Thursday, January 5, 2012

Living Bravely and Sparkling Cranberry Muffins

I have always had a love affair with Christmas. Not a Chevy Chase lighting up the neighborhood with obnoxious displays kind of love affair; but more like a little kid waking up at five in the morning, sneaking into the living room to open presents and then taping them back together before anyone else wakes up. Or agreeing on a Christmas morning wake-up time with your sister and then changing her alarm to go off three hours earlier. Not that I ever did either of those things…

Even now, come Christmas morning, I am beyond excited and I still wake up way too early. I pull on my most Christmasy socks, turn on the carols, and sip my coffee in front of the tree. Thankfully, Andy shares this excitement with me, making the holiday season even more special. It will always be a magical time of the year of me.

Now, what does any of this have to do with living bravely? This year, Andy bestowed upon me what I think is my most favorite Christmas present of all time (a close second being that Cabbage Patch Kid I got when I was five). It is a simple silver pendant, in the shape of a circle, with the words “Be Brave, Live Life” stamped on it. It made my cry and I love it with every fiber of my being.

See, Andy has long told me that I am brave, but I always brushed it off, chalking it up to a point of view jaded by love and affection. But he insisted. He insisted that it is brave to quit your very secure and well-paying job without really knowing what you’re going to do next; to make a huge change; to flounder around, trying to find your passion; to put yourself out there for anyone to judge; to risk rejection and heartbreak if it doesn’t all work out as expected or hoped. He insisted that I would find that thing that lit a fire under me and live out my dreams, however big or small they were. And I finally believe him. It has taken a bit of time, but now I think I’m brave, too. It would have been easier to stay in a comfortable job, collecting a paycheck every two weeks, and generally just mailing it in. But I didn’t. I took a chance, and with more support from Andy than I ever could have asked for, I am able to be brave and live life. I have a fire and a passion now, just like he assured me I would.

It may have taken some doing, but eventually I got to where I wanted to be. Even in those times when it would have been easier to quit, I didn't. Seeing this sentiment hanging around my neck reminds me of all of that. Of being brave and living life. Hands down, best gift ever.

Now I know Christmas has come and gone, but with the little vacation I took from blogging, I never got these festive muffins posted. So if you’ve already put away all of your Christmas decorations and taken down the tree, ignore the photos of the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Around our house though, I expect they’ll stay there for at least another couple weeks, along with the tree. It all just makes me too happy…

If you have any sparkling wine leftover from New Year’s Eve (how could that happen?), this is a good excuse to crack open a bottle. And since the recipe only uses a few ounces, you’ll have to figure out what to do with the rest.

Sparkling Cranberry Muffins

(I forgot to write down how many muffins this makes…I think it made 16)

8 ounces flour
4 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
4 ounces sparkling wine
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Sparkling Glaze (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 ounce sparkling wine

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If too thick, add a little more wine until desired consistency is reached.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine wine, eggs, butter and lemon zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the walnuts, cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Prepare muffin tins* by lining with baking cups or coating tins with butter and then dusting with flour. Pour batter (about 1/4 cup) into muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes, until set.

Remove from tins and let cool on a wire rack. If glazing, wait until muffins are completely cool, then drizzle with glaze.

*Note: The outsides of the muffins were crisper when using the butter and flour method for the tins.

These muffins would be great for breakfast or dessert. They have just enough sweetness to satisfy a sugar craving, but not so much that you feel bad eating one in the morning. Bites have a hint of tart, a bit of crunch and are light and moist. They didn’t last very long, which is always a good sign.


  1. I love the use of sparkling wine in these! They look gorgeous, by the way. I'm not huge on cranberries, but maybe with a different berry I'd polish off the plate ;)

  2. Me too, I am a Christmas person. I hve cranberries in the fridge.Now I can make these great muffins to get me in the seasn mood.

  3. Shoot, you should know to believe someone who REALLY loves you when they tell you something. They're the most honest. Your guy sounds awesome.

    I'm going to have to get my hands on some cranberries because the muffins look delicious. Hubby walked by my office while the picture was up and gave it an "ooooooh." That's a good thing. :)

  4. What a beautiful post! You truly captured the magic of the season. I love cranberries so I am constantly on the look out for good recipes. I love this one, will be making it! :) Hugs!

  5. 2011 was filled with a lot of transitions for me and being brave was something I struggled with daily. Wishing you a braver 2012!

  6. Hearty muffins, looks very delicious.

  7. These sound and look amazing, I love cranberry anything!

  8. Love that necklace. Good luck with everything, I'm sure you'll figure it all out :) And the muffins sound amazing! I am hoarding cranberries in the freezer so I'll keep this recipe bookmarked for the next time I have some sparkling wine I want to open!

  9. your pictures have truly drawn me in for this

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  11. You are an inspiration! Hopefully someday I will be able to pursue my passion of cooking full time.

    The muffins look delicious! I love cranberries!

  12. Wow, this is an incredible recipe!

  13. Oh, Andy is a keeper...what a priceless gift! And I'm loving these muffins...mmmmmmmm.

  14. These are so yummy looking! And loving the sparkling wine added in!!

  15. What beautiful muffins! These look fabulous!

  16. oh what a great gift go live it girl LOVE it hugs

  17. What a wonderful post - and delicious looking recipe. I am so happy for you Karen. Happy new year to you and Andy!

  18. this is such an inspiring post the pendant. happy new year !

  19. Your husband sounds amazing, you are very lucky! Cheers to a beautiful 2012, and continuing to be brave, live life, and enjoy every moment! Love your muffins, the addition of sparkling wine sounds really delicious! Hugs, Terra

  20. The muffins look stunning, Karen and congrats for the lovely gift!

  21. Hi Karen! I am glad you buzzed me over at my blog. You have had quite a food year 2011 yourself too. I enjoyed reading through the recap and right now, your muffins are bringing cheers to my ears. Sparkling wine and fresh cranberry? yummm.. have a great week ahead! Cheers, Jo

  22. What a beautiful gift, Karen! And a beautiful recipe to go with it.

  23. I'd like to get that necklace for someone....... Where can I get it? Appreciate any help

    1. @Anonymous - My husband got it at Macy's. Here's the link: