Posts Tagged ‘bacon’

Quick Weeknight Dinner: Iceberg Wedge Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

Iceberg Wedge Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
Iceberg Wedge Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

Iceberg Wedge Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing



Recipe by: Adapted from Southern Living
Yield: 3-4 salads depending on wedge size

These wedges are so crisp, cool, and refreshing as an appetizer or side dish (or even as a main dish with some grilled chicken on top!) It's important to make this dressing in advance and let the flavors meld in the fridge overnight; it makes a huge difference in the finished product.

Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's)
1 cup sour cream
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 head Iceberg lettuce, rinsed, cold, cut 6 wedges
12 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup chives or green onions, chopped

Directions:
Mix first 6 ingredients for dressing and chill the day before serving. Put wedge onto plate, top with dressing, sprinkle with mixture of bacon, parmesan and chives (mixed together).

Elvis Presley Bars (Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Bars – with a vegetarian variation!)

When I posted the invitation on my Facebook wall, I was pretty sure no one was going to respond (except to heckle me.) Imagine my surprise when a couple of my friends -- one from Sunday school and one from high school -- responded that they'd come. That meant it was really happening.

When Saturday evening came, I drove across town, listening to the radio to distract myself from what I was about to do. It was only when I stepped out of my car and surveyed the busy roller skating rink in front of me that visions of ambulances flashed through my head. Was I really about to go roller skating for the first time in 20 years?

My doubts resurfaced a few moments later when I carefully stood up in my skates for the first time. I thought that the four-wheeled skates would provide more, uh, balance than that. They didn't come with, like, knee pads or anything? Maybe some bubble wrap?

I looked at my friends and attempted a confident smile. It must've been about as wobbly as I was, though, because they both looked worried. To lighten the mood, I mentioned that I was actually considering trying to join the roller derby someday. They laughed a little too much at that. Hm. Bad sign.

Nevertheless, we made slow, shaky progress over to the opening in the rink -- which, I noted bitterly, only had a wall around about a quarter of it. At this point I was pretty certain the night was going to end in one or more broken limbs. My left arm ached as if to remind me the Roller Skating Incident in third grade, which left me with a sling for a few months and residual pain well into my adulthood. I stepped gingerly onto the slick floor and pushed clear of the doorway, wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

Turns out my friend Meredith is a total roller skating rockstar. My friend Steven was slower but still relatively surefooted. Next to them, I felt like a roller skating walrus with a coordination problem. They were ruthlessly encouraging, though, assuring me I was doing well despite my tendency to flail-and-scream every 30 seconds or so.

I did huff and puff. And I did hug the wall more than my friends. And I did take several breaks. And my quads did start burning because I'm in roughly the same physical shape as an old lady with a video gaming addiction.

But I want you to know that I did not fall even once! I want you to know that I upgraded to fancy inline skates! I want you to know that Meredith assured me (sincerely!) that I was doing tons better by the end of the night! And most importantly, I want you to know that the only thing louder than the rockin' roller rink soundtrack and the gaggles of middle school girls was the sound of our laughter -- because we had so much fun.

Roller skating was a blast from the past. Meredith, Steven, and I have already decided to make a monthly date out of it. Who knows, maybe after a few months practice, the roller derby will recruit me. No? Okay, maybe not.

Another blast from the past that I enjoyed recently (one that you might actually want to join me for!) are these Elvis Presley Bars. They're based on Elvis's favorite sandwich: Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon. Anything with bananas and peanut butter has that elementary-school-lunch nostalgia that I love, but adding bacon for a salty twist makes these bars extra delicious. Don't worry if you're a vegetarian; big crunchy pretzels can be used as your salty component. Either way, I think Mr. Presley would be proud.

One year ago: Fig, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza
Two years ago: Chocolate Mousse Pie
Three years ago: Mallow Cookies

Elvis Presley Bars (Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Bars)



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with peanut butter filling adapted from Fine Cooking
Yield: about 15 bars

These Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon Bars are a delicious combination of salty and sweet. Pretzels can be used to replace the bacon for a vegetarian substitute. Since the recipe makes a big pan of bars, they're perfect for taking to a potluck or for pleasing a crowd.

Shortbread Crust Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients:
2 cups creamy peanut butter (use an emulsified kind like JIF, not natural peanut butter)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons hot water
3-4 bananas
honey for drizzling
5-6 strips bacon OR large pretzels for topping

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a foil sling with the ends overhanging the pan to facilitate the removal of the bars later on.

Pulse the flour, powdered sugar, and salt together in a food processor to combine. Add the cold butter chunks and pulse about 10-12 times until you have the texture of coarse sand (you can also use a pastry cutter or two knives to accomplish this if you don’t have a food processor). Pour this mixture into the prepared dish and use a spatula or the bottom of a glass to press it down into an even layer. Bake it for about 15 minutes or until it’s lightly browned. Let it cool completely.

In a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the peanut butter and butter until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of hot water, and half the powdered sugar to the mixture and beat until combined and fluffy. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and another 2 tablespoons of hot water. Once combined, beat for an extra minute until the mixture is smooth and thick like frosting.

Use a spoon to glob half the peanut butter mixture onto the cooled shortbread crust, and then use an offset spatula to gently spread it into a roughly even layer (don't worry if it's not perfect.) Lay banana slices across the entire surface. Glob the rest of the peanut butter mixture all across the top. Again, use your offset spatula to gently spread the peanut butter mixture over all the banana slices (you want the banana slices to be covered because bananas oxidize and turn brownish, so the bars are prettier if you can't see them. It's hard to get them all covered, but just be patient and keep working the peanut butter around, cleaning off your spatula now and then.) Chill the bars for at least 3 hours.

While the bars are chilling, preheat the to 400 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay out the strips of bacon on the baking sheet and bake for 17-20 minutes or until crisp. Let bacon drain and completely cool on a paper towel covered plate.

When the bars are chilled, lightly drizzle the surface with honey (they're already very sweet, so don't be heavy-handed), and crumble bacon pieces over the surface (or top with pretzels as desired). Gently use the sling to pull the bars out and cut them on a cutting board. Serve them within a day or two (before the bananas get too brown), storing them in an airtight container in the fridge if needed.

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Maple Bacon Doughnuts

My mom trudged through four years of college with four kids to earn her nursing degree (and graduated magna cum laude, she will promptly -- and repeatedly -- inform you).

Her job as a nurse left her with little time or energy to spend on being an extraordinary entertainer, something she's always had an innate talent for. One day as a small girl, though, I went to forage in the kitchen and found her frantically frying doughnuts.

There was literally a multi-tiered tower of doughnuts on the kitchen table. There were more doughnuts bouncing around in hot oil on the stove. There were pale, puffy rings on the counter waiting for their turn in the stock pot.

And then there was little Julie in the middle of the madness -- and I was all about eating some doughnuts.

Mom immediately shattered my doughnut devouring dreams, though, explaining that her friends from work were on their way to discuss some adultish, worky things, and that the doughnuts were for them. I had thoughts of launching an all-out siege à la Hyperbole and a Half, but managed to control myself.

When the ladies arrived, Mom was somehow curled and coiffed, standing in a clean kitchen, and wearing a cute outfit. The tower of doughnuts beckoned enthusiastically from the table as she invited each of her friends to sit and poured them coffee. I watched in eager anticipation, certain they were about to notice the doughnuts and react with appropriate awe.

But they didn't.

No worries. My mom would offer them the doughnuts in a moment, and they were probably just waiting on that polite social cue to reveal their utter amazement. Sure enough, she gestured toward one of tiers resplendent with multicolored rings, saying, "Would you like a doughnut?" But the unthinkable happened.

"Oh, no thanks."

That's right. Those ladies did not eat a single doughnut. They were dieting, or they weren't hungry, or some such something.

My mom carried on warm conversation, refilling their coffee like nothing had happened. Like fresh homemade doughnuts just appeared on her kitchen table any old day! Like she hadn't just spent literally hours making them from scratch!

At 7 or 8 years old, I was not so deft a hostess. I sort of wanted to grab one of those ladies by both shoulders and give her a good shaking, screaming, "SHE MADE YOU HOMEMADE DOUGHNUTS, WOMAN!" I had seen Mom's hours of hard work, and I was heartbroken for her.

The ladies left before too long, having accomplished their adulty, workish business, and the doughnuts still sat undisturbed on the table. I could tell Mom was sad about it, despite my assurances that I would both eat and enjoy every last one.

Seriously, who turns down a homemade doughnut?! In fact, who turns down ANY version of a yeast doughnut?! (Those cakey things are another story altogether; you'll have to forgive my obvious bias.)

Indeed, Mike's mom told me a story years ago about when she was in school. She and her friends would wait for the "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign to come on at the nearby Krispy Kreme, drive over, and eat a dozen doughnuts each. That's the power of a yeast doughnut. (And youthful metabolism).

Well, in honor of my mother and doughnut lovers everywhere, I made a variety of filled doughnuts last weekend. I'm still tweaking my super secret version -- and will share it soon, along with a great little trick for using yeast dough scraps -- but this flavor combination I found on Cherry Tea Cakes had me immediately intrigued. Maple Bacon Doughnuts!

They don't just sound amazing; they are amazing! And even though it may seem like a trendy flavor combination, these are not simply novelty doughnuts -- they taste flippin' awesome. They're pillows of salty-sweet, doughnut-pancake, breakfast-dessert heaven. I feel like I should be confused, but I'm not. I just want another one.

While we're talking doughnuts, we might as well jump in the fray: Are you a cake doughnut or yeast doughnut person?

Maple Bacon Doughnuts



Recipe by: Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes
Yield: about 12 3-inch doughnuts

Doughnut Ingredients:
1 0.25-ounce package yeast
2 tablespoons hot water, roughly 110 degrees in temperature
3/4 cups milk, scalded (heated to a slight simmer-not a boil) and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying

Maple Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup whipping cream

Maple Glaze Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons bacon grease/melted butter
1 cups powdered sugar
5-6 tablespoons maple syrup
about 1/2 pound bacon, for topping

Directions: Make the doughnut dough: Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer, and then let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should foam to show that it's active. Beat in milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 1 cup flour (scraping down bowl when needed). Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to fully combine. Mix in remaining flour completely. Cover this dough and let it rise in a draft-free place (I warm my oven for a few seconds on 200 degrees just to get the chill out -- make sure it's not hot! -- and then put my dough in there to rise) until doubled, about 50-60 minutes.

Make the Maple Mousse: While the dough is rising, bring maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Pour about 1/4 cup of the hot maple syrup into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper them and be sure they won't cook from the heat. Then whisk the egg yolks into the maple syrup. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches about 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. In a separate bowl, measure out 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and sprinkle the gelatin over it to soften. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before mixing a couple of tablespoons of the warm syrup mixture in and stirring to dissolve the gelatin. You can heat for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each, to ensure the gelatin is dissolved. Whisk this mixture into the syrup mixture, and then whisk it occasionally for the next hour while it cools.

Beat the remaining cream to soft peaks. Stir about a third of it into your now-cool maple syrup mixture to lighten it, and then gently fold the remaining cream into it. Refrigerate for at least an hour while you complete the rest of the components.

Make your doughnuts: Flour a surface well and turn your doughnut dough out onto it, flouring the dough as well. Gently roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut into solid rounds with a 3-inch cooking cutter. Place each round on a baking sheet and let these rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. About 25 minutes into their rise time, start heating your oil in a heavy, deep stock pot to 350 degrees F on a candy/fry thermometer.

Cook bacon topping: Preheat oven to 400 degrees (only once your doughnuts aren't in there rising!) Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay your bacon slices out side by side. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the bacon grease in a small bowl. When cool, crumble bacon up.

Fry your doughnuts: Gently lower 2-3 doughnuts at a time into hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Make the Maple Bacon Glaze: Add enough melted butter to your bacon grease to make it 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons worth. Whisk this together with the confectioner's sugar until combined. Add maple syrup one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Set aside.

Assemble doughnuts: Use a chopstick or butter knife to poke into each doughnut and "sweep" gently to create a pocket. Pipe mousse into each doughnut using a piping bag. Then dip them in the glaze and sprinkle cooked bacon on top. Best eaten the same day.

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April Fool’s Day Cupfakes

Ah, April Fool's Day! The perfect occasion to show someone you love them by playing nasty tricks on them and guffawing as they stand, bewildered, trying to figure out what just happened.

Orrrr you could play a sweet (well, savory) trick instead! Cupfakes are adorable, savory treats masquerading as their sweet cousins. At one time or other, I've had people mistake each one of the dinnertime cupfakes below for dessert! In reality, though, Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes are fun Chicagoan deep dish pizzas topped with fluffy ricotta and a cherry tomato. Meatloaf Cupfakes are moist meatloaf with mashed potato "frosting" and colored salt sprinkles. Finally, my favorite: Cheddar, Chive, and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting are slightly sweet, cornbready dinner muffins full of goodies.

One warning: when people are expecting to bite into a sweet cupcake and it turns out to be a cupfake, their brains do a little backflip of revulsion no matter how good your treats taste. It's probably best to reveal your trick right before they take a bite!

Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes

Meatloaf Cupfakes

Cheddar, Chive, and Bacon Cupfakes with Avocado Frosting

P.S. Only 1 week left in my Cheesecake Challenge! Choose any one of 9 cheesecake recipes to prepare within the next month. Email a photo to me by 4/5/2011 to be featured on Willow Bird Baking! Get more details about the challenge here.

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Pasta Carbonara

I've been so antsy to share this recipe with you! It's one of those I-put-a-bite-in-my-mouth-and-suddenly-my-eyes-widened-to-the-size-of-Pluto dishes. One of those I-stared-at-Mike-impatiently-waiting-for-him-to-take-a-bite-and-have-Pluto-sized-eyes dishes! One of those I-could-eat-a-Pluto-sized-bowl-of-this-stuff dishes!

I've been trying to redeem myself for Mike's terrible birthday dinner disaster for awhile now. Sure, I've made some delectable things since then, but I knew my penance wouldn't be truly complete until I made him some really good pasta.

I went hunting on my favorite places to hunt for recipes: Tastespotting and Foodgawker. I'm so visual when it comes to food -- seeing a dish gives me a better idea of how it'll taste than looking at ingredients lists -- and I find the mini-descriptions on these sites force bloggers to succinctly convey how amazing a dish is. You'll find some captions that say things like, "pretty good," or emphasize the ease of a dish, and others that convey the kind of emotion I wanted to elicit from Mike with my pasta dish: "WOW, this is good!"

This recipe was one of the WOW ones I came across. The photo of the dish was submitted by Kate of Framed, who called it "extra special." That -- combined with her charge to throw out all your other carbonara recipes -- gave me confidence. I'm not going to lie, something about her blog's exuberant header photo probably also made be feel exuberant about linguine! Regardless of the reasons, I decided that this was the recipe I'd been searching for!

As if you needed any more encouragement to make this pasta, the original recipe is straight from Pioneer Woman's site (a Pastor Ryan recipe, for those of you who follow her posts). P-Dub has never steered me wrong, and on top of that, she's coming to Charlotte this Friday for a book signing! What a perfect time to make a meal from her blog.

I guess the only thing left to tell you about is the most important part: the taste. The last time I ate pasta carbonara was in Little Italy in San Diego, so the creamy, rich, buttery sauce and the salty punch of the pancetta was a wonderful memory. I have to say, though, this rendition was even better than the one I remember. Bunches of torn parsley add a fresh note to the otherwise deep and indulgent pasta.

One flavor I noticed that stood out was the wine, so pick a good one -- but don't ask me how to do that! I picked my wine because it was white and had a penguin on the bottle. I got lucky, though, because it tasted perfect in the sauce. It was a Pinot Grigio, in case you want to replicate my random choice.

We paired our pasta with some cheesy garlic bread, and it was such a great combination. Actually, I considered making some big homemade garlic croutons to top the pasta itself, which would have been delectable if you want to give it a go. Make this as soon as you can manage to throw some linguine into your shopping cart. Bon Appétit!

Pasta Carbonara



Recipe by: Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman's blog by Framed
Yields: about 4 servings, if you're us -- perhaps 6 servings for normal folk.

Ingredients:
1 pound linguine pasta
4 eggs
1 pound bacon or pancetta (I used pancetta)
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
8-12 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or substitute another cup of stock)
1/2 stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tablespoons black pepper

Directions:
1. Cut bacon into pieces about one inch wide. Cook until browned and crisp and set aside, saving bacon grease in the skillet.

2. Cook linguine in salted water until al dente.

3. Add chopped onions to bacon grease and let them cook down over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

4. After the onions have cooked for a couple of minutes, throw in the garlic. Adding it after the onions have cooked a little will prevent the garlic from burning. After the onion and garlic have cooked for another couple of minutes, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Discard the grease.

5. Place the pan back on high heat until it starts to smoke a little. As soon as the pan begins to smoke, pour in the white wine (or chicken stock). Whisk until pan is thoroughly deglazed and all of the brown bits have come off of the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of chicken stock. Return onion and garlic to the pan. Let simmer over medium heat.

6. Crack four eggs into a large bowl. Add most of the Parmesan cheese, and roughly chop the parsley, adding it into the eggs as well. Leave a little Parmesan and parsley out for a garnish. Mix well with a fork.

5. Add the cooked hot pasta to the egg mixture and then add the onion mixture. Stir in ½ stick (1/4 cup) of butter and the cooked bacon. Mix it all together well. Pepper to taste. Garnish with parmesan and parsley. Throw out all previous carbonara recipes.


Enjoy!


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