Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

There are five things that never fail to make this Kentucky born and bred foodie swoon. “Foodie” is my politically correct characterization of myself. Roughly translated, it means “big ol’ girl who loves to eat (and drink).” Those five things are, in no particular order:

  • Chocolate
  • Bourbon
  • Pecans
  • Gravy
  • Cornmeal –crusted anything

The recipe I am going to share today contains three of these ingredients and is truly slap your Mamaw—unless you had a Mamaw like mine who would slap back—delicious! The recipe calls for a pre-made frozen pie crust, but feel free to make your own homemade crust if you feel like raising the bar a notch or two. As a life-long underachiever, I am content to use the pre-made crust. Either way, this pie is divine.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 deep dish pie shell
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
¼ c. bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. light corn syrup
½ c. butter
¼ tsp. salt
Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. pecan halves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine the sugars, corn syrup and butter. Cool over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the sugars dissolve. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in pecans.

Pour chocolate chips onto the pie crust, covering the entire bottom with a single layer of chips. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set and golden.

May be served warm or chilled.

Squash and Corn Casserole

I am not an incredibly talented gardener. I am not even a slightly adequate gardener, if I am being honest. I can grow the basics. The plants that require zero skill and minimal care. You know….no fertilizer. No plant food. No weeding. Spotty watering, at best.
This time of year, I find myself up to my armpits in these hearty, idiot-proof vegetables. Yellow squash seems to be a particularly prolific survivor of my substandard horticultural skills. A couple of years ago, I went on a quest for a squash recipe that did not involve copious amounts of cornmeal and a dip in the fryer. (I LOVE me some fried squash, but it does not love me back.) I tried numerous recipes, using my children and partner as my taste testers. Most of the recipes received reviews that included some variation of the following adjectives:
Blech! (This is more of an expletive than an adjective, but you get the point…)

I finally, with dogged determination and a little Kentucky conviction, found a recipe that the entire family could enjoy.  (Okay…that is a wee bit of a tiny white lie. My oldest son, Lucas, “enjoys” no food that actually grows from the Earth. He only truly enjoys highly processed foods that come in colors not found in nature, but he is the exception to most rules.)
Squash & Corn Casserole

2 eggs                                                                          
1 can cream corn                                                        
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese                                    
1/4 c. vegetable oil                                                         
1 Tbsp sugar                                                                     
1/4 tsp minced garlic  
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 c. thin-sliced yellow squash
1/ 2 c. Bisquick


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x9 baking dish. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the corn, parmesan cheese, oil, sugar, garlic and pepper. Fold in the onions, squash and Bisquick. Pour the mix into the prepared pan. Bake until bubbly and light brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Hopefully, your family will enjoy this recipe. May your expletives all be positive!

HerKentucky Welcomes Shannon Ralph

I am so excited that my friend and sorority sister Shannon -- whom we recently threw an unconventional candlelight -- will be joining the HerKentucky team! Shannon, an Owensboro native and Transylvania alumna, lives in Minneapolis with her partner (soon to be wife!) and their three kids. You can read more about Shannon's adventures on her blog, Chronicles of a Clueless Mom. I guarantee she'll make you laugh! -- HCW

My name is Shannon Ralph and I am a Kentuckian by birth and a Minnesotan by happenstance. I have lived in Minnesota for almost seventeen years. No matter how acclimated I have become to the hearty Midwest, I can't help my redneck roots showing on occasion. Like the way my carefully crafted Midwestern temperament can go from stoic to curse-flinging hillbilly white trash in 0.5 seconds flat if you make me mad. Or the way I don't give a rip about baseball or hockey, but cheer for my Kentucky boys every March with a devotion somewhat akin to a rabid wolverine. Or the way I like a good game of poker better than I like most people. Or the way gravy and biscuits (or cornmeal crusted anything) make my heart sing.  Or the way, no matter how many decades I spend in Minnesota, I still shake my head at the idiots driving their trucks out on frozen lakes and mutter under my breath, “Bless their little hearts.”
In Louisville this week.

I guess what I am trying to say is that once Kentucky gets into your soul, there is no shaking it loose. No matter how long you are away from the Bluegrass State, there is no twelve-step program to rid yourself of the all-encompassing desire to drink bourbon and deep-fry vegetables. You can't pray the blue away.

This week, my partner, three children and I are visiting my hometown of Owensboro. I am trying to introduce my pale, pasty little winter-weary children to the joys of Kentucky life. So far, I have heard a litany of  “God, it's hot!” and “My armpits stink!” and “People here eat sheep?!” I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to foster an appreciation for Kentucky in someone not born and raised here. Perhaps—just maybe—one must be infected as an infant for the sickness that is Kentucky to grow and fester inside as it has grown and festered inside of me.

I drive down the streets of Owensboro and smell the air, thick with the aromas of barbecue and sweat, and I feel nostalgic for a simpler life. I feel a calmness—a sluggishness even—that I do not often experience in the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis. Life moves at a slower pace here—due partly to heat-induced partial paralysis, I am pretty sure. Yes, it is definitely hot. And humid. I am desperately fighting the urge to shower four times a day. I am telling myself, “Just succumb to the sweat.  Be at peace with the sweat. Become the sweat.” It's a tough battle to wage after being in Minnesota for so long.

Lucas explores his roots.
If I allow myself to think about it, I get a bit misty-eyed that my children are not Kentuckians. They are not even Southerners, which is an even harder pill to swallow. They are Midwesterners. I am raising my children in a region so far removed from my beloved South that they are practically Canadians.

The weird thing, however, is that I am really okay with it. I have created a family and a home and a life up north that I adore. When I think of “home” now, I picture my little house in Minneapolis filled to the brim with the people I love. Kentucky is where I am from—Kentucky is who I am—but Minnesota is  home.

I guess there is some truth to what they say: You really can't go home again. Though Kentucky may never again be my home, I'll always carry a part of it with me. It is in my soul. It is in the blue blood I bleed. It is in my refusal to give up “hell yeah, y'all” in deference to the mild-mannered “oh yah, you betcha.” It made me who I am.

I am a Kentuckian.

Hell yeah, y'all.