Grow Wild According To Thy Nature

 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms… .

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It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time… .  In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned round, – for man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost, – do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature.  Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction.  Not tell we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

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Summer is already here and I can hardly believe it.  Forever it was winter and miserably wet and cold.  Then, one morning I awoke to a world running amok with green leaves, delicate blossoms, and dusty yellow pollen.  Spring was fashionably late.

The glorious greenery is what I love the most about Virginia in the spring – there are so many shades concentrated into one area and I am always, every year, surprised by how lush and beautiful this wild State can be.  The trees with their forest green leaves begin at the sky and parade down to where the tangled weeds and vines juxtapose dense colors of fern, moss, olive, and hunter.  Other colors pop against this verdant canvas, especially the wildflowers.  Sprays of white, purple, blue, and yellow fill fields with a confetti-like ecstasy.  We’ve been enjoying the show with daily walks, stopping often to watch the bees shake little flowers or pick tiny clovers.

During the rainy days, I have kept in touch with nature with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.  I loved this book with one exception – the second half.  The first part was filled with inspirational, challenging, and philosophical discourse that I eagerly devoured.  The second half, I am convinced, would be very interesting if I was Charles Darwin or Bear Grylls.   I’m sure I would find a Discovery Channel documentary, or National Geographic article, on how pond-water freezes fascinating (I am a visual person) but Thoreau’s systematic and dry delivery had me going cross-eyed.  The Conclusion and final chapter is beautiful and re-invigorated my numb mind.  If you have not given Walden a try, now you know to enjoy the first half, skim the second unless you are an avid biologist/botanist/naturalist, and go straight to the Conclusion.

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What is absolutely wonderful, from start to finish, are these little Apricot Tartlets.  To me, the apricot is the official herald of spring.  They come a little later in the season, closer to summer, a sure sign that the cold is behind me and the sunshine will only increase with warmth and intensity.  I love to eat these fuzzy little fruits straight; sweet, tart, and always satisfactory.  Yet, I cannot resist baking with them.  They hold up well and do nothing more than improve what I am already making.

The original recipe from Mireille Guiliano is for one large apricot tart – this is easily adaptable to six tartlets if you have the smaller tins.  I love the almond mixture before the addition of fruit; it soaks up the juices and gives great texture between flaky crust and soft baked fruit.  I served mine with a small dollop of honey-sweetened crème fraîche and freshly grated lemon zest.  However, they would be great with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a few toasted almonds.  Or, as I can personally attest to, with a bit of yogurt for breakfast, along with a cup of hot, black coffee.

 

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Apricot Tart

Makes 1 (9”) Tart or 6 Tartlets

1 recipe Sweet Pâte Brisée (for 9” tart)

1 cup Slivered Blanched Almonds

¼ cup + 2 teaspoons Sugar

1 ½ – 2 lbs. Fresh Apricots, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons Honey

Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to an 11” round. Transfer to a 9” tart pan. Prick the dough with a fork, cover, and chill for 10 minutes. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375°F.

In a food processor, combine the blanched almonds and ¼ cup of sugar and pulse just until the almonds are finely ground. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Place the apricot halves, cut side down, on top, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with honey, place the oven, and bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

Remove from oven and sprinkle over the remaining two teaspoons of sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature with desired accompaniment.

For Tartlets: Only blind bake the pastry shells for about 5 minutes. Bake the tartlets for about 30 minutes.

- The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano (page 232)

 

Sweet Pâte Brisée

This makes enough for 2 (9”) pie shells; or a top and bottom.

2 ¾ cups Flour

1 ½ teaspoons Salt

1 tablespoon Sugar

18 tablespoons Butter, cold and cut into pieces

7 – 10 tablespoons Ice Water

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 10 seconds. While pulsing, add ice water in a slow steady stream until a dough forms but is not sticky or wet. (Pulse for no longer than 30 seconds.)

Gently fold and bring together dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions, shape into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

The dough disks can be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

- Saveur Magazine

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Go fish and hunt far and wide day by day, – farther and wider, – and rest thee by many brooks and hearth-sides without misgiving. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Rise free from care before dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee ever where at home. There are no larger fields than these, no worthier games than may here by played. Grow wild according to thy nature.

 

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Excerpts from Walden, the better half, by Henry David Thoreau.

 

 

 

A Summer Reading List

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson 

 

 

In case you have failed to notice, I love to read.   Each season brings different fond memories of how I enjoy this pastime. A summer read is energizing, requiring a glass of icy lemonade (with or without the addition of vodka), a comfortable chair on the patio or a hammock in the yard, and if I can manage it, a lovely breeze to break the sweltering humidity. It is likely I will fall asleep in this state of bliss. Then I awake,  replenish my glass, and return to my chair to repeat the process all over again.

My Summer Reading List

Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier by Alfred F. Young

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (This will be my third attempt.)

I always have a few  “palate refreshers” on hand that usually last me through the year. Short stories or books with little sections are great to pick up in between reads or for a mental break (i.d. Melville). Right now I am enjoying:

What The Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell

The Innocence and Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

 

What are you reading this summer?

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An Impromtu Picnic

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There is nothing quite like an impromptu picnic to cure the ennui caused by a long rainy week.  And today, it was a cure that the Little Man and I desperately needed.  I packed away an old alumni blanket, placed our lunch into little containers, and we ventured out to a park in search of a shady tree and a little fresh air.

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I had already planned on making these Chicken & Honey Mustard Pinwheels but the clover field and butterflies in which we enjoyed our lunch was little additional pleasure.  I must confess I am terrible at following directions. (Although, I really shouldn’t say “confess” since I am quite aware and comfortable about this character trait.*)  I forgot to soften the mascarpone cheese and added lemon juice instead of zest to the dressing -  making it more of a spread, less of a drizzle. I do think when it comes to any future wraps I will always use lavash bread. It is fabulously sturdy and chewy, full of flavor, and frankly makes tortillas seem like a ridiculous option for housing sandwiches.

These little pinwheels pack well and are prefect for small hands (and delicate in larger ones).   I packed along some crunchy carrots, a sour-sweet plum, and a few salty chips to complete our al fresco feast.  Little Man tried dirt for dessert.  I don’t recommend it.  I don’t think he would either.

__________

 

Chicken & Honey-Mustard Pinwheels

½ cup (4 oz.) Mascarpone Cheese

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons Honey

Lemon Juice (just a quick squeeze)

Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper

1 ½ cups Arugula, slightly torn

2 cups of cooked, shredded Chicken Breast

4 Lavash Breads

Combine the cheese, mustard, honey, and lemon juice with a wooden spoon; season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the lavash with the honey mustard mixture. Sprinkle over arugula and chicken. Roll up the long side of the lavash and cut into slices.

Serves 4.

- This is a barely adapted version from Feel Good Food by Giada de Laurentiis (pg. 108). You can also view the recipe here.

 

*Essentially, when it comes to cooking, I just go with the flow.  And my instructions will portray this attribute of mine.  If you ever need any clarification, please do not hesitate to ask.

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This Is My Innocence In All Things

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

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It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

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 Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

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There has been too much loss over these past months.  My heart has been uprooted and replanted – as are the hearts of a few I hold dearest. My mind is attempting to find clarity during this ineffable juncture in life.  As someone who depends on words as they do their breath and blood, their failure to convey my churning thoughts and feelings seem to be a failing extension of myself.  When I cannot write, I read in desperate hopes that someone before me was able to string together the nouns, verbs, and adjectives with a poignancy that will bring light into my foggy mind.

I find I am constantly returning to William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence.”  In school the study of poetry meant the complete and utter decimation of its beauty to examine the skeleton of deeper intent; a dissection of a living thing, the ignorance of its wholeness with an emphasis on what ought to be, should be, or could be.  I am beginning to question this method; not just in poetry but in all things.

Perhaps some things are to be ingested as they are.  Does understanding the scattering of light particles in the atmosphere make a sunrise any more beautiful?  Do we find Starry Night any more magnificent after studying Van Gogh’s method and style of paint stroke?  Does having baker’s technique and ratios revealed make a perfect macron any less perfect?  Does comprehending the wind rotation of a hurricane make it more, or less,  powerful?

Does life, in all its nebulous states and existences, make more sense if analyze every moment and occurrence?  Perhaps some things should be accepted for being what they are, the sum of their parts, the wholeness of their intent, known or unknown.

Why “Auguries of Innocence” speaks to me and fills my heart, I don’t know.  I know it just does exactly that.  And perhaps that is what the poem is telling me:  Accept this for what it is, with grace and time my purpose will be revealed to you.

This is my innocence in all things.

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Excerpts from”Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake.  While it is quite long, I encourage you to read the whole piece.  If you do not have a book of Blake’s work, you can read the whole poem here on wikipedia.

 

Beautiful Mornings

 

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I am, by nature, not a morning person.  I am a creature of the night, or so Mr. H lovingly calls me.  The jive of the stars, the occasional sonata of the moon, the aria of the darkness swelling with mysteries and discoveries make me such a creature.  I am captivated by wonder and comfortable in the unknown – this is where I thrive and my imagination gorges itself on all possibilities and impossibilities.

Unfortunately for me, we live in a sunrise-to-sunset society.  This is my bane.

Mr. H works a 9-to-5, or later, grind and the Little Man is up with the sun.  And when I say “up with the sun” I mean “sprinting with the sun” until he falls in a heap at some undetermined time in the evening.  What is unnatural for me is only natural for them.  What is also very natural for me is to be reticent and aloof before 10 AM.  While I am usually boasting that embracing one’s nature is healthy, I began hating how much I loathed the morning.  The blurred rush of covers tossed, feet on the ground, diapers changed, coffee made, poured, and drunk did little more than put me in a foul mood for the rest of the day.  Not to mention feeding people.   It appears that morning people like to eat at odd hours.   The morning may not be my favorite but the start of one’s day shouldn’t be detested.  This much I know.  And so I decided to take on the Herculean task of making my mornings beautiful.

Morning-Coffee

I began by rising a little earlier and beginning my day in personal solace – orienting myself in these foreign hours.  As my amicable attempt at a relationship with the morning continues, I am finding there is indeed beauty in it, unique to itself.  The light filling the sky and breaking the barriers of our place, casting its golden life onto every surface is a constant intrigue.  I smile at waking sighs of my loves: heavy and stalling groans from the taller one and high-pitch coos and laughter from the smaller one.   Even the singing of the birds, which once grated, gnawed, and drilled against my ears, can, on occasion, transform itself into a melodious sunrise concert.

As I find beauty in these first moments, breakfast has also become a pleasurable moment as opposed to a necessary chore.  On most occasions we stick to toast or yogurt.  However, the need for variety has me looking for simple, fast, and energizing starts, such as our new favorite: Oatmeal Pudding.

Oatmeals

It is actually Baked Oatmeal but we found it to be of similar consistency to Bread Pudding, and so have named it thus.  (Yes, pudding for breakfast!  I wonder how long the Little Man will believe this one.)  The best part is that it is made the night before, kept in the fridge overnight, and baked the following morning.  As the kitchen fills with the delicious aroma of the false notion that I have been up before dawn preparing a scrumptious breakfast, I can sip coffee, read BBC, and feel particularily awesome about myself.  The second best part is that this pudding is a blank canvas and easily adaptable to a variety of tastes and preferences.  The boys love Peanut Butter, Bananas, and Maple Syrup while I love Yogurt and Fruit.  There also the classic standby of Raisins, Milk, and Brown Sugar.  Butter, Jam, Honey, Toasted Coconut or Hazelnuts… the possibilities are yours for the making.

Enjoy! And may you have a beautiful morning.

____

 

Overnight Oatmeal Pudding (or, Baked Oatmeal)
¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Honey
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 ¼ cups Old Fashioned Oats
½ teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg

Grease a 9 x 9” pan with a little extra olive oil or cooking spray. Sift together the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, honey, milk, and vanilla. Add the baking powder-spice mixture and oats, and stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and using a spoon or spatula press the top to even out. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the covered dish in the hot oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before cutting into nine slices. Serve warm with desired accompaniments.

Store remaining oatmeal in the refrigerator, reheating individual pieces for future breakfasts.

- Adapted from various recipes

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See more of my daybreak inspirations HERE, on my Good Morning Pinterest Board.

 

A Snowy Day At Pooh Corner

The clock was still saying five minutes to eleven when Pooh and Piglet set out on their way half an hour later.  The wind had dropped, and the snow, tired of rushing round in circles trying to catch itself up, now fluttered gently down until it found a place on which to rest, and sometimes the place was Pooh’s nose and sometimes it wasn’t, and in a little while Piglet was wearing a white muffler round his neck and feeling more snowy behind the ears than he had ever felt before.

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“Hallo, Eeyore,” said Christopher Robin, as he opened the door and came out.  “How are you?”

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore.  “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

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WinterSky

By Virginian standards, this winter has been tremendous.  Most of the places I have lived provided a sense of  predictability in regards to the weather.  Germany offered cold, snowy winters and breezy, cool summers.  Florida’s pendulum swung between periods of warm winds and muggy rains.  Texas was so awful I have forgotten it completely.  Virginia, however, must be just south enough and just enough north to never really know where it is, offering a wonderful unpredictability when it comes to every season.  In my twelve years here, I have never seen so much snow in one winter.

This snowy season has been an adventure with interesting discoveries:  One, we do not own a shovel -  something that might be useful in getting to one’s vehicle.  Two, I don’t actually own proper gloves for a real winter, but I do have a wonderful selection of hats.  Three, even if Little Man’s socks are soaked and mittens soggy, he will throw a loud and flailing tantrum when I carry him back inside from playing in the snow.

Once we are indoors and warmed through, we find various activities to occupy the little mind and busy hands.  Then something magical happens in the afternoons: He tires.  Not tired enough to nap, yet just enough where his little limbs find comfort as they sink into the couch and chubby fingers curl around neck of a small stuffed giraffe.  And so we are, during the quietest part of the day, piled under soft blankets with a stack of books, completely immersed in a world of childish wonder and imagination.

A few afternoons ago, as the snow hovered down softly, we began The House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.  The first story in the book follows Pooh and Piglet as they build a house for their friend Eeyore in the midst of a snow storm.  I laughed aloud at Eeyore’s brand of optimism and for the first time sympathized with a timid little pig.  We finished our story time and with new energy  Little Man began to make soup with a pot and wooden blocks.  I reheated some coffee and I felt the urge for a little smackerel of something.

What could be more perfect than Honey Madeleines for our snowy day at Pooh Corner?

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These madeleines are superbly moist and sweet with the floral richness of honey.  While they are fine at room temperature, they are best warm, right out of the tin.  I could never confess how many I immediately devoured – it is quite embarrassing.  I should be ashamed of myself.

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Honey Madeleines
Makes 18 Madeleine Cookies.

¾ cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, melted

1 cup All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for the madeleine tins

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

3 large Eggs

¾ cup of Sugar

3 tablespoons of Honey

Brush the madeleine tins with the melted butter and dust with flour then tap out excess.  Set the tins in the freezer.

In a bowl whisk together one cup of flour and the baking powder.  In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the eggs, sugar, and honey until pale yellow.  Add the butter, one piece at a time, beating  constantly.  On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.  Set the bowl in the fridge to rest for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove the madeleine tins from the freezer and the batter from the fridge.  Give the batter a quick stir and then place heaping spoonfuls into each madeleine mold.  Don’t worry about the batter touching all the edges as it will spread while baking.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes, the edges should be golden brown and the tops of the madeleines should spring back gently when touched.

Cool on a wire rack until the madeleines are cool enough to handle.  Remove from the tins and serve at once.

- Recipe from The Essentials of French Cooking by Williams-Sonoma, with additional explanations.

Ice-Honey

Excerpts from The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne.

BlockSoup

Peace On Earth, Good-Will To Men

I heard the bells on Christmas Day                             And thought how, as the day had come,

Their old, familiar carols play,                                     The belfries of all Christendom

    And wild and sweet                                                        Had rolled along

    The words repeat                                                           The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!                        Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

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Till ringing, singing on its way,                                     It was as if an earthquake rent

The world revolved from night to day,                       The hearth-stones of a continent,

    A voice, a chime,                                                            And made forlorn

    A chant sublime                                                             The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!                      Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

Then from each black, accursed mouth                   And in despair I bowed my head;

The cannon thundered in the South,                       “There is no peace on earth,” I said;

     And with the sound                                                     “For hate is strong,

    The carols drowned                                                      And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!                       Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

    The Wrong shall fail,

    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

BullRun

A few weekends ago, Mr. H and I found ourselves with a free day.  The weather was beautiful –  chilly with sunny, blue skies.  We decided to take advantage of the day and go on a little historical adventure before the unpredictable Virginia winter arrived.  Our destination was Bull Run Battlefield in Manassas, Virginia.

We walked the fields, hand in hand, watching our son run wildly and in no direction save for where the crickets jumped and the dead leaves blew.  Whenever I visit Bull Run I am filled with a hollowing reverence and overwhelmed with wonder of the lives lived and lost here.  Am I tracing the footsteps of someone once before?  Were they brave? Excited for their cause?  Or misplaced and caught between the crossfire of their fellow mankind?  Did they go on to live another day?  Or, is where I’m standing, where they drew their last breath?  The land is alive with history and memory.  And it is sorrowing to think that such a beautiful place was once filled with so much terror and bloodshed.

I called to mind one of my favorite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his well-known poem-turned-carol “Christmas Bells.”  I was about twelve when I fell in love with Longfellow and his strong, manly Blacksmith.  I was seduced by Revere’s Valiant Ride and my heart broke before a Snowy Cross.  However, my everlasting devotion was secured with his Christmas Bells, a poem he wrote after the death of his son, a Union Soldier.

I am always transfixed by this piece and instantly moved to tears.  For suffering so much loss in his life, Longfellow still had hope and belief that there was good and joy in the world even if it wasn’t forcefully evident in his own life.  Christmas is said to be the most joyous time of year.  While I have always believed that, I know this belief is because I have been richly blessed.  As I count my blessings, I remember the sacrifices made by those before me and pray for those whose holidays are less than merry.  May they may find hope; and may we all find and practice peace on earth and good-will to men.

_______

When I’m not crying over poetry during the cold winter months, I’m sipping wine in the kitchen and creating something scrumptious.  These Chocolate & Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies are adapted from Green & Black’s Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies, and are sure to be your new holiday favorite.

And let me say, if you are going to  put the effort into these brownies, or any baked good for the matter, spend the money on good chocolate.  People often ask me what my secret ingredients are, and the simple matter of the fact is: quality!  Green & Black, Ghiradelli, and Scharfenberger are my current baking favorites. Yes, they cost more, but are absolutely worth it.

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Brownies - Cranberry9

Chocolate & Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies

For the Brownies:

10 ounces / 2 ½ Sticks Unsalted Butter, plus a little extra for the pan

6 ounces 70% Dark Chocolate

1 ¾ Cups Unrefined Cane Sugar

½ Cup All-Purpose Flour

Pinch of Salt

5 Large Eggs, preferably free-range

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

3 ½ ounces White Chocolate, broken into small pieces

For the Cheesecake:

1 Cup Cream Cheese, at room temperature

½ Cup Crème Fraiche, at room temperature (You can substitute with additional cream cheese.)

1/3 Cup Unrefined Cane Sugar

2 Large Eggs, preferably free-range

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 tablespoon Cointreau (optional)

1 ½ Cups Fresh Cranberries, washed and dried on paper towels to remove excess water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease and line a 9 x 13” pan.

To make brownies, melt the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  (Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.) Stir until completely melted and combined.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the cooled chocolate over the flour-sugar mixture, and stir until smooth.  Beat eggs in a separate bowl and then add along with the vanilla extract.  Stir in the white chocolate pieces.   The brownie batter should be smooth and shiny.  Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan.

Next make the cheesecake mixture.  Whisk the cream cheese, crème fraiche, sugar, and eggs until well combined.  Whisk in the vanilla and cointreau.  Carefully pour this mixture over the brownie mixture, trying to create an even layer.  Use a fork or spatula to drag the cheesecake mixture through the brownie batter, creating a marbled effect.  Drop the cranberries over the brownies, letting them settle into the batter a little.

Bake for 30 minutes and check to see if the brownies are set.  They should still have a slight wobble in the center.  If they need longer, return to oven until done.  Remove pan from oven and let the brownies cool, covered with foil.  Once cooled, remove brownies from the pan, and cut into small pieces.  They are very gooey and best stored in the refrigerator before serving.

Makes 30 small brownies.

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- This recipe is adapted from Green & Black’s Ultimate Cookbook, page 36.

- This poem is titled “Christmas Bells” (Christmas Day, 1863) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

- For more information on visiting Bull Run Battlefield, please view their website.  This beautiful historic spot is perfect for nature lovers, children, and pets as it has many hiking paths and open fields to explore.  History buffs can find great resources at the Visitor’s Center to jump-start their tour.  Three Day Passes are $3 a person for people ages sixteen and up.