WIP Wednesday & Kitchen Musings

Well, the good news is that I’m half-way across Sleeve Island! I finished up the first sleeve of my never-damn-ending Scottish Ale pullover.

I’m so dang sick of this sweater, it’s unreal. But I am not allowing myself to touch another project until it’s finished, because if I don’t get it done soon, I never will. I am ready to put this one in my rearview mirror for sure. I can already tell the sleeves are not sized very well, and it looks like other knitters had similar thoughts based on project notes in Ravelry. I don’t care at this point, though. I will finish it, and if it doesn’t fit, oh damn well.

In unrelated news, we’ve been going strong on our 20% better initiative. I put in an order to the farm that included beef, pork, chicken, sausage, and local butter (Morrell Dairy Farm) and honey (Hummer & Son).

These quiet January days let me slow down and be a little more methodical with cooking and menu-planning, which has helped keep the waste to a minimum and given our budget a break from the frenetic entertaining of the holidays. I’ve been leaning into all the comfort foods. I used the smoked ham hocks for a big pot of purple hull peas, the sausage for Monday red Beans and rice with cornbread, and the ground sausage for Saturday morning biscuits and gravy (with bacon, eggs, and cheese grits…well, because). At the Husband’s request, the chicken took a decadent gravy bath and landed on a pile of buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes, while the honey added sweetness to a new roll recipe that I test-drove during a baking binge. I’ll smother the pork chops in a mushroom mustard-cream sauce tomorrow night, and the local butter will jazz up carrots that need to evacuate my crisper drawer. Overall, I would say our kitchen energy feels both cozy and intentional.

Speaking of the kitchen, my goal to bake more this year is in full swing, and I’ll give an update at the end of the month, but here’s what was on the menu this week:

I made this Brownie Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting, which was a big hit with everyone. I will note that the brownie took a wee bit longer to bake than the recipe stated, but otherwise, anything with cookie butter has my vote,

I also baked these Nutella Cookies, leaving out the chopped nuts so the kids wouldn’t riot. The Husband absolutely loved them, and I think they will make the permanent rotation.

Finally, my local botanical shop released a special edition Mardi Gras candle, and you can bet I did not pass Go on my way to snatch that up.

So, that’s the Wednesday update. I’m off to get dinner started. Oh, and guess what? Good thing Bean and I did not murder each other in the making of her science fair project. That booger won first place. Will wonders never cease…

 

It’s Time for Some Quiet

Whelp, it’s 2023, for better or worse. 2022 flew past like a wild wind, and while I didn’t accomplish many of my personal goals, I can’t say that we didn’t have a pretty full year. So, here’s the recap of the highlights:

Books Read: 43

I read a little bit less than my goal, but I did better than I thought I would. My top three G-rated reads were:

  • Paperback Crush. This is a non-fiction work that takes a retrospective look at the teen novels of the 70s-90s. If you grew up on Babysitter’s Club, Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, etc., this walk down memory lane is definitely worth it.
  • Kitchen Front. I’m not usually a fan of historic fiction, but I ended up really enjoying this one. Set during WWII, it follows a group of women, each trying to win a recipe contest, but the recipes must be based on the government’s wartime rations.
  • The Sweet Taste of Muscadines. A southern coming-home story with rich characters, scenery, and family secrets.

As a side-note, I read plenty of trashy romance novels this year, but that’s between me and my Kindle.

New Baking Recipes Tried: 14

While I am a pretty confident cook, I’ve never been much of a baker. I have plenty of recipes I grew up with, but I tend to get terribly impatient with baking. I did not attempt nearly as many new recipes as my set goal, but something is better than nothing, I suppose. My top two favorites were the Basque Lemon Ginger Cheesecake I saw on Food Network and the Jam Thumbprint cookies from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. (Yes, that sounds basic, but I ate those damn things for breakfast for a week)

Finished Knits: 9

Obviously, that is way lower than my usual year, but this queen-size beast of a blanket damn near killed me. My finished objects included two baby blankets, one sweater, two hats, one pair of slippers, one pair of mittens, and a novelty business card holder. I also won five first place ribbons and one second place at the state fair.

Places Traveled: 7

This was certainly the travel year because we celebrated a lot of milestones. G-Man graduated in 2020 amid Covid so he missed out on all the things, Bear graduated, and the husband and I celebrated 20 years. I loved the Italy Trip, and DFW Fiber Fest. Cancun was an impromptu but super-fun. Bear finally got to use the concert tickets he received for his 16th birthday…in you guessed it, 2020.

We had so many other things going on throughout the year that by the time we hit this week, I think we were all feeling ready for some quiet. Or maybe the past week of Hell has me thinking so. Yep, it’s science fair project time, my friends. That veritable torture chamber for parents. In related news, I’ll never get ice from a fast-food ice machine again:

As for 2023, I have set some goals and have my planner in order (Commit30 if you are wondering):

Kitchen:

  • Continue expanding my baking skills, both savory and sweet. I hope to try at least 30 new recipes this year.
  • Expand my pasta skills. Italy inspired me soooooo much and I would love to dive deeper into this one.
  • Finish the family cookbook revisions and re-print it for everyone. This will be a big project. Now that my favorite software is defunct, I’m struggling to find one I like.
  • Be a little more adventurous in recipes and cuisines.
  • Source more locally (I’ll talk about this in a future post).

Fiber Arts

  • Say it with me: KNIT FROM STASH. My yarn stash is ridiculous, and I’m committed to knitting from it exclusively. However, my husband is taking me to Rhinebeck this year, so…
  • Learn to spin. I received a spinning wheel last year and have been too intimidated to really get into it.
  • Finish at least two UFOs that have been languishing away.
  • Finish Bean’s needlepoint stocking.

Health/Personal

  • Fix this trainwreck. ’nuff said.
  • Less phone time. I did not realize just how much time I waste scrolling when I could be doing things that actually bring me joy.
  • Realize skincare is a thing.
  • Not use profanity during my mammogram. (yeah….we can dream, can’t we?)

So, there ya have it. I’ve posted before that I actually like setting resolutions/goals at the beginning of the year. Some years were complete busts, but some actually worked out. It doesn’t hurt to try. 2022 was amazing, but now that I’m past the busiest year I can remember, I’m ready for some quiet time to focus ahead.

After I get past this science fair bull$**t.

**Usual disclaimer: This blog is not monetized or sponsored. The links I provide ARE NOT affiliate links, they are just for your convenience. All reviews are of products I pay for with my own money, and I have no problem telling you the truth about them. If you see an ad on my site, that comes from WordPress, my site host, as the toll of free blogging. I have no control over the targeted ads they display to you**

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread Mini-Muffins: My New Favorite Party Appetizer

So, I’ve shared Mom’s Hot Sausage Cornbread recipe in the past, but I confess, it was not my favorite. The Husband (and most guys in my life) love it, because between the sausage, corn, and spice, what’s not to like? I still felt like the recipe itself was a wee bit weird. Was it an appetizer? Was it a side dish? Was it the product of too many cocktails on a Saturday night? Originally, Mom baked this in a 9×13 casserole and served it in squares, so it’s easy to see my confusion. The sausage and peas lend enough protein that I felt it never really fit into a main dish or side dish category, and serving it in squares with a fork definitely didn’t seem like an appetizer either.

However, as I was doing extensive recipe testing in anticipation of both the holiday season and the big family party, I had the idea to see if this could work as a handheld appetizer. I was worried because honestly, the filling-to-cornbread ratio made me question the structural integrity of the finished product. I rounded up the troops (i.e., the neighbors, Husband, and Heathens) and got to cooking.

Whelp, I am happy to report that we absolutely love this iteration so much more than the original. By cooking the cornbread in the mini muffin pans, we had more browning on all sides (rather than just top and bottom), which added better texture and flavor in comparison to the first recipe. If you are an edge-piece-eater of the things, you already get it.

Now, here’s the deal. This works if you follow some basic rules and suggestions:

  • You must spray the mini muffin tin with nonstick spray
  • DO NOT be tempted to try to remove muffins post-bake prematurely. They will fall apart. There’s just enough batter to hold to them together with a wing and a prayer. Letting the muffins set up is crucial to success.
  • Once you let these cool, the best way to get them out is to run a butter knife around the edges then use a spoon to scoop them out. Don’t expect appearance perfection, so refer to the picture above. I promise the taste makes up for the less-than-Instagram worthy appearance.
  • It’s better to let them cool, get them out of the tin, then reheat them in a warm oven or microwave for serving. If you aren’t too concerned about perfect appearances, go ahead and evacuate them at the 20-30 minute rest mark. They will still be plenty warm.
  • You can absolutely make them ahead. Store in the fridge, then reheat in the oven or microwave. They are best warm, not piping hot.
  • Finally, serving ideas: Mom traditionally suggested salsa and/or sour cream, but Bear swears they are better with the tiniest hint of a honey drizzle. Either way, it’s still guaranteed to be unique, tasty, and not yo mama’s cheese ball.

 

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas Cornbread Mini Muffins

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 44 mini muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound hot bulk pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15-oz) can black-eyed peas drained and rinsed
  • 1 (7-oz) can cream-style corn

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 for convection ovens). Spray two 24-count mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.
  • In a skillet, add the sausage, chopped onion, and minced jalapeno. Cook over medium-low heat, breaking up the sausage as you go (like browning ground beef). Season with salt and pepper. Cook until sausage is browned, and onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together corn muffin mix, eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil until blended. Stir the cooled sausage mixture, cheese, black-eyed peas and cream-style corn.
  • Using a cookie (aka 1-ish-inch) scoop, divide batter into 44 of the muffin tins. These muffins really do not rise much so they can be filled to the top of the cups. Bake for 30 minutes or until nice and browned (see pictures).
  • LET MUFFINS COOL AND REST 30 MINUTES or they will fall apart. Run a butter knife around the edges and lift out gently with a spoon. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream on the side, or a tiny drizzle of honey on top. It's better to let these cool completely and rewarm them than to try and evacuate them from the pan early. Store leftovers in the fridge, and reheat in a 250-degree oven or in the microwave until warm.
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Our Easter Menu 2022 and a Carrot Soufflé Recipe

I finally planned out the Easter menu, because procrastination is apparently my thing this Spring. The days are flying by this year, for sure.

While I know that ham is traditional on many a southern Easter table, we usually opt for lamb. My family goes bananas for my grilled lamb chops, and with such easy prep and a fast cook time, I’m not juggling cook times and oven space as I often am on other holidays. I also aim for dishes that I can prep ahead, then just toss in the oven or on the grill come lunch time. I’d rather be hanging out and visiting with everyone than stuck in the kitchen on a holiday.

So, here’s the rundown of the big meal:

Maple Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops

Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 375 for 10-15 minutes)

This fruit salad

Garlic breadsticks (shaped and baked into rolls instead of sticks)

and Carrot Soufflé (see recipe below).

However, if you are hell-bent on ham, I love this Maple Orange Bourbon Ham, and this Jalapeno Honey Glazed Ham. Both of these would go well with this menu, though I’d switch out the rolls for biscuits.

As for dessert, I will probably whip up a carrot cake, assuming my lost motivation shows up sometime soon. Or maybe break with tradition and do a chocolate fondue-type spread. Now, here’s hoping that I can actually get my hands on everything I need, as the grocery store has been looking a little on the lean side lately.

Carrot Souffle

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds carrots peeled and sliced
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs large
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
  • Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the sugar and eggs until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, carrots and butter, and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
  • Bake casserole until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.
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Things I Loved in 2020

**Remember, my blog is not sponsored or monetized in any way. No link in my posts is an affiliate link, and these ideas are all my own. None of these companies know who I am, and all of this is crap I buy with my own dang money. I’m just not that cool, y’all**

The husband has recovered (mostly) from the ‘Rona, and through careful quarantining, the kids and I did not contract the virus. He has pretty sick there for a while, and is dealing with a lingering cough and fatigue, but we got lucky. Thanks for the well wishes.

So, as I have been shopping for the holidays and planning for the new year, I thought I pass along some of the things that I really enjoyed this year (other than the endless warmth of the 2020 dumpster fire).

I really love Knife Aid. It’s like the Netflix of knife sharpening. You pick how many you want sharpened and they send you the materials to pack up your knives and mail them in. Then, they send them back to you perfectly sharpened. It’s only about a week in turnaround time and very convenient. I have used them twice, including last month.

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I love OXO containers. My pantry is out of control, and these are helping me tame the chaos. I still want more.

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A bluetooth meat thermometer was game changer. Yes, I use it when smoking meat, but I also use it for so much more. For example. I used this on Thanksgiving for the turkey, which meant I could watch the temp in real time, and also not lose heat from constantly opening and closing the oven to check on the bird. I also use it for cooking roasts, prime rib, chicken and more. You can go about your day without worrying that you are going to overcook an expensive piece of meat or undercook the poultry.

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I am totally OBSESSED with this one. So, it’s basically a murder-mystery subscription box you get each month, but think of it like a limited tv series with episodes. One “season” lasts a few months, or you can purchase past “seasons”/mysteries in their entirety. You get all kinds of clues and documents to investigate, but they also have cool online components to enrich the experience. We are currently working our way though the Blair Witch season and the Cadence Theater season. If you are stuck in quarantine, pouring over clues in order to catch a killer is a great way to pass the time.

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I am in love with Hue-It Hand Dyed Fibers. This local-to-me Louisiana artist specializes in small-batch dying, and has an incredible portfolio of colorways. Most of her stuff sells out fast but she takes preorders if you missed out on a colorway. I recently snatched up a couple of skeins that are just waiting for the right pattern to come along.

The New Pie by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin

My neighbors gifted me this book after we had a mini-Thanksgiving this summer (they are in our “pod/quarantine bubble”). This book is LEGIT cool. These recipes are not for those looking for basic pies. These guys compete around the country and their ideas are complete bananas. Favorites so far are the Strawberry Margarita Pie and the Caramel Popcorn Pie.

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This cookbook was written by the founder of the Mosquito Supper Club restaurant in New Orleans. It’s beautifully shot and showcases Louisiana food traditions that are slowing being lost. If you have any interest an authentic Louisiana cuisine, this needs to be in your library.

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So, my go-to recipe software, Living Cookbook quietly went out of business and has basically ghosted it’s customers. So, I spent part of the year test-driving Cook’n, MasterCook, and Paprika, which came out the clear winner. I think it was the easiest to learn/use out of the three, and with a more intuitive interface. I was able to import my Living Cookbook files, though I will say that some things did get lost in translation. I had to go back and check each recipe to correct some things that got garbled in the transfer, but the same thing happened with the other two as well. Otherwise, I’m happy using it, and very grateful for the cloud sharing ability.

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This herb stripper was featured on Food Network’s The Kitchen, and host Sunny Anderson loved it so much she immediately said she was taking it home with her. I LOVE this. It strips those pesky thyme and rosemary leaves off of their stems in two seconds flat.

Other Favorites

Knitting Podcasts

Knitmore Girls, Down Cellar Studio, Yarniacs, Two Ewes

Food Podcasts

The Sporkful (hands down one of the best), The Splendid Table, Gravy, Milk Street, Good Food.

Food Websites/Blogs

Damn Delicious, Half-Baked Harvest, Foodie with Family

Shows I’ve Binge-watched

Lucifer, Virgin River, The Chef Show, Castle Rock, The Umbrella Academy, Westworld, Anne with an E, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Netflix), His Dark Materials, The Outsider, Perry Mason.

So those are a few things that I really loved this year, and made this insanity a little bit better. We’ve been through a lot of changes, but we also had a lot of fun.

Here’s to 2021 not being a trainwreck.

Is Buying a 2021 Planner Invoking More Bad Juju?

Welp, we finished up the first quarter of the school year, and while virtual learning is the definition of the fifth circle of hell (rivaling my nemesis known as the school carpool line), Bear and Bean kicked ass and took names. Their report cards were a huge weight off of my shoulders. I’ve struggled with the decision to keep them virtual while so many of their peers returned to full-time classrooms. Would they be able to keep up? Would they resent missing out on the fun parts of school? Would they still learn with equal quality from home? I’ve been more stressed than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But, in the end, they ended up being pretty dang good at managing it.

Meanwhile, at some point, it occurred to me that, if all they needed to do school was an internet connection and a workspace, well, that did not necessarily have to be at the house, right? Two margaritas later, I threw together an impromptu trip to Destin, Florida. October is pretty much the end of beach season, and hurricanes have been like “Hey 2020, hold my beer.” So, I easily found a condo, we hopped in the truck, and that was that. Despite G-Man being off to college, the remaining four of us have been together all day loooonnngggg, every day. Just experiencing a change of scenery made all the difference in the world. The only downside was tire issues on the way back that transformed an 8 hour drive into 13 hours of no fun. Regardless, fresh air, good food, and quiet days made it all worthwhile.

Other than the last-minute trip, we’ve been cooking, baking, and sharing time with our neighbors.

But now, I’m looking forward to the holiday season. Normally, I am the drill sergeant that refuses all Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Thanks to 2020, I’m like, “Turn on Hallmark. I need cotton candy for my brain!” So, I’m throwing my arbitrary holiday rules out the window.

I went to order my yearly planner as I always do in November (my favorites are from Commit30 fyi), and it dawned on me that maybe I am jumping the gun. My 2020 planner sits on my side table, mostly blank or full of plans that never happened.

Is ordering the new one inviting trouble? Us Louisianans are a notoriously superstitious bunch, so I am hoping I’m not daring the universe to up the ante in 2021. In the meantime, it’s time to break out the Thanksgiving binder, hunt down the turkeys, and accept the fact that, yes, we are all still in this for the long haul. But I live in the land of the drive-thru daquiri, so it’s all gonna be ok.

Eclairs with Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard and Chocolate Ganache

Well, after having a not-fun-at-all Easter thanks to the storms (no power equaled no Easter lunch, and no sleep to boot), we spent most of last week continuing the work-from-home/homeschooling grind.

However, I’ve been in the kitchen more than ever, and if you follow on Instagram, you’ve seen this bit of deliciousness:

I decided to try something new, and boy did it pay off. I started with a basic choux paste, which is a cooked dough that is used to make cream puffs or eclairs. Then, I messed around with what I affectionately call my mom’s “Cheaters Custard” method, incorporating a lone vanilla bean that was hanging out in my pantry, and finally topped the whole mess with chocolate ganache. I swear, the kids went bananas for these, and my neighbor was over the moon. (Don’t worry, we don’t break quarantine, we do contactless meal delivery to her).

Anyway, even though this recipe seems like a lot of steps, the whole process is really easy. I think people new to the choux paste concept might be a little intimidated at first, but once you go through the steps, you will be like, “Oh, ok, that was no big deal.” So, not only can you have an impressive, delicious dessert worthy of a special occasion, but you can also bask in the complements from your lucky eaters.

Eclairs with Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard and Chocolate Ganache

Notes

Ingredients
Choux Paste
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 TBS unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 to 6 large eggs (see method for why)
Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean (alternatively, you can use 1 TBS good quality vanilla extract OR 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste)
Chocolate Ganache
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces heavy whipping cream
Procedure
Choux Paste/Éclair Shells
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Get out a couple of sheet pants and line them with parchment paper or baking mats. In a medium sauce pan, place milk, water, butter, sugar, salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring often, ensuring the butter is completely melted. Add the flour all at once, stirring quickly and vigorously until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Cook about 45 more seconds and remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a bowl (ideally use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer for the next step).
  2. While the dough is still hot, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (start with the 5 eggs only). After you have added all 5 eggs, test to see of the texture is right. If it seems too thick, add the last egg. I only needed 5 eggs. The dough should be a good consistency for piping while maintaining it's structure.
  3. Transfer dough to a Ziploc bag and cut a corner so that you will get about a 1-inch diameter hole. Pipe the dough onto your prepared pans into logs about 5 inches long. (If you have piping equipment, go for it fancy-pants, but a Ziploc will do, I promise). *note, I did not do it, but if you want to, you can give the eclairs an egg wash before baking*
  4. Bake eclairs for 15 minutes at 400, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for about 10 minutes more until they are golden brown and feel hollow. Keep an eye on them the last 5 minutes of baking. My convection oven cooks hotter than a standard oven, so I had to pull mine out sooner than I expected. Set the pastry shells aside to cook completely.
Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard 
  1. In a medium saucepan, add milk, butter, flour, sugar, egg yolks. Slice vanilla bean in half and scrape the vanilla caviar from the bean halves into the pot, then toss the scraped pod halves into the pot as well.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and mix it thoroughly with a whisk. As it heats, it will begin to thicken and bubble. Keep stirring, and once it is bubbling consistently, let it cook for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, and using tongs, fish out the vanilla pod halves and discard them. Transfer custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the custard surface (this prevents it from getting a "skin" on top). Refrigerate until cold and thick.
Chocolate Ganache
  1. Place chocolate and cream in a heat-safe bowl, then place the bowl over saucepan of simmering water (medium-low heat), making sure the water isn't touching the bowl directly. Stir frequently until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream, and is smooth and shiny.
Assembly
  1. Place custard in a Ziploc bag for piping, and snip a corner to make a 1/2-inch diameter hole. For each éclair, cut a small slit in the side of each pastry, and then pipe the custard into the center making sure you get good coverage on both ends. Finally, dip the top of each éclair into the warm ganache and place on a baking rack to set. Refridgerate until ready to serve!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!