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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.

Steak Salad with Asian Pears

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While it may not feel like Fall here on the west coast, we are, in fact, smack dab in the middle of it. You know how I can tell? Because the produce is changing. Peaches, plums and pluots are starting to be replaced by pears, apples and citrus.

Since the produce is changing, it would make sense that the weather would change too, right? I wish. Just last weekend it was in the high 80’s… again! And when it’s that hot, the last thing I want to do is cook. So salads or cold soups are my go to’s. But while a salad of tomatoes and fresh veggies makes a great side or lunch option, I need a little protein for dinner. So when I saw this steak salad in Fine Cooking, I knew I had the perfect dinner for me and my family.

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But this isn’t just simply a steak that’s sliced and thrown on top of the lettuce. This steak is marinated in the same pears that make up half the salad. So you get a delectable sweet tang when you bite into the steak while getting the same sweet crunch from the pears in the salad. It’s wonderful. What makes it even better though, is that you decide how sweet your steak will be by simply choosing how long to marinate it. I’ve already made this salad twice and the first time I marinated the steak for 4 hours. The second time I only marinated it for an hour. While the steak was good, it wasn’t nearly as sweet.

No matter what you decide, this salad is a wonderful dinner choice for this time of year. The pears provide a delicious crunch and combine perfectly with the sweet strip steak. As I said, I’ve already made it twice, but I’m pretty sure it will find its way back on the dinner table before pear season is over.

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Steak Salad with Asian Pears

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless strip steak
  • 2 medium Asian pears
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 head of butter lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small romaine heart, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Slice the steak against the grain 1/8-inch thick and set aside.
  2. Peel and core one of the pears. Cut it in half. Grate one half on the small holes of a box grater into a medium bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, mirin, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, salt and pepper to the bowl and whisk together. Add the beef and toss to coat. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, fish sauce, remaining lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and set aside.
  4. Toss the lettuces together with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Divide the lettuce among 4 dinner plates.
  5. Core and thinly slice the remaining pears. Place the pears, radishes and cucumber in the bowl with the remaining dressing. Toss to coat and scatter over the lettuced plates.
  6. Drain the beef and pat dry. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Scatter half the beef in the skillet and cook, flipping once, until browned and barely cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef. Top the salads with the beef and any accumulated juices and serve.

Creole Cocktail

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If you’re a Manhattan fan, you’re going to love this week’s cocktail. If you’re not… just wait until next week. Since it’s the last week of Bourbon Heritage Month, I had to bring you at least one more bourbon cocktail. (Don’t worry, there will be more, especially since I’m off to Bourbon Central, Kentucky!)

As I mentioned, this cocktail bares a striking resemblance to the Manhattan. Both are made with bourbon and sweet Vermouth. But where the Manhattan uses bitters and an actual maraschino cherry, the Creole uses Benedictine and maraschino liqueur. While the original recipe from 1916 calls for Amer Picon, the maraschino has often been substituted since it’s impossible to get Amer Picon in the States. (It’s a French liqueur that isn’t even sold over here.) But no matter whether you use the Amer Picon or the Maraschino, both add some nice fruity notes that when coupled with the herbal tones of the Benedictine, make for one hell of a cocktail; something that should be sipped slowly by the dim crackle of a warm fire.

Sorry there’s no story today. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find anything on how or when the cocktail was created. The only thing I found was that the Creole was first listed in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks from 1916. But any cocktail from a book that predates WWI is vintage enough for me and this blog. The fact that it’s also delicious, makes it the perfect bourbon cocktail with which to close out Bourbon Heritage Month. Don’t you agree?

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Creole Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Maraschino liquor
  • 2 dashes Benedictine

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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Summer is coming to a close, which means soon all those delicious stone fruits will be gone. But don’t cry just yet. There are still a few days of warm weather left and all that beautiful fruit is still available, which means there’s still time to make this wonderful dinner.

I found this recipe while flipping through my Food and Wine Magazine. I’ve always loved steak, especially when cooked on the grill. But I never thought about ladling fruit over it. If I put anything on top of my steak, it’s usually an herbed butter or some type of gravy. Sometimes for flavor, I’ll marinate the meat in a fruit juice or soy sauce. But whole pieces of fruit chopped up and served with the meat had never crossed my mind.

This salsa isn’t just made up of fruit though. It’s got onions and olives in it as well. So while the sweet flavors of the cherries and plums definitely stand out, the savory flavors of the onions and olives add a nice balance. And even though I used Lindsay’s California Green Ripe olives for my salsa, a plain black olive would work just as well. The important thing though, is to have all the flavors meld together, and a saltier olive, like a Kalamata, would overpower the salsa, turning it into a very different dish.

But the dish I made, green olives and all, was so tasty I’ll definitely make it again. See, I wasn’t the only one excited about this meal, my boys were too. Not that it’s any surprise, I mean, who can say no to cherries and plums? Yes, I said cherries and plums.

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green tomato, cored and chopped
  • 1 large plum, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cherries, pitted and quartered (frozen is okay as long as they’ve been thawed)
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (2 pound) skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Scrape the onion into the vinaigrette and let the mixture cool.
  3. Add the green tomato, plum, cherries, olives, basil, parsley and cilantro. Toss well, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Preheat the grill. Brush the steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred outside and medium-rare within, about 6 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain. Place the steaks on 4 plates, top with the fruit salsa and serve.