Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

I first spotted this recipe about a month ago when my December issue of Bon Appetite came in the mail. As a sucker for anything cooked with bourbon, I immediately dog-eared the page and made plans to return to the recipe as soon as possible. I had never made homemade caramels before, but knew I had found a great place to start.

When I got an invitation for my dear friend’s third annual “Thirsty Santa” Christmas party, I knew right away what I would bring: Shauna Niequist’s goat cheese and bacon dates and these bourbon-sea salt caramels. We spent the night munching on festive treats and stealing one another’s booze–all in good fun as part of our game. I returned home with a full belly,  an empty date tray, and only a small handful of candy.

I modified the original recipe a bit, adding a bit more salt and an extra splash of bourbon. I often enjoy a salty contrast in sweet treats, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an extra slosh of bourbon?

A candy thermometer is essential as you want to be sure and reach that perfect “soft ball” stage, and when I say constantly whisk, I mean it. My arm was sore for a good two days. I think that maybe I’ve found my new favorite, holiday workout…

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Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels

Adapted from Bon Appetite magazine 

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 tbsp bourbon

1/2 tsp kosher salt

sea salt

Cover an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat paper with nonstick cooking spray.

Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color. About 8-10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan and allow caramel to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle caramel with sea salt and cut into small pieces. Wrap each piece individually in parchment paper.

Store in airtight container at room temperature. Recipe yields approximately 50 pieces.

Cooking in Venice

Culture, Food, Food Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

For someone who loves to cook, our month this summer in Europe was hard in ways.  As much as I enjoyed our floodlit piazza dinners and our rustic thrown together picnics, visiting the flavorful markets in Italy was sometimes hard on me. I’d scan the rows of colorful produce and breath in the scent of fresh herbs, longing for a kitchen to play in. While some of my favorite meals were those of fresh bread, unpasteurized cheese, and local olives and fruit, I often wondered what I could accomplish if only I had an oven, or even just one lonely burner.

We cooked once or twice at our hostel in Switzerland, but as the nearest grocery store was at the bottom of the mountain, our selection on what to cook  was limited. We made a funny meal one night of pasta, canned tomatoes, and some strong and stinky mountain cheese that we picked up from the cow next door. We ate it along with a bottle of wine at an elevation of 5000 feet. I’m not sure if it was the elevation, the wine, or the combination of both, but we ate every bite of that pasta, and found ourselves longing for more.


Venice was our first stop in Italy, and even though I had every other place that we stayed in Europe booked before we left the states, for whatever reason I never found the time to book a place to stay in Venice. I think that we were hoping to couch surf, but unfortunately no one had the space.  Although just winging it is usually something that stresses me out, in this case, it worked out beautifully. My mom, being the saint that she is, got to work and found us a wonderful apartment right off of the Grand Canal. As it was on the opposite side of the mainland, we landed ourselves with a great price, and an even better view.

Here are a few things that really excited me about this apartment: For one, It had air conditioning!  This was something that we had yet to experience while in Europe, and Venice was HOT. Secondly, the bathroom was huge! Not only was the shower giant, but there was enough room for a washer. We could finally wash our clothes somewhere besides a sink! And last but definitely not least, it had a fully equipped  kitchen overlooking the water. We ate breakfast at our sweet little table each morning watching the boats pass by and mapping out our day. I couldn’t complain.

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Our first night in Venice we dined out. We wandered far away from the other tourists and got lost in Venice’s winding and colorful streets. We stumbled into a quite little hole in the wall restaurant where we were served by our bored and unenthusiastic waiter. The food was mediocre, but it was our first meal in Venice, so we didn’t really care. We were in Italy!

For our second night there I had big plans for dinner. We finally had a kitchen and I planned to take full advantage of it. My goal was to visit the local market and pick up some local ingredients, but because our morning got off to somewhat of a rough start, our day was put a bit behind schedule. By the time we finished at Doge’s Palace and the Correr Museum, half of the day was gone and the market was over. Hot, tired, and cranky, we stopped in at a local grocer and picked up a few simple but tasty items for dinner. We packed our bags with a of bottle of Peach Bellini and a local red wine, and hopped a vaporetto for a scenic ride back to our little home.


For dinner I prepared veal ravioli with sauteed mushrooms and a local tomato sauce. I chopped fresh green basil and buffalo mozzarella to mix with baby arugula and Mediterranean olives. We ate next to an open window and sipped our Veneto wine. We enjoyed our Bellinis for dessert and delighted in a good night of rest. We had an early morning train to the Italian Riviera the following day and still had many flavors and sights left to explore. Our adventures in Italy had only just begun.


Almond Sugar Cookies

Dessert, Food, Food Photography, Recipes

//UPDATE// 1/8//  With no school, no work, public transportation closed, and a ban on driving in effect, Jacob and I are enjoying our first blizzard warm and cozy at home. After a morning full of homework for the hubs, and cleaning for me, this snowy day at home left me hankering for a sweet snack. Craving something light to pair with my afternoon tea, I decided to try a guilt-free rendition of this sweet treat. I replaced the shortening and butter with coconut oil, using 1/2 cup coconut oil total for my fat,  and reduced the sugar to a 1/2 cup. The texture of the dough turned out significantly different, but the final product did not disappoint. Though not quite the same texture as the original recipe, these small changes still produced a moist and desirable treat. I did not chill the dough as you’ll need to with the original recipe, and you might have to work the dough a bit to get it to stay together. Don’t worry if your mixture doesn’t hold together well when mixed. With a bit of molding you should have no problem forming your dough into balls. I also skipped rolling my dough in sugar as I did not trust it to stay together and instead sprinkled a bit of raw sugar on top before placing them in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes, and enjoy one or two. Don’t worry about grabbing that second one, they’re only 98 calories per cookie and 7 grams of delicious, healthy fat! 

This time last year our apartment was in a complete state of chaos. The renovations that were to be completed prior to our September 1st move in date didn’t really begin until around now.  We had no other choice but to deal with the madness well into March. For weeks the kitchen was stripped from my use. There was no place to play. No place to escape after a long day of work. I was becoming very restless. Then, one glorious day, our kitchen was complete, and not long after, so was the rest of our apartment. Finally, our apartment felt like a home again.  I remember how excited I was to finally be able to host our first dinner party on Easter last year, a whole eight months after we had moved into our little abode.


To make up for lost time, dinner parties have become a regular occurrence in our household. Whether it be a well planned affair or a last minute fling, what better way to try out a new, tasty dish than with friends? And on top of that, it’s a great excuse to bake, something that I no longer allow myself to do often. Not unless we plan to have company, or are having dinner elsewhere.  A lesson I learned the hard way. Dessert for 10 consumed by 2 was not friendly to my waistline…

After an unsuccessful trip to the grocery store on Thursday evening for a last minute dinner on Friday, I had to do some serious digging through our bare cabinets for dessert inspiration. I had my hopes set on trying this cheesecake recipe, but since Traders was out of Ginger Beer, and I forgot to pick up a bag of chocolate chips to make these cookies, I had to make due with what I already had on hand. Stumbling across some almond extract hidden in the back of my cabinet, and remembering this recipe that I pinned months ago, I had my inspiration.

Shortening, while baking, can be your best friend. It yields some delectable results. Although, when trying to snap yourself out of holiday eating mode (and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner to tempt us), shortening may be your worst enemy. Unlike some other cooking oils, shortening has zero health benefits. I am okay with indulging every now and then in the sweets category, but knowing me and anything almond, I knew that I better try and make these slightly healthier. And good thing that I did—I consumed four of these babies on Friday night.

Unaware of how the consistency would turn out with a total lack of shortening, and because I was low on coconut oil, I did keep one tablespoon for safe measure. I also didn’t omit the butter. I wasn’t brave enough to totally do away with the butter just yet. Though, I am looking forward to trying these again with coconut oil only, and possibly with a bit less sugar.


Almond Sugar Cookies: 

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1 tbsp shortening, room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

1  3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Coarse sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a large baking sheeting with coconut oil. Meanwhile, cream coconut oil, butter, shortening, and sugar. Stir in egg and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet mixture and combine thoroughly.

Chill dough for half an hour. After your dough has chilled, use a tablespoon to roll dough into 1.5 inch balls. Roll each ball into coarse sugar before placing it on your  baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes and then allow cookies to cool for 3 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. Recipe yields about 16 cookies.

Happy Fall!


It’s that time of year again, folks. The days are shorter, the weather is crisp, and the leaves are a changin’! Fall is upon us! Just two more days until we’ll officially leave the long, warm days of summer behind us and open our doors to the ever so welcome days of fall. Even though fall doesn’t technically start until Saturday, it entered our apartment the day that the weather dropped below 60 and an acorn squash entered my belly. For weeks now i’ve been enjoying warm soups, fall inspired salads, spiced teas, and airy scarves. Boots and jeans are slowly creeping back into my wardrobe, and we’ve already indulged in a gourd or two. Jacob’s all geared up for his next brew, an Oktoberfest and a Pumpkin Ale, and i’ve already accumulated a nice list of fall inspired dishes to whip up during this delightful season. Here are a few that I plan to make this week in honor of the first official week of fall:

-Butternut squash macaroni and cheese. A delectable dish made up of squash, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon. What’s not to love?

-Whole wheat linguine doused with a made from scratch roasted garlic, basil tomato sauce. So maybe this isn’t all that fallish. But so what? Spaghetti is good any time of the year.

-To use up that left over squash, how about a shepherd’s pie with ground turkey and veggies, smothered with a whipped butternut squash topping.

– Spinach salad with walnuts, pomegranate seeds, a sliver of goat cheese, a splash of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a dash of s&p. Served up with a hot bowl of tomato and roasted red pepper soup (A favorite from Trader Joe’s. It’s organic, super healthy, delicious, and cheap! All great reasons to justify eating soup from a carton.) and a warm slice of Italian Ciabatta bread.

-And to get away from the flavors of fall a bit, a tortilla and black bean pie, topped with homemade jalapeno, lime salsa.

-What’s fall without some dessert? Here are a few treats  that i’ve been dying to get my hands on! Sweet potato cupcakes with a toasted  marshmallow frosting, ginger beer cheesecake with spent grain crust, and a warmed blackberry cobbler topped with homemade vanilla ice cream. Maybe I ought to spread out the desserts a bit…it’d be very unfortunate for my waistline to make all of these in one week!

Happy fall, y’all!