Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bank Breaking Bacon

Very often, ingredients inspire my recipe searches. If I have left over herbs or a surplus of a certain meat due to a sale at the supermarket I will search those ingredients in my favorite recipe databases until I come up with the perfect find. This recipe was a result of one of those searches. Because after the Great Bacon Debacle of 2011 I had some bacon to use up. And that is putting it lightly.

The Great Bacon Debacle of 2011 started when Forrest so kindly agreed to accompany me to the grocery. I usually go it alone, especially since Rex was born as it is just quicker to get in and out when I am by myself. But on this particular occasion I had left the weekly shopping to a Saturday morning and Forrest and the baby came along. Our local grocery often has Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals and I try to take advantage of them whenever they involve products I know we will use a lot of in our cooking. On this day, as we passed the pork section we noticed that bacon was part of the BOGO deal so I picked up two regular sized packages of the cured pork and threw them in our basket. Forrest pointed out that the huge 5 pound "bricks" of bacon were also BOGO and that we should get those as we "always NEED bacon". I told him that 10lbs of bacon was an awful lot, but he promised to break them up into usable sized packages and refreeze them in Ziploc bags as soon as we got home. So I reluctantly agreed and we moved on to the next aisle.

"So why did that turn into a debacle", you ask? Things really went south as we arrived at the self checkout counter. I hurried along scanning my items and double checking to see that all prices and promotions were honored on our screen. As I rang up the first Bacon Brick I was astounded to see that is cost $16.99! Even at buy one get one free that is a whole lot more than I ever want to spend on bacon. So I rolled my eyes at Forrest and scanned the next brick. As usual, the price showed up on the screen (still $16.99 even though I was hoping it wasn't) and then I waited for the corresponding (-16.99) to appear in red indicating the second one was for free. Nothing..... They weren't buy one get one free, Forrest misread the sign! So now not only had I just rang up 10lbs of bacon, I just spent 34 dollars on bacon!

Looking for someone to blame, I immediately told Forrest that was ridiculous and he was a careless shopper. He volunteered to tell the attendant we didn't want it to have it voided off of our bill. This is where a normal, not hot headed human being would have obliged and the bacon fiasco would have come to an end right there and then at Self Check Out Register #4. But I am much too stubborn, easily embarrassed and wouldn't allow him to get it off the bill. So I stayed bitter the whole way home and then complained for about 2 days about the copious amounts of bacon in our freezer. Even though Forrest had broken them into manageable portion as promised, I still claimed we would "never" use it all. As if!

The bacon was gone in the span of the next month and every time I made a recipe with bacon that was a success like this one, I had to apologize to Forrest for my ridiculous generalized statements on that day.

Asiago, Potato and Bacon Gratin
Adapted from Cooking Light
April 2004

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender. Drain. Sprinkle potatoes evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside and keep warm.

Heat a medium saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.

Add the flour to the milk in a measuring cup and whisk to incorporate. Gradually add remaining milk mixture, stirring with a whisk.

Cook over medium heat 9 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, Asiago, chives, pepper, and bacon.

Arrange half of potato slices in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of cheese sauce over potato slices.

Top with remaining potato slices and cheese sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sloppy Seconds

I have never in my life (prior to Sunday night) eaten a Sloppy Joe. My mom didn't make them growing up and let's face it, they aren't the type of cuisine that often pops up on restaurant menus. I have never had the desire to whip them up in my own kitchen, because quite honestly they have never come to mind. As I flipped through this month's issue of Cooking Light I was intrigued by this version since it contained equal parts meat and mushrooms. I am a big time mushroom girl so I figured there was no time like the present. Not to mention, my husband was uber jazzed when I asked him if he would like Sloppy Joe's for dinner one night this week. Men are so easy to please in the cooking department!

Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Cooking Light June 2011
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages presliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup prechopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 4 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, toasted
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add beef; cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Salt and pepper the beef during browning.

2. While beef cooks, place mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.

Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to pan;

cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt)

to pan; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates.

Stir in pepper and hot sauce. Spoon about 1 cup beef mixture on bottom half of each bun; top with top halves of buns.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How forzo I've Come

I live one block away from my old high school. I also live within walking distance to many amenities so I frequently walk past my old school on the way to the grocery, gym and pharmacy. It is a large school that occupies an entire city block, so I am usually in front of the old buildings for quite some time on these walks. Every now and then I can't help but feel a little nostalgic. I gaze at the brick structures and think what my life used to be like when I spent so much time within their walls.

As I walked back from the gym this morning my mind turned to these types of thoughts and I was reminded of how I felt about the world at the tender age of 16. I thought I had it all figured out and that there was nothing left to learn. I was arrogant and presumably all-knowing. I am sure I felt like that for several more years, but it is now at almost 30 that I completely understand how little I knew back then and what lessons I learned the hard way because of my ignorance. It is a really heavy thought and not necessarily the most light hearted reflection to have before I even started my work day.

In order to try and lighten my mood I turned my wandering thoughts to food - one of my favorite topics. And I started to reflect on how much I have learned about food, cooking and ingredients in the last 15 years as well. When I was a young student in my checkered skirt and monogrammed Peter Pan collar I was so clueless about so much of the culinary world. Sure, I loved food - but my exposure to it was minimal and I had not yet even began to tap the experiences and resources of all things foodie. I was a picky eater from a very non-adventurous food family. As I have mentioned before, my Mom was a fabulous cook but she wasn't experimental and my Dad is a creature of habit. So I liked what I knew and that wasn't that broad.

One ingredient in particular that I don't even think I knew about until college was orzo. I know my Mom didn't use it, but I also can't remember anyone else using it in their cooking or seeing it at restaraunts. I am not sure if it wasn't readily available or because I wasn't familiar with it did it just get overlooked. To me, it seems like orzo is the perfect ingredient for children as the tiny shaped pasta is very versatile and uber delicious.

I finally wrapped up my philosophical merry-go-round of thoughts with the conclusion that I have learned an astronomical amount about food and cooking in the last few years and I can't wait to tackle more!

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi
Adapted from Cooking Light March 2009
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 7 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.
2. While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan;

sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic to pan;

cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in juice,

shrimp and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe