Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dark Chocolate Custard with Salted Caramel Sauce

Today is Quinten’s and my anniversary. 23 years! Since money has been so tight lately, I hadn’t planned to go out for dinner like we normally do. Instead, I planned a simple lasagna dinner and wanted to find a truly decadent dessert to make up for staying in. I think I succeeded, if I do say so myself. The caramel sauce takes time but the flavor is worth it–it could be a Starbucks caramel copy (and my girls are already making plans for the leftovers in their coffee in the morning). The amount of cream in this recipe is staggering so there are no plans to include a calorie count. Ever.


Dark Chocolate Custard with Salted Caramel Sauce

Serves 8

Dark Chocolate Custard

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

¾ cup milk

½ cup sugar

3 TB cocoa powder

Up to ¼ tsp salt, to taste

4 egg yolks

1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

1 TB vanilla

1 TB salted butter

Measure 1 cup of chocolate and pour into a large mixing bowl. Place a fine mesh sieve over the bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat stirring often until just before the mixture boils. Beat egg yolks well in small bowl while cream mixture is heating. When cream mixture is hot, remove from heat and slowly whisk in enough of the cream mixture into the eggs until the eggs are warm (about a cup of the cream will need to be added). The key is to add the hot mixture slowly enough to keep the eggs from scrambling.

Once the egg mixture is warm, pour it back into the saucepan and stir well. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour through the sieve in the mixing bowl. The sieve will catch any lumps or bits of cooked egg leaving you with a creamy consistency. The hot custard will begin to melt the chocolate in the bowl.

Stir the chocolate and custard together and allow to stand for a couple of minutes to allow the chocolate to melt completely. Stir in the vanilla and butter until everything is completely mixed. Pour into 8 small containers (I like to use 4 oz. mason jars) and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Salted Caramel Sauce

 2 TB salted butter

2/3 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown in the pictures and think that dark would give it a better flavor)

¼ tsp sea salt

½ cup cream

½ tsp. vanilla

¼ to ½ cup additional cream

Mix together the butter, brown sugar, sea salt, and ½ cup cream. Bring to boil over medium heat. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat until caramel reaches firm ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and enough of the cream to make a thick sauce. Allow to cool to room temperature, adding more cream if needed, before drizzling over custard.



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Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen. I knew I was heading into this week without a dime of grocery money so planning will be key. My Whole30/Paleo experiment ended up scaring the crap out of me. A completely bare refrigerator days before the next payday is scary. As a family with one income, I’ve always been careful about the budget but there has never been a time where the refrigerator was bare and I had to really scramble to keep our bellies full. Until last month.

As a result of last month’s scare, I’ve been restocking my pantry as much as I can. My boys have been angels helping me. One of them has been picking up my co-op orders, one has been picking up paper products (our toilet paper budget is as much as it was when the kids were in diapers!!), and the other has been picking up dairy. My co-op orders have been mainly where I am stocking up. The co-op allows members to order items at cost plus a service fee. So far this month, I’ve added 25# rice (though the reports about the arsenic levels are making me reduce the frequency of rice in the menu), 25# organic black beans, and one son will be picking up 25# organic red beans later this week. The beans work out to be less than $1.40 a pound and will allow us to stick to this insane budget.

I started a pound of black beans, a pound of red beans, and 10 oz garbanzo beans in the morning.

I am having a terrible time getting the pictures into this post and have run out of time to fix them. Sorry!

The black and red beans were used in yesterday’s African Sweet Potato Stew and will also be used for chili later in the week. Some of the garbanzo beans were used for roasted garbanzos but no one here liked them. The rest will be used for hummus.

For the sweet potato stew, I used this recipe as the base but ended up changing it to fit what we had in the pantry as well as adding a whole heckuva lot more spices. The result was an awesome, but slightly too spicy, stew. My sweet potato haters still hated the stew but were given a lecture before dinner to keep their comments to themselves. 😉

Aren’t these colors awesome? The green chunks on top are roasted Hatch peppers (which turned out to be HOT) and a cilantro ice cube.

African Sweet Potato Stew

2 TB olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 can beef broth

1 large bell pepper, diced (I used yellow)

1/2 cup water

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

3/4 tsp smoked paprika

7 Roma tomatoes, diced (the original recipe called for a can of diced tomatoes)

1 can green chiles (I used roasted Hatch chiles which I pureed and froze in a ziplock bag)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

1 cup black beans, cooked

1 cup red beans, cooked

1/3 cup peanut butter

lime wedges

In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onions, cooking until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or so. Place the onion mixture in the crock pot. Add the broth, sweet potatoes, pepper, water, spices , cilantro, and tomatoes and cook on high for a couple of hours. Then turn the temp down to low to finish cooking (about 3 additional hours). Add the beans an hour or so before you plan to serve and continue cooking. Remove 1 cup of broth from the crock pot and stir it into the peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Add the peanut butter mixture back to the pot and stir until blended. Serve with lime wedges. Serves 8.

My green chiles were really spicy. I liked the spiciness of it but would have preferred it to be just a bit less spicy. Half of a jalapeno or some cayenne will kick the stew up a bit to replicate the spiciness of my green chiles.

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Change of Direction

After my Whole30 and Paleo diet fail, I felt pretty discouraged and felt like I’d failed. It’s taken me this long to realize that *I* hadn’t failed–I just needed to face the fact that it was impossible to implement a Whole30 and/or Paleo diet for a family of 7 adults (technically, the girls are teens…but still. It takes a boatload of food to feed us) on a disability budget. Do I think that Paleo is still probably the healthiest diet for us? Yes. But I can’t stress over the fact that I can’t do Paleo. I have enough on my plate to stress over. 😉

So. What is my change of direction? Feed us the healthiest food I can on the budget I have. It’s going to mean flour, sugar, potatoes and rice are a part of my diet and that’s okay. I need to fill us up and not worry so much about being a failure because I served white rice or potatoes as a filler.

Part of my plan to feed us healthy is committing to ordering at least 2 baskets each week from Bountiful Baskets. Ordering these baskets is an excellent way to ensure my family gets enough fruit and vegetables in their diet each week. And the $31.50 each week for the two baskets is such a good deal. The baskets vary each week but that’s part of the fun. This week between the two baskets, I came home with:

* 6 lbs bananas

*2 packages celery

* 4 english cucumbers

* 2 honeydew melon

* 4 lbs peaches

* 4.75 lbs apples

* 2.75 lbs tomatoes

* 2 lb carrots

* 4.75 lbs sweet potatoes

* 1.5 lbs sweet pepper (that 1.5 lbs was only TWO huge peppers!)

* 3.75 lbs avocado (again…HUGE…4 avocados)

* 3 lbs limes

The fun is coming up with menus that incorporate all of the produce. I still have sweet potatoes left from last week (my microwave bit the dust so I haven’t planned far enough ahead to make them in the oven) that I need to use up so they are on the menu for tomorrow. The weather is finally cooling down enough that I can add soups and stews back into the menu plan rotation. Tomorrow, I plan to make African Sweet Potato Stew. It’s one of my favorite soups. We won’t tell the kids it’s vegetarian. 🙂

Later in the week, I will make another sweet potato soup. Vegetarian Chili will most likely become a lunch when we’ve used up all of the lunchmeat. Those two soups will use up the sweet potatoes (at least some of them), sweet peppers, tomatoes, some of the limes, and some of the radishes from last week’s basket. The cucumbers will be sliced and placed into containers for snacking or for serving with lunches/dinners. The fruit never lasts long. I either tell the kids to have fruit for snacks after school or I will make a fruit salad to serve with dinners. The avocados and limes will become guacamole as soon as the avocados are ripe. I’ll plan to make the vegetarian chili the same day I make guacamole and serve guac instead of sour cream.

Some of the kids don’t like bananas so it’s possible that we’ll have too many to eat before they go bad. What I like to do is to freeze ripe banana chunks to use in smoothies. I peel the bananas and slice them into fairly large chunks. I place the banana slices on a waxed paper lined baking sheet and pop them into the freezer. The waxed paper is necessary in order  to keep from chiseling your bananas off the baking sheet. As soon as the bananas are frozen (or whenever I remember them), I place them into baggies.

If I have any sweet potatoes left, I am going to make these. I have all of the ingredients and they are healthy. 🙂 And chocolate.


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