Bacon Roses!

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February… the month of love…

I don’t know your opinion, but to me, Valentine’s Day is for the ladies. Chocolate, roses, jewelry… all they yummy treats we love so much! But I have always felt awkward being given a gift without giving one back on holidays (except my birthday, of course – - spoil me all you want!). There are always crafty ideas to give our favorite men for Valentine’s like x-rated coupons, a book of the reasons you love him, etc.

No matter what I get my hubby in February, it always seems extremely forced. He isn’t in to cologne or watches. It doesn’t seem like the sort of holiday to give computer parts or video games (I wouldn’t know what to get him anyway!). Homemade coupons get old…how many does a guy really need?! And as far as chocolates go? I would probably eat them all myself!  Any other great ideas that I have are ones I will put to use on bigger holidays, like his birthday or Christmas.

So what is a gift that says “I Love You” in a manly, enjoyable way?

You guessed it: Bacon!

Bacon, mixed with the feminine touch for a flower-filled holiday, equals the greatest gift you can give a man for Valentines. Bacon Roses!

These roses are a little nasty to make (rolling up wads of raw, fatty bacon doesn’t top my list of favorite things to do!), but are extremely easy. Not to mention quick! Pop them on some store bought silk floral rose stems, and you have a gift that looks like a million bucks for your man!

When I made bacon roses for my husband a few months ago (he had been away for 3 weeks on business, so I was goofy and brought them to the baggage claim at the airport!), I wrapped them up like a florist would paper wrap a bouquet and added a bow to seal the bundle. FYI – my first attempt at wrapping was really greasy, so I removed it and replaced it with a waxed paper! This idea worked perfectly, keeping the grease in the package and off the seat of my car during transportation!

Best part about these roses? He got a kick out of them…he laughed so hard, and snacked on them the whole way home from the airport!

Ideas:

Sprinkle some black pepper on the roses prior to cooking for a spicier version.
Once thoroughly cooked, dip in chocolate or fill centers with a mixture of cream cheese and chives.
If your guy has a sweet tooth, mix up your bouquet with bacon roses and store-bought chocolate roses!
This isn’t just for Valentines Day – make these as edible table decor at your next party!

 

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The Best Comfort Food.

I don’t know what it is, but some days you just crave some warm, gooey comfort foods.

After cooking up a giant meal, swearing off cooking forever, stuffing my face at Thanksgiving while testing every dish and fitting each and every calorie that could into my stomach, shopping the wee hours of Black Friday with friends (mainly because we love the people watching!), hanging the Christmas decorations and practically living at the gym…I guess I am ready for cooking again…

For me, the ultimate comfort food is some good ol’ homemade mac and cheese. Put an emphasis on the cheese, because there should be lots of it…after all, that is the best part! And because it is such an amazing meal, it is always hard to decide what kind to make. Traditional? Chock full of nutritious veggies? White sauce? Bread crumbs? Bacon bits? Oh, just talking about the options is enough to make any cheese lovers mouth drool!

Without further discussion, let me just share some amazing homemade mac options. Maybe get a glass of water before looking…all the drooling just might make you dehydrated!

This one is sure to be delicious – made with 4 cheeses most of us don’t typically have in the fridge, like mascarpone. That alone should tell you this is restaurant quality, made-by-grandma style, extremely yummy dish!

mac2

Source: www.cbc.ca

Personally, I think broccoli is only good when smothered in cheese. Because of this, whenever I make a cheese dish I try to add in a couple handfuls of freshly steamed chopped broccoli. It adds a bunch of nutritional value, doesn’t change the overall taste of the dish too much and takes away a bit of the guilt from all that fatty, delicious cheese! This recipe is one of my absolute favorites and is well the time and effort making it fresh versus the in-the-box brands!

 Are you craving a little meat with your cheese? How about a Philly Cheese Steak? This is the ultimate in mac and cheese… onions, roast beef, green pepper… all those Philly ingredients in a casserole dish! My hubby will love this dish!

Bacon Cups?!

In my house, we LOVE bacon.

And I must say, the only way I get my husband to eat a nice, big salad for dinner is if I promise there will be bacon on it. When we do Make-Your-Own-Salad nights, I limit him to two slices (I don’t want to clog ALL of his arteries…just a couple! LOL.). If it weren’t for those two slices, I would have never been able to convince him of our Thursday salad nights!

Every so often, there comes a special occasion on salad night. A sale on shredded beef will make it a salad/taco night. On his birthday week, he usually convinces me to cook him more bacon. I know, it sounds extremely nerdy, but it keeps him looking forward to salad. Haha. This week will have a special treat on salad night in celebration of the New Year…bacon salad bowls!

These awesome bacon bowls are cooked on an upside-down muffin tin. Who would have thought?! I love the finished look to these – they look so expensive! I can’t wait to serve them! I think they would go great with just about anything… I can even see them used as a muffin wrapper for a nice, plump chocolate cupcake oozing with frosting and topped with bacon bits! But I will try to keep them “healthy” and serve them with boring ol’ lettuce…or will I…?

If you want to get extreme, how about this tasty looking bacon salad with strawberries?! Bacon salad in a bacon cup…Yes Please! My husband will never go for his weekly 2 strips again after this meal ;)

Crispy Risotto Balls.

I had never tried risotto.

It’s not that I ever avoided it, I just never got around to it. So when I recently went to the Olive Garden with family and saw the Crispy Risotto Bites on the appetizer menu, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to try it! Sure, fried risotto is different than the original dish, but the idea is still there…and I figured anything is good fried!

While I enjoyed the Bites at Olive Garden, I felt they did not have much flavor. They needed something more…bacon, salt, pepper, chiles…something. The simple dipping sauce just wasn’t cutting it.

So I decided to go in search of a recipe with some actual flavor. And that is when I found these delicious Crispy Fried Risotto Balls, or Arancini Di Riso, from Honest Cooking.

 

Their recipe offers not only a description of how the Risotto Balls came about in Italy (using the leftover risotto!), but also offers many suggestions of items to use in creating your “Arancini”. The easy-to-make recipe is finished with a perfect amount of spice. On my second batch (yes, I needed a second batch the night after the first batch!) I added a little jalapeno and bacon! There were no complaints there ;)

Next on my list to make are those Mac N Cheese balls I have been hearing about…

Waffles for Every Meal (and in between!)

I love to cook. But let me be perfectly honest with you.

Under no circumstances will I ever just wake up and whip up a large breakfast! I want my coffee, a bowl of cereal, the morning news, a shower…THEN I will make you a warm, home-cooked meal.

My need for a specific morning routine has always made me laugh at the idea of a waffle iron. I would be thrilled to eat a freshly made waffle at breakfast time, but only if served to me. I am amazed by those who wake up with the energy and willpower to put forth the effort first thing in the morning. I won’t make you a strip of bacon or a scrambled egg, much less mix up batter and cut fresh fruit to serve warm waffles!

So when I recently received a waffle iron as a gift, I just about threw it out! I knew there was no way I would put the thing to use in my lifetime…so why would I let it take up space in my kitchen cupboards? However, I am grateful that I joked about it with a good friend before it hit the dumpster. Why? Because waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore!

While I have, on many occasions, served up pancakes for dinner, I had not even considered the idea of waffles for dinner! Not to mention so many non-breakfast-style ideas that have come about with our food loving culture. So if you are craving a waffle, here are some delicious ideas you can try out at any hour of the day!

How about making a waffle sandwich with all your favorite toppings? The one above includes ingredients such as bacon, cheese, tomato and cilantro. No syrup needed on this tasty meal!

Waffle cookies? Yes, please! These chocolate treats look so yummy! For some reason, the shape reminds me of those Turtle candies…I am tempted to play around with this recipe to add some caramel and pecan…

Waffle irons aren’t just for dough! The “waffles” above are actually made of mashed potatoes! What a brilliant idea. This is such a great way to serve up potatoes as an appetizer or at a potluck. It could also be a great way to sneak in some veggies if you have a picky eater in your home!

Needless to say, my new waffle iron was NOT chucked out! And I can’t wait to try out more new recipes with it!

Tasty Jellied Candies.

If you are looking for a simple, last minute treat for your holiday party or office potluck…look no further!

These simple candies take just a few extra minutes to make than your traditional Jello Jigglers – and they are insanely delicious! These are perfect to make the night before, or if you are a true procrastinator (like myself) you will need about an hour and a half to complete these – most if it is just setting time in the fridge!

Follow the first part of the recipe, hop in the shower, do your makeup, check your email…then head back an hour later to finish up your special treat. While the recipe calls for the finished squares to be coated in sugar granules, I myself prefer coating in powdered sugar. Give it a try if you are interested!

Don’t forget a few minutes to make a nice, colorful presentation for the table! Because of their pomegranate flavor, I think it would be especially pretty to scoop a bunch of fresh pomegranate seeds onto the plate with these yummy candies. Other options would be to cut them into different shapes with small cookie cutters, or add some decorative toothpicks for easy serving!

These are some of my favorite holiday treats…and they are always a big hit with friends and family!

Beautiful Roasted Potatoes.

I love potatoes.

I sometimes wonder if my body is lacking in a certain nutrient…I have heard that you crave what your body is missing and I am constantly craving potatoes! I just don’t know what is in a potato that I would be lacking? Let me know if you do ;)

Potatoes are delicious in any form, but how can you serve potatoes for your friends and family in a beautiful fashion? We often see potatoes at potlucks and restaurants served up mashed, french fried, baked or country roasted. While I always enjoy eating them, I do not remember a time in life where I stared at my plate or potluck table thinking “Wow, what a pretty looking potato dish!”.

So, my friends, prepare to be stunned!

If you are looking for a way to turn heads with your potato dish, try out a Crispy Potato Roast. You will need very thin slices, so if you don’t have a sharp knife, a sturdy hand and a LOT of patience, I recommend using a Mandolin Slicer. Don’t know what that is? See below.

mandolin

Source: Amazon.com

This Cuisinart Mandolin Slicer is just one of many options you can find on Amazon.com.

Look at the beautiful potato arrangement in the casserole dish! I know you will get many, many compliments when serving these up. The Martha Stewart recipe shown above uses thyme and shallots…but there are so many options! How about topping with sea salt, cheddar cheese and scallions and garnish with sour cream and bacon bits? How about making this into a chili dish for the super bowl? Cook potatoes thoroughly, then top with a can of chili and some Velveeta cheese. Cover, toss back in the oven and heat until warm and melted!

If you are looking for a very fancy meal option, I have seen these made in individual dishes. The potato slices can be arranged to look like a rose or flower prior to baking. Once baked, it is a very expensive looking dish!

Drinking Bacon.

Sure, I am a big fan of bacon.

Thanks to our foodie culture, we can now drink it. “Drink it?!”, you say? That is exactly what I thought!

I enjoy the crispy crunch of a nice, well-cooked bacon strip so I am not quite sure how I feel about drinking the best food in the entire universe. In alcoholic form nonetheless! But just like everything in life it is always best to try it first before knocking it!

bvodka

Source: bevmo.com

BAKON Vodka can be found at BevMo, where a handful of reviewers have given it 5 stars. As far as a specialty vodka goes, it is pretty reasonable in price at around $30 a bottle.

But what does one do with a bacon vodka? Take shots and have a supply of bacon strips instead of limes? That could be fun…

Or how about trying a classy drink like the Bakon Cocoa Martini – Cocoa Pig? This sounds fancy, and looks even fancier:

A blended drink that includes Bakon vodka, Irish Cream and Chocolate Liqueur, my bacon-loving self is pretty tempted to try this one! That strip of chocolate covered bacon is sure making this drink look extra special! This is looking like a great drink option for a New Years Eve party!

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of Bakon vodka, finding more recipes or want to know where you can buy it near you, be sure to check out the Bakon Vodka website.

FYI, I am not being compensated in any way for this post…I just really love bacon and thought I should share this information with you!

Not Quite Egg Rolls!

Like most of you out there, I have heard of Eggrolls and Spring Rolls. I have also heard there are other foods out there that you can make with the wrappers. But I have never even considered creating a roll with ingredients other than your typical Asian roll. If you have, then you are Way ahead of me!! I guess I tend to cook in the more traditional sense.

So in honor of the new year just right around the corner, let us get a little funky in the kitchen!

This recipe from Nutritious Eats is not your traditional egg roll. Sure, it uses the same ol’ wrappers, but the ingredients used create a Southwestern roll! Black beans, corn and cheese are just a few of the fillers for these bad boys – not to mention a good selection of spices to wake up your taste buds a bit more than the blander, traditional roll. For dipping? No sweet and sour sauce here! These call for a selection of guacamole, sour cream and salsa! Yum!

An added bonus for those of us watching our calorie intake or being a bit more health conscious: the recipe calls for these to be baked, not fried!

I served these up the other night with cheese quesadillas and home made tortilla chips (sea salt does wonders with chips!) and we all enjoyed them. 2 thumbs up!

To Die For.

Sweets.

Sure, they go straight to my hips, but that is what my gym membership is for!

This time of the year, I stock up on chocolate candies (and nuts, dried fruit, etc) for all the company that comes to visit. There are so many great options of chocolates – peppermint flavored, holiday colored, bits of candy cane mixed in, holiday shapes…Mmmm! Yummy! Then there are the post-Christmas sales in which we can stock up on even more of those delicious treats!

So what do you do with all those chocolates? Usually, ours are gone by the New Year. But for the upcoming 2014, I have a plan! My Father-in-Law has his birthday in February and he is a die-hard chocolate fan. You know the kind…everyone on the planet takes a bite or two of a very, very rich chocolate and says “Whoa, that is Too Rich for Me!”…but then there is the one person who can go back for seconds? That’s him! I don’t know how he can handle it!

I came across this cake on Art of Dessert that will be the perfect birthday treat for the ol’ Father-in-Law. I will be stocking up on all those clearance holiday chocolates to cover this bad boy up! They call this one the Chocolate Wasted Cake, but I get the feeling not even one little crumb will be wasted!

Look at the top of this cake – covered in Hershey bars, Kisses and more. Not to mention the completely covered chocolate chips sides and drizzle, drizzle, mouth-watering drizzle!

He will love it.

And my Mother-in-Law will probably kill me ;) !