Gosh Darn You, Martha Stewart!

I fell in LOVE with the cover of Martha’s Easter Issue. I was positively obsessed!!

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I mean, what’s not to love, right??

So, with my characteristic over-enthusiasm, I decided to recreate Her basket for my daughter’s in-law’s Easter Table. That won’t be too hard, I told myself.

Around two hundred dollars’ worth of Martha Products later, I have a reasonable facsimile of Her Easter basket, if I do say so myself. Minus the adorable lop-eared bunny, of course!

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Martha may not have a warm and fuzzy personality, but She’s still one of my Pantheon of Women Goddesses. Hey, Athena wasn’t Miss Congeniality either! And who else could have had a bunch of federal prison inmates crafting?? To gild the lily, She’s an avid beekeeper too!!

She’s the tops in my book.

Have a wonderful Easter, Martha.  I was just kidding You in the title of my post.  🙂

 

Springtime Honey Cake And Baby Honey Bee!

honey-cake-md110802_vert

This photo and recipe are reprinted courtesy of my favorite Domestic Goddess Martha Stewart!

The cake recipe is Italian in origin, perfectly sweet and tender, just like my brand new Italiano Grandson Benjamin (“Umberto!”) Michael Aquilino, born Sunday March 30, 2014!

Benjamin Bunny

Baby Honey Bee Benjamin!

In honor of Baby Ben I’ll be posting honey cake recipes this week. Here is Martha’s — it’s delicioso!!

 

INGREDIENTS

(Serves 10)

FIRST GLAZE

  • 1 large lemon, zested into strips
  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 3/4 cup honey

CAKE

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

FINAL GLAZE

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Sugared Sage, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. STEP 1

    First glaze: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat.

  2. STEP 2

    Cake: Butter and flour an 8-inch hexagonal (or round or square) cake pan. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sage. Beat eggs and brown sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in honey, milk, oil, and zest. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 2 batches; beat until just combined.

  3. STEP 3

    Spread batter in pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven; poke holes with toothpick all over cake. Remove zest strips and sage from first glaze; brush over top. Let cool completely in pan.

  4. STEP 4

    Final glaze: Whisk together honey, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice. Remove cake from pan and brush final glaze over top; continue until all is used. Garnish with sugared sage. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife, wiping knife between cuts; serve.

 

Welcome To Spring!

Welcome to the first day of spring!

festivalspringequinox

The vernal equinox occurred this morning (in case you felt something unusual happening…)

It’s the moment when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun.

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The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

It also marks the date when gardeners begin their work for the growing season. Margaret Atwood wrote:

“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

The Return of Persephone

The Return of Persephone

People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return.

Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx of Giza so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. It is also the origin of our word Easter.

Ostara

Ostara

Spring equinox signals fertility, both for plants and animals.  In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The males are so frisky that they get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically. Hence the expression “mad as a March hare.”

For years I believed that special astronomical properties of the vernal equinox make it possible to balance eggs on end. This year I found out it is totally untrue.

It’s actually possible to balance eggs on end any day of the year. It just takes a lot of patience and determination. There’s nothing magical about the vernal equinox that makes it any easier to balance an egg on end.

Bummer!

The Goddess’s Honey And White Chocolate Lava Cake With Honey Raspberry Sauce

REMEMBER TO LIKE ROMANCING THE BEE ON FACEBOOK TO WIN PRIZES!

lava cake

If you love cooking with honey, you will adore this recipe!

I hope this honey recipe makes your International Women’s Day even better!!

Yield:  5 servings

Ingredients:

6 ounces white baking chocolate

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

3/4 cup flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 5 ramekins with butter, set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and white chocolate.

In a large bowl, combine 1/3 cup of the honey and vanilla. Pour in the melted butter and chocolate and stir until combined.

Mix one egg yolk at a time into the sugar mixture, ensuring each yolk is fully combined with each addition.

Using your stand mixer and whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium until foamy. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup of honey and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Fold half of the beaten egg whites along with half of the flour into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold until combined.

Add the remaining half of the egg whites along with the remaining flour and fold gently until combined.

Divide the white chocolate lava cake batter between the ramekins, filling each ramekin 3/4 to the top.

Put in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes – check frequently and do not overcook as this will result in the centers being too solid.

The lava cakes are done baking when the outer edges around the top are firm but the center still jiggles.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Loosen the cake edges with a knife if necessary and turn each ramekin upside down to place the cakes onto serving plates.

Cut each white chocolate lava cake from the center outwards, allowing the inner filling to spill out.

Garnish with Honey Raspberry Sauce (recipe below) and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Honey Raspberry Sauce

Cover 12 ounces of frozen raspberries with honey and allow to thaw. The raspberry juice and honey will combine to form a delicious sauce.  Serve over cake, ice cream or yogurt.

Girl History Month – The Goddess

Today is International Women’s Day. What better day to honor the Archetypal Woman, especially as She is symbolized by the Bee.

The Bee has been a symbol of the Divine Feminine since time began. This post barely scratches the surface of what is a fascinating and illuminating subject.

For an excellent and thorough discussion of Bee symbolism, I highly recommend Andrew Gough’s website Arcadia. I owe much of this post to his brilliant research.

Bee Goddess, 5000 BC – Neolithic Spain
© www.mothergoddess.com

The Mother Goddess is the oldest deity in the archaeological record, and she is often manifested as a dancing Bee. In the ancient world, dancing Bees were special – the Queen Bee in particular, for she was the Mother Goddess – leader and ruler of the hive, and was often portrayed in the presence of adoring Bee Goddesses and Bee Priestesses.

The Sumerian stele below depicts the worship of the Mother Goddess in the form of a Queen Bee or Bee Goddess surrounded by her followers – the Bee Priestesses. Sumerian physicians considered honey to be a unique and vital medicinal drug. It has been suggested that the Sumerians invented Apitherapy, or the medical use of Honey Bee products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and bee venom.

Sumerian stele – a depiction of Bee Goddess worship

The ancient Egyptians also venerated  Bees.  The agricultural, nutritional, medicinal and ritualistic value of the Bee and its honey was important in Egypt from pre-dynastic times onwards, as demonstrated by the fact that King Menes, founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty, was called “the Beekeeper”; a title ascribed to all subsequent Pharaohs. Additionally, the Kings administration had a special office called the ‘Sealer of the Honey’, and Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt bore the title “he who belongs to the sedge and the bee”. An image of the Bee was even positioned next to the King’s cartouche.

The Bee, next to the signature of Hatshepsut, the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty

The Bee is featured prominently in many Egyptian temples, including the pillars of Karnak and the Luxor obelisk, now erected on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In the ancient Temple of Tanis – which is said to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Bee was its first and most important ideogram. In fact, the Bee is even featured on the Rosetta Stone.

The Egyptian Goddess Neith is the Bee/Mother Goddess.  She was a warrior goddess with fertility symbolism and virginal mother qualities; all attributes of the Mother Goddess – and the Queen Bee.

Neith, wearing the ‘Deshret’ crown of Northern Egypt

Neith was known as the Veiled Goddess, and thus the reference on her temple inscription to ‘lifting a veil’ is intriguing, for Bees are often called hymenoptera, stemming from the word hymen, meaning “veil winged”, representing that which concealed the holy parts of a temple, as well as the veil or hymen of a woman’s reproductive organ. Only later did the veiled wing become associated with the goddess Isis.

Hilda Ransome informs us; “The title Melissa, the Bee, is a very ancient one; it constantly occurs in Greek Myths, meaning sometimes a priestess, sometimes a nymph.” This is an important observation, for the tradition of dancing Bee goddesses appears to have been preserved in a form of Bee maidens known as Melissas – or nymphs, and Greek deities such as Rhea and Demeter were widely known to have held the title. Additionally, the Greeks frequently referred to ‘Bee-Souls’ and bestowed the title of ‘Melissa’ on unborn souls.

Cybele, the ancient Mother goddess of Neolithic Anatolia was revered by the Greeks as a Goddess of Bees and Caves. Curiously, Cybele was often worshipped in the form of a meteoritic stone, or a stone from heaven. Cybele was also known as Sybil – an oracle of the ancient near east who was known to the Greeks as Sibyls. The name inspired Sybil, the title of seer priestesses for hundreds of years to come.

Michelangelo’s Sybil

Apollo was one of the most important gods in the Greek Pantheon and was known as the God of Truth and Prophecy. He is said to have provided a gift of Bees to Hermes; the god of otherworldly boundaries and transformation of souls. The legend is recounted in the 8th century Homeric Hymn to Hermes, for here Apollo alludes to his gift including three female Bee-Maidens who practiced divination;

“There are some Fates sisters born,
maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal,
wind they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practice
round my cattle while still a boy.”

Hermes and a Bee-Maiden

Still another example of Bee veneration in Greek mythology is Aphrodite, the nymph-goddess of midsummer who is renowned for murdering the king and tearing out his organs just as the Queen Bee does to the drone. Aphrodite’s priestesses, who are known as Melissas, are said to have displayed a golden honeycomb at her shrine on Mount Eryx.

Melissa at Mt. Eryx

Artemis was the most renowned patron of the Bee in all of Greece. As the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo, Artemis was the goddess of nature, particularly forests, hills, rocky outcroppings and rivers; all natural habitats of Bees. Artemis’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Diana, and statues of Artemis/Diana from the Anatolian city of Ephesus portray her covered in eggs, which some have identified as Bee eggs given that a typical Queen Bee will lay tens of thousands of eggs in her short lifetime.

Artemis/Diana

Dear to my own heart is the fact that the Bee in Hebrew is ‘DBRE’, meaning Deborah, and ‘Judges 5’ contains one of the oldest passages in the Bible, and some feel, the earliest example of Hebrew poetry; the 8th century Song of Deborah, or as it is commonly known, the Song of The Bees.

A short excerpt from the fascinating verse describes life under Canaanite oppression; “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.” Was Deborah a Bee goddess? Like Bee goddesses before her, Deborah represented stability and was a prophetess, a warrior princess, and in this instance, the only female Judge of pre-monarchic Israel in the entire Old Testament.

Gustave Dore’s interpretation of the prophetess Deborah – the Bee Goddess