White Chocolate Bread Pudding

I was so inspired by Cindy‘s white chocolate pudding that I just had to make it too! Ohmygosh was it ever so good!

16 ounces white chocolate chips (use the good ones)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half & half
1 tbsp vanilla
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 loaf white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 450*

Bring to a simmer the heavy cream and half & half, then add vanilla. In the meantime, melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler.

In the Kitchenaid, I blended the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow.

Once everything was ready, I used the Kitchenaid to mix it all together – the cream mixture, the white chocolate, and the egg/sugar mix.

Next, arrange the bread pieces into the baking dish – all along the bottom, up the sides, then make more layers until the bread is all used (there was a part of me that felt wrong by using just regular white bread and not some great baguette, but it turned out perfectly). This baking dish is 10″ in diameter:

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Pour the warm mixture from the Kitchenaid bowl into the baking dish, then press any pieces of bread that are sticking up into the mixture. You want all of the bread to soak up all the yummy white chocolate mixture and not one crumb of bread to be sticking out:

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cocoa powder, then sprinkle all over the top of the bread pudding:

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bake at 450* for 20-25 minutes. Watch it carefully to make sure the topping doesn’t get a chance to burn.

I would have had a better picture of this to show, but 99% of it was enjoyed within five minutes of serving it! Everyone went on & on about how great it was.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Shug Is Six Months Old Now

Shug is six months old now!

Oh does it ever seem like just yesterday that we were checking ourselves into the hospital so we could have him! If I could, I would go back to that very day and just live these past six months over and over again.

Southern Latkes

During the holiday of Shavout, everyone eats dairy. During Chanukah, everyone eats fried food. Over the eight days, we’ll have latkes, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried pickles, and of course, fried chicken. This year, we did something we had never done before.

It was something inspired by the recipe in last week’s New York magazine for latkes with jalapenos. Jalapenos! Jalepenos with latkes in New York Magazine.

That gave me the best idea! Latkes with a Southern Jewish twist. Rather than jalapenos, I would slice up some mini dill pickles and try those! Av loves fried pickles and I knew that these would turn out to be either genius or, well, disgusting. But they were really good!

Now, if you don’t like pickles, you are not going to like latkes with pickles. But if you do like pickles, even a little bit, the tee-tiny slices in these latkes lend just the very nicest bit of pickle-ness.

Here’s the recipe I made up – it’s enough to serve 4-6:
1 large baking potato
1 egg
1/2 onion
4 tbsp. cornmeal
4 mini dill pickles, sliced very-very thin
oil for frying
salt and pepper

Put oil in skillet, and put it on medium-high heat. Prepare a plate with a couple of layers of paper towel for draining the latkes.

In the Cuisinart, grate the onion and potato (I don’t skin my potatoes because they taste great with the skin).

In a large bowl, add the egg, cornmeal, and pickles to the potato and onion mixture, and stir well to combine.

Once the oil is nice and hot, place mounds of the potato mixture into the skillet. When one side is nice and golden brown, turn them over (season with salt and pepper on both sides)

Fried Pickle Latkes

Cook on the other side until golden brown, then place on the paper towel-covered plate to drain a bit:

Fried Pickle Latkes

So yummy!

Fried Pickle Latkes

The cornmeal was a good choice for these rather than the flour because fried pickles are typically made using an either all- or most- cornmeal mixture for frying.

Fried Pickle Latkes

If you try these, let me know what you think!

We have made latkes with sweet potatoes several times (which are *really* good) and I have thought about making them with rutabagas – I wonder how that would turn out?

When I was looking up these jalapeno latkes on Google, I found that other people have been really-really creative when it comes to latkes. This page at NPR has recipes for pesto latkes and spana-latke-kopitas.

Ornament Wreath

One of the other little crafts I’m making for some friends that celebrate Christmas is ornament wreaths.

They are really easy to make – all you need is floral stem wire (I used 26ga), scissors, ornaments, a wire wreath form, and garland. :

Ornament Wreath for Friends

First, I just tied one end of the garland to the wreath form with floral wire, then wound the rest of the garland around & around & around the form. I secured the other end of the garland to the form, and that part was all done.

Ornament Wreath for Friends

Ornament Wreath for Friends

The garland hides the wreath form and all the wiring for securing the ornaments (and it just looks nice).

Next, I took the ornaments one by one and put a length of floral wire through the hanging loop of the ornament:

Ornament Wreath for Friends

…and pushed the two ends of the wire through the wreath form:

Ornament Wreath for Friends

…and twisted those ends 4-6 times, then cut off the extra with scissors. Next I bend the ends back just the tiniest bit so that they can’t scratch anyone:

Ornament Wreath for Friends

I’m looking forward to giving these to some of my friends who celebrate Christmas!

Ornament Wreath for my Christmas Friends

Little Things

Well, Chanukah is over! It was really great – of course the very best part was that this year we got to share it with Shug.

Now I’m in the middle of taking down all the decorations, and before too long it will be time to put up things for Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day!

I know it is *so* cliched, but guess what one of Av’s presents was? A tie! Well it was actually something that he really wanted, so I didn’t feel so bad about it. The funny thing was, I saw this particular tie and had put it on my list of things to get him, and then he actually mentioned to me that there was a tie that had cotton bolls on it that he liked…It’s made by Southern Proper, and besides this design, they have lots of other ones that I really like…and their website is nice.

Av’s mom and dad really are those people that already have everything, so you have to be creative with what you get them. Av’s mom loves old typewriters – they have some really neat antique typewriters at their home (one day really soon I guess any typewriter will be an antique!). On Etsy, I found someone who does really neat things with old typewriter keys – Misty with Gemma Beads – and I ordered a custom typewriter key bracelet from her. This is seriously the best present I think we have ever gotten her! She loves it!

One of Av’s dad’s presents was a Pullman blanket. For him, this was a really great present because he loves to tell stories about how each summer as a child, he would board a Pullman car and take the train to summer camp up north. He went with his other friends, and they would take enough yummy Alabama fried chicken to last the trip. I bet they had all kinds of fun on the way up!

Toys, Toys, Toys

Shug has had so much fun opening his little Chanukah presents! He’s even happy with them just in the wrapping paper – he thinks it’s so much fun to hold them and he even tries to munch on them (although we don’t let him eat the paper!).

Most of the toys Shug gets come from either Oompa Toys or Moolka since those two companies carry toys made mostly either here in the US or in Europe, and although some of them are US- or Europe-designed but manufactured elsewhere, we try to avoid those for the most part (although I don’t mind the ones that are knit). Oompa especially makes it really easy to see where their toys are made.

We do try to avoid altogether toys with electronic music and flashing lights. I just want Shug to have toys that develop his creativity. When he gets older I can’t wait for him to do things with Lincoln Logs and playmobil and Legos! So far, we’ve gotten a couple of catalogs with those kinds of imaginative play toys – HearthSong and Back to Basics Toys.

Right now, I especially like the designs of the toys designed by Haba (Germany), Plan Toys (Thailand), Erzi (Germany), Latitude Enfant (France but knit in China), and others that Oompa and Moolka carry.

The great thing is that as Shug gets older, there are more and more really fantastic toys out there for each age group. I can’t wait to find them!

Okay, now I want to brag about my husband (who is going to be so embarrassed when he sees this but I am doing it anyway!!), who is *the* Jewish Santa Claus this year. He has been soooo generous – with the family my Mommy group sponsors at a shelter, the girl we ‘adopted’ this year from the state home, and for another family that we know. All I have to do is let him know that something is going on, and he jumps right on it. What a mensch! Love you!

Jingle Bell Wreath

One of the little handmade things I’m making this year for some of my friends who celebrate Christmas is jingle bell wreaths. I’ve seen these in magazines, and they are super-easy to make.

My first thought was to take apart a wire wreath form and use tin snips to open the circle and push the jingle bells on, but what works a million times better is to just use a wire with a gauge that is loose enough so that it is easily bendable but strong enough so that it holds its shape.

I had a bunch of long copper wire pieces from my orchid growers (they put these in the pots to hold the message card) so we just unbent these:

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

…and bent it (very easy) into a circle shape:

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

My wire-nose pliers were used to make a little C loop-back on one end so that the bells wouldn’t slide off, and that’s also what I bent the other end of the wire in to, to close the circle once the bells were on:

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

I just used regular jingle bells -these are big ones but I bought some smaller ones for other wreaths. They have all different sizes at the craft shop:

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

I just strung all the bells onto the form, and turned every other one a different direction once they were on the form so that it looked nice. I used tin snips to take off the extra length of wire, then used my little pliers to loop around that C shape on the other end to close it off. This is a small wreath, so I used some nice wide ribbon to hang the wreath:

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

Jingle Bell Wreath for Friends

I put the ribbon right over the closure so it can’t be seen at all.

…I think it turned out pretty nice:

Jingle Bell Wreath

I can’t wait to give these away as little presents!

Arlington Antebellum Home, Birmingham AL

This weekend, the Arlington home in B’ham was hosting an event called “Christmas at Arlington” where they had local floral designers come in and recreate in flowers and greenery how past Christmases would have appeared. I enjoy seeing how people decorate for holidays, and we had never been to Arlington before, so this was the perfect reason to drive over.

The only thing I really knew about Arlington was that it is the only surviving antebellum home in the area (it was built some time between 1845 and 1850, and B’ham wasn’t developed until after the war). It is here that Union troops planned for the burning of the University of Alabama.

It’s really pretty:

They had some wonderful hosts for the event. Av carried Shug in the Baby Bjorn so he could see everything really well (it’s Shug’s favorite way to go) and it was great. We had the very nicest older gentleman who was our guide through the front of the home, too.

I fell in love with this square grand piano:

This is the dining room. Underneath one end of the table is a switch in the floor which the person at the head of the table could push with their foot to alert the staff if they needed anything.

The house is furnished beautifully, but none of the furnishings are original.

Behind the home is another building where events can be catered (a wedding there on the grounds would be beautiful!).

I couldn’t find a website for Arlington, but there’s a little more about it at the bottom of this page.