Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Jalapeno Goodness...

Ok, I know this recipe is all over the web, but this is MY blog and I'm going to write about it if I damm well want to....

I came across it one day while looking for a dish to bring to Thursday night dinner. I have these fabulous friends Tex (of the band
My New Enemy) and Sarah who put on an open house style dinner every Thursday night. The food in absolutely amazing. Texas is an incredible cook, very creative with solid skills, and Sarah is the sweetest, warmest metal wife you could ever imagine. Basically Tex cooks, whoever shows up, shows up, and we eat, drink and have a very merry time. There are lots of kids running around, playing in the yard, watching movies, screaming, crying and carrying on in that blissfully happy way that little friends do.
We're like a family that actually likes each other. I feel very lucky to part of this event, and even though it is not required, I do like to bring something, only because I love to cook and share good food with great people.

Since I have come to be known as the bacon girl, I thought I'd better represent and bring some sort of bacon dish...and because I have a constant supply of the magical pork product it's an easy decision. I have to admit though that I'm not really that big on spicy foods and the use of hot peppers. But I do love the flavour of jalapenos and they're not really that hot compared to others, so I thought what the hell, lets give it a go, at the very least I think most people would at least try them. Boy was I right, they were devoured in minutes, all the bacon grease sopped up by a bunch of happy looking misfits :)

So here is MY version, most likely the best one out there....

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

Here is what you will need...

- 12-16 large jalapenos
- 1 brick of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 lime
- chopped cilantro, about a handful
- S&P
- 6-8 slices bacon, cut in half
- lots of tooth picks

And this is how you do it...

Preheat oven or bbq to 350 degrees.

1. Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise, scooping out the seeds and ribs.

2. Place in a large bowl, or if you're lucky like me the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer, the cheeses, garlic, squeeze in the lime juice and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well till smooth.

3. Spoon the mixture into the patiently waiting jalapeno boats, leveling off at the top...or if you're Karen, overflowing to the point of obscenity.

4. Wrap each filled jalapeno in a half slice of bacon, securing with a tooth pick. 4. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or so, if bbqing on LOW for as long as it takes for the bacon to be cooked. You want it still a bit soft, not crispy.

5. Let cool a bit before inhaling! The next week that Karen made these, I ate one pretty much straight out of the oven and my tongue was burnt for days.

This is a super easy appy idea, and very versatile, you can put whatever else you like in with the cheese mixture, I think Karen used like 5 different cheeses, but I recommend you DO NOT use cheddar cheese, I tried this with the bit of leftover mixture and the cheese leaked out and was still good, but the cheddar didn't add anything to it. I think maybe some crab or shrimp meat would be good, smoked salmon, more bacon....

I saw it on a cooking show where they topped the jalapeno, scooped out the insides, piped in plain cream cheese, stuffed in a marinated water chestnut, more cream cheese, wrapped it in bacon a baked them in a cool holder that held them upright. Sounds simple, but the way that eejit Guy Fieri was going on about it you'd think it was filled with liquid gold...he's such a douche... but anyways, the point is that you can get creative, try whatever you like because I can't imagine there is any way you could screw up a jalapeno wrapped in bacon...unless you forgot the bacon...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara....doing it my bacon way...

By this time you've figured it out that, yes, I do eat bacon pretty much every day. Not just whole slabs cooked up and eaten on it's own, but in some way. I use bacon as a flavouring for soups and stews, topping potatoes or salad, or adding to a pasta dish. Really the possibilities are endless, just try and think of a food that bacon would NOT taste good with I will convince you it would...go ahead, try me...

Carbonara is a classic pasta recipe that typically calls for Pancetta, which is a lovely pork product, but because I always have bacon on hand, that's what I use. I have adapted this from Rachel Ray, yes I know, but she has been a great source for simple, family friendly, easy meals. Ray Ray is not a trained chef and has become extremely successful (if not a sellout with her daytime TV show - ooohhh, yeah I went there!) by being herself and sharing her love of food. I'd say she's a bit of an inspiration to cooks like me...except for the selling out part...I'm just kidding, that's just the green eyed monster rearing it's ugly head...I don't want to EVER be on TV, can't stand even having my picture taken, which is odd because I am quite lovely...but I digress...

So this is the Jen adapted recipe, it's very easy on ingredients, takes a bit of timing, but is relatively quick. I've added the spinach because the Izbot loves it, and it makes me feel like I'm getting some veg.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Spinach

You will need...

- 1 pound spaghetti

- 5-6 slices bacon - chopped

- pinch red pepper flakes

- 3 cloves garlic, minced

- 1/2 cup chicken stock or white wine

- 1/2 pound fresh spinach

- 2 large egg yolks

- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

- Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

- Fresh Roma tomato - chopped, for garnish

- A large deep sautee pan, big enough to toss the ingredients with the pasta.

How you do it...

1. In a large pot, boil lots of water, add a fair amount of salt, a bit of oil, and cook the pasta till al dente, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook till tender, not quite crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain off most of the fat, keeping about a tablespoon or so in the pan. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add stock/wine and stir, scraping up the bits of goodness off the bottom of the pan. Add spinach and cook about a minute till it's wilted. Turn the heat down a bit while you do the next step...things move very quickly at this point, so you want to have everything ready to go.

3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks, then slowly while whisking gently add 1 large ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.

4. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the pan with the bacony mixture. Increase heat back to medium

5. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta, and so the egg does not cook. At this point you may need add a bit more of the pasta water if it's looking too sticky and dry.

6. Remove pan from heat and add a handful of Parmesan, plenty of fresh cracked pepper, and a little salt. Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Garnish with parsley, tomato and extra grated Parmesan. Serve and devour immediately

I don't think I need to tell you how delicious this is, what could be better than bacon, cheese and pasta all mixed together? It comes out nice and creamy, similar to a cream sauce, but with out the fattiness...and since bacon is naturally fat free this is a nice healthy dish...that's right, I said fat free, you wanna challenge me? Hmm do ya, do ya ?? I thought not....

As always I serve this with a salad, keeping it lightly dressed with just lemon, lime, olive oil and S&P. And of course mass amount of garlic I said, a nice light dish...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heart attack in a bowl AKA Seafood Chowder with Dill

As often happens, I was home for lunch watching Chef at Home with giant Chef Michael Smith, and was sucked in to re-creating the dish he was making on the show for our dinner.

He has a way of making everything sound so tasty and simple, throwing out random bits of info that make me go hmm. His food philosophy is cooking without a recipe, just grab the flavour you like or have on hand and see what happens, which I think is a great way to get comfortable in the kitchen when moving up your own culinary ladder.

I have jotted down many of his recipes over the years and use them regularly in one form or another, as I have added and tweaked to my liking. I used to be a total recipe hound, followed all recipes to the letter, which I think is what helped me learn technique, and timing, but I have now evolved into making my own creations, throwing it all into the pot and seeing what jumps out at me...not literally jumping out of the pot, although there was the time I grabbed the handle of a frying pan that had just been in oven...I held on to it for about three seconds, thought 'oh shit that's hot!", and very purposely let go, not over a counter or sink, heavens no, dropping it square onto the floor which sent the contents straight up into the air, splattering and splashing their way back down...I have done this far more than I care to admit, so I have finally devised a system to remind me of hot handle, whereby immediately after taking the hot pan out of the oven, I turn the oven mitt around a place it on the handle like it's own mitt, this is working quote well so far...oh come on now, of course you've done it, don't try and lie to me, you get busy pulling everything together at the end and just grab the handle, it's happens to the best of us...

So seeing as I had a half pound of prawns in the freezer and a fridge full of dill, I went ahead with the Seafood Chowder with Dill...sounds tasty right? But not for those watching calories or fat, this recipes contains whipping cream and a half pound of bacon...yum.

Seafood Chowder with Dill


½-pound bacon - chopped

1 onion - chopped

2 stalks celery - chopped

2 cups milk

1 cup 35% heavy whipping cream

1 cup half and half***
**the original called for just heavy cream and milk but I couldn't bring myself to use that much 35% cream so I switched it up with 1/2 and 1/2....I wouldn't go much less that that or it will be too runny.

3-4 tbsp Chinese cooking wine, or you could use 1 cup of any regular white wine, but lets be honest here people, unless I buy it specifically for a dish, if there's wine in my fridge it ain't gettin' saved for cooking

3/4 cup chicken broth - you can skip this if using a full cup of regular white wine

1 baking potato, peeled and grated

2 or 3 bay leaves

1/2 pound of fresh salmon, halibut or any other fresh fish

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined

pinch of fresh ground nutmeg

1 bunch of dill, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it...

1. Brown the bacon until crisp in a soup pot or large saucepan.

2. Drain off most of the fat, then add the onions and celery. Sauté until the veg till soft, about 5-7 mins.

3. Add the milk, cream, wine/broth, grated potato and bay leaves. Stir and cook over medium heat until the potato has dissolved and thickened the soup, about 20 minutes. At this point, depending on how much time you have or how much cream vs. milk you used, you may want to thicken it with a roux. I take 2 tbs butter melt it the microwave and add 2 tbs flour. Add this to the pot and whisk to avoid lumps. Make sure you cook the soup after for about 3-4 minutes to cook off the flour.

4. Add the fish and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and continue simmering just long enough to cook the fish through, about five minutes more. Just before serving, stir in the dill.

Serve this with a plain salad, no creamy dressing, as it may just push your heart over the edge, and a toasted grainy baguette - white bread is the devil's pillow when combined with high fat dishes.

Oddly enough, the day I made this dish I had been on the Nova Scotia tourism sight just taking a look around, and thought "how fitting, I'm making a Maritime style fish chowder tonight", and when dinner was ready and we sat down to eat, what was playing on CBC Radio2? That's right, Celtic music, straight from Cape Breton...ooohh spooky!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tree Hugging Granola Cruncher....

I am so not! Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just doesn't match my bacon loving lifestyle. But I do appreciate making much of our food from sue me...

The Izbot is very sensitive to sugar and food colouring, it makes her super hyper and I think it is what causes her migraines. She was addicted to those nasty soft chewy granola bars, the ones that claim to be made of nutritious grains that taste like cardboard dipped in corn syrup, so I figured I'd source out a recipe for home made ones, if not only for her health, but also the sanity of her teachers.

I have altered this quite a bit from the original and it gets better every time I make it. You can play with it quite a bit in terms of flavours, we have tried using Craisins, works great, adding sesame seeds on top- Izbot thought it was too crunchy, so it's a great place to start.

This one is dedicated to my fellow blogger Little T, the fabulous woman who made my bacon scarf. She is making her first forays into baking and though I'm not really much of a baker, I wanted to pass this along to her in thanks for the beautiful creation she made just for me!

Healthy But Great Tasting Granola Bars

Dry Ingredients

- 2 cups quick oats

- 3/4 cup packed Best Brown sugar - I prefer the flavour over the golden, Demerera is too crunch for this recipe

- 1/2 cup wheat germ

- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

- 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger-I freeze my ginger whole so when you grate it with the microplane it comes out as a fine power and is way easier to handle. And of course it keeps for along time.

- 1 healthy pinch of fresh grated nutmeg- I switched over from the pre- ground stuff about 3 months ago and will never go back. A healthy pinch is about 10 swipes across the microplane.

- 3 tbsp flax seeds - about a handful

- 3 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds - about a handful

- 1 cup all-purpose flour - you could use whole wheat

- 3/4 cup raisins

- 3/4 teaspoon salt - not Kosher, I tried that once and it was gross.


1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

1. Grease and line with parchment paper a 9x13 inch baking pan. This is important, I highly recommend using the parchment or else I don't know how you will get the finished product out of the pan. Greasing it lightly first helps it stick to the pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center.

3. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg lightly. In your 1/2 cup measure start with the oil, (it will help the honey release from the measuring cup) then honey and vanilla. Mix this all together with a whisk until well combined.

4. Pour wet into dry and mix well using your hands. It feels kinda nasty, but just go with it, we're pretending to be tree hugging granola eaters here people!

5. With lightly oiled hands, press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. You will want to push the edges down around the "lump" so it's a even thickness at the edges.

6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then lift the whole thing out, USING THE PARCHMENT PAPER, and let cool a bit more on a wire rack. Cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

I get probably about 16 out of a batch and put them in small snack size ziplock bags, which all go into a large ziplock bag, then into the freezer. They keep well for about 2 weeks.

Mix and match your favorite flavours (peanut butter?) and let me know how they turn out for you!