Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Cider Donuts

It is the last day of September and therefore the last day of my 'Apple Everything' series. And since I consider donuts to be the absolute most perfect food - next to skillet fried chicken, that is - I figured it would be the perfect way to end the month.

Apple Cider Donuts

3 1/2 Cups Flour, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg, freshly ground if you have it
1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
2 Whole Eggs and 1 Egg Yolk, beaten
1 Stick Butter, melted
1 1/2 Cups Apple Cider
Oil for frying

In a small saucepan over medium/high heat boil Apple Cider until reduced to about 1/2 Cup. Allow to cool to room temperature.
In large mixing bowl add 1 Cup of flour, salt, baking powder, the sugar and spices. Stir to combine. Combine the melted butter, cider, and eggs, add to the flour mixture until a light batter is formed. Add the rest of the flour, mixing well after each addition. Dough will be sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Lightly flour countertop. Roll dough to 1/2" thickness. Cut using a donut cutter or two nesting round cutters to make donuts and holes. Gather scraps and re-roll and re-cut until all dough is used.
Add oil to heavy saucepan to a depth of at least 3". Using a candy thermometer heat oil until it reaches 375 degrees. Carefully add donuts to hot oil one at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan. Allow donuts to fry until they float to the top. Gently flip and allow to fry for an addition 1 1/2 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon, remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool completely.
Make glaze. Use a slotted spoon to dip donuts and holes to glaze turning to coat evenly. Allow to drain on wire rack with paper towels underneath. Once glaze has slightly hardened, re-glaze until all the glaze is used. Allow to dry completely before moving them to an airtight container for storage.
Makes 10-15 donuts and holes, depending on size.

4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
Pinch of Ground Ginger
1/4 Cup Apple Cider
Place sugar and spices in large bowl, whisk to combine. Add cider one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously. Continue mixing until you have reached a glaze consistency.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

That's right. I did it. Caramel. Apple. Bread Pudding.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1" cubes.
6 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
2/3 cups Sugar
1 Tbs. Vanilla
1 Tbs. Butter
3-4 medium Apples,* diced
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 jar Caramel Dessert Topping
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Place bread cubes in a well greased large baking dish, set aside. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes. Toss to cover all cubes evenly. Place in fridge for at least 1 hour, up to 6 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauce pan melt 1 Tbs. Butter, add Apples and Brown Sugar. Cook over medium heat until Brown Sugar is completely melted and Apples are just barely fork-tender. Spoon over top of bread cubes. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or until custard has set and top of bread pudding is golden brown. (If using a thicker casserole-type dish decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees and increase cooking time to 1 hour.)
To make sauce melt 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add Powdered Sugar, whisk to combine. Mixture will be thick. Quickly whisk in Caramel Dessert Topping, whisking vigorously until well combined. Pour over Bread Pudding and enjoy.

* I used a mixture of Golden Delicious and Gala because that's what I had. Any sweet cooking apple will work. Granny Smith's would also be yummy but should be mixed with another sweeter apple to avoid being too tart when it's cooked.

Tailgate Tumbler

2 oz. Honey Simple Syrup*
2 oz. Bourbon**
4 oz. Apple Cider
Apple Slices and/or Cinnamon Stick for garnish (optional)

This can easily be made into a well drink as well. 1 Cup Honey Simple Syrup, 1 Cup Bourbon, and 1/2 Gallon Apple Cider. Mix well and serve at your next tailgate. Or yardgate. Or couchgate. Or whatever.

*Honey Simple Syrup
1 part water - 1 part honey. Heat water to boiling over high heat. Remove from heat and add honey. Stir until honey melts completely. Place in a glass jar and store in refrigerator. Very good in iced tea, just sayin'

** I used Woodford in mine, because well, I like it. A lot. But this would be really good with Maker's 46. Also Buffalo Trace's inherent cinnamon spiciness would compliment this drink nicely.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cider Brined Chops

Continuing on our apple theme, and giving a shout out to one of my favorite classic TV shows (pork chops and applesauce, anyone?), I give you Cider Brined Chops. I hesitate to even call this a recipe because it is just so dang easy. Make the marinade, add the chops in the morning and when it's time for supper they're ready to grill. Serve with baked apples (that you could make in the crock pot before you left for work) and a side salad and you have the perfect autumn dinner.
p.s. This marinade is easily enough for four 1" thick pork chops, but can be doubled or even tripled for a crowd.

Cider Brined Chops

Pork Chops
1 Cup Apple Cider
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Bourbon
2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Onion Powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp. Dried Rubbed Sage
1 Bay Leaf

Measure liquid ingredients into large lidded, plastic container. Add spices and stir to combine. Add pork chops, making sure all are covered. Cover tightly with lid and refrigerate until ready to grill, up to 12 hours.
Note, the marinade can be made a day before but the chops should not be added until no more than 12 hours before cooking to avoid over-saturation.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

French Toast with Apple Cider Syrup

OK. So it's French Toast. Everyone has had French Toast. It's kind of a brunch favorite. But the real star here is the Apple Cider Syrup.
September is the season of the apple. The farmer's markets and grocery stores are overflowing with a thousand different varieties. How many different ways  can you use an apple?
Challenge accepted.
Serve with bacon. Because, you know. Bacon!

The French toast is just a basic. And while I don't technically use a recipe, per se, here's a good rule to follow.
1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1" slices
6 eggs
1 1/2 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla

Beat the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a shallow dish like a pie plate. Sprinkle with cinnamon.( sprinkle cinnamon onto egg mixture before each addition of bread) Add two slices of bread, turning to coat each side. Allow to soak in egg mixture for a couple of minutes. Add to a med-high heat skillet. Cover with lid. Flip slices after two minutes. Cook until center of bread is set. Place on cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm while the rest of the toast cooks.

Apple Cider Syrup
1 Cup Apple Cider
1/2 stick butter
1/2 Cup Honey

Place Cider in small sauce pan over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to med-high and allow to boil gently until reduced to about 1/4-1/3 Cup of liquid. Reduce heat to medium. Add Butter, Cinnamon to taste, and Honey. Continue heating until butter and honey have melted and all ingredients are combined. Remove from heat. Refrigerate any leftovers, re-heating before serving.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Fourth Quarter - A True Account of Being Married to a Towboater

No, this is not a football story. It's a towboatin' story. Or more accurately, a towboater's wife story. You see The Captain is,well a captain. On a towboat. Not a tugboat. Don't make that mistake, for Pete's sake. It's a towboat. And a pretty large one at that. It pushes barges of petroleum products up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries. At times he travels from Pittsburgh to New Orleans and all the stops in between.  All that up and down the river business takes time. A lot of time. The Captain is on the boat for 28 days at a time, after which somebody else's husband takes over for another 28 days and it all starts over again.

There are lots of different schedules on the river. Some companies work 28/28 which means that they work 28 days and are off 28 days. Some work 28/14 or 14/14, but it really doesn't matter what the particular schedule is. For the wives and families it's always the same. Your towboater is home and then he's gone. He's home for Thanksgiving but is gone for Christmas. He is home for your birthday but has to spend his own on the river. He's here for the school play but misses the doctor's appointments. And one thing never changes - He's never ever home when the heat pump goes out. Or the water heater, or the refrigerator, or when the truck needs repairs. But boat wives are used to it and we can be pretty resourceful. I've hacked through brush with garden clippers to save our cat, Gravy, who was stuck up a tree. I've learned how to do minor toilet repairs - don't ask. And I've learned how to ask for help when I've got one kid that needs to be on the east end of the county and one who needs to be on the west.
And then, like clockwork, your towboater comes home and it's like he never left. When you've been on this schedule for a while it really is that normal. Your towboater gets home on Thursday and on Friday everything is back to the way it's supposed to be. There are two drivers  to split the family taxi service. And two adults to say things like, 'Do your homework.' and 'Pick up your socks.' and 'If you don't eat your meat you can't have any pudding.' Oh, and my vehicle is clean. The Captain does love a clean vehicle and since I don't clean vehicles (unless the drive thru car wash at the gas station counts) well, it works out pretty good.
Sometimes when your towboater is home he will have other work-related obligations that he has to take care of. Things like Captain's Meetings and various safety-related trainings. And when this happens you will feel great resentment towards 'The Office' because how dare they intrude on 'your time'. They get him for all those birthdays and holidays and family emergencies and we don't say a word because that is what we signed up for. That is the life of a towboater and his wife. And even though you recognize that there are times when the boundaries of his 28/28 schedule gets a little lopsided and you have to give over some of your time to boat time, you grit your teeth and go with it. Yes, it's part of the job, but no, you don't have to like it.
Over time there are little tricks you do to make the time seem to go by faster while your towboater is on the boat. None of them work, but you do them anyway. We call the halfway mark Hump Day. Our Hump Day falls on a Thursday so I'm pretty sure my facebook friends think I'm perpetually a day late and a dollar short when I post 'Humpday!!!!' on Thursday morning. Since The Captain is on a 28/28 schedule, which breaks down into four weeks, we always break the trip up into quarters like a football game. Made it through the first quarter. Third quarter's almost up, and so on. Right now we're in the middle of the fourth quarter. And it has been a loooong game.
Pretty soon he will be home and I will be very thankful for another safe trip. But some other woman will be starting her away schedule. Trying to figure out how to get her kids all the places they need to be, and go to the grocery store, and take the dog to the vet, and take the kids to get new shoes for whatever sport they happen to be playing, and try to find a couple of minutes for herself. But she'll do it. And she won't complain to her towboater. Much. Because that's what we do, so that they can do what they do. Until they come home again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Kentucky Southern?

Image from the Library of Congress. They certainly consider us Southern!
Recently this very question has been posed in several articles that have crossed my various news feeds. Is Kentucky southern? The knee-jerk reaction is to say 'Yes! Of course Kentucky is in the South! How could it be otherwise?' Surprisingly, though, there seems to be as many opinions on the subject as ingredients in The Colonel's secret recipe.
In reviewing the many articles and studies on the subject I found that while almost all Kentuckians perceive themselves as Southern there are those in the south who may feel otherwise. It would appear that there exists a Southern Hierarchy, if you will. Where one lives in the south can affect their very southern-ness. Predictably those in the Deep South (Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi) consider themselves to be the most Southern and therefore (based on comments on the interwebz) qualified to judge the relative southern-ness of those in surrounding states. Most people who commented from these states tended to view Kentucky as Mid-Western, at best. Sometimes even going so far as to describe us as -gasp- Northern.  Which is odd to me because The Captain and I have several friends and family members in Michigan and Wisconsin who would most definitely say that Kentucky is firmly in The South.
Commenters from Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina (who are un-arguably Southern) seemed to mostly consider Kentucky to be in the South. There seemed to exist a kind of kinship that people from these states feel. A sort of Southern, but not Dirty South, mentality. Kentuckians are undeniably connected to people from these states due to our shared Southern Appalachian heritage.
Those who took the time to comment from Louisiana seemed to, when presented with the question of Kentucky's Southern-ness, not care overmuch. The sentiment from the bayou seemed to be the more the merrier. Laissez les bon temps rouler indeed! You see, Louisianians in general, and New Orleaneans in particular, seemed to grasp the concept that the South is a large and varied place. And while there are undeniably things that bind us together, there are also things that define the various regions of the south.
A musician on Bourbon Street is just as Southern as a bourbon distiller in Bardstown. A cotton farmer in Eastern Georgia is every bit as Southern as a tobacco farmer in Eastern Kentucky. And a guy who operates a trolley in Charleston is just as Southern as a horse trainer from Lexington.
So while Kentucky is most-definitely in the Deep-South or the Low Country or the Bayou we are most definitely in The South. And while we may be geographically the most northern of the southern states that just makes our position all the more important, in my opinion. Kentucky could be considered the guardians of The South. The last bulwark of Southern-ness whose very borders are a demarcation between that which is Southern and that which is not. Driving south over the Ohio River Kentucky is a welcome sigh of relief, a feeling of home and all that is right with the world.
We have sweet tea and fried chicken.
We  have Bourbon. Bourbon!
We have the whole horse culture thing going on. Betting money and drinking icy drinks while wearing bow ties and big hats is pretty dang Southern.
And speaking of clothing, the 'Colonel Sanders' is officially a look. And it doesn't say 'I'm from north of the Mason-Dixon line.'
We make cornbread in cast iron skillets. And pretty much everything else, too.
All of our mamaw's make a mean biscuit. And a pound cake. And a go-to jello salad that they take to a funeral.
We say things like 'Bless your heart' when we mean 'Go to hell.' And 'How's your mama and 'em' when we really mean 'Hi, how are you?' And 'Fixin' to go over yonder, I reckon.' when we really mean 'I think I'm going to go over there.'
We are the home of Bluegrass Music.
We're in the SEC for cryin' out loud! It don't get much more Southern than that.
So there you go. Kentucky is definitively, without question, historically and forevermore Southern.
And that's all I've got to say 'bout that.