We put up the tree a week or so ago, and the cat is just thrilled. It was cute at first, the way she’d clamber up the middle and make a nest of her own legs and tail in the branches. We didn’t put ornaments on at first, because we thought that we could get her used to the tree so she’d ignore it, but it turns out she intends to do no such thing.
Irritating as she is about the tree, the cat has had a calming effect on our holiday season. This will be our third Christmas married to each other, and so far it has not been marked with the usual bickering, moping, or scrambling to get everything done once we’ve decided we can save the fighting for February because we’re bored then anyway. It’s still early, but I’m optimistic. We’ve committed to fewer events this year, and we’re not spending so many evenings and weekends running around. We’re spending our time eating comfort food and entertaining friends and petting the cat, and it’s working out pretty well so far.
And with the exception of the dinner I ruined tonight, which was not salvageable and which I and subsequently pouted about for an hour and a half, this evening was fairly relaxing. We watched a holiday movie, and I made hot chocolate.
I love hot chocolate, but don’t make it very often – it’s a treat, and the last time I made it was this time last year. Tonight’s batch was made with stout, just enough melted dark chocolate, a bit of milk, and cream to fill the whole thing out. It was rich and dark like coffee, and its effect verged on sedation. Nick was in bed by 9:45, suddenly overcome by feelings of warm snuggliness and a desperate need for his pillow.
The recipe will make enough for two to four people, depending on how big your mugs are. It’s rich, so you will not need a lot. It’s not too sweet, but pleasantly bitter with that dark chocolate and beer. We drank it as dessert after Nick finally made grilled cheese sandwiches to make up for dinner.
Stout hot chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups stout or your favourite dark beer, at room temperature
- 4 oz. chopped dark chocolate
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Put chocolate into a saucepan over medium-high heat, and pour over stout, whisking briskly to knock out any bubbles and to ensure the chocolate melts without burning. When chocolate appears to have melted, add milk. Stir occasionally until the whole thing comes just to a simmer – you don’t want it to boil, but it doesn’t hurt to have it come close.
Taste. Depending on the beer you use, you may find this a touch too bitter. If that’s the case, add a tablespoon of granulated sugar (or to taste).
Whisk in cream and vanilla. Serve in mugs, with a dollop of whipped cream if you’re feeling saucy (or sulky).