It seems there has been a bacon explosion in North America, in more ways than one. Novelty bacon dishes and other bacon-related items have been popularized rapidly via the internet. Fast-food chains boast about double bacon burgers, and upscale restaurants are wrapping steaks in bacon — even adding it to chic desserts. It’s the old sweet and savory marriage of flavors that seems to work so well.
Bacon mania has made bacon the star ingredient. The movement has been traced to the late 1990s when high-protein foods became a more prominent diet focus due in part to the Atkins diet.
The huge popularity of bacon has also encouraged product introductions such as bacon salt, maple bacon donuts, baconnaise, bacon-infused vodka, bacon ice cream, bacon jerky and chocolate covered bacon just to name a few. Condiments are the unsung heroes of the culinary world. A finishing sauce can be an important part of every meal. Whether you’re serving pork tenderloin, pork chops, pork loin, or pork roast, a flavor-filled sauce will guarantee to take the meal from good to great. We found this blackberry bacon sauce to do exactly that.
Pork Medallions w/ Blackberry Bacon Sauce
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In a saucepan, cook bacon until almost crisp, remove to a paper towel.
To the bacon drippings, add sliced mushrooms & garlic, sauté until cooked. Remove to a plate, set aside.
To the saucepan, add remaining sauce ingredients & bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer & allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly then place in a food processor & pulse a few times.
Pour sauce through a wire sieve & press to get everything but the seeds for your sauce.
Add bacon & mushroom/garlic mixture. Combine well & set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Slice the tenderloin into even, 1 1/2 inch thick, medallions, sprinkle with garlic & onion powder & the salt & pepper.
Then, heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy skillet, cast iron if you have one. Braise the pork tenderloin medallions, you may have to work in 2 batches. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side, remove from the skillet and cook the remaining pork. Using 2 wooden skewers, thread meat first with one & then with the other. It should resemble the unsliced tenderloin but do leave a tiny bit of space between each piece.
Place on a baking sheet & roast for 30-35 minutes.
To serve, plate the tenderloins and spoon (reheated) sauce over them. Garnish with a few whole blackberries & serve any remaining sauce on the side.
Having frozen rhubarb to bake into a spiced rhubarb & orange cake in the middle of winter is a treat! Rhubarb is treasured by many simply for its sophisticated flavor. Those who love rhubarb, value its tart pungency, which more often than not is mellowed with sugar and made aromatic with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or orange rind.
Sweets are the staple at the end of a meal; the luring incentive for the kids to eat their vegetables, the weakness for many dieters, and the go-to fix for those with sugar addictions.
Hot or cold, a simple mini dessert can turn an average meal into a memorable event. Rhubarb and orange is a much-loved flavor combination, making this recipe a perfect winter dessert.
Spiced Rhubarb & Orange Pudding
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Place orange in a deep saucepan, cover with water. Place saucepan over high heat & bring to a boil. Place a lid on it & reduce heat to low. Simmer until the orange is very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain, quarter & set aside to cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter six-1 cup ovenproof baking dishes.
Place rhubarb, brown sugar, spices, vanilla & water in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes until rhubarb thickens. Remove from heat & set aside.
Place cooled orange quarters with the skin on into a food processor & puree until smooth. Add flour, butter, buttermilk, sugar & eggs & process until smooth.
Divide batter among prepared baking dishes. Place on a baking tray & bake for 40 minutes or until tops are golden.
Serve warm topped with spiced rhubarb & whip cream.
There are certain plants that play important and often mysterious roles in holiday traditions and celebrations all over the world. From the Egyptians who decorated trees during the winter solstice, to the Pagans and Druids who used mistletoe in their winter customs, stories of ritualized plant use span continents and history and have become infused into the mythologies that span generations. I’ve always wondered how poinsettias and Christmas became intertwined. After a bit of research this is what I found.
It seems the story behind poinsettias is rich in history and lore. The vibrant plants are native to the rocky canyons of Guatemala and Mexico. Poinsettias were cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who valued the red bracts as a colorful, reddish-purple fabric dye, and the sap for its many medicinal qualities. The poinsettia was first associated with Christmas in southern Mexico in the 1600s, when Franciscan priests used the colorful leaves and bracts to adorn extravagant nativity scenes.
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said, ‘I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus happy.’
Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.
Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like its Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.
Poinsettia Cookie Wreath
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In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar & flavorings with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour & salt until combined. Divide the dough between 2 large pieces of plastic wrap. Flatten each into a 1/2-inch-thick disk and wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Roll out 1 disk of dough between 2 heavy sheets of plastic wrap into a square about 1/8 inch thick. You should be able to cut (9) 3-inch squares from it as well as have some edges left for making about 18 leaves. Re-wrap & refrigerate dough scraps while you shape the poinsettias.
Cut a 1 1/2-inch slit in all four corners of each dough square to form 8 points. Fold over every other point, moisten tip with egg white & press into the center of the square. Arrange cookies on prepared cookie sheet. Refrigerate while you repeat the same procedure with the other disk of dough.
Cut enough leaves out of the scraps using a sharp knife or a leaf-shaped cutter, making 2 leaves for each poinsettia. Arrange the leaves on plate & lightly brush with egg white, then sprinkle with green sanding sugar. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Lightly brush the poinsettias with egg white & sprinkle half with red sanding sugar & half with white sanding sugar. Brush the ends of 2 leaves & tuck underneath each poinsettia on opposite sides. (No need to press the dough; it will meld together as it bakes.)
Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies are puffed and the edges are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately press a yellow (chocolate) candy in the center of each warm cookie. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Spicy Wreath Cookie
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until a dough forms. Roll dough into a long strip about 43-inches in length.
On a sheet of parchment, draw a round circle about 13 1/2-inch circumference. Place on a baking sheet or use a large round pizza pan.
Lay the long strip of cookie dough in a circle following your pencil drawing to form the wreath base on the parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten gently to about 1-inch thickness. With a knife, make zig-zag indentations on the dough.
Bake for about 20 minutes until done but not overbaked. Cool.
Using a bit of gel paste from a purchased tube, anchor each cookie in place on top of wreath base to form 'poinsettia wreath'. Finish with adding a ribbon or some holly leaves & pinecones or personalize to your own taste.
- I like to save the heavy plastic wrap from frozen puff pastry for recipes like this. When you roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap as opposed to using flour on your board, it really keeps the dough from becoming so dry.
- I found if I took the poinsettia cookies out of the oven about 5 minutes before they were finished baking & pressed the candy center in then returned them to the oven, the candies stuck to the cookies better.
Nestled on the border of France and Germany is a little area known as the Alsatian (All-Say-Shun) region. There, cultures have collided, blended, and meshed to create some of the most unique culinary experiences. One such specialty is the Flammekueche, also known as the Alsatian Pizza, or Tarte Flambée. A combination of baked flat dough topped with fresh cheese known as fromage blanc, bacon, and onions. All of this is baked to a crisp perfection.
The most underrated and underused topping in every pizzeria is the onion. The flavor potential of this glorious root can be either bold or a sublime succulent whisper, but it is usually taken for granted.
Known as flammekueche in Alsatian and flammkuchen in German, tarte flambée is pure and uncomplicated. Typically made on a piece of thin, rolled-out bread dough, it has only three or four other main ingredients: the sour cream, cheese, onion and the bacon.
But don’t let the few ingredients fool you because they’re wonderfully paired. The creamy, slightly sharp sour cream is tamed by the sweet onions and salty bacon.
Flammekueche - Alsatian Pizza w/ Onions & Bacon
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Cook potato, peel & mash. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat, sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Bacon / Cheese
In skillet, sauté bacon until it is halfway to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces. Grate cheese.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into 4 ovals. Transfer with paper to a baking sheet.
Add minced garlic to sour cream & spread over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over sour cream. Top all with grated cheese & a sprinkling of black pepper.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice.
I just can’t resist fitting a bit of fruit mincemeat into my Christmas baking, so this year it comes in a quick bread. Quick breads cover a wide range, from biscuits and scones, which are made from a dough, to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.
Quick breads have evolved as a distinctly different tradition after the introduction of baking powder in 1850. Before that, breads and cakes were leavened with yeast.
These breads come in all shapes and sizes. Even though they are called breads, lets be clear, they are a cake of sorts. Some breads are light and airy, others are hearty and dense. The ingredients used will greatly affect the final volume and texture. Oats gives breads a somewhat dense and chewy texture. Sugar helps to keep breads tender and without salt will taste flat.
The basic way to prepare a quick bread is the two-bowl method. This entails mixing all dry ingredients separately from the liquid and sugar, then quickly combining the two with only a few strokes. The idea is to not overmix or overbake.
If you like mincemeat, this loaf is so nice to have on hand during the Christmas season.
Mincemeat Quick Bread w/ Orange Spread
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Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 4 1/2-cup ring mold pan or bottom only of a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat eggs; stir in mincemeat, brown sugar, milk & butter.
In another bowl, whisk together flour baking powder & salt. Add to wet mixture, combining ONLY until flour mixture is moistened. Pour into chosen baking pan
Bake about 45-50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven & cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish. Serve warm or cool with Orange Butter.
In a small bowl, beat marmalade with butter until softened & blended.
This spicy galette makes an interesting dessert with the sweetness of mango and apricot fruit, as well as savory with the creaminess of stilton, crunchy pepitas, and the perfection of a cornmeal pastry crust.
Stilton cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton, in the east of England. White Stilton has a light, fresh, slightly acidic flavor that makes it a perfect partner for fruit.
White Stilton with mango & ginger is a blended cheese which incorporates mango and ginger to impart a sweet, savory intense flavor to the traditional Stilton cheese. Stilton on its own is extremely creamy and delicious but the addition of fruit accords the cheese a new dimension. As it melts, the unusual combination of the mango adding a fruity flavor and the ginger adding a mildly warming, spiced overtone. White Stilton with mango & ginger is perfect for a breakfast or dessert cheese.
Spicy Apricot Mango Stilton Galette
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In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, anise seeds, cloves, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon & sea salt. When mixture starts to bubble, add dried apricots & mangoes. Cook, stirring often, until fruit is soft. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press out chilled pastry into a 13-inch circle.
Spread mixture evenly over dough, leaving about a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold pastry over filling, pleating to hold it in. Sprinkle with crumbled Stilton cheese. Brush with egg wash (if using).
Bake 35-45 minutes until filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Remove from oven & sprinkle with pepita seeds. Serve.
- If filling seems too dry, add a bit of water or apple juice.
Autumn is upon us and love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.
The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and the air is filled with the ‘flavors of fall’. With both apples & pumpkins in season right now its hard not to enjoy making use of them.
As usual, this recipe started out with a simple little no-cook pudding but got an upgrade with some spiced, caramelized apples. Yum!
Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples
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Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
In a medium pot, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the cranberries, swirling them into the caramel. When the cranberries begin to burst, add the apple & orange zest, then sprinkle with the spices. Lower the heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Do not over cook the compote as it will thicken when cooled.
Transfer to a heat resistant glass bowl & cool to room temperature, then cover & chill.
In a large bowl, beat pudding mix, pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar & spices until smooth & creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Chill for an hour before assembling with fruit.
In serving glasses of choice, layer the pudding with caramelized fruit compote. Top with a dollop of whipped cream & a sprinkle of gingersnap crumbs if you wish.
I enjoy to make miniature versions of food whether its sweet or savory. I’m not sure where that ‘obsession’ came from. It could be that having worked in the commercial food industry for many years, you always prepared food in large quantities or maybe because now its just for the two of us. Whatever the reason …. its fun! I’m sure you are probably quite familiar with the Dutch Baby or German pancake. I have featured them on the blog numerous times over the years.
A cross between a pancake and a crepe, a Dutch baby begins with the thin pancake-like batter which is poured into a hot skillet or an oven proof dish. When the edges of the pancake are brown, it is ready to come out of the oven. The center is perfect for adding sweet or savory ingredients.
The recipe is a basic, universal one that can be adapted in a number of different ways:
- Add berries or other fruit to the batter
- Add different spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, chai spices, or switch up the extract to use almond, lemon or orange.
- Top with whipped cream, mascarpone, whipped maple butter, jam, peanut/almond butter or a fresh fruit compote.
- To make a savory version, omit sugar & vanilla and add veggies & herbs.
Brion & I are having mini rhubarb Dutch baby pancakes today. Should be good!
Mini Rhubarb Dutch Baby Pancakes
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In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, flour & spices. Stir until combined. Roast in oven, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until tender & thickened. Remove from heat & keep warm.
Dutch Baby Batter
In a blender, combine pancake ingredients & blend well until frothy. Leave in blender while you prepare muffin tins.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a 12-cup muffin tin in oven.
When the oven is heated, melt the second 2 Tbsp butter. Remove hot muffin tin from oven & quickly brush bottoms & sides of pan with melted butter. Turn blender on for a few seconds to re-mix batter, then quickly pour into hot muffin cups, dividing equally between 12 cups, filling about 1/2-2/3 full.
Place in oven & bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffy & deep golden color. Remove from oven (pancakes will quickly deflate). Place pancakes on serving plates & spoon warm rhubarb sauce in them. Top with a bit of either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
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Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!