Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Living in Kentucky for two years, I learned quickly that there are three things Kentuckians love: bourbon, basketball and horse racing. I learned to love two of the three, but I never became an avid bourbon drinker. I do, however, love the bourbon ball candies. After one particular distillery tour, my friend and I circled back around at least three or four times in the line to sample bourbon balls. I am not a fan of the walnut or pecan that is typically placed on top of the bourbon balls, so I picked those off and my friend ate them for me, until she realized she had a mild nut allergy. Minor problem.

Now that I live in Chicago and can not easily acquire bourbon balls, I decided to look up a recipe and was a little surprised with how easy it looked to make these balls of deliciousness. Sure enough, it wasn’t quite that easy as I had some trouble with the dipping chocolate, but hey, whether they looked pretty or not didn’t detract from the taste.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce package of powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup bourbon (I really like to use Maker’s Mark, but pick your favorite)
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 tbs shortening
  • Bag of pecans (optional in my book)

Directions

  1. Mix powdered sugar, bourbon and butter thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least eight hours. I chilled my batch overnight, because I made these on a weeknight.
  2. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls. The butter-sugar-bourbon mixture will be a bit sticky, so I recommend using a plastic gloves or a Ziploc bag to form your bourbon balls. Now, here is what I would do differently next time. TIP: The original recipe I was working off of said to chill again for another eight hours. Instead of chilled for just half an hour while I melted the chocolate. I would suggest if you don’t want to wait another eight hours, pop the bourbon balls in the freezer while you make the melted chocolate.
  3. Melt chocolate and shortening in a small saucepan, and here comes another thing I would differently. TIP: Transfer the chocolate into a coffee cup. This will be shallow enough for a fork to reach but deep enough to dip the bourbon ball in without having to roll them in the chocolate. That is the best dipping technique if you can accomplish it. If you want to, place a pecan on top of the bourbon ball before the chocolate is completely cooled and set.
  4. Finally, chill the completed bourbon balls for another hour to make sure the chocolate sets into a hard shell. Then, it’s time to enjoy a taste of Kentucky!

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S’mores Brownies

Sorry I have been missing in action for the last month. I celebrated Memorial Day with an old friend, my sister graduated from college, I traveled back to Kentucky to support a very good friend of mine at a big point in her life, and I was a mere 40 feet away from Taylor Swift during her concert. Big. Deal.

Despite a pretty busy schedule, I’ve been careful not to leave a dessert behind and at least have a bite of each sugary sweetness that comes across my plate. First up is my contribution to the Memorial Day party I attended. My friend Megan invited me to her apartment for a party. I was Megan’s peer adviser when she was freshman. Back then, I helped her with picking out classes; now, the advice goes both ways.

So when it came to picking out a recipe to make for Megan’s party, I went to a good fallback. S’mores. S’mores are my comfort dessert. They were a staple at every Girl Scout campfire, and in college, I learned to make a monster s’more in the microwave. Oh and who could forget Ham Porter teaching Smalls how to make a s’more in The Sandlot.

First you take the graham. You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the ‘mallow. When the ‘mallows flaming, you stick it on the chocolate. Then cover with the other end. Then you scarf.

My recipe has a step or two more, but trust me, this is easy to throw together for any get-together!

Smores Brownies

S'mores Brownies

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Ingredients

  • Brownie mix + necessary ingredients
  • 2 cups marshmallows
  • 1 sleeve of graham crackers
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 8 tbs melted butter
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Make the brownies as directed on the box, but take them out of the oven a few minutes early.
  2. Scatter marshmallows on top of the brownies, and turn on the broiler in your oven. Pop the brownies back in the oven to “roast the ‘mallow.” Don’t let the ‘mallow flame, but once the marshmallows are puffed up and a little golden on top, take the brownies out of the oven and set aside.
  3. Now for the graham cracker crumble. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with foil.
  4. If you have a food processor, grind the graham crackers into a fine crumble. If you don’t have a big kitchen filled with fancy appliances, put the graham crackers in a big Ziploc bag and go to town with a metal spoon or a rolling pin. Trust me, it does the trick.
  5. Add the sugar, melted butter and pinch of salt to the graham cracker crumble. Thoroughly mix together until little nuggets form.
  6. Spread graham cracker mixture into the cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly golden brown.
  7. Brake the graham cracker mixture apart and crumble over the marshmallows to complete your S’mores Brownies.

Chicago Hot Dog Sugar Cookies

Springtime in Chicago is finally here. Hallelujah! The ice melted; the ground thawed; the sun pokes out every once in a while when spring showers go away. Chicagoans spend afternoons drinking on patios and wearing shorts in 50 degree weather. After a winter of temperatures in the negatives, 50 degrees feels like a day at the beach.

And another lovely feature of Chicago in the spring is the return of baseball season. Baseball is the perfect warm weather sport with enough action to keep you entertained but not too much that you can’t hold a conversation with friends (and the cold beer doesn’t hurt). Tonight, I get to attend my first baseball game of the summer for NU Day at Wrigley with other Northwestern alumni. Sorry to the Cubs, but I don’t have any baseball allegiances. I do, however, love stadium food, and baseball fields have the best food menus ever. There are tons of articles written about baseball stadium food like this, this and this. A staple in both Chicago baseball stadiums is the Chicago hot dog, typically made with yellow mustard, white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges and a dash of celery salt. It is a monster of a meal, one that I conquered at the first Cubs game I went to and that I never plan to take on again.

But this sugar cookie version is much, much sweeter. It is perfect for a barbecue, picnic or baseball watch party. This version of a Chicago hot dog is missing some ingredients, but hey, this is just a sugar cookie. Remember, if you are modeling this after a Chicago hot dog, NO KETCHUP ALLOWED!

Chicago Hot Dog Sugar Cookie

Chicago Hot Dog Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Ingredients

  • Sugar cookie mix + necessary ingredients
  • Red and yellow food coloring
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tbs butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp milk
  • Green sugar crystal sprinkles
  • Green gummy candy (I used sour punch straws)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make the sugar cookie mix according to the directions on the back of the package.
  3. Take 1/3 of the cookie dough and stir in 5 drops of red food color and 2 drops of yellow food coloring. This will end up as the “hot dog” part of the cookie.
  4. Take the undyed cookie dough and form into two-inch oval cookies. Use your index finger make a dent lengthwise in the middle of the oval cookie. Now you’ve made your sugar cookie “hot dun bun”!
  5. Take dyed dough and roll in your hands to form a mini-hot dog. Place in the cookie hot dog bun. Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes. Let cookies cool before decorating.
  6. To make the frosting, mix butter and powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and milk, and stir thoroughly. Add in five drops of yellow food coloring. Tada! Now, you have sugary “mustard” for the hot dog. Put frosting into a Ziploc and snip a corner to make a piping bag.
  7. Pipe a thin line of frosting on either side of the “hot dog”, and scatter green sprinkles on the frosting to add your “sweet pickle relish” to the “hot dog”.
  8. Pipe on a squiggle of yellow frosting on the hot dog to add the “mustard.”
  9. Add one piece of the green gummy candy on one side of the “hot dog” to add the “dill pickle spear” of the Chicago hot dog. If you are using the sour punch straw, I cut the straw in half and placed the sugary side down on the cookie so that it looked more like a pickle.

Lemon Glazed Mini Bunt Cakes

Going into the summer, desserts with fruit are always a popular choice, and today I am inspired by Yolanda Foster of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame. On the show, Yolanda is the understanding, calm woman of the group always looking for harmony. She’s the Yoda of Bravo reality television. In earlier seasons, Yolanda could be found roaming her estate picking lemons from her lemon tree. She cooks with lemons; she cleans with lemons; she even wears lemons. Basically, Yolanda loves lemons. And why shouldn’t she? Lemons are one of the best fruits to cook or bake with.

These lemon glazed mini bunt cakes are fancy cupcakes, and they are super easy. Don’t let the 2-hour time scare you away. I included the prep time and the cool down time between baking and glazing. Trust me, this dessert is easy. There are only three-ish ingredients, not including the eggs and oil for the box cake. Speaking of box cakes, I am not wholly opposed to using box mixes. If I have the time, I try to make things from scratch, and for certain recipes, it is a necessity to ditch the box mix, but this recipe is not one of them.

Using a white cake mix provides a nice fluffy base for this dessert and lets the glaze take center stage. The glaze has a strong lemon flavor without tasting too sour. If you want to impress your friends and family even more, you can add yellow food coloring to the cake to really fancy it up and connect with the lemon flavor.

Lemon Glazed Mini Bunt Cake

Lemon Glazed Mini Bunt Cakes

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • Box of white cake mix (I used Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic White Cake) + ingredients needed to make cake
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used a whole large lemon. This came to about 4 tbs.)

Directions 

  1. Mix up the white cake mix and bake in a mini-bunt cake tray (or a cupcake tin) referring to directions on the back of the box. Let cakes completely cool.
  2. Mix powdered sugar with lemon juice. Using the proportions above, the lemon glaze will be very lemony. If you want just a hint of lemon, substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Pour one spoonful on top of each mini bunt cake. Let the glaze settle and drip over the sides.
  4. Serve or store in an airtight container.