Driving into Strasburg on a recent sunny morning, I looked at the mountains and out of nowhere there it was. The leaves had started turning. Fall.
In the days that have followed, the wind has picked up and the temperatures have dipped, giving us some much needed relief from a scorching summer.
Signs are everywhere that a new season is under way. The kids are off to school again. Fall festivals are coming up, along with pumpkin patches and corn mazes -- and for us here at the Daily, it'll soon be time for one of the most fun office traditions of the year: the Restaurants & Recipes contest.
Each year we ask you, the readers, to send in your best recipes for appetizers, breads, side dishes, soups/salads, desserts and main dishes. They sort through them all downstairs to pick the best candidates in each category. Then the real fun begins.
Those of us who volunteer get a sneak peek (without seeing who submitted them, of course) at all the top recipes and take one home to test out. We cook them up -- exactly how you tell us to -- and bring them all back the next day for a luncheon where we sample a little bit of each recipe and pick our top three. The highest vote getters win the contest, with no small reward. First place this year gets a dinner for two at the Dancing Goat and a night's stay at the George Washington Hotel. Second place gets $50 to spend at Joe's Steakhouse in Woodstock, and third place gets a $50 certificate to Tall Oaks Nursery in Mt. Jackson.
We announce the winners and print all the recipes in a special section that comes out at the end of October.
Last year all my co-workers went gaga for Marie Beulke's Grape Salad. I made a chili recipe that I was partial to, but I voted for Texas Caviar.
One recipe that became the talk of the office came straight from the Warren County Jail -- Jailhouse Pizza.
My favorite recipe of all, however, was 2007's first-place winner, Kay Hamman's Pumpkin Dump Cake. I've made this recipe every Thanksgiving since and I'm sure it's found a place as part of my own family's holiday baking traditions.
You can view past years' recipes -- including the dump cake and tons of other desserts, dips and more -- on our website at www.nvdaily.com/recipes, and submit your entries for this year's contest there through Oct. 1. There's also a form running in the paper with all the details.
And, while this will be the seventh consecutive year we've put on the contest, we're doing something new this time: Children can submit their own kid-friendly recipes for publication in the tab, though they won't be judged.
Be sure to check out the recipes and submit your own favorites for a chance to win. I'm looking forward to making one of them myself -- maybe I can even let my own kid try some this time.
And look for the section at the end of October. I'm sure it will have some gems worth adding to your own recipe box.
Contact Jessica Wiant at email@example.com.