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Just for you: Grandma Rosie’s Chocolate Cake

Will you be my Valentine

I’ve got chocolate chocolate chocolate!

According to my highly scientific research of the last 8 years, most writers claim chocolate inspires their best work. Is it all those mood altering chemicals creating an instant high (the same feeling we get when we fall in love)? Or maybe that pure, eyes-roll-back-in-the-head pleasure when a piece of velvety smooth chocolate brazenly yields to our body heat and melts in our mouths, ever-so-slowly releasing its deep, rich flavor? Yes, and Yes.

Whatever your pleasure — brownies, fudge, ganache, chip, bonbon, bark or bar — chocolate is the language of love. When it speaks, I listen. Chocolate gets my creative juices flowing, makes me fall in love with books, words, reading and writing all over again. I like having a little cacao in my corner, whispering, “You can do it!” :)

Today we’re serving up three delectable chocolate poems for your Valentine’s Day pleasure. Gary Hanna offers a bit of sweet seduction, Ed Zahniser rhapsodizes about his intense love for chocolate, while Rita Dove speaks the plain truth: when it comes to chocolate, it’s hopeless to resist.

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Jessixa Bagley is a picture book author/illustrator known for her debut picture book Boats for Papa. She loves hamburgers and making things out of cardboard. She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and son.

 

☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: My current favorite hot beverage is Choice peppermint licorice tea! It’s personally a very controversial choice for me because I hate black licorice, but this tea is AMAZING!

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: Before I Leave (Roaring Brook Press, 2016) — comes out February 16 -yay! — is a book about having to move away from your best friend; Boats for Papa (Roaring Brook Press, 2015). Forthcoming: My third picture book, Laundry Day, is a fun and silly book and comes out winter 2017. I’m currently working on my fourth picture book, Vincent Comes Home, which a collaboration with my husband Aaron Bagley! It’s due out winter 2018. I’m super excited about it!

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. I love that overflowing pasta pot overtaking the town. Those images have stuck with me for nearly 30 years!

☕☕ Visit Jessixa Bagley’s Official Website and blog, Rambling Meat.

☕☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out this cool feature about Boats for Papa (with sketches and final illos) at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

☕☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Wonderful reviews of Boats for Papa by Sam Juliano at Wonders in the Darkand Margie Culver at Librarian’s Quest.

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Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

 

Petit fours: dainty little iced cakes, delicately layered with fruit or buttercream, an adorable bite-size treat. Eating one of these pastel pretties can make you feel quite special, maybe even a little giddy with delight.

That was just how I felt reading The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by award winning author and poet Anne Michaels.  Meeting the inimitable, eccentric Miss Petitfour was a singular pleasure since she’s an expert at baking and eating little cakes.  A very good talent to have, I must say.

Miss P also likes to read, chat, and dance. She thrives on small pleasures. Fond of “pockets, paisley, playful patterns and anything hand-knitted,” she travels by tablecloth with her 16 cats trailing aloft, a fanciful kind of Mary Poppins sans umbrella with her own brand of magic.

Laced with just the right amounts of whimsy and fun, this charming book features five everyday adventures of precisely the right size:

Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we will all agree, is a very small adventure.

Other adventures are so big and last so long, you might forget they are adventures at all — like growing up.

And some adventures are just the right size — fitting into a single, magical day. And these are the sort of adventures Miss Petitfour had.

And guess what else?

Miss Petitfour believed firmly that every adventure past her doorstep — even just a jaunt to the grocery shop — must end with a tea party . . .

Huzzah! :)

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While nibbling on some of the delectable poems featured in the recently published anthology Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), I was pleased and excited to come across Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries.”

You may remember Adele as a 2012 Poetry Potluck guest, when she shared the poignant “Chosen Ghosts” and her grandmother’s recipe for Staffordshire Irish Stew. It’s nice now to read of her love for blueberries, a lyrical paean that interweaves art masterpieces, a popular song title, and a fond childhood memory with luscious sensory details.

Adele has graciously given me permission to share both her poem and the recipe for Bluemisu that’s included in the anthology, and she’s also provided a bit of interesting backstory. It’s always fascinating to learn a little more about how a poet’s mind works, and of course now we’ll all be craving blueberries for days and days — actually, a good thing. :)

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“Polish Pottery and Blueberries” watercolor by Kara K. Bigda

TO BLUEBERRIES
by Adele Kenny

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

– Robert Frost, from “Blueberries”

Imagine the “Mona Lisa” with blueberry eyes;
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Blueberry Night;” imagine
Vermeer’s “Girl with a Blueberry Earring” and
Gainsborough’s “Blueberry Boy.” Imagine
blueberries, one at a time, between stained fingers—
sugary, tart—large or small (not all created equal).
Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm:
silvery patina, bluer than blue sky, bluer than blue.
First the pop and then pulp between your teeth.
Listen to the birds (sparrows, chickadees)—blue
fruit sweet in their beaks. Oh, briarless bush! Bluest
fruit. No core, no seeds. Nothing ever to pit or peel.
Definitely not the forbidden fruit, no Eve down on
her knees—never the cost of paradise. Blueberry
muffins, pancakes, wine! Highbush and low—blue
on the crest of Blueberry Hill—and years ago, my
mother mixing the dough for blueberry pies, the
rolling pin round in her hands (our dog asleep
on the kitchen stair), my father at the table, and
me on his lap, close in the curve of his arm.

~ from Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner, edited by Diane Goettel and Anneli Matheson (Black Lawrence Press, copyright © 2015), reprinted by permission of the author.

“Blueberry Field” oil painting by Joy Laking

 

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Adele: The poem took form during an early morning Chelsea soccer match on TV. Chelsea is my favorite team, and blue is the Chelsea color. During halftime, I got up to make myself a bowl of oatmeal into which I sprinkled some blueberries. As I sat eating with my Yorkie (Chaucer, aka “Chaucey”) beside me, a commercial that included something about Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” interrupted the halftime commentary. It was at that point that I began to imagine the images in the first four lines of the poem. I jotted down the ideas, the match came back on, and I didn’t return to the poem until a week or two after.

The recipe evolved much later when I needed something sweet for a dinner party I was hosting. Because I love blueberries so much, there are usually some in the refrigerator, especially when I find them on sale. They must have been on sale that week because there were four pints just waiting to be included in dessert for the dinner party. Hence, bluemisu!

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BLUEMISU RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 3 pints fresh blueberries (in winter, frozen blueberries may be substituted for fresh)
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sugar
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 12-15 ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup of any Raspberry Liquor, Chambord, Crème de Cassis, or Crème de Framboise

Instructions

Combine blueberries, unrefined sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and set aside to cool.

Dip each ladyfinger in whichever liquor you decide to use; be sure to soak both sides of each ladyfinger (about five seconds on each side). After dipping, place each ladyfinger on a board to rest while the liquor is infused.

While the ladyfingers rest, combine the heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and beat to a creamy consistency at a low speed for about two minutes. (If mascarpone cheese is unavailable, you can create a substitute by mixing 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons of sour cream.)

Using a large glass compote, make a ring of ladyfingers around the sides and across the bottom of the compote (trim ladyfingers if necessary). Then spoon a layer of mascarpone cream from step 3 onto the ladyfingers. Next add a layer of the blueberry mixture from step 1, and top that with a layer of ladyfingers. Repeat the layering until the compote is filled and your last layer is mascarpone cream. (Alternatively, you might use a rectangular glass baking dish, or individual dishes.) Chill for about 4 hours. (This dessert keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can prepare it in advance and let it chill overnight.)

Just before serving, garnish with fresh blueberries. Other berries can be added to the garnish if you wish (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries). For chocolate lovers, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate shavings on the top layer of mascarpone cream.

Serves 8-10

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ABOUT ADELE

Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals here and abroad, as well as in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. Her poetry collection, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011), received the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry. A former creative writing professor in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, Adele is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and has been poetry editor of Tiferet since 2006. Adele is active in readings and conducts both agency-sponsored and private poetry workshops. Her most recent book is A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015). Visit her Official Website and The Music in It Poetry Blog, where she features guest bloggers or prompts every Saturday.

Enjoy a sample poem from A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:

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SWEET BOY

Blueberry Dog Treats for Adele’s Yorkie Chaucey (click for recipe)

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poetry fridayLovely Tricia Stohr-Hunt is hosting the Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Take her some blueberries and check out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Have a happy blueberryish weekend!

 

 

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons and come join the fun!

 

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Copyright 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Will Hillenbrand is a celebrated author and illustrator whose published works include nearly sixty books for young readers. In addition to his own self-illustrated titles, he has illustrated the works of writers and retellers including Verna Aardema, Judy Sierra, Margery Cuyler, Judith St. George, Phyllis Root, Jane Yolen, Karma Wilson, Maureen Wright, Daniel Pinkwater and Jane Hillenbrand. Will has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park. (Pictured here taking his first pull of the day of strong black coffee.)

 

☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Coffee black, so strong it makes the day brighter. Like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee best!

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Bear and Bunny, written by Daniel Pinkwater (Candlewick Press, December 2015)All for a Dime: A Bear and Mole Story (Holiday House, July 2015). Forthcoming: Me and Annie McPhee, written by Olivier Dunrea (Philomel, June 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Please Say Please!: Penguin’s Guide to Manners, written by Margery Cuyler (Scholastic, 2004). 

☕ Visit Will Hillenbrand’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Book Trailer for Bear and Bunny

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☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Visit Will in his studio:

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Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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