Tag Archives: chocolate

Thickest, Richest Hot Chocolate

 

Nothing better than breakfast in bed for yourself and your lover!

Do you recall your first truly spectacular cup of hot chocolate?  Not the kind that comes out of a packet but the first cup you ever had that was so thick and luxurious you almost had to eat it with a spoon?  Well, I remember mine.  It was on my first trip to Europe with my parents and we were in Germany where Daddy had to do some business.  We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast which served a typical European breakfast, i.e. croissants served with jam and butter and all the water, coffee, juice or hot chocolate you can drink.  Mama was always a chocolate addict…she didn’t care if it was a 25¢ candy bar from the corner gas station or a sumptuous, elegantly ribboned box of bonbons straight out of a fashionable Parisian confection shop.  It was all great  to her and she loved every bit of it.  Mama and I went down to breakfast, Daddy was already off with his people, and sat outside at a pretty little table on a patio surrounded by a riot of Old Garden Roses, all in bloom, sharing their heady perfume to our surprised pleasure.  Being on holiday we ordered a pot of coffee and one of hot chocolate with plans to enjoy several cups of each.  I only remember the chocolate which came out hot, steam pouring out of the spout.  Mama poured then we settled in to plan our day.  At first sips our eyes met and widened with astonishment.  This was not like any hot chocolate we had ever had before, dense and smooth with none of the watery, chalkiness the powdered stuff always imparts.

Layer after layer of mysterious but most pleasing flavors went on and on overwhelming our senses.  This hot chocolate was silky and velvety yet earthy.  And, get this, it came with a side of freshly whipped cream.  Oh, man!  After that there was no stopping us.  We ordered hot chocolate at every breakfast, in every country we visited and not once were we disappointed.  Back in the States I promptly forgot about our newly found breakfast drink and it has remained in the deep, dark recesses of my forgetful mind.  Probably safer that way.  It’s not exactly slimming.  For me, this is a once-a-year extravagant indulgence.  This hot chocolate is a dream of creamy, chocolate joy.  It’s like The Moldau symphony in a cup.  Evocative and enigmatic, it will transport you.  I wish you a magnificent journey!

Dark and rich, this drink is worth every calorie.  It’s very easy to prepare but because there are so few ingredients you really should try to use the best chocolate available to you.  I have been able to locate only one whole powdered milk at the grocery store.  I don’t want non-fat powdered as it takes away from the full-flavor you’re working towards.  On the boxed milk aisle you’ll find a yellow labeled tin of powdered whole fat milk called “Nido” by Nestle Corporation.  Dark chocolate is a must but be adventurous an experiment with different kinds.  You get what you pay for so if this hot chocolate is made with cheap chocolate chips, well, that’s just what your drink will taste of…chemicals, fillers and artificial “things”.  Trader Joe’s has a super 1 pound block of 72% cacao dark chocolate that is not only loaded with flavor but super inexpensive.  I believe it’s $5.00.  The bar is huge and you’ll get quite a bit of baking out of it.  A small whisk is needed to ensure all the lumps are taken out.  If you don’t have a whisk, grab two or three forks, place them back to  back, wrap a rubber band tightly around the handles and whisk away.  It can also be gently reheated the following day by placing in the microwave on the defrost level and warmed in 2 minute increments, stirring between each increment.

Thickest, Richest Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 3 1/2 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup whole-fat powdered milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered milk, sugar, cornstarch and espresso powder.  Set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pot bring the milk to almost to a boil, whisking often.
  3. Add the dark chocolate a little at a time, continually whisking.
  4. When the chocolate is almost completely melted, take off the heat and whisk in the powdered milk mixture.
  5. Continue whisking to desired thickness.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Cover any remaining hot chocolate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

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A Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie

My father is 94 years old.  He lives at home, in the house I grew up in.  He takes no medications.  None.  His preventive regimen consists of vitamins, little or no red meat and more green, leafy vegetables than one can imagine.  And it’s all organic.  His Achilles heel is his sweet tooth.  He has commanded no more cakes or pies to be baked for him.  He has no self-discipline.  These cookies are different.  Not too sweet and pretty clean.  I believe he’ll embrace and enjoy the fruits of this recipe.  I’m almost certain I’ve developed a wheat allergy so I’ve been trying to figure out how to have the occasional treat without sneezing and coughing.  I’m done with red, watery, old-lady eyes and a constant, bothersome post nasal drip.

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I fashioned these based on my breakfast cookie.  That said, these cookies rock.  Made with dark chocolate, they satisfy  sweet cravings at first bite.  Even Daddy loved them.  I replaced conventional white, bleached, wheat flour with almond and coconut flours.  In lieu of white sugar, (so bad for you!), I used coconut sugar.  The result is a thick, chewy, healthful cookie studded with gorgeous, dark chocolate chips all gooey and soft.  I don’t bake them often, they may contain good fats but they’re still fats, however, these make a wonderful occasional indulgence.  And my family loves them.  Hope ya’ll do, too!

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A Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • Servings: 25 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, I use dairy-free “Enjoy Life” brand available at grocery and health food stores
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium size bowl add coconut flour, coconut sugar, almond flour and baking soda.  Mix well so all ingredients are thoroughly combined and set bowl aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine eggs, coconut oil and vanilla and mix well.
  4. To the egg mixture add the flour mixture and the chocolate chips.  Mix well until all the chips are evenly distributed.
  5. Use a melon ball scooper to measure out 25 equal portions of dough.  My scooper is 1 1/2″ in diameter and holds 5 teaspoons.  I pack each scoop firmly.
  6. Place each ball of dough on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and gently flatten the top of each cookie with your hand.
  7. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until bottoms are golden in color.
  8. Remove from oven onto a cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.
  9. Allow to cool completely before storing.

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Peppermint Bark

It’s hard to stay away from holiday treats and Peppermint Bark is no exception.  Williams-Sonoma features a Peppermint Bark during the holidays that has to be, if not the best, one of the top two or three.  But at $29.00 per pound, well, I have to say, I can’t afford it.  Neither can my waistline so it’s probably better that way.  Between eggnog, coquitos and peppermint bark, December is usually the time of a losing battle for me.  I tried my hand at making my own bark and after quite a few attempts have come to a few conclusions.  Since most days in south Florida range from the high-70’s to the mid-80’s, chocolate is NOT going to firm up on your counter.  And if there is any humidity what so ever, and here there always is, the crushed peppermints will weep, bleed and stick all over everything.  I yearned for the “snap” of commercial chocolate when broken apart and learned that tempering chocolate is not enough.

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Tempering chocolate produces glossy, flawless chocolate that when bitten into breaks off with a snap.  Essentially, you’re raising and lowering the temperature of the dark, milk or white chocolate in order to make it behave properly…melt in your mouth not in your hand.  I tempered chocolate all day long yesterday and between the rain and heat of the day let’s just say ain’t no “snap” in MY chocolate!  That said I will move forward and skip the tempering process.  I also discovered that a decent quality white chocolate must be used, one high in cocoa butter.  White chocolate chips do not melt.  At least not for me.  Not in the microwave, over a double boiler or in the oven.   So.  Get thee good quality chocolate bars, for instance Guittard, not chips, especially when melting white chocolate.  When melting the chocolate make absolutely certain that not one drop of water comes into contact with it as it will seize up and become unworkable.  Take your time melting it.  Chocolate is delicate and can become grainy and lumpy if melted too quickly over high heat.  The water in the double boiler should be kept at a simmer and should never touch the bottom of the chocolate bowl as it can scorch easily.  As the chocolate begins to melt, stir frequently with a rubber spatula.  Take the bowl off the pot when the chocolate has almost completely melted and only a few small lumps remain.  Continue stirring off the heat until smooth.  I also found leaving the candy cane crumbles in a closed baggie will keep it from weeping and sticking to everything like all your fingers, the counter and the floor instead of the darn bark.  And last of all move fast.  Have your tray or large baking sheet well covered with parchment paper.  Pull out a wooden skewer and keep it close to the baking sheet alongside the crushed candy cane.  Merry Christmas!

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Peppermint Bark

  • Servings: 2 pounds
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
  • 1 pound white chocolate bars, chopped or broken into pieces, NOT chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup crushed candy canes
  1. Place 1″-2″ of water in the bottom of a  double boiler or pot and bring to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil drop the temperature and let water simmer.
  2. Place the semi-sweet chocolate in a bowl which fits snugly over the top of a pot or sauce pan.
  3. With a rubber spatula stir the chocolate until almost completely melted.  Take off of the heat, add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and continue stirring until shiny and smooth.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and smooth to the thickness and shape you desire using an offset spatula.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in the same manner.  When the white chocolate has melted completely, add 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, mix in well and spoon over dark chocolate leaving space in between the chocolates.
  6. Using the blunt end of a wooden skewer, make designs and curlicues in the two chocolates by dragging the skewer from the middle of the candy to the outer edges.
  7. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly over the bark and chill uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until hard.
  8. Break the bark slab into pieces and chill until serving.

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The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Mousse with Rum Spiked Whipped Cream

My mother was a complete fool for chocolate.  From the cheapest drug store candy bar to the finest handmade chocolates from Switzerland, Belgium or France, she loved it all and all was eaten in a frenzy and with abandon.  Mama was crazy for chocolate.  I made this mousse often in the 70’s and 80’s when we entertained and always made sure Mama got some.  This dessert is unbelievably easy and simple.  Velvety smooth and elegant, its depth and richness will make you swoon.  The recipe calls for just a few ingredients so use the best dark chocolate, the freshest eggs and highest quality whipping cream available to you.  Now is not the time to skimp.  It can be made a day ahead of serving and is excellent with after dinner coffees and dessert wines.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have…like right now when I pulled out a cup from the refrigerator just to “even it off”.   I had a little bit more because, well, it’s so good.  And then I couldn’t stop and didn’t until I thought, “I must have some kind of disease.  Like those people who can’t control themselves and eat dirt.”   I think all you ladies out there understand.  Enjoy but be forewarned.  This stuff is dangerous!

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The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Mousse with Rum Spiked Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 2 3/4 cups or 4-6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  1. In a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water but not touching the water, whisk the chocolate until it has completely melted.  Do not let the water boil as the chocolate will easily scorch and be ruined.
  2. Whisk in the coffee and sugar.  Continue to whisk while adding one egg yolk at a time.
  3. Continue whisking until the mixture has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. While the chocolate is cooling, whip the cream to soft but almost firm peaks using a hand mixer.  Watch the cream, you don’t want it to get “grainy” or turn into butter.  You just want it to hold its shape.
  6. Whisk the vanilla extract into the partially cooled chocolate mixture then fold in the whipped cream folding until all streaks of cream are gone.
  7. Spoon into serving dishes or glasses, lightly cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours up to 24 hours.
  8. Top each serving with a dollop of Rum Spiked Whipped Cream right before serving.
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 level tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum, orange liquor or liquor of choice
  1. Pour cream into a small bowl and whip until cream starts to thicken.
  2. Add the sugar and liquor and continue whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Spoon a dollop of cream over each serving of mousse.

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Chocolate Truffles

How do YOU say “thank you” to someone?  Or “happy birthday”?  Maybe you want a little special something to present your favorite hostess the next time you’re invited to her celebration.  I consider a bottle of wine a somewhat thoughtless gesture.  I mean really, all you’re doing is reaching into your wine stash and grabbing the bottle you were planning on drinking that night.  And that exquisitely slim, leather-bound volume of poems you love is a real shot in the dark and, I don’t know about you, but the only flowers I can afford are the grocery store variety and, quite frankly, if I don’t want them in my house I certainly wouldn’t take them over to yours!  But a gift of chocolate is always, always welcome.  These nubby little nuggets of flavor are soooo easy to make, easy on the wallet and easy to pop in your mouth.  I started making them to give away back in the ’70’s and they’ve been a hit every time I’ve shared them.  The beauty of Chocolate Truffles is they can be made with or without liquor.  And just about any kind of liquor is a magnificent addition.  I’ve used Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Amaretto, Chambord, Metaxa even dark rum.  It’s all good.  Except maybe Jaegermeister.  Although it may taste good…I’ve never tried it.  I just don’t think something that tastes like cough syrup would marry well with rich, dark chocolate.  The recipe doesn’t call for a  large quantity of chocolate so make certain you’re using the best quality you can find.  The truffles do need to be refrigerated and are best served after sitting out for 15 to 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Truffles

  • Servings: 20- 22 truffles
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons liquor, optional
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet or sweet dark chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • any of the following to roll the truffles in: unsweetened cocoa, confectioners sugar, toasted, finely chopped pecans, toffee bits, coconut, chocolate flakes, sugar sprinkles
  1. In a small, heavy pot boil the cream until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the liquor, if using, and the chocolate.  Stir well until the chocolate has completely melted.  Return to low heat if necessary continuing to stir.
  3. Stir in the butter, mixing until completely smooth.
  4. Pour into a shallow container, cover and chill in the refrigerator 30-40 minutes or until firm.
  5. With a small melon baller, scoop out 1″ portions and shape into balls with your fingers.  You can also cut out 1″ portions with a small knife.  I like the balls roughly shaped as they look better than perfect spheres.
  6. Roll the balls in cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar or any ingredient you wish.
  7. Cover truffles and store in the refrigerator.
  8. Allow to sit out at room temperature for 15-20 minutes prior to serving.

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Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

Summer.  My favorite season of the year.  It does get hot here in Lauderdale, darn hot.  I can’t imagine putting on long pants.  Even linen sounds stifling.  Shorts and little cotton dresses are the order of the day.  Hot shower?  No, thanks.  I’ll just take a dip in the pool and the chlorine will take care of the rest.  For some reason when we were kids the heat didn’t bother us.  Heck, we didn’t even notice it.  The days we weren’t at camp or running to and fro from tennis lessons to sailing lessons our mothers would kick us out of the house early in the morning.  No sleeping in for us.  No.  A soft-boiled egg and a bowl of Cheerios later and we were on the street, running and playing, racing each other on our bikes or messing around in our forts.  It was a different time.  None of us went home until lunchtime and we all ended up at one house and the mother in that house would put out a platter of sandwiches, some apples or grapes, a pitcher of ice-cold tea which we all scarfed down in a matter of minutes.  Then she’d kick us all out and off we’d go for more adventures.  It was a coed crowd of the neighborhood boys and girls ranging in age from 6-12.  We all got along well and, in retrospect, it was probably too hot to fuss with each other.  Often we would all ride our bikes to the very end of our street, Sea Island Drive.  It’s a dead-end street and at the very point stood an enormous house owned by an oil and gasoline corporation.  It was one of their luxury houses used to wine and dine important clients.  The house was on a kind of “hill” with an enormous circular driveway in front, perfect to pick up speed and fly down the slope to the bottom of the hill on a bike.  And fly we did.  Round and round we’d all go, every now and again someone would drop out and take it easy in the shade…chat with whomever was sitting in the grass.  We’d whoop and holler as if the house was abandoned.  And it wasn’t.  The staff of maids and a butler was always there.  They never said a word to us; never told us to quiet down or get the hell off the property.  They were practically invisible.  Except one day every summer the butler, formally dressed, would walk outside, all stiff and nose in the air, and ask no one in particular, “Would you children like some ice cream?”  Brakes shuddered to a stop, any conversations were cut short.  “Ice cream?”, we all thought.  Then came the exclamations, “Yeah!”, “Awright! Ice cream!”, “Wow! Ice cream!”,  and “You mean it, mister?”.  You’d have thought we had never had it the way we carried on.  But we never had it during the day and in our house we rarely had sweets at all!  He always replied, “One moment, please.” and disappeared back into the house.  Minutes later he and several maids returned each balancing a tray with small, silver cups of ice cream, every cup holding three perfect balls of the cold, creamy stuff, a small silver spoon jutting out to one side.  Vanilla, chocolate and peppermint were typically offered.  No one pushed or shoved, big brothers and sisters made certain the little ones all got their servings, probably so they wouldn’t get in trouble later on.  Taking our bowls to whatever shade we could find, we sat down on the street or on people’s lawns to enjoy this unexpected treat.  Ten minutes later the same staff returned and stood in the driveway while we stacked the little bowls on their trays and collected all the little spoons and any stray napkins.  We thanked them profusely in our little squeaky voices, “Gee, thanks, mister!” as they turned and vanished into the huge, silent house.  We, on the other hand, returned to our hooting and hollering, “Bet I can pop a wheelie at the bottom of the driveway!” Sweet sounds of summer, people.

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Chocolate covered frozen bananas are an easy but fantastic treat for kids and adults.  They’re great for a party or just to have on hand when you want to offer your people a li’l special something.

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Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 large bananas, yellow with a little green in the tips of the peel
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or canola oil
  • 1 cup each of any of the following, sprinkles, chopped peanuts, toasted chopped almonds, coconut flakes, chocolate cookie crumbles, crushed peppermint candies.
  • 9 popsicle sticks
  1. Peel the bananas and cut off the pointy tips.  Eat the tips, give them to the dog or discard.
  2. Cut each banana in thirds, each piece ends up being about 2″-3″ inches long.
  3. Insert a popsicle stick into each banana and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or wax paper.
  4. Place in freezer overnight or until frozen.
  5. When ready to assemble place chocolate in a bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.
  6. Add the oil and stir briskly until completely incorporated.
  7. Remove one banana from freezer, dip until covered in chocolate, quickly roll in topping of choice and place on another baking sheet covered with parchment or wax paper.
  8. Continue until all bananas are covered with chocolate.  If chocolate in bowl begins to harden, microwave for 15 seconds to soften.
  9. Place tray with covered bananas in freezer for 2 hours or until ready to serve.

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Frozen Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie…hey, Lawdy mama!

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About a week I got the most fierce hankering for some peanut butter and chocolate pie, the kind with a chocolate cookie crust.  And cold.  It had to be freezing.  It’s gotten so hot out that, like Key Lime Pie, a cold, creamy pie with a crunchy cookie crust is most welcome.  I wanted those sweet followed by salty flavors in my mouth and pronto.  Growing up, Dad was the only person in our house interested in peanut butter.  We always had a jar which was rock-hard because Mama insisted it be stored in the refrigerator.  What does a lady from Puerto Rico, who has no idea how to cook or even maneuver through the kitchen, know about peanut butter?  The only time I was even vaguely interested in peanuts was driving to and from college.  My roommate, Cindy, was from Fort Lauderdale.  In fact, we even went to high school together.  Anchor love, roomie!  Anyway, we’d be flying along, always barefooted, probably singing, in her little chocolate brown Toyota on I-75 when we’d catch a glimpse of a giant, beige blob in the sky.  That meant  we were either entering or leaving Ashburn, Georgia and the world’s largest peanut was looming ahead.

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We’d laugh and laugh.  I mean, really.  Who cares that much about peanuts?  Well, I’ll tell you what.  I did.   Last week.  Roasted, salty, sweet, chocolate-y, creamy, dreamy, cold…  Bring it!  Perfect for Memorial Day weekend especially since this pie requires being made in advance and there’s no sweaty baking involved.  Slap this pie together and you’ll be a hero this weekend!

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This recipe calls for freezing the pie as opposed to chilling it.  Strange, but, although I initially chilled the pie for 24 hours, when my family tasted it they all, and I mean ALL, said, “It’s so good I just wish it was colder.  Can you freeze it?”.  Hell, yeah I can!  And I did.  That’s about all it needed.  The crust can be made with the cookie of your choice.  I like chocolate graham crackers but Oreo’s may be used and are just fine.  I feel Oreo’s make the pie way too sweet but that’s just me.  You could even use Nutter Butter cookies.  Whatever strikes your fancy.  It’s an incredibly rich pie so cut your slices smaller than usual.  To make serving easier, I cut the pie into quarters then cut the quarters into individual portions.  I use the largest chef’s knife I own to cut it after the pie has sat on the counter 10-15 minutes to slightly soften.  After buying the peanut butter cup candies at the store, chill them in the refrigerator before and after chopping so they don’t melt into the pie batter.  The PB mini-cups decorating the edge of the pie are optional.  They look good but were just too sweet for me.  I left them on the edge of my plate.  I had some leftover cookie crumbs and scattered them on top.  And I bought a single serving bag of salted, roasted peanuts, you know… the kind you’d drop in your ice cold bottle of coke if you lived in the South?  Tossed them all over that pie and it was a triumph to behold and perfect for a holiday weekend.  So happy Memorial Day to Daddy and all our veterans.  Have a piece of pie!