Happy Yule !

"The sky was a vivid crimson in every airt. Great bonfires flamed and the
bairns were delirious with delight.
"
Liminal Landscapes
happy Yule
cream cheese brownies
The Solstice marks the longest night of the year. Since the dawn of civilization December has been a month of
celebration, for after this night, the dark nights begin to grow shorter as light once again returns to the world. Yule is
a time for new beginnings. It is a time to gather together, to feast and renew relationships, to strengthen the bonds
of friendship and family ties. This is also the time to forgive, a time to abandon the things that did not serve, to
make peace with the troubles of the past and to look ahead with hope, each of us aspiring to be better, as we pay
homage to the cycle of life. It is important that we each join the celebration, taking time to gather with family and
friends and join the feast for it is at this time that relationships are renewed, that memories are made, that the
bonds of friendship and family ties are strengthened and we find that joining the celebration holds a magic for us all.
Participating in holiday celebrations helps us feel connected to our place in society. By recognizing and celebrating
holidays and interacting with family, friends, and community we acknowledge the seasonal change, attune with the
natural tides, and acknowledge the rhythms of life, death, and rebirth as we recognize that we are a part of the ever
changing cycle.

The Symbols of the Season
For more than a thousand years Yule has been a time of feasting and merriment and many of its old customs are still
practiced in our modern celebrations. Traditions such as the greening the home with pine, holly, and mistletoe,
decorating a tree, wassailing, baking specialty cakes, cookies, and breads, and the baking of the Yule log all can be
traced back to antiquated Solstice customs. Even Santa, the bearded jolly old soul, parallels stories of the god Oden
and the Norse Yule Elf who leaves gifts on the Solstice to those who give him offerings, from England he is Father
Christmas, from Germany Kris Kringle, from Holland St. Nick and from Russia Father Winter. Gathering together for the
feast, the giving of gifts, putting up lights, and the hanging of wreaths are all symbols of the Yuletide and these
symbols of the season have origins dating back more than 5,000 years.


Holiday Foods
As the weather turns cold we fill our plates with hearty hot foods. Salads and smoothies give way to chili, soups, and
stews.

Pears offer an easy elegant that the apple just can't match. They are amazing serve on a bed of lettuce with blue
cheese, a handful of walnuts and a drizzle of honey or baked with Brie in phyllo pastry. The pear is a fruit of Venus
with energy for abundance, good luck, happiness, and love.

Pear Almond Tart
You will need:
3 poached pears

For the crust:
1/3 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 cup flour

For the filling:
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350. Beat together the sugar, butter, salt, and flavorings. Stir in flours. Press into the bottom and up the
sides of a tart pan. Bake it until it's just beginning to brown on the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let cool.
To make the filling: Mix together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract. Beat in the eggs. Stir in almond flour, mixing only until
combined. Pour filling into tart crust. Slice the pear halves and fanning them over the batter. Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes, until the
top is lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving.

Cast Iron Hot Fudge Pudding Cake from America's Test Kitchen
You will need:
1 cast iron skillet
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped coarse
2/3 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed (2 1/3 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter, chocolate, and 1/3 cup cocoa together in 10-inch cast-iron
skillet over low heat, stirring often, until smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. In separate bowl, whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and remaining 1/3
cup cocoa together, breaking up any large clumps of brown sugar with fingers. In third bowl, combine coffee and water.

Whisk milk, vanilla, egg yolk, and remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk in flour mixture until just
combined. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top, covering entire surface of batter. Pour coffee mixture gently over brown sugar
mixture.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cake is puffed and bubbling and just beginning to pull away from sides of skillet, about 35 minutes,
rotating skillet halfway through baking. Using potholders, transfer skillet to wire rack and let cake cool for 15 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice
cream.


MAGIC BARS
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups (12 oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.
Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with fork.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.


Another easy family favorite is:
CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate chopped
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cake flour
18 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
(for a shortcut 1 package of brownie mix that does not include a syrup pouch can be substituted)

In another bowl mix together:
8 ounce package Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt butter with chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from pan and whisk in
eggs, 1 at a time. Sift together flour and cocoa powder in a separate bowl and stir into batter with sugar and salt. Spread into greased 13x9-inch baking
pan.Top with Cream Cheese mixture. Take a knife and cut through batter several times for marbled effect.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned. Cool; cut into squares.


Known by many names, these sweet and nutty treats are always on our Christmas baking list.
RUSSIAN TEA CAKES
You will need:
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, cream butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine the 6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar and flour; stir into the butter mixture until just
blended. Mix in the chopped walnuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When cool, roll in remaining confectioners' sugar. I also like to roll mine in the sugar a second time.
Happy Yule
magic bars
Russian tea cake cookies