Thursday, April 20, 2006

SHF #18 -- Bourbon-licious!

I am very excited to participate for the first time in a Sugar High Friday!

I knew nothing about bourbon before I moved to Kentucky. Did you know that all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons?

Here are some quick facts about the smooth substance, from the folks a the Labrot and Graham Distillery, makers of Woodford Reserve, our house bourbon.:

No whiskey can call itself Bourbon unless it meets the following criteria:

Must be made in the United States

Distilled at less than 160 proof from fermented grain mash

The grain recipe must be at least 51% corn

The product must be stored in new, charred, white oak barrels at no more than 125 proof

Nothing can be added to the final product except pure water

I learned a lot about bourbon in my four years in Kentucky, like a bottle makes a great hostess or thank you gift; non-whiskey drinkers will sip on a glass of good bourbon; even dogs like bourbon (when it is occassionally spilled on the floor!); and don't call Jack Daniel's bourbon in front of a Kentuckian (or me now, for that matter!); mostly I learned about cooking with it. I have made everything from Bourbon Baked Beans to Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce for ice cream, and probably my favorite...the Bourbon Ball. My husband and I were married at an historic log cabin church in Paris, Bourbon County (yep, our marriage certificate even says Bourbon County!), Kentucky. For the reception we featured Kentucky foods and drinks, like Flag Fork Farm Beer Cheese (YUM!), Kentucky Ale, and of course Bourbon Balls (made with Woodford Reserve)! We made over 300 of those little buggers, by hand, to give out to the family and friends in attendance. I haven't quite gotten over that experience, and have stuck to extremely small batches since then!

A few months ago I made some Bourbon Fudge Brownies from Cooking Light (March 2003) when we had a weekend guest. They were really good, especially when warmed and topped with Purity After Dinner Mint ice cream! This weekend, for our Easter party, I wanted to make them again. As I was preparing them, I realized I used the 2/3 cup instead of the 1/2 cup when measuring the flour, which made the batter more like a dough. To compensate, I added approx. 1/4 to 1/3 cup additional bourbon, extra cocoa powder, and 3/4 cup chocolate chips. The result -- HEAVENLY! Here is the modified recipe, with a modified title that more accurately reflects their bourbony-goodness!

Bourbon Truffle Brownies

1/2 cup bourbon

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips + 3/4 cup semisweet choc. chips

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups sugar

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring bourbon to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture and bourbon mixture to sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add 3/ 4 cup chocolate chips.

Spread batter into a 9-inch square baking pan (I used my Emile Henry heart-shaped pan, which is the perfect size!) coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Sure Sign of Spring

I love when asparagus can be found for less than $2 a pound! That means warmer weather is here (along with tornados), and it is time to start eating veggies we haven't seen in 8 long months (or so)! The April issue of Vegetarian Times had a recipe for Asparagus-Pesto Lasagna. The recipe sounded good, but their picture was a bit on the pale and pasty side to me. However, a virtual friend of mine made it and raved about it on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board (a favorite haunt). I trust, better, I run to his recommendations, so I knew I had to make this dish on Monday night when my sister, BIL, and nephew were coming over [none of which are veg-heads, but I still love them! :) ]. The recipe is posted over on the link, but I will repost here, in case the link goes down (thanks to Bob for typing and posting it on the CLBB).

Asparagus-Pesto Lasagna
(Vegetarian Times April 2006)
(Serves 10)

1/3 cup all purpose flour
3-1/2 cups low fat milk, divided
6 Tbsps pesto, or more to taste*
2 Tbsps. Grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish, optional
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1-1/4 lb. asparagus spears, tips cut off and reserved, spears trimmed and chopped into 1/4” pieces
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
16 no-cook lasagna noodles (9 oz)(I used 9 noodles, and couldn't find no-cook!)
2 cups shredded Fontina or part-skim mozzarella (8 oz), divided

1. Preheat oven to 350. Whisk flour and ½ cup milk in saucepan until smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute until thickened. Remove from heat: stir in pesto, parmesan, salt and pepper. Reserve one cup of the white sauce.

2. Warm oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add chopped asparagus (not tips) and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, cook, stirring, 1 minute and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. Coat 13 x 9 baking dish, layer three noodles on bottom, overlapping slightly. Layer with half of cooked asparagus, ¾ cup cheese and half of sauce (I used less sauce, since my noodles were already cooked). Add another layer of pasta, remaining sauce, remaining cooked asparagus, and ¾ cup cheese. Top with a layer of noodles, then with reserved cup of white sauce. Arrange reserved asparagus tipes over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. (I had sauce, ca. 3/4 cup, leftover b/c I had pre-cooked my noodles.)

4. Bake, uncovered. 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes; serve with additional grated parmesan, if desired.

Per Serving: 413 cal; 21g protein; 17g total fat (8g saturated); 44g carb; 44mg chol; 686mg sod; 2.5g fiber; 8 g sugars* Look for the freshest, most flavorful pesto in the refrigerator section of the supermaket, packed in vacuum sealed bags or plastic tubs.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Evolution of Pizza...

at my house anyway! Here is the very delectable end-result...a tomato and asparagus pizza on my all-time favorite crust (recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone). This pizza looks as yummy as it tasted. Of course, it was a labor of love to get it to the final stage.

Let me backup and clarify the story....

First, I bought a new pizza stone in January (via because our first one had an unfortunate collision with one of our dogs (thankfully, on the stone was hurt, and that story is for some other time!). I used it maybe twice before I noticed it had what appeared to be oil stains...not really sure how that would have happened, but I do know it was putting off an awful smell, kinda' sweet and icky all at the same time!

So, it was banished to the pantry until I decided I couldn't take it any longer, I HAD TO HAVE homemade pizza. Hubby agreed, so I set about making the dough, and while it was rising, I set off to sand the yucky stuff off of the pizza stone (per the recommendations given here), under my hubby's watchful eye (or camera, maybe!). Hence the picture in the garage with the palm sander.

Okay, sanding done, stone washed and dried, dough is ready to go. I rolled out half the dough for the pizza (the other half goes into a well-oiled ziploc, remove all the air, and place in freezer for future use).

It had been a while since I made pizza, so I put the dough on the peel, and proceeded to put tomato sauce on it. Hmm...something seemed not quite right here. OH WAIT! I need to prebake the pizza. DUH! So I scraped off as much of the sauce as possible, and into the oven it went.

I baked it for 7 minutes, then went in for retrieval. Well the darn dough, instead of slipping onto the peel, proceeded to hightail to the back of the stone, and then JUMPED! ARGH! Now I had half cooked pizza dough cleaning for its life, its tail end getting sizzled by the very hot oven element below. I start yelling some very choice words, grab the tongs, and start pulling pieces of it out. The half-cooked dough was flinging around, piling up, and what was resting on the hot element was putting out an awful stench.

Hubby comes running in from the garage to see what the commotion was about to find our dinner looking like this:

Alas, I dry my tears of frustration, blanch the asapragus (they were forgotten about in the hoopla surrounding the stone and the burning shattered dough), and remember that I have the bag of dough sitting in the freezer. Luckily, it was just cold, not frozen.

So, I repeated the procedure, and here it is ready to go in the oven. I love that you can see the little ends of the asapragus sticking out!