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Mulled Berries with Warm Brie

This is the time of year when I begin to think about summer again. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss it. But I do begin to pine… just a little bit. For awhile I try to ignore the notion that greens and root vegetables aren’t enough. After all, aren’t I spoiled by even having fresh greens in almost-February? I should chop up some kale and sweet potatoes and just be happy.

When the yearning for vibrant juiciness finally grows strong enough that I have to take it seriously, I break out the berries I’ve squirreled away in freezer. (And it really is squirreling. I often forget they are there until the next berry season comes around.)

Most of the berries I eat during the summer rarely make it to any kind of cooking device save a bowl and, maybe, a spoon. There just never seems to be quite enough of them to slake my lust and make a pie. Honestly, I don’t understand these people who come to the farm and buy just a quart of strawberries to last them the week. Part of the sweetness of eating seasonally is have the privilege (some would say excuse) of eating what’s in season until your heart is content.

Therefore, winter is the time I get to cook with berries. After being frozen, they are not satisfying out of hand eating. So into blueberry muffins they go. Or smoothies. Or upside down pancakes.

Instead of trying to recreate the fruit salads of summer, this recipe honors the winter kitchen by pairing the berries with a mulled wine. The result is a dish that redolent not of long summer days in the shade but of long winter nights in front of the fire. It gives me just enough juicy zest to take the edge off my summer pining.

Mulled Berries with Warm Brie

2 cups assorted frozen berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
5 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 in piece of citrus zest, such as lemon or orange, though lime is fine too if that’s what suits your fancy
1 cup red wine
1 wheel of brie, taken out of the box and wrapping removed

Place the berries in a bowl and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a medium pot combine the spices, except the nutmeg, and wine and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half. Allow to cool for about five minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Return mulled wine to the pot and add berries. Reheat gently, stirring as little as possible to avoid squishing the berries. Keep warm. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Place the brie on the skillet and warm for 5-7 minutes per side, or until its insides feel squishy.* Keep a close eye, turning down the flame if the outside begins to burn. If you prefer melted brie, continue heating for an additional minute or so. Remove the brie to a plate. Top with berries, grate nutmeg over the top, and cut into wobbly slices. Serve with bread, crackers, or just spoons.

*And what if the worst should happen and your brie breaks open, sending sizzling cheese all over the skillet? Never fear. Take the skillet off the heat and let the cheese harden for a few minutes. Then pour the berries right over the brie and serve in the skillet. It won’t be quite as posh looking, but it’ll still taste good.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 9:51 pm. Add a comment

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from SouleMama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . .

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 5:52 am. 6 comments

On my counter

This week my kitchen counter has

:: played host to a beautiful bouquet of fresh herbs from our greenhouse- sage, parsley, cilantro, and oregano. Having them in a cream pitcher close at hand, instead of in a bag in the fridge, reminds me to use them.  My cooking has been better for it.
:: witnessed a revival of my commitment to soaking my grains, nuts, and legumes. It has also witnessed the stench of the bowl of beans I forgot about and hence left in their soaking water for four days. My cooking has been worse for it.
:: finally seen the last of the purple haze carrots. Until spring at least. This has been the first season that I’ve deigned to actually cook with them. In previous years, they’ve been too precious and were reserved for eating out of hand, barely making it home from the farm. This year though, they’ve been sauteed with mint and coconut oil, stir fried with bok choy and lemon, and added to the most glorious rainy day beef stew.
:: dribbled with Meyer lemon juice and salt as I made Moroccan preserved lemons. I now know where each and every nick and crack is on my hands.
:: not told a soul that I licked the pot, spatula, and funnel clean when I made lemon curd no less than three times.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 7:40 pm. 1 comment

something old

Tuesdays have become my thrifting day. Perhaps it’s tapping into the ancient hunter gatherer parts of my brain, but I’ve come to look forward to these mornings spent amidst dusty books, suspect appliances and mismatched shoes. In addition to the frugality implicit in “thrifting,” I appreciate the sense of history these items bring to my home. It also allows me to be more creative than simply placing (or clicking) an item into a shopping cart. However, I must exercise constant vigilance against the “but this could be useful if…” spiral that too easily leads to bursting bags and toppling piles.

Recently I found
:: the perfect coffee cup. I am almost as picky about the vessel my hot beverages are served in as I am the steamy cuppa itself. I sip slowly, so most mugs are too big, cooling to just above room temperature before I’ve had all of two sips. I also dislike the perfectly cylindrical mugs that you often find at cafés. They feel clunky. Often their handles are so small your finger gets stuck and you slosh coffee all over in an effort to disengage. This cup, however, is full of graceful curves and has a handle that lets my fingers wrap around it in peace. It has a chip on one side that already feels like a familiar callus on a well loved hand.
:: a 1956 edition of Winnie the Pooh that is blessedly free of Disney-ification. Instead it bears lovely bonus material by unknown (though not nameless!)  budding artists.
:: a handmade quilt. I am still in awe of this beguiling hodgepodge of fabric. The quilt speaks of frugality and necessity rather than art. The backing is made of old cloth Domino sugar bags. I already own a few quilts, all made by precious members of my family. They are dotted with familiar fabrics that have stories all their own. I sense the same weight of family history in this quilt. But it sends sparks through my imagination, wondering what the stories are. There is no rhyme or reason to the fabric selection– perhaps simply what was on hand when an extra layer was needed by a body. The baby girl pink cozies up to flamboyant 70′s plaid and starry eyed brown check. Who was the baby girl? Did someone proudly wear that plaid, or were they embarrassed by the old fashioned fabric? When I happened to worry out loud that it might eventually fall apart if used and therefore washed too much, a friend reminded me that the beauty of patchwork quilts is that they can be patched. Of course! 

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 6:10 pm. 1 comment


Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother bringing the blanket at all on our backyard excursions. It’s been months since Baby-tidian has stayed on it. Even when I sit him (yes! sitting!) in the dead center like a little bull’s eye, within moments he is at the edge. Then it’s all splashing in leaves and sprinkling dirt like cinnamon.

I love observing these earliest connections he is making with nature. Like so many other discoveries at this age, it’s setting the stage from which he will play for  a long time. In these moments I’m never quite sure what my role is. Do I crunch some leaves myself? Or do I try to fade into them? Perhaps nurture my own attachment to the leaves and dirt? Today as I tried fading into his background, I was summoned back by his excited calls of “ahoo” and vigorous tongue thrusting, which could only mean one thing: a discovery. The daffodil bulbs we planted in the fall have started pushing their way through the earth.

 We always return together to the quilt, dirty knees and all. Sometimes after such adventures he is content to lay back with me and watch the leaves move. Not often though. Today we brought out a stack of stories, some to read and others to taste. Oh yes, we love our books. I only hope that he continues to show such fondness for them, even after all his teeth are in.

What’s strange is that this whole escapade took less than 45 minutes from gathering the quilt and books to changing into clean kneed clothes. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of long idyllic afternoons spent quilt-side. Even more, I’ve had to learn to acknowledge the worth of these outings. Just because the time is measured in minutes rather than afternoons doesn’t mean the time is hollow. Even just moments outside can be enough to infuse much needed grounding and balance into my day. A quick nibble of fresh air nourishes just as much as an afternoon’s feast.

So while Baby-tidian discovers the sweet smell of dirt and the glorious crinkle of dry leaves, I am discovering that length of time has little bearing on the sweetness of these moments. The leaves crinkle just as well.


Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 11:09 am. 2 comments

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from SouleMama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . .

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 5:23 am. 10 comments

{this moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from SouleMama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . .

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 6:02 am. 2 comments

Mama Guilt

It’s taken awhile for us to come face to face. I was led to believe that we would meet much sooner than this– as if you would be gripping my son’s heel as he was born. But midwives came and went, the birthing pool was filled and then packed away, and my little family nestled in our bed…and you didn’t appear. Even when we had to take him to the hospital. Or when he shivered because I forgot his blanket.  Or when I realized I’d been buckling him into his car seat incorrectly. You barely whispered a threat, still as a breeze. How funny that I thought I’d stood against the gale those times. I thought I had won. I should have known it was too easy of a victory.

I’d promised myself I wouldn’t let you catch up to me.  That I wouldn’t let you trick me out of my birthright of peacefulness. My rational self knows that I will not be able to make the world perfect for him. That he will get hurt on my watch. That he will be disappointed. That his heart will break and dissolve into tears. It’s not that I desire this for him.  But I am resigned to it in the same way I’ve come to accept those things for myself. In the same way that autumn is so bitterly beautiful, I know these things are part of being human. I was determined not to let you disfigure that very fragile beauty.

But it seems I was preparing the wrong front. You are a crafty enemy and adept at this through much practice no doubt. You let me win those easy battles, appearing weak.  You didn’t attack me with stereotypical things like not enrolling him in baby classes or letting him play on a dirty floor. You didn’t even attack my ability as a mama when I was learning to breastfeed or comfort his newborn cries.

Let me think I was a conqueror.

Instead you disguised yourself, if not as a friend, at least as something familiar that I am much less capable of defeating. In my blindness you came to me with a familiar touch. I knew the scent of you well in my Bible college days. Like then, the problem is not simply that I am doing something wrong. No. It goes much deeper than actions, things I could fix with enough will power. It’s me. My substance. My soul.

There’s not enough of it.

Or too much of it.

Or something.

You make deals with me. Do this, and you’ll be a good mama. But just as I manage to do that, you switch out the prize of winsome competence with swarthy inadequacy. I am tired of having to choose between making sure dinner doesn’t burn and being a good mama. Between shifting to be more comfortable and being a good mama. Between thinking my own thoughts and being a good mama. If I was a good mama, these things wouldn’t be a dichotomy. In a dream world, these needs would gracefully shift up and down the ladder of priorities, glowing with the serenity of angels.   But instead they slip and fall and dash their heads on the rocks below. And I always save the wrong ones. Balance is never mine.

It seems I will never be free of you. Even into the damp inkiness of night, you grab at me. Force me to wrestle with you till I have no strength left to even hold my babe.  I crumple onto the couch. (How is it only 9am?) As I limp through life, I resent what you’ve made of me. I used to be strong. I used to know how to take care of myself and have enough left over to care for others. Why has that ability deserted me now, when I need it the most, to care for the biggest Other I ever will?

It’s not always bad. There are moments, hours, even days, of piercing happiness. Where I feel reunited to an estranged part of myself. I am a favored one, blessed with much. I know this. I have a husband who has both flexible work hours and a flexible heart, never once begrudging me the comfort and care I need. My son is healthy and vivacious. Sometimes, when he’s asleep, I sneak into the bedroom just to watch him. He is always breathing and beautiful. We don’t want for anything. My life is coated in many colors of goodness.

Why then do I feel so enslaved to you? Why will you not let me go? What can I give you that will appease you? There is precious little in this barren famine-riddled place. My best intentions to try harder, to do better… they wither on the vine. There is no fruit. My emotions are thin and wan. Except for frustration. That at least looms large with ghostly eyes. Isn’t the mark of a mother her endless selflessness? All the poems and songs and books say so. I don’t have it. I try to get by with the minimum effort, as if this were some middle school science project. Perhaps then I am not really a mother at all? I so much wanted to be one of those women who takes gracefully to motherhood. Who, whether or not she planned to have children, allows it to bring out the best in her.

Instead all my worst traits are dragged out of me like entrails. I am weepy and selfish. I manipulate and grumble. All my reserves of patience and peace are gone. Even a little fussing makes me grit my teeth. Neediness sends me running to the other room. Having trouble starting a car will ruin my day. When did this become who I am?

And yet I know this is a foreign place. I do not belong here. This will not be my final resting place. You cannot fool me. There is a land where sweet goodness flows and I can look up clear. You cannot fool me. I see hope underneath.

I hope.

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 9:25 am. 4 comments

>Kitchen Bloopers<

I woke up Sunday morning with an itch to make breakfast. Not just oatmeal or eggs and toast par usual, but something a little special. A mite indulgent. I had also recently remembered the strawberry jewels buried deep in my freezer. I had an open bag of cornmeal that needed using up. All these disparate filings of ideas were pulled together by the magnet of an upside down pancake like this one.

However, somewhere between desire and endeavor things went awry. I forgot both the eggs and baking soda, making a batter that consisted only of flour and cornmeal mixed with buttermilk. As I mixed it up, I marveled at how fast it came together. As I poured it into the skillet, I fretted over how it failed to cover the whole pan. It was only as I closed the door to the oven that I realized my mistake.

Too late.

We ate it anyway. Gummy batter and all. At least the strawberries were good.

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 3:28 pm. 2 comments

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from SouleMama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . .

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 6:05 am. 3 comments