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!

BullRun3

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!”

Citrus - OrnamentBullRun10

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.

Brownies - Cranberry10

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.

BR2

– 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.

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