Another year; Another decade; Just another day. The New Year is both an opportunity to start fresh, and still nothing more than a continuation of the same old lives we’ve always been living. Typically a holiday that is but a blip on my radar, this time around, it’s taken on much greater significance. Between the greater global issues at hand and smaller personal battles, 2009 has been a rough one, to say the least. It takes a good kick in the butt to get me going again after wallowing for so long in the everyday doldrums, and for once, the changing calender date actually provided that much needed inspiration.

It’s not my standard modus operandi to make resolutions, and typically a ritual that I avoid like the plague, but in the spirit of starting anew and entering 2010 with an open mind, it’s as good a time as ever to give it a shot. Thus, this year I resolve to…

-Stay balanced. Remain grounded but let my thoughts and ideas soar.

-Have patience. Be calmer. Don’t fly off the handle at every little irritation.

-Give others the benefit of the doubt. Have more compassion for my fellow man.

-Live a little. Get out of the house. Leave room for both work and play.

-Love more. ‘Nuff said.

That’s a start, at least. And what about your? What is/are your resolution(s)?

Of course, this isn’t a wholly solemn and serious day to meditate on… It’s truly a time to celebrate! Taking the good with the bad and everything in between, we all managed to survive 2009 one way or another, and that in itself is reason to rejoice.

Most commonly associated with New Year’s festivities, champagne is actually one of the few alcoholic beverages we always have on hand… Although that doesn’t mean we’re big on drinking it. In fact, those bottles in the back of our liquor cabinet have been there for as long as I can remember, and they’re likely to stay there for many more years to come as well. However, if there’s ever a good time to crack open a bottle of bubbly, this is it, and what ingredient would be more perfect to highlight in a New Year’s Eve dessert?

Appropriately decadent for such merriment, but still unbelievably simple, you could actually throw this recipe together at 10 pm and still have a dessert to toast with when the ball drops at midnight. Creamy and redolent with rich vanilla essence, the champagne flavor is delicate but absolutely detectable. Although you could easily stop right there with nothing more than a simple custard, I decided to dress mine up with a small dollop of unsweetened, whipped coconut creme, and a handful of crunchy chocolate pearls to mimic the bubbles that would be in the drink. A fantastic contrast to the sweet pudding base, I’d recommend substituting crispy cocoa rice cereal should such a specialty item be unavailable.

Champagne Custard

10.5 Ounces Vegan White Chocolate, Store-Bought or Homemade
2 Tablespoons Margarine
3/4 Cup Champagne, Divided
1 12-Ounce Package Extra-Firm Silken Tofu
1 Vanilla Bean, Split and Seeds Scraped Out
Pinch Salt

Coconut Cream, Skimmed from the Top of a 14-Ounce Can of Coconut Milk and Whipped for 5 – 8 Minutes
Crispy Chocolate Pearls or Cocoa Rice Cereal

Place the white chocolate (finely chopped if using bars) in a microwave-safe dish along with the margarine and 1/3 cup of the champagne. Microwave on high for 1 – 2 minutes, checking at 30 minute intervals and stirring thoroughly until melted. Commercial white chocolate chips are notoriously difficult to melt smoothly, so they may need a good bit of coaxing; After two minutes, let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, stir vigorously, and begin the cycle again. Don’t panic when it turns a translucent, yellow-ish color, as this is normal and it will re-solidify in a more off-white hue.

Meanwhile, thoroughly drain your container of tofu, and place it in a food processor or blender. Puree, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth and lump-free. Set aside.

Once entirely melted and smooth, add in the remaining champagne, vanilla bean seeds, and salt. Reserve the spent vanilla pod for another purpose, such as making vanilla extract or vanilla sugar. Mix well but gently to combine, to prevent the champagne from foaming up, and transfer the mixture to your food processor or blender which is full of tofu. Blend to combine, and once fully incorporated, divide the mixture between four champagne flutes. Chill for at least two hours before serving. Top with coconut creme and chocolate pearls of cocoa rice cereal if desired. Cheers!

Serves 4

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