As a proud Scot, a Highland Games athlete and a lover of just about all types of booze from homemade hooch to top shelf single barrels, I have a keen fondness for whiskey (of all spellings and homelands – I’ve even have a Japanese Whiskey, and it was delicious!)
Now I am by no means a connoisseur but I do love to find new and exciting ways to use it in the kitchen. And I always have a few bottles of Jack Daniels on hand in my liquor cabinet.
So when I was looking to kick up my caramel sauce recipe I headed straight for that delicious Tennessee JD.
I used this particular batch in some Whiskey Bacon Caramel Bark, but I just happened to make a double batch to drizzle over ice cream… or just dip an errant spoon into, NBD.
Now caramel can be tricky but as long as you are paying just a little bit of attention you can handle it, I promise. Once you master it you can tweak it to fulfill your perfect caramel dreams, too. Like it more buttery? Or burned sugary or browned buttery? Add different extracts, experiment with thickness and consistency. It really is much more versatile than you think. And ALWAYS delicious.
There is always a jar of homemade caramel of some sort in my frig or pantry.
I’ll post my recipe for 6 minute caramel sauce soon, too, so you can see a different type of caramel that you can whip up on a whim.
Here is the recipe for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Caramel Sauce:
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
½ tsp salt
Combine the sugar, water, whiskey, and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn color.
Increase the heat to thigh and boil until the syrup turns a deep amber color, 4 to 5 minutes.
Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour in the cream and salt.
Use a long-handled wooden spoon to carefully stir in the cream, as caramel has a tendency to hiss and splash as the cold cream hits it.
Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.
The mixture should be the consistency of very thick cream. Let boiling sauce cool until it is just warm before serving.
To store, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To reheat the sauce, microwave, uncovered, for 30 second increments until desired consistency. Stir until smooth.
Well I went to the store one day a week or so ago… hungry. Which you all know is a big mistake. And passed by some delicious looking apple cider. Being hungry, I couldn’t pass it up. Fast forward I need to use it up before it goes bad. The leaves are turning here, the weather getting more and more crisp each day: it’s almost full on Fall. One of my favorite things to get while apple picking is some fresh-made apple cider donuts so munch on while out in the orchard or on the ride home. It’s probably one of the best parts of one of my favorite Fall activities.
So I had this cider I needed to use up and began searching for a recipe I thought looked good. I modified one to meet my needs, paid a little closer attention to the actual baking process (my ancient oven has wreaked havoc on my last few baking sessions). This recipe is deeeeelicious, You won’t want to change a thing about it. And as a side note, I’m NEVER baking anything NOT in a water bath ever again. Cooked perfectly, no tough, over-cooked bottoms and raw middles. Ah.. glorious.
I wanted to make some pop-able mini-donuts/donut holes so I grabbed both my donut pan and a mini-cupcake pan. I purchased wilton’s cupcake scoops a while back, totally worth purchase. They make filling the tiny spaces much easier (you can put them in a ziplock bag and pipe them in but I’m lazy and the smallest scoop works perfectly). But these are BOTH ones you are going to want to make sure you DO NOT over-fill. You want to make the donut holes still pop-able and look as much like donut holes as possible and not mini-muffins. And if you fill your donut pan more than 2/3 of the way you’ll lose your hole… (I know, I laughed at that, too).
These baby’s cook up fast so don’t go away and set a timer because you don’t want them to be tough, you want them just cooked through. I coated mine in cinnamon-sugar, because really who doesn’t love just about everything covered in cinnamon-sugar. But you can leave that off if you choose but they are seriously better with. I give the tops a little, quick dunk in some melted butter to help hold on the coating to the tops that have baked more firmly but the bottom portion should be moist enough that you only need to dunk (very quickly) the tops.
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, room temperature
2 Tablespoons butter melted
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure/homemade vanilla
Simmer apple cider over low-medium heat in a small saucepan on the stove for 15-25 minutes. You may add cinnamon sticks, spices, orange slices for flavor if desired. In this step you are reducing the apple cider for a stronger flavor. You will ultimately want end up with 1/2 cup. Allow to cool in refrigerator as you prepare the other ingredients.
2. Pre heat over to 325 degree. Lightly spray done or mini-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg*, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. * You can substitute pumpkin pie spice if you desire for the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Use amount equal to the total of each of the previous ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar together until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk*, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of apple cider concentrate. Mix with whisk until incorporated. *If you do not have buttermilk, you can create your own using a tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of regular milk, allow to sit for 10 minutes so milk can curdle. Mix often.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Very gently and with your whisk fold wet into the dry ingredients. Be as gentle as you are able in this step. You do not want to active the gluten, which will make your donuts have a touch texture and using a whisk keeps them airy. Whisk until *just combined.* A few small lumps may remain.
Fill mini-muffin or donut pan until 3/4 of the way full. If you have an inconsistent oven, use a large jelly roll pan or large deep cookie sheet and place in oven, fill halfway with water. Place donut/mini-muffin pan in the center of jelly roll pan. Bake 9-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Make the topping by mixing granulated sugar and cinnamon to your desired taste, generally around 1/4 sugar and a few teaspoons of sugar. Dip the top of the donut/mini-muffin in the melted butter then dunk them all the way into the cinnamon-sugar, using your hands to generously coat the entire thing. Repeat with all the donuts.
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days but they are best day of preparation.
Enjoy! Let me know how they work for you in the comments!
Peepin’ the fall Foliage in Wisconsin. Ok, y’all. Fall is my favorite. I know it is a lot of people’s favorite. Who WOULDN’t love it!? The crisp air, the flannels and boots… hoodies! Hoodies!!! Pumpkins, the earth set ablaze in one last beautiful hurrah before going to sleep for the next few months. One last party before the winter, that’s what Fall is. It is my favorite time of year for everything. Baking, photography, writing, everything. And I was thinking about a photo shoot I have in a few weeks and I decided to take a look at some photographs I took last year for some inspiration. And of course I wanted to share them with you! Let’s take a look and ALL get excited about the change of the seasons and the turning of the wheel. They aren’t the best shots of all but they remind me of how beautiful it is about to get.
My husband and I like to go on road trips to no where so we hopped in the car one morning, strapped the little Bear into his car seat and pointed the car North. We ended up somewhere in Wisconsin and found some beautifully scenic roads, a few meadows and fields all ripe for the viewing.
Can’t wait to take these drives again really soon!
So it has been an exciting time, with the change of the seasons and the beginning of my favorite time of year we have also started up the new session of my favorite pastime: women’s choir. We are a small but mighty bunch this session at the Old Town School of Folk Music in the quaint Northside neighborhood of Lincoln Square (which is also home to one of my favorite restaurants: The Chicago Brauhaus – best German food in Chicago). But I digress… Back to sangin’ We started out new music and are singing some of the hauntingly beautiful music.
This is quickly becoming my favorite song we are singing. I’ll try to get a recording of it at our rehearsal next week. But until then, here is a link beautiful rendition in Gaelic and another more colloquial version with the guitar.
It is a high one and it’s kind of evil and they ask us to sing high G’s and A’s in pianissimo… but beautiful all the same.
Last weekend was an annual event that I love and cherish. Throwing For A Cure is the first Highland Games I attended here in the mid-west and where I met the people I now consider close and wonderful friends. I am ever grateful and thankful for this event, not only for what it is doing to raise money to help research putting and end to breast cancer but for the people it bring together.
Each year the Clevengers put on this shindig and not only are their awesome people chucking heavy shite around but there is a raffle, silent auction, and a bake sale. And me being the baker I am had to come up with something scrumptious and irresistible. So of course I headed straight for the liquor cabinet.
Well, actually the fridge but that’s only because my bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream had already been opened and it needed to stay chilled. But I digress. I headed over to Pinterest, naturally, for inspiration, ideas and recipes for a fudge recipe that was heavy on the richness and even heavier on the booze. And behold: Bailey’s Irish Cream Fudge was found.
Now, this recipe makes a TON of fudge (like 5 pounds of it… yes 5!) so you can halve it… but I don’t recommend it because it is so delicious it will disappear almost as quickly as it makes up.
36 oz. chocolate chips (depending your taste, you can choose any combo on milk, semi sweet, dark, etc you prefer)
14 oz. marshmallow cream
2 tsp pure bourbon vanilla extract
2/3 c Bailey’s Irish Cream (or Irish Cream of your choice – and I am liberal with my pour so really closer to a full cup)
4 1/2 c granulated sugar
12 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 lbs. butter
In a very large bowl (or even a pot if you don’t have a bowl large enough) combine chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, vanilla, and Irish Cream. Set aside.
Line a 10×5 baking pan with foil or wax paper. Grease. You can use cooking spray or butter, which ever is your go-to method.
In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, milk and butter. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook slowly, stirring constantly. This will take about 10 minutes. You want to make sure the sugar is melted down. If you don’t cook down the sugar your fudge will be grainy.
Pour hot mixture into the bowl/pot with chocolate and Irish Cream. Slowly stir by hand to combine. Important: DO NOT stir with a mixer, stir by hand. ONLY stir until completely combined.
Pour fudge into the greased pan and chill overnight or until set.
Cut into one inch cubes.
You will be AMAZED at how much Bailey’s flavor is in there. And I personally like my chocolate on the darker side so i tend to use semi-sweet and dark chocolate combinations and it is to DIE for. It will disappear fast so make sure to squirrel yourself away some for later after you guests have left or so your family doesn’t eat it all before you get some.
You Can’t Always Go Home: A Review of Go Set a Watchman
The day Go Set a Watchman came out, my excitement was dampened only by the fact that I felt slightly bad about the fact that I think Harper Lee was taken advantage of in the publication of this long-awaited follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird.
The slowly leaked chapters and details had piqued my interested to a scintillating level and to get my hands on a first edition was nothing short of euphoric.
I took it to the gym with me that evening to get my cardio on and dive right in. I read about a quarter of it that evening.
I was hooked.
The charming retro cover with it’s deep blues and mysterious yet to be understood train chugging it’s way in the Alabama twilight was perfect.
Scout, all grown up as Jean Louise struck the perfect chord with me.
The 55 year time span from the release of it’s precursor, the time seemed to go by in perfect synchronicity with the swinging of a wide front porch swing emblematic of Maycomb, a town we all thought we knew… until now.
You quickly realize that Jean Louise is not the girl you remember and you even more quickly realize… some times you really can’t go home.
While Scout is still wandering up and down the same streets and boulevards we used to know from Mockingbird, we see a side of her idyllic home town we didn’t get to see before. A much more real and true version of many of the main characters, we apparently didn’t get the ability to see when originally introduced.
It is full of such a wide range of ideologies and opinions of the day — and many way too applicable still in our day — and it is so beautifully written that it was hard to put down. Lee’s words flow so beautifully, almost like a song melody, notes on a page instead of a staff.
We get to see Jean Louise’s world come crashing down around her as she comes to grips with the fact that everything she thought she knew was formulated with rose-colored glasses which skewed her vision. And they placed there by her father, so she thinks.
The harsh truths are a hard pill to swallow, but a necessary one if she is to truly grow into the woman she is to become and stand on her own two feet in a world very much different from she thought she knew.
This book exposes the prejudices and difference between not only the North and South in American in a time of tumult and change but between generations. It’s about being thrust into adulthood with a shove so violent it almost broke a family we had initially thought unbreakable.
Uncle Jack says, “Human birth is most unpleasant. It’s messy, it’s extremely painful, sometimes it’s a risky thing. It is always bloody. So is it with civilization.”
Lee’s ability to bring the entire country’s problem within the streets of Macomb is brilliant. She is able to create a microcosm of society at that time. Forces and societal norms that were driving people together as well apart were laid bare for us to see like a train wreck you can’t look away from.
From the perspective of a strong woman, Scout’s brave and independent nature is, as it always was, compelling to me, personally. I like to think of myself like her. But as the novel moves on you see her flaws: blindly choosing to see the good in people, color-blind to a fault. Though, standing her ground for what he believes in only made her even more relatable.
All in all the novel is a compelling page-turner. People who say Atticus is “ruined” with his bigotry don’t understand the book. He is more real in the novel that he ever was in Mockingbird. Being more true to the nature of what he would have been from his societal upbringing and just plain the way people thought in those days, instead of the ideological man we thought we saw before. But this isn’t his story. It is Scout’s. Jean Lousie’s coming of age. And it is one I will surely read again.
We are deep in the thick of wedding season folks. In fact we are moving (a slow beautiful march) into the fall wedding season (Happy Snoopy Dance!).
That means wedding fever has reached it’s boiling point.
So to alleviate (or satiate) we thought we’d start with the little bitty but oh-so-important little circle that starts it all: The Engagement ring.
And it’s not just the gals who drool and pine over that beautiful sparkly rock. No way. The guys care just as much about the ring. Don’t let them fool you, they really do.
Engagement rings have been around (literally) since the beginning of time in some form or another. But the modern engagement ring, as we know it today wasn’t really popular until the late 1800’s when Tiffany’s rolled out the “Tiffany Setting” where the diamond is raised in a six prong setting to better show off the stones beauty. And that is when engagement ring development in history takes off. Within a few years, engagement rings are the leading line of jewelry in department stores.
There are A LOT of things to consider when it comes to picking out a ring you are going to wear for the better part of your entire life. It’s best to start with the 4 C’s: Color, Cut, Clarity, and Carat.
But in today’s day and age, there is nothing holding you back from getting whatever you want. Modern brides are no longer held down by tradition and are more often opting for stones other than diamonds.
And with all the beautiful options out there, why would you box yourself in? Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls… the list is endless
Here are just a few of our favs that will have you saying’, “what diamond?”
Handmade, Emerald cut Moissanite with Carved Floral Setting. Seriously swoon-worthy.
Opals are powerful gems known to enhance creativity and memory in the wearer. And they come in just about every color and variety imaginable. And I am pretty positive this particular Fire Opal was made with magic.
Nothing is cheerier or lifts spirits more than a bright handful of vibrant blooms. Check out these fabulous bouquets:
Who doesn’t love the playfulness of Billy Balls and the lush texture of succulents and the soft beauty of dusty miller are all brought together with classic yellow roses. Perfect for a rustic-chic mountain wedding. Lovely design by Annette Gomez.
Nothing packs more of a punch that the protea. Interesting and textural. And next to the soft lemon yellow tuber dahlias coupled with the silver ribbon and other textures. Just lovely for an off beat spring wedding. Beautiful work from hana floral design. (and did you notice her amazingly beautiful braided rope and pearl necklace!?)
Are you daring enough to wear a yellow gown?
If you just said no in your head, then you heaven’s seen this stunner yet. I’d wear this in a heart beat and anyone who says they wouldn’t is crazy!
It’s ethereal, yet sophisticated. The lace is still classic and the open back is breath-taking.
Put your maids in something they will not only love but want to wear again and again and again.
How about a full skirt with a lovely blouse. Then they can repurpose it into a more casual outfit to wear any time and remember when they wore it to your wedding, like this outfit.
A full length pleated skirt can be super flirty and feminine, but classic, too. It looks great on lots of body types. Your bridesmaids will thank you for a wedding day look like this! The right top and accessories can amp this up to the perfect wedding day look.
Looking for an awesome twist on chair decor other than outdated and heavy chair covers? Check this out:
What could be more romantic that a vintage inspired wedding?!
I am always looking for inspiration everywhere. For everything!
And I just happened to be scrolling mindlessly on Facebook, drooling over all the beautiful wedding images I was seeing and I came across a beautiful, gorgeous and all around amazing post by a lovely planner down in Charleston, SC, Kristin Newman Designs. She had just posted a fantastic invitation envelope for one of her couples. It had a collection of vintage postage stamps and nothing could be more perfect.
So, of course, I headed right over to Pinterest and started looking up vintage invitations and save-the-dates and all things vintage wedding inspiration. I found some fabulous things.
Now some times it’s difficult to distinguish between vintage and rustic or shabby chic.
To me, the difference is that something that is vintage could possibly be placed or harkens back to another time, not that it necessarily looks old or even IS old like an old barn door or something. I love shabby chic and rustic events, they are some of the most beautiful of all. But this is all about the vintage.
Here are some items and events I find to be truly vintage or vintage inspired.
These keys remind me of the skeleton keys from an old house and are truly vintage.
Some times all you need is to add a little bit of lace and you can nail a vintage look. I love love love this Badly Mischka cape.
Do you know that bouquets weren’t always flowers? They started out at handfuls of herbs, but we will save that history for another post. But it would be so vintage of you to walk down the aisle with a handful of something lovely and lovely smelling! Like this bouquet found on the English Wedding Blog (which I love…)
It could be a vintage piece like this typewriter and some old style topography. Check out this wedding chick’s wedding.
How about a vintage inspired up-do? A nod to the pin-up girl’s victory rolls with a soft romantic twist, like this A Brit and a Blonde bride:
Sometimes vintage can mean something that just reminds you of something old, like crispy weather and time stained linen or paper, like this jaw-dropingly beautiful cake from The Pastry Studio
It doesn’t get more vintage than actually using old books (you guys don’t know that yet but I am OBSESSED with books… and old books at that so this one is near and dear to my little heart) like this bride who apparently rented the books from the library! How awesome is that.Check out this lovely shot from Ulmer Studios down in Nashville. Talk about some beautiful vintage wedding inspiration.
Of course you could always just create your own vintage looking postcards, because, honestly, who doesn’t love postcards.
Check out some of these from Royal Steamline, where you can create some wicked save-the-dates or even thank you cards!
But it was those original stamps, which then led me to wander over to Etsy… which is always a bad thing… (and by bad I really mean awesome) and I found a wonderful shop where you can purchase some of those lovely stamps like the one you saw at the top of this post. It’s called Verde Studios. Check them out, they are beautiful.
Here’s my little send off and soap box: Wedding or not, you should be writing more letters, collect stationary. No: hoard stationary! Drop a note into an actual mailbox. The art of letter writing is a dying art. If you’ve been putting off writing that thank you note, do it now! Well, do it after you’ve collected some lovely vintage stamps to put on your letters. It is so cathartic, it will make you feel better, it will cleanse your soul.
Ok… off soap box now.
So, if you’re having a vintage wedding I hope these things help you on your path to the realization of your vision.
Now go. Be inspired by all this vintage wedding inspiration.