Sunday, April 26, 2015

Celebrate the Derby - Mint Cream Julep Pie

Nothing is more synonymous with the Kentucky Derby than the iconic Mint Julep, that famed cocktail made from Kentucky bourbon, muddled mint leaves and simple syrup.

There’s more than one way to enjoy your bourbon on race day though.  You can drink it, of course, but you can also incorporate it into your sweets.

Take for instance the fabulous chocolate, bourbon, pecan pie – aka Derby Pie where the chocolate and bourbon take the ordinary pecan pie to a heavenly level. 

But if you’re in the mood for a little twist on tradition, try this Mint Cream Julep Pie recipe created by the executive pastry chef of The Bakery at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky.

And, get yourself ready for the South’s swankiest horse race when you can have your bourbon and eat it too!

Mint Cream Julep Pie
1 ¾ cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup Kentucky bourbon (like Maker’s Mark)
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup jarred chocolate sauce (like Smucker’s Simple Delight dark chocolate)
1 9-inch pre-baked pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract
Chocolate curls to garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring milk, sugar and cornstarch to a boil over medium heat.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk egg and yolks until mixture is smooth and lightened in color.  Very slowly pour hot milk over egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour mixture back into saucepan and return to heat.

Cook, whisking constantly, until very thick, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in bourbon, butter and chocolate sauce.  Cool completely at room temperature.  Pour in pie shell and smooth top.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add confectioners’ sugar and peppermint extract and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Top pie with whipped cream.  Chill for at least 4 hours.  Garnish with chocolate curls.  Serves 8.

(Recipe from Robin Richardson, GM and executive pastry chef, The Bakery at Sullivan University, Louisville, Ky.)
Happy Derby week!

Monday, April 20, 2015

On the road in the Irish Hills

You know that day in the spring when the weather finally breaks – that day when you just want to abandon your home, jump in your car and head somewhere off your beaten path? 
That day finally arrived this past weekend for me, and suddenly day-tripping season began.  The greatest part is that the opportunity to partake in mini excursions can last well into the fall in our region.  So, let’s get back on the road and let the journeys begin.

For our first jaunt of the season, we headed north toward the beautiful Irish Hills of southeast Michigan. 

Just a little over an hour’s drive transports you to a region that boasts a multitude of lakes, rolling hills, and unique eateries and recreation sites.

Our first stop was to pick up my Dad and Stepmom who recently moved to the Irish Hills.  The four of us and our furry kids – Poncho, Chico and Diego - headed to Hidden Lake Gardens for a long walk and to take in the crisp spring air.

Hidden Lake Gardens, located on 755 acres off M-50, feature miles of hiking trails; a greenhouse complex; a lake; thousands of labeled trees, shrubs and flowers; and are open to the public year round.

With lunch in mind, our next stop was the local favorite, Randy’s Roadside Bar-B-Que on US 12.  The big red trailer with yellow flames and smoke billowing from it, make Randy’s easy to find. 

Or simply roll down your car window and follow the smell of barbeque wafting through the air. 

Randy’s is open seasonally and a great place to “pig up” some pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and cowboy beans to go.

Our final destination was Cherry Creek Winery, also located on US 12 at Silver Lake Highway. 

Housed in a historic 1870s schoolhouse, visitors can sample award winning wines, like Raceway Red, year round at the winery’s knotty pine bar.

There are so many more places to explore in the Irish Hills, but we’ll save them for the next time.  That’s the beauty of day-trips…you can take them often.

Have a great week!



Monday, April 13, 2015

Turn up the heat - grilling season is here

Nothing kicks off summer like biting into that first juicy burger.  So turn up the heat, and wake up your grill from its long winter’s nap.

Grilling is so versatile and a healthy cooking method in that it eliminates the need to add extra fats. 

Plus, who wants to be stuck in the kitchen tending to a hot oven on a sunny day?


Don’t burn yourself out on brats and wieners though.

With grilling, the opportunities are endless.  There’s chicken, pork or seafood - shrimp and scallops are wonderful on the grill.

As are vegetables - eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers can be halved and grilled or cut into smaller pieces and threaded on skewers for colorful veggie kabobs.

Lightly grilled fruit - pineapple, peaches or pears make an incredible summertime dessert when served over vanilla ice cream and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. 

You can even grill your salad.  Slice a head of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise, brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Grill cut sides down for a few minutes.  Serve with crumbled blue cheese.


Marinades are an easy way to add flavor and tenderize tougher cuts of meat - like flank or skirt steak.  This one works well with chicken or beef and can even be used for fajitas.

Savory Chicken or Beef Marinade

¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon sage leaves
1 teaspoon summer savory
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons steak sauce

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Place chicken or beef in a plastic, sealable bag and pour in the marinade.  Marinate for 6 hours or overnight.

 (Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Summertime Across America, 1983)

Happy Grilling!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring Foodie Tour

Today's post is dedicated to my pal Michelle who enlightened me on a few of her favorite spots in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Although my husband and I are frequent flyers to the town (it’s an easy hour drive north), Michelle shared some of her must-go-to places that we hadn't heard of.  It’s amazing what you can learn while having your hair foiled…

We decided to try all of her suggestions.  I’m still looking for that Shiraz she recommended, but that will have to wait until another day. 

First up was lunch at Jolly Pumpkin Caf√© and Brewery on Main Street.  The restaurant was eclectically decorated and pleasantly busy on a chilly spring Saturday. 
I ordered a salad of mixed greens dressed with house made red wine vinaigrette and a Margherita pizza.  Its crust was made from a 100-year-old sourdough starter. 
That’s some old dough…

My husband enjoyed his Walleye Po’ Boy and Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere.  We agreed that we would make a return visit soon. 

Next up…Cherry Republic, just a block away from Jolly Pumpkin. 
Here all of the products are made from Michigan cherries grown on the hillsides overlooking Lake Michigan. 
There were cherry wines, preserves, jams, salsas and even barbeque sauces.  We didn’t sample much (we were kind of full from lunch), but we brought home a jar of cherry preserves. 
I like that the preserves contain whole cherries and there is just the right blend of tartness and sweetness. 

Our final destination was to Fustini’s, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar company, located in the Kerrytown Shops. 
The chocolate balsamic vinegar caught my eye (would be unbelievable on vanilla ice cream), but our mission was to pick up a bottle of the 18 year aged balsamic vinegar. 
Michelle told me to trust her because it’s worth the price….so I did, and she is right on.  It’s rich and smooth and was a real hit with the strawberry spinach salad I served on Easter.


Three great suggestions from a friend…here’s to more foodie adventures in Ann Arbor.

Happy Spring!