Bacon Bites

Every year I try to think of things I can make in advance that will simplify the days leading up to our annual after-the-holidays holiday party. This recipe certainly fits in that category. It can be made up to 6 weeks in advance and stashed in the freezer to unexpected guests or a planned gathering. Plus it includes one of the current “it” ingredients, bacon.

One added bonus of this recipe is that you can substitute to your hearts content and produce a new variant of bacon bites with whatever you have on hand. Replace the cream cheese with any spreadable medium, switch up the cheese, replace the peppers with salami, or black olives, or gummy bears. Well maybe not gummy bears. Make them your own.

Bacon Bites
Servings: 60 pieces
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup drained and diced Peppadew peppers
  • 3/4 cup sliced scallions, white and green
  • 20 slices soft white bread
  • 20 pieces uncooked bacon (avoid the temptation of thick-cut)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the cheeses until smooth. Stir in the peppers and scallions until evenly distributed; set aside.
  2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread. Gently flatten the bread slices with a pastry roller or rolling pin.
  3. Once the bread is trimmed and flattened, spread the slices with the filling, covering it completely.
  4. Roll the bread up from the short side, pressing down just enough to make it stick to itself.
  5. Take a slice of bacon and wrap it around the roll diagonally, overlapping the bacon to cover the bread completely. If you need more than one bacon slice, tuck the end of the second bacon slice under the end of the first. Trim the bacon when you get to the end of the roll.
  6. Place completed roll on a parchment lined rimmed baking pan. When all rolls are completed freeze them for 30 minutes to firm them up.
  7. If making for consumption at this time then preheat the oven to 350°F and line a second rimmed baking pan with parchment. If making for later enjoyment, transfer to a large ziptop bag and return to the freezer.
  8. When ready to enjoy, slice the rolls in thirds and place on the baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the tops are golden brown. If fully frozen bake an extra 5 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
There’s no need to thaw these if you are pulling them from the freezer after they are fully frozen. Just bake an extra 5 minutes or so and they should be good to go.

I usually bake these in 2 batches so that the folks who come later in the evening are able to enjoy the bacony goodness. You might want to bake them all off at once though to encourage your guests to arrive in a timely manner. 🙂

As best I can remember the original recipe I used came from King Arthur Flour’s website.

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Beans and Greens

Some years back we were watching Aarti Sequeira’s show, Aarti Party, on Food Network and she made Greens ‘n Beans. I made it once following her instructions and decided after that I wanted something a bit different. Here’s my version:

Beans and Greens
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. kale leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup “red matter” (or 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot)
  • 2 red Fresno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 29-oz. can small white beans (habichuelas blancas is what I get), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a large dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the “red matter” (or shallot) and pepper along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the kale, which will likely fill the pot. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Dump the rinsed beans on top, add the water and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Using tongs give the kale and beans a stir. Taste a piece of kale; if it is done move on to the next step. If not recover and cook for another 5 minutes. If the pot looks a bit dry add another 1/4 cup of water.
  4. When the kale is done sprinkle with the vinegar and stir. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

Notes:
I buy a 1 lb. bag of pre-cut kale as I hate removing the kale from the stem. There are few pieces of stem in the bag however they seem to cook up in the same time as the kale.

“Red matter” is a guajillo and caramelized shallot jam that my husband makes in large batches a couple of times each year. It turned our dressing a festive red. A shallot can be substituted.

Rice Florentine

There is a restaurant nearby that serves Rice Florentine as a side. It seems to be not much more than rice with small bits of unidentifiable green vegetation tossed in. I wanted something with a bit more color, and flavor.

There is a fair amount of prep work on this dish, particularly with the baby spinach. I think the end result is worth the extra effort.

Rice Florentine
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, stemmed, cut into 1/4″ pieces, rinsed and spun dry
  • 2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/8″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced 1/8″, with most of green
  • 2 Tbsp.butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered rosemary
  • kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Make the rice: – Bring water, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a boil in a large pot. Add rice, stirring briefly to distribute in the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15-17 minutes. Check rice; it should be cooked through and look dry. Cook an additional minute if there is noticeable moisture. When cooked – turn off heat and place a double layer of paper towels between the pot and the lid.
  2. Cook veggies: – Heat remaining tablespoon of oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling subsides. Add peppers and scallions with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook until peppers start to turn translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, cook for a minute so it starts to wilt then stir it into the pepper mixture. Cook until any water released by the spinach is evaporated, about 5 minutes total.
  4. Sprinkle spinach with spice blend and rosemary. Stir to combine, cook for a minute or so and taste. Add salt as needed.
  5. Fold spinach mixture into cooked rice. Transfer to a large serving bowl and enjoy.

Notes:
To prep the spinach I removed the stems from about 20-25 spinach leaves at a time, stacking the leaves on top of each other. I then cut them into 1/4″ pieces, transfered the cut spinach to a salad spinner and repeated the process until all the spinach is cut up. Rinse with cold water, drain and then spin at least 3 times.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

I referenced a couple of recipes while putting this recipe together: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/florentine-rice and http://southernfood.about.com/od/ricesidedishcasseroles/r/bl90805e.htm

Cucumber Salad

Summer is a season of abundant local produce. Not a week goes by without fresh tomatoes from the garden and gifts of cukes and summer squash from friends and co-workers. We do our best to use it all before it needs to be donated back to the compost pile. Salad is a fine way to consume fresh veggies as long as you, or your friends, will eat the salad. 🙂 This simple, lettuce free, salad comes together quickly and went well with grilled chicken.

[Cucumber Salad]

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Corn and Ham soup

It’s been a rainy day and my husband has been sick for 3 days or so.  There really isn’t anything convenient to bring to work for lunch either. I didn’t really want to go to grocery store so I made a big pot of soup with leftover bits and pieces we had kicking around.

Ham and Corn Soup
Servings: 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 onions, small dice
  • 2 red peppers, small dice
  • 24 oz. frozen corn
  • 3″ piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ham, diced
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook for 5 minutes to begin rendering the fat.
  2. Add the onions, peppers and a big pinch of salt. Stir to coat in the bacon fat and cook until the onions and peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the corn, stir to combine and heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the corn starts to thaw.
  4. Add the cheese rind, broth and water. Stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the diced ham, chipotle and thyme. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Check one of the potatoes; if you can pierce it easily with a fork then soup is on.
  8. Taste the soup and add salt/pepper to your taste.

Notes:
I used a mix of regular frozen corn and frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s.

I keep a jar of Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base in the fridge so I can always have a broth available when needed.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Here’s the recipe for Chicken Cacciatore I mentioned in my post Sunday. We have a fairly large slow cooker, a 6.5 quart one from Crock Pot. This recipe for chicken cacciatore basically filled it to the top. Thankfully there was no spill over while we were out of the house.

based on a recipe from Cambell's Kitchen

Chicken Cacciatore

This recipe is based on this one from Campell’s Kitchen.

Recipe under the cut