are featured in the book, Dining with the Washingtons.  Someday I think it would be fun to make some of these dishes and host my own 1776 dinner party.

IMG 5985Speaking of trying new foods…  I’d like to take a minute to share with you the sweet treat we enjoyed while visiting Georgetown area last Saturday night.  Have you heard of Georgetown Cupcakes?   You might know it better as TLC’s hit new show, DC Cupcakes.  As their site states:

DC Cupcakes is about Georgetown Cupcake, a cupcake shop in Washington, D.C., owned by a sister duo! They traded careers in fashion to pursue something a little different. They’re both lifelong bakers inspired by their grandmothers. They opened their shop on Valentine’s Day 2008, the first cupcakery in D.C.!

It pays to be first as these ladies literally have a corner on the market.  We waited in line for 45-minutes for a taste of these famous cupcakes, and we all thought it was worth the wait as soon as we took our first bite.  While I was surfing their site, I was drawn to the link, “Holiday Cupcake Ideas.”  Take a look at the “cool” idea I found under July 4th Cupcakes.  SnoCones and cupcakes are always a hit with kids, so I can only imagine how much my kids will delight in SnoCone Cupcakes this Fourth of July.

Sorry, Martha Washington – You’re cake will just have to wait.  This Independence Day I’m baking up some SnoCone CupcakesClick here to try a batch yourself.

Today I’m also including a recipe for Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce because “crab cakes” are synonymous with “D.C.” in my book.  I always eat crab cakes at least once whenever I’m in Washington, but I have yet to try making them at home.  Let me know if you make this recipe.  I’d appreciate any “cook’s tips” you’re willing to offer.

Crab Cakes


Crab Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 green onion, finely chipped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 T. red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 3 T. heavy cream
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over and cleaned
  • ¼ c. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. oil

Crab Cake Directions:

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet.  Sauté onion, garlic and red pepper until wilted (about 2 minutes).  Add cayenne, cream and Dijon mustard.  Cool slightly.  Add beaten eggs, basil, parsley, ½ c. bread crumbs and crabmeat.  Mix lightly.  Mold into 16, 2-inch wide patties.
  2. Combine ½ cup remaining bread crumbs and cheese in a shallow dish.  Roll patties in crumb and cheese mixture.  Chill at least 1 hour.  (Can be made earl in the day.)
  3. Combine oil and remaining 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat in large skillet.  Sauté crab cakes 3 minutes  on each side.
  4. Serve with Lemon Dill Sauce



Sauce Ingredients:

  • ¾ c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • 2 T. fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 T. parsley, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. lemon peel, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed

Sauce Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Chill until mixture thickens.


Serves 8