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This summer has been endless fun in the sun summer.  As I’m writing this we just got home a few hours ago after a weekend in Palm Desert in 110 weather with roughly 12 families most of whom we already know but some new ones who are awesome!! It was a wonderful time and it came together great!!!

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About four weeks ago Oliver and I left California and headed to good ole’ New Jersey.  We have been doing this trip for the last three years.  We spend a week at the beach in Ocean City, NJ with my family and another week in my hometown.  Jonathan met us a few days after we arrived so he could be with us at the beach and some time after as well.

The beach was great, weather was near perfect.  Water temperature cold but not that cold. Sometimes we would go down to the beach in the morning and other times we would head down later in the day around 3 and stay til dinner.  Other times we would head to the beach after dinner and let the kids run in the water while we watched and enjoyed some wine. We went to the boardwalk a few times, which Oliver could not get enough of, mostly because he was able to ride rides without us and ride with his cousin who is four. Super cute and sweet to watch them!!

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This trip landed around the 4th of July.  Wenonah, my hometown has a small town celebration that consist of a parade, games in the park for kids, fire truck rides for kids, a beer garden for the adults, and so many open house parties in the neighborhood it is hard to keep count on where to go to next.  All in all it is a little slice of Americana.  In fact the 4th of July parade was named one of the top 10 small town parades in America by travel magazines.  One thing I love, every 4th of July in Wenonah before the parade starts the fire hall sets off it’s siren alarm to wake the town for the parade. Although it is 15 minutes before the parade, it is a great tradition to get everyone excited and ready to celebrate.  Kids and adults love it all the same.  The kids love it for the parade (free candy gets thrown all throughout the parade), games in the park such a the peanut scramble which is geared towards toddlers,  picking up peanuts and putting them in their bags, and of course fire truck rides.  This year Oliver was having no part of the firetruck ride as they will not let adults on anymore (not sure why) so needless to say he was basically like no way am I getting on this firetruck with out my mom or dad.  The adults all gather later in the beer garden and catch up with old friends and neighbors.  I saw friends from high school that I have not seen in 20 years.  Pretty remarkable to pick up after 20 years!!

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Lots of wonderful memories and a lot of great dinners shared together.  Our last night in NJ we made so much food.  Two things I made I want to share with you all.  Popsicles are a must in the summer, I made some with blueberries and some with cherries with coconut milk as the base.  And a nice crostini with smashed peas and mint with feta cheese spread below the smashed peas.

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There are so many photos that I want to share from this trip so instead of flooding this post with pictures I made a video montage of our time in NJ.

 

Coconut Popsicle Ingredients:

2 cans whole coconut milk (you can find it in ethnic foods isle)

1/4 cup sugar

1-1 1/2 cup blueberries (or any other kind of fruit that is in season)

 

Directions for pops:

Place your berries in a saucepan and cook on low for about 10 minutes.  Or until kind of mashed, naturally.  At the same time heat your coconut milk in a saucepan with sugar.  Bring it to a boil and then take off of heat.  Fill popsicle holders with with milk and berries.  Freeze until firm.

 

Crostini smashed peas Ingredients:

1 cup shelled peas

10 leaves of mint

3-4 large squares of feta

1 lemon

1 baguette

Olive oil for spreading on bread

 

Directions for Crostini:

Heat oven to 350.  Brush sliced bread with olive oil.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until they become somewhat toasted.  Try not to over toast them as you want to keep the bread inside soft.  While bread is baking steam your peas. and chop your mint.  Once your bread is done, your peas should be done about the same time.  Pore peas in a bowl and smash. Once the peas are smashed add a splash of lemon juice, olive oil, mint, salt and pepper for flavor.  Take your feta and spread it onto the bread and top with smashed peas. Enjoy.

 

 

 

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I hope you all had a great New Year.  We kept it mellow after flying home from our Christmas holiday in Texas.  Like every year since Oliver came along, it went by in a blur.   But a lot of amazing things did happen.  Oliver’s speech has blown up. It’s amazing to have a somewhat of a conversation with him.

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Oliver is fully potty-trained, no diapers at all!!! Not even at night. I should pat myself on the back for this, but really Oliver did this all on his own!!!

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Meme came out to celebrate Easter with us.

 

I took my first girls trip since Oliver was born to celebrate all our 40th birthdays.  We had such a great time that we may make this an annual trip.

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Love all these ladies something special.

Oliver turned two and I can’t believe as I’m writing this he is two and half.  We had a small brunch for him in the park.  The plan for his third birthday is a trip to Hawaii for us three, lets hope this will happen.

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Oliver learning how to echo in the toilet.

 

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Pops and Oliver building.

 

We had many visitors. Always both sets of grandparents come every year, but we also had visits from my brother Justin and his girlfriend Jen.  We went on a few brewery tours here in LA and in Santa Barbara, since Justin is about to open a brewery with this two good buddies in New Jersey.

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Jonathan’s brother David also came for a visit along with his wife Lo, daughters Leá, and Cloé.  We went the beach, Disney and a Halloween party, and my niece Leá looked at a UCLA and Cal Tech.  I met Leá when she was about 6, it’s crazy to think that she will be embarking off to college in a year and half.

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Jonathan’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They threw a huge party.  We all pitched in and made lots of fun and memorable things to surprise them with at the party.

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Then in August we went to New Jersey to spend a week at the beach with my whole family at the beach.  Even though I’m not that big of a beach person we always have a great time because Oliver really loves it.  Oliver went berry and nectarine picking with his cousin Audrey for the first time, and this he loved especially after because he got a pure fruit slushy after picking.

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Oliver and his cousin Audrey running around like monkeys our first night at the beach.

 

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Summertime buddies in NJ, Bella and Alex.

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I started school in September to receive a degree in psychology and if all goes the way we want to eventually get a masters in psychology to be a licensed family therapist.  This will take a lot of time but I’m excited for it all and I’m looking forward to reaching my goals.

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Oliver and his buddy Emerson playing in the water at Grand Park

In October we went to Albuquerque for the balloon fest.  This was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and lucky for Jonathan he was invited for a balloon ride from the french team with his dad. Truly memorable.

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Thanksgiving was spent with one of our favorite families, the Allison/Marrin crew.  We had such a great evening and even spent the night.

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Ho ho ho Santa with Audrey, Ian was there too, but clung to his mama as he knew what was waiting for him around the corner.

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My mom retired in December so Oliver and I went home to New Jersey to celebrate with her. Oliver also experienced his first time ice skating and I have to say I think he did really well for a two year old.

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The ladies at my mom’s retirement party….my sister Jocey, my mom, me, and Jen, my brother’s girlfriend (seester).

 

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We spent Christmas in Houston with my in-laws and siblings and others.  I think this was really the first year that Oliver understood Christmas and Santa.  We had a great time. It was 80 degrees most days. I’m not complaining.  Jonathan’s grandfather aka Pops moved from Katy, Texas to Fredericksburg, Texas, about three and half hours outside of Houston.  We spent a night up there so we could really spend sometime with him and the rest of the family.  Jonathan’s aunt Diane and uncle Paul live there, along with Jonathan’s cousin Monica her husband Jim and two of their three children. They all live on a big piece of property with three separate houses.  It’s great that Pops is surrounded by so much love!!!  Oliver really loved the fact that they had chickens, big dogs, and a golf cart to ride around in.

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radish and ricotta sandwiches on pumpernickel for our holiday party.

 

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Jonathan and I at our holiday party.

 

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Camille hosted a gingerbread house decorating party.

We ended our trip in Austin with our friends Billie and her husband Jonathan.  They have two kids Elliot and Oliver, and our Oliver is in between them both age wise, this was nice and they could play and watch movies together while the parents kicked back talked and enjoyed some wine.

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Enjoying some one on one with my love in Texas.

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Oliver enjoying his first hot chocolate.

And for the New Year we spent it eating pizza and drinking champagne in bed watching Tangled with Oliver.  We were invited to parties but had little to no energy once we got off the plane.

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Once we got home we settled back in to our habits and life continued the way it always did before.  I normally have a Sunday ritually of making pancakes, but since it was new years weekend I decided to make my moms famous french toast.  Actually it was requested.  We started the new year with warm heavenly french toast in our bellies and Oliver went on his first bike ride on his own bike.  I have a good feeling 2016 will filled with wonderful memories and new experiences for us all.

 

Baguette French Toast ingredients:

1 baguette sliced up on an angle

2 cups whole milk ( you can substitute whatever milk replacement you’d like)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla, or 1 vanilla bean scraped

1/3 cup sugar (this optional, but it helps caramelize the outside of the bread)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions for toast:

Slice up the bread on an angle and place in 9×11 baking sheet.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the bread.  Make sure the bread is coated on both sides. Cover and place in the frig overnight. In the morning heat up your griddle or pan, place a tab of butter in the pan and fry up your toast.  It is heavenly, crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Enjoy!!!

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…Winnie The Pooh.

I started school in September, so between taking care of Oliver full time and taking classes, I have very little time for anything.  I haven’t talked with friends lately, or my husband which is sad, because they are my lifeline.  We did however go to Albuquerque last week to visit my in-laws, brother and sister-law.  It was quite a trip.  We were there for the balloon fest.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  You hang out in an open field with hot air balloons lifting off right next to you.  It was amazing in every sense.  I think 300+ balloons went up that day.  My sister-in law is from France and used to do PR for the French team from Lorraine France.  We went to say hi to her friends and the next thing I know, Jonathan is boarding their balloon.  And he did it just like that, he was invited to join their ride and up he went.  I on the other hand turned it down the second I was invited to go.  Oliver had what I would consider to be one of his most memorable melt downs.  He watched his daddy walk away and go up into a balloon and float away.  Not happy, not happy at all.  Tears for a long time. I’m happy Jonathan got to experience the balloon, it looked amazing from the video he shot from above.  And Oliver was especially happy when he saw his daddy again.  It was a lovely day and they even invited us back to have a picnic with them.  A truly memorable day.  It was a great trip and even though I was glued to my computer most of the time, it was still nice to get away for a bit.

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We just celebrated our seven year wedding anniversary.   And because we are so busy we aren’t actually going to celebrate til next week.  I did however have some time to make a cake.  Nothing fancy, I wanted simple, so that’s what I made.  A chocolate cake with a seven minute frosting.  I ask you who wouldn’t love this cake.  No one I know.  Oliver especially loved the frosting.  He kept saying “more on spoon”.  AHHH I love this kid.  Jonathan loved it too.  A nice surprise for him when he came home from work.

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Chocolate cake ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp)

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

3 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup butter milk

3/4 cup hot coffee

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 2/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions for cake:

Pre heat oven to 325.  Butter and flour 3 8″ cake pans.  Mix your butter til ribbon like, next add sugar, and one egg at a time.  Once that is incorporated add your vanilla.  Next you want to get your wet and dry ingredients together in separate bowls.  You wet will be buttermilk, coffee and cocoa powder, and your dry will be the rest.  Start by adding your dry and ending with your dry.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Start checking your cakes around 30 minutes.

 

Ingredients for frosting:

2 cups sugar

8 egg whites

1 cup corn syrup

Directions for frosting:

Add all of your ingredients to a heat proof bowl.  You will be cooking this over boiling water, double broiler method.  You will need to use a candy thermometer.  Once the mixture has reached 130, take off boiling water add attach to your mixer using the whisk attachment.  Mix on medium to high speed, until it is white and fluffy cloud like.

 

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We’ve been attending wine tastings at this park for about 8 year summers now.  Before Oliver and before we were married and now we still go because I think everyone in LA takes their child here because it’s acceptable to go wine tasting with your child in tow and no ones judging!!  The cool thing about this park, is it’s an art park, called Barnsdall Art Park . Up on the hill that over looks the city is home to a beautiful museum, that houses art to many up and coming artist, a house that was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it also offers art classes for the young and old.  It’s one of those hidden gems in the city that a lot of people didn’t know about until they started doing wine tasting up on the hill.  Jonathan and I used to live down the street so we would just walk there.  It used to be $15 when it started, but now eight years later it’s $30.  We don’t mind paying it because most of the money is a donation to the foundation.

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I love picnicking.  Who doesn’t especially when wine is involved.  One thing I really do love to make is fried chicken, you can from my past posts. It’s an easy thing to make and doesn’t seem to get messy, and everyone loves it.  This time I decided to make waffles along with the fried chicken, little bites.  Even less messy.

 

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We were celebrating two birthdays, and the end of summer.  Such a great way to spend a Friday night.  I have a great group of lady friends, and we all had babies around the same time.  So we often spend our birthdays together, or other things we want to celebrate.  It’s great to have the support system we have with each other.  To celebrate the birthdays I made PB&J cupcakes.  I stuffed the cupcakes with a really tasty concord grape jam, used fresh PB for the icing, and topped them with concord grapes.  It was a great evening and an amazing way to kick off the holiday weekend.

 

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Picnic photos courtesy of Nikki Garcia

 

Fried Chicken Ingredients:

6-8  organic chicken thighs skin on and bone in

1 quart buttermilk

3 eggs

6 cups flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

 

Directions for fried chicken:

Soak your chicken in buttermilk for at least 12 hours, or over night.  Once your done soaking it pour out the buttermilk and add 3 eggs and whisk.  Next add all your dry ingredients together.  I like to use a cast iron pan to fry my chicken.  Add the oil of your liking, I use canola oil.  Heat it up once it’s hot enough, or 350.  At this point I heat my oven to 375.  Dip your chicken in the buttermilk mixture and then the flour mixture.  Place in hot oil.  It’s important to not over crowd the chicken.  Once they are golden on each side place on lined parchment lined baking sheet.  Once all the chicken is fried, put in the oven an cook for about 25 minutes.   You can check the internal temp of the chicken if you feel should, it should be 165.  Once it’s done let it cool for a bit

For waffles use a Belgium waffle cooker.  I only filled the it up half way, because I wanted small squares.  Once they’re done and cooled pull apart.  Cut up your chicken and place a piece on top to the waffle.  Use a tooth pic to hold them together.  Top with honey or maple syrup.

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Warning…warning….. this post is going to be flooded with photos of my favorite two year old!!!  Our boy turned two.  I can’t believe he is two. Oliver is such a sweet, caring, loving oh so loving, and adorable boy.  There are days when I can not believe that I get to be his mama, me!!!  We are a pack, we all are!!!  I’ve realized that every birthday of his brings on new emotions that I feel about him.  When I say two is a magical number, it is, because everyday I feel like I know him more, then the day before if that even makes sense.  Or maybe it’s that I feel closer to him, then I did the day before.  You think how on earth can that be possible, but it is.  Here’s an example we go to story time every Monday, and I love I truly love watching him sing and dance and get excited.  And I know just how lucky I am that I get to be there with him, and I get to see that smile on his face.  I seriously get weepy when I see him do this, or whenever it’s something that gives him pure joy.  I see it over and over, and still have to hold back the tears in public and not make a coo coo fool of myself.  I don’t tire of it, I love it!!! I love this child beyond what I ever thought I could or would love another.  My baby is two, how did this happen so quickly, my baby is two!!!!

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And yes I do have a recipe here, in between all my weepiness.  Our friend just had a baby girl, and get this she had her on Oliver’s birthday.  I was going to make some food to send over to them, but instead decided to make chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies are seriously my favorite cookie ever…ever!!!  I change the recipe all the time, but here is the one I used this time…enjoy!!!

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I leave you with my favorite pictures of Oliver from 1-2 years

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Brown sugar chocolate chip cookies with lots and lots of salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbino (raw) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (or the flour of your liking)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, or whatever chocolate you like coarsely chopped
  • 4 -6 tablespoons flaked sea salt (maldon)

Directions:

Chop your chocolate into chunks. Beat butter until smooth.  Add sugar, beat for about a minute.  Add one egg at time after sugar is combined, then vanilla.  Push ingredients down, then mix again.  Next add all your dry ingredients…..DO NOT ADD THE FLAKED SALT TO YOUR DRY INGREDIENTS, THIS IS A TOPPER!!!  Then with a wooden spoon mix in your chocolate.  Roll into log onto plastic wrap.  Chill for an hour.  If you want you can just make these as drop cookies right away, you don’t have to wrap them into log if you don’t have time.  Pre-heat oven 375, once they’ve cooled for an hour.  Cut them into 1/2 slices.  Top with flaked salt. Bake for 9-11 minutes.  Once they’re cripy on the outside but soft in the center, take out of oven and let them sit on the sheet for 10 minutes.  They will still bake a little more.  The key to a good chocolate chip cookie, is the cripy edge and the chewy center.  If you don’t them this way, then you stink, just kidding.. cook them for about 11-12 minutes, and still let them cool on the tray for 10 minutes.  Then cool on wrack and then eat…yum yum…enjoy!!!!

 

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Well I think the weather forecaster may have read my 80 degree taco post, because we’ve been having what some might call winter here.  Its been rainy and in the 60’s during the day, and 40-50’s at night.  So needless to say there has been some sweater wearing, jackets, and the heat is on.  In the past when it would rain Jonathan and I would go to breakfast in the morning, or I would make a pancake breakfast, and the rest of the day we would lounge around watching movies.  Times have change, and with a toddler in tow, you have to get creative, and keep their attention and avoid as many breakdowns as possible.  So we baked this weekend, went on hikes when it wasn’t raining, read lots of books, crafted, and watched a few movies later when Ollie was in bed.

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My new mom friend invited us over for a Sunday supper.  I’m fortunate that a lot of my really good friends had babies around the same time I did.  So its always awesome hanging out with them.  The downfall is most of them have gone back to work, or school.  Which is something I myself will be doing next year, going back to school after 20 years.  That’s something for another post.  Trying to make new friends besides the friends I already have has been difficult for me.  Trying to connect to someone I really like, is not so easy.  I’ve sorted out the crazy mom’s and I’ve learned my lesson to not give my number out to just any mom.

 

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I met my new friend Sara through a client and good friend of mine.  She kept trying to get us to connect but both us where not really interested.  Maryjane finally convinced us that we would really like each other.  And she was right, we do like each other.  Its so nice to meet someone new, and actually like them.  They had us over for dinner on Sunday and it was great.  Some of her family came too, that also have little ones.  It’s nice so the kids can have fun and run around.  She made a delicious bolognese sauce with pasta, and a really good salad.  I wanted to make something that was suiting the rainy and cold day.  So I made a blood orange upside down polenta cake, served with a bourbon creme anglaise.  It came out good.  I liked it and I think everyone else did too, I think.  I normally have an after picture of the it, but I forgot so you’ll have come up with your own image!! Enjoy!

 

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Ingredients for cake:

  • unsalted butter 2 sticks plus 3 tablespoons, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2-3 thinly sliced blood oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup fine cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

First I cooked the orange slices in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the peel is translucent.  Take them out lay in a 9 inch cake pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  At this time preheat your oven to 350. In a saucepan add 3 Tablespoons of butter along with your brown sugar.  Cook until the butter is melted and all is incorporated.  Pour over orange slices.   Mix butter until smooth, then sugar, and one egg at a time.  Next add your vanilla and sour cream.  Then your dry ingredients.  Bake for 40-50 minutes.  Test with a tooth pick. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes and then flip your cake out onto the plate you want to use for serving.

 

Ingredients for bourbon creme anglaise:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Directions:

 

  • Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside.
  • Place milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until thick and light. Slowly pour in half of the hot milk, while stirring constantly. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in bourbon.
  • Place saucepan over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat.
  • Strain creme anglaise through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Set bowl in ice water bath and stir creme anglaise until cooled. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, up to 1 day.
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