Thursday, February 25, 2016

Caramel Bourbon Cream Liqueur

I've been having a lot of fun making cream liqueurs, and now that I've found flavored sweetened condensed milks (made by Eagle Brand) in chocolate and caramel flavors, it's even more fun.

Or less fuss. One or the other.

Unfortunately, the flavored sweetened condensed milks don't seem to be widely available. Someone I know posted a photo of them, and it took quite a long time before I found them - in just one grocery store so far.

If you do find them, you might want to pick up a few cans. I can see how they could be very handy to have one hand. Not just for cocktails, but also for making ice cream.

One reason I like these cream liqueurs so much is that they make a lovely dessert cocktail, and I don't have to fuss with mixing anything - just pour. I don't mind making mixed drinks, but some evenings I just want to settle in with something nice without measuring, fussing, squeezing, or stirring. And since this is sweet and rich, it's dessert and a drink all in one.

I made a minty cream liqueur with chocolate sweetened condensed milk that was pretty amazing. This time I chose to use the caramel flavored sweetened condensed milk along with bourbon. It was super-tasty.

Caramel Bourbon Mint Liqueur
Makes about 1 quart

1 14-ounce can caramel sweetened condensed milk (I used Eagle Brand)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups bourbon (I used Four Roses)
1/2 cup Brancamenta
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients and stir or shake to combine. Keep refrigerated. Serve straight-up or over ice.

If you can't find the caramel sweetened condensed milk, you can use canned dulce de leche, and then add more evaporated milk or regular milk to taste.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lemon Curd in the KitchenAid Precise Heat Bowl

You might have read my coffee ice cream recipe where I used the KitchenAid Precise Heat Bowl to cook the custard. That bowl is the latest KitchenAid attachment I bought, and of course I'm going crazy trying different recipes.

This curd is the first thing I tried, and I've made it several times since. It's really good.

The reason I chose curd as my first experiment with the bowl is that temperature is really important - it thickens at about 170 degrees ... but if you let the temperature get too high, you end up with lemony scrambled eggs. When I make lemon curd on the stove, I just stir and watch. It works most of the time.

But since the Precise Heat Bowl heats precisely, I figured that I could just let it do its thing, and the curd wouldn't overcook.

It all went swimmingly until I had the bright idea that I wanted to use the stand mixer to stir the curd while it heated, just like I'd stir curd by hand on the stove. First, I decided to use the paddle attachment. Oops. With liquid, it was quite splashy, even a the lowest speed. So I got smarter and used the whisk attachment. That worked much better.

I tried a couple different heating/stirring schemes before I figured out the fastest, easiest thing to do. One problem I ran into was that stirring lowered the temperature - or at least it thwarted the speed that the mixture heated, so it took a looooong time to get up to 170 degrees. For one thing, you can't have the lid on the bowl when stirring, so heat isn't retained. And I think the stirring itself was cooling the mixture.

Then I ran into another weird thing. According to the "back of the spoon" test, the curd was cooked. But when I tested with a thermometer, it wasn't at 170 degrees. I knew it wasn't the thermometer - I use a Thermapen and that sucker is always right.

I had to think about that for a while. I wondered if my bowl was defective. I thought about it some more.

And then I realized that the bowl doesn't measure the temperature in the center of the mix - it measures the temperature at the edges of the bowl. But that's not a bad thing, really, particularly when making curd. Just like when you're making ice cream and the paddle is scraping the frozen mix from the edges of the bowl to the center, when you use the precise heat bowl and stir, you're pulling the warmer mixture to the center. It cools off a bit there, but that's fine.

On the other hand, if you need the entire mixture at the same temperature, you could simply put the cover on and don't stir - or just stir once in a while by hand - until it all reaches the same temperature. But for curd, it doesn't all need to be the same temperature at the same time, and I have to say that just setting it up and letting it go was danged easy.


What? Sometimes my inner cartoon character needs to have a word.

Lemon Curd

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 whole eggs
2 teaspoons very fine lemon zest
3/4 cup lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)

Put the butter, sugar, and salt in the Precise Heating Bowl attached to your stand mixer. Beat with paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well combined each time. Add the juice and zest and mix until combined.

Remove the paddle attachment and put the cover on the precise heating bowl (you can leave it on the mixer or not, as desired.

Set the heat to 165 degrees. Stir a few times during the heating process, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

When the temperature reaches 165 degrees, remove the cover. give the mixture another stir, and attach the whip attachment to the mixer. Set the temperature to 170 degrees and then timer for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer on to the lowest speed.

The temperature will initially go down a bit, but will slowly rise to 170 degrees at which point the bowl will start counting down the time.

When the time is up, transfer the curd to a container. Let it come to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Note: I usually strain curd to make sure there are no lumps, but this was silky smooth. You can strain it, if you like.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chocolate Mint Day! Celebrate with a Homemade Chocolate Mint Liqueur!

Food holidays are certainly amusing, right? There's one or more for every day, plus weekly and monthly holidays. Not to mention that there are foods associated with holiday holidays.

Today is Chocolate Mint Day, which is a combination that I can certainly get behind. I like chocolate, I like mint, and for sure I like them together.

This liqueur is similar to the other cream liqueurs that you can buy, but it's easy and for sure much less inexpensive to make. Stir up a bottle of this and keep it refrigerated. It won't last long.

If you can't find the chocolate sweetened condensed milk, you can use regular sweetened condensed milk, then add chocolate syrup to taste. But I do suggest that you try to find the chocolate sweetened condensed - when you use chocolate syrup, the chocolate tends to settle and you need to shake before serving.

Not a huge problem, but one you won't have with the chocolate sweetened condensed. It tends to stay mixed rather than settling.

Brancamenta, if you're not familiar with it, is a minty-herby liqueur that's not as sweet as some other minty liqueurs, and it has a lovely herbal flavor. It's perfect for this, and lovely with mild-flavored fizzy sodas as well.

Homemade Chocolate Mint Liqueur
Makes about 1 quart

1 14-ounce can chocolate sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups Brancamenta
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and shake or stir to combine. Serve 3- or 4-ounce servings straight up or on the rocks.

This post was sponsored by the folks who make Brancanmenta.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Peanut Butter S'mores Bars

My friends at General Mills supplied my other buddies at 37 Cooks with some cereal to play with, and of course I had to play along. We each got the new versions of Trix, Chocolate Cheerios, and Golden Grahams. Three cereals I'd never tasted before.

The new versions have all natural colors and flavors, which is a good thing.

After doing some taste tests, I decided to combine the Chocolate Cheerios and the Golden Grahams, and I decided I wanted to combine them in a s'mores-like item.

I fiddled around a bit and hit a home run with s'mores bars with just a little bit of peanut butter. The peanut flavor isn't super-strong, but it adds a savory note to the sweet marshmallow.

Then I started thinking about the toasted flavor you get from heating a regular s'mores over a fire.

The answer was simple. I added more marshmallows to the top of the bars and hit them with my culinary torch. Just like when you're toasted them over the fire, some of them toasted golden brown, and then there were a few that got a bit blackened. Perfect!

To guild the lily a little more, I melted some chocolate and drizzled it on top of the bars. Because more chocolate is always okay.

While these are certainly sweet, they're not crazy sweet. Which makes me happy

Peanut Butter S'mores Bars

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
10 ounces marshmallows, plus more for garnish
Pinch of salt
3 cups Golden Grahams cereal
3 cups Chocolate Cheerios
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or butter it.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and peanut butter on medium heat. Add the salt, then add the marshmallows, and cook, stirring, just until the marshmallow melt.

Add the cereals and stir to coat all the cereal with the marshmallows.

Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking pan. Wet your hands with cool water and press the mixture down evenly into a pan. Re-wet your hands as needed to keep the marshmallow from sticking. You could also use a spatula, but hands are easier.

Cut one or two large marshmallows into small pieces. Or, if you have mini marshmallows, cut them in half. Arrange the marshmallow bits randomly on top of the bars.

Use a torch to soften the marshmallows, then use a spatula to spread and affix them to the top of the bars. If you have gaps in the bars, you can tuck marshmallow in there. Use the torch again to toast the marshmallows.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe measuring cup, heating in 30-second increments and stirring in between heating, until the chocolate is melted and easily pourable.

Drizzle the chocolate over the bars in a random pattern.

Let the bars cool completely (and make sure the chocolate has hardened again) before removing from the pan. Cut into bars.

I received cereal to work with from General Mills via 37 Cooks.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Quick and Easy Chicago Style Beef Sandwiches #OscarMayerNatural #sponsored

As a Chicago-born gal, I have a special place in my heart for Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches. But making them can be quite a long process, starting with cooking a large hunk of meat, followed by slicing the meat really thinly.

For some folks, that's the hard part - the slicing. And and Italian beef sandwich just isn't right if the slices aren't thin. I have a meat slicer, but I'm weird. Most people would have to wield a knife.

The annoying part about making Italian beefs at home - for me - is that it ends up being a LOT of food, since it starts with that big hunk of beef. While I do love a good Italian Beef sandwich, don't want to make a month-long commitment to eating it. I want a few sandwiches, and that's it.

In Chicago, Italian Beef sandwiches were fast food. They were the thing you ran out to get if you didn't feel like cooking. They were the thing you stopped for on your way from here to there. They weren't fancy.

There are shortcuts, though, that make it a lot more convenient. Like using beef that's already cooked and sliced and all ready to meet the rest of the ingredients. This time, I used Oscar Mayer Natural slow roasted beef. They've sponsored this post, but I created the recipe based on what I like.

The classic Italian beef sandwich in Chicago has a few options. You can get them with sweet peppers, hot peppers, or both.

And you can get them dipped (or wet), which means the sandwich is dunked in the jus or that tasty beefy juice is ladled onto the finished sandwich gets the bread pretty soggy. It's messy, but that's what it's supposed to be.

I usually opted for sweet and hot meaning that I wanted both types of peppers, and of course I wanted the bread nice and wet. The sandwiches in Chicago use bread similar to French bread, and much of it is supplied by specific bakeries. The bread is pretty solid before it's dunked, so it holds up well to being soggy.

Obviously those specific breads aren't readily available outside Chicago, but you can still make a decent sandwich. The important thing is that the bread needs to be sturdy enough to handle the jus. Hot dog buns would dissolve. French bread or sturdy hoagie buns work well. If the bread is a little stale, it doesn't matter, so this is a great way to use up extra bread that's a tiny bit dry.

If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate the meat and peppers in the jus and just reheat gently the next day.

The beef isn't the only type of Oscar Mayer Selects Natural you can get - it is available in five flavorful varieties including Slow Roasted Turkey, Applewood Smoked Turkey, Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken, Applewood Smoked Ham and Slow Roasted Roast Beef.

If you're worried about what's in the cold cuts you buy, Oscar Mayer Selects Natural is made with no artificial ingredients, and is minimally processed. Selects Natural has no artificial preservatives (the back side of each package lists the ingredients used to preserve quality), no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no gluten and no by-products.

Quick and Easy Chicago Style Beef Sandwiches
Makes 3-4 sandwiches

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced in strips
2 cups beef broth or stock (home-made or bought)
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 7-ounce package Oscar Mayer Naturals slow roasted beef
1 hoagie roll per sandwich
Hot giardiniera peppers, optional

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the bell pepper. Cook, stirring as needed, until the peppers are cooked through. These aren't supposed to be crisp-tender - they're fully cooked. Add the stock, oregano, and garlic powder. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for a few minutes so the flavors infuse the broth.

Add the beef and cook just to warm the meat - it's fully cooked, so there's no need to cook any longer.

Divide the beef among 3 or 4 hoagie rolls, depending on how full you want them. Add bell peppers to each sandwich, if desired. Ladle the jus onto each sandwich. Pass the hot giardiniera peppers at the table for people to add their own, as desired.

If you like, you can bring any remaining jus to the table for people to add more, or give them small bowls filled with jus to dunk the sandwiches.

You can learn more about Selects Natural and all the Oscar Mayer products on, Facebook at, Twitter at @OscarMayer and on Tumblr at
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Have a Godiva Cocktail for Valentine's Day

Did you know that besides making chocolate, Godiva also makes a chocolate liqueur? What better ingredient could there be for a Valentine's drink, hmmm?

While this stuff is pretty spectacular on its own, straight-up or over ice, it also works well in cocktails. But - I have to say - it really doesn't need much!

The heavy cream here is for presentation - it floats easily to make a pristine white layer on top of the drink.

 If you prefer something less rich and don't care about having a layered presentation, you can add milk to the cocktail to make it less rich, or simply add the syrup for the flavor.

The syrup I used is the same sort that's used to flavor coffee.

If you prefer, you could use a fruity flavor, like raspberry, or any other flavor you like with chocolate. Caramel, rum, or butterscotch would be fun.

Nutty Godiva

1 1/2 ounces Godiva chocolate liqueur, cold
1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon almond or hazelnut syrup

Pour the Godiva liqueur into a small glass. Mix the cream with the syrup and gently pour over the top. Serve.

I received product for my use in creating this cocktail.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras King Cake Coffee Whole-Egg Ice Cream

I love making ice cream. I love eating ice cream. I love the richness of custard-based ice creams.

However, I'm not fond of separating eggs. It's not that I hate to do it, but it annoys me that it leaves me with the other half of the egg that I need to find a use for. So, I thought, why not make ice cream that uses the whole egg?

I mean, why not?

There's actually a pretty good reason why not.

The problem is that whites and yolks cook at slightly different temperatures, and it's pretty hard to regulate temperatures precisely on a normal stove. So if you leave the egg whites in, there's a greater chance you'll get curdled egg bits.

There are probably other reasons, but that's the one I'm addressing here. The magic way to use the whole darned egg.

You see, I just got a new gadget: the Precise Heat Mixing Bowl that works as an attachment to a KitchenAid mixer. It also which also functions as a stand-alone cooker. Note: not a freebie. I paid actual money for this. It cooks things to ... you guessed it - precise temperatures.

I experimented with it a bit with other recipes, boiled some water, and then decided to give whole-egg ice cream a whirl. I mean, why not? What's the worst thing that could happen?

Usually I make ice cream in warmer weather, but some recipes just NEED to be made in cold weather. Like this Mardi Gras Coffee Ice Cream. The idea was prompted by the receipt (free, this time) of some Mardi Gras King Cake flavored ice cream.

And then I was staring at that mixer thingie and wondering if it would actually work.

Turns out, it did.

If you don't have the magic mixing bowl, I suggest using just the yolks and cooking you mix on the stovetop as you would for any custard-based ice cream. Like this Butterscotch Ice Cream. Or this Salted Butter Pecan Brittle Ice Cream.

If you do have the mixing bowl attachment thingie, or you're thinking about getting one, this is a recipe you might want to save. Oh - and if you're thinking about buying it, keep in mind that this is an accessory that is not universal. There are different models for the tilt-head and bowl-lift mixers.

Mardi Gras King Cake Coffee Whole-Egg Ice Cream

1 cup milk (plus more as needed)
1/4 cup Mardi Gras King Cake flavor ground coffee
2 cups heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar

Combine the milk with the coffee grounds and let it steep for at least a few hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. The longer it steeps, the stronger the coffee flavor will be.

Strain the grounds out of the milk with a small strainer, then strain again through a coffee filter or paper towel to get out the sediment. Discard the grounds and sediment. The coffee grounds will have absorbed some of the milk, so add more milk to the coffee-flavored milk
so you have 1 cup.

Combine all of the ingredients in the Precise Heat Mixing Bowl. Whisk well to make sure the egg is completely broken up, then continue stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved.

Set the heat on the bowl to 165 degrees and put the cover on. Let it come up to temperature, stirring occasionally.

When the bowl attains the 165 temperature, remove the cover, attach the bowl to the stand mixer and attach the whisk to the stand mixer. Turn the mixer to low.

Set the heat on the bowl to 170 degrees and the timer to 5 minutes. If you like, you can drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer and bowl to help retain the heat.

You'll see that the temperature will begin to drop. That's because it's measuring the temperature of the bowl, and the mixture in the center is likely to be cooler. You're also introducing cooler air as you mix. Don't fret, the temperature will begin to rise. When it reaches 170 degrees, the timer will start counting down.

When the time is up, remove the bowl from the stand mixer. The mixture will be thin, but it will thicken as it cools.

Refrigerate the mixture until it's fully chilled, then churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

I received samples of coffee from Community Coffee Company, but was not required to use it in a recipe. However, after my neighbor told me multiple times how much she liked it, I figured I'd do something creative with it. The flavor isn't super-strong to the point where you're wouldn't want to drink it every day. It's got a hint of cinnamon and vanilla that's very pleasant.

And to repeat ... no, I didn't get the bowl for free, and I was not paid, coerced or cajoled into publishing a recipe. I think I'll be doing even more recipes for it, since there aren't tons of them available, and so far I'm having a whole lot of fun with it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Big Game Eats

If you look around the web, there are TONS of amazing recipes for snacks appropriate for football-watching.

I intended on making something. I really did. Maybe just a cocktail. It was all going swimmingly until I realized that "the big game" is today and not next weekend.

So, I leave you with this. I hope you at least get a laugh out of it.

I'm sure you'll be able to figure out the recipe, should you decide to make it.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bahn Mi Rolls

Okay, okay, I know that "bahn mi" actually refers to the rolls, so the Bahn Mi Rolls is redundant.

I know that. But this recipe was named by Andrea Nguyen, the author of The Bahn Mi Handbook.

Ah yes, we Americans have co-opted another word and made it our own. That's what we do.

While the intent is to use these rolls to make bahn mi sandwiches, they're good for so much more. Like sub sandwiches, hoagies, grinders, muffalettas, Italian beef sandwiches, or pretty much anything else you want to put on a crusty roll.

Leftovers, after a few days, could be sliced into rounds and toasted for bruschetta or crostini. Or cut up for croutons or turned into panzanella. Yup, these are versatile. If you like baking bread, I suggest you give these a try.

The recipe in the book is quite a bit longer that what I've adapted, with much more detail, including photos that show how to shape the buns. So if you're not super-comfortable with making bread, go check out the book for more instructions.

The book suggests using a Vitamin C capsule or tablet, but I used sour salt. It's the came thing, but less trouble. You can find sour salt at some supermarkets and for sure online. It's handy to have on hand if you want to add a little tartness to foods, but you don't want actual lemon or lime flavor. My mom used it for her tomato soup if the tomatoes weren't tart enough.

You can knead this by hand, of course, but a stand mixer is sooooo much easier.

Bahn Mi Rolls
Adapted from The Bahn Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (one envelope) instant or rapid rise yeast
2 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 pound unbleached all purpose flour (3 cups plus 3 1/2 tablespoons), plus more as needed
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening at room temperature
1 1/4 cups very warm water (110 degrees)

Put the sour salt, salt, sugar, yeast, gluten, and flour in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low to combine. Add the shortening and mix until it disappears into the flour. Stop the mixer and add the water. Mix for a minute, or until the dough forms a shaggy ball around the paddle. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

Pull the dough off the paddle and attach the dough hook to the mixer. Knead on medium-low speed (2 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) for about 2 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and somewhat firm.

Transfer the dough to your work surface. No flour is needed unless the dough feels soft and moist. Knead the dough briefly. When you're done, it should be barely tacky ad not sticky at all. When you press it, it should immediately bounce back, but leave a little indent.

Drizzle a little oil on the dough, put it back in the stand mixer bowl, turn it around a few times so it's evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot for 45 minutes, or until doubled.

When the dough has risen, uncover the bowl and turn out the dough onto your work surface. Divide it into 6 equal pieces, then form each into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let the rest for 10 minutes, then form the balls into torpedo shapes. (The book goes into great detail about how to make this shape, but you can use any method you're comfortable with.) The torpedoes should be 6 1/2 inches long and 1 3/4 inches wide at the plump center.

Place the finished rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. I opted to just use a second baking sheet as a lid. Let them rise until more than double. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Set up the oven for steaming with a broiler pan or heavy pan on the bottom of the oven (or on a bottom rack, if your oven had exposed heating elements.)  Place a baking stone on a rack above the pan.

When the rolls have nearly doubled, remove the plastic wrap and let the surface of the rolls dry for the final 10 or 15 minutes.

Bring about a cup of water to a boil and keep it warm. Have a spray bottle filled with water standing by.

When the rolls are porpoise-like (my favorite description!) slash each each one with a sharp knife, nearly horizontal to the roll at the midline. It should be a very shallow cut.

Mist the rolls with the spray bottle and put the baking sheet in the oven on top of the stone. Carefully pour about 1/2 cup of water into the pan, then close the oven door. Lower the heat to 425 and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.

At this point, my oven malfunctioned, the door locked shut with the oven turned off and cooling down. I had to rescue the rolls using a coat hanger to unlock the oven. So I didn't finish the rolls according to instructions. Instead, I took the par-baked and cooled buns to a neighbor's house to finish baking. Fortunately, it worked just fine.

If you're not dealing with a dead oven, turn off the oven when the rolls are done, leaving the rolls inside for another 8 to 10 minutes to brown and crisp a little more.

Let the rolls cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes.

About the book:
I have to admit that I've never actually eaten a bahn mi sandwich, so I can't really say if these buns are right or not. But they are really good.

I have a pate recipe bookmarked, as well as pickles. Both are traditional on bahn mi. When those are done, I can make a sandwich.

But to be honest, the pickles and pate and bread all look like I'd find other uses for them aside from sandwiches.

And this bread? Yes, I'll make it again. Well, I will when I have an oven.

Considering the narrow subject matter of this book, there's a good variety of recipes. There are sandwich ingredients, like the bread, pickles, and pate, but also mayonnaise, sauces, sausages, and terrines. Then there are sandwiches. And finally, non-traditional bahn-mi-like foods, including a bahn mi salad.

So even if you don't want to make a lot of bahn mi, there are recipes you can use for other purposes.