Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!

This Holiday Season Wrap Your Snacks with Bacon Bows

Then again, why limit a snack like this to the holidays?

HOLY APPY, Batman! This one is for the record (cook) book. I saw Food Network star, Ree Drummond prepare bacon appetizers on one of her Christmas specials and could not resist giving them a try. It is a simple idea of wrapping country club crackers with a thinly sliced piece of bacon and then oven baking the crackers at a low temperature of 250 degrees for 2 hours. Just layer the cracker with either Parmesan cheese or brown sugar. The cracker absorbs all of the rich bacon fat and the cheese or sugar melts right into the middle. This is such a great Christmas appy, which got me thinking, “Why do we have to wait until Christmas to eat things wrapped in bacon? This should be a year-round snack starter!”

That’s what I thought when I realized you can freeze these bacon crackers and then warm them back up any time you need a quick snack. You could also ditch the crackers altogether and embrace the gorgeous deliciousness of bacon in a more natural state. Hello, Chipotle Spiced Candied Bacon! You could also do what I did below in 2 simple steps.

Spicy-Cheesy Bacon on Warm Pita Bread

  • Step 1: Load pita chips with finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Step 2: Sprinkled on a couple of diced pickled jalapenos and wrap the pita chip in bacon, baking the “bacon bites” on a rack in a baking pan at 250° for two hours.

The result was a cheesy, rich, and salty pita cracker that melted in my mouth and then surprised me with a pop of heat.

Call to Action for All Bacon Lovers!

Let’s start a bacon-wrapped cracker movement. We could change the world! Let’s see what combinations we come up with, and vote on which one is the most original! You post your combo and I will give it a try.

Meanwhile, we will have plenty of bacony treats hidden in the freezer to quell our next snack attack! Oh, and heads up: my blog is going to be doing a whole series of SNACK ATTACKS in anticipation of my lucky #7 book, out in 2015. I think I may have given away the book’s content in this post. Oops! Oh well….commence your snacking – it is going to help me so much!!

Dressing with Veggies

Dressing with Veggies

This is my favorite dressing for turkey day and every other time that I can bring it to the table. Yes, it is perfect for Thanksgiving, but it also works with roasted chicken, Cornish game hens or stuffed into baked bell pepper or zucchini boats. Try it, I bet you will love it!

 

Servings: 8
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Preheat oven to 400°

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for veggies
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for veggies
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup butter, 1 stick, plus more to dot onto the top of the casserole
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 celery head, 8 or more stalks, ends trimmed and diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • ½ pound fresh assorted wild mushrooms, sliced, about 2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped, about 4 cups
  • 6 cups day-old bread cubes, (substitute with 1 12-ounce package dressing cubes)
  • 1 (10 ¼-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup or more homemade chicken broth, or prepared low sodium chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the butternut squash cubes onto a baking sheet and toss with cinnamon, chili powder, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast until the cubes are soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook until golden, about another 10 minutes. Stir in the kale until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bread cubes into a large bowl. Add the butternut squash and the rest of the vegetables. Stir in the canned soup. Add 1 cup chicken broth. Stir to combine the dressing ingredients. If it appears too dry, add more stock to get the consistency that you want. Transfer dressing to a casserole dish and dot with small pieces of butter. Bake at 400°until it is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

A Tale of Blueberry Sleeve Cake

A Tale of Blueberry Sleeve Cake

See that iced coffee sweating in the carafe? Yep… that’s late August in Florida

With this many years in cooking and catering—and please don’t ask how many—I often get this type of question: “Jorj, what would YOU bring to an event like ______ (fill in the blank).” I have to say that most people who approach me for advice in the “provisions” department have unique circumstances; for example, it is an outdoor event and they are worried how the food will hold up, or they are going to a party full of people with special dietary needs.

In the most recent case, it was a volunteer event on a blisteringly hot day in Florida. Everyone was going to be gardening!  While I would happily have steered my friend toward pastry from one of my books like Sunday Best Dishes, her gardening party was on a Sunday after all, I have shared her zip code in Florida and the heat this time of year there is UNREAL. When you work outside there are bugs to contend with and a perspiration problem that even a hundred and ten tons of Gatorade cannot cure, not to mention close to 100% humidity—these are definitely conditions where an extremely detailed, painstaking cake recipe just would not be appreciated….soooooo, I passed down a very basic blueberry cake recipe and recommended she cut slabs of cake placing them in their own portable sleeves: like clean coffee filters! I am told the volunteers at the Coral Springs Community Garden liked the cake, and it seemed to make them smile more than the Dunkin Donuts that the ants were also fighting over that day!

his recipe produces one loaf per ½ pint of blueberries—while blueberries are best April through September in places like Maine, we can enjoy them year round, thanks to imports from Chile and Argentina. I checked the facts at the Blueberry Council!

Enjoy and take this to your next outdoor party!


Blueberry Sleeve Cake

Serving size: 1 loaf / serves 6
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chilled butter
  • ¾ cup half and half
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup blueberries

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter. You can use your electric mixer if you wish but mixing by hand works, too.

In a separate bowl, mix half and half and the egg; fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the blueberries and stir well, using a large spoon or spatula.

Coat a loaf pan with vegetable oil spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 30 minutes until the top of cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean.