There's something about rising to a fresh snowfall that makes you feel as if time has slowed to a halt: The streets are blanketed and hushed, and the trees bow down under the weight of new powder. And when the radio announces every kid's favorite news flash—School's closed!—you know you have a different kind of day on your hands.
When husband-and-wife photographers Gemma Hart Ingalls and Andrew Ingalls are at their home away from home in Vermont, they positively live for mornings like these. Rather than retreating indoors and ticking off the hours on his and hers screens, the Los Angeles transplants and their two kids, Oliver, 7; and Isabel, 4, charge outside for sledding and snow-fort building, followed by crafting, cooking, and digging into a body-warming meal with friends.
"We like to bake, make preserves, and get a few families together in the kitchen," says Gemma. It helps that the heart of their three-bedroom house is a spacious open living area. A well-stocked pantry and a freezer full of staples (much of it preserved from the family garden) mean that a home-cooked meal is always within reach. "It's a half-hour drive to the supermarket, so I always think, Do I have to go to the store? Or can I make do with what I have?"
On this brisk day, mulled cider thaws chilly hands when everyone heads inside (it's also enjoyed from a thermos out in the snow). In the kitchen, Gemma pulls out her Sicilian grandmother's recipes to prepare a midday feast with her friend India Adams, a jewelry maker and doula who grew up nearby and now lives in western Massachusetts. "We were vegetarian growing up, but my dad was raised on big Italian meals. I rediscovered her recipes when I started eating meat," says Gemma, who enjoys reading them in her grandmother's loopy hand feeling her personality come off of the well-worn pages.
Once the sauce is cooking, Gemma preps a salad with soft lettuce leaves, sliced avocado, and rounds of ruby-red grapefruit to follow the pasta. The sesame-almond crunch that's crumbled on the top makes it even more family friendly.
And for dessert there her mom's chocolate-chip cookie recipe, loaded with coconut and oats, which Gemma has transformed into a rich, chewy slice-and-eat treat that's baked in a cast-iron skillet. What could be better than a warm chocolate-chip skillet cookie served à la mode on a cold snowy day?