Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Everything’s coming up Milhouse, err, Bacon!

This past week in the realm of bacon has been fantastic.  I scored another deal on Maple Bacon Coffee from Boca Java, so I ordered more; my husband actually thanked me for my fascination with the Meat Candy, as he hasn’t eaten so well, in well ever (he’s been my guinea pig on all of my bacon-inspired recipes, and is apparently really upset about that); this little blog here has gotten a little cult following from all over the world, including Australia, Germany, UK and Estonia; and to top it all off, my awesome cousin Heather sent me an Bacon Care Package, full of bacon candy and bacon oral health tools (floss and toothpicks).  Everything’s coming up Milhouse, err, Bacon!

So the care package got me thinking about all the weird bacon novelty products out there.  For me, it all started when friends of ours gave us Maple Bacon Lollipops for Christmas one year.  At first I was taken aback…I mean, candy bacon?  How good could it be?  Since that little taste of salty/sweet goodness, I was sold on the concept of Novelty Bacon.  Those lollipops have been the standard of Bacon Epic-ness to which I judge all other novelty bacon products.  The lollypops were from a company called Lollyphile.  Check them out!  However, not all novelty bacon products are created equal, as I’ve warned before.  Case in point, Bacon Candy Canes.  They neither taste like bacon nor candy.  They were a far cry from the lollypops, and just not edible in my book.

In response to the Bacon Lollipops we received from our friends, we in turn gave them a Bacon novelty item for Christmas…Mr. Bacon’s Big Adventure.  A meat-based Bacon Board Game. The concept of the game is to get your little Bacon character through Meatland and into the frying pan, navigating through the Mustard Marsh, the Wiener Wasteland, and the Sausage Sea.  It’s Meat-Candy Land!  Fun for all ages! 

If you’re a poet, or know one, you might be interested in the Bacon Addition of Fridge poetry.  Maybe you smell…try Bacon Perfume.  And if you just want a neat place to store all that excess cash you’re not spending on purchasing bacon, try a bacon wallet.

The novelty of bacon is fun, but it can’t hold a candle to the real thing.  This post’s recipe is one of my all time favorites.  It reminds me of my grandmother (as she made these for all holiday meals growing up).  I took a spin on her recipe and added bacon.  Hope you enjoy them.  The rolls alone, without the bacon are Out-Of-This-World!!!

Mimi’s Sweet Rolls with Bacon

You can use any regular dinner roll recipe you have, however, I like to stick to her original recipe.  She used Pillsbury’s Hot Roll Mix, found in your baking aisle at your local grocery store.  It’s a blue box with a Cinnamon Roll on it.

1 Box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix
1 Egg
2 tbsp softened butter
1 cup hot water (between 120 degrees and 130 degrees Fahrenheit)
4-6 slices of bacon
1 & ½ sticks of butter
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tbsp of honey

Cook the bacon.  Whether it be fried in a pan, baked in the oven, or nuked in the microwave….we need cooked bacon.  Once cooked, drain on a paper towel, and then break down into small pieces.

For the rolls, combine the flour mix with the packet of yeast, 1 egg, 2 tbsp of soft butter and 1 cup of hot water.  Mix to incorporate the dough then let it rest for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While dough is resting, in a small saucepan, melt 1 & ½ sticks of butter.  Once melted, over medium heat, add brown sugar and honey, and bring to a slow boil.  It’s important to stir this gooey concoction frequently, as we do not want the sugar to burn.  You only need to cook it long enough to incorporate the butter, honey and sugar. 

After the dough has rested for 5 minutes, grease a muffin pan and put about a tsp of bacon pieces down, then a couple of tbsps of the caramel sugar topping, in the muffin tin.  Shape the dough into little balls, place on top of the sugary topping, cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Once the rolls have risen, then pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Once a nice golden color is reached on the rolls, pull them out and turn them over onto waxed paper or parchment paper to cool.  You may need to use a spoon to help get the bacon caramel goodness out of the bottom of the muffin tin, and just spread over the gooey part of the roll. 

I hope that these become a tradition in your home, as they are in mine!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bacon and Pigskin

As the countdown begins for Super Bowl XLVII, most homes are gearing up to root for their favorite team.  But if you are like me, you’re really more interested in the “other” most important parts of the game: the ads and the food.  I went to school for Marketing, so I love watching what companies come up with to snag your attention in their $3.7 million dollar promo spots (that’s roughly $90,000 a second people).   It’s Oscar night for Commercials.  Company’s putting their best foot forward in hopes that you, the consumer, will watch them rather than change the channel or leave the room for a beer or a bathroom break.

There doesn’t seem to be a sure-fire formula for creating the best ad campaign, but the main guidelines for appealing to the masses include computer animation, celebrities, babies, sex appeal, humor and bacon.  Last Year Jack in the Box had a wildly popular “Marry Bacon” commercial that was listed as one of the best Super Bowl Commercials of 2012.  Never discount the selling power of bacon!

Let’s do a recap of some of the best Bacon Commercials out there: 
So even though we have a week or so until the big game, I thought I’d get a jump start on the Bacony Goodness that goes into the Super Bowl.  Plus, I’m considerate enough to give you time to shop, so you can make these delicious treats.  Here’s a list of some of my favorite Bacon Appetizers.  All pre-tested and Libby approved!  You can be the hero at your Super Bowl Party!  Bring them bacon! 

(Pictured Above:  Bacon Pretzel Rolos and Super Bowl Bacon Almonds)

Super Bowl Bacon Almonds

(My husband said he could eat these with a spoon…deliciously sweet and salty.  You need to make this.)

2 strips of bacon
2 cups (16 oz) of pre-roasted almonds, unsalted
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1 ½  tsps honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a frying pan and cook until crispy. Set aside to drain on a paper towel. Place the almonds in a bowl and pour in the bacon grease from the pan. Stir to coat the almonds and then put them on a cookie sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, combine honey, salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Pour the roasted almonds into a brown paper bag, fold the top of the bag over, and shake to remove excess bacon grease. Then, pour the nuts into a mixing bowl. Crumble the bacon and add it to the nuts. Add in the honey mixture and stir to combine. Place the nuts in a mixing bowl. (Makes 2 cups.)

Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

¾ pounds of bacon (approx 10 slices)
1 lb package of smokes sausages (I like to use Hillshire Farms)
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut bacon slices in half. Fry bacon in large pan until some of the fat is rendered but the bacon is still pliable; do not let bacon get crisp.

Cool bacon 5 minutes on paper towels then wrap each sausage with a piece of the precooked bacon. Roll each little bundle in brown sugar, fasten with a toothpick, and place on wire rack. Place rack in 13" x 9" baking pan lined with foil.

Drizzle maple syrup over the sausages and sprinkle with pepper. Bake 25-35 minutes until sausages are hot and bacon is crisp. Remove rack from pan and cool sausage bundles 4-5 minutes before serving. (Serves 8)

Bacon Pretzel Rolos

(Something I think that you could survive on for the rest of your life.  Takes Turtles to a new level.  Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Bacon Turltles!)

Mini Pretzels (I like the square ones)
Rolo Candies
1 pound of bacon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a frying pan, fry up that bacon until it’s only slightly cooked.  Keep in mind that you will be cooking your bacon further in the oven, so you don’t want to overcook it now.  Once cooked, remove from pan and drain bacon on a paper towel.  Chop the bacon up into pieces, about the size of the pretzel.

On a lined cookie sheet (I use parchment paper or aluminum foil), line up the pretzels as you would cookies, layer with a piece of bacon and then top if with a Rolo Candy.  Bake in the oven at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on the candy, as you do NOT want to burn them.  When they are done, take them out and let them cool and harden. You might want to finish these off in the fridge to cool completely.

Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms

2 to 2 ½ dozen medium whole white mushrooms
8 strips of bacon, diced
2 tsp parsley
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs or Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ tsp oregano

Remove the stems from mushrooms, finely chop half of the stems and set aside.  Discard the rest.  In a sauté pan over med-med high heat, sauté the bacon strips until crisp.  Strain off some of the fat (save it for other recipes!), then add the chopped stems.  Sauté on med heat for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Fill mushroom heads with stuffing mixture, and place on a greased (I like to use a light coating of olive oil) baking pan.  Heat in oven for 12-15 minutes.  Top of stuffing should be crispy to the touch.

Bacon-Wrapped Cheddar-Stuffed Tater Tots

(This is an altered version of a recipe my cousin Mandy gave me.  Had to take it to the next level by adding the cheese.)

24 partially defrosted tater tots
12 slices of bacon, cut in half
24 small chunks of Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Lay a slice of bacon down and place a tater tot in the center.  With a sharp knife, gently make a slit in the center of the tot, being careful not to cut all the way thru.  Insert a piece of cheese.  Wrap bacon tightly around the surface of the tot and secure with a toothpick.  Place on baking sheet.

Bake about 15 minutes, until the bacon is crispy and the tots are crispy on the ends, and appear to be cooked through.  Serve immediately. (Makes 24 tots)

Congrats to whoever wins the Super Bowl.  Be the hero at your next Super Bowl party and bring the bacon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pigtails of the Caribbean

Bacon floats.  No, I didn’t sacrifice a strip of the divine meat candy to test this out, because it wasn’t necessary.  Bacon will rise to the surface every time, because Bacon, like most animal fats will float in water.  Case in point, the swimming pigs of Exumas.

What could be more relaxing then snoozing on white sand beaches, and swimming in the ocean?  In Big Major, Exumas, Bahamas, there is a family of brown and pink piggies that are doing just that.  Forget swimming with the Sharks and Stingrays, the newest sensation in tourist attractions is swimming with the pigs.  The pigs live on what the locals have dubbed “Pig Beach” and this group of domesticatedly- feral pigs have ample room to scavenge, and live the good life.  But they are not contained to the beach, these “Babes” swim.  

But how did the porkers get there?  According to the Tourism Bureau of the Bahamas, it seems as though it all started with some raiding pigs harassing local homeowners.  Apparently the nuisance pigs were rounded up and dropped off on an uninhabited island.  The island has a lovely beach, and would appear to be a nice location for a traveling boat for a picnic or swim.  Once the unsuspecting visitors unloaded lunch, out the pigs would charge, scaring off the guests.  And to the victor, goes the spoils.  Before long, the pigs would charge the water at the sound of an approaching motor boat, in hopes of another lunch.   They’ve gotten so used to their popularity, that when boats come by to visit (and feed them), the little pigs will swim up to greet the guests. 

If would like to read more about these pigs, check out… Pigs-swim-in-sea-in-Bahamas

So why am I talking about swimming pigs?  Why not?  I don’t tell you how to do your job… 

If the pigs didn’t do it for you, maybe this will…Bacon Infused Whiskey.  There!  Now I have your full attention!  I thought that might do it.  So yes, there is Bacon Flavored Vodka out on the market.  I personally haven’t tried it, because I was advised that it wouldn’t hold up to my bacon standards.  But what does hold up…making your own Bacon-infused whiskey.  Try it with coke.  It really helps bring out the salty-smoky flavor of the bacon and the whiskey.  (You could probably substitute the whiskey with rum)


Bacon-Infused Whiskey

12 ounces of your preferred whiskey (or bourbon -I prefer Jack Daniels Green Label.  It’s aged as long as the black label version, but has a sweeter, non-charcoal tasting finish.)
4-5 thick slices of bacon (or a few tablespoons of reserved bacon fat)
Jar with a lid
You want to start by cooking the bacon.  If you are using reserved bacon fat from your fridge, then you’ll want to warm the fat up.  We need to work with the liquid fat.
Put your whiskey in the jar you are working with, adding the rendered bacon fat to the jar. (Use a couple slices of bacon and put in the whiskey concoction if you’d like to help infuse more flavor.) Cover with a lid, and let this sit at room temperature for 5-6 hours, shaking occasionally.  For the last hour, put the jar in the freezer to help the bacon fat congeal.  After that, you’ll want to strain out the big chunks o’fat from the jar, and then pour the concoction though a coffee filter-lined sieve into another container or jar.  It’s a slow process and can take 15-20 minutes to work completely thru, but it’s worth it.  Store your finished product in the fridge or freezer.  Salud!

I’m betting this Bacon Whiskey would go really well with the recipe that inspired this post…Which would be hard, as these were absolutely phenomenal on their own.  I highly recommend them!

Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Scallops

8 Large Sea Scallops, rinsed and patted dry with a papertowel
4-8 Slices of Bacon
¼ - ½ cup Teriyaki Sauce or Marinade (Don’t have any on hand?  You can make it, recipe below)

In a bowl, toss the Scallops in enough marinade to cover and marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Preheat the broiler to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and wrap each scallop with just enough bacon to cover but not overlap the sides, stretching the bacon thin will help for a crispier bacon shell.  Thread a toothpick through the scallop and bacon to secure.  Brush with more marinade and then place in the oven, approximately 6 inches below the broiler.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, until scallops are firm, but not rubbery, and the bacon is crisp.

(I also found that the left over bacon, with teriyaki marinade glaze worked exceptionally well under the broiler.  It was a bonus treat, almost like a bacon jerky.  You’re Welcome!)

Homemade Teriyaki Marinade
½ cup Soy Sauce                                        1 cup water
½ cup white sugar                                       ¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 & ½ Tbsp distilled white vinegar               1 & ½ Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp dried onion flakes                            1 Tsp Garlic Powder
½ Tsp Ground Ginger

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, until the sugar dissolves.  Done, and Done.  A simple and easy marinade.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sprechen sie Bacon?

Last month, I was able to attend a friend’s wedding in Pasadena, CA.  It was my first and only magical 4-day break from mommy-hood, since my son was born in 2008.  We had some time to sight-see around Old Pasadena while there, and found a nice little English Bar named Lucky Baldwin’s that served a traditional Irish Breakfast. My friend Jan, who had previously been on a trip to Ireland over the summer, said that Irish Bacon is a MUST. We had some other great meals while there, but that breakfast was the best meal in the 4-day trip.

Irish Bacon, in itself is a magnificent thing.  I honestly didn’t think it could get better than US Pork Belly Bacon however, I was exceptionally surprised.  This delectable wonder tastes like Bacon and Applewood-Smoked Pork Chops got together and had a scandalous love affair.  But what makes it so different from home-grown US Belly Bacon?  Well, for starters, it’s not belly meat.  Like our great Canadian neighbors, Irish Bacon is created with the back meat of the pig, more commonly referred to as Back Bacon or Rashers.  Irish and Canadian Bacon are actually siblings.  They are both cured and brined and run about the same thickness in the way it’s sliced.  Both are cooked until done, not to a crisp.  But Irish bacon differs from Canadian Bacon in the fact that Irish Bacon tends to have a layer of fat surrounding the meat, to help seal in the flavor and juiciness.

So maybe you’re not a big fan of Canadian or Irish Bacon.  That doesn’t mean your options are limited to US Pork Products.  In fact, bacon, being as old as it is, (remember 1500 BC is when it graced man with its awesome presence) it has been adapted by many countries, and each country puts its own regional, flavor-filled spin on it.  Let’s take a bacon tour around the globe, shall we?

* Italy– Pancetta – Salted and cured pork belly, known for its dryness.  Pancetta can be cooked crisp just like regular bacon, or cubed and used as a base in wonderful sauces.

* Korea – Samgyeopsal – (don’t try to pronounce it unless you have a background in Asian Studies) Thick slices of uncured pork belly, marinated and seasoned and thrown on a grill.  True Korean BBQ.

* Spain– Serrano Ham – More like a cousin to bacon, this is salt-cured and dried for 6 months.  Sliced thin, and usually eaten raw or wrapped around other food like melon or asparagus.

*Netherlands- Zeeuws spek – Pork belly meat seasoned with bay leaf, salt and pepper and the left to marinate in spiced oil and mustard.  Most commonly sold grilled by the butchers, like a Bacon BBQ.  

*HungarySzalonna – Back bacon made of smoked pork fat with the rind.  Often smoked prior to being sold.

*France– Lard Salé or Ventreche – Both are from the pork belly, however, lard sale is salt cured, and ventreche is a lightly-cured pork belly bacon that has been smoked.

So wherever your travels take you, you should feel confident to know that you can have your bacon, all you have to do is ask…

How do you say “May I Please Have Some Bacon?” in other languages?
Danish - Må jeg få noget bacon?
French -
Peux je veuillez avoir certains bacon?
German -
Darf ich bitte ein Stüeck Speck haben?
Spanish -
¿Puedo tener un poco de tocino?

Swedish – Kan jag få några bacon?
Polish -
Może i proszę o jakieś boczkiem?
Czech -
Může mi prosím nějaký slaninou?
Finnish -
Voisinko olla pekonia?
Dutch -
Mag ik dan hebben sommige spek?

I’m munching on this now and its heavy and almost like a meal made into the bread itself.  Of course, it was supposed to taste like touches of a smoked ham, and cheesy cheddar bite in this heavy laden bread.  But I had Winston's Irish Style Bacon, and it did not do justice the breakfast I had in California.  (Wintson's Irish Style bacon tastes more like it's buddy Canadian Bacon, than the that delicious pig I had on the west coast.  Next time, I'm making a call to Lucky Baldwin's, to find out who their supplier is.  No, I'm not crazy, it's called passion.)

I made it as an accompaniment to some hearty Chili.  But it would probably match well with French Onion Soup.

Irish Soda Bread with Bacon and Cheddar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces cooked Irish bacon
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
4 green onions or scallions, chopped, green part only
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (Don’t have buttermilk? Don’t worry you can make your own.  Recipe follows.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line abaking sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet on medium-low heat, warm up the oil. Add the Irish bacon to the skillet, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from the skillet and chop the bacon.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, kosher salt, granulated sugar, Irish cheddar, chopped Irish bacon and green onions until well blended.Pour in the buttermilk and mix until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a round loaf and place on the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Serve warm.

Homemade Buttermilk

4 and ½ tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup of  whole milk
Place the vinegar in a glass-measuring cup, and add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid. Stir to combine and let stand for 10 to15 minutes (The mixture will begin to curdle).
Use as needed in a recipe, or cover and refrigerate until needed.