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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Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

[Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries]Our Christmas Eve dinner usually includes a plated courses in place of the family-style dinners we do for Saturday night. While the prep work during the day can be a bit annoying the salad course goes from component pieces to finished product in less than 5 minutes. When the plating starts folks know we’re about to get serious with the eating and find their places around the table.

This year used a recipe from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven as a starting point. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

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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

Tabouleh

I want to call this a quick recipe even though it takes 3 hours to get ready. Most of that is letting it sit on the counter though so I think it is an easy addition to a menu. We served it alongside lemon grilled chicken thighs and sauteed corn with bacon this past weekend.

Tabouleh
Servings: 8+
Prep time: 60 minutes
Total time: 3 hours (with lots of downtime)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur , fine or medium grain, rinsed under running water and drained
  • 2 lemon, divided (see directions), juiced and zested
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2cups minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup assorted tomatoes from the garden
  • 4 medium scallions , green and white parts, minced
  • 2tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves (or 1 rounded teaspoon dried mint)

Directions:

  1. Zest and juice 1 lemon and 1 lime. Combine with enough warm tap water to equal 1/2 cup.
  2. Place the bulgur wheat in a micowave safe bowl and add the lemon/lime water. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes so that the liquid can rehydrate the bulgur.
  3. Taste the bulgur and see if it has rehydrated sufficiently. If not you can either let it continue to sit for another 10-20 minutes or you can cover it with plastic wrap and microwave it on high for 2 minutes.
  4. While the bulgur rehydrates you make the dressing. Combine the zest and juice from the second lemon, olive oil, a big pinch of salt, several grinds of pepper and the paprika with a whisk.
  5. When the bulgur is ready mix in the parsley and dressing. Stir to combine and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
  6. 15 minutes before you want to serve the tabouleh prep the tomatoes. We used a mix of grape, cherry and green zebra tomatoes. The grape and cherry ones were halved. The green zebra was diced to an equivalent size. Add the tomatoes, scallions and mint to the bulgur. Stir to combine and serve.

Notes:
Please don’t add the tomatoes before you refrigerate this dish. Tomatoes taste best at room temperature and putting them in the fridge dulls the flavor. Honest. You can refrigerate the leftover tabouleh however it won’t taste nearly as good the second time around.