Happy Birthday George & Chocolate Cherry Nut Brownies

Monday was Presidents Day. There’s a little confusion out there. Does the day celebrate George Washington, Washington and Abraham Lincoln or all presidents? If you look up federal holidays on one of those official dot-gov sites, the third Monday in February is listed as George Washington’s Birthday. However, turn on the television for five minutes and the long weekend is loudly lauded as Presidents Day and famous for big discounts on mattresses and winter coats.

I admit I was a bit chagrined when this whole third Monday in February began. In Massachusetts, we celebrated both Abraham Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday with a day off from school. Of course, one or the other inevitably fell during February vacation. However, there was always a five in seven chance that we’d enjoy another day off to ski or sleep late or whatever.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act put an end to that. A handful of holidays were moved to Mondays so people could enjoy a nice, long weekend. That might have been all well and good except that Honest Abe’s commemoration got lost in the shuffle. While George might have been the first, our sixteenth president is more or less everyone’s favorite. As consolation, everybody, or at least everyone I knew, began calling the new Monday holiday – Presidents Day.

There is a certain logic to having these two great men share a Presidents Day. Check any survey; they’re always neck and neck, claiming the top spots for best president. In addition, the third Monday never falls on either birthday but somewhere between the two. In case you’ve forgotten, Washington was born on February 22 and Lincoln on February 12.

That’s right; Washington wasn’t born yesterday. His birthday isn’t until Saturday. So, you still have plenty of time to celebrate. If you’re tempted to bake a cherry pie, feel free to do so. However, in the off chance that you haven’t heard – the story about Washington and the cherry tree, well, sorry to be the one to tell you but it’s a myth.

While the cherry tree story never actually happened, Washington’s first presidential residence was at 1 Cherry Street in New York. How’s that for a funny coincident? That’s right Washington is the only president not to live in the White House. It is a big house and took quite a while to plan and build. It wasn’t ready until 1800. That’s when John Adams, the nation’s second president, and his wife Abigail took up residency on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although Washington wasn’t a skier (or at least as far as anyone knows – he wasn’t), an après-ski party would be an excellent way to toast George on his actual birthday. A cozy supper with friends by the fire is a wonderful way to spend a cold, winter evening. If it was in George’s time, you might serve a steak and kidney pie or fish muddle. Modern Americans aren’t much for kidneys but a nice beef stew might do. As for the muddle, it’s a wonderful mix of shellfish and a delicious option for sure. Alternatively, you could stir up a chowder. Otherwise, a casserole of some sort or the other would be perfect after a day on the slopes.

So, raise your glasses to George and bon appétit!

Chocolate Cherry Nut Brownies

Instead of birthday cake, give these brownies a try. They are perfect for midmorning coffee, afternoon tea or dessert after a casual dinner. Enjoy!

Makes 24 brownies

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Put the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, cherries and nuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake the brownies at 350 degrees until the edges begin to pull away from sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 20 minutes.

Cool in the pan, cut and serve.

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How will you celebrate George’s birthday? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

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