Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chocolate Pots-de-Crème

Chocolate Pots-de-Crème is an easy, yet thoroughly elegant French dessert that only uses a few ingredients. You probably have all of them in your kitchen (and bar!) right now. If you're looking for something to impress your guests, this is it. (Just don't let on how ridiculously simple it is to make.)

The traditional way to serve Pot-de-Crème is with a Pot-de-Crème set--natch! It consists of a serving tray and six or so little ceramic pots with lids:

(There's a Dutch word that means something like "short, fat, cute thing": I wish I could remember it, because it's the perfect description for these little dudes.)

You don't have to use specialized china for this recipe. You can use teacups, espresso cups, shot glasses, juice glasses, or old-fashioned champagne coupes (the ones that are wider than they are tall).

To make the recipe, you scald half-and-half (also called light cream) on the stovetop. The cream is ready when there's a line of bubbles around the edges of the pan and a thin film has begun to form on top.

To incorporate the hot cream into the rest of the ingredients, you'll need either a standard-sized blender or an immersion blender.

The recipe can be made with chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. Use the best you can find, because the deliciousness of this recipe hangs a lot on the quality of the chocolate:

Along with the chocolate you'll use two egg yolks:

And some tasty booze. We like using Kahlúa or Bailey's Irish Cream (below):

You can also add a pinch of salt if you wish, but you don't have to. When all the ingredients except the cream are in the blender or bowl or large measuring cup (as you see here)...

...then pour the scalded cream into the other ingredients and either buzz until the racket stops (if using a blender) or use an immersion blender until everything is creamy-smooth:

Pour the mixture into the waiting cups (or shot glasses or teacups or whatever):

Chill for 3 hours, then serve:

Chocolate Pots-de-Crême
Serves 6-8
Note: not suitable for very young children or anyone with a compromised immune system (because of the eggs)

1-1/4 C. half-and-half
1 C. good-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped-up chocolate)
2 egg yolks
a pinch of salt (optional)
3 Tbsp. rum, brandy, or Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur

In a small saucepan, heat the half-and-half to scalding (a small line of bubbles forms around the edges of the saucepan). Into a standard-size blender, place the rest of the ingredients. Remove the scalded half-and-half from the stove and carefully pour it into the blender with the other ingredients. Cover and blend at high speed until the racket stops.

Pour into small espresso cups (or demitasse cups, small teacups, or heavy shot glasses). Chill for three hours or more before serving. Depending on the size of the cups, makes 6-8 servings.

Variation: Kahlúa Pots-de-Crème

Reduce the half-and-half from 1-1/4 C. to just 1 C. Increase the booze to 1/2 C. Kahlúa. Proceed with the recipe, above.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Puppy Madness!

This is "Lisa," a three-month-old German Shepherd Dog:

The Hubby and I went to a Boxing Day party last weekend, and it was all I could do to talk to the adults there, like a grown person is supposed to. I just wanted to hang out with Lisa.

And hold her enormous paws:

Lisa was tired out from a day full of playing, so she was quiet and very sweet, even with the party's smaller guests.

About a nanosecond after The Hubby took this photo, below, Lisa forgot her manners and nipped me on the chin.

Ow! Puppy teeth!

I've raised a puppy: it was a hard, frustrating year. (Mine had some medical and behavioral issues.) I don't want that experience again, ever.

But visiting one is sort of fun!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winter Sunrise

When I was a child in Kansas, summer sunsets sported the most glorious colors. Here in LA, it seems the winter sunrises put on the most gorgeous displays:

Often it seems like the only ones who are awake to notice are the newspaper delivery guy, my pugs, and me:

The colors are so breathtaking and so fleeting. It's all over in a minute or two:

The violent shades fade to pastels as I pad down the driveway to retrieve the newspaper:

I drink in the last of the colors along with my first cup of coffee, open up the paper, and begin my day.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Eve Dinner

Merry Christmas to all my friends who celebrate this lovely holiday! Here's me, long ago, delighting in the Christmas tree and the family's guinea pigs:

Last night The Hubby and I were thrilled to have 2/3 of our children for dinner. What's more, Lovely Daughter #1 and The Boy made an excellent Christmas Eve dinner for us.

All I had to do was wash dishes. Fair trade, I'd say!

The kids prepared steaks smothered with onions and mushrooms in a red-wine sauce, roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a roasted Yukon potato dish that outdoes what I'd been doing.

Here was my plate:

Aaaand, here was my meat-loving son's plate:

Plus, he went back for seconds. Ha ha!

Here follows the potato-roasting trick that Lovely Daughter #1 taught me:

Parboiled-then-Roasted Potatoes

Preheat a large roasting pan (with a little fat of your choice--we used chicken fat, but duck fat is fabulous, if you can find it) in a fairly hot oven (400-425 degrees).

While the pan is heating up, drop the cut-up potatoes into a pot of boiling, salted water. Parboil them just about 5 minutes. (You want them to get to the stage where their sharp edges and corners are beginning to get a bit bashed up.) Drain off the water and, with the lid tightly held onto the pot, give the potatoes a vigorous couple of shakes. This further "roughens up" the potatoes.

Place the potatoes (carefully!) into the preheated pan. Stir them around a bit to coat them with the fat, then return them to the hot oven.

Roast them about 15 or so minutes, turning them over once or twice and checking for done-ness.

Cooked this way, the potatoes develop a wonderful, crusty outside and a meltingly tender inside.

Happy eating, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cookie Baking Marathon

It's smelling wonderful around here. Cookie-baking is in full swing:

 Yummy holiday wishes to all of you!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Little Miss Panda

Today I took Lovely Daughter #2 out for breakfast at a local foodie attraction, Joan's on Third. While we were eating on the porch, a young woman came up with this cutie on a leash:

This is "Panda," a five-month-old Coton de Tulear:

Her breed's name means "cotton," but she feels like spun silk. She's about five pounds and won't get much bigger when she's full grown. Absolutely adorable--peaceful and friendly: usually this dog is all white, so black and white is very unusual. This is NOT a a breed you find in the shelters, folks. Even so, my heart melted. It's not Panda's fault that her owner didn't pick a homeless dog to be family:

The polka-dot bows? I die:

Panda is from New York and, according to her owner, was having trouble adjusting to our balmy weather.

Go back to New York, little one, and tell everybody else to adopt, not shop.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Little Holiday Giving

I haven't posted for a few days--sorry! First The Boy came back from college, then Lovely Daughter #2 flew in from the East Coast, and all I want to do is hug on them and talk to them and cook with them and....

But I managed to do a little holiday giving the other day.

When our children turned four years old, we began giving each a weekly allowance. Part of the money had to go to into the charity box each Friday night. The Hubby and I put coins in, too. This is our humble, ugly little charity box:

I love it to bits. We made it, as a family project, when the kids were quite small. (That's supposed to be a cat resting on the lid. Hah!)

Each December I'd count up all the money with my kids, drive them to Target, and then I'd let them pick out whatever toys they wanted with the money we collected. The three of them had great fun seeing how far they could make their dollars go. (I think it helped them become good bargain hunters, too.) Then we'd drive to the local police station and donate our goodies to their toys-for-tots program.

The kids have flown the coop, but I still put money in the box (and bug The Hubby to, also, when I think of it).

And I still gather up all the money each December and go buy something for the under-served children in our city.

My favorite thing to buy is books.

I found a bunch of "chubby" books--glossy, cardboard pages suitable for toddlers--that were "buy two, get one free" at the bookstore. Won Ton and I took the books over to our local police station, where they had a tree in the lobby:

He looks sad, but inside, he's just as thrilled as I am to do a little holiday giving.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pao Turns Five!

Today our youngest pug, Pao, turns five years old. He's come such a long way from the little bit of fluff we rescued when he was 8 weeks old. I remember that first car ride home so well:

We went straight home, sat on the kitchen floor, and watched him in wonder. He was the first puppy we'd ever had.

Not much bigger than my shoe, but Oh! what a handful!

The Boy and new baby Pao,  in a classic "boy and his dog" moment:

It took a while for the elder pugs to warm up to the puppy:

But they did, and now he's one of the pack:

Happy birthday, little Pao! You grew up to be such a cutie:

And one of the smartest pugs I've known.

Love you forever and back again.

xoxo, your Hoomin Momma

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Decorating, Plop-and-Fill Style

When it comes to seasonal decorating, I opt for easy, simple, and fast. I prefer to spend my holiday time baking, hanging out with my family, and snuggling pugs.

Although my decorating isn't elaborate, it is deliberate. To make the house look cohesive, not hodge-podgey, I confine my color palette to white/blue/gold/silver. These colors work well for me, because they complement the blues and grays I always have in the house anyway. And the colors equally represent Hanukkah, Christmas, and winter in general.

I hang oversize, glittery snowflakes in the front window so the house looks festive from the street:

And then I do a lot of "plop-and-fill" decorating inside.

I grab containers I already have and fill them with decorative, seasonal objects. I load oversize hurricane jars with things like pine cones picked up on my walks, inexpensive snowflakes and glittery objects from Jo-Ann Fabrics (60% off all holiday stuff right now!), and a short strand of tinsel:

 (To avoid bringing live bugs in with the pine cones, pop them in a sealed plastic bag and place in the freezer for 24 hours.)

You can achieve this same easy look by using a glass punch bowl, oversize flower vases, or even an old glass fishbowl.

The idea here is to keep it simple. Use things you already own. Fill containers you already own.

Other ideas for filling glass containers:

Balls of yarn (try green/white/red or white/pale blue)
Strips of wrapping paper or construction paper
Cookie cutters
Small plastic balls (raid your kids' ball pit and grab all the green and red ones)
Lego pieces (red/green or blue/white)
Mittens, scarves, and knit hats in holiday colors

Glass containers are just the start for me. I go around the house, plopping and filling. The little creamer that holds my collection of tea strainers gets a bow and a snowflake:

These adorable Champagne coupes (99 cents each at Goodwill) get filled with an assortment of little objects and set on a tray for a quick, festive look:

The marbles and stainless-steel beads in this coupe came out of my junk drawer. They don't look junky, though, because they follow my same blue/white/shiny theme:

Who uses crystal salt cellars and/or crystal carving-knife rests any more? Nobody I know. But plop them all in a little crystal dish, and they become holiday decor:

A few years ago, I bought a lot of plastic snowflakes at a 99 Cent store after Christmas, when they were deeply discounted. Just hanging them here and there on my regular household items makes things merrier:

A snowflake with a broken arm is disguised with a short snip of tinsel, and tumbled into a little crystal bowl with some dreidels:

Even wrapped gifts get the plop-and-fill treatment. Here, they are beginning to fill up the empty space below our wall-mounted television and above the cabinet that holds all the electronics:

Lovely Daughter #1 painted this years ago when she was a middle schooler. I stick it on a display bracket and enjoy seeing it every December:

And of course I love filling the hutch with seasonal things. (This is the beauty I found in the alley and dragged back home with help from The Hubby.):

A junk-shop wine cooler gets filled with decorative ceramic balls and more snowflakes:

The dish contains acorns--some I dipped in glue, then glitter---and star anise. You could do the same thing with sticks of cinnamon, or whole nutmegs, or tiny pine cones:

If your holiday decorating is taking too much of your time, storage space, or money, repeat this mantra: Plop and fill. Limit your color choices. Use what you have.

And enjoy your life more!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...