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Monday, May 30, 2011

Bourbon Tasting

One of my new favorite activities is getting together with my friends and apartment-neighbors to do a liquor tasting party. We have already had three in the last 6 months or so and they always turn out to be a blast!

This time we were tasting bourbons, in the past we have done scotch and whiskey. The idea is that everyone who comes has to bring a bottle of the chosen alcohol and we make sure they are all different.
The result is that we have lots of different styles of one bourbon to taste test. Wade (in the picture) is in charge of pouring out little 1/4 shots for each of us in another room so that we don't know what we are tasting. We then sip each different bourbon, one by one, and take note of the ones we like or don't like and why. Generally we are always surprised with the results, a cheaper brand always seems to surpass a very expensive brand or two!

This was by far our biggest tasting and one that I was very excited about, the bourbons we had were:
- Four Roses
- Russel's Reserve
- Woodford Reserve
- Elijah Craig
- Bulleit
- Benchmark (by Buffalo Trace)
- W. L. Weller's
- Evan Williams Single Barrel


Along with the bourbon, we all brought food that had a "southern" feel in order to incorporate the southern origin of bourbon.
Wade brought some spicy cajun shrimp and crawfish


Brent made some delicious honey cornbread and Beth brought some smoked beans.






I made a bourbon chocolate pecan cake (made with real bourbon!). Sadly though, the batter was so light that it didn't really stick together when I turned the bunt pan upside down. I ended up with a broken cake but it tasted really velvety and scrumptious so I layered it with whipped cream and pecans in this dish for a sinful dessert!

Next on the tasting list? Not sure but I think it would be fun to do a port/sherry tasting.

What kinds of summer get togethers are on the horizon for you? It's memorial day so that means BBQ! Hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend.








Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spiked Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I was looking for a fun and refreshing cupcake recipe that would be perfect for summer... finally found one... then added booze to it!

These delicious Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes can be spiked with raspberry liquor or non-alcoholic (milk substitute). I got the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens and tweaked it just a bit.



For the cupcake:
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
2 tablespoons raspberry liquor or milk
2/3 cup buttermilk





For the Icing:
3/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons raspberry liquor (I used sparkling French Berry Lemonade as a substitute here to help achieve a refreshing taste)
add additional powdered sugar until it reaches the consistency you like!





For Garnish:
Top with fresh raspberries!

They really turned out well! The cake itself it somewhat dense and the lemon taste is tangy. The sparkling berry lemonade in the icing compliments the flavor quite nicely.

What are you cooking up this summer?





Sunday, May 22, 2011

Solarium

With the warm weather creeping up, it was time clear out the solarium (Brent claims that it's technically a sun room). We love having this extra room for entertaining and gardening.




The glass table and chairs were a purchase from IKEA about 2 years ago... I have been pleasantly surprised by how well it has held up!




The beginnings of our garden... mostly cooking herbs. I usually like to keep a few orchids as well.






The art nook has moved out here too! I would really like to get some painting done this summer.





















Saturday, May 14, 2011

Almond Spice Cookies

I have never been one to "invent" my own recipes, I generally feel that I need to follow each measurement, ingredient, and direction precisely or I will fail my organic chemistry lab... I mean... or the cookies won't turn out correctly.

My apartment-mates and I had a scotch tasting a few weeks ago and I really wanted to make something yummy that would somewhat go with the liquor.

Using my lovely new Kitchenaid, I decided to do my own take on the Dita's Spiced Mice Recipe.


I crushed up about 1/2 cup of raw unsalted almonds and added the majority of the bits into the cookie dough and saved the rest for garnish.





You can see how nicely the dough blends with the almonds, making a sandy consistency. I also switched up the spices a bit (added hazelnut and cloves, took out cinnamon).





Then I rolled the cookies into a ball and dipped them in the almond bits and into the oven








And they turned out wonderful! I just love almond flavor and they added some crunch to the cookies as well. They also went very well with the scotch :)

I suppose I can hardly call this "my recipe" but it was fun to take a walk on the wild side and switch around a few things. Contrary to my worries, the oven did not explode!

What sorts of things are you doing to keep yourself busy?










Saturday, May 7, 2011

Closet Organization

Last weekend as I was attempting to stuff a dress back onto the crammed iron rod that holds about 200 pounds of my clothing, I felt a strange tilt and shaking on the bar. As I stepped back to observe I saw the right corner of the rod break off from the wall and in slow motion, all of the hangers holding all of my clothing slid one by one to the floor creating a massive pile. Ugh.

I wish I had a picture of what my closet looked like before or the sad pile of clothing but unfortunately I do not. You can trust me when i say that it was an inefficient use of the space and an unpleasant way to pick out pieces of clothing.

After the initial shock of this catastrophe, I decided to take the opportunity to overhaul my closet and spent the rest of the day on the project.

If you've never seen the layout of my closet I just have to give you a brief explanation. Apparently it used to be a bathroom so there is still a WORKING toilet and medicine cabinet stuck in the corner. The plus is that it's a "walk-in" closet, the con is that, like the rest of out apartment, there are strange angles and corners everywhere and it is always difficult to efficiently use space.

First I took a trip to Target and bought a shoe rack and closet organizer for about $70 combined... not quite as bad as I thought! I even put them together all by myself.

After organizing, I finally have a place to keep my bags and purses that allows me to pick them out without knocking things over or rifling through a pile.



Instead of putting back the old iron bar, we removed the wooden board and put the organizer up against the window. This placement is a plus for a couple of reasons. First of all, it clears up the center of the closet so you can actually walk around. Second, it's covering the window so we now have a changing room!



The organizer is quite sturdy despite my skepticism. There are 2 hanging bars and 4 shelves which immediately gave me more than 2x the room as before. I don't even have enough items to fill up the shelves yet... looks like it's shopping time :)

My fiance's things are on top and mine on the bottom so that I can reach.





This was where the fiance's clothing used to be... his bar didn't fall partly because it was mounted to a sturdy spot, but most likely because he had an appropriate amount of clothing hanging on it! I moved all of my dressed to this spot and love how easy it is to get to everything.




I almost didn't buy the shoe rack but I'm so happy with it! It saves so much space and just makes the whole closet look so tidy. Looks like there's still room for a few more pairs...






Here's a nice view from the doorway - I am so happy I took the time to really make use of this space. My favorite thing is that I almost get the sensation of shopping when I pick out my daily outfits because everything is arranged so nicely. I suppose I didn't think about it before but now that my clothing is MUCH more spread out, you can tell how much better it is for fabrics not to be crammed together, always getting wrinkled and warped.

It's funny the things that really satisfy me... over the years I've realized that I just need to have a place for every thing and a thing for every place. Not only is the closet pleasant but it's so easy to keep clean!

Any house projects in your future??