Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bacon Jam-Updated

Bacon Jam.  Bacon Jam.  Come on, say it with me. BACON JAM!!!  OMG! Where have you been all my life?

I ran across bacon jam in search of a delicious and easy appetizer for work.  We have limited cooking space so I needed something I could throw together with minimal effort.  Enter bacon jam.

As I read the recipes, I knew my search was over.  I mean, who doesn't love bacon dipped in maple syrup with their morning pancakes?  Mmmmm...delicious! 

My appetizer is going to be BLT Squares.  Focaccia or crostini  bread, spread with a layer of cream cheese/mayo blend, leafy, green butterhead lettuce, topped with a spoonful of bacon jam, and a slice of  ripe, red tomato.  Doesn't that sound yummy? 

I combined several recipes together, using my family's personal preferences as a guide.  We love sweet, salty & spicy but if you don't, leave out the Sriracha sauce and ground pepper. 

FYI.  I took this to work, served it with mini bagels & cream cheese and it was a huge hit!  Everyone loved it! 

Bacon Jam
1 pound quality Bacon (mine was hickory smoked)
1 small Onion, chopped
4-5 cloves Garlic, smashed or minced
1/2 cup dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup strong brewed Coffee
1/4 cup Maple Syrup (I confess. I used regular pancake syrup)
1 Tbl. Balsamic Vinegar
1/8 tsp. fresh ground coarse Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
1-2 Tbl. Sriracha Sauce (commonly called 'Rooster Sauce')
1 Tbl. Worcestershire Sauce

Cut bacon strips into 3 section and cut into small cubes.  If you freeze the bacon for a few minutes, it'll be easier to cut.

Brown slowly in a heavy-bottomed pan.  I used the medium setting and it worked great.  This will take about 20-30 minutes.  You want to render out as much of the fat as possible.
Once the bacon is brown and slightly crispy, drain. Save the grease.*
Use about 1-2 tablespoons bacon grease and sauté the onions until softened and gold.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Add bacon to onions and mix.
Add brown sugar, coffee, maple syrup, vinegar, pepper, bay leaves, Sriracha, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil then turn down to a light simmer.  Cover and continue to simmer until thickened. 
Take off lid and keep simmering until very thick and gooey.  Be careful not to burn during the last few minutes.  Also be careful not to splatter yourself.  This stuff is like napalm!
See how it sticks to the back of the spoon.
Let sit until cooled and then put in a container.  I used an old salsa jar.  Refrigerate any unused portion.
Of course, I had to try some.  I toasted a couple of pieces of French bread, smeared on some cream cheese, and spooned on the bacon jam.  Yup, it was as delicious as I thought it would be!

*Whatever you do, do not throw the grease down your kitchen sink.  It WILL clog!  Besides, there are a million & one uses for bacon grease.  Use it for fried eggs or fried potatoes.  Dip one side of a canned biscuit and place oiled side down in the pan to bake.  Here is a great website with some more tasty ideas. 

Old School Dessert-Dream Whip & Jello

I was snooping around my pantry today, looking to make a sweet treat for dinner tonight.  Deep in theback, I found one lonely package of Dream Whip and a box of strawberry Jello. This brought back fond memories of my childhood. 

Remember Dream Whip?  It's shelf-stable, uses items I always have and doesn't take up space in the freezer like Cool Whip. 

I am a child of the early 70s.  The Brady Bunch ruled the TV, The Jackson 5 ruled the radio,
and Jello reigned supreme! 

We ate a lot of different concoctions in those years.  Glass salad, Poke cake & Jello molds, but my favorite was pretty simple.  Jello mixed with Dream Whip.  Easy and delicious.  Call me old fashioned but I do think the simple things taste the best. 

Old School Jello Whip
1 Box Gelatin (choose your favorite flavor)
1 cup boiling Water
1 cup Cold Water
1 package Dream Whip
1/2 cup cold Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla (box say 1/2 but if 1/2 is good, 1 is even better!)

Empty gelatin into a medium-size bowl. 
Pour in 1 cup boiling water and stir until all the sugar melts. 
Pour in cold water, stir, then set in refrigerator for about 3 hours to set.
Meanwhile, make Dream Whip.

Empty on package of Dream Whip into bowl.
Add milk and vanilla and using whipping attachment, beat on medium for 4 minutes until light and fluffy.
Keep about 2 tablespoons Dream Whip separate for decoration.
Gently fold Dream Whip into gelatin using a spatula.
Spoon into glasses.
If you don't want to get fancy, just put it back into the bowl. 
Refrigerate for an hour.
Garnish with a dollop of Dream Whip.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Few More Home Improvements

We've been slowly making some changes in our home.  I've got a lot of red brick inside and outside and to be honest, it's a bit overwhelming.  So I got out some paint, spray paint and decorating supplies and got to work.

First is the kitchen.  Since we added the new tile and paint, red brick doesn't quite work anymore. 

I took a huge leap of faith and painted it white. Whew!  It turned out just beautiful!

There is a divider between the kitchen and living room.  I guess indoor plant holders were really popular in the 1960s. 
Check out the Brady house. They had one too. And look!  It's also made out of brick.  This picture makes me giggle.
Here's what I decided to do with mine.  I filled it with white fish rocks, then added shells, iridescent glass gems, and Mason jar candle holders I picked up at Ross.  Nice and summery.  Pretty cute!


I also made some changes outside. 

Notice the lovely brass fixtures.
Now the light and doorbell are both hammered pewter.  Yup, spray paint!  I also used spray frost on the glass.  It didn't take long but definitely updated things a bit.
Here is the front of the house when we bought it.  All the stuff is from the former owner.  Yes, those are plastic flowers in the window boxes. 
This is how it looks now.  Buh-bye fake flowers!
Last but not least, the most expensive change we've made.  We got a fantastic new pool liner and cover. 



Mexican Sopes

It's been a crazy few weeks.  I've been training for my job and to be honest, I've been pooped out by the time I get home. The shift is odd (10-6:30) so I walk in the door a bit after 7 pm.  My sweet Hubs has been making weeknight dinners and yes, most of them have been out of a box or a bag.  Have to say though, he's done a fantastic job and I appreciate all his efforts.

So now it's the weekend and I have time to make some real food for us.  As you have probably already figured out, we do love some Mexican food.  One of our favorites is sopes.  They are easy to make and delicious.  They are also a great way to use up leftover chicken, beef &/or refried beans. 

Please pardon the quality of my pictures.  I had to use my cell phone.  Our digital camera is on the blink right now.  I lost a few pictures so you're just going to have to wing it. ;)

2 cups Masa Harina*
1-1/4 cup Water
1 teaspoon Salt
Fry Oil (traditional would be Lard/Manteca but you can use Vegetable Oil or Crisco)
Toppings: (use what you like)
Refried beans
Leftover shredded meat (chicken, beef or pork)
Chopped Onions
Chopped Tomatoes
Sour Cream or Creama Fresca*
Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese

Mix masa, salt and water in a medium size bowl to make a soft dough that does not crumble.  You may need to add a bit more water to make it stick together.  Only add 1 tablespoon at a time. 
Kneed on a floured surface until dough has softened a bit.  This takes about 3 to 5 minutes. 

Make small balls out of the dough (between the size of a walnut and golf ball).
Flatten each ball slightly on wax or parchment paper, then take a small glass and press the center.  You are trying to make an indention in the center so you have a raised edge.  It takes a little practice so if you don't get it right the first time, just pick it up and try again.

Set aside all your sopes.
Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large pan.  Fry the sopes until they are light golden brown. 
Drain on paper towels.
To assemble:
Place Sope shell on plate, spread with refried beans, then add your favorite toppings.

*Masa Harina and Creama Fresca are easy to find in most grocery stores.  If you're lucky enough to live in a town with a large Mexican community, check out the local Mercado.  You'll find everything you need there and some tasty things you've never seen before!