Whiskey Marshmallows and Cajun Maple Pecans

Whiskey, making marshmallows feel all grown up.

Whiskey, making marshmallows feel all grown up.

Marshmallows are one of my favourite foods. That’s going to turn some people off I realize but I don’t care. I love them plain, toasted, made into ice cream, or especially in some bar treat (think rice krispie) form. But even if you are a marshmallow hater you might find yourself changing your tune after trying this boozy variety. And if you think you hate marshmallows but have never had a homemade one before then my money says its not these sweet little confections you hate but the crap that comes in a bag at the store. I make mine from scratch at least once a year and whenever I’m going camping. My boyfriend never liked marshmallows, finding them to be “pointless” and “too sweet.” He went so far as trying to ban me from making them anymore. That is until I put a healthy bit of bourbon into a batch. They are light as air, sweet, and have all of the depth of flavor of whichever alcohol you use. My go to’s are bourbon, whiskey, or rum. The alcohol cuts the sweetness and now these are “the only marshmallows I ever want to see in this house, ever.” You can guess where that quote comes from.

Maple, smoked chili, salt, and pepper give these pecans a kick.

Maple, smoked chili, salt, and pepper give these pecans a kick.

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Horchata: Pumpkin Spice Edition

Pumpkin Spice Horchata: greater than the sum of its parts.

Pumpkin Spice Horchata: greater than the sum of its parts.

Pumpkin spice (known from here on out at “PS”) is a big deal. Sure the flavor has been grossly exploited and is found in everything from cat litter to chewing gum to Pringles. This disgusting excess does not make the idea behind PS any less delicious. At its most basic it’s a collection of spices (most heavily cinnamon and nutmeg) mixed with sugar and pumpkin. I can’t think of a bigger current American food trend, aside from bacon of course. It might surprise you to learn that cinnamon isn’t nearly as popular in desserts outside of North and Central America as it is right here at home. Cinnamon rolls are quintessential to our cuisine. And good ole’ PS is just the perfect concept of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. The containers of “pumpkin spice” have been around for ages, then people started to add pumpkin and sugar to it and threw the whole shebang into some coffee. If you hate all the PS that’s around these days I don’t blame you. The fact that most of what you find is sickeningly sweet and cloyingly heavy and artificial tasting aren’t PS’s fault. We just need to take a hand in our food’s preparation. Do so and you’ll find out why pumpkin spice is more popular than any of the presidential nominees. Few experiences sum up fall better than a warm drink with heady exotic spices enjoyed on a brisk day. Makes you wanna get all cozy with that special someone.

Delicious horchata takes no effort and keeps great in the fridge.

Delicious horchata takes no effort and keeps great in the fridge.

Now lets be honest, how many of you are going to wake up and make yourself a latte everyday? Yeah, thought so. But you’d probably make yourself some drip or instant coffee. So why not make your own pumpkin spice syrup and have easy rich creamy coffees with aromatic cinnamon and hearty pumpkin to help you face the fact that the days are getting shorter? The syrup serves as my sweetener and part of my milk in regular coffees.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup:

Weight Watchers points: 1 for 2 TBL

1 1/2 cup water

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup real cinnamon in chip form or 4 sticks

1/2 tsp ginger powder

2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

2 big glopping TBL of sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree

  1. Combing the water and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a hard boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Simmer for another 5 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Strain into a jar and add the sweetened condensed milk and pumpkin. Stir or shake well to combine. Keep in the refrigerator.
Horchata is as easy and blending and waiting.

Horchata is as easy and blending and waiting.

Horchata basic recipe:

1 cup raw long grain brown rice

5 cups warm water

pinch salt

1/2 cup milk (optional)

2 tablespoons simple syrup (optional)

fresh ground cinnamon to serve

  1. In a blender combine the rice, water, and salt. Blend for about 30-60 seconds depending on the strength of your blender. You want the rice ground up.
  2. Let this mixture sit at room temp for about 4 hours. Strain, add the milk and simple syrup if using, and chill in the refrigerator.
  3. Sweeten if desired, serve chilled or over ice sprinkled with cinnamon
This recipe moves quick.

This recipe moves quick.

Pumpkin Spice Horchata varation:

Add 1-2 tablespoons of PS syrup to taste to each cup of horchata. Stir well and enjoy chilled topped with cinnamon.

Like buttah(scotch.)

Butterscotch is my errything, and you can expect to see it’s delightfully burnt sienna self popping up from time to time as the mercury begins to dip. But what is butterscotch exactly? And what makes it different from caramel and toffee, you ask? According to Sweet Manufacture a British handbook and recipe collection printed back in the 30’s for professional candy companies butterscotch is a caramel with 3-5% of it’s weight being made up of butter. The same chapter also states however that “there is no definite dividing line between toffees and caramels, and in what may be termed borderline cases it is quite impossible to say which class a particular sample belongs.” I love that quote as I always read it in my head as being said by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. It’s the most Britishly formally way of saying “ehh, no one knows for sure.”

Butterscotch and cashews are bff's, and there is no better time to celebrate this combination that the beginning of fall.

Butterscotch and cashews are bff’s, and there is no better time to celebrate this combination that the beginning of fall.

Nowadays butterscotch is known mainly as a sauce or in it’s chip form. It’s in the caramel family but it’s made with brown sugar instead of white which makes it sweeter than caramel while giving it greater depth of flavor. For me butterscotch creates memories of childhood and haystacks made with shoestring potatoes and peanuts. The flavor is American as Jell-O watergate salad and I unashamedly love it, even though every part of me knows I shouldn’t. If you don’t know what either of those “classic” recipes are, they’re the kind of things you usually have to grow up with to love, and even then they are as controversial as candy corn or licorice.

But I’m not here to rock the boat. I’ll not proselytize the wonders of licorice (and there are many) or sweet candy coated fried potato strips. I’m here today to give you the best possible introduction to this butter laden member of the caramel family: butterscotch cashew chews. The salted cashews round out the whole thing and provide the yang to the golden chip’s yin.

The world needs more butterscotch. Help make the world a better place.

The world needs more butterscotch. Help make the world a better place.

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You got bagel in my pretzel! You got pretzel in my bagel!

It's a pretzel-bagel/bagel-pretzel. Either way its delicious.

It’s a pretzel-bagel/bagel-pretzel. Either way it’s yum-tastic.

I jokingly call my boyfriend “the everything bagel bandit” because he leaves a trail of everything bagel toppings wherever he goes. Small piles of dried garlic and poppy seeds form in the rubber lining of the fridge door. They settle into the driver’s seat of his car and somehow find their way onto our couch’s throw pillows. I can’t blame him for his fondness. If I had the kind of metabolism that could support eating a half a loaf of bread’s worth of carbohydrates a day I would be all over that shit. Garlic, onion, salt, sesame and poppy seeds? Yes please. Never one to miss out I keep a jar of “everything bagel spice” on hand at all times. It’s a simple mix that takes a mere minute to throw together. It is amazing on popcorn (blend it up in a spice grinder first lest the pieces fall off), or on light toast with cream cheese, or as a topping on today’s project: bagel pretzels/pretzel bagels.

pretzel bagels (1 of 1)-12

Portion control. Wasn’t that a song by Prince?

I avoid making really serious breads because my KitchenAid is jacked at the moment. The metal on the mixing bowl is dented which means the bowl doesn’t lock in. I have to hold onto the bowl with both arms and my chest in a full body hug that makes it look as if the mixer and I are about to tandem base jump. In fact the only reason I attempted this was because my refrigerator was being threatened with a hostile takeover from the sourdough starter I grew this week. Since my man likes to have his “daily bagel” this is one of the best ways for me to use up the portions of starter dough that would normally meet their end in the trash. I HATE to waste anything, if you haven’t gathered that by now.

This recipe is heavier than a pretzel but lighter than a bagel. It’s full of wonderful flavors and has a healthy amount of chew. They’re also thankfully smaller than a deli bagel.

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Balcony Fresh Chocolate Truffles

Just like how they'd look if a pig sniffed 'em out of the earth, no?

Just like how they’d look if a pig sniffed ’em out of the earth, no?

Truffles, true rolled ganache tossed in cocoa powder truffles, are without a doubt one of the simplest sweets to make. Most people hear the word “truffle” and think of bon bons. The difference being that bon bons are either dipped or encased in a shell of chocolate. Bon bons are absolutely more difficult to make than truffles. You have to temper chocolate, dip or prepare molds, and prepare the filling. Its messier, more technically demanding, and just not something that I enjoy doing. Rolled truffles however are the kind of thing you could make while half watching a Cold Case Files marathon or FaceTiming your mother. I used to pretend that truffles took more effort to make than they actually do as I worried their impressive effect would be lost if people knew how simple it was to make them. But then I came upon this recipe and decided that the flavor is impressive enough on its own. I don’t need to trick people into thinking I spent an evening in the kitchen. All thats needed is planning. Simply allow time to steep the cream overnight, and then to bring your truffles fully to room temperature before serving. This gives them an unbelievably “how-are-these-not-melting-they’re-so-fricking-soft” texture.

These are seriously sexy food. So sexy that I made them for my anniversary as a way to end the night on a decadent but not heavy note. These are great for times when you want to indulge but don’t want to be weighed down, if you catch my drift. There is a reason that chocolate truffles are ubiquitous with Valentine’s Day.

Why do I call them “balcony fresh?” Because I made these guys lemon verbena flavored from some lemon verbena that I’ve been growing on my balcony. Clearly.

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If you’re gonna have pie, you gotta have ice cream

Ice cream, yo.

Ice cream, yo.

Did I mention I hate to let anything go to waste? Hate hate HATE it? So when I found out I could steep fresh peach pits in cream and make lightly peach scented ice cream I knew I had to do it. While my own homemade almond extract is not going to be ready until Christmas at the earliest I still have some store bought left over. There is nothing like the menage a trois of peaches, cream, and almond. It’s divine. Assuming you have an ice cream maker making ice cream at home is stupid easy. Its easier than making frozen custard, which is often mistaken for ice cream. Whats the difference you ask? Egg yolks, baby. Sweet, fatty, golden yellow, emulsifying egg yolks.

Seriously, save these guys.

Seriously, save these guys.

Ice cream can technically be made in one day, but I always give frozen custard overnight to chill. I do the same with any infused ice creams, like this one, so plan to make it the day before you want to eat it. It’s really really ridiculously easy to just steep some peach pits from your pie making at the same time you are making said pie. Let it sit overnight with your pie dough and then “spin” (the term used in professional kitchens for churning ice cream) your ice cream while you form your pie. You could spin your ice cream at the same time as your pie is baking but even with as awesome as the Cuisinart and KitchenAid ice cream makers are if the high heat of the oven makes your kitchen warm your ice cream will suffer. Avoid this issue by spinning your ice cream (a lovely hands off 20-30 minutes) while you are rolling pie dough, which also benefits from a cold kitchen.

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Peach Pie (filling), Oh my

Everyone likes pie. Custard pies, French style tarts, diner style meringue topped ones, pumpkin, the variety goes on and on. The number one type of pie for me is fruit pie. Aside from ice cream I can think of no better summer time indulgence. The main reason that I don’t make pies more often is because of how many steps that are required. Preparing the crust, preparing the filling. These each often take overnight, minimum since I chill my crust for at least 8 hours prior to using. Then you have to roll out the dough, chill the pie, bake the pie, cool the pie. It’s kind of a hassle to be honest. The amount of work is easy, it’s the forethought that’s a pain in the ass. Despite my hyper tendency to prepare things and store them I like to have the freedom to just “whip up” something from time to time. Maybe I’m lazy, sick, or have unexpected guests coming by. Thats where home canned pie filling comes in. There will be an upcoming post on safe canning procedures in the upcoming couple of weeks. What I really want to focus on today however is the peach pie filling.

Here's looking at you, kid.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

As I mentioned before I almost always have a double batch of pie dough in my freezer. This can thaw on the counter in 20 minutes. Whenever I am making cookies, pizza dough, or the like in my food processor I quickly throw in a batch of pie dough, saving me from having to pull out and clean the food processor on a separate occasion.  I will be posting about pie dough most likely sometime next week, as I used my last batch for this pie.

This was less than a third of the peaches bought this year. Not nearly enough if you ask me.

This was less than a third of the peaches bought this year. Not nearly enough if you ask me.

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