Candied Bacon

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We all know the food groups that were part of our learning as we were growing up.  Vegetables and Fruit, Grains and Cereals, Protein, Milk and Dairy and Sugars and Fats.  No where in that learning did we cover the sixth and barely known food group... Bacon.  People of the world...wake up!  Bacon is not a new discovery, but it has become an important part of our daily lives.  Well, unless you don't eat meat, I guess.   It's everywhere now.  There is bacon and maple donuts, bacon chocolate, bacon flavored gum, bacon cupcakes. Need I say more?  I have said all along it should be its own food group.   I think you too will agree with me once you try this little gem of a recipe I found in Food & Wine.

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Candied Bacon.  I made it for Super Bowl and it was gone in minutes.  It's like food crack.  You can't stop eating it.  Sweet and savory, salty and crisp...it's addictive.   It might not be the healthiest thing to eat, but let's face it, this isn't something you're going to eat every day.  (although I really could).  It's super easy and one of those dishes that once you make it,  everyone wants to know how you did it.

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Trust me on this one....  Bacon and easy to make.  You can't go wrong with this.

People of the world!  I give you Candied Bacon!

 

 

A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

 

 

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Apple Cider Gravy

There are always those times when you want something easy but a bit more than a soup and sandwich.  Maybe it’s mid-week busy night or a Saturday evening with friends.  And of course it has to turn out right every time.

In conjunction with my last post this Crispy Chicken Thigh recipe from Bon Appétit goes very well with the Farro Risotto.  I have made this chicken several times and it comes out perfect every time.  If you aren’t confident in the kitchen you can still pull this off looking like a pro and the flavors will make everyone think you spent all day in the kitchen.

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The sauce is interchangeable.  If you don’t want it as sweet, use a tart apple and add more mustard.  It is really all about what you like.  Just have fun with it.  You can start with the basics of what I’ve given you and make it your own.  This is the reason I love cooking so much.

Have fun and invite friends over.  Let them think you worked all day.  Share what you love because this is what it is all about.

Lobster and Corn Arancini

Clearly I am not in control of my life any longer.  Between work, the trips, my food writing class, the boot camp exercise class (that I might add is about to kill me),  and the house and all it involves, I cannot find any time to do any thing.  It’s a sad state of affairs, when I have to schedule time to complete the one thing I love to do…this blog.

This past weekend was one of the first in many that I have been able to devote a couple of hours to myself, so I decided to finalize a couple of ideas I’ve been working on.  It was me and my kitchen, alone at last.  Me and my kitchen along with cheese, rice, lobster and corn.  It can’t get any more romantic than that….just don’t tell my husband I said so.

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I love Arancini. You know them; they’re those cute little cheesy rice balls.  I can’t seem to ever have enough of them and a while back I got this obscure idea to add lobster to the recipe.  And what goes better with lobster than corn?

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With the combination of flavors, all the ingredients made for a very tasty dinner.  What I loved was the sweetness of the lobster and corn combined with the creaminess of the cheese and rice but it all had the crunch from the outside crust.  Yes, my friends, an Arancini affair had begun.  I even invited my husband to come along for the taste train of love, of which I believe he thoroughly enjoyed, given that he ate four of them.

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Make a date with your kitchen and try these cheesy rice balls.  You’ll love them as much as I did, with or without the husband involved.  Just don’t tell him I said so.

Star rating is a huge YUM!

A New Year Begins…

I cannot believe it is New Year’s Day 2014.  How fast this last month has flown!  To be honest I have to say that I am so glad this holiday is over and even more glad we are on to a bigger and better year.  So many things to think about, some good and some not so good.

Have you ever received one of those letters over the holidays that tell you how great the year has been and how many achievements the family has had?  I will tell you that I didn’t send out any letters like that this year.  My position as a mortgage lender was not nearly as successful as it has been in the past,  financially it has been more of a struggle and I have had to realize that my children have their own lives and don’t need me like they used to.  And of course there was the devastating loss of my beloved brother Will in October. The holidays were something I always looked forward to so I needed to do something that would help bring the happiness back into our home.

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My husband and I had decided the end of November that we were going to have one of those Ugly Sweater Parties.  I planned, I shopped, and I systematically made food for two weeks so I would be ready and enjoy the party.  I was however, unprepared for how fast all the food was going to disappear!  I take it as a compliment that they ate everything so quickly but for the first two hours of the party I was a lunatic replenishing platters so that there wouldn’t be hungry, drinking people wandering around.  Note to self:  cook more food up front and keep warm in the oven.

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The party, despite my poor food serving planning was great fun and a complete success. I know this will have to become an annual event.. At this point, I do want to mention my friend Marlene Charbonneau.  Here was a woman I befriended on Facebook because I liked that she baked and wrote.  I never met her but ordered some of her beautiful cookies for the party.  They were so amazing, so beautiful and so yummy that I have to give her a shout out.  She truly is my friend and I want everyone to know that her cookies are absolutely the best!

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This is where I have to learn I sometimes cannot do it all.  During the planning of the party, I got a call from a friend who needed help with her husband’s work party.  Unfortunately my husband and I were leaving that day to travel to New York to visit his daughter and then to pick up my mom and bring her back for Christmas.  But then we talked about getting all the food ready and bringing it over the night before we left….and I said yes.  So the day after our party, I shopped for the food and spent the next three days making food, writing instructions and packaging the food to take over and then left the following morning for five days out-of-town.  To those of you who may be crazy like me, I have to warn you to reconsider when you think you can do it all.  Especially when you also have a day job like I have! It was so chaotic that it was only now I realized that I haven’t posted since the beginning of December.  You can never be so busy that you put aside the things you love to do and that for me is sharing my highs and lows in the kitchen with you.  New Year’s resolution number one is to never stop doing what I love.

Anyway,  we managed to get through the month.  There was sadness over the holidays knowing that my brother and Dad wouldn’t be there to share but happy in the fact that my mom and my children were there with my husband and I.  It’s true what they say…you shouldn’t be worried about what is under the tree, but be happy with who is around the tree. Now it is the new year and a time for reflection and hope for the coming months.

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I’ve written this blog for a year now, the end of this month.  I cannot tell you the joy that it’s brought to me and I hope that somehow I have brought a bit of joy, knowledge, new recipes or something to you.  I want to thank you all for your support and following me and I hope you will continue to as I make my way through 2014.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, what you love and what you don’t.  I will continue share no matter what but without all of you I cannot grow and I want to let you know how important your support is to me.

I know it’s going to be a better year for all of us.  2014 will be a great year and I can’t wait to find out what the future is going to bring!

Father’s Day

Every year for the last few years, I have wished on Father’s Day I could go buy the proverbial tie for my dad and give him a call.  He isn’t here any more for me to do that but every day I think of how he was as a father that helped make me the person I am today.

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My dad was a man who would shake your hand instead of signing a contract.  He never really had any money but he would give you whatever he could if you needed it.  He was loyal, honest and hardworking.   He wasn’t a loud sort,  but you knew when he had something to say..  He wasn’t the disciplinarian in our home, but you knew if you crossed the line. When I would introduce him to whatever boy I was dating at the time, he would look from behind his newspaper, grunt, and go back to reading.  First and last date.

I remember Sunday mornings with country music playing on the stereo and my dad whistling in the kitchen while he made breakfast.  And if he wasn’t in the kitchen, he would be cooking meat until it was shoe leather on the grill.  He was a New Englander and a true Boston sports fan, and his heart was always with his hometown in Pittsfield, NH.

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My dad was a fantastic dancer.  He would take my mom out on the floor and they would start dancing and by the end of the song,  the entire floor would be standing in a circle, watching them twirl.

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The most important thing was his love for his family and his devotion to friends.  He would protect the ones that meant so much to him with his life if he had to.  He was always there to help family and friends in need, no matter what it was.  Grandchildren only added to the love he had to give and he could always be seen sitting in his favorite recliner with one or two or more sitting on his lap.

So Dad….even though you aren’t with us physically, you are in our hearts every moment of every day.  Your legacy of love continues on.  Happy Father’s Day to one of the best.  I love you Dad.

 

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and there is no better time to reminisce about my mom and why I always smile when I think of her.  I grew up during a time when she thought you had to cook the meat until it was shoe leather and you ate all of your vegetables out of a can.  Sorry Mom, but it’s amazing that I grew up loving food the way I do.

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My two younger brothers and I grew up without much money, but until I was older I never realized that we didn’t have anything because my mom always made us feel that we had everything.  We were recently talking about how I loved our Sunday night “picnics”.  Mom would put papers on the floor and we would have sandwiches or burgers in front of the TV while watching Walt Disney.  That would be the one night we could have a coke, so we thought of it as a big treat.  She told me they just did that because sandwiches were cheaper and she didn’t want us to think we didn’t have money for dinner.

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If someone asked me what foods were my favorite growing up that Mom made, I can name them on one hand. If you asked me if I would still eat them, the answer would be a resounding yes!  Fried chicken (that was actually baked in the oven), macaroni and cheese, onion dip and her pies.  I still love pie and I still love her onion dip.  My children love it so much we have to make a double batch because they will eat the entire bowl.

Birthdays were always amazing.  She made me feel as though I was the only one to ever have a birthday.  I would pull back my chair to sit down and it would be filled with wrapped packages.  The day was always full of surprises, love and the special cake she would make.   My favorite was the doll cake.  You know the one, the doll is in the middle and she has a cake “skirt”.  Mine would always have a frosting hat too, so I guess I was really special!

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No matter what was going on, she was always there for me.  From wearing the tissue corsage I made her in Kindergarten, going to all my plays and color guard events, kissing me goodby when I left for school and holding my hand and heart when I went through my divorce,  she was always the one I could count on.

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She is turning 80 in July.  It wasn’t an easy life, but it’s been a good one.  She was a devoted wife who adored my dad for fifty-five years, as he adored her.  She is a great mom, a friend and a caring Nana to my children.  There is no way I can ever repay her for everything, but I try everyday.  I try to be the person she wanted me to grow up and be.  I want to be as giving, as kind and as loving as she is.

I want to make her onion dip.

I love you Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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