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Pan American Clipper

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No, I haven’t suddenly switched from a food blog to a blog about airplanes. Believe it or not the Pan American Clipper is not only an airplane, it’s also this week’s cocktail, and I chose it for two reasons. First it’s made with Applejack, and since we’re right in the middle of Fall when apples are being harvested from orchards everywhere, it seemed like a good choice. The second reason I thought it would make a good cocktail was because of the name.

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See, a Pan American Clipper was the way Americans (who could afford it) flew during WWII. It was luxury at its height. There were tables and chairs, dressing rooms and even beds. It was glorious. So, a cocktail was created in the late 30’s to commemorate the adventure. Then Charles H. Baker placed it in his cocktail book, The Gentleman’s Companion. Though I’m not sure who created the cocktail originally, Baker said that it came from “the Notebook of One of Our Pilot Friends Who—when Off Duty—May Seek One”. And after tasting the cocktail, I can see why a pilot might want one. It’s definitely one of the stronger cocktails out there.

Similar to the Jack Rose, this cocktail has Applejack which gives it a nice autumn, apple flavor, Grenadine and citrus juice. But it also has absinthe which gives it a wonderful herbaceousness that just seems to fit with this cool, Fall season. While it’s a minor, almost afterthought of taste, it’s there and it’s enough to make me and probably anyone else who tastes it, smile.

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Pan American Clipper

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz. Applejack
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/4 oz. Grenadine
  • dash of Absinthe

Directions:

  1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for a minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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Sorry I’ve been MIA recently, but I had a family emergency a couple weeks ago and that’s where all my focus has been. But the good news is that things are much better now and the prognosis is very good. All this family upheaval though (yes, a member of my family was in the hospital) has made me realize once again how important my family is to me and how much I love Thanksgiving.

See, Thanksgiving has always been the one holiday where our entire family has gotten together. Growing up it was always a big event and now that I’m married with my own family that event has gotten even bigger. (I hosted over 25 people last year and that’s peanuts compared to some years at my mother’s house.) Everyone comes from all over and we all cook, eat and talk. While it can get stressful… “how are we going to fit everyone,” “do we have enough food,” “what do you mean there’s no pie,”… everyone still has a good time and the food is always amazing.

Part of the reason the food is always so good is because everyone contributes. That’s right, I grew up in a house where Thanksgiving was potluck. Yes, the host was always in charge of the turkey, stuffing and gravy. But that was it. The sides, appetizers, wine and desserts were all brought by other guests. It’s great because there’s no stress about having to make everything, and if someone loves making apple pie or just has to have brussel sprouts, they get to make their favorite recipe to share with everyone else.

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While I’ve always been in charge of desserts, there has been the occasion when I’ve been asked to make a side. My two favorite Thanksgiving sides have always been the green bean casserole and anything made with yams. So since it’s only a week until Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a delicious yam casserole that you can make at your next Thanksgiving feast. The fact that it also has bacon and bourbon in it makes it an absolute no-brainer.

This side dish isn’t mine, however, it comes from Rick Rodgers and his Big Book of Sides. I was lucky enough to sample some of Rodgers sides thanks to Melissa’s Produce and let me tell you, every single dish was better than the last. After tasting just a sample of what was in this book at Melissa’s, I couldn’t wait to get home and flip through it. That’s how I found this sweet potato dish and I was so happy I did. Not only is it delicious, but it’s super versatile too. I had Asian Pears from Melissa’s so I used those instead of the suggested Bosc, and since Hubs is allergic to nuts, I left out the pecans all together. Also if you don’t want to use the alcohol because of the kids (though two tablespoons isn’t that big a deal) apple juice works great!

Even with all the changes I made, I think the real reason the kids loved the casserole (and Hubs and I as well) was because of the bacon and maple syrup. Then again, who doesn’t love bacon and maple syrup?

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Sweet Potato & Pear Casserole with Bourbon, Bacon and Maple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until they start to soften. Drain, rinse and pat them dry with paper towels.
  3. While the potatoes boil, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning once, until it’s crisp and brown. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and cool.
  4. Pour 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat into a 13 x 9 baking dish, brush to coat all over the inside of the pan. Discard the remaining bacon fat.
  5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  6. While the butter melts, sprinkle the cornstarch over the bourbon in a small dish and mix until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour the bourbon mixture and maple syrup to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until simmering and thickened, about a minute or two.
  7. Arrange the sweet potatoes in two slightly overlapping rows in the baking dish. Randomly tuck the pear slices between the sweet potatoes. Pour the syrup mixture evenly over the sweet potatoes and pears and season them with the salt and pepper.
  8. Bake, occasionally using a bulb baster to baste the sweet potatoes and pears with the syrup mixture in the baking dish, until the top begins to brown and the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Coarsely chop up the bacon and sprinkle it along with the pecans over the top of the casserole and bake for another 5 minutes to heat the topping. Serve immediately.
  9. (The casserole, without the bacon and pecan topping, can be made up to a day ahead, cooled and refrigerated. When ready to serve, cover and reheat at 350°F for 20 minutes. Add bacon and pecans and follow rest of directions.)

Crow Cocktail

Posted by Jenn. Comment (1).

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Today is Halloween. So, I thought I’d sneak in one more spooky cocktail, and since crows are such a popular Halloween bird, the Crow cocktail seemed apropos.

Yes, I know that Halloween is all about costumes and candy, but that’s for the kids. The 21-and-over set needs a treat too. Sure candy and chocolates are nice, but alcohol is even nicer. And let’s be honest, you’re probably going to find a lot more alcohol at those late-night Halloween parties than candy.

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Another reason I decided to mix up this Prohibition cocktail wasn’t just because of its name, it’s also made with Kentucky Whiskey. As a matter of fact I found it in that awesome cocktail book, How to Make Old Kentucky Famed Drinks. And if you follow either my blog or my Instagram account, you know I recently returned from Kentucky. Since Kentucky is also known as the bourbon state, of course I had to do another whiskey/bourbon cocktail. I mean, I just can’t get enough.

This cocktail definitely hails from the sour family. There’s almost just as much lemon juice in it as there is whiskey. While the Grenadine tempers the tartness slightly, this cocktail will definitely make your lips pucker. But that’s okay because this time of year we all need to practice our scary faces.

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Crow Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz. Kentucky Whiskey
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Grenadine

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least one minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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If you were following my Instagram feed a couple weeks ago, you know that I was living (and drinking) it up in Kentucky. Hubs and I decided to take a little vacation away for our anniversary. How and why did we choose Kentucky? Well, because it’s the bourbon capital of the world. And if you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a huge bourbon fan. (So is Hubs.) So we thought what better place to go than horse and bourbon country? We had a blast and over the next few posts you’ll get to see just how much fun we had.

Woodford still

While we visited 10 different distilleries during our trip on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, today I’m going to start with my favorite, Woodford Reserve, because I love the smoothness that comes with Woodford and because I used it to make today’s cocktail.

Woodford’s distillery is absolutely beautiful. Located smack dab in the middle of horse country, Woodford is a huge estate with rolling green hills and rick houses that date all the way back to 1838, making it one one of the oldest distilleries in the country.  In fact, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  While Woodford makes their bourbon like most of the other distilleries out there, there a few things that separate them from the rest of the bourbon pack. All of the corn Woodford uses comes from one farm instead of several. All the yeast they use is from a 1929 cypress fermenter. They’re one of the few distilleries out there who still use copper stills and they make their own barrels. But the thing that really sets Woodford apart, is that they let their corn mash ferment for 6 days instead of 3. They do it to really bring out the floral and fruity flavors of the bourbon, and trust me, it works. My favorite part of the tour at Woodford though, was the tasting and not because I got to taste my favorite bourbon, but because Woodford was the one who actually taught me how to taste bourbon.

Woodford tasting wheel

Yes, you could just throw it back and hope you don’t cough up a lung, but then you’d miss all those wonderful notes of caramel, vanilla, rye, cherry and so many other flavors. How do you get to taste all these? They call it the triple taste. You take the first sip to get your mouth acclimated to the alcohol. Yes, there will be that initial burn, but that’s why you take another sip about a minute later. It’s during that second sip that you really start to taste the flavors. There won’t be that burn this time because your mouth is now accustomed to the bourbon and you’ll really get to taste those floral and fruity notes. The third taste is for the finish. And believe me when I tell you, Woodford finishes well!

Woodford tasting

All those tastes make for a delicious drink neat or on the rocks. But if you want to drink Woodford straight, I’d recommend their youngest product, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. It’s called Double Oaked because after aging the bourbon in one oak barrel for 8 years, it’s then poured into another oak barrel and aged for another 10 months. What makes this oak barrel different? Unlike the first barrel which is toasted for 10 minutes and charred for only a couple seconds, the second barrel is toasted for a whopping 40 minutes and then charred for 5 seconds. That extra toast and char really bring out the sweet aromatics, making the Double Oaked a delicious sipping bourbon; something perfect for dessert.

But don’t throw away that original bottle of Woodford just yet. It will make a delicious cocktail. And since I just got back from Kentucky I thought I’d share another classic named after the state where bourbon was born – The Kentucky River. While I can’t tell you how or when exactly this cocktail was created, I can tell you that it goes back to at least 1934. That’s the year the book How to Make Old Kentucky Famed Drinks was published and this cocktail is inside.

So whether you mix your bourbon into this awesome cocktail or drink it straight, it’ll definitely be better with Woodford. But if Woodford’s not your favorite bourbon, don’t fret, this cocktail is delicious no matter what bourbon you use.

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Kentucky River Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 4 dashes of peach bitters
  • lemon peel for garnish

Directions:

  1. Stir the bourbon and Creme de Cacao together in a wine glass. Add the peach bitters and ice. Drop in the lemon twist and serve.

Ghost Meringue Cookies

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

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I love Halloween. It is far and away my favorite holiday. I know Christmas and Hanukkah are at the top of most lists because of all the food and gift giving/getting. But I like Halloween. Why? Because of all the candy of course. Yes, if you know anything about me, you know that I have a serious sweet tooth, especially when it comes to chocolate. So the idea of going from house to house to get free chocolate bars and peanut butter cups always makes me smile. (No, I no longer beg for candy. That’s what my sons are for.) The fact that you also get to dress up as whatever evil, pretty or bloody creature you want (yes, I do still dress up) makes Halloween absolutely the best holiday out there. And since every holiday must have something sweet to go with it, I’m always creating fun, interesting treats.

Halloween is no different. I know I mentioned the candy, but homemade sweets are just as important as store-bought ones. A couple years ago I made some awesome chocolate pudding using leftover mini Milky Ways. But this year, I decided to go 100% scratch. That’s right, not 1 pre-made anything, anywhere. As a matter of fact, these cookies only have 4 ingredients, making them by far the simplest Halloween treat you’re going to find.

stove top ghosts

Now, people are always yelling at me when I say something is super easy to make. They tell me “Shut up, Jenn. You always say that. But hellooo, you’re a cook. Everything is easy to you.” While that may be true with some things, I promise you, these cookies really are easy. If you can separate an egg and use a pastry bag, you’re in!

There is one drawback to these ghostly treats though: waiting for them to come out of the oven. See, unlike a chocolate chip or sugar cookie which only takes about 10 minutes to cook, these little cuties require some serious patience. Once they go in the oven, you have to wait at least 90 minutes before you can take a bite. I know it’s hard to wait, especially when it comes to sugar and chocolate, but if you open the oven too soon, the meringues will fall. So, instead of cute, plump ghosts, you’ll end up with flat, dead ghosts. And nobody likes a flat ghost. Dead is okay, but flat just isn’t cute at all.

Boo!

Ghost Meringue Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high until foamy. Add the cream of tarter and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
  3. Gradually add the sugar a little at time and continue to beat until the sugar is dissolved, the meringue is shiny and holds stiff peaks.
  4. Spoon all the meringue into a pastry bag with a round, circular tip. Then, holding the now full pastry bag over your prepared cookie sheets, squeeze a small amount of meringue, about the size of a silver dollar, onto the sheet, lift up a little and  repeat, making a smaller circle on top, and once again, for a third even smaller circle for the head (kinda like a fat snowman). Then end by releasing pressure as you lift, so you’ll get a nice point on the top. Repeat this process to get at least 12 ghosts per sheet.
  5. Once you’ve finished off your meringue ghosts, grab a handful of mini chocolate chips and place 2 on each top layer of meringue to act as eyes.
  6. Place the ghostly meringues in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Once the timer goes off DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Just turn the oven off and let the meringues sit in there for at least another 40 – 60 minutes. Once the cookies are crisp and dry, serve to all those little ghosts and witches who come knocking at your door.