bacon, books + bite sized treats

Don't you just love how a book can take your imagination to a different place?! Am I the only one who watches a movie or reads a book and gets lost in thought? It's like I lose touch with reality and get transported to a fantasy world of limitless possibility.  How can I hold on to that thought/feeling?! It's a new goal - live in this place of euphoria!

I'm in a cooking book club with this great organization called the Cooking Chicks in Chicago. Every month they pick a food memoir of sorts and then each person brings a dish from the book or a dish inspired by the book. This month's book was Apron Anxiety. I'm telling you, Alyssa Shelasky has an amazing way with words. It seemed fitting to me to create a dish inspired by a simple sandwich her chef used to make that became a bit of a ritual for them. Since tomatoes are in season right now, this is a great appetizer to serve at your next BBQ, party, or to just make for eating. They're awesome and bite sized and before you know it you've scarfed 12 of these bad boys. Because lets be real, what's better than bacon? Bacon with fresh tomatoes and cheese is a good start, mmmmm…

BLT bites
yields about 60 bites

2 pints cherry tomatoes (20 oz - about 60)
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
12 strips of bacon cooked extra crispy and broken into bits
¼ c. mayonnaise 
1 green onion, finely chopped

garnish plate with spinach or basil leaves (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, bacon bits, mayo, and green onion and mix until well combined. Place in ziplock bag or piping bag. Set aside until ready to fill.

Cut the tops off the cherry tomatoes and gently squeeze the seeds out with your finger. To make them sit flat on the plate you can very thinly slice a layer off the bottom of the tomatoes too. No worries if you cut through and make an O shape… the filling will still stay put and no one will notice. Place sliced tomatoes on a paper towel and let sit for a few minutes to absorb the extra moisture. This can be done the day before to make assembly quicker. If doing that, be sure to pull the cream cheese mixture out of the refrigerator a few hours before serving so it softens up. Cut the tip off the bag and fill the tomatoes. 

Tomatoes can be filled a few hours before serving, just place in the refrigerator before serving to keep cold. 

improv style:
seem like too much work to cut and de-seed 60 cherry tomatoes? you can just place this filling on top of tomato slices and serve as an appetizer course at a sit down dinner. similarly, you could serve the cherry tomatoes whole with the cream cheese mixture as a dip for veggies, crackers and bread slices. 

you can add in your favorite mixins. a goat cheese or blue cheese would be delish. you can add pepper, red pepper flakes, or a little hot sauce to liven it up. i like the balance the green onion gives the mixture but if you're not a fan, leave it out. you could add in some basil or rosemary to freshen it up. it's a very simple and easy dish to change up! 

looking to lighten it up? use lowfat or fat free cream cheese and mayo with turkey bacon instead or maybe even some greek yogurt?! 


tip: how to cook bacon, the easy way

This is life changing people. About a year and a half ago Matt took me to the Guy Fieri road show and I learned a little trick from him that blew my mind! 

Cooking bacon in the oven. Take cold bacon and a cold oven and avoid the pops, splatters, and skin burning effects of stovetop bacon cooking? Yes please! Biggest bonus?! All of your bacon cooks at the same time! No more multiple pans or batch cooking here! Plus, much easier clean up by using tin foil!

It's so easy to do! 
oven bacon
1. line baking sheet(s) with aluminum foil
2. place cold bacon onto sheet* with a little breathing room between each strip. *make sure the sheet has a lip so that the grease doesn't drip on the bottom of the oven. grease fires are never a good thing :)
3. place sheets into cold oven and turn on to 400º F

4. bake for about 20 minutes flipping halfway through

5. it will look like the above picture when ready. pull out and place on paper towel lined plates to drain excess grease

6. crunch, eat, enjoy!

Every oven runs a little different so cooking time may vary. It also depends on the thickness of your bacon. The thicker the bacon, the longer it takes. Listen to your nose, it will smell when the bacon is ready… Also, don't do this in a preheated oven. Don't ask me why, but it doesn't work the same. Made that mistake once and I will never do it again! If you want, you can place the bacon back in the oven on warm or about 200º F for a few minutes to keep it warm while the rest of breakfast gets finished. 

This tip will be your new best friend for tomorrow's post!


millions of peaches

Being a Seattle girl, I couldn't resist! 

Peaches are all the rage right now. My favorite part about the end of Summer is peaches. I am willing to accept that the days of warm sunshine are coming to an end just because of these sweet and juicy little gems! Every year growing up, my mom would make us something called peach surprise. It was something I always looked forward to. A mark that back to school would be happening soon. I enjoyed my last few days of Summer break with frosty, deliciously sweet and tangy peach surprises. 

My mom makes them with frozen lemonade concentrate but I had a bunch of peaches and lemons so I made it from scratch. Whatever method you prefer works. Just make sure you make these while peaches are still around. If you, like me have a tendency to buy lots of fruit and then have it go bad on you, this is a great way to use up some peaches a little past their prime. No one can see the bruises when you blend them up anyway! 

peach surprise
yields 2 servings

1 peach
¼ c. sugar
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
2 c. ice cubes
¼ c. water (if needed to get it blending well)

In a blender combine first 5 ingredients. Turn that sucker on and blend away! If your blender needs a little help to get things going, add in a little bit of water. Just be sure to gradually add it so it doesn't get too runny! I needed a ¼ c. but you might need more or less depending on the power of your blender!

improv it:

mom's recipe:
fill the blender  ⅔ the way with ice
1 peach
½ can frozen lemonade concentrate 

blend + serve

think of this as a peach and lemonade smoothie. you can make it with fresh lemons, lemonade, or frozen concentrate. like things a bit sweeter? add more sugar. not a huge lemon fan? leave out the zest or substitute with your favorite citrus fruit. a banana would add some fun tropical notes to the drink.

make this an adult cocktail by adding in vodka or rum  OR, make it extra special/fun and pour some prosecco over it for a fun twist on a belini! i bet it would make a fantastic frozen wine cooler type drink too by adding in some pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. reisling or moscato would work nicely too if you're into sweeter wines. i've never done this boozy but I'm totally making this for the holiday weekend now that I'm talking about it!


cocktail contest!

I entered into a contest. I want to win. But mostly, I want to share this cocktail with you because it's AMAZING. The non-adventurous eater is probably thinking I'm out of my mind with this one. TRUST ME, herbs + berries = magic.  I served the leftovers at my cook book club (sin alcohol) and it was a huge hit. Then I sent the recipe to a friend and he too said it was delish! I'm telling you guys, make this, now!

Also, vote for me! Shameless plug, but mamma needs some $$! You'll note the cocktail recipe on the site is different from here. That was a spirit contest so I plussed up the gin amount for them. I prefer a subtle nod of gin with lots of sparkly goodness (aka, the recipe below). Cheers!

blueberry basil fizz
yields about 1 cup blueberry basil syrup

to make blueberry syrup:
1 ½ c. fresh blueberries (frozen works too)
1 c. water
2 TBSP sugar
1 bunch of basil leaves with stems (about 25 leaves)

In a small sauce pan, combine blueberries, water, sugar and bring to a soft boil. Let cook until blueberries burst. Turn off the heat and add basil leaves + stems, let steep in the blueberry mixture for 10 - 15 minutes. Pull the basil leaves out and pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, Pressing all of the blueberry goodness through the strainer. Chill until ready to serve.

for the cocktail:
yields 1 cocktail

½ oz gin
1 oz blueberry basil mixture
½ c. crushed ice
top with prosecco (about ½ c.)
garnish: fresh blueberries and torn basil leaves.

Combine gin, blueberry basil mixture and ice, shake or stir. Pour into a glass and top with prosecco. Garnish with torn basil leaves and fresh blueberries. I like to serve it in a stemless champagne flute but a rocks glass looks pretty too.

improv style:

first thing, this is a cocktail, you don't REALLY have to measure. just dump, dump, mix and sip! this is just my guide to the cocktail, choose your own adventure!

this can be made with just gin, berry mixture and sparkling water, likewise with just prosecco + blueberry basil syrup. if you want a refreshing summer drink sin alcohol, just mix about 2 TBSP of the mixture with ½ c. sparkling water. sparkling coconut water or even coconut milk would be delish too.

not a blueberry or basil fan? try blackberry rosemary, raspberry thyme, lavender blueberry - you see where i'm going here. 

good herbs for this: mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, basil, or rosewater (technically not an herb, but it's in the plant family). 

good fruits: any berry, citrus fruit, stone fruit. 

fun mix in's: flavored sparkling water, gin, vodka, sparkling wine, white wine (fancy wine cooler anyone?!), coconut water, iced tea?! 

basically i'm saying everyone could use a little fruit + herb action in their life. Especially in beverage form.