CHICORY COFFEE & RITUALS

Chicory Granita & Bourbon Whipped Cream | for the love of the south

I have an inherited adoration for coffee. Notice I did not say inherent but inherited. I grew up drinking coffee. I did not grow up around coffee but drinking coffee. I distinctly remember my first cup.

My grannie fixed my sister and I two tiny glasses of coffee milk (which seemed to consist of more sugar than coffee or milk.) I stretched out my hands and took hold of the cold crystal glass filled with this lovely blonde beverage. My little fingernails slowly etched the scrolling flowery design on the tumbler as I quietly imbibed my very first glass of smoky, chicory coffee. In that one moment, I had unknowingly become part of a treasured ritual I would carry with me daily.

I’m not sure if it was the percolating sound of the coffeemaker puttering about or the smoky aroma that beckoned us out of our beds, but whatever it was brought us together in the mornings. In those small hours, we sat at my grannie’s solid wooden kitchen table and visited for the better part of an hour, hot coffee in hand, sharing life together.

Now, no matter how far I am from my grannie’s kitchen table, I sit with my morning cup of coffee and the comfort of knowing my loved ones are taking part of the same ritual that connects our hearts. Like Luisa Weiss once said, “Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home,” or in my case, coffee.

Recipe: Cold-Brewed Chicory Coffee Granita with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Serves 2

Note:  I love using Community Coffee, but If you can’t find chicory in whole bean coffee your favorite whole bean coffee will work just fine for this recipe. Also, the bourbon in the recipe is optional, just substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer.

P.S. As the granita melts into the cream, the combination creates a lovely, silky latte effect so it’s good to the last drop, even if it melts!

For the Chicory Coffee Granita:

2 cups of strong chicory coffee, freshly brewed

2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar

Dissolve the cane sugar in the freshly brewed coffee. Allow the coffee to cool slightly.

Pour the  coffee into a shallow container with a lid. Let the coffee sit in the freezer for an hour. After an hour, take a fork and scrape the ice crystals. Place back into the freezer and scrape the ice every 30 minutes until the granita is fluffy and light. Serve in glasses topped with the Bourbon Whipped Cream (recipe below) if desired!

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream:

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 tablespoon of bourbon (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)

Whip all of the ingredients in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. The whipped cream should be able to hold a slight peak if inverted.

HONEY ROASTED PEACH BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM

Honey-Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Whenever nothing else in the world makes sense, one thing in life that remains constant is food. No matter what your day may bring, what challenges lies ahead; we can always find balance in the kitchen. Nothing is more reassuring than a morning cup of coffee, constantly stirring a pot of risotto will always be relaxing, and eating vegetables straight off the plant will always be energizing and empowering, giving us the strength to make it through another day.

In the kitchen, the combination of community and food comes together in a beautiful way. It’s a place where you share your life, your challenges and your successes. It’s a place of peace. We never know what tomorrow will hold, but I know I will be holding a cup of chicory coffee wrapped comfortably in both hands and tremendous faith in my heart to make it through whatever comes my way. For that I am sure of.

Another thing I’m sure of is the combination of fresh peaches, tart lemons and floral honey… and creamy ice cream. I am very sure of ice cream.

Honey-Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Recipe: Honey-Roasted Peach Buttermilk Ice Cream

Makes 1 Quart

Note: Notice this recipe calls for no actual buttermilk. The combination of peaches roasting in the lemon juice and adding those lemon-soaked peaches to the ice cream base while it’s churning creates wonderfully tangy buttermilk (which also cuts the sweetness of the ice cream.)

For Roasted Peaches:

1 ½ pounds (or 4 large) unpeeled, pitted, halved peaches

2 tablespoons of local honey

Juice of ½ a lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl making sure to coat the peaches in honey and lemon juice. Place the peach halves cut side up on a roasting pan fitted with parchment paper. Roast peaches for 20-30 minutes until the peaches slightly char.

Cut peaches into chunks and set aside.

For Ice Cream:

2 cups of heavy cream

6 egg yolks

½ cup of sugar

Roasted peaches (recipe above)

1 tablespoon of honey

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan allow the heavy cream to heat just until it simmers. Add the hot cream in a steady stream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Over a double boiler, heat the ice cream base just until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes.) Once the entire mixture has thickened, cover and place in the fridge until chilled.

Using an ice cream maker, add the chilled ice cream base to the ice cream machine. Once the mixture has thickened, add the roasted peaches 1 tablespoon at a time and 1 tablespoon of honey. Once the machine has finished, scoop the ice cream into a freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

 

 

THE PEACH TRUCK

Poached Peaches

There are few joys in life that are greater than the first peach of the season. A wave of childlike giddiness rushed over me as Michael and I pulled into the Franklin Farmer’s Market on a steamy Saturday morning. The Peach Truck sign caught my attention, and I immediately turned the wheel of the car in its direction (did I mention I was riding shotgun? My hand should have been slapped, but I believe Michael was amused at me bouncing out of my seat in excitement, and all was forgiven.) Ten peach enthusiasts were in line in front of me, all beading at the brow, but no one seemed to mind as long as we could take home a brown paper sack filled with fresh peaches.

Fresh Peaches

Patient waiting paid off as a young lady handed me a brown paper bag stamped with a tiny farmer’s truck and The Peach Truck logo. She let me know I should keep the peaches in the paper bag on the counter until Monday and let them sit in the fridge to ripen the fruit. Politely, I nodded knowing full well the moment I was out of her line of sight one was going directly into my mouth.  Michael dealt with the “business” side of things and handed the sweet lady cash for my treasures. By the time he turned around, I was nose deep in the bag, inhaling the honey and flowery aromas coming from the peaches.

Fresh Peaches

Immediately my mind began racing with endless possibilities: peach tart, peach pie, roasted peaches, muddled peach lemonade, grilled peaches with brown sugar. On and on the list went, and finally, the perfect preservation of the peaches pervaded. Vanilla poached peaches. Poaching peaches slightly softens the fruit and allows for the skin to easily be peel away, exposing the blushing flesh. It’s the next best thing to eating a peach right off The Peach Truck. It’s the best dessert for the greatest summer fruit: the precious peach.

Recipe: Inspired by Seasons by Donna Hay

Serves 6

Note: Add leftover vanilla pods to sugar for vanilla sugar or save in a bottle of rum or vodka in the pantry for at least 6 weeks and you have your own homemade vanilla extract! Also, the sweet vanilla-peach infused syrup is wonderful in sweet tea.

2 pounds of ripe peaches, thoroughly washed

3 cups of water

2 cups of sugar

1 vanilla bean

Make a long slit through the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out all of the vanilla seeds. Reuse the leftover pod for vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla extract.

Slice a shallow “x” into the base of each peach. Set aside.

Place water, sugar and vanilla seeds in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Add the peaches to the poaching liquid. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the peaches are soft to the touch. Take the saucepan off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Peel the peaches, place in a sterilized Mason jar and pour the syrup over the poached peaches. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Serve over ice cream, muddled in lemonade, or all by themselves!

A RUSTIC PEACHY KEEN TART + A COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY

Peach Tart

This cookbook came into my life at the perfect time. And by the perfect time, I mean the first week of peach season. On the cover of Southern Living: Feel Good Food, staring right smack dab at me is a perfectly poised peach pie, just begging to be devoured. Flipping through the rest of the book is a delight as classic Southern dishes are given modern-day spins from the South’s most trusted Test Kitchen. Chapters in the book are based on emotions with recipes that are “Gracious”, “Indulgent”, and “Celebratory.” Feel Good Food celebrates and honors Southern memories, traditions and dishes.

You know the saying; “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, in this case, you can judge a book by its cover if its cover is a picture of a glorious peach pie from the South’s most trusted Test Kitchen.

Southern Living Feel Good Food

To enter to win a copy of Southern Living: Feel Good Food, just leave a comment below of your favorite feel good food between now and midnight, June 16th. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be announced right here and on Twitter on June 17th! I will contact the winner through email to get their mailing address to have this wonderful book shipped on over. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please! Good luck, ya’ll!

Congrats to Jenny who won the Southern Living Feel Good Food Cookbook! I’ll be emailing you to get the details! Thank you for everyone who shared your favorite feel good foods! I loved reading over each comment!

Recipe: Southern Living: Feel Good Food

Serves 8

Note: To make a rustic tart, just follow the recipe for the dough and filling recipe as follows and create 2 tarts with the dough and divide the peach filling between the 2 tarts. After rolling out the dough, place the filling in the center and roll up the edges around the fruit. Seal the edges by pinching them together, brushing the egg wash on the edges, and continue with the rest of the recipe as follows.

1 1/3 cups of cold butter

4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided

1½ teaspoons of salt

½ to ¾ cup ice water

8 large fresh, firm, ripe peaches (about 4 pounds)

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon of salt

1 ½ tablespoon of butter, cut into pieces

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Cut 1 1/3 cups of butter into small cubes, and chill 15 minutes. Stir together 4 cups flour and 1 ½ teaspoon of salt. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas. Gradually stir in ½ cup ice water with a fork, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened and dough begins to form a ball and leaves sides of bowl, adding more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap; press and shape dough into 2 flat disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 1 dough disk on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Roll dough to about ¼-inch thickness. Starting at 1 edge of dough, wrap dough around a rolling pin. Place rolling pin over a 9-inch pie plate, and unroll dough over pie plate. Press dough into pie plate.

Roll remaining dough disk to about ½-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 (1 ½ – inch wide) strips and 8 (¼ -inch wide) strips using a fluted pastry wheel.

Peel peaches, and cut into ½-inch thick slices; cut slices in half. Stir together brown sugar, next 3 ingredients, and remaining ¼ cup flour in a bowl; add peaches, stirring to coat. Immediately spoon peach mixture into piecrust in pie plate, and dot with 1 ½ tablespoon butter. (Do not make the mixture ahead or it will become too juicy.)

Carefully place dough strips over filling, making a lattice design. Crimp edges of pie. Brush lattice with beaten egg; sprinkle with 1½ tablespoons of granulated sugar.

Freeze pie for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a jellyroll pan in oven for 10 minutes. Place pie on hot jellyroll pan.

Bake at 425 degrees on lower oven rack 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; bake 40 minutes. Cover loosely with foil to prevent excessive browning, and bake 25 more minutes or until juices are thick and bubbly (juices will bubble through top.) Transfer to a wire rack; cool 2 hours before serving.

STRAWBERRY FIELDS

Strawberry Shortcakes

Pulling off onto the unpaved, bouncy road suddenly woke me from my afternoon car nap. Cars lined up and down a small driveway, pulling off onto the grass as though they were parallel parking with imaginary lines as their guides. Minivans scattered as far as the eye could see. We were all here for the same reason, to pick berries, as many as our little buckets could hold.

The farm was actually a privately owned home with a berry farm attached. We made our way past the eternal line of cars and arrived at a canopy hanging (more like dangling) over a woman sitting comfortably in her lawn chair, handing out plastic buckets for our haul.

Strawberry Shortcakes

I walked alone to find my treasures, taking in the aroma of the berries, the warmth beating down on me from the sun, and the overall thrill of imagining the countless ways to consume these beauties. I dreamt of sweet, sticky strawberry jam stretching across layers of a delicate angel biscuit, eating them in the morning in a cereal bowl filled to the brim with berries, a dash of cream and sugar, or my favorite, as dessert. Strawberries left to sit alone, unharmed with a little bit of lemon juice and sugar atop shortcakes, which are still slightly warm from the oven, and a dollop of sweet, vanilla-scented whipped cream on the side for good measure.

And as I strewn fresh berries over warm shortcakes, the aroma brings me back to those moments of picking berries in May. This recipe preserves the moment of late spring and the memories it shares.

Strawberry Shortcakes

Recipe: Serves 4

Shortcake Biscuits:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

¾ cup of chilled heavy cream

Melted butter, for brushing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Switching to a spoon, stir in the heavy cream and gently mix until the dough begins to hold together (the dough will still be very wet at this point.)

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly flour the top of the dough. Form the dough into a 4 ½ x3-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick (if the dough sticks to your hands, just coat your fingers in flour and continue forming the dough.) Cut the dough in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise to form 4 rectangular biscuits.

Arrange biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Brush the tops with butter. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Strawberries:

1 pound of fresh strawberries, cleaned, and hulled

2 tablespoons of sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon (or 2 smaller lemons)

Cut the strawberries in half for smaller berries and quarter any larger berries.

Toss berries, sugar and lemon juice until berries are coated with the juice and sugar. Let the berries macerate for at least 10 minutes.

Whipped Cream:

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk whipping cream, sugar and vanilla together on medium-high speed until soft peaks form

Assembly:

Carefully split biscuits with a serrated knife (they are quite fragile) and brush with more melted butter. Fill the biscuits with strawberries and any liquid from the berries. Serve with whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 

THE SWEET LIFE

Bananas Foster Crepe Cake

My favorite time to visit New Orleans is during springtime. Azaleas radiate with blushing hues, early blooming magnolias perfume the streets, breezes from the river tousle my golden locks, and the air is softly sweetened with the city’s many treats. I always stand astonished at Aunt Sally’s as pralines the size of moon pies studded with toasted pecans lay in a row, basking in front of an old fan, awaiting their fate to be boxed up and devoured within mere moments. Looming next door at Café Du Monde is a different type of lure, one that was deep fried and laden with powdered sugar, begging to be washed down with a café au lait.

Bananas Foster Crepe Cake Top

New Orleans offers another treat, one that entices and excites as it gleams and glows with its amber flames and saccharine scent. Brennan’s Bananas Foster. There is a tinge of delight that never grows old as this famous dessert is prepared tableside, blazes and all. Even though I sit in pure elegance of the restaurant, the combination of cinnamon, butter and sugar will always remind me of the swamp and the bananas added to the concoction of tiny pirogues bubbling away in the murky darkness. No amount of sophistication will ever make me outgrow my bayou roots. As my imagination twirls, rum is added to the sauté pan and whoosh. The flickering flame engulfs everything in its sight. Surrounding tables applaud at the spectacle while the spark dies down and all that’s left is bourbon-brown bananas scented with spicy cinnamon and sugary rum.

Bananas Foster Crepe Cake with Bananas

Traditionally, this delectable dessert is spooned over ice cream, but I decided to do a spin on this New Orleans classic. Once the bananas have browned in the sugar and butter, I mash the whole mixture together and use it as a filling for a crêpe cake, delicately adored with whipped cream spiced with rum and caramelized bananas. Springtime couldn’t get any sweeter.

Sliced Bananas Foster Crepe Cake

Recipe: Makes 1 Crêpe Cake

Filling:

1 stick of butter

2 cup of brown sugar

2 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 teaspoon of vanilla

7 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced on a diagonal

½ cup of good, dark rum (optional)

In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt butter in the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the pan. Stir until dissolved and add bananas. Whenever the slices begin to brown and soften, carefully add the rum (if using.)  Light the pan with a long match or a torch. Allow the flames to subside. Let cool and mash with the back of a fork or a potato masher until thick and almost a puréed consistency.

Crêpes: Adapted from Tyler Florence

½ cup of water

2 cups of milk

4 eggs

2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of vanilla

4 tablespoons of sugar

Pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan

Combine water, milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar and salt in a blender. Blend until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture is no longer lumpy. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Add the butter to the mixture and blend for just a few more seconds. Let the mixture rest in the fridge for an hour.

Place a nonstick skillet on medium to medium-low heat. Brush butter onto the pan. With the batter in one hand and the hot skillet in the other, slowly pour the batter into the pan and twirl the skillet in the other so that there is enough batter to purely coat the bottom of the pan. Let the crêpe cook just until brown at the edges, flip with a spatula and brown on the other side. Flip onto a plate and continue with the remaining batter.

Rum Whipped Cream:

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 teaspoon of vanilla

1 tablespoon of rum

Whisk all of the ingredients in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. The whipped cream should be able to hold a peak if inverted.

Creating the Layers:

Banana Foster Purée

Prepared Crêpes

Rum Whipped Cream

Caramelized Bananas*

*Note: For the caramelized bananas, sprinkle sugar onto 1” slices of banana. Using a torch, carefully caramelize the top of the banana like you would a crème brûlée.

On a cake stand, place one crepe on the bottom of the stand. Spread a thin layer of the bananas foster purée onto the crêpe. Repeat with remaining layers until you add the last crêpe (or run out of filling! Whichever comes first.) Finish the last crêpe with a topping of the rum whipped cream and adorn with caramelized bananas.

Going to the Chapel

Bridal Granita-2

Flowers are in bloom, love is in the air, a wedding is at hand, and this calls for something special. This punch would present itself on any special occasion in my family. With only two modest ingredients, this punch leaves people constantly asking for the recipe. We always say, “Oh it’s just a little this and that,” secretly embarrassed at the ease of the beverage. Instead of keeping with the tradition of the punch, I decided to do a granita. Mingling the old and the new around a wedding is lovely, taking a bow to the tradition and creating new and lasting ones as well. This dessert is as delicate as a magnolia and will be perfect for your next special occasion. Let it be your something borrowed, as I am sharing my family recipe with you.

Bridal Granita

Recipe: Serves 8

1 liter of Sprite

1 tablespoon of almond extract

Open the liter of Sprite and add the tablespoon of almond extract. Place the cap back on the bottle and let the extract sit in the Sprite for an hour. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish (you may need to use 2 dishes), cover and let sit in the freezer for an hour. After an hour, take a fork and scrape the ice crystals. Place back into the freezer and scrape the ice every 30 minutes until the granita is fluffy and light. Serve in champagne glasses and enjoy!

Bridal Granita_

Ain’t Your Mother’s Bread Pudding

Mother's Restaurant

Walking down the streets of New Orleans is like no other experience imaginable. The culture, the people and, of course, the fare is vivacious and inimitable. As I passed down Tchoupitoulas and found my way to Poydras, I spotted a little white and red sign, barely hanging from a portico reading, “Mother’s Restaurant.” Looking at my watch, I realized it was nearly 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and there was an hour-long line wrapped around the old, brick building. The sign to Mother’s boasted some of the world’s best-baked ham, but I was craving a different dish, bread pudding. Finally, I was allowed into the establishment to wait in another line to order. I gazed at the walls that were filled with old black and white photos, vintage posters and tin signs. Once I reached the counter, I tried to sound like a local by ordering fast and efficiently, only to be in the way of a man trying to balance a keg on a dolly. Apologizing empathetically, I realized that my cover was blown, I was from out of town and everyone now knew it. Finding my way through the crowd, I discovered a table all the way in the back of the restaurant and planted my little self in the corner with the rest of my family. Moments later, the waitress comes flying to our table with our orders. I saw my dad point to a dish, asking the waitress if it was his side of ham, and she said it was the bread pudding. I checked to make sure she wasn’t laughing, and when I realized she was telling me the truth, I looked up at the sad brown and white heap of bread pudding and set it next to my red beans and rice. I said a little prayer and encouraged my plates by saying that the most humble dishes are the best dishes. Amen.

I fell in love with my red beans and rice at first bite. And with every spoonful, I eyed the bead pudding, seeing if it would get prettier. It never did. After the last bite of French bread and beans, I put the bread pudding in front of me. I took my fork and slowly edged off a piece of the pudding, only to find a pool of what looked like sugar, butter and cinnamon. I drew the fork to my mouth, and all of the flavors I assumed were in the pool were now doing summersaults in my trap! I looked around to make sure that no one could see my excitement, for fear that they would ask for a bite. I snuck the white plate filled with heaven under the table, and every so often, when no one was looking, took a bite! Now, to make it clear, I am not a very selfish person. I am a giver by nature, but if anyone took a piece before I had my feel, I think they might have lost a finger! Eventually, I allowed the rest of the party to split a ration big enough for a mouse. I thought it was quite generous. As I left, I was happy, content, and dreamily making my way through Mother’s Restaurant. My dreams were slightly interrupted by a keg on a dolly nipping at my heels. As I reached the sunny, warm New Orleans streets, I felt empowered, sustained and full. All because of my contraband bread pudding.

Bread Pudding

Recipe: Revised from Mother’s Restaurant in New Orleans

Makes 1 9×13-inch Pan of Bread Pudding

1 large French bread loaf or 2 smaller baguettes, torn into bite-sized pieces

4 cups of milk

1 cup of heavy cream

2 sticks of butter

6 eggs

1 ½ cups of sugar

4 tablespoons of vanilla extract

2 cups of fruit cocktail with syrup

2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon

¼  teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 3500

Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. In a saucepan, combine milk, cream and butter and simmer until all of the butter melts. Pour milk mixture onto the bread and stir to combine.

In a separate container, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and fruit cocktail together. Pour into the same mixture as the bread and milk. Make sure all of the ingredients are combined well and there are no dry pieces of bread. Pour into a 9×13-inch dish. Bake in a 350o oven for 1-1 ½ hours until golden brown and set in the middle. Pour the bread pudding sauce either on each plate when serving or pour onto the bread pudding when it has finished being baked.

Bread Pudding Sauce:

2 sticks of butter

½ cup of brown sugar, packed

¼ teaspoon of cinnamon

In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and heat on medium-low until slightly simmering. Reserve until ready to serve with bread pudding.

 

 

 

 

Encouraging Words & Chocolate Cake

Flourless Cake

Happy Valentine’s Day (I know I’m early, so Happy Valentine’s Week!)

I hope you feel loved and special today because that’s what you are. You are a wonderful person, blessed by those you meet. You inspire those around you with your passion for life. You are unique; there is no one else out there like you. No one else laughs the same, smiles the same or is able to brighten up a day like you can.

Never sell yourself short and always know you can reach any goal you set. No matter what mountain you are facing, know you have kind souls wishing you the best, cheering you on.

I hope that you are filled with so much love that it will be contagious, caught by everyone around you, and the world will be more radiant with you being apart of it. And I hope, oh dear, I hope… today, you eat chocolate!

If cake could mirror love, this is what it would look like. Love is not perfect; it has its cracks, its own imperfections. Some cracks seem like canyons and others like ravines, but still, we all have them. But love, like a circle, is eternal. And lastly, a bond greater than you and me covers love. It is ever forgiving, ever present, and ever lovely.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”- 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Recipe: Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

*Note: When beating egg whites, make sure that the bowl you are whisking them in is completely clean and dry, or else the whites won’t be able to come to a semi-solid state.

9 ounces of dark chocolate chips (or milk chocolate chips if it’s one of those days)

1 stick of butter, softened

6 eggs, 4 separated, 2 whole

2/3 cups of sugar, divided in half

2 tablespoons of strong coffee

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Powdered sugar or whipped cream to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a heatproof container, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add the softened butter to the warm, melted chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy. Once the egg whites become foamy, slowly add 1/3 cup of sugar. Whisk until the whites are glossy and are able to hold their shape. If the whites become dry, alas, you have whisked them too long.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the 4 yolks and 2 whole eggs together with 1/3 cup of sugar and melted chocolate mixture. Beat until combined and smooth. Add a dollop of the egg whites and beat into the chocolate mixture (really, you can beat them in.) Then, with your gentle lamb hands, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Don’t be intimidated by folding! Just breathe. Slowly, take a rubber spatula and fold the egg whites, spooning from the bottom of the mixture and folding over to the top. Bring your spat down the center of the batter and continue folding until the mixture is just combined. I believe that if you are intimidated or anxious, the egg whites somehow know this and they begin to deflate out of your lack of belief in them.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch spring form pan fitted with parchment paper on the bottom and let bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake should look cracked around the edges, but just make sure that the center is no longer wobbly. Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack. The center will fall as it cools. Run a knife around the edge just to make sure that there is no cake sticking to the sides. Remove the side from the pan and serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream and berries for your loved one (or for yourself, I wont tell).

Whipped Cream Cloud Cake

Flourless Cake

Grown Up Christmas Wish

Candy Cane Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate

There is something both sensational and devastatingly sad about letting go of childhood holiday traditions and creating new ones to take their place. It feels like a child leaving the nest or the loss of a loved one, there is a special place in our hearts and minds of these traditions, but, alas, this is an ever-changing life we are living. We must adapt and succumb to change, even change in the holiday season.

 This is one of the first times in a long time I will waking up on Christmas morning in my own home, smelling chicory coffee from my own brew and possibly seeing the frost on my window. Packages will be lined up like tin soldiers, stockings bloated with goodies will be sitting patiently on the hearth, and Amy Grant will be singing about a Tennessee Christmas in the background.  New traditions will be created, like brush strokes on a blank canvas, but, still, I must look back to my fondest memories and tip my hat to them. I have forever spent every Christmas season in southeast Louisiana where the weather was always warm for the holidays. So, for this Christmas, I have started a new tradition. Hot desserts and beverages were out of the question in 70-degree weather, therefore my nod comes in the form of candy cane ice cream (for those who live in cooler areas, a scoop of this in hot chocolate is utterly delicious.)

My prayer is that each and every one of you feels the love and support from those around you this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Recipe: Makes 1 Quart

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean split in half lengthwise

1 cup of crushed candy cane candies, divided, plus more for garnish

6 egg yolks

½ cup of sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream, vanilla, and ½ cup of crushed candy cane pieces until the mixture begins to simmer. Let steep for at least 5 minutes. Strain the mixture, discarding the crushed peppermints.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow in color. Slowly add the cream mixture to the yolk mixture in a steady stream with the mixer on low. Once all of the cream is incorporated, transfer the mixture to a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of simmering water) and stir continuously until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes.) Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator until fully chilled. Transfer the base to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the cream begins to thicken in the ice cream machine, add the remaining ½ cup of crushed candy cane candies. Transfer to a container and let ice cream set completely for at least 2 more hours in the freezer. Serve with hot chocolate and more crushed candy cane pieces!