Category Archives: Bacon is always awesome

The Anniversary Dinner

January 15, 2010 will be on of my favorite days of all time because it’s the day that David walked into my life. Neither of us were looking for any sort of potential partner, in fact I was against the idea before I met David, but then a mutual friend saw the potential and introduced us immediately. For the next few hours, we sat and talked and talked, something we are still very good at by the way. I owe our dear friend a lot for making the introduction and now one year later here we are. Just goes to show that life can you throw you very amazing curve balls – always embrace them lambs.

Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine Gravy and Swiss Chard (Photo by Craig Cutler)

It has been rainy, cold and just icky here in Austin the past week and on our anniversary day it was, wait for it, cold and rainy. Instead of going out to dinner we decided to stay in and make it ourselves. I chose this Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine Gravy and Swiss Chard, Potato Gratin with Bacon and Thyme and Citrus Pudding with Whipped Topping. Over achiever much? I didn’t care, it was so worth it.

Potato Gratin with Bacon and Thyme (Photo by Mark Thomas)

I’ve made the Beef Short Ribs before so I knew this would be a huge win with David. I still don’t have a food mill but ran the sauce through the food processor and reheated as necessary. The potato gratin was creamy, bacony and so full of delicious flavor; a perfect complement to the ribs. After the ribs, chard and potatoes the pudding was a delightful, bright and not-too-sweet ending to a perfect anniversary meal. Paired with a 2002 Silver Oak Cab? Perfection all around and David loved all of it.

Citrus Pudding with Whipped Cream (Photo by Anna Williams)

Even if it’s not a special occasion this meal would be a great Sunday night supper or something to impress guests at a dinner party. One year down and hopefully many, many more to go right David? :)

Garbanzo Beans and Greens

First of all – HAPPY NEW YEAR LAMBS!

After whirlwind Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, my brain was fried, my body was tired and my ability to cook was kaput. But I did want to start 2011 off right with a healthy dish…so of course I chose one with bacon in it.  To be fair it’s center cut bacon which is a healthier alternative, but the delicious pork product in the Garbanzo Beans and Greens recipe from Cooking Light wasn’t the only thing it had going for it.  The dish is a part of their Budget Cooking section that averages out to $1.75 per serving that yields four total. This recipe also looked super easy plus it fits into Cooking Light’s new Healthy Habits initiative that ensures you get a load of veggies. For the total win right?

Garbanzo Beans and Greens (Photo by John Autry)

Thank goodness for this recipe. It was everything I wanted/needed and was quite delicious. I’ve proclaimed my obsession with kale before and this has loads of it…YAY! What I truly loved was the Greek yogurt you place in the soup at the end. It gave it just the right silky and creamy texture that balanced out the soup perfectly. Plus, there’s bacon in it. Bacon.

Give this one a try for super duper easy weeknight meal. Tonight it’s the Bon Appetit cover recipe: Saigon Chicken Salad and here’s the rest of my menu plan for the week: Tuesday – Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apricot-Miso Glaze and Baby Bok Choy; Wednesday – Braised Halibut Filets in Coconut and Lemongrass with Smoked Eggplant and Tomato Ginger Chutney; Thursday – Turkish-Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Pomegranate Relish and Tahini Yogurt.

Kids Night!

Looking over my blog I realized, gosh darnit, we eat pretty well around these parts. Lamb the other night, Moroccan dates another. I was feeling a little too fancy for my own pants and decided to take it back a notch. Nothing can make me feel like a kid again than crunchy chicken fingers with a dipping sauce and creamy mac and cheese. I grew up in a house with a home cooked meal every night (thanks Mom!) with fun food items like these to look forward to when I came home from school. Something about this simple combo just made me giggle like a little Emily again.

I chose these Pan-Fried Chicken Fingers with Spicy Dipping Sauce and the Chicken, Bacon and Ranch Mac and Cheese both from Cooking Light plus some adult grape juice aka a nice bottle of a 2008 Cols Du Vents Corbieres to go along with. Trust me it just sounds fancy, it was on sale for $9.00 at Whole Foods Market! 

I also like Cooking Light’s comparison of regular chicken fingers versus their creation:

703 calories per serving
1,000 milligrams sodium
10.7 grams saturated fat
Deep-fried in lard
Drowning in sauce
Greasy, heavy coating

414 calories per serving
495 milligrams sodium
1.5 grams saturated fat
Pan-seared in canola oil
Just enough spicy mayo sauce
Light, crispy, crunchy

Pan-Fried Chicken Finger with Spicy Dipping Sauce (Photo by John Autry)

Dude, the sodium and saturated fat difference alone should be enough to convince you to give these a try. I couldn’t find the recommended Kashi brand cereal at our HEB so I winged it and grabbed Grape-Nuts Flakes cereal. YUM! This cereal made a delicious sweet crust for the chicken. I pan-fried two minutes per side as instructed but had to chunk the whole batch into the oven for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees to finish them off as they were still pink inside. After that though? Awesome chicken fingers with a crispy, crunchy crust and not greasy just like they say plus the chicken was still juicy. I heart this sauce. It was so simple but y’all it is a spicy little fireball so watch out and lower the amount of Sriracha if you are not a heat seeker. Of course I loved it’s spicy kick.

The mac and cheese. Nom, nom, nom. I omitted the chicken from the recipe because well that’s too much poultry for one night. Also, I decided to use turkey bacon and used three slices instead of regular bacon and only using one slice. I can’t help it, I love bacon or bacon flavor in anything! Otherwise I followed this to the letter and it turned out perfectly. I especially loved the ranch flavor of this dish. With the onion and garlic powder and fresh dill, it just zinged and zanged but without all of the calories of a true ranch dressing.

After dinner, bellies full but not too much, we sat down and watched Zombieland. This was David’s first time seeing the film and my second. My goodness I love this movie. I think every single line of Woody Harrelson’s is an excellent one-liner. My favorite…? Here you go. We have leftovers for lunch today and I’m thinking about making a chicken tender salad with the Pioneer Woman’s – don’t you just heart her?! – homemade ranch dressing with the remaining mac and cheese on the side.

Update! Leftover chicken fingers on top of mixed greens with above mentioned ranch dressing and mac and cheese – SUPER LUNCH!

Me with a Chance of Meatballs…or Bolognese?

So poodles, I tried one of my all-time favorites last night again, the Spaghetti and Meatballs All’Amerticiana (you should hear me say this out loud, it sounds like I’m having a seizure) from Bon Appetit . Now, I followed this recipe exactly as instructed again except we made the meatballs (as the recipe says you can do) the night before.

That’s it.

Spaghetti and Meatbals All'Amertriciana (Photo by Craig Cutler)

However our delicious meatballs as I cooked them fell apart and became a ground beef mixture with bacon paste…bacon paste, yes I’m still in awe thank you very much.

While this was good, it wasn’t as good as I recalled. I mean don’t get me wrong, it has delicious layers of flavor and the sauce rocked. I also noticed the marjoram this time around which gave it nice little floral notes if I do say so myself but it just wasn’t the same.

I’m getting all Sherlock Holmes about this because I can’t figure out why this failed this time. Could it be because I made them the night before? One would think that would hold them up even better due to the fridge/tightening up time. Could it be that I’m still practicing on the gas range and messed it up that way…most likely poppets. Either way it was delicious but in a less meatballish kind of way.

Oh well, onward and upward lambs, tonight it’s braised chicken with dates…fingers crossed!

Coq Fight!

(Insert your best ring announcer voice here) In the blue corner we have the Quick Coq Au Vin  AKA “Quick Talons” from Bon Appetit weighing in at 371 calories per serving and a nine ingredient list, and in the red corner we have Easy Coq Au Vin  AKA “The Easy Breezy” from Cooking Light weighing in at 319 calories per serving with an 18 ingredient list.

Quick Coq Au Vin (Photograph by Jose Picayo)

The Easy Breezy comes out swinging with succulent chicken thighs that knocks Quick Talons’ use of chicken breast to the ropes but Quick Talons throws a powerful jab with its better use of bacon and less ingredients. Easy Breezy does a right hook with less calories and more veggie power. Quick Talons stumbles for just a moment and then comes roaring back with its great depth of flavor in the sauce. The jabs keep coming and it looks like folks we are going to a judges decision…who will win?

The judges take a look at both dishes flavor profiles and wish the fighters could combine The Easy Breezy’s chicken thighs with Quick Talons’ sauce but finally decide that…

The Easy Breezy is the winner in this highly contested fight! The crowd goes wild!

Check out Apron Adventure’s review of the same two dishes and see what she thought…great minds huh?

Ma Vie en Vin!

Ahhh, picture it poodles. The Madeleine Peyroux Pandora station playing through the house over the Sonos. A bottle of French wine. Flickering candles. Sunset over Zilker park on a lazy, gentle Sunday evening.  Coq Au Vin. Potatoes Gratin. Could you ask for a better set-up for a FANTASTIQUE French meal? Non!

My bestie, Apron Adventures, mentioned making the Coq Au Vin from Bon Appetit, but I thought she said she made the one from Cooking Light. She raved and raved and I decided to give the Cooking Light version a try…trust me, I’ll try the Bon App one next for sure. If Apron loves it, I know I will.  Zut alors lambs this was absolutely amazing and has definitely made my list as one of my favorites. I don’t think I’ve “mmmmmed” and “ahhhhhhed” over a meal in quite sometime.

Easy Coq Au Vin (Photo by: Johnny Valiant)

This was so earthy, delicious and had that je ne sais quoi-ness to it. Plus the chicken just fell off the bone and there’s bacon. We all know how I feel about glorious bacon – see my food categories to the right of this post if you need further confirmation.  I couldn’t find pearl onions but we did just fine without them. I served this with these awesome Muffin-Pan Potato Gratins from Everyday Food. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter except decided to add freshly chopped rosemary every time I seasoned with salt and pepper and since there are only two of us, I served in greased ramekins for easier clean-up. This is such a simple and delicious side, you have no excuse not to give them a try.

There you have it mes amis, a beautiful, easy dinner that I’m for sure going to make for a dinner party when the time is right. C’est si bon!

Recipe Retry of an All-Time Favorite


Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi (Photo by Elinor Carucci)

I can’t even begin to tell you the love I feel for this Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnochhi from Olivia restaurant right here in Austin. I made this dish exactly as directed some time ago and it is still one of my favorites. In fact, when someone ask me the one recipe they should make that I’ve tested, this one is always my first recommendation.

We are in full kitchen remodel mode and as anyone knows who’s been through one, an 1/8 of an inch off of one thing can derail you for days. We had plans to have our Wolf oven hooked up and ready to go – it’s a gas stove I can’t wait – but alas the cabinets threw us off. Thanks company-that-shall-not-be-named, thanks ever so much for making cabinets that require you to alter with a chainsaw, fairy dust and some Vaseline. I kid but only a little.

Since I already had the pork sitting in the nice combo of salt and cinnamon and didn’t want to waste it, I chunked cooking inside the lines out the door and threw all  of the ingredients from the butter to the tomatoes (I didn’t add the flour since I wasn’t making a roux but could not skimp on the butter, do you blame me?) into a large Dutch oven. I cooked this bad boy for 2 hours in our convection microwave and then let cool and sit overnight in the fridge. The verdict? AWESOME. DELICIOUS. PORK.

Sure, the depth of flavor was slightly better in the original but hey, in a pinch and less time in the kitchen this worked! I couldn’t make the semolina gnocchi so I served this as a stew with a Caesar side salad. David mentioned this has been his favorite dish that I’ve made so far…with that poodles make this, make this right now. Try the slow version (it’s seriously not that much trouble) or go rogue and try it my way. Either way, for the love, make this. Now if I could actually go eat at Olivia…

Hot and Hot Tomato Salad – Just skip this review and make this dish immediately

Ok, you can read the review if you want, but I will make it quick so you can head to the farmer’s market ASAP. Here’s what Cooking Light’s Vanessa T. Pruett has to say about this dish: Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Hot and Hot Fish Club’s signature summer staple is adapted here, combining crisp fried whole baby okra and delicate lady peas served over fresh heirloom tomato slices and topped with smoky bacon and a creamy herbed dressing. “With fried, okra, fresh peas, and tomatoes, this would be hard to beat as the perfect summer meal,” praises Test Kitchen Director, Vanessa T. Pruett.
Agreed and then some. There’s a reason this Hot and Hot Tomato Salad recipe was chosen as the Cooking Light staff favorite for the month of August. First of all, there’s a hamhock mixed with peas and onions. I do love me some hamhock in anything, collard greens, beans, cereal, you name it. I couldn’t find lady peas so I went with frozen peas – not farmer’s market I know but hey they were still delicious. We did find some gorgeous red and yellow heirloom tomatoes which are always to die for in any dish. For the fried okra, I grew up eating my Mom’s version as a kid and I’ve never found a better way to make it than she does. So, I followed my Mom’s method for fried okra and, of course, it turned out perfect. The dressing complemented the entire salad perfectly and let’s not forget there is BACON on this bad boy to make it the perfect salad. All I have to say is go make this right now and if you do, please let me know your thoughts. Here is our version! It aint as purdy but it sure did taste good.

Bacon-Tomato Butter. The End.

By now it’s no secret that I’ve got a crush on Cooking Light. Their recipes are innovative, full of flavor and best of all they are healthy or at least attempt to reduce not-so-good for you items like calories, fat and sodium. Now, Bacon-Tomato Butter does not seem like it would be the healthiest option in the history of Cooking Light but goodness I’m a glad that someone put these ingredients together.

Originally, this bacon-licious recipe goes with Mahi Mahi but I wanted it on top of a medium rare, coffee and spice rubbed steak, like the Chile-Espresso Rubbed Steaks they have featured here. To make this a total steak and potatoes night, I made the Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Dijon recipe, except I used baby reds instead of fingerlings because HEB hates me and didn’t have any.

The Bacon-Tomato Butter was simply delicious and super, super easy to put together. Bacon, garlic, smoked paprika and butter? Who knew?! I’m also a sucker for coffee-rubbed anything and the spice blend they use on the steaks with coffee or espresso, oregano, cumin, garlic salt and chile powder was spicy and delicious. Combine the steaks with the bacon-tomato butter and yep, you’ve got to give me a minute to pull myself together.

The ingredient list for the potatoes is short and simple but these turned out fantastic. One thing we decided to do was add in a smidge of honey to bring out a sweet note in the sauce before coating entirely. Sounds odd, tasted delicious – trust us. If you’ve got a meat-and-potatoes person in your home this is definitely the dish to try tonight. We now have a crush on you too Bacon-Tomato Butter Coffee Rubbed Steak goodness.

Homemade Pop Tarts!

The other night we decided to make Brinner = brunch at dinnertime. Using most of the menu suggestions from their Knockout Brunch section in the new Bon Appetit, we chose the Curry-Spiced Bloody Mary’s, Brown-Sugar-Glazed Bacon, Scrambled Eggs with Leeks, Fava Beans, Crispy Breadcrumbs and Parmesan and Strawberry “Pop Tarts“…ambitious much?


I have to say the eggs and Bloody Mary’s got a “meh” and the Brown-Sugar-Glazed Bacon was good but I think I’ll stick with my favorite bacon recipe of all time: Sweet and Spicy Bacon. BUT the Homemade Pop Tarts were awesome! First of all, I love the concept of the recipe, it’s homemade pop tarts people, who doesn’t love that?

When Alex and I were making the dough – with its two sticks of butter – we knew the dough was going to be perfectly flaky and delicious. The chilling time was three hours and that was sucky just because we were dying to try them. You simply cut the dough up and then place strawberry preserves inside. Sprinkle with powdered sugar once baked and you are done. I’m glad I had the baking prowess of Alex to help with this, because as a true baking novice they would not have turned out as well as they did. If you are an avid baker these are perfect for you, if not, I can lend you Alex if you would like. 😉 Make these and enjoy the rest of the week!