I yearn for the simple life, a life with minimal clutter and limited complications. Just an uncluttered life focused on family, friends, and enjoying this beautiful world. But sometimes it seems practically impossible to achieve this state of uncomplicated living. We seem to accumulate stuff at twice the rate I can use it, gift it, donate it, or trash it.
Kids amass stuff no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Puzzles and action figures and 5 million tiny legos. And little plastic toys from happy meals and musical instruments and samurai castles. And cars and books and stuffed toys and train sets. And a toy kitchen, a toy workbench, and something called bonkazonks. And coloring books, sticker collections, broken crayons, and cowboy hats.
I’m also to blame for our accumulation of stuff. Because I need matching dishes and glasses. And I needed a sombrero for my Mexican fiesta (which will now live in the basement just in case I want to throw another fiesta). And we couldn’t possibly have had a lemonade stand without a proper lemonade dispenser. And my life wouldn’t be complete without those little metal nest candleholders and turquoise birdie candles. It all seemed so important at the time, but now it achieves nothing besides making me feel claustrophobic in my own home.
Our well-intentioned culture has a tendency to overcomplicate life to the point of chaos. I want to simplify. Let go of clutter. Live in an environment of minimalistic zen. Focus on what’s important. And so this is the summer of the purge! I’m moving from room to room and closet to closet to eliminate the clutter. We’ll hold a garage sale to sell what we can, then donate the rest. Goodbye handheld carpet cleaner I’ve never used. Goodbye racks and racks of DVDs we will probably never watch. Goodbye duplicate copies #2, #3, and #4 of "The Giving Tree." I love you, but we only need one of you. Goodbye all three "50 Shades of Grey" books. You weren’t worth the time it took to read you. May you live happily in someone else’s home.
My minimalistic impulses carry over into my feelings about food. I like simple fresh flavors, short ingredient lists, and uncomplicated preparation methods. I’m totally intrigued by the whole arena of molecular gastronomy … gelification, spherification, foamification and whatnot(ification). I want to eat that food and marvel over the cleverness of the chef. But my personal approach to food is much simpler. No fancy tools, no futuristic techniques … just a sharp knife, a few simple tools, and a good set of pots and pans. It’s really all you need.
A few nights ago, my husband and the boys pitched a tent in the backyard for a summer campout. They built a fire and we roasted marshmallows, which we layered with chocolate and graham crackers for a classic s’mores treat. The boys entertained us with campfire songs and spooky stories involving Mommy and Daddy getting eaten by a sasquatch. And then they snuggled up in the tent and slept the night away. It was an idealistic evening. It’s the simple things in life, isn’t it?
But a few days earlier in the week, the boys had a craving for s’mores. So I came up with these little individual s’mores pudding cups … for those nights when you don’t have a marshmallow roastin’ fire roaring in the backyard. Rich, homemade chocolate pudding gets layered with mini marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers. Nothing fancy, but what a crowd-pleaser! Simple pleasures.
Simple S’mores Pudding Cups
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 graham cracker sheets, crushed
Sprinkle about half of the graham cracker crumbs and half of the marshmallows onto the bottom of six individual serving bowls or glasses. Reserve the remaining crumbs and marshmallows.
In a saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Whisk in the milk, stirring until combined. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, continue cooking for another minute or two. Be careful to whisk into the corners and along the sides of the pan.
Remove from heat. Whisk in the chocolate chips and vanilla, stirring until fully melted. Carefully pour the hot pudding over the marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs. While the pudding is still hot, scatter the remaining marshmallows over the top and sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs.
Refrigerate until chilled.
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