November 25, 2011

Sticky Sweet Bacon Goodness

It's bacoooon!  Who doesn't love bacon?! (besides vegetarians and even some of them come to the dark side for the love of the slab)

My Mom had come across a recipe for bacon jam and being the good Midwestern woman she is, promptly got my Dad to make it.  When she called raving about how delicious it was, I knew it had to be shared.

I will forewarn you that while the bacon jam is simmering away in the crock pot you may want to focus your energy elsewhere.  The smell is incredible and the hours waiting for it to be done feel like years.

This is something that would make a great gift sealed in pretty glass jars or a topping for crostini for a holiday party.  I took my Mom's lead on how I chose to enjoy my bacon jam...

There is one correction to the original recipe,  it says that it yields 3 cups but it actually only yields 2 so you may want to make a double batch if you plan to gift it.

Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam
recipe courtesy of Everyday Food

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee

  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is slightly browned, about 20 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.  Add bacon and stir to combine.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  Transfer to a food processor, pulse until coarsely chopped.  Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

Unctuousness defined.

November 20, 2011

Don't Mess with Perfection

That's a pretty bold statement, I know...   but here's the thing:  the Thanksgiving meal is perfection.  Why do people feel the need to "try out a new recipe" or "change it up"?

I know I sound a bit stodgy but there is only one day out of 365 of them that I'm asking the menu not be "tweaked", "altered" or "updated" with some new technique, ingredient or what have you.

As we are all gearing up for this holiday, the only one that is REALLY food-centric I am standing by my convictions.  Why do people feel the need to change something that is already so good?

It really is perfect...  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, candied sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce (perfect for turkey sandwiches the next day), maybe a few other vegetable sides,  rolls and at least a few different pies that must include pumpkin as one of them.

Can you really ask for anything else?  As a self-proclaimed lover of all things carb, this is squeal-inducing bliss for me.  Carbs with a side of carbs!  (it's one day, indulge yourself)

Thanksgiving is the meal I really love.  It is consistent and comforting,  the smells and tastes are a rush of memories for me from my childhood up to present day.  Think about it,  I'm sure when you think of Thanksgiving it floods your memories with the same emotions.  Food and family are what it's all about.  Eating way too much and then eating just a little more...

My grandmother's stuffing is something I have to have on Thanksgiving and if I don't have it,  it just feels like another day to me.

My grandma wasn't the best cook, that's as nicely as I can put it.  I'm not spilling any deep family secret,  cooking just wasn't her forte, but the one home-run she could hit out of the park every single time was stuffing.  It may not be for everyone, but this is worth every carb-lovin' bite for me.  It is simple, basic bread stuffing with celery, onion and sage.  It isn't anything fancy or "modern" in the least and that is why I love it.  It reminds me of being a kid and the anticipation of all of us sitting down together.  My grandparents, my uncle, my Momma, my brother & me.

Thanksgiving isn't just about the food,  it is about the time spent with family gathered around each other and being thankful for the people you have in your life.  The size of my family has dwindled as I've gotten older, as I'm sure is the case with most of us and the recipes I have from my family are one of the things I treasure most.  They provide a tangible link to family members that I can no longer share a meal with.

So, this Thanksgiving I will be making my Grandma's stuffing and remembering my family with every bite.

Gram's Bread Stuffing
  • 1 (large) loaf white bread, torn into small pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp ground sage
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 - 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine celery, onion and chicken stock in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Let it cook for 10 minutes or until softened.
  3. Put bread, eggs and spices in a large bowl and pour the stock mixture over the bread.  Mix to thoroughly combine.  (it is easiest to do this with your hands, so let it cool if it is too hot for you to handle, also make sure eggs are thoroughly mixed in to avoid bits of scrambled egg)
  4. Take a pinch of the stuffing out and fry it to check for seasoning.  Once everything is in the oven, the chance to add more salt, pepper or sage has vanished.  Taste the patty of stuffing and adjust if needed before moving on.
  5. Butter the baking dish and put the stuffing mixture in.
  6. Bake at 350 for an hour. Depending on the depth of your baking dish, you may need to bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes. 
  7. Baste occasionally with additional stock if necessary to avoid it drying out. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 17, 2011

Tiers of Joy

It's been awhile since I've had dessert and with the holidays right around the corner, that streak will be coming to a screeching halt.
Making a dessert like this is generally not too time-consuming which is a game-changer during the holidays when we are all pressed for time and running on empty.

This particular trifle comes together fairly quickly since there is no cooking to speak of, just a bit of manual labor and even that is minimal.
Trifles are a bit like window shopping... because they are usually served in a clear vessel, you can take a look at what you are getting before you decide to plunge in.

They are lovely with all of their layers and I like doing these individually so everyone gets a beautiful dessert all to themselves. (and the fact that I don't own a proper trifle dish has something to do with that decision as well...)

Amaretti Trifle

  • half of one store-bought pound cake, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup black currant or seedless blackberry jam
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 4 oz. amaretti cookies
  • 6 tbsp Kahlua
  • 2 tbsp. toasted, sliced almonds

  1. Make little sandwiches out of the pound cake and the jam.  Cut them into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
  2. In a food processor,  reduce the amaretti cookies to crumbs. (or if you are having a bad day, put in resealable plastic bag and whack with a rolling pin)
  3. Combine the lemon juice and the powdered sugar.  Mix well so the powdered sugar dissolves.  Add milk and 2 tbsp Kahlua, then add to the mascarpone.
  4. Using an electric mixer, whip mascarpone mixture until it is light and billowy.
  5. Brush the little sandwiches generously with the Kahlua.
  6. Place your tipsy pound cake into the glass and press them down into the bottom.  Cover with some of the amaretti cookie crumbs. Dribble a little more Kahlua over the cookies.
  7. Spoon in the mascarpone to cover the soused cookies.
  8. Add another layer of amaretti crumbs and finish with a layer mascarpone.
  9. Sprinkle with amaretti crumbs and toasted, sliced almonds.
serves 4

      November 12, 2011

      Squashing Hunger...

      Acorn squash is one of those little gems that most people probably just pass on by at the store and don't even give a second look.

      Well, stop and give it a second glance.  Squash, whether they be acorn, butternut, spaghetti or any other variety you happen upon at the store (or ahem...  Farmer's Market) are delicious and now is when they are at their peak.  They are wonderful roasted in the oven or scooped out and stuffed with whatever you can dream up.

      This humble little vegetable may not be the latest "in" thing on the restaurant scene or some new discovery that will help you live to over 100 years of age but what it is...  is delicious.
      The flesh takes on an almost buttery texture when roasted and the caramelized squash is sweet and melts in your mouth it's so tender.

      For those who are less than thrilled about eating vegetables or are less inclined to try new or unfamiliar things,  roasting veggies is almost always a hit.  Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness making them more palatable to picky or less-adventurous eaters.

      Stuffed Acorn Squash
      • 2 acorn squash  (cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed)
      • 1 cup cooked wild rice
      • 1/2 cup chicken stock
      • 1 small onion, diced
      • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
      • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
      • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
      • 1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 2 tbsp butter
      • 1 tsp kosher salt
      • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
      1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
      2. Cut off a small piece from the outside of the squash so you will have a flat surface on the bottom to prevent it from rolling over.
      3. Place acorn squash on oiled sheet pan, cut side down (inside), and roast in oven for 40 minutes.
      4. While squash is in oven, make the filling...
      5. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, add onion and cook until translucent.
      6. Add sausage and cook thoroughly, add cranberries, rice, chicken stock, salt & pepper.
      7. Let the filling simmer for about 10 minutes and remove from heat.
      8. Add pine nuts and marjoram. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
      9. Remove squash from oven and carefully turn over.  Turn oven down to 350 degrees.  Fill each half, dot each with a little butter and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
      ready for the oven...


        November 05, 2011

        Football Fare

        Every football fan knows that food is an integral part of the game-watching experience, or is that just me?!
        Well, in our house we planned it out like it was a major holiday.  The Ohio State-Michigan game was the pinnacle of football season and for the majority of my football-loving friends and family it still is.
        There was one particular year that we had everything you could possibly imagine on the table for the game,  I secretly dubbed it "pig-fest" (you know, pig-skin, football, food, gorging oneself...)  It was unbelievable.  To this day there has never been another one like it, which for our own health is probably a good thing.

        Chili is a great football food, you can make it in a huge batch the day before or the morning of the game and the longer it sits, the better it gets.

        I made some last night in preparation for today's Buckeye game and as good as it was last night, I know it will have developed even more flavor today.
        This recipe is courtesy of my Dad (thank you!) and it's the only chili I ever make.  It is delicious, but it reminds me of home and as is the case with most of the things I make for myself it is familiar and comforting food.

        Turkey Chili
        • 1 lb. organic ground turkey
        • 2 cans diced tomato (14.5 oz can)
        • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
        • 3 or 4 stalks celery, diced
        • 2 cans kidney beans, rinsed (15.5 oz can)
        • 1 clove garlic, crushed
        • a few tbsp sugar (to cut acidity from tomatoes)
        • 3 - 4 tbsp chili powder
        • salt & pepper
        • 2 tbsp canola oil

        1. Heat canola oil over medium heat and add onions and celery.  Cook until soft and translucent.
        2. Add turkey, break it up and cook through.  Add whole, crushed clove of garlic, chili powder and season with salt & pepper.
        3. Add diced tomato and  sugar.  Simmer for at least a half hour, stirring occasionally.
        4. Add beans and simmer an additional 30 minutes, check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
        5. Remove clove of garlic, and dig in.

        November 01, 2011

        Soup's On!

        While the cooler temperatures are not my cup of tea, the food that comes with them is.  I love soups, stews, braises, roasted dinners, etc.
        It is comforting, stick to your ribs kind of food and when the weather is chilly that's exactly what I want.  Gone are the days of salad for dinner...

        One of the benefits of  this type of cooking is that you have leftovers.  This for me is key because along with this time of the year comes my hectic work schedule and being able to come home and heat something up instead of trying to figure out what I'm going to cook is a life-saver.

        This particular meal comes together in no time at all as long as all of your prep is done ahead of time.
        When I have a few extra minutes, I make sure all of my ingredients are ready to go so that the actual cooking part is a snap.  This is perfect for a weeknight meal when energy is not in abundance.

        This recipe uses leeks and if you have never worked with them before, this is how to handle them:
        - use only the white and light green parts
        - split in half lengthwise and rinse VERY well, there is sand between the layers that needs to be removed.

        Potato Corn Chowder with Leeks & Bacon
        • 1 cup bacon, cooked and diced (reserve 1 tbsp bacon fat)
        • 2 tbsp butter
        • 3 tbsp flour
        • 4 cups diced leeks
        • 32 oz chicken stock
        • 2 cups water
        • 5 small yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
        • 2 cups corn
        • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
        • 1 clove garlic, smashed
        • 1 1/2 cups milk *
        1. Heat the bacon fat and butter in a stock pot and add leeks.  Cook until soft.  Like onions, leeks will cook down quite a bit. 
        2. Add flour to make a roux.  Let this cook out for a few minutes until it starts to turn a golden blond color.
        3. Add chicken stock and water, whisk to combine.
        4. Add potatoes, corn, garlic and pepper.
        5. Simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through, remove garlic clove.
        6. Add bacon and simmer an additional 5 - 10 minutes.
        7. Remove from heat and add milk.  *if you are a size 6 or less, please substitute heavy cream for milk.  
        8. Garnish with fresh herbs.