As we celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this summer, it is important to remember what took place so many years ago and how it applies to us today.
We have to go back to an earlier date, 1215 when the Magna Carta was created in England to understand the roots of our Declaration of Independence. The main stipulation, which still applies today, was that “no freeman could be punished except through the law of the land”. In other words, even the king was no longer above the law. While it took another 500 years (after the Treaty of Union), Parliament was created with a House of Commons and a House of Lords to represent the people. And, as good representation costs money, the citizens of Great Britain were taxed.
However, England’s first American colonies were created starting in 1620. While the colonists were Englishmen and Europeans, they developed local governance based on the foundational principles of the Magna Carta. But here is the problem: back in England, the 13 colonies did not have representation in Parliament the same way that local Englishmen did. This was a sore point among colonials that festered for years.
Fast forward now to the 1750′s and the Seven Year’s War. This was one of the first true global wars, and involved all of the major powers in Europe. In 1763, when the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the conflict, while Great Britain gained all of New France except for a small portion, the conflict left the British Treasury as dry as a bone. In response, Great Britain raised a series of taxes on its citizens at home and abroad. However, the taxes were very unpopular with their American colonies — not because the taxes were a tremendous burden on the colonists, but because the colonists still did not have fair representation in Parliament. Matters came to a head and the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773 was the result.
Thinkers on both sides knew that the governmental setup of the American colonies was flawed. Even King George III of Great Britain realized in 1774 that the struggle would eventually “come to blows”. Well, the armed conflict started at Lexington & Concord in 1775 — a full year before the Declaration of Independence was created and signed. And, while the date of the actual signing of the historical document was August 2nd, we celebrate the July 4 date because this was when the wording of the document was approved and passed out to the public as a broadside. After its signing on August 2nd, there was no turning back. In Great Britain, the signatories became rebels and wanted men — eligible to be ‘hanged, drawn and quartered’, and with their lands and properties forfeited to the Crown. Our Founding Fathers believed in the cause of liberty so much that they were willing to sacrifice their families and fortunes to decide the outcome.
Enough of the history lesson. How does this great document apply on its upcoming 237th anniversary? One of the most popular sentences in the English language says it all:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
To this day, we struggle as individuals and as a country to live up to these words in practice. While we have given great lip service to the spirit behind this sublimely beautiful sentence, we must and can do more. As with most things in our lives, the change starts individually — when each of us takes these words to heart as they apply to our fellow men. Only then will we see true change in this great country.
While I am very proud of the United States and to be an American, the truth is that I believe that our best days are yet to come — after each of us has taken the Preamble to heart and let it transform the way we relate to others. It is only then that our country will become the great beacon of freedom and hope that our Founding Fathers envisioned.
May God bless us, our families and the United States of America!
1 Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix
3/4 cup butter, after melted
1/2 cup water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix first 5 ingredients & pour into 9 x 12 glass baking dish.
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pour this over & across the brownie mix. Take a knife & swirl through mix making a marbled design.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool completely.
1 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers (1 sleeve)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, flour and baking powder. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter with the brown sugar using an electric hand mixer. Add the egg white and beat until well combined. Add to the graham cracker crumbs and blend until just combined.
In a separate medium bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese with the granulated sugar, egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla until well combined. Set aside.
Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out the cookie dough and place on a nonstick or parchment lined baking sheet. (If you do not have an ice scoop, then measure out the dough into scoops of about 2 tablespoons.) Flatten slightly, pressing your thumb in the center of the ball to create a small bowl shape. Repeat with the remaining dough. Spoon the cream cheese into the indents in the cookies.
2 cups rice (leftover rice is perfect)
garlic salt to taste
1/8 taco seasoning
Mix these together and form into baking dish as the ‘pie’ shell. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Take out and add the rest of ingredients
2 pounds of ground beef, cooked and drained
2 packages of taco seasoning
1 small can refried beans
1 flour tortilla, fried
Salsa to taste
mix first 3 ingredients together and put about half in your pie shell. Cover with half the cheese, the flour tortilla and then the rest of the ground beef mixture. Cover each layer with salsa to taste. Cover top with cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes at 375 till cheese starts to brown.
Let stand for 5 minutes and cut into wedges. Put lettuce and tomato on top. Would be great with sour cream too.
FOR THE CAKES:
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 tablespoons natural dark cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups canola oil
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring gel (or 2 teaspoons liquid coloring)
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
FOR THE FILLING:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons (. stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups chopped toasted pecans or shredded coconut
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and oil on medium speed until blended. Add the eggs, vanilla, and food coloring and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until blended. Add a third of the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until just blended. Add half of the buttermilk and mix on low speed until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, ending with the last third of the flour mixture, mixing until the dough just comes together.
Stir the vinegar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to the batter and stir using a rubber spatula until just blended.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes (14 to 17 minutes if using a convection oven), switching the baking pans’ positions halfway through baking, until the tops feel slightly firm and a toothpick inserted in the center of one cake comes out clean. Transfer the baking pans to wire racks and let cool completely.
To make the filling, using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until soft and smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until smooth, light, and fluffy.
Scrape three-quarters of the filling into a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip, leaving the remaining quarter of the icing in the bowl for use in the next step.
Because the round top of these cakes actually becomes the bottom, you’ll want to trim off this rounded part using a serrated knife. To fill, hold a cake in one hand, flat side up, and push the tip of the pastry bag into the flat side of the cake about 1 inch from the end. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of filling into the cake. Repeat 2 more times, evenly spacing the filling across the cake. Using a small spatula, cover the bottom with a thin layer of the remaining icing. Dip the bottom into the pecans or coconut, and arrange, rounded side up, on a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.