A Poem For Spring

As we warmly welcome the bright and cheerful colors of Spring, enjoy the poem below by Walt Whitman – a reminder of all the good and beautiful “miracles” that surround us daily.

Walt Whitman miracles poem

“Miracles”
by Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819-1892)

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love…
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

A Perfect Spring Read for a “Break” from the World

The transition from winter to spring is never an easy overnight happening. It can be a time of slow adjustments – a waking up of the senses to the soft light and intoxicating freshness of the spring air. It is the only seasonal transition where the body and soul yearn for a restorative break from the previous season’s grip.

Shepherd's Life James RebanksWith a feeling as if the world is in upheaval, spinning away from the light and into the darkness of chaos, confusion and conflict where incompetent leaders have “lay waste [their] powers”, the need for a spring “break” this year of 2016 seems all the more necessary.

“The world is too much with us”, William Wordsworth once wrote in a poem that speaks to the importance of the restorative powers of nature for the body and soul:

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…
…the winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune…”*

An antidote for a time when “we are out of tune”, when all in the world seems to be “howling at all hours” and when our bodies and soul groan their way through the seasonal transitioning, is James Rebanks’ book The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Land (2015), referred to as a “James Herriot for modern times.”

A modern-day shepherd raising a family of shepherds, Rebanks is “the first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself.” The ancient land that he lives and writes in is the pastoral land of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter in England’s northern Lake District, where he takes the reader through “a shepherd’s year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost.”

It is a place where “life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand”, which hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. And it is a story, Rebanks writes, “of a family and a farm, but it also tells a wider story about the people who get forgotten in the modern world. It is about how we need to open our eyes and see the forgotten people who live in our midst, whose lives are often deeply traditional and rooted in the distant past.”

Helen MacDonald, prize-winning author of H is for Hawk, another book about retreating from the world after the death of her father, refers to it as a “bloody marvelous” book.

Marvelous it is for the rare opportunity it provides the reader to experience the soul soothing tranquility of living and working “in tune” with the natural rhythms of nature’s seasons in a landscape that was, as James Rebanks writes, created by “nobodies”:

“My grandfather was, quite simply, one of the great forgotten silent majority of people who live, work, love, and die without leaving much written trace that they were ever here. He was, and we his descendants remain, essentially nobodies as far as anyone else is concerned. But that’s the point. Landscapes like ours were created by and survive through the efforts of nobodies.”

He continues: “This is a landscape of modest hardworking people. The real history of our landscape should be the history of the nobodies.”

Below are a few more treasures from the book:

“There is no beginning, and there is no end. The sun rises, and falls, each day, and the seasons come and go. The days, months, and years alternate through sunshine, rain, hail, wind, snow, and frost. The leaves fall each autumn and burst forth again each spring. The earth spins through the vastness of space. The grass comes and goes with the warmth of the sun. The farms and the flocks endure, bigger than the life of a single person. We are born, live our working lives, and die, passing like the oak leaves that blow across our land in the winter. We are each tiny parts of something enduring, something that feels solid, real, and true. Our farming way of life has roots deeper than five thousand years into the soil of this landscape.”  (p.15)

A list of things Rebanks’ shepherd grandfather taught him while growing up, learning, and working by his side:

“We don’t give up, even when things are bad.
We pay our debts.
We work hard.
We act decently.
We help our neighbors if they need it.
We do what we say we will do.
We don’t want much attention.
We look after our own.
We are proud of what we do.
We try to be quietly smart.
We take chances sometimes to get on.
We will fail sometimes.
We will be affected by the wider world…
But we hold on to who we are.”


*Full poem:
“The World is Too Much With Us”
by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God!
I’d rather be A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Happy Sweet Spring Desserts

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring…[w]hat is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s SWEET being in the beginning…” – Gerard Manley Hopkins from the poem “Spring”

Spring dessert recipesNothing is more perfect than a slightly sweet, light, ethereal dessert after dining on a plateful of pasta at an old-world Italian restaurant on an early spring evening.

You could say that the Italian dessert “Panna Cotta” is like tasting a bit of spring itself in all of its lightness, sweetness and silky, creamy freshness. A simple pudding-like dessert, Panna Cotta (which literally means “cooked cream”) originated in Northern Italy, where “the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream).”

Panna Cotta is referred to as the “purest of the Italian spoons desserts” and when achieving the proper consistency and texture, should be silky smooth and just firm enough to hold its shape when plated (quotes taken from here).

Below are three variations of Panna Cotta to experiment with, along with two other spring dessert recipes, one for Banana Cake and one for a Lemon Cake. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta (taken from Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times Food Editor)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
Oil
2 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
5 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to distribute, and set aside to soften, 2-3 minutes.

Wipe the insides of 8 (one-half-cup) ramekins with a light coating of neutral oil and set aside. Half-fill a large bowl with ice and add enough water to make an ice bath and set aside.

In small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in the softened gelatin and the vanilla.

Set the saucepan in the ice bath (making sure the top of the saucepan is well above the surface of the water) and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm. Rub your fingers together – there should be no grit from undissolved sugar or gelatin.

Ladle mixture into the oiled ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before serving run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the ramekin. Dip the ramekin briefly in a bowl of hot tap water, and then carefully invert onto a serving plate.

Panna cotta recipes

Panna Cotta (adapted from blog.italian-connection.com)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 heaping tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/7 ounce of unflavored gelatin

Instructions:
Dissolve gelatin in 2 tablespoons water for 2-3 minutes. In medium saucepan heat cream, milk, and sugar and heat gently. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and the vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined and begins to thicken. Pour into custard cups or ramekins and chill for 3-6 hours.

Panna Cotta (taken from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
3 cups cream
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:
Put 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it; let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until gelatin dissolves completely.

Add remaining cream and sugar to gelatin mixture and heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla and then pour mixture into 4-6 small custard cups. Chill until set, about 4 hours.

Sunny Lemon Cake (adapted from Ann Romney, The Romney Family Table)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 – 2 lemons
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium-high for 1 – 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and lemon oil or zest and continue to beat.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after eat addition and scraping the bowl frequently.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix until the batter is smooth and well blended.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.  Drizzle warm cake with Lemon Glaze.

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. rum (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Instructions:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, water, rum or vanilla extract, and lemon stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drizzle the warm cake with the glaze. Let cake cool completely before serving.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 stick of butter, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs room temp. to be separated
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 med-size banana)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

easy banana cake recipe

Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9×13 baking dish or two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream the butter and then add sugar and beat until smooth. Separate eggs placing egg whites in bowl to be beat.  Add egg yolks, mashed bananas and buttermilk to butter/sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Beat egg white in separate bowl until stiff but moist and fold into mixture. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of batter and gently fold in. Spread evenly in prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Ingredients for the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
4 tbsp. butter, room temp.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for the Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar at a time mixing thoroughly, and then stir in the vanilla. Spread on flat 9×13 cake or use to make a layer cake with the 9-inch pans.

See also more light, airy and sweet Spring recipes.

There’s a Saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte”…

Walls for the wind, 
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire

Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire!

– Irish Blessing

In many ways, it was like a scene right out of a movie. We had entered into a small local pub, tired and hungry from a long day of traveling in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. We had stumbled blindly through the dark, a five-minute walk from our hotel along a narrow, winding road set amidst rolling hills.

There were just two other people in the pub, visitors, like us, evidenced by the large, worn backpacks towering next to their table. The bartender greeted us warmly and we asked if he had a menu for food.

“We do, but the kitchen is about to close,” he said. “We only have homemade beef stew and seafood chowder.” We ordered one of each, two pints of Guinness and sat down at a tableside fire for what was to be one of the most memorable stops on our two-week long journey.

Doolin accomodation
Inside McGann’s, Doolin’s local pub

Situated on the west coast of Ireland, and nestled just a sort distance from the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s most visited natural attraction – Doolin has become world renowned for its traditional Irish music, attracting thousands of international visitors each year. A seaside village with a population of just 500 people, its rustic landscape makes for a cozy, tranquil getaway, particularly in the off season, and even in the harsh, whipping winds of winter.

But, one needn’t be there long to fully understand its appeal. Its most distinguishing feature can be found by stepping foot in a local shop, restaurant, hotel or pub – as we did into McGann’s that first night (and as we would again for the following two nights) – and witnessing a most authentic display of Irish hospitality that seems to reveal itself more naturally in the Irish countryside.

Indeed, having arrived in Doolin after spending three days in Dublin, we were reminded of what some might call a universal principle of traveling: that the most authentic experiences are often found not in the lights and glamour of a city center, but in rural encounters with lifelong natives whose customs and behaviors portray a more accurate reflection of the people and character of a country.

Hotel Doolin
Fisher Street i.e. “Main Street” in Doolin

There was no one defining moment, however, that formed such a lasting, memorable impression of Doolin; no grand, sweeping gestures or calls of attention to the benevolent. In fact, the beauty of Irish hospitality was more in its subtlety and humility than it was in any specific act itself.

It was the bartender who introduced himself with a smile, took an interest in who we were, informed us of local happenings – i.e., that there was a “concert” at our hotel later that night – and suggested pubs for us to visit in Edinburgh, the next stop on our trip.

It was the two local men, standing outside the pub as we left, who excitedly shouted out, “See you at the concert!”, as we headed back up the winding road to our hotel.

Irish music doolin
The “concert” at Hotel Doolin

It was the palpable sense of camaraderie among a group of people in Hotel Doolin listening to local musicians play some of the best Irish music I’ve ever heard.

It was the local group of young friends who engaged us in a conversation – playfully challenging us to spell different Irish names – and invited us to meet them at McGann’s the following night for a dart tournament.

It was our shuttle driver who asked us about our lives, offered us tips on where to begin our hike, and made us laugh with his quick Irish wit as he sped over the hills to drop us at the bottom of the trail.

And it was the hotel staff who presented us with a freshly baked loaf of bread upon our early morning departure, knowing that we would be traveling all day.

They were small, thoughtful acts that not only confirmed the truth behind what has long been heralded as one of the Irish’s most venerated traditions,* but also reminded me of man’s yearning to feel welcomed and comforted, acknowledged and appreciated, by fellow man, no matter where we may find ourselves on life’s journey.

Doolin pubs

Washington Irving once wrote, “there is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease.”

Nearly 3,000 miles from home, hailing from the disparate world of New York City, the people of Doolin had every right to consider me a stranger – an “American” or a “GDY” (God Damn Yank), as our Irish bus driver told us jokingly.

But, as much of a stranger as I was to them – and as much as the people of Doolin were “strangers” to me – I have never felt more at ease than I did during those three short days of my visit. Their genuine hospitality, exhibited in the most humble of manners – a warm welcome, a genuine smile, a thoughtful question, a deliberate acknowledgement – was enough to replenish and restore my soul, fulfilling the mission of my two-week long European adventure.

There’s a saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte.” Its literal translation is “one hundred thousand welcomes”, or “you are welcome, a thousand times, wherever you come from, whosoever you be.”

If ever there was a place to experience authentic Irish hospitality, to offer whosoever you be a thousand welcomes, Doolin – a village of just 500 people – must be it.

Please note: this piece was also published in The Huffington Post.

Doolin accomodation

*In ancient Ireland, hospitality was mandated by law via the Brehon Laws, which contained rules such as, “Whoever comes to your door, you must feed him or care for him, with no questions asked” and “All members of the tribe are required to offer hospitality to strangers.”

*Galway, just 45 miles northeast of Doolin, was named Travel + Leisure’s 2015 “friendliest city in the world.”

“Once You Have Slept on an Island…”

“In the middle of the Pacific ocean where East meets West, 
Is an Island of fire and ice, Home of the volcano and doorway, 
To another dimension and a different reality. Here magic lives, 
Where the Earth herself liquefies and nothing is quite as it seems.” – Pila of Hawaii 

Hawaii poems
Kauai, Hawaii

March, a month signaling the budding of a new season, is a time for “Spring” breaking — students breaking from the tiresome cycle of classroom lectures and late night studying, adults breaking from a grueling schedule of business meetings and client deadlines, and all of us breaking from the cold, dark days of winter.

Many will break away to the coast of Florida, some maybe to the Caribbean, still others to far-off destinations. But here at ATG, we’ve always “breaked” at an island (Hilton Head Island) — an island with windswept beaches, transcendent sunrises (see below), and a soothing calmness felt in the warm, sand swirling winds.

Its beauty and serenity has kept us returning for more than 30 years, replenishing, restoring and reinvigorating our vitamin-D deprived souls.

There certainly is something about an island. After all, as Rachel Lyman Field writes in the poem below, “Once you have slept on island, you’ll never be quite the same.”

For a little island destination inspiration, check out the 10 islands below that were Traverlers’ Choice Awards for 2015. Happy Spring Break-ing!

Top Ten Island Destinations (via TripAdvisor):

  1.  Providenciales – Turks and Cacos
  2.  Maui – United States
  3.  Roatan – Hondurus
  4.  Santorini – Greece
  5.  Ko Tao – Thailand
  6.  Madeira – Portugal
  7.  Bali – Indonesia
  8.  Mauritius
  9.  Bora Bora – French Polynesia
  10.  Fernando De Noronha – Brazil
Hilton Head Island sunrise
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; March 2016

“If once you have slept on an Island,

you’ll never be quite the same;

you may look as you looked before,

and go by the same old name.

You may hustle about in street and shop,

you may sit at home and sew,

but you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls

wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with neighbors of this and that

and close to the fire keep,

but you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell

and tides beat through your sleep.

And you won’t know why and you can’t say how

such change upon you came,

but once you have slept on an island

you’ll never be quite the same.”

– Rachel Lyman Field

Read also:

“The Island Poem”
by Margaret Haig

The Island was there surrounded by sea,
Where the family stayed, so much to see;

The birds flying in the sky, and on the water too,
Yes! They were enjoying their holiday, it’s true.

The Island stretched for many a mile, they could see,
With plenty of shells, and sand, the sunsets so pretty;
The Coconut palms, and date palms, to walk in the cool,
And the children enjoyed it all, for there was no school.

The husband enjoyed to go fishing each day,
The children loved to run on the sand and play;
The wife, she enjoyed it too, to rest under the tree,
Then she called them all at night, it is time for tea.

The Island holiday soon came to an end,
The children said, our holiday we can pretend;
That we are still on our lovely holiday retreat,
And remember the birds, and the birds so sweet.

Have you ever been to an Island, for a holiday?
Maybe you travelled far, to Queensland, is what you’d say;
Or was it somewhere in the Islands of the south see?
You’ll know it was a holiday to feel so very free.

 

In Other Words: Life Lessons from Peyton Manning’s Retirement Speech

Peyton Manning retirement speechThere are many reasons to applaud football icon Peyton Manning for the speech he delivered earlier this week announcing his retirement from the NFL.

Delivered with grace and humility, it stands in stark contrast to the dastardly dialogue and vindictive language that we continue to hear during what is bound to be one of the most significant presidential elections in American history.

For football fanatics, his speech was a testimony to the greatness of the game and the ability of any player to rise, against any and all odds, on any given Sunday. For Peyton Manning’s fans, it was bound to confirm their fervent admiration and respect for an athlete who has role modeled hard work, dedication and integrity throughout his 18-year career.

But, for the every day man, for people who don’t necessarily follow football, nestled within his speech were tidbits of wisdom that we all can apply in our own lives, no matter the position, job or title we may hold – on or off the field.

Subtle and unassuming, they are important reminders of how to cope with challenges and setbacks and how to evolve into the person we aspire to be. They are nothing new or revolutionary – in fact, we hear and read variations of them all the time – but coming from someone whose actions have aligned with his words, they somehow seem more potent.*

After all, such messages require not only for us to understand and acknowledge them, but to act on them.

They are outlined below:

1. In the beginning of his speech, Peyton Manning remarked: “There’s a saying that goes, treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be and he will become what he should be.”

…in other words, challenge yourself not only to do more, but to be more.

2. He went on to say: “Grateful is the word that comes to my mind when thinking of the Denver Broncos” (he used “thank”, “grateful” or “gratitude” eight times in his speech).

…in other words, be grateful for the people and things in your life and commit to giving thanks each day.

3. Later, he said: “Football has taught me not to be led by obstructions and setbacks but instead to be led by dreams.”

…in other words, persevere through all challenges and obstacles with determination, hope and faith.

4. He continued on: “Our children are small now, but as they grow up, we’re going to teach them to enjoy the little things in life because one day they will look back and discover that those really were the big things.”

…in other words, make a conscious effort to live in the present and treasure each and every moment.

5. Toward the end, he said: “Life is not shrinking for me, it’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities.”

…in other words, with every new or unfamiliar situation comes an opportunity to learn something that can help you grow in unexpected ways.

6. And, finally: “There were other players who were more talented but there was no one who could out-prepare me and because of that I have no regrets.”

…in other words, hard work, preparation, discipline and commitment pay off and will always help propel you to success and achievement.

Read the full transcript of Peyton Manning’s retirement speech.

*Full disclosure: As a diehard Steelers fan, I have very little reason to support Peyton Manning (he led the Denver Broncos to victory against the Steelers in the playoffs this year). But, as a seeker of All Things Good, it’s hard not to give credit where credit is due or commend someone of such fame for their humility, grace and integrity.

A Weary Traveler, a Pint of Guinness and a Pot of Stew

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings*

Hotel Doolin
“Doolin Ale”

We arrived at the little inn in the tiny village of Doolin*, near the Cliffs of Moher, in the thick darkness of late evening, weary and hungry from traveling all day in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. With few options for replenishment, we stumbled back into the darkness, down the narrow road and entered into McGann’s, the local pub whose cozy warmth and Irish hospitality would keep us returning for the following two nights.

With the luck of the Irish on our side, we arrived just before the kitchen closed, sitting down at a table side fire and enjoying a magical, memorable evening of nourishing food (the best Guinness Beef Stew we’ve had), thirst-quenching pints of “Doolin Ale” and soulful live Irish music that one can only expect in a town that has been deemed the traditional music capital of Ireland.

In the spirit of All Things Irish, we share three recipes below to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Sláinte!

*Rumor has it that Doolin inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in the creation of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Beef and Guinness Stew (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 pounds of beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:
Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large stewpot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the beef in batches, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to each batch, over medium high heat. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (blanch and set aside)

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. flour
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2-3 cups beef stock

Add onions and a small amount of olive oil to the stewpot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Add the browned beef back to the pot and add the Guinness. Bring to a boil and add beef stock. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 &1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and adjust the seasonings before serving.

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe

Oven Roasted Potatoes (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika

Instructions:
Cut potatoes in quarters.  In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer (do not overcrowd). Roast for at least 1 hour in 400 degree F oven or until brown and crisp. Flip twice during cooking to brown every.

Cheddar Chive Scones (taken from the Standard Baking Company’s book Pastries)

Ingredients for the scones:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 Egg
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 & 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the topping:
1/4 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions:
Make the topping by combining the cornmeal, cheese, and pepper and mixing until the texture resembles a course meal. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Break up any remaining lumps with your fingertips. Add the cubed butter and work it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until a few pea-size chunks of butter remain.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half. Pour into the flour mixture land, using your hands or a rubber spatula, fold everything together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Add the chives and cheese and mix until just combined.

With an ice cream scoop, scoop a golf ball-size portion and dip it into the topping mixture to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet with the topping facing up. Repeat with the rest of the dough spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake in 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 12 minutes for even baking. They will be golden brown and feel firm in the center when done. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Chocolate Irish Cream Tart
Enjoy with a cup of delicious Irish coffee with baileys!

Ingredients for the chocolate filling:
1 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/8 cup whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
Pinch of Salt
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar

Ingredients for the ganache:
3 tablespoons Irish Cream liquor
3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Instructions for the chocolate filling:
Set aside the 1/4 cup of chocolate. Place the remaining chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melt. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Whisk in the whiskey. The mixture will be stiff initially, but will become smooth as you continue whisking. Whisk in the vanilla, espresso powder, salt, and yokes. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy and opaque.

Gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites are stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift the whisk out of the mixture.

Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Fold in half of the remaining whites, then the reserved 1/4 cup chopped chocolate, followed by the remaining whites.

Spoon the filling into the prepared tart shells, filling them 1/2 inch from the top. Place the filled tarts in the freezer for 2 hours, until firm.

Irish coffee with baileys
McGann’s Baileys Irish Cream Coffee

Instructions for the ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat the Irish cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

When the mixture is completely cool, whisk in the butter. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, remove from the refrigerator, and which again. Repeat in this manner, whisking until the ganache is light and creamy. Set it aside at room temperature.

For the Tart
Use Pepperidge Farms ready made frozen tarts or use a favorite recipe.

Baking and finishing the tarts:
Bake the tarts in a 350 degree F oven on a baking sheet for about 15-18 minutes. Be sure to rotate the baking sheet after 8 minutes, the filling will have puffed up and started to crack. Let tarts cool and then spoon about a tablespoon of the ganache on each tart and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

March: All Things Saint-ly

“Why were the saints, saints?

Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful,

patient when it was difficult to be patient;

Cathedral in Rome Italy
Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola; Rome, Italy

and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still,

and kept silent when they wanted to talk,

and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable.

St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh
St. Giles’ Cathedral; Edinburgh, Scotland

That was all.

It was quite simple and always will be.”

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Dublin, Ireland