Bourbon Caramel Sauce

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These past few months, my life has been taken over by planning and preparing for my 2 weddings. I am happy to say that my husband and I have successfully tied the knot and we had wonderful celebrations with our beloved friends and family. Now that it’s all done with, we have been trying to clean up after the storm, literally and figuratively. We’ve needed time to clear our minds and our apartment of all the items that were left from our weddings. And now that we are comfortably settled, I am happy to be posting recipes of food that I’ve been cooking for us once again. That being said, it felt appropriate to start with something sweet since everyone knows us as “The Sweeties” and we are in the honeymoon period of our marriage. I hope that this recipes helps to spread sweetness (but not diabetes; it’s all in portion control, people) to those who try it.

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One of my favorite Food Network stars is Sandra Lee. She hosted a show called “Semi-Home Made with Sandra Lee.” I loved how she was a realistic cook in knowing that very few people have time and energy to cook everything from scratch. Sometimes you need help from the store, but there are ways to play things up and to put your own spin on prepared foods. I made this bourbon caramel sauce to accompany brownies that were made from a Ghirardelli brownie mix. I also use this sauce to pour on top of my bourbon caramel bread pudding.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this recipe. Caramel is actually really easy to make at home if you have the know-how and a little bit of patience.

Cooking Tips

If possible, use a sauce pan that is lighter in color when you’re making caramel. Dark pans make it more difficult to tell if the sugar has gotten to the perfect level of caramelization, which is crucial for making a successful caramel.

Be VERY careful when making any candy because you need to heat sugar to very high temperatures to melt it. NEVER dip your finger in to have a taste when you’re making this sauce or any candy because you will burn yourself.

Do not use plastic cookingware (e.g., plastic ladle) to stir the caramel. It will melt and ruin your caramel and cookingware. Instead, use silicone or wooden spoons for the job.

Recipe

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
splash of Bourbon
1 tbsp butter
pinch of salt to taste

Place the sugar in a sauce pan and allow to heat on medium high heat. Allow the sugar to begin melting. If necessary, use a spoon to mix the remaining sugar crystals with the melted sugar for even melting.

Once sugar is all melted, turn fire to medium or medium-low heat and allow the sugar to slowly brown, approximately 3-7 minutes depending on your pan and stove settings. Watch very carefully.

Once sugar is light brown in color (the color of light brown sugar), immediately add in whipping cream. Slowly stir until the chunks of caramelized sugar have fully dissolved into the cream. Then add splash of Bourbon.

Continue stirring and cooking on medium heat until sauce just coats the back of a spoon or until it reaches its desired thickness. At the end of cooking, add in butter and salt to taste.

Allow to cool and then taste for seasoning. Add additional salt to taste.

 

 

Vegan Basil Almond Pesto

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Before you click “x” out of this blog, give me a chance to explain. Just because the name of this recipe has the word “vegan” in it, doesn’t mean this recipe is necessarily meant to be healthy. My version of pesto leaves out Parmigianino Reggiano, not out of a vendetta against cheese and dairy. I adore pesto recipes that include this amazingly full-bodied and complex cheese. The only issue is I typically do not have good quality Parmigianino Reggiano on hand. As a resourceful cook, I try to make do with what I have. I think it builds creativity and problem solving skills when you have to whip something up in a pinch using only the ingredients that are already in your kitchen. Try it out. You’d be surprised what you come up with! That is how this pesto recipe came about: I used what was available and ended up with something quite delicious.

Summertime brings about one of my favorite food seasons-I love the basil, the tomatoes, the berries, the melons….oh my goodness, the sweet sweet nectar of perfectly ripe yellow fuzzy peaches. Summertime usually means grilling, salads, and all things fresh to contrast the hot weather. Tonight for dinner I made a simple appetizer comprised of ooey gooey burrata cheese, splashed with balsamic vinegar, and served with heirloom baby tomatoes and my homemade pesto. That is going to the star of this post. I love love love pesto of all kinds, but my favorite is the Genovese style basil one. Traditional pesto uses pine nuts as the nut of choice. However, pine nuts are considerably more expensive than almonds, walnuts, and other nuts that I tend to have in my pantry. My version is a variation of the traditional basil pesto.

Cooking Notes/Tips:

I hate it when my pesto turns brown due to oxidation from exposure to air. A quick tip is that I use a good splash of lemon juice in my pesto recipe to prevent browning. Not only does the lemon juice preserve the vibrant green color of the basil, it also adds a note of brightness that uplifts the pesto and rounds out its symphony of flavors.

I would advise against cooking the pesto or heating it up because that also threatens the integrity of the delicate basil. If you’d like to mix it into pasta, I’d recommend tossing the pesto with the pasta in a cool bowl, or drop it into your pan for a quick few seconds before serving. To me, there is nothing worse than oxidized pesto. Yuck!

Since making pesto creates such a mess in my kitchen, I like to make this stuff in larger batches. Place into a sealed container and cover with saran wrap. Place it in your freezer and you’ll always have pesto ready to go for yummy Italian recipes.

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Suggested uses: You can add pesto to your pasta, use it as a base for a vinaigrette, mix it with mayonnaise to create a delicious aioli, serve it with fresh tomatoes on bruschetta, spread it with your favorite soft cheese, or just eat it by the spoonful.

 

Ingredients
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves fresh garlic
juice of ½ small lemon
1 cup toasted almonds
½ c olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. Place basil, garlic, lemon juice, almonds, and olive oil into a food processor and allow the mixture to blend until it becomes a smooth paste. You may need to mix things up with a spoon to get the mixture going.
  2. Drizzle more oil if necessary
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste