Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate FudgeHonestly, does a post with a title like this really need anything more than a recipe? I could tell you about how I’ve just recently developed an interest in bourbon, and the craft of distilling it. Could go on about how discovering I like it has sparked all sorts of mixology adventures. Maybe I should tell you that Maker’s Mark enlisted me in some boozy baking fun, and that they helped in the development of this recipe by sending along a bottle of their amber awesome for me to play with. But really, all you want to know is…

“How do I get this in my belly… NOW?!”

So here ya go, you chocolate-loving-booze-hounds. (people after my own heart)

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge IngredientsOne note about ingredients : Though fudge is oft made with semi-sweet or milk chocolate, this recipe uses high cacao content dark and semi-sweet chocolates. Why? Because this blend helps showcase the smokey notes of the bourbon and plays well with the tart cherry flavor. I tested a few chocolate options and this final blend took the recipe over the top – which is what boozy chocolate should be, right?

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge
Serves 24
Dark, rich and delish, adding bourbon and cherries takes this fudge from holiday treat to confection perfection. I highly recommended using both good quality chocolate and vanilla bean rather than extract.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Makers Mark)
  2. 1 cup Dried Dark Cherries
  3. 1 pod Vanilla Bean
  4. 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  5. 1 cup Sugar
  6. 5oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  7. 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  8. 6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  9. 6 oz Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place cherries and bourbon in a small sauce pan, allow to simmer on medium heat until most of the bourbon is absorbed into the cherries. Set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat combine milk, sugar, vanilla caviar (insides of the pod) and butter. Allow to come to a simmer. Add chocolate by 1/2 cups, whisking to combine. Once all chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir in cherries and bourbon until combined. Place in a disposable 8x8 foil pan. Top with dried cherries, pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional). Allow to cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving.
Notes
  1. If you prefer a more pronounced bourbon flavor, decrease the amount of condensed milk by 1 ounce and increase the bourbon to 3/4 of a cup.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

 

Study Abroad Because…?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Gingerbread House in the State Dinning Room

The White House was decorated for the Holidays, beautifully picturesque and embodying all that is good, familiar and comfortable in our country.  Traditional vignettes were everywhere; the smell of freshly cut pine, the sumptuous float of color on mantels, the brilliant shine of ornaments and the inviting twinkle of lights evoked a yearning for the Rockwellian innocence of American Christmases past.

It would have been easy to become swept away in the grandeur, delighting in my snug little box of national pride.  But, that’s not why I was there. 

I was there to consider the value in sending American children to other countries as part of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit.

America is the land of opportunity, right? So why encourage your precocious progeny to pursue knowledge beyond our borders in a place where those “A’s” they earned in foreign language classes might not be so impressive? Why?

Because it will change  their life, yours and maybe the world.

Study abroad is for everyone and we must prepare our future leaders — American students of all backgrounds — for the global workforce and to be global citizens.” ~ Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

Studying abroad opens minds and doors for our children, providing better job opportunities, making the connection between what is found in a textbook and how it translates into application on a local and global scale. And frankly, it makes them far more interesting.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s address summed up eloquently, the core reasons why both travel and study abroad should play a key role in the education of all Americans,

“…travel outside our borders can add a new dimension to a person’s social and cultural intelligence – and one’s knowledge of how people abroad interact and do business with one another…In this day and age, more and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures.”

The Secretary sited a survey by MetLife that found 65% of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.

Study Abroad is a relevant, important, life skill.

Applying this message to myself, I considered my own years abroad. My study abroad experience wasn’t traditional. There was no “convincing my parents” that there was value in it, that I was mature enough, able thrive living a content away in a country where I barely spoke the language. They didn’t have to struggle to find the funds needed to send me. A set of orders from the Secretary of the Navy rendered those points moot.

Yet the years I lived in Spain – explored Europe and North Africa, studied life – imbued me with the same depth of understanding of our oneness, illustrated firsthand the impact of global citizenship, and the power in person-to-person exchange of ideas and values. 

The knowledge I gained in my early adulthood travels is with me to this day. It is the spark that kindled my passion for travel,  my need to continue to build relationships with the people I meet – be that down the street or digging beets out of the ground with a farmer in Jamaica – and to help my children see the value in these experiences. It was the beginning of an unquenchable wanderlust.

Living abroad changed me forever, for the better.  It allowed me to explore and appreciate of our differences while becoming keenly aware of our sameness, of those threads that run through each of our stories that form the binding of a book this the greater anthology of humanity.

The summit was also used to announce the opening of the State Department’s new U.S. study abroad office, which will manage some of their premier study abroad programs. The office will join advocating for the benefits of study abroad, and bringing resources to those interested in participation. To that end, they announced a partnership with the Institute of International Education and College Week Live to launch the first ever Virtual U.S. Study Abroad Fair that will be taking place on February 25th on-line and everywhere. (for updates connect with the State Department Exchange Programs on Facebook )

In the midst of the busy holiday rush, as we shop and shop, furiously checking off the “wants” on Christmas lists and hunting down longed-for toys, I invite you to consider some “needs”. 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Christmas Tree in the East Wing

The need for shortening the bridge between cultures. 

The need for uniting the threads of our world into a tapestry of more peaceful understanding.

The need for living life fully, for contributing meaningfully to the creation of future history.

As you sip cocoa in the firelight this season and listen to the strains of “Joy to the World”,  I invite you to think of THE WORLD.

I’ll be back in Part Two of this series to share information gleaned in our family’s quest to find a the Study Abroad program that works with our resources and suits Kaytie’s (our teenage daughter) goals. She seems to have an ever-changing list of places she wants to go and things she’d like to focus on… none of which include cleaning her room.

Patent pending, Hyperactivate

Share A Meal – Change A Life

The small act of sharing a meal could have a big impact on a family in need. It can also have an even bigger impact on your own family. As they say, “Sharing is caring,” right?

Our family has a holiday tradition that sprung from a question my youngest son posed after our annual holiday party five years ago…

Mom, what about kids who can’t go to a cookie party because their families don’t have cookies?

A simple question with anything but a simple answer. How do you explain hunger and need to a six year old child? It’s rough. Our solution was to give them not just an explanation of what need was, or why it happens, but to give them a way to make it tangible, while also showing them how they could make a difference – however small.

That year a silly, bowling pin shaped, piggy bank became their “Charity Bank.” They put their own money into it. Change from spending allowances and buying gifts. Coins found in sofa cushions. Quarters given by sweet elderly family friends. All that added up to over $45. It’s grown each year since.

When December hits, they can’t wait to cash it in and hit the store. We let them shop for hats, gloves, scarves, and food that THEY like. Then we head over to a local family shelter for the kids to deliver – with much glee – the fruits of their savings.

The Charity Piggy Bank Project

“Tell me I forget. Teach me I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This year we chose to help the kids focus on food with their giving. Learning from Unilever’s Project Sunlight, that so many children in America suffer from hunger on a daily basis, it seemed the perfect fit for involving the kids so that they’d learn how far-reaching the impact of sharing a meal can be.

We talked about how this problem was so big that there were likely kids they knew that are impacted.  With that in mind they headed to the coin exchange and counted up this year’s savings. $59.78 in hand they went shopping.

First it was at Walmart where they hand-picked the meal items to share. Then it was over to a local grocery store that prepackages meals, then donates them to a local food bank.

Share a Meal Getting the kids involved

I pitched in at the end to pick up some grocery gift cards to be dropped off at the local Fire Department. As the child of a Fire Chief I know that fire fighters have some of the biggest hearts known to humanity. Often they’ll keep a cache of clothing, toys, and household items to be donated to families who’ve lost things due to fires, accidents, and even just those who they meet while out in the community, that find themselves in need.

We all learned that sharing a meal doesn’t have to mean sitting down at the table together – though I highly recommend that as well.  It can be as simple as one of the things we did, stopping by the local food bank with some non-perishable food items, reaching out to a local shelter or donating your time at any one of the organizations that helps feed those in need.

Need more ideas on how to help stamp out hunger? Visit Unilever’s Project Sunlight website and follow along on social media using the hashtag: #ShareAMeal. Or stop by Project Sunlight and tell them why you’d share a meal, they’ll help spread the word and we can all have a bigger impact!

disclosure: this post is part of my participation in Unilever’s “Share a Meal” campaign. I was compensated for a portion of my participation. That said, my opinions are my own. Our family will always support projects that help those in need and we hope yours will as well.  

 

10 Things NOT to Expect When Your Teen Visits for Holiday Break

With Winter Break 2015 just around the corner, I thought I might dust this post off as a reminder of what I should NOT be expecting this time around. Then again, maybe since he’s no longer a teen there may be hope. Yeah, no.

It’s been seven months since Not-So-Little Nugget #1 left the nest. In some ways the missing him got better with the passing weeks, starting with less laundry! Most of that progress was erased by the approach of the holidays. So I did what needed to be done… I bought him a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving. He has been home for a week and a half now and I’ve gained some perspective. Let me lay some wisdom on ya, Nuggets style!

Do not expect

  1. Them to arrive with clean laundry in their suitcase. Seriously, who packs dirty socks? That is just gross!
  2. That they are no longer nocturnal. Noon remains an acceptable hour to wake up.
  3. Them to eat like a guest. Somehow they retain their penchant for foraging through your fridge, eating at will, with the door open.
  4. That they won’t still text you several times a day, even when sitting three feet from you on the sofa.
  5. That they’ve remained somehow frozen in time, on the day they left you. You won’t be getting back the same person, they’ve grown in ways you didn’t know they could.
  6. That their friends won’t have a clue they are home and leave you with days of uninterrupted family time.
  7. That they’ve outgrown bickering with their younger sister.
  8.  Them to miraculously want to help out with the dishes.
  9. That you can hold it together in the terminal when you see your baby emerge from the crowd.
  10. That you won’t start counting the hours until they’ve been taken from you once again, leaving you the mess you were months ago.

This parenting gig just gets harder as they grow. WHY was that information NOT in the manual?!

 

 

 

Changing The Face Of Childhood Hunger In America

I could tell you the cold, hard facts about childhood hunger. Share that right here in the United States 1 out of every 5 children do not know where their next meal is coming from. Hit you with the numbers;

16 Million Suffer from Childhood Hunger

I could even bring it home for you and say that with numbers like that, it’s highly likely that someone you know is dealing with this. Or, I could tell you my story.

When I was in elementary school my dad lost his job. Saver of lives, a man who rescued people and fought fires – a hero, my hero – was laid off by the state of California due to budget cuts. In the blink of an eye our family of five lost the sole breadwinner in the house.

All I knew was that we got to play with daddy more. I thought that mom was hunting more because dad was home so much - driving her crazy. To me the time we spent as a family volunteering at the local food-share program was another way for my parents to teach us life lessons. The bonus always being that we got to bring home a big box of “leftovers.” My 8 year old self had no clue that, that was our only food. I didn’t know what my parents were struggling through to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

As an adult I look back on that time and my heart breaks for them. How could a man with multiple advanced degrees, years of experience,  who had saved countless lives and homes, EVER end up in a place where he didn’t know if he could feed his family? I can’t imagine looking at my own children and knowing I couldn’t feed them.

We made it through. Mom kept us all strong, held the family together. She was always our rock. Dad went back to work. I grew up not ever knowing how bad it had gotten. Sadly, not all kids can say that.

Today I’m joining with Unilever Project Sunlight in doing my part help shine a light on hunger in America. We need to change long-held notions of what hunger looks like, why it happens and to whom. Childhood hunger touches us all, in so many ways. Let’s talk about it, listen without judgment, and put an end to it. 

The families in the short video, “Going to Bed Hungry: Changing the Face of Child Hunger” have shared their stories – who they are, where they come from, will surprise you. I add my story to theirs and ask that you take a moment to watch (with some tissue nearby) and then take one minute more to spread the word. Help put an end to the hunger – we CAN DO THIS!

I have four kids and an opinion.