Tag Archives: bacon

Birthday Veggies

My younger daughter turned nine this past week and it’s our tradition for the birthday girl to choose her birthday meal made by yours truly.  She warmed my heart this year by her choices:  kale chips and a wedge salad.

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I wasn’t complete surprised, this coming from a girl who famously pounded her highchair demanding more broccoli and salad.

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Actually, she wanted to go completely vegetarian and have roasted brussel sprouts as her main course, but in an effort to maintain the family peace (my older daughter is a complete carnivore) I suggested we should have steak as our main.

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What could be more classic than a wedge salad followed by steak?

Both kale chips and wedge salad are so simple that the freshest ingredients make all of the difference.  Our grocery stores are well stocked with local organic kale these days and so finding really fresh green kale was a cinch.

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After perusing numerous blog posts on making kale chips, and having a few mishaps of my own, I’ve realized that the key to success is to insure that the kale is dry, lightly tossed with oil (don’t drown the leaves) and roasted low and slow.

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Don’t be deterred by kale’s distinct aroma as it cooks – I think the bitterness is actually cooked out of the kale. The result is a crisp, sweet-ish (I mean it is kale) taste.

As for the wedge salad, I always go for a homemade blue cheese dressing and sometimes I also top it off with crumbled bacon.

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This being her birthday dinner I decided to really go for it and add the bacon which I cooked in a skillet until it was nice and crispy.

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I chose the best quality blue cheese I could find – this was an imported Danish blue cheese.  Buy the best blue cheese you can but I definitely advise against those pre-crumbled packages since the cheese tends to be very dry and bland.

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Overall this birthday meal was quite a success.  The kale chips were eaten as an appetizer, and then we moved on to a first course of wedge salad.  The meal was completed with steak (sorry no pictures) and chocolate cupcakes.

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Happy Birthday Maggie!

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Kale Chips

1 bunch of green kale
1 t olive oil
course salt
ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Rinse kale leaves in water and completely dry.  Rip kale leaves into bite size pieces, removing the stems.  Put in a bowl and toss with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread out evenly on large baking sheet, being careful not crowd them on the sheet.  Bake ten minutes.  Rotate the sheet and gently toss the kale leaves.  Bake and additional 8-10 minutes, allowing the kale leaves to become crisp but not brown.  Cool before eating.

Wedge Salad, serves 4

3/4 C mayonnaise
2 T white wine vinegar
1 t worcestershire sauce
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese
course salt
ground pepper
buttermilk, optional*
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and worcestershire sauce in a small bowl.  Add most of blue cheese, leaving some to top salad.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Slice iceberg lettuce into four wedges.  Dollop dressing onto lettuce and top with blue cheese and bacon.

* Note that if you prefer your blue cheese dressing to be thinner, add buttermilk one tablespoon at a time until preferred consistency is reached.

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Macaroni and Cheese

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Last night it was just the girls and me and so I decided to make kid-friendly macaroni and cheese. This recipe doesn’t stray from the basics: a creamy rue, shredded cheese and a crunchy bread topping.

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The ingredient that gives this recipe kick is bacon. I truly believe that if you are going to eat something fattening, or just plain unhealthy, it is only the worth the calories if it is really delicious.

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I must admit I am not much of a fan of the bacon craze that has hit the nation. I think it’s basically a cop out way to make flavorful food without much effort. But I really liked this recipe.  It is from the cookbook, One Pot of the Day, by Kate McMillan.

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Just make sure that you use the best cheddar cheese you can afford. I used something called “Londoner Cheese” which happened to be on sale. The sharpness of the cheese contrasted with the smoky flavor of the bacon.

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IMG_1829Also, resist the temptation to cook more than the required 1/2 pound of pasta. It seems like a measly amount but the pasta expands in the oven and absorbs all of the cheese sauce. Too much pasta will make this recipe dry and starchy.

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Delish!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 T unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 C fresh bread crumbs
4 slices of thick sliced bacon, cut crosswise in 2 inch strips
1/4 C flour
3 C whole milk, heated
3/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and place on high heat. In a medium size sauce pan, over medium heat, fry the bacon in batches until cooked but not crisp. Remove the bacon and pour out left over grease.

In the same sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted add the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Add the hot milk slowly, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add 2/3 of the cheese and stir until melted.

Meanwhile, when the water begins to boil, add the macaroni and cook until el dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce, stirring to coat.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and toss with bread crumbs. Lightly butter a shallow 2 quart baking dish and add the macaroni and cheese mixture. Top with remaining shredded cheese and then bread crumb mixture. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and sauce is bubbling.

Bakin’ Bacon

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Considering that bacon is such a popular food these days, I am surprised that so many people are unfamiliar with the best way to cook it.  For years I fried bacon in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.  I suffered. Hot grease would splatter everywhere; all over the stove, the counter – even at times it would burn my hands.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely not. But there’s a better way.  Bake it in the oven.

Simply preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Lay out the bacon on a rimmed cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) to prevent the grease from spilling and pop it in the oven to cook for about 20 minutes.

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Now the time is all yours.  Take a break, read the paper, have a cup of coffee.  If you are feeling particularly industrious, make some pancakes.

Check on the bacon after 20 minutes.  It should be pretty well cooked.  Using tongs turn over each piece.  Return the bacon to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes – the exact time depends on how crispy you like your bacon (we prefer very crispy in this household) and the heating qualities of your oven.

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You’ll find that your bacon will be cooked to perfection. And as a bonus, it will be nice and flat, nothing like that curled up bacon you get in a frying pan.

Immediately remove the hot bacon from the pan and place it on a paper-towel-covered plate to blot the excess grease.  For ease in cleaning the pan, allow the grease to cool; then, while it is still liquid, pour it into a can for disposal.

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So that’s it — bacon baked in the oven.  So very easy!