“Here’s to love – the only fire for which there is no insurance.”
By the middle of February, we have all had just about enough of the cold dreary days of winter. We fantasize about jumping on the next plane to the tropics where the most “layering” consists of wrapping a sarong around ourselves to make the trek to the beach. I’ll confess- I’ve surfed many travel sites looking for the best rate to anywhere tropical once or twice in the past month!
But even if you can’t escape to the surf and sand, the winter doldrums do not have to win! Something good does happen in the lovely month of February: Valentine’s Day! During one of the greyest months, there is this one day that is filled with red roses, decadent chocolate treats and the opportunity to treat your loved one to a celebration.
What better way to celebrate than with a handmade dessert from scratch?! Lovejoy Designs teamed up with Heather Tirrell, pastry chef at The Hungry Mother in Cambridge to come up with a dessert that any of us can whip up. Heather makes the most amazing desserts that she features both at the restaurant and on her blog: www.heathertirrell.com
Heather believes that food should be accessible. Creating a meal should not be a daunting task; it should be a catalyst for creating memories. Whether it is a dish made with someone in mind or a treat for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day, food should evoke feelings of comfort and good times. Peter and I can attest to her talent and remember fondly the night we tried her Bourbon flavored Vanilla Ice Cream. What a crowd pleaser that was.
The rules for this Valentine’s treat were simple. First, every ingredient must be found at your local grocery store. Second, it could be made in under a half hour. Heather came up with this most pleasing Pudding Au Chocolat. It is rich in flavor, and truly easy to assemble. Try it for yourself:
Pudding Aux Chocolat
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking, and simplified from the current offering on Hungry Mother menu.
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup chocolate milk (whole fat)
3-3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate broken into pieces (most chocolate bars are about 5 oz. try to find a good quality extra dark chocolate, one that is labeled 50%)
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup chocolate milk
½ teaspoon of vanilla
Your Choice –
1 teaspoon grand marnier
2 teaspoons rum, bourbon, kailua or amaretto
Have a container ready, preferably a bowl (larger then a cereal bowl).
Mix cornstarch with ¼ cup chocolate milk in a cup or small bowl till smooth.
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a pot and put on the stove over medium heat.
While this warms, stir gently. Chocolate will begin to melt and mixture will look speckled. Continue heating till all melted.
While stirring, pour in the cornstarch mixture. Continue stirring and when the mixture starts to thicken slightly turn heat down to med – low. Continue stirring continuously till mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. When lifted on the spoon and drizzled it will leave droplets. It will look thinner then cold pudding, don’t worry it will set up in the fridge. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring. Pour into container, place plastic wrap over the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for an hour and a half before serving.
To serve, spoon into glass, martini, stem less wine, glass tumbler or coffee mug all work well. Top with whipped cream.
And don’t forget a touch of décor my aesthetic-admiring readers! Here are some simple design ideas that will complete the Valentine’s celebration.
While at the grocery store, pick up two-dozen red roses, Hot Tamales Candy and Red Sprinkles. We will get to the candy and sprinkles later. The roses going to be used in two different ways. Take a couple of the stems and pull the petals off the stems. Scatter the petals around all the plates, bowls and dishes of food.
With the remainder of the roses, you can make a simple arrangement. Find a round glass container and place the roses in it. If possible, bring your container to the grocery store with you to ensure that you buy enough roses to completely fill the vessel. Arrangements that are comprised of all the same flower look wonderful when the bunch is grouped tightly together. Having too few roses can make the arrangement look sparse. But no worries, if you get home and don’t have enough roses, just find a smaller container. Don’t have a small vase? Try a tall rocks or juice glass. Once you place the roses in the container, take a couple boxes of Hot Tamales and fill the container to surround the rose stems. Put enough Hot Tamales in to really pack those roses tightly!
With the sprinkles, place them in a small votive or juice glass and place a tea light candle in it. When you are ready to serve, light the candle to create a nice cozy ambiance.
So Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! Pull out that mixing bowl and buy those red roses and make a night of it! We’ve all heard the naysayer’s vilification of Valentine’s Day: It’s a made-up holiday making Hallmark rich. Well, I say forget all that! Enjoy it. During these cold winter months, we all could use a little love and pampering.
A young woman was taking an afternoon nap. After she woke up, she told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s Day. What do you think it means?”
“You’ll know tonight,” he said.
That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it–only to find a book entitled “The meaning of dreams”