meringue nest with strawberry sauce


I just ate about 6 peppermint Hershey kisses. Before that, I ate a rice cake smeared with nutella. My chocolate sweet tooth is rearing it's ugly head right now.

I think it's really easy to make a chocolate dessert or maybe something that is like that. Chocolate cake, apple charlotte,  strawberry shortcake .... all great desserts. But, not in line with the "healthier" direction that I received from Baby Sister for this dinner.

The meringue nest recipe was actually something I tagged way back in the beginning of Downton Abbey dinners. But, it slowly got passed by week after week in favor of something else amazing. This week was a great week for it to finally appear on the menu.

split pea soup


In the past when I've been documenting our Downton Abbey dinners I've tried to stick with writing in the order that we ate.

But this week, we started eating with split pea soup. 

It's not exciting. It's not sexy. 

Split pea soup is great but it's not a conversation starter. It's a sidebar. Nobody says "MAN, have you heard about that place's split pea soup?" Nope, instead people talk about rolls, centerpieces, napkins, and bathroom decor. 

But I don't want to take away from this soup. It's not bad, it just belongs with a meal ... not a standalone. Thankfully in this case, it had a meal and two happy faces ready to eat it. Additionally, it was crazy easy to make. As you can see in the ingredients list, there are 7 ingredients. That's simple. 

citrus haddock with bak choy and mushrooms

Then there was the time that it was the season finale of Downton Abbey.

It had been a few weeks since I attempted a full three course meal and so the finale was a great opportunity to get back in the swing of it. Baby Sister threw a bit of a wrinkle in the plans with the requests for a slightly healthier meal. I haven't exactly been making terrible things for us to eat but an asparagus cheese tart isn't the best thing on the earth. So I appreciated the challenge.

My original plan was for a 4 course meal that would kick off with oysters. But, nobody told all the stores in the North End that I wanted to do that. So everyone was sold out of oysters. Whamo. Moving on and down to three courses.
Not terrible. Oh, and we had champagne. I used to not have a taste for the bubbles but now I love them. I'm not a huge drinker but I'll never turn down a glass of bubbles.

attempting Auntie Annie's pretzels


I have a desperate weakness for Auntie Annie's pretzels.

When I see that bright blue sign, I can barely resist overpaying for some salty, buttery, carby delights. I'm not sure when they debuted the pretzel sticks to the product line but I'd consider those babies my gateway drug to the pretzel nuggets. Those suckers are delightful.

The thing that blows my mind about Auntie Annie's is that they seem to always be out of sticks and nuggets. I simply do not understand how their product management works. If it's 3pm on a week day and rush hour is about to approach, I'm unclear why you don't have any more salted sticks on the shelf or in the oven. Don't even get me started on those pretzel wrapped hot dogs.

nutella bread pudding

I'm fully aware that they didn't have nutella in Downton Abbey days.

I almost care about historical accuracy but then I realize I've been nearly nutella free since before Thanksgiving. And, I really wanted some nutella. I also really wanted to eat more of the vanilla ice cream that was in my freezer (leftovers from the Apple Charlotte).

All those things considered, I elected to make Nutella Bread Pudding. And let me tell you, as soon as I licked the knife clean... I knew I had made the right decision. That stuff is good. 

For this Downton Dinner, we kicked it off with the asparagus parmesan tart then had some Irish stew. It was a bit of a rich meal for sure. I figured it would make sense to try and make this a lighter version of bread pudding. A little bit of research meant using light cream as opposed to heavy cream and using french bread over some other types. Since I love buying fresh bread, I was on board with this. Plus, a French Baguette is only $2 at Bricco Panetteria.

Despite the anxiety that comes with whisking hot milk / cream into egg ... this was a really easy dessert. Great for making a bit in advance and great for ramekins. Oh, and we skipped drinks this time in part because we were just a little full and tired. But let it be known that we had some Irish Whiskey on hand should we have pushed forward with cocktails.

End result? This was great and super delicious. I could have used a bit more of the custard mixture but it all worked out just fine honestly. 

Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease your baking dish or dishes in preparation.

(Step 2) Cut the baguettes in half and make 6 sandwiches with the bread and nutella. Cut each sandwich into smaller pieces. Use your judgement on size, but not too small. Pile the sandwich pieces into the prepared baking dish.
(Step 3) In a small saucepan, combine the cream, salt, and vanilla and cook over medium heat until warm.

(Step 4) In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Slowly add the cream mixture, stirring constantly to make sure the eggs do not cook. Anxiety central.

(Step 5) Pour the mixture over the bread and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

(Step 6) Bake on the center rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil after about 20 minutes. The finished pudding will be golden brown on top.

(Step 7) You can either eat in the ramekins or remove to a slightly different dish. As you might be able to tell from the pictures, I removed from the ramekins and topped with some vanilla ice cream (leftovers from the Apple Charlotte!).

Adapted from this recipe 

Shopping List (for 2 people)

6 inches (or so) of baguette for each person = 1/2 a baguette total for 2
1/2 cups nutella
3/4 cup light cream
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1 large eggs

Happy Heart Day


Last year this is how I spent Valentine's Day.

This year, I skipped working out at the gym and came home. I stopped at the market and picked up a bag of pretzel rods for a whopping $3.49. Who let pretzels get so pricey? I almost stopped and picked up a fillet of haddock but there was a solid line at the fish market. I lingered outside my favorite Monica's Mercato and skipped that as well. While I was tempted by some meats and cheeses, I figured it was unnecessary. I gave up bacon again for Lent.

Recovering from Nemo


Right now I'm sitting on my couch after a weekend at home.

My body feels a little bit like it spent the weekend in Vermont or Maine. My face is a little pink from being outside, I'm sore, and perhaps a bit tired. But, that isn't what happened. Instead, I fell for the allure of my parent's house during a blizzard named Nemo. That just seems like a joke but apparently it's the truth.

I should have known better than to expect I could spend the weekend writing overdue blog posts and planning a trip to Italy. See those things require the internet ... and electricity ... and fingers to not be cold cold cold. But unlike the lessons learned during Hurricane Irene, I for some reason forgot about the wonders of living in New England and especially in a coastal community.

Thin Crust Pizza for the win


Earlier this week it was brought to my attention that I haven't been documenting.

I guess it's nice to know that someone noticed.

There are a lot of things that I need to document. Thin Crust Pizza dough. Nutella Bread Pudding. Amazing homemade pretzels. Fried pickles. And most recently ... Chicken Tikka Marsala. All of those except the pickles were a win.

Last week, I ended up spending a few days at home in the Burbs with my siblings. It resulted in lots of cozy time on the couch, hot fires, and perhaps even more exciting was using their dishwasher. I haven't had a dishwasher since 2006. There were also pre-9 AM trips to Target, walks in the snow, and marveling at the cheese singles collection in Shaws. I know. Crazy couple of days right?

Meet Eleanor


Eleanor is my new roommate. 

She refuses to pay rent but also doesn't take up much space so ... I guess that's okay. Plus, now at work I can use the phrase "I have a mouth to feed at home!". I'm not sure if it would be worse for people to realize that mouth belonged to a cat or a secret baby.

Moving on.

Eleanor and I have been together since Christmas Eve when she arrived in my arms wears a crimson ribbon and in a basket. I didn't think my parents watched a lot of romantic comedies but this is pretty much how I imagine it happens in a movie. 

When Eleanor first arrived, she weighed a trim 6+ pounds and didn't know how to play with toys. She also didn't like treats. I like to think that this is because she is from the streets and didn't have time for such superfluous activities as following strings and feathers around. In fact her behavior was so weird the first week that Baby Sister thought she might be blind. But, according to her first vet visit... Eleanor is very intelligent and skinny. 

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