Candied Bacon (and butter pecan ice cream)

So the other night I was fixing bacon for dinner, baking it in the oven, and I realized a few pieces would have to go on a separate cookie sheet. I figured that since they were on their own sheet I could do a little something different, so I decided to try my hand at candied bacon. Having never candied bacon before, I didn’t know what to expect, and though desecrating bacon is tantamount to sacrilege I decided to try it any ways and I’m glad I did.

This is just my first attempt and by no means a perfected recipe but it will give you an idea how simple it really is. I cannot recommend highly enough that you try it for yourself.

Ingredients

  • Bacon (I only used a few pieces)
  • Brown sugar (I used too much)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Layout bacon on parchment paper with one hand and sprinkle brown sugar on it with the other, flipping to get a light dusting on both sides.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to burn
  5. Let cool for 5-10 before serving

Additional Thought:

  • Again, this is just the initial recipe so changes will be coming, probably even to baking time and temp
  • A lot of recipes suggest using a combination of brown sugar, rice vinegar and maple syrup, but again I went simple the first time out
  • Other recipes also suggest adding salt, pepper (black or cayenne), cumin or even nuts. I might have to try some/all of these next time.

Chocolate Lava Cake

The way to my wife’s heart is easy – Chocolate. Because of this, and my own love of it, I have many recipes that involve chocolate. I will be posting all of them at some point, but the most recent recipe is also the one everyone seems to enjoy the most – Chocolate Lava Cake.

Guys, this recipe will score you major points with the ladies and is extremely easy to make. The only thing that might deter you from making it is the fact that you need to bake it in ramekins (basically a small ceramic bowl). I’ve heard of people making lava cakes in ceramic coffee mugs, and that might work for this recipe too, but I’ve not tried it. And to be honest, ramekins aren’t that expensive (especially on Amazon) and they’re great for other dishes, or even as bowls for dip, so get yourself some; you’ll use them. This recipe will make 4 small (~half filled), 3 good sized (~3/4 filled), or 2 “my” sized (full) servings.

Ingredients

  • butter (as needed) to coat the inside of the ramekins
  • 4 eggs (2 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate (chopped or chips)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Completely cover the inside of the desired (5 1/2 ounce) ramekins with butter. I keep these in the fridge while I mix the batter.
  2. Separate the two egg yolks first, in case you break the yolks you can still use it as one of the whole eggs.
  3. Blend together egg yolks, eggs, and sugar in a bowl, preferable with a hand mixer, but a whisk will work.
  4. Melt chocolate and 1/3 cup butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 1-2 minutes, checking every 15-20 seconds. Time required will vary depending on your microwave. Do not over-heat.
  5. Stir melted chocolate mixture into egg and sugar mixture until combined.
  6. Mix in cocoa powder.
  7. Add flour, salt and vanilla extract into the mixture and continue blending.
  8. Spoon or pour mixture evenly between the buttered ramekins. For the best presentation you can gently tap the ramekins on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
  9. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (but you can prepare even a day in advance and leave in the fridge over night).
  10. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  11. Place the ramekins in a casserole dish. I’ve found that 4-6 ramekins fit nicely in a 9″x13″ dish but I use a smaller 8″x8″ if I’m doing less. Pour enough hot tap water into the casserole dish (not into the ramekins) to reach halfway up however far you filled the ramekins.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes.
  13. Remove from oven and cool for at least 15 minutes.
  14. Dust with powdered sugar.

Additional Thoughts:

  • If you buttered the ramekins well you should be able to remove the cake by loosening the edges with a knife and inverting onto a plate before dusting with powdered sugar. This looks a little more fancy but also makes an extra dish so I usually just serve in the ramekins.
  • Separating eggs really isn’t that hard, just watch a few you tube videos and take your time.
  • Using this recipe to make 3 servings seems to be the best amount for most people
  • The inside is supposed to me gooey / runny, that’s what makes it lava cake. But you can adjust the cooking time to get your desired texture.
  • I suggest making this once or twice before you try to make it to impress anyone else. I’ve never had it come out bad but it’s best to know what to expect from your oven.

Creamy Horseradish Sauce

As I said in my Cheese Sauce post, you can change up basic ingredients really easily just by changing the sauce, as was the case for me a couple nights ago. I had some chicken breasts and broccoli in the freezer but I wanted to do something a little different to, as my wife likes to say, “jazz them up” a bit. For some reason I’ve been on a bit of a horseradish kick lately (seriously, but some on your bratwurst next time you grill one) so I decided to see what I could come up with that would go well on both the chicken and broccoli. This recipe uses quiet a few ingredients, but is simple to make and definitely worth it. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon bouillon (equal to one cube, crushed)
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sour cream
½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
A few drops of lemon juice

Directions
In a pan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour. (This is a basic roux used in a ton of sauces)
Whisk in the milk until the roux is fully dissolved
Continue to whisk the sauce occasionally as you bring it to a boil
Remove boiling sauce from heat and stir in all other ingredients

It’s as simple as that. Pour over any meat and vegetable and enjoy!

Additional Insights:

  • The sauce re-heats very well, and if it gets a little thick, just add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin it back out.
  • Add more/less horseradish to taste
  • Try adding the sauce to a can of tuna instead of mayo the next time you make tuna salad

Nacho Cheese Sauce

Okay guys, here’s an easy one. It’s not quite as easy as throwing a block of processed cheese spread into the microwave, but it is so much better and probably won’t kill you quite as quickly, though I’m not a doctor so what do I know?

Sauces are extremely important to cooking. You can grill the chicken the same exact way dozens of times (or just use leftovers time and time again) and change it up each time just by throwing on a different sauce. This cheese sauce is one of the first sauces I ever learned to make, and though it’s changed slightly over the years, it’s still one of my go-to sauces. You can throw it on any meat, veggies, potatoes, or even just dunk soft-pretzel bites into it. Basically it’ll make anything better. And it’s a simple thing to take to family get-togethers or poker games. On top of that, just about every normal person loves cheese sauce, right Hanna?

I’ve slowly adjusted the sauce over time to better fit my tastes but feel free to experiment with the seasoning as you see fit.

Ingredients
3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
2 cups milk
1 TSP salt
⅛ TSP ground cayenne pepper
⅛ TSP black pepper
⅛ TSP dried mustard
6-8 oz shredded cheddar
2 oz cream cheese (room temp)
¼ TSP worcestershire sauce

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Stir in flour to make your rue, then whisk in milk. Whisk in salt, pepper and dried mustard, then heat mixture in pan, whisking often. Once mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, whisking until completely combined and sauce is smooth.

That’s it, super simple.

Additional insight:

  • The ratio of 1 1/2 tablespoons flour/butter to 1 cup milk provides for a middle-of-the-road consistency. For a thinner sauce, add more milk; for a thicker sauce add less milk or add an extra tablespoon of flour and butter to your rue.
  • The worcestershire sauce is a recent addition that gives the sauce a deeper flavor and color. Feel free to leave out if you don’t have any.
  • You can use any cheese you prefer but I recommend sharp cheddar for the most flavor.
  • Cream cheese is not necessary but it adds more luster to the sauce

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Cookie Jar

Guys, I know baking can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to it. But this is one of my favorite recipes, not just because it is so good, but also because it is sooo easy that I have yet to mess it up. It also doesn’t require a lot of hard to find ingredients, so I almost always have the ingredients in my cabinets. I’ve even started keeping maraschino cherries on hand, just in case I have a craving for these cookies. These are great for any occasion, whether it’s a family get-together, a PPV fight, or my personal favorite, just trying to make your wife/girlfriend happy.

Ingredients
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips (I recommend semi-sweet or dark)
1 (10 oz.) jar Maraschino cherries (drained and chopped into pieces)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, mix the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.
  5. Sir in the chocolate chips and cherries.
  6. Chill cookie dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  7. Roll dough into small balls about the size of a golf ball and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 12-14 minutes or until light brown.
  9. Leave the cookies on the cookie sheet to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Additional tips:

  • Do not be afraid of over-mixing the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla extract; with this recipe, the more, the better
  • Feel free to try substituting other chips such as caramel or white chocolate, or even mixing them
  • DO NOT try to substitute baking powder for baking soda. That’s not how baking works
  • Parchment paper is not required but it makes cleanup easier and without it, the cookies are more prone to stick. Keep an eye on them

Apple Salsa

I love finding creative ways to use leftovers, and because we have pork quite often I sometimes have to get extremely creative. Taco / Burrito bowls are in easy way to use leftovers but they’re not the most creative, so last night I decided to try something a little different and come up with an apple salsa to go in the pork burrito bowls. The salsa turned out better than I expected and is extremely good alone with chips, but it is amazing with the pork, rice and lettuce on the burrito bowl. It’s so good, in fact, that I’m going to have the leftovers tonight. So if you’re looking for something a little different, a little spicy and sweet, give this a try:

Apple Salsa

Dice:
1 apple
1 sweet onion
1 red bell pepper
2 jalapeno (without seeds – optional)

Whisk together / Shake:
1 tablespoon each
apple cider vinegar
lemon juice
lime juice
vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients and add:
1/2 teaspoon each
salt
pepper
garlic powder
parsley
basil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

I had to get rid of the jalapeno seeds, and that’s where a lot of the heat is, so I needed to add the cayenne pepper to get a little more spice. If you leave the seeds in, or just want a more mild salsa, the cayenne can be left out.

Pork Burrito Bowl with Apple Salsa

Pork Cutlets with Mustard Sauce

So the first recipe I’m posting on the new site is actually my most recent. We eat a lot of pork because we find it on sale quite often, buy in bulk, and freeze it. This saves us a lot of money and generally means we have something available when we don’t know exactly what we want. Pork is very versatile, and I’ve got a ton of great recipes for it but the other night I wanted to try something a little different, so I came up with Pork Cutlets with Mustard Sauce. This turned out great so I thought I’d share it right away.

This recipe, served with some steamed vegetables and a side of wild rice or pasta, looks very elegant and would definitely impress your girlfriend, or that hot chick you finally worked up the courage to ask out (my wife loved it) but it’s also very quick and simple. There’s not a lot of prep work, and it cooks rather quickly, giving you more time to enjoy your evening.

Pork
4 pork cutlets, about ½” thick
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

Mustard Sauce
1 cup chicken stock (or 1 cube chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water)
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ cup water
1 tsp – 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Bring chicken stock to a boil and cook until reduced by ½ cup

While stock is reducing, preheat grill, season both sides of pork and cook 3-5 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F. Remove the pork from the grill and cover with aluminum foil, allowing the meat to rest for an additional 5 minutes.

Once stock is reduced turn off heat, whisk cornstarch into water (1 tsp will result in a thinner consistency and 1 tablespoon will result in thicker, almost gravy like consistency), then add mixture to stock, whisking thoroughly. Whisk in mustard, salt and pepper, then remove from heat.