August 22, 2010

Saké to me!

After seeing a few of my alcohol themed posts, one of the Rock Saké brand representatives contacted me to see if I've ever had saké, a rice wine popular in Japanese culture that is becoming increasingly more popular among Americans. The truth is I haven't. I knew very little about saké, mainly that it was brewed like beer, so I always assumed it was off limits for me.

After doing a little research, I found that saké is naturally gluten free. But some manufacturers (read: cheapo brands) add barley in the form of a rice malt, therefore turning it into a glutenous beverage and very unsafe for us celiac or gluten intolerants.

Good news, I've found a brand of saké that is gluten free and has a memorable name, Rock Saké. (Whenever I say that, I hear the B-52's song "Rock Lobster", only they are singing "Rock Saké.) The brand rep informed me that Rock Saké is
"an ultra-premium saké that is made of all natural ingredients and is preservative free, sulfite free and most importantly gluten free!"

After receiving a bottle of each variety, Junmai Ginjo and Cloud, I got together with friends for some sushi and taste testing.

We even compared them with some of those other brands. Everyone agreed that Rock Saké was by far better than the others. The Rock brand was deemed "universally good". We all liked the straightforwardness of the saké. It had a clean, smooth taste. The contemporary bottling was appealing, especially to a younger crowd - Rock Saké definitely demystifies saké.

When comparing it, the other brands smelled differently (like perfume and "barnyard") and tasted funky. Hands down, Rock Saké won the taste test. The blue bottle, Cloud, was everyone's favorite.

Rock Saké is sold in most liquor stores nationwide, and if you're in Chicago you can find it at some great Sushi places such as Sushi Samba, Japonais, and Sunda.

August 19, 2010

Sick day and sandwiches

I'm sick! Ugh...I've finally caught the summer cold that I was fighting for the past couple of weeks. When I woke up this morning, it was full-blown awfulness, so I headed back to bed hoping to sleep it off. When I finally dragged myself out of bed, it was around lunchtime and hunger was setting in.
Currently my home resembles Old Mother Hubbard's, well not that bad, but we're out of a lot of things. I had a loaf of Cranberry Walnut bread, swiss cheese, and bacon. You guessed it, I made the most flavorful grilled cheese sammy ever. The sweetness of the cranberries, the nuttiness of the walnuts, the crisp-salty bacon, and the smooth swiss cheese - each flavor complimented the other to create a savory sandwich.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a new gluten free online bakery, smart TREAT. They asked if I'd like to try some products, and after looking at what they had, I said yes, because frankly, everything looked too good to be true. One of the items in the giant box of goodies was a loaf of Cranberry Walnut Bread, which you see was grilled with cheese and bacon above. They have so many delicious products that I'll share with you a little later (and a giveaway...get ready!), but right now I'm going to head back to bed.
What's your favorite comfort food to eat when you're sick?

August 16, 2010

Gluten Free Jack and Coke Cupcakes... houseparty style

Jack and Coke cupcakes...this is new. To be honest, I never would have thought of making a whiskey cupcakes if it wasn't for the awesome people at Have any of you have done a houseparty before? If you haven't, you should. Go sign up. Seriously.

What they do is hook up big name companies looking to promote their products with normal, everyday people like you and me. By joining the site, you can apply for the different parties that are in the works. If you're chosen to be a host, you receive a party pack FILLED with lots of promotional goodies from the company sponsoring the party. It's all free to you, even to sign up, and it's a great way to give you and your friends the opportunity to try a new product that's about to hit the scene. Still curious, you can learn all about how it works on their site.

In the past I was lucky enough to host some really great parties, but I was THRILLED to be chosen to host a "Back Jack House Party"! Jack Daniel's Whiskey is campaigning to turn Jack Daniel's birthday into a national holiday. I think many people will toast to that! If you want to be part of that action, keep checking in on Jack Daniel's Facebook page for fun ways to celebrate. Jack's birthday is in September, and I'm not sure what's in store, but I have a feeling it will be great!

Edit: Someone just emailed me about whiskey. I failed to mention in the first draft of this post that Jack Daniels is gluten free. Whiskey is safe for celiacs and gluten intolerant people. Back in the day, is was believed to not be safe, but after studies it was confirmed that the distillation process removes all wheat. It is listed as gluten free on Jack Daniel's website in their FAQ section. Most grain alcohols are gluten free because of the intense distillation process. Here is a link that can explain it better than I can. Here is another great article on about gluten free alcohol. Sorry for any confusion!
One of the newer cocktails made with Jack Daniel's that is becoming quite popular is Jack and Ginger. Jack Daniel's whiskey and Ginger Ale with a lime wedge. Refreshing! You can even take it one step further by making it a frozen Jack and Ginger, which was what we were mixing up. This new drink is so new, it's not even on the Jack Daniel's website yet, just their Facebook page. Jack Daniel's whiskey, Ginger Ale, lime sherbet, and ice. It was so delicious!

Just a little bit of Frozen Jack and Ginger left, with a Jack Daniel's drink stirrer.

Since I'm a total sweets girl, I just had to make a dessert with Jack Daniel's. I started with the Jack's birthday cake, but with a slight variation - butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips. I found a really great recipe for it when I was looking for Jack Daniel's images to decorate the house with.

Turned out great! Very strong!

But I couldn't stop there. I'm slightly obsessed with cupcakes if you haven't already noticed. So I decided on making Jack and Coke cupcakes. I found an awesome recipe from Alex at Baking for Neighbors. Her baking is not gluten free, so I set to it to gluten free them up! Guess what? No one knew the difference.

A close cupcake fail, where's that lovely round top?

Despite being flat on top, they turned out perfect. So moist and chocolaty! I had decorated them all pretty and then of course had to taste one to make sure they were okay. bite and my cheeks started burning. These cupcakes were equivalent to taking a shot of Jack Daniel's followed by a slice of chocolate cake. No joke. Since the whiskey is all in the frosting, I had to tone them down a bit to prevent any cupcake hangovers. I scraped off a lot of the frosting and put the cut-out tops back in the middle. They looked rather pathetic, so I made some little cupcake toppers to jazz them up a bit.

Jack and Coke cupcake toppers!

When I put them out to serve, my cousin's brother-in-law (my cousin-in-law?) said he stopped drinking to sober up and after one cupcake, he was tipsy again and that they were awesome. I told him I tried to scrape off the frosting since that was really strong and sweet, to which he replied, "No way! The frosting's the best part!!" So there you have it. You must make these cupcakes for your next 21 and over event. Everyone will love you. Just make sure there is a designated driver*!

Jack & Coke Cupcakes
adapted from Baking For Neighbors

For the Coca-Cola Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 2 cups all purpose gluten free flour (I used Meister's)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup sour cream at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 cupcake cups with liners.

Bring 1 cup of Coca-Cola and 2 sticks butter to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, whisk eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add the sugar and whisk to combine.

With the mixer on, pour in the Coca-Cola-chocolate mixture and beat just to combine.

Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them ¾ of the way. Be really careful about not overfilling them – this cake rises and will spill over.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

While those are cooling, whip up some ganache for the filling:

For the Ganache Filling
  • 8 ½ ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Jack Daniel's whiskey
In a medium/smallish bowl, pour in chocolate chips.

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream until simmering and pour over chocolate chips. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. (I placed it in the freezer for about 20 minutes)

Meanwhile, using a 1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer, or a paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes.

Once cooled, put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Let's Make Frosting!
Whiskey Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 cups confections sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons Jack Daniel's
Whisk the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. It does make a difference. The frosting will be less grainy, and require less sugar to thicken them up.
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the whiskey and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Once frosting is thick enough to spread, go ahead and start decorating! If you want to add the cupcake tops that you cut out, feel free! Enjoy!

Cocoa-Cola Chocolate Cupcakes with Jack Daniel's Chocolate Ganache
and Jack Daniel's Buttercream Frosting

* and Jack Daniel's not only made sure everyone was over 21, but they also provided the party guests with taxi vouchers in case anyone had one too many drinks. Thanks, houseparty and Jack Daniel's!