Is anyone else totally flabbergasted that we've already reached Christmas Eve and another year is all but gone?
I woke up this morning and realized that I have a 10-year-old, a nearly 8-year-old, a nearly 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. This was exceptionally shocking because I realized it upon waking and it usually takes me at least an hour of wakefulness to remember that I am no longer 18.
This is a reflective time of year. This is when I ponder what I've accomplished and left undone. This is a time when things I'm thankful for seem especially big and things which bother me seem wondrously little.
We've been in the process of moving since July. We had a buyer lined up for the old house and needed to get the rest of our belongings to the new home and decided the most efficient way to get everything out was to rent a large truck.
Friday, the day before the move, brought the largest snowfall I remember seeing in December in years. As Dan was outdoors moving snow from our driveway, the belt snapped on the snow blower. We caught a break on Saturday with clear-as-a-bell weather and decided to go ahead and get it done. As we were about halfway through the hour-long drive to our old town, we got a flat tire. Dan pulled to the side of the road and found that surprise! we didn't have any of our tools with us.
While we tried to decide what to do about our quandary, we saw someone approaching our van from the only house around. He invited us to pull into his driveway and use his tools to change our tire. Not only did he offer us material assistance, but he ran back into the house and came out with candy canes for the kids. We weren't thinking clearly enough to get our Good Samaritan's name, but I think I know somewhere Santa's going to stop with a plate of cookies.
When we finally made our way to town and got the rental truck set up, I stopped by the tire place to have them put on two new tires. Our friend Brian offered to take Liam, our eldest, back to the house. Dan drove the rental so they could get started on loading while I waited for the van with the four younger boys.
With the tires done, the wildcats and I grabbed some groceries in preparation for the next hit of snow we were supposed to get that evening. While in the checkout line, my cell phone rang. Dan was asking me to buy chains and sand because the rental truck had become stuck in the high snow in our old driveway.
I'm sure I must've sighed pretty audibly because I heard a voice from behind say, "Hi, Rebecca. Is everything alright?" It was a friend, Denise, from our old church. I gave her the Cliff's Notes version on the day's activities and she leaped to our rescue. She called her husband, Bob, who drives a heavy-duty truck with a plow and tow package. He drove right over to our house, pulled the rental out of the driveway and then plowed the whole 500 feet of driveway. My brother-in-law, Greg, provided both muscle and coffee all greatly appreciated.
The men got the job done and we got home before the snow started flying again. When the day was said and done, I had an opportunity to be grateful for all of the friends and family who had helped us. A day that went so contrary to plan, that could have been so bad, was saved by the kindness of both those who loved us and total strangers. It made for a fantastic lead-up to Christmas and the ultimate gift.
Merry Christmas to all of you! Thank you for reading about my kitchen and life adventures and misadventures. I wish you all a Happy New Year and much delicious food!
This will be featured on our Christmas table. I'll make a triple batch and hide some in our basement fridge so that I can sneak off and eat it in a locked room later in the week. Don't tell me you've never done that.
This is a variation on a recipe that originally appeared in Martha Stewart's Every Day Food magazine in the October 2003 issue. We always double or triple this recipe.
Chocolate Pots de Crème (Baked Chocolate Custards)
1 ½ c. half-and-half
1 t. vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
¼ c. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 3.5-oz extra dark chocolate bar (70 percent or higher cocoa content), broken into small pieces
Preheat oven to 325°. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. In a medium saucepan, bring half-and-half and vanilla just to a boil. Set aside.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, put the chocolate bar pieces. Microwave on high for 45 seconds and then stir. Keep heating in 10-second increments and stirring until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, add egg yolks, sugar and salt and beat with a mixer or whisk until light. Then add chocolate. When chocolate is fully incorporated, gradually add hot half and half mixture with your mixer running or while whisking constantly.
Divide mixture among four six-ounce custard cups and place in a baking dish that just holds them all. If you want to certain to have perfectly smooth, lump-free custard, you can pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer before dividing among custard cups. Place in oven and carefully pour enough boiling water in dish to come halfway up sides of cups. Take care not to get water in your custard cups as you pour. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil, but do not seal it.
Bake custards until just set (still slightly wobbly in center when you jiggle each cup gently) about 40-45 minutes. Remove cups from baking dish and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least two hours.
And once all the rich food has been eaten and it's time to be healthy again, I'll have a pot of this soup on and I won't miss a thing. We often serve this with poached eggs on top so that the yolk can run down into the lentils.
Saucy Lentil Soup
1 lb. lentils, rinsed, drained and picked clean
2 large onions, diced small
2 large carrots, diced small
5 c. chicken or ham broth
1 t. dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes or tomato puree
5 slices bacon, sliced into thin strips
Salt and pepper to taste
Place a large soup pan over medium heat. Cook bacon strips until they are beginning to crisp and add the onions, carrots and garlic. Continue to cook until carrots and onions begin to soften, about four to five minutes. Add broth, lentils, thyme and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour or until lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the liquid. Serve with that stand-by, crusty bread for a delicious healthy meal.
Rebecca Lindamood is a northern Lower Michigan native now living in New York state. A food lover and mother of five children, she writes occasionally about preparing creative, yet affordable, meals for a family. Drop Rebecca an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to her care of the Record-Eagle.