how we all really feel about christmas {and chocolate pudding pie}

My mom asked me and a few others a question this past week that got me thinking.

Why is it, that we sometimes get bummed-out or fail to fully enjoy this time of year?

I paused. For me, I’ve been… I don’t want to use the word dreading, because that’s most certainly not true, but I’ve been a little sad about this Christmas. Sad because it’s the first one without my sister. She’s far far away, serving the people of Peru thousands of miles away. It's just not the same without her around.

This question was open to discussion and some people answered saying, “I think a lot of people don’t have family, or don’t like their family, and we’re expected to see our family during the holidays.” Another person said, “Maybe we don’t have enough money, and we’re not able to buy the gifts that we’d like to buy for friends and family, or any presents at all.” Another person said, “Well I think it’s because everything looks so dang wonderful and perfect on social media, and I’m here looking at my sad tree, and my piddle-of-a-house and thinking, man, my life doesn’t look that perfect!” 

I laughed out loud at this. 

Because yes, I think they’re are a lot of beautiful bloggers + instagramers out there who happen to live in beautiful spaces… and sometimes my heart aches that my home, isn’t as beautiful as the homes I’m looking at. Please tell me you can relate?

Anyway, these answers, were followed with another question - So how can we change the way we feel about Christmas or this time of year? 

Now before you go any further, let me just say, this question isn’t meant to imply that you or I hate Christmas, I LOVE Christmas, but it can get a little stressful and feel ever on-the-go constantly visiting others and I’m ‘bout-to-throw-this-cinnamon-roll-dough-out-the-window-kind-of-frustrating, etc. etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget to take time to remember what it’s all about… because for the most part the holidays are not exactly “all is calm, all is bright".  

So, the answer to: “What can we do to change the way we feel about this time of year” is forget ourselves and serve. Or as I like to say, "forget yourself and get to work". 

Which is funny and brings me full circle because while I’m concerned about not having beautiful wood floors or getting a parking spot while christmas shopping, my sister is all the way in a destitute part of Peru, on dirt floors and getting lost in service. Through her service, she’s shared so many incredible, happy-filled stories of peace. Which is true isn’t it? We do service because it brings us peace and to quote my dad, “What could possibly be better than that?” 

This Christmas I pray that we all feel a kind of peace. Maybe it’s peace while picking cheerios or candy cane bits out of your hair from a small little one after you've put them to bed or maybe it's a kind of peace you get when you leave freshly baked cookies on the doorstep of a widower or maybe it’s just looking up at the moon and missing someone but knowing they’re going to be alright; whatever and wherever you find your peace, I hope it is bright. 

Cheers to getting lost in the giving and not in the getting this Christmas. This one’s for you my friends. Oh how you’ve given so much to me by reading, eating and encouraging. I am so grateful for you. Happy Christmas. 

chocolate pudding pie with toasted meringue 

serves 8, adapted from bon appetite's, no bake chocolate cream pie with toasted meringue

When I lived in England I stayed with a British family for a while and they told me that every year, they looked forward to Christmas pudding. This could vary from family to family, but for them, it was a caramel, toffee soaked cake, rich, brown and sticky, usually festively dusted with a snow-fall of powdered sugar and a sprig of holly. Someday I’ll find a version of this type of pudding I love and share it with you, but for now, this is my Christmas pudding. This pie requires no baking, just some heat over the stovetop to make the custard and brown the butter for the crust... but if you’re feeling the need to be extra effortless, this crust makes a fantastic base for an ice cream pie. Simply cool the crust and fill it with some softened high-quality ice cream, and top with fresh homemade whipped cream and freeze for a few hours. John made me an ice cream version of this pie for my birthday. Anyway you want to serve it, you can’t go wrong. xo

note: You’ll probably need a food processor and a blow torch for this one. It’s not necessary, but it does make it heck of a lot easier. Please read my note about the meringue below before making it. 

8 ounces / 130g of chocolate wafer sandwich cookies (I like “whole foods” brand of chocolate sandwich cookies, they're not perfect, but they're better than what's hidden in an oreo)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned 

½ teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces / 170g  bittersweet chocolate, melted and divided

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons arrowroot or organic cornstarch 

1 ½ cups / 360ml organic heavy cream

2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder

1 ½ cups / 360ml organic, whole milk 

¾ cup / 180ml organic, sweetened condensed milk 

pinch of kosher salt

for the meringue: 

4 egg whites

¾ cup / 90g powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

 

to make the crust: 

Brown butter over medium heat in a small pot until it bubbles, browns and becomes fragrant. Watch it closely to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat immediately once it browns. 

Blend chocolate wafer sandwich cookies (filling included) until they resemble a fine crumb. Add browned butter and mix/pulse until combined. Mixture should resemble wet sand. 

Press crumb mixture into pie dish (no bigger than 9 inch / 23cm) pressing to form a crust. Refrigerate and set aside. 

to make the pudding:

Whisk egg yolks and arrow root and set aside. 

In a medium saucepan heat milk with the cocoa powder whisking until combined. To the cocoa mixture, add the cream and sweetened condensed milk until it reaches barely a simmer. Take a measuring cup and scoop out about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture. Whisking constantly, slowly add this hot milk mixture to your egg yolk mixture, being careful not to curdle your eggs. (tip! DON'T add the hot milk mixture too fast, a thin, slow and steady stream wins the race.;) Add tempered yolk mixture back to the saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat for a few minutes or until mixture has thickened.

When mixture has thickened immediately remove from heat and whisk in 6 ounces / 170g of the melted chocolate.

Set the pudding aside to cool.

the rest:

Brush the bottom of the crust with the remaining 2 ounces/ 57g of melted chocolate. 

Pour pudding into pie crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, preferably overnight, covered. 

to make meringue (make meringue right before serving, DO NOT top your pie with meringue and let it sit for few hours. The meringue will make your pie crust soggy and your pudding soupy, it only takes a minute or two to whip up so don’t fret. Also, meringue is raw eggs, so if you have elderly, young, or pregnant guests, whipped cream will be a better option. Also, I doubled the meringue to make for a really high pie, but it's not necessary): 

Whisk egg whites, powdered sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sharp cloud-like peaks should be easily seen and formed. Form meringue on the pie and toast with a blow torch until peaks turn from snow-white to gold-brown. If you don't have a blow torch, "they" say you can broil it in your oven for a few minutes but I've never had steady results with that approach. 

Serve and savor and don’t talk about how many calories are in pudding. It’s Christmas. 

to make whipped cream instead of meringue: 

Whip 2 cups / 240ml heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon of honey or ¼ cup / 30g powdered sugar. Beat in an electric mixture until soft peaks form. Pour and shape onto pie. Don’t try to toast your whipped cream or you’ll have a melted mess on your hands. ;)  

why is this good for me?

Sometimes it's good for us to just make and indulge in something rich and delicious. Please share this, people go crazy for it - I must say, it's pretty stinking wonderful, especially for your family's Christmas pudding.