Monday, November 23, 2015

A Little Thanksgiving "Clean" Eating with Sur la Table's Seeded Honey Whole Wheat Quick Bread

I've never sold this site as being anything close to healthy. I pretty much post dishes that I feel moved to make and hope that you supplement them with salads and quinoa as needed.

I had planned to give a vegan diet a chance for 30 days just to see if I could drop a couple of pounds along the way, but as the story often goes, life got in the way. First there were a couple of culinary events that I was invited to that offered delicious meat and cheese items that were just too good to turn down. Then my son turned 21, which of course meant a surf and turf extravaganza, and now in just a couple of days, Thanksgiving. Ugh.

I know that lots of vegans make it through celebrations and holidays without compromising their dietetic convictions, but I'm new to this whole thing, so I need some room here. I think I could do without meat, it is the whole cheese thing the worries me. I love me some cheese.

Well, in preparation for this diet (will it ever really happen?) I'm taking baby steps. This year we are dining with some dear friends on Thanksgiving. I was assigned dessert (baby sweet potato cakes of course), brown gravy and rolls. Since I was only able to find two packages of Sister Schubert's parker house rolls (our chosen roll for the season) in the whole city, I decided to supplement them with a recipe that I discovered at Sur la Table's clean eating class back in May. Everyone who tasted it, couldn't help but sigh with every bite. Yep, this bread is that good.

As blogger etiquette goes, I would normally post just a bit of the recipe here with a link to their site for the whole recipe. Well I've Googled and searched, and although I came up with some really good information and recipes on their blog, A Sharp Knife & Salt, I couldn't find the whole recipe so I guess I'll have to give it to you here with a couple of changes as per usual. Happy Thanksgiving!

Seeded Honey Whole Wheat Quick Bread 

Sur la Table's recipe below calls for the bread to be baked in mini loaf pans, but I made mine in lightly greased muffin pans for the Thanksgiving bread basket which only took about 20 minutes to bake. By the way, don't worry about having to go to the store for a few special ingredients because you are going to want to make these again and again. Oh yeah, as you'll notice I added some pumpkin seeds on top because I had some and I love them.

Vegetable cooking oil spray
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon toasted caraway seeds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup toasted flax seeds
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 - 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup well shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6 loaf nonstick mini loaf pan with vegetable spray. Line with strips of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides, and spray parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine toasted seeds and set aside a 1/4 cup for pressing onto loaves before baking. Add dry ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

In a small bowl whisk together the wet ingredients until well combined. Stir into dry ingredients and fold until well combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pans and sprinkle tops with reserved seeds. Transfer loaves to the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove loaves from the pan with the strips of parchment and let cool on wire racks.

As I recall, this made about 8 mini loaves of bread. I know for sure that is will make 24 cupcake size muffins.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Toast To The Season With Shari's Berries and Strawberries and Cream Spiked Hot White Chocolate

I was asked by Shari's Berries if I would like to try their berries and develop a cocktail that complements their flavor. I of course said yes and when my box arrived I was honestly blown away by how nice this berry and cheesecake assortment was. First, they come very nicely packaged in an elegant deep brown box with white accents and ribbon. Then once I opened the package, there were 12 big white chocolate dipped strawberries, nicely decorated with either a caramel colored drizzle or gold sprinkles.

The strawberries were ripe, flavorful, and juicy, and I was totally surprised by how delicious they were. Since they are shipped in a cooler box with ice packs, they are at their peak of flavor when they arrive at your door via Fed Ex. My chosen package also came with 3 mini cheesecakes which are generous enough to share (but who would want to) and were smooth, creamy and delicious.

In the future I will definitely be sending these to my loved ones in lieu of flowers now that I know what a treat they are. If you would like to enjoy a few of these berries yourself or send them to someone you love, the good folks at Shari's Berries have provided my readers with a link to their coupons and discount codes so you can save a few dollars on your orders. To access these offers please click here. So if in doubt, skip the fruitcake this year and send these instead. Your family and friends will love you for it.

Since we had our first snow of the season the day after I received my shipment, I decided on a hot cocktail to accompany my berries and cheesecakes. I actually wanted to echo the flavors of the strawberries in my cocktail so, after much testing, I finally settled on a berry flavored drink. My creamy strawberry flavored hot white chocolate isn't too sweet so it pairs nicely with both the white chocolate dipped strawberries and the cheesecakes. Take my word for it, they are perfect for enjoying while cuddled up on the sofa with a good book while the snow falls outside.

Strawberries and Cream Spiked Hot White Chocolate

I found dehydrated strawberries in the dried fruit section of Whole Foods for about $6.00. I love using them because not only are they also great for flavoring French macarons, they have an indefinite shelf life so I can make one of these drinks on a whim. This package will make several drinks and it's a good thing because you are going to love them.
2 heaping tablespoons dehydrated strawberries
8 ounces half and half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2 to 1 ounce of your favorite vodka (I used Troy & Sons Platinum Whiskey)
1/2 ounce white (clear) creme de cacao

 Place dehydrated strawberries in a mini food processor and process until you have a fine powder. Alternatively, place strawberries in a plastic zipper seal bag and crush with a rolling pin. Reserve just about 1/8 of a teaspoon of the dust for garnish before placing the remainder into a heatproof mug; set aside.

In a small sauce pan (or in the microwave using a heat proof mug), combine the half and half, vanilla extract and sugar. heat (stirring frequently) until the mixture is piping hot and the sugar is dissolved.

Pour about a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk mixture into crushed strawberries and stir vigorously until you have a smooth mixture. Gradually stir in the remainder of the hot milk mixture.

Add the alcohol and stir well.

Serve immediately while piping hot with a dollop of whipped cream and a little sprinkle of the reserved strawberry dust.

Makes one nice big mug full of hot and creamy spiked goodness.

I was given a sample of Shari's Berries to try. All of the opinions and comments stated in this post are mine alone. No monetary compensation was given in exchange for writing this post.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Troy & Sons Whiskey: Aged Moonshine Salted Caramel Sauce

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of attending a media event held here in Denver by Troy Ball, of Troy & Sons and Asheville Distilling Company.

In person, Troy was nothing like I expected. Most surprisingly, Troy is a woman, and a rather posh woman at that. I guess since this was billed as a moonshine tasting, I expected a Ralph Lauren type man, handsome and maybe just a little bit rugged who had been making moonshine most of his life. My assumptions couldn't have been more wrong.

I was delighted to learn that the name of her company, Troy & Sons, is a combination of her own name with a nod to her three beloved sons. Like many dedicated moms, Troy decided to spend the first part of her sons' lives taking care of them at home. It was once they got a bit older that she decided to enlist help with them in order to pursue something outside the home for herself.

In 2008, Troy got to taste some "keeper" moonshine, which is what the locals call the stuff that they keep at home for themselves, selling the throat burning spirits to outsiders. She was amazed at how smooth and complicated the flavor of the keeper moonshine was, and decided that she would like to provide everyone access to this superior type of moonshine whiskey.

In the summer of that same year, Troy set about learning how to distill from local moonshine makers in and around Asheville, NC. At first she was skeptical of the type of people she might find, but was delighted to find them both generous and patient as they explained the distillation process that had been passed down through the generations. On August 18, 2010, she distilled her first perfect white liquor using non-GMO, heirloom Crooked Creek corn.

Today, Troy & Sons and Asheville Distilling Company, produce three delicious whiskies. Platinum, made with heirloom corn and pure Appalachian spring water, this true American moonshine honors the tradition of Appalachian spirit makers. This clear, white whiskey is perfect mixed in cocktails with bright citrus flavors.

Blonde, starts with rare heirloom Turkey Red Wheat and White Corn, grown on Peaceful Valley Farm in the lowland hills of Western North Carolina. This is a smooth spirit with notes of oak and vanilla.

Oak Reserve, described as "aged moonshine",  is made with heirloom corn and Appalachian spring water, and is stored in in charred oak bourbon barrels, which give it, its tawny color. This smooth spirit has subtle flavors of oak and vanilla with just a hint of spice and licorice.

Now, I will never profess to be a whiskey connoisseur, but I do like what I like and like all three of Troy's products. More of a cocktail girl myself, I find that all three of these moonshine liquors are great in some of my favorite mixed drinks.

Platinum makes a great substitute for tequila in a refreshing margarita. Oak Reserve is a delicious base for many cocktails, with my favorite being a slightly chocolaty, Moonshine Milkshake. As for Blonde, I love a shot in my coffee with lots of cream, and a splash of my favorite chocolate liqueur. For more recipes and ideas please visit Asheville Distilling Company's site by clicking here. 

Since Troy has so many great cocktail recipes on her site, I decided to use her Oak Reserve in a dessert sauce that really showcases its smooth, velvety flavor. My simple buttery salted caramel sauce makes anything better when it is poured over, but add a little aged moonshine and it is dessert sauce perfection.

Aged Moonshine Salted Caramel Sauce

It really doesn't get much better than this. I've poured my caramel sauce over my favorite vanilla ice cream here, but it is just as good over panna cotta, plain old custard, or any pie you can think of. Why heck, you can even add it to shakes and coffee.

1 - 4 ounce stick unsalted butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Troy & Sons Oak Reserve
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (start with 1/4 and build from there until you like the flavor)

Melt butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan set over medium high heat. Once butter is melted and starts to sizzle, add the brown sugar and stir into butter. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is melted and smooth, about 2 - 3 minutes.

Stir int the vanilla extract, Oak Reserve and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and serve while hot, warm or room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Makes about 2 cups.

A big thanks to Troy Ball and Asheville Distilling for providing me with bottles of their products to sample and create with. No compensation was given for this post, and all opinions and statements made here are my own.

To learn more about Troy Ball, Asheville Distilling Company, and where you can buy a bottle of your very own, please click here.