Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bacon, Bacon, BACON!

My dad has loved bacon his entire life.  And that love has been passed down to my brother and me.  When we're at a diner for breakfast and we're given the option between bacon and sausage, there's really no choice.  Bacon, please.  What would make those green beans a little more appealing?  Bacon, of course!

We truly add it to anything, anywhere, any time.  Let's face it.  Bacon makes everything better.  And this last weekend, we just made bacon even better, if you can believe it.

This year, my dad threw a bacon cook-off.  We were given explicit instructions to not return home for the holidays without at least 2 new bacon recipes each to showcase at the event.  It was a blast, cooking in the kitchen with my family, listening to Christmas music and stealing tastes of everyone's creations.  We fit bacon into all kinds of courses and foods including Bacon Bloody Mary's, Bacon & Blue Cheese Coleslaw, Bacon Oatmeal Cookies and even Chocolate-Covered Bacon.  Below are a couple of the recipes I brought to the table.

My dad smoking new tradition has already caught fire and it has me brainstorming bacon recipes for next year.  Join us in our bacon extravaganza!  We encourage you to get creative with bacon (and your other favorite ingredients) and throw your own delicious throw-down.

Sweet & Spicy Bacon

There's an adorable little restaurant tucked into my neighborhood called Katelina's.  It's roughly the size of a size 8 shoebox and somehow, they produce some of the best food in the city.  My favorite thing on their menu is the Sweet & Spicy Bacon.  I pretty much order it on anything and everything and it's always magnificent.  Indulge yourself and share in Katelina's simple, delicious, sweet and spicy revelry.  Naturally, I recreated this for the bacon cook-off.  This is my version:

1 lb. Bacon
4 T. Brown Sugar
1 t. Chili Powder
1/2 t. Chipotle Powder (or to taste)

Turn your oven to high broil.

Mix together the brown sugar, chili and chipotle powders.  Sprinkle the mixture onto both sides of the bacon, rubbing it in so it sticks.  Place the bacon on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.  Broil to desired chewiness/crunchiness, about 4-6 minutes, per side, keeping a close eye so it doesn't burn.

Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Shrimp

These bite sized shrimp are tropical, sweet and smoky and a great addition to your New Year's party.  Exchange the teriyaki for your favorite Asian sauce or marinade for more variety.  

24 shrimp, cooked, peeled, with tails removed
12 slices of bacon, cut in half
24 pieces of pineapple
Teriyaki sauce

Preheat the oven to 350.  

Thread the shrimp and pineapple onto toothpicks.  Wrap with a half piece of bacon, securing it onto both ends of the toothpicks.  Place each shrimp on a baking sheet and brush with teriyaki sauce.  Bake until the bacon is cooked through and slightly crispy.    

.          .          .

Bacon Bloody Mary's

Bacon Spanakopita, etc.

Bacon & Blue Cheese Coleslaw

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gifting :: Sugar & Spice

If you're like me, you enjoy gifting.  And I don't mean picking up a DVD and slapping a gaudi bow on it.  I mean brainstorming, searching, finding and disguising the perfect gifts that your friends will absolutely love.  I know, it's tricky and frustrating sometimes.  But, the look on their face paired with that cozy feeling of knowing you tickled them intrinsically is priceless.  This post is devoted to the ingredients of gifting food in the hopes that the next time you need a special gift for a foodie friend, you won't have to look too far.

:: Sugar ::

Can you really go wrong with gifting something sweet like cookies?  No, not really.  A homemade treat is always a great gift because your love and hard work is already inside.  But, take it to the next level with my suggestions for the perfect cookie goody bag.  These work well for little forget-me-not's, thinking of you's, teacher appreciation, bridal or baby shower goodies.

Here's what you'll need: 
cookies, small gift bags, raffia or ribbon, scrap book paper, 
regular paper, glue stick, marker, hole punch, scissors

1.  Glue a sheet of regular computer paper to the scrapbook paper.  
Allow to dry and then cut into small gift tags.  

2.  Using the marker, write the name of the cookies your gifting 
being sure to list any important ingredients.  Fold the gift tag in 
half and use the hole punch to puncture the top left corner of each tag. 

3.  Place a few cookies in each bag. 

4.  Tie raffia or ribbon around each bundle and thread it through 
the hole in the gift tag to secure it to the package. 
 Tie it in a bow for looks.

:: Spice ::

How many times have you been given spices as a gift?  I'm betting not many.  Spices are a unique way to literally "spice" up someone's present.  There are so many options, it's hard to go wrong.  And who would refuse some added flavor for their meals?  The spices in the grocery store tend to be pricey, so I recommend finding a spice shop (yes, you probably have one hiding near your home).  First, they have a much better selection and you can eliminate the cost of the container.  If you're not sure about which spices to choose, ask for help!  Here are a few of my favorites that you don't see everyday:  cardamom, smoked paprika, whole vanilla beans, black sesame seeds, spice shop special blends.  Give a few of these jars as a birthday present or single ones as dinner party or even wedding favors.  And if you happened to serve a dish that included the special spice, gift the recipe too!

Here's what you will need:
spices, sandwich bag, small jars, raffia or ribbon, 
scrap book paper, regular paper, glue stick, marker, hole punch, scissors
**TIP:  Craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael's have a great variety of glass jars and containers.  They also offer coupons on their website every single day to help save moolah.

1.  Empty your spices into sandwich bags.
2.  Roll a sheet of computer paper into a funnel and place into the jar.

3.  Gently pour the spices through the funnel into each jar. 

4.  For the gift tags, glue the computer paper to scrapbook paper.  
Allow to dry and cut into gift tags.  

5.  Write the name of the spice on each gift tag.  

6.  Fold the gift tag in half and using the hole punch, 
puncture the upper left corner.  

 7.  Tie the raffia or ribbon around the jar.  Thread it through the 
gift tag and tie in a bow for looks.  

There are many options for gifting food.  Some of my other favorites include toffee, citrus zested sugars and even little travel packs for my vacationing friends.  Think about the people you love and gift them with food this year.  Happy holidays.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Honduran Holiday Pork

This recipe is inspired by a traditional holiday meal served in Honduras.  I fell in love with it over dinner with a friend’s family and now I make it every year around the holidays.  This pork is dynamic and robust, with wonderful citrus flavors and smoky spices.  It’s incredibly easy to make and it will fill your home with delectable aromas.

Guide to Latin T Dishes:

Torta - sandwich on soft bread
Tortilla - obvious, but flat bread made from corn or flour
Tostada - crispy tortilla piled high with latin goodies
Taquito - rolled and fried tortilla with meat and cheese
Taco - if I have to explain this one to you, you may be reading the wrong blog

Crockpot Orange Pork

1 Pork Shoulder (one that will fit in your crockpot)
Salt & Pepper
1 T. plus 1 t. Smoked Paprika, divided
1 T. plus 1 t. Cumin, divided
1 T. plus 1 t. Sugar, divided
2 Red Onions, cut into slices
2 Oranges, cut into large chunks
1 Lime, cut into large chunks
¼ C. Olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
Cilantro, Orange slices & Avocado, for garnish
Tortillas, for serving

Add the pork and onions to a large bowl and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and the spices.  Squeeze the citrus over the pork and drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic and marinate overnight. 

In the morning, squeeze whatever is left from the citrus over the meat and onions.  Remove the citrus from the bowl and discard.  Carefully transfer the pork, onions and marinade from the bowl to a crockpot.  Set to high and cook for 8-9 hours until the pork is cooked through, tender and pulls apart easily with a fork. 

Move the pork to a large bowl and shred with 2 forks.  Skim the fat from the juices in the crockpot and doctor up the sauce with the butter and about one teaspoon of smoked paprika, cumin and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Add the meat back to the crockpot so it can soak up all those good flavors. 

To serve, pile the pork onto a warm tortilla and garnish with fresh cilantro, orange and avocado. 

Happy holidays and happy eating!