Countdown to Christmas Feed

Countdown to Christmas ~ The First Noel....One of my Favorite Christmas Eve Memories

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Every  Christmas eve was special when we lived at Windesphere. We had wonderful neighbors who turned into dear friends, and every year we celebrated Christmas eve with them. We'd go down to their house early and drink champagne and stuff ourselves with appetizers and Christmas cookies and then the children would wait impatiently for the clock to strike at midnight so little Jessica could turn the pages of the "Night before Christmas " book while listening to Orson Welles narrate the story. Then we'd open the presents we'd gotten for each other ,  (Alex always gave Jess a huge box of festive bows!), eat one last delicious cookie or maybe two and then wander home to tuck ourselves happily into bed and wait for Santa. 

Those Christmas eves were magical and will never, ever be forgotten. 

One year, it was really snowing...a classic white Christmas that doesn't always happen in Northeast Ohio. It was cold too, so I decided mid festivities to drive up to the barn and to give the horses a bit more hay and to make sure that the cats were tucked in safely. As I got to the barn, the snow was falling gently and I just sat there for a moment in my truck, just watching, listening to carols and enjoying the dancing icy snowflakes. My century old wood and fieldstone bank bark had a simple wreath on the door, nothing else. That old barn was surrounded by beautiful pines whose boughs were covered in soft piles of snow and at that moment, it looked like a beautiful Christmas card. 

That was the first time I ever heard this version of this song. Today, it can still bring tears to my eyes...it was such a peaceful moment just sitting in my truck and watching the snowfall. The harmonies are powerful and beautiful. 

When it was over, I slid out of the cab, opened the barn door and took a deep breath. Horses happily enjoying the last of their bran mash, their breath sweet as I tucked a couple of extra flakes of hay into their stalls. Josh, the best and  fuzziest barn dog I've ever had was curled up in a pile of hay, snoring and dreaming old happy dog dreams. I was greeted by my barn cats as I walked up to the hayloft. All was well in their world, mice were plentiful and so were soft piles of horse blankets and straw. It took everything in me  to walk back down the stairs, shut the barn door and go back to the party. 

This song has never left me, and neither has the memory. If you've never been in a barn on Christmas eve, trust me when I say that there is something just beautiful about it. I think that maybe it's because it is quieter on that night, than almost any other time of the year. The hustle and bustle is finished...what's left is to enjoy the wonderment and there's no better place to do it than in the company of extraordinary and magical creatures.

Maybe I'm still just that little girl who has never ever stopped believing in the North Pole and listening for the sleigh bells.

My mother would tell you that I was always more intrigued by the reindeer than I was Santa...

 

 

One disclaimer? That's not my barn door  but it's close enough....

 


Countdown to Christmas ~ A Warming Chocolate Cordial for the Winter Solstice!

 

 

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What a beautiful Autumn it’s been, so rich in warmth and color. Now that my gardens are put to bed and Thanksgiving has come and gone, It’s time to turn once again to making preparations for my favorite time of year, the longest night of the year…The Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year, with plenty of time to celebrate, the Winter Solstice is the perfect holiday for Jewish girls that love Christmas and long to really throw great parties during this time of year.  Usually we have a really large gathering of family and friends with wonderful food and delicious things to drink. I love to always have a special cocktail for that evening and anything  rich with chocolate flavor never disappoints, especially around the holidays!  

 

Purchased chocolate liqueurs almost always fall short of the rich and intense chocolate flavor that I adore. Imagine my pleasure then when I finally learned to make my own using a recipe inspired by John Scharffenberger of Scharffenberger chocolate fame. I think you’ll love this recipe and I’ll be excited to hear what delicious memories you create with it. 

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I'm pretty sure that I will be making up a large batch of it this year to enjoy on Solstice eve with enough left over to carry me into the New Years! A drink this decadent is a great excuse to use my Grandmothers iridescent cocktail glasses! I love to top each one with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a sprinkling of dark and white chocolate shavings. Chocolate cordial drizzled over the top of a scoop of plain vanilla, chocolate or peppermint stick ice cream or fresh pear sorbet is completely luscious or you can use it as the base of a fabulous martini.

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In the past, I’ve added a little bit of peppermint schnapps and a mini candy cane to make an even more festive cocktail or for something a little more sophisticated I’ve added  candied orange rind, crystallized ginger and just a bit of Grand Marnier!  I’ve also discovered that this cordial marries well with the Lavender/Rose syrup that I make in the summer as well as the lemon, star anise and ginger syrup in autumn. Shake a bit of this chocolate cordial over ice with any of these additions and you’ll have a chocolate martini that’s filled with flavor and fun! If you like a warming drink, a generous splash of this cordial in a hot mug of coffee , topped with sweetened whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle is a perfect and utterly cozy way to end the evening.

 

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This recipe serves 6 (makes approximately 3 cups)

 

You will need:

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsweetened good quality cocoa powder

1 cup boiling water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1 cup vodka  (the recipe calls for plain, but I cheated and used 3 Olives Chocolate vodka which made it even better)

3/4 cup heavy cream, for topping

 

Directions:

 

In a bowl, whisk cocoa powder into the boiling water.

 

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

 

Add sugar syrup to cocoa syrup and let this infuse for a few hours, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar with a lid. Add the vodka, cover and refrigerate overnight. (It will keep up to a month, but will lose potency over time.).

 

To serve, stir well and strain again through a fine-mesh sieve into a martini or cordial glass, 2/3 full. Top with lightly-sweetened whipped cream, or float heavy cream on top. (Hold a spoon with the bowl down and the edge almost touching the liqueur in the glass. Pour the cream slowly over the back of the spoon until a layer 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep floats on top of the liqueur.) Garnish with rose petals, crushed peppermints, ground cinnamon or chocolate shavings.

 

Blessed Solstice , Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of you….Wishing you all, the Happiest, most Magical and Kindest of New Years too.

 

I am grateful for your friendship in my life .

 

Bring on 2022!