The Kitchen Prep: September 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tailgate Thursday: Arkansas Edition!

I was thisclose to giving myself a "bye week" on today's Tailgate Thursday. Birthdays sure do take a lot out of you! {Especially when you're turning 31! Bleh.}

Luckily, I had already made and photographed some of today's tailgate snacks a few weeks ago in anticipation of a week that I wouldn't have time to get everything together by Thursday. Always thinkin'!

Today I'm sharing recipes for an Arkansas Razorbacks tailgate. The University of Arkansas is located in Fayetteville, and I have actually had the pleasure of attending a game there a few years back. {In 2008 actually... wow, that was a while ago!}

Clockwise from top left: The stadium on gameday, 2. Scoreboard before the game,
3. Getting some food at Grub's on Dickson St., 4. I spy Tim Tebow! ;)
Here's a little secret: I have a tiny bit of a soft spot in my heart for The Razorbacks.

You heard it here, folks.

Why is that, you ask? Well, after spending a weekend in Fayetteville, it was hard not to have some sort of appreciation for the people there. They were hands down the nicest football fans I've ever met. {Well, except for whomever stole our tailgate grill that weekend... but, let's face it, there's always one in the bunch.}

I've been to a few different towns for football games {wearing orange & blue, no less}, and I have to say that wearing the opposition's team gear on a gameday in a college town will show you their true colors mighty quick. {And please note that I am aware that visiting Gainesville on a gameday as a non-Gator can be just as unpleasant thanks to some fans who forget their manners after the first sip of beer. I do apologize.}

But, Arkansas fans? Now they knew how to show their visitors some true hospitality. So, here's to you Arkansas, keep it classy!

1. The "Woo Woo" Pig, 2. Hog-Hugged Sweet Potato Wedges
3. Piggy Print Cookies 4. Red Zone Dress by Twelve Saturdays
Today's cocktail, The "Woo Woo" Pig is a twist on the classic Woo Woo cocktail, made with raspberry liqueur rather than Peach Schnapps for a little extra sweetness and a deeper red hue to go with Arkansas' Cardinal Red color.

And though these Hog-Hugged Sweet Potato Wedges are so easy to prepare I can hardly call them a recipe... I guarantee they will be one of the most popular snacks on gameday. My husband and I could not stop picking at these when we made them. {And the Honey-Scallion dipping sauce? Amazing!}

Finally, these Piggy Print Cookies are not your average thumbprint cookie recipe. No ma'am. Because the little well in these babies... it's filled with candied bacon. No, really. Sort of disgusting how delicious these are. {And if you still haven't jumped aboard the "bacon in sweets" bandwagon, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!}

I can't speak for how Hogs & Gators get along in nature... but around here, they're friends! :)

The "Woo Woo" Pig
adapted from the classic Woo Woo cocktail

2 oz. of vodka {or white rum if you get hungover at the mere sight of vodka like I do}
1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur {such as Chambord}
2 oz. cranberry juice
A splash of sour mix, optional
1 lime wedge

Place all ingredients {including lime wedge} in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled glass.

Hog Hugged Sweet Potato Wedges with Honey-Scallion Sauce
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into wedges {about 16}
8 slices of bacon {preferably center cut}, cut in half
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 scallions, chopped {white & green parts}
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.

Wrap each sweet potato wedge in bacon. Secure with a toothpick if needed. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is cooked and crisp.

Meanwhile, mix melted butter, honey, scallions, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together to combine.

Place potato wedges on a serving platter and serve with dipping sauce.

Piggy Print Cookies {Maple-Bacon Chocolate Chip Thumbprints}
Adapted from Cooking Channel TV

For Candied Bacon:

7-8 strips of bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar {I used plain white sugar & it still worked out, but brown would be even better}

For Cookies:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour {plus 2 or 3 extra tablespoons if dough is too wet}
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter {3/4 cup), melted & cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon maple syrup {or 1 teaspoon maple extract}
1 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

For Candied Bacon:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a separate plate, sprinkle each piece of bacon with sugar, patting lightly to adhere the sugar to the bacon.

Place on an oven-safe baking rack on top of the lined baking sheet. Arrange sugared bacon slices on baking rack, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until bacon is cooked and sugar is caramelized. {Keep an eye out for burning, it can happen quickly!}

Remove from oven and cool completely. Chop bacon into small bits. Set aside.

For Cookies:

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat together butter, brown sugar, eggs, and maple syrup or extract until smooth. Add dry ingredients a bit at a time until fully incorporated into a dough. {I added a few tablespoons of extra flour to stiffen dough because it looked a bit wet. Use your judgement when you make these.} Gently stir in dark chocolate chips.

Scoop by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet. Using your thumb, create an indentation in the center of each cookie. Fill with crumbled candied bacon, about 1/2 teaspoon for each.

Bake for 11-12 minutes or until just starting to get golden around the edges. Cool on a baking rack. {Or eat warm out of the oven... hog heaven!}

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tailgate Thursday: Kentucky Edition!

Well, wouldn't you know it. I spent all that time worrying about last weekend's game for nothing. ;) And so we move on to the next competitor: the Kentucky Wildcats.

The University of Kentucky is located in Lexington, The "Horse Capital of the World". Before writing this post my knowledge of important Kentucky facts and information ran about as deep as what I knew about Tennessee.

Kentucky = Bluegrass. Horse races. Bourbon.

{Good grief, do I need to travel the U.S. a little or what?! Embarrassing.}

1. Sail Away Dress {be sure to check out the back... SO cute!} from Twelve Saturdays
2. Kentucky Hot Brown Dip 3. The Tipsy Wildcat cocktail by Haute Cocktail 4. Boozy Bourbon Mini-Bundts
When I started planning out the recipes for a Kentucky tailgate, I wanted to find something different  yet well known to Kentuckians. After some browsing, I found something that I had never heard of, but that seemed to be a true Kentucky staple: The Hot Brown Sandwich.

What is a Hot Brown? Basically, it's an open faced turkey sandwich that's completely smothered in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with bacon and tomato, and broiled until it's bubbly and completely irresistible.

Um, I'm in love. {Isn't it sad that a river of cheese is all it takes to woo me??}

The only problem was that it could be a little difficult, messy, and time consuming to make Hot Browns for a tailgate crowd! So, with a little innovation {a lot of laziness}, I turned Kentucky's favorite sandwich into a gameday-ready dip!

Carla designed a bourbon-based cocktail for your sipping pleasure. The color didn't quite turn out when I made it at home, but put it in a blue plastic cup and you're good to go! ;)

And last but not least, these Boozy Bourbon Mini-Bundts with Bourbon Caramel Glaze taste like Fall has finally arrived {at the distillery}. ;) Check out the recipe below to see how an attempt at Caramels left me with this happy accident!

What will you be cooking this weekend? Hope your gameday is tons of fun!

The Tipsy Wildcat
created by Carla from Haute Cocktail

1 oz. Kentucky Bourbon
1 oz. Southern Comfort
2 oz sour mix {see recipe below for homemade}
Splash of Blue Curacao
2 oz. lemon-lime soda

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Pour into a glass, over ice. Top with lemon-lime soda, and stir.

Homemade Sour Mix
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/3 cup simple syrup
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a glass. Stir together. Pour into an airtight container and store in refrigerator.

Kentucky Hot Brown Dip
Inspired by The Brown Hotel

1/3 pound oven roasted turkey, sliced thick and torn into bite sized pieces
4-6 slices thick cut white sandwich bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for bread
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups half & half
1/2 cup {packed} grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
3-4 slices of crisp bacon, crumbled
1 small Roma or plum tomato, sliced

Set oven to broil. Place torn turkey pieces in the bottom of an oven-safe dish. Set aside.

Place bread slices on a sheet pan and broil for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden and toasted. {Be careful not to forget that it's in the oven like I did!} Remove from oven and butter liberally on each side. Cut off crusts if desired, then cut into toast points. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth; cook for about 1 minute. Slowly pour half & half, whisking constantly, to mixture. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes or until thickened {it should look like Alfredo sauce and coat the back of a spoon}.

Remove from heat and add cheese. Whisk until smooth. Pour over turkey in dish and smooth out.

Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and top with tomato slices. Sprinkle extra cheese over top. Broil for 8-10 minutes or until bubbly and top starts to brown in places.

Serve with toast points. {You may want to set out a knife for spreading as it is a thick and chunky dip.}

Boozy Bourbon Mini-Bundts
Adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup brown sugar {packed}
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup milk
2 1/2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray liberally with non-stick spray. {There's nothing worse than stubborn bundts that won't come out of the pan!}

Cream brown sugar and butter together until combined. Add egg and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add sweet potato and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.

In a cup, combine milk and bourbon. Set aside.

Alternating between dry and wet, add flour and milk mixture in 2 additions to butter/sweet potato mixture. Beat until just combined.

Spoon batter into a zip-top plastic bag, and snip the tip to pipe batter into oiled bundt mold. Fill about 3/4 of the way full. {You can certainly spoon it directly into the mold, but I find this is the easiest & most precise method.}

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 15-20 minutes and remove from pan. {If you have a hard time removing them, use a spoon to gently scoop them out. Just make sure they are sufficiently cooled or they will crumble.}

Top with your favorite glaze. {See below}

Bourbon Caramel Glaze

So, here's funny little story. I tried to make these caramels {except I used bourbon instead of honey flavored whiskey}, and they didn't set up. So, not to be deterred by the epic fail,  I used the sauce to dip these baby bundts into, and they were a perfect pairing.

You can take your chances and follow this recipe & see if you come out with Caramels or Caramel Sauce... either way it will be delicious.

Alternatively, you can mix together about 1 cup of confectioners' sugar with about 2 tablespoons of bourbon to create a nice glaze, or mix bourbon into store bought caramel sauce for an even more decadent topping.

P.S. If you end up with caramels, and not sauce... will you please tell me your secret?? ;)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Behind the Screen: Central Florida Bloggers Conference

Ok.... I’m about to get all blogger-nerdy on you and I feel that I should warn you that I’m on a bit of a high after spending Saturday in Orlando at the Central Florida Bloggers Conference. I don’t usually talk blog ON the blog, so I hope you’ll give me a pass just this once to geek out on you and talk shop because I have far too much excitement to contain myself at this moment.

Are we good, then? Ok, great! ;)

The conference was held at the Orlando Science Center, which happened to be a pretty cool {and HUGE} venue. {Um, when was the last time you had a conference in a place with a mini-forest sprouting from the center of the building??}

I couldn’t help but notice that this conference might be just a tiny bit different than others I’ve attended for work when a flash mob popped out of their seats and began to dance to Michael Jackson’s "Man in the Mirror" within the first few minutes of the beginning {in a planetarium-type theater, no less}…

{Well, we were in Orlando… land of magical mice… what did you expect?}

The day was broken up into 8 thirty minute sessions covering topics from getting the most out of your social media, to working with brands, to piracy and plagiarism.It was a whirlwind of information with some exceptional speakers.

The "J" of J's Everyday Fashion
All of the presenters did a fantastic job at sharing their experiences, tips and tricks, and excitement for blogging. No lie. They found a super talented bunch to spread the blog-love! My favorite speaker highlights were:
  • Rachelle Lucas’ {The Travel Bite} session on all things Twitter. She is adorable and so knowledgeable!
  • Kyle Menard’s {Brink Magazine} palpable enthusiasm and humor about turning content into print. {Not to mention his outfit, which, as we all know is key in capturing my attention. Ha!}
  • Julie Deily’s {The Little Kitchen} useful info about working with brands. The girl knows her stuff and is so sweet!
  • Jeanette Scott’s {J’s Everyday Fashion} presentation on using Facebook as an important tool to success. I'm not even going to pretend I wasn't just a little bit starstruck to be sitting in front of the girl whose fabulous fashions are all over my Pinterest!
  • Mark Baratelli's {The Daily City} irreverent and slightly R-Rated {yet hilarious} talk on his personal tips to blogging success. If you have not heard the man speak somewhere, do yourself a favor and change that today!
  • I could go on and on about all the fabulousness I encountered, but I'll stop here since I am grateful that those of you who are not bloggers are still awake.

    But seriously, if you didn't already gather this from all my spouting, it was a great first conference to attend.

    From left to right: Inspiration by Lou Mongello, Steel drum tunes to eat by,
     Lunch by Bahama Breeze, Wrap up party prehistoric style.
    One of the best parts was getting to meet other bloggers in person and not just tweeting at them or looking them in their avatar's eyes. Such a treat!

    Because I'm not stingy with my friends and want you to be exposed to their awesomeness {even though you won't get to meet them in person like I did}, I'm listing the sites belonging to some of these fabulous people and hope that you'll hop over and visit!

    Food Bloggers

    Amanda at Amanda's Apron
    Carroll at Vanilla Lemonade
    Catrell at The Wandering Coconut
    Christine at Cook the Story
    Julia at Live Pretty
    Julius at Droolius
    Katie at Katie's Cucina
    Kristina at Love and Zest
    Lacey at The Traveling Foodie
    Robin at Simply Southern Baking

    Miscellaneous Bloggers & Company Representatives

    Adrianna at Military Money Chica
    Amy at Better Sleep Coach
    Beka at Rebecca Roams
    Carol from Z 88.3FM {who might just have her own food blog soon!}
    Dwight from Z88.3FM
    Elizabeth from
    Kimbra from Bitner Hennessy {who will be blogging at Detour Orlando}
    Lauren from The Social Life
    Leah from Trusted Source
    Nick from Time Dog

    It was a pleasure meeting all of you and I wish you each great success with your projects!
    As for me, it's back to the kitchen!

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Tailgate Thursday: Tennessee Edition!

    When I think of Tennessee I think of three things: 1. Jack Daniels Whiskey 2. Being terribly hung over the day after my 22nd birthday celebration at the Florida/Tennessee game while wearing tank tops that were hand-painted with various "nana-nana-boo-boo" type sayings {Do you remember this Kelly?! Ohh, college!} 3. The Rocky Top song that is played incessantly during Tennessee football games.

    And until I read the "Fun Facts" page for the city of Knoxville where the University of Tennessee is located, I couldn't tell you much else! {Incidentally, they have one of the most entertaining fact pages of any city I've had to research thus far!}

    Today I'm featuring the Tennessee Volunteers for Tailgate Thursday, and I've gotta say, it's a lot more difficult to talk nicely about a school when your team will be playing them on Saturday! ;)

    As much as I love a good tailgate, I do not love having to spend the entire day preparing all the goodies and missing out on the fun. So, today I'm featuring some easy, make-ahead recipes that will leave you free to enjoy the party with everyone else!

    1. Tennessee Rose, 2. "Smokey Got Sauced" Pulled Chicken Sliders,
    3. Rocky Top Bites, 4. Stadium Stripes Dress from Twelve Saturdays
    Carla's Tennessee Rose cocktail is just the right amount of sweet and sassy in the hands of any Tennessee girl. The whiskey is a nod to Tennessee's famous distillery, while the pineapple juice and unique addition of Creme de Cassis {a liqueur with black currant extract} soften it up.

    I cannot begin tell you how much I love using the slowcooker on busy days {like a gameday!}, and this recipe for "Smokey Got Sauced" Pulled Chicken Sliders will show you exactly why. Delicious, tender pulled chicken AND homemade whiskey barbecue sauce cook together in a matter of hours to deliver an easy and fabulous tailgate snack. {The name comes from the Volunteer's mascot, Smokey the Hound, and the nip of Jack that snuck into the sauce.}

    Looks like Smokey's been sneaking the sauce. He's awfully cute, though. ;)
    I made homemade Honey Buttermilk Rolls to serve these on, but you can certainly pick up your favorite slider rolls from the grocery store if you aren't in the mood to be up to your elbows in flour and dough. {Though I can't imagine why not. Ha!}

    No menu would be complete without a little something sweet, and today's dessert can't get any easier with no-bake Rocky Top Bites. Like a little nugget of Rocky Road goodness they'll satisfy a gameday sweet tooth with milk chocolate, almonds, marshmallows, and crisp rice cereal. They come together in no time at all and you can even get creative and make them look like little footballs if you so choose... but they're just as good undecorated {or, you know, right out of the bowl!}. :)

    I'm a little wary of the outcome of this weekend's game between the Gators & Volunteers, but I know one thing: With a menu like this, I'll be a happy camper - win or lose!

    Tennessee Rose
    created by Haute Cocktail

    2 oz. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey
    3 oz. Pineapple Juice
    3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
    1/4 oz. Creme de Cassis or you can substitute with Raspberry Liqueur

    Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and rose petals.

    "Smokey Got Sauced" Pulled Chicken Sliders
     Cooking Method from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, Jack Daniels Sauce adapted from Southern Food at

    2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1 medium {or 1 1/2 small} yellow onions, sliced thin
    1/4 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
    1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
    2 cloves garlic, grated
    1 cup ketchup
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    2 tablespoons vinegar {I used cider vinegar}
    1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    1/4 cup {packed} brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
    1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    Line the bottom of the crockpot with a layer of sliced onions. Place chicken on top.

    In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk together until incorporated. Pour over chicken.

    Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove chicken from crockpot and shred with 2 forks or {or with a hand mixer, as odd as that may sound!}.

    Serve on your favorite sliders rolls.

    Rocky Top Bites

    1 {12 oz.} bag milk chocolate chips
    1 cup almonds, chopped
    2 cups crispy rice cereal {such as Rice Krispies}
    2 cups mini marshmallows
    3 tablespoons white chocolate chips, melted {optional}

    Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

    Place chocolate chips into a large bowl. Microwave on high for for 30 seconds, stir, and return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until fully melted and smooth. {It shouldn't take more than about a minute, so be careful not to scorch!}

    Toss in chopped almonds, rice cereal, and mini marshmallows and stir until they are fully coated with chocolate.

    With an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measure, scoop out into a mound and place on prepared pan. {If you feel like fussing with them to get a football shape, now would be the time.}

    Refrigerate until chocolate is set, 15-20 minutes. {Decorate with melted white chocolate to look like footballs if desired, and return to refrigerator for an additional 10 minutes to set.}

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Honey Buttermilk Rolls

    Fall is just around the corner.

    It's true. All the signs are here: College football every Saturday, autumn scents at Bath & Body Works, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. I always kid around and say that these are the only signs of Fall we Floridians get since the temperature barely falters.

    Though I always feel like I tend to want to cling with all my might to the remaining summer days {and ice cream recipes, cold refreshing cocktails, bright and beautiful strawberries...etc.}, I am actually feeling ready for the beginning of the busiest time of year.

    The start of a new season means that I've put away my summer cooking magazines, and have started to go through my fall collection in search of must-make recipes. My {insane} organization and labeling method worked so well at the start of the summer, that I decided to do the same thing all over again for fall.

    After flipping through my first few Fall magazines, I already had a ton of recipes tagged. One in particular caught my eye and I decided that although the calendar has not officially proclaimed the beginning of autumn, I'd kick off the baking season by making these incredible looking Honey Buttermilk Rolls.

    I know bread is an undertaking that most people aren't all-too-willing to take on, but in my opinion, it's one food that's worth all the effort to have homemade.

    These rolls didn't rise all that much after the first rise and I thought maybe the recipe {or the yeast I used} was a dud, but in the end they still baked up into lovely little rolls with a hint of sweetness... and they made the house smell unbelievable.

    In case you're up for the challenge and want to start off your Fall by making a batch of homemade rolls {start practicing now and impress the in-laws by Thanksgiving dinner! ;) }, here's the recipe adapted from Taste of Home Magazine.

    In tomorrow's Tailgate Thursday post, you'll see how I put these babies to good use... stay tuned!

    Honey Buttermilk Rolls

    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 package dry yeast
    1/2 cup warm water
    3 3/4 cups bread flour, divided {I used all-purpose which could be why they were more dense}
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    3 tablespoons honey
    2 tablespoons butter, melted
    1 teaspoon salt
    cooking spray
    In the bowl of a stand mixer {or regular bowl}, combine sugar, yeast, and warm water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes or until yeast is foamy. {If it doesn't, you will need new yeast.}
    Meanwhile, combine buttermilk and honey in a cup or bowl. Set aside.
    Add 2 cups of flour and mix until mostly smooth. Pour buttermilk mixture gradually into flour mixture until incorporated. Mix in melted butter.
    Mix in 1 1/4 cups more of flour and salt. Stir until it forms a soft dough.
    {If you have a stand mixer, you will want to use the dough hook at this point. If not, your hands will do the trick.}
    With a Stand Mixer: Using the dough hook attachment, knead dough, adding a few tablespoons of flour at a time about 6-7 minutes or until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is able to be touched without sticking to hands.
    By Hand: Turn out onto a floured board. Add a few tablespoons of flour at a time to dough until it is able to be handled without sticking. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, continuing to add flour as needed. {Dough will still be slightly sticky, but won't stick to hands.}

    Oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and allow to rise in a warm, dark place for about 45 minutes. {It should technically double in size, though mine didn't quite rise that much.}

    Punch down dough, and allow to rest for another 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

    Divide the dough into about 24 even pieces, rolling into a ball shape, and place on baking sheet. Cover with a clean, moistened kitchen towel and allow to rise another 20 minutes or so until they've about doubled in size. {Once again, they may not rise that much, but just go with it.}

    Preheat oven to 350. Remove kitchen towel and, if desired, score the top of each roll with a sharp knife. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden brown. {You may want to rotate to ensure even baking.}

    Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack, or serve warm with butter.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Chocolate, Caramel, Marshmallow, Whiskey & Bacon Bark


    I'm going to stop saying that things have been busy or crazy or hectic, because I've realized that this is life's current {and future, I think} "normal", and therefore, it is no longer news. If I happen to have a week that is oddly calm or easy, I'll be sure to let you know.

    The reason I'm telling you this {aside from the fact that I obviously like to ramble} is because several of you have asked me to share a particular recipe for a few weeks now, and though it's been my intention to live up to my promise and do so, I haven't gotten around to it. And so I've been riddled with guilt, especially because there is no excuse in keeping this kind of deliciousness from you.

    It's sort of strange that I even tried this out to begin with considering the fact that it doesn't really fit my "food style". My little sister Mary, on the other hand, would be all over it.

    See, Mary and I have very different taste when it comes to how we like our treats.

    Here are a few examples:

    Ice Cream
    Mary's Preference: Cappuccino Fudge Blitz topped with chunks of cookie dough, Coco Puffs, & chocolate sprinkles.

    My Preference: Vanilla bean gelato. In a cup.

    Mary's Preference: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Crunch Frappucino

    My Preference: Vanilla Latte {Chai Latte if I'm feeling fancy}

    Mary's Preference: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough topped with Brownie topped with Oreos Topped with Brownie finished off with Chocolate Glaze

    My Preference: Fudge Brownie

    Frozen Treats

    Mary's Preference: Blue Raspberry Slurpee

    My Preference: Banana-Pineapple Smoothie

    There's nothing wrong with either preference. My tastes are just a little more "vanilla", if you will.

    That's why I was so surprised when this particular recipe appealed to me. {But let's be real, here. I think the whiskey might have had something to do with it.} ;)

    A layer of semi-sweet chocolate topped with a blanket of caramel, smothered with {whiskey infused} melted marshmallow, and then finished off with more chocolate & crumbled bacon. Yes... bacon.

    I don't know what got into me when I decided that I must make it immediately... and then top my Chocolate-Whiskey Cupcakes with shards of it. Over the top. So unlike me.

    I guess sometimes you  have to  take a cue from your little sister and let your taste buds take a walk on the wild side. ;)

    Chocolate, Caramel, Marshmallow, Whiskey & Bacon Bark
     adapted from recipe found at  Whiskey Disks, but originally from Endless Simmer

    1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
    2 cups mini-marshmallows
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon whiskey
    Approximately 25 caramels, unwrapped
    2-3 strips of crisp bacon

    Prepare an 8x8 inch pan by lining with parchment or foil sprayed thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray. {Create flaps that hang over edges for easy removal.}  Set aside.

    In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat semi-sweet chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. {Be careful not to scorch, even when it looks like it's not fully melted it will continue to melt as you stir, so err on the side of caution.}

    Pour about half of melted chocolate into prepared pan and smooth evenly with a silicone or offset spatula. Place in freezer to harden, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place marshmallows, butter, and whiskey in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for about 45 seconds. {Keep an eye on it, marshmallows will swell and try to escape the bowl!} Stir and return to microwave for about another 45 seconds. Stir until smooth and elastic.

    Pour onto set chocolate layer and, working quickly, smooth evenly. {If you're not using a silicone spatula, you may want to spray whatever you are using with cooking spray so that you don't have a sticky mess to deal with.}

    Return to freezer and freeze for another 15 minutes.

    Clean marshmallow bowl {or don't, it's really up to you}, and place unwrapped caramels into it. Heat for about 45 seconds, then stir, and continue heating in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth.

    Pour over marshmallow layer and spread evenly. {And quickly! It will cool fast.}

    Return to freezer for 15 more minutes.

    Reheat remaining chocolate until warm and smooth and pour over caramel layer. Smooth evenly and, while still wet, sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Pat bacon crumbles down lightly so that they stick to chocolate.

    Freeze for a final 15-30 minutes or until completely set.

    When ready to cut, remove bark by gently pulling on foil flaps, then carefully peel foil from hardened chocolate. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife.

    {Keep refrigerated. Bark becomes slightly gooey & floppy at room temp.}

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Tailgate Thursday: Auburn Edition!

    So... was your first gameday of the season everything you imagined it would be?!

    Ours was! {Except for, you know, our team looking sloppy. Ugh.}

    We are back to our Fall Saturday morning routine: Wake up. Watch ESPN GameDay {listen to see if you catch Lee Corso spewing expletives}. Try to be productive. Give up on productivity. Don our Orange & Blue. Head over to our game watching spot. Spend the next 4 hours shouting and cheering at the screen and completely undoing the week's good eating habits. Go to bed angry/elated depending on team's performance. Wake up tired. {Thank goodness for the 3 day weekend!}

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    You can't mess with tradition. :)

    And speaking of tradition, this week's featured team for Tailgate Thursday, the Auburn Tigers, is steeped in southern, football-watching tradition. Like last week's featured school, Auburn University is located in Alabama {don't worry, I'll eventually cross the state's borders!}, and as I mentioned before, these Southerners sure do know how to throw a party!

    Auburn's team colors are orange and blue {well, navy if you want to get technical}, so I thought I'd have a little fun with the team colors and incorporate them into the tailgate menu! {I kinda have a thing for orange and blue... ;) }

    1. 'Eye of the Tiger' Cocktail, 2. Blueberry-Glazed Crockpot Ribs, 3. Auburn Orange Blondies,
    4. Navy Prepster Dress from Twelve Saturdays
    Let's start with cocktails! The Eye of the Tiger Cocktail Carla mixed up is a sipper that packs a punch {um, hello, three different rums!}, but the tartness of the citrus juices rounds it out for a pleasant and refreshing beverage.

    And the Blueberry-Glazed Ribs? I've had a hard time keeping myself from sharing the recipe early since I tested it out a few weeks ago. The husband and I LOVED them.

    I'm not much of a meat eater, but between the fact that they cook themselves in the crockpot while you get your gameday preparations underway, their fall-off-the-bone tenderness, and the amazingly sweet and tangy blueberry sauce... I guarantee they will quickly become a tailgate must! {I'd make a double batch, in fact!}

    Chewy and decadent Auburn Orange Blondies are the perfect dessert to share with friends {especially because they're so rich you'll want to make sure you can still fit into the Navy Prepster Dress from Twelve Saturdays!} The only thing sweeter? Victory!

    Any Auburn girls out there have tailgate favorites you can't live without? I'd love to hear about them!

    Can't wait to bring you more tailgate goodies next week. Hope these give you some ideas for this weekend's football feasting! :)

    'Eye of the Tiger' Cocktail
    created by Carla from Haute Cocktail

    1 oz. Rum
    1 oz. Coconut Rum
    1 oz. Lemon Juice
    1 oz. Sugar Syrup*
    1 oz. Orange Juice
    1/2 oz. Dark Rum

    Shake all ingredients in a shaker (except dark rum) and strain into a highball glass with ice.
    Add dark rum on top and garnish with an orange slice, if desired. Serve with straws.

    *You can make sugar syrup by combining 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and bringing to a simmer over medium high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil for about 1 minute, then remove from heat and cool. Store in an air tight container and use to sweeten cocktails, iced tea, sorbets, etc.

    Blueberry-Glazed Crockpot Ribs
    adapted from Food & Wine, cooking method from My Life as a Mrs.

    3 pounds baby back pork ribs
    1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon salt

    4 tablespoons butter
    1 medium onion, minced
    2 large garlic cloves, grated
    1/2 teaspoon ground sage
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 cup red wine vinegar
    2 cups blueberry syrup {I halved this recipe & still had plenty left over}
    1 teaspoon hot sauce

    Combine spices in a zip-top bag or small cup and toss together to mix well. Sprinkle spice mix onto ribs and rub, coating well. Place in a crockpot set to low for 4-5 hours, depending on weight and thickness of ribs, until fully cooked through and tender.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally until translucent and softened. Stir in garlic and cook for about 1 minute, then add 1/2 teaspoon ground sage and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. Cook for about a minute more.

    Add red wine vinegar and bring to boil. Stir in blueberry syrup and hot sauce, and return to a simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes until thickened and reduced by about half. Remove from heat.

    Pour half of sauce into a small bowl for dipping, and set aside remainder for brushing onto ribs.

    Set oven to broil {500 degrees}. When ribs are cooked, remove from slow cooker carefully {they will be fall-apart tender!}, and place on a sheet pan lined with foil. Brush each side of ribs liberally with sauce.

    Broil on each side for 3-4 minutes until sauce is slightly browned and caramelized. {Careful not to burn, it can happen fast!}

    {Alternatively, I'm sure you could throw the ribs on the grill over indirect heat to finish them off.}

    Serve with extra dipping sauce.

    Auburn Orange Blondies
    adapted from Food Network

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
    4 eggs
    1 teaspoon pure orange extract
    1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

    In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

    Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer {or with a hand mixer}, beat butter, eggs, orange extract and zest until smooth. Add dry ingredients a bit at a time until well mixed and fully incorporated. 

    Pour batter into greased pan and spread evenly. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Cool completely. Frost with Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting when cool. Cut and serve.

    {Keep refrigerated once frosted.}

    Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    1 package cream cheese {I used 1/3 less fat}
    1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
    2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
    2 tablespoons orange juice

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, cream cheese, and orange zest and beat until smooth. Reduce mixer speed and add confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated and smooth. Add orange juice, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

    *I had frosting left over. Use to frost cookies, cupcakes, fill whoopie pies... the possibilities are endless! :)