Lest you fear that my blogging frequency is directly proportional to the amount of food I’m consuming

August 30, 2008

I know, you have nothing better to do than sit around and wonder what we’re eating. You spend hours worrying about what my lackluster appetite is doing to my family. Oh, wait — no, that’s me.

Hours might be a slight exaggeration. It does take me longer than usual to come up with the good ol’ weekly meal plan. I just sit and stare at my notebook, then get up and flip through old notebooks and back-issues of Everyday Food, then sit down again and stare. It’s not that it’s so hard to come up with dinner ideas that are relatively cheap and quick, it’s throwing in the over-demanding variable of my appetite that’s the kicker.

If x = my appetite, then the following are true:
x + cheap ≠ healthy
x + healthy + quick = pricey
x = a real headache
and so on, and so forth.

Weekly menu aside, I can usually come up with something that I do really want. And it usually involves chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate milk, chocolate pudding. And, per my usual, not just any of these things will do. It’s usually a homemade version of chocolate (fill in the blank) that I want, but since I don’t usually have the energy to make it, I just sit and want. Trying to find anything in my kitchen that will fulfill that desire, and coming up empty. Even Nutella has a point of maximum enjoyment, and I passed it a month or so ago.

BUT. Tuesday afternoon, we were scheduled to eat leftovers for dinner, so I had the extra time and energy to whip up my long-desired batch of homemade chocolate pudding. You know what’s great about making chocolate pudding? No custard base is necessary — it is thickened with corn starch. So it’s practically as easy as the kind in a box — all it takes is some stirring on the stove, and the patience required to wait until it cools. I like to change up the version from the Joy of Cooking, omitting the bittersweet chocolate and adding some 2% milk in place of a portion of half-n-half (you know me — I’m not one to skimp on fat — but using the half-n-half and chocolate in this recipe makes a pudding that’s almost too rich to eat). If you get a hankering in the next few days, here’s my recipe:

Chocolate Pudding (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

This makes about 3 cups of pudding. You can either let it set up in one bowl, or pour it into a few ramekins for individual servings.

Mix together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Gradually stir in, until a smooth runny paste is formed:

  • 1/3 cup warm water

Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat. Stir in:

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk or
    1 1/4 cups lowfat (not skim) milk plus 1/2 cup half-n-half

Place into a small bowl:

  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch

Very gradually add, while stirring, until a smooth paste is formed:

  • 1/4 cup half-n-half

Add the cornstarch mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring to thoroughly combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Stirring briskly, bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in:

  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour the pudding into bowl or individual cups. To avoid a pudding skin, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface (this wrinkles up your presentation) of the pudding. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

Of course, served topped with

  • whipped cream

See if this pudding isn’t so much better than what’s in a box, you vow to never buy the box again.

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