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Dancing on Snowflakes

At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics yesterday, the U.S. gained a third gold medal for snowboarding when Kaitlin Farrington won the women’s halfpipe competition.  She beat Australia’s Torah Bright who took home silver this year, and U.S. teammate Kelly Clark who won bronze in the event.  In pairs figure skating, Russian pair Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov finished the short program on Tuesday night by setting a new world scoring record.  On Wednesday, they remained in first place and brought the pairs figure skating gold medal back to Russia.

Today in the Winter Olympics feature, we’re going back to Innsbruck, Austria.  As I mentioned before, Innsbruck hosted the Winter Games in 1964.  Twelve years later, the Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck again.  For the first time, ice dancing was an Olympic competition.  This was also the first Olympics where a figure skater performed a back flip as part of his routine.

If we didn’t already know it from the Sachertorte, grostl proves that Austria has some outstanding cuisine to accompany its Olympic history.  Grostl is a favorite in the Tyrol area and it’s easy to see why.  This simple combination of bacon, onion, and potato is possibly my new favorite breakfast food.  Grostl does require potatoes that are cooked in advance and cooled.  To make this without prepping ahead of time, I recommend steaming the potatoes for 20 minutes, then putting them into the refrigerator while you cook the bacon.  My potatoes were a little colder than room temperature after doing it this way, and the finished product was great.  The traditional method of serving grostl is to top a portion with a fried egg, so that the yolk runs into the grostl.  Lane had no complaints about this method; I kept my eggs on the side.  The kiddos devoured this, and I’m putting it on the breakfast plan again soon.

grostl

Grostl (Potato, Bacon, and Onion Hash)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 lb. thick cut smoked bacon, cut into 1/4″-1/2″ wide lardons
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. (a little over is fine) cooked potatoes, cooled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot sweet paprika (or use sweet paprika mixed with a pinch of chili powder)
  • handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the bacon and onion to the skillet and fry together for 10 minutes until the bacon is cooked and the onion is golden.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon mixture from the skillet onto a plate.

If there is more than 4 Tbsp. of grease in the skillet, I suggest pouring some of it out before proceeding.  This isn’t necessary, just recommended.

Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are golden.

Add the caraway and paprika, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the bacon and onion back into the skillet and stir to combine the mixture.

Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is heated through.

Top with the fresh parsley and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: slightly adapted from BBC Good Food

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No Ordinary Love

People are starting to think I’m having some kind of strange affair with my crock pot, I use it so often.  I know many people who only pull out the crock pot for jeans-and-hoodie-weather recipes.  I used to be one of them.  Every time the weather got colder, I’d reach for the crock pot and churn out hearty foods like beef stew and pea soup and keep right on doing that until the first sign of summer.  Now I’ve learned the error of my ways and use the crock pot just as much in hotter weather as I do when the weather is cool.  Need to make dinner and it’s hot and humid and the last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen? The crock pot has it covered.  Add a crock pot liner and you have a dinner that didn’t heat up the kitchen and with no cleanup beyond a skillet and the dishes you use for serving.

In hotter weather the last thing I feel like making for dinner is beef stew, so I’m glad the crock pot is more than just the beef stew machine.  I made these smothered pork chops, and they are a new favorite.  This is possibly one of the easiest meals I’ve ever made, crock pot or not.  If you thought pork chops covered in tasty gravy couldn’t be any better, think again.  Those pork chops could be covered in gravy and bacon, like these.  This is a little more involved than just dumping ingredients into the crock pot and walking away, but not all that much more involved.  You will have to cook the bacon and use the bacon fat to cook the onions.  I do also recommend giving the pork chops a quick trip through the skillet to brown them a little but that’s really more for appearance than anything.  We do eat with our eyes, so I did brown my pork chops but this is just as tasty if you skip that step.  At the end, you will take the extra step of turning the cooking liquid into a fantastic sauce.  So, while this isn’t exactly “set it and forget it” easy, it’s worth the extra steps to enjoy these simmered-all-day pork chops.

crock pot smothered pork chops

Crock Pot Smothered Pork Chops

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick (1-1/2 lbs.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. plus 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 C.  low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned.

Remove the bacon from the skillet using a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel lined plate.  Leave the drippings in the pan (If you have more than 2 Tbsp. of drippings, drain some of the drippings as well.  If you do not have 2 Tbsp. of drippings, add canola or olive oil to make up the difference).

When the bacon is cool, refrigerate until pork chops are almost done.

Heat the skillet with the bacon drippings over medium to medium-high heat until hot.

Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the pork chops.

Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side, just until golden brown on both sides.  Do this in batches if your skillet can’t hold all 4 pork chops in a single layer at one time.

Place the pork chops into the crock pot.

Pour all but 2 tsp. of the fat from the skillet.

Add the onions to the skillet along with 1 tsp. of the brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and 1/4 C. of the water.

Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and cook the onion mixture over medium-high heat for about 4-6 minutes until the onions are soft.

Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook the mixture until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the onion mixture over the pork chops in the crock pot.

Pour the broth, soy sauce, and remaining 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar over the pork chops in the crock pot.

Add the bay leaves to the crock pot.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook for 8 hours on low or about 4 hours on high, until pork chops are tender (I suggest checking at 7 hours for high and 3 hours for low- depending on the pork chops and how hot your crock pot actually gets, they may be done before the 4 or 8 hours).

When you’re ready to serve the pork chops, remove the pork chops to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Remove the bay leaves from the crock pot and discard.

Pour the liquid remaining in the crock pot through a mesh strainer into a saucepan and discard the solids, keeping the liquids in the saucepan.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and remaining 2 Tbsp. of water, and stir the mixture (slurry) into the liquids in the saucepan.

Stir the reserved cooked bacon into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until bubbling and thickened.

Stir in the cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the pork chops.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Like a Lion

I remember being about O’s age and working on lion and lamb paper bag puppets at school, because March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  While the snow that’s falling right now is pretty and all, I’m ready to skip to the lamb part.  About eight inches of accumulation this morning and it looks like maybe a foot by the time this is over today.  It’s crazy that in the aftermath of the blizzard we had last month, I hear that a foot of snow is coming and think that’s really nothing.

My favorite way to warm up the house when it’s snowy and cold outside is to crank up the oven inside.  Pizza Friday is a great excuse to do that, and this pizza makes it a no-brainer.  White pizzas, or pizzas without red sauce, are always harder for me to get excited about, mainly because something has to make up for the lack of sauce and plenty of places don’t get this right.  It takes more than just skipping the tomato sauce to make a white pizza work.  When you top a great pizza crust with a drizzle of olive oil, creamy fresh mozzarella, some thick cut bacon, and thinly sliced browned onions you’ve definitely managed to make it work.

bacon onion pizza

Bacon Onion Pizza 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 recipe basic pizza crust dough (or 1 lb. your favorite pizza crust dough)
  • 8 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • cornmeal, enough to lightly sprinkle onto pan or pizza stone

Directions:

Put an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cook bacon for 2-3 minutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until fat is partially rendered.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Put the onions into the pan with the rendered bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently, 10-12 minutes until browned.

Section the dough into four equal pieces and stretch each portion out into a roughly 12 x 4 inch rectangle.

Place the dough rectangles onto a large baking sheet or pizza stone that has been sprinkled lightly with cornmeal.

Top each piece of dough evenly with mozzarella, then onions, then bacon.

Bake for 12 minutes, until cheese melts and the crust is golden brown (if you want a darker crust broil for 30 seconds to one minute).

Grate Parmesan cheese over each pizza.

Cut and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Three Many Cooks

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Beer Factor

Yesterday, I mentioned various reasons for wanting to make bread bowls for soup.  I blamed it on Panera, and I blamed it on my new obsession with homemade bread.  I lied.  This soup is really what caused me to think about bread bowls (which I previously had zero interest in) constantly.  When I saw this soup, I knew the only thing that could possibly make it better would be to serve it in a carbohydrate vessel.  Once you have beer, cheese, and bacon together in one place the only thing missing from the party is bread.  Or is it that once you have a great bread bowl, the only thing missing is to have beer, cheese, and bacon in one place?  In my case, I saw the soup first and noticed that Jessica (How Sweet It Is) served it in a bread bowl and that she had a recipe for that bread bowl and I couldn’t help but be a total copy cat at that point.

The bread bowls are entirely optional, and I should know because when I inhaled  enjoyed this soup for lunch the following day I put it into a soup mug and still had a “wow this is good” moment with every bite.  For this recipe, freshly grated cheese is the only way to go.  Pre-grated cheese usually has stabilizers in it which are going to keep the cheese from melting just right for this soup.  You are going to taste the beer in here, so choose a beer that you like to drink.  A lighter wheat beer is what was suggested, I used Shock Top Belgian white and thought this was great.  Because of the nature of melted cheese, I recommend eating this the day you make it.  If that’s not possible, add a splash of liquid (milk or more beer) and reheat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Garnish with any herb you like, but I did find that sprinkling some fresh cilantro over this made for even more fantastic eats.  While the bread bowl is optional, it is very highly recommended.

beer cheese soup

Bacon Beer and Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 C. of your favorite beer 
  • 1 C. half and half
  • 4 oz. sharp white cheddar, freshly grated
  • 4 z. extra sharp yellow cheddar, freshly grated
  • 4 oz. Colby jack, freshly grated
  • fresh herbs (I like cilantro) for garnish (optional, but recommended)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the bacon.

Cook until bacon is crispy then remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel-lined plate.

Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, pepper and garlic.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the vegetables are translucent.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the butter.

Once the butter sizzles, add the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes until nutty and golden.

Add in the beer and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the half and half, then reduce the heat to low and gradually add the cheese, stirring constantly.

Stir until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the bacon.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with herbs if using, and serve immediately.

Source: How Sweet It Is

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Stromboli

Plenty of pizza shops and Italian restaurants offer stuffed breads with various fillings, known commonly as stromboli.  It makes me chuckle that it’s considered to be an authentic Italian food when by most accounts, it originates from just outside of Philadelphia.  Wherever it comes from, stromboli is great with a salad as a meal, or sliced up as a snack or appetizer on its own.  The filling can vary as much as you want, based on what you have on hand.  The only thing that’s super consistent with the stromboli I make is that I always use mozzarella or provolone cheese, as they seem to melt up just right to “glue” the whole thing together.  Growing up, we always called it “pepperoni bread,” and my mother always kept her variations simple.  I refer to it as stromboli, because the filling for this isn’t at all limited to pepperoni.  This is a great way to use up leftover meats and vegetables you have hanging around.  For this one I chopped up some ham and some meatballs, then layered them on top of mozzarella and sauce.

Any time I bring this to or serve this at parties, people ask me how I make it.  It’s embarrassingly easy, especially if you already have pizza dough. If you don’t already have pizza dough you can buy it pre-made at most grocery stores (just be sure to buy it thawed, not frozen) and some local pizza shops will even sell you their dough if you ask.  Making your own isn’t difficult if you choose that route.  For the one below, I used pre-made pizza dough that I had leftover from a make your own pizza party.  Whatever method you use to obtain the dough, let it come to room temperature and rise before rolling it out.  As far as fillings, the sky is the limit except where volume is concerned.  I try to use about 6-8 ounces of shredded or sliced cheese, and then not more than two cups of toppings not including a thin layer of sauce if I’m adding any.  Otherwise, I find it difficult to roll this neatly and tightly and maintain a good seal.  The kids devoured this, but then again I’m not sure who wouldn’t.

stromboli

Stromboli

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pizza dough, risen and at room temperature
  • 6-8 oz. sliced or shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese (can use other cheeses, these work best for me)
  • 1 C. pizza sauce (optional)
  • up to 2 C. toppings such as: ham, chopped meatballs, chopped broccoli, olives, mushrooms, etc.
  • olive oil

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush the parchment paper with olive oil.  Alternately, you can use a large pizza stone if the final 14 inch stromboli will fit.

Stretch or roll dough out on a floured surface to a 10×14 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the rolled out dough.

Spread the sauce, if using, evenly across the cheese (the cheese goes first to avoid having the sauce seep through the bread making the stromboli soggy).

Sprinkle the toppings evenly over the sauce and cheese.

Roll the dough tightly, folding the long edge in on itself and repeating until the dough is tightly and completely rolled up into a 14 inch long log.

Press the ends to seal in the toppings and check to make sure there are no open tears in the dough.  If there are tears, press the dough together to seal the tears so that the sauce and cheese don’t bubble out of the bread.

Place the stromboli onto the prepared baking sheet or onto the pizza stone.

Brush the top of the stromboli with olive oil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the dough is cooked through.

Slice into 1 inch slices and serve hot.

Makes: approximately 14 one-inch servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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New Year’s Eve at Home

As 2012 comes to a close tonight, I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends at home tonight.  I’ve enjoyed New Year’s Eve a number of ways in the past- sometimes visiting friends, sometimes hosting parties at home, and sometimes hanging out on the couch eating Chinese food and waiting to see the ball drop on tv.  This year, we’re enjoying the evening at home with M and O, and a dear friend of mine and her two girls.  I won’t be making fancy things, or coming up with signature drinks.  Instead, we’ll have some kid-friendly snacks (snacks as a meal are a New Year’s Eve guilty pleasure tradition for me), maybe in our pajamas, and see which of the grown-ups is snoring first.

I had a good year here at Diana’s Dishes, and it seemed fitting to celebrate that as I look forward to a better one in 2013.  A lot of posts were competing for popularity on here, but these are the top ten as determined by my readers.

soft pretzel#10 Soft Pretzels

I made these for day 6 of my Summer Olympics feature, showing foods from countries that have hosted the Summer Games.  These soft pretzels, for Munich, are easier than they look and incredibly delicious.

cannoli cupcake

#9  Cannoli Cupcakes

What happens when the birthday girl loves cannolis and the baker can’t find her cannoli forms?  These cannoli cupcakes, which made a delicious dessert for M’s eighth birthday.

barbecue sauce

#8  Homemade Barbecue Sauce

I made a huge batch of this and put it in jars for both of my dads, and for Lane as a Father’s Day gift and it met with rave reviews. Definitely man-approved.

monster cookies (1280x856)

#7 One Bowl Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chcolate Chip M&M Cookies

We had absolutely no trouble working our way quickly through four dozen of these easy one-bowl cookies.

waffle

#6  Basic Belgian Waffles

Ditch the boxed mix and make fresh waffles.  These are amazing with fruit and whipped cream or butter and syrup.  Make a big batch and freeze them for another day!

arroz con pollo

#5 Cheater’s Arroz con Pollo

An amazingly easy chicken and rice dish, simplifying a classic.

fomushrooms

#4 French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

There are hardly words for how delicious these are.  Oh, and if you were wondering how “Lane” got his nickname, this would be an entertaining post to read.

baconlayerbark

#3  Milk Chocolate Whisky Marshmallow Candied Bacon Bark

There are hardly words for how absolutely amazing this stuff is.  I made it for a New Year’s Eve party last year, and a year later, we’re still talking about it.

smores bars

#2  S’mores Bars

When I ask if I can bring anything to a party, the answer now is almost always “yes, those amazing s’mores bars.”  Every bit as delicious as traditional s’mores, but without the open flame and sticks.

honey ginger chicken wing

# 1  Honey Ginger Baked Chicken Wings

Great for a snack anytime, super for a party and easy on your waistline since they’re baked, not fried.  Isn’t the Super Bowl coming up?

While I completely enjoyed every one of the things in my top ten as determined by my readers, there were a few things that were my personal favorites that didn’t make the list.  I’d like to take a moment and give these ten recipes the love they deserve, in no particular order.

high heel cupcake 2

The high heel cupcakes I made for my birthday.  Time consuming? Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely.  We’re still talking about these!

cookiepuss

The homemade Cookie Puss ice cream cake replica I made for Lane’s birthday.  This was worth the effort, and I solved the mystery of how to make amazing ice cream cake cookie crunchies.

perry the platypus cake

The Perry the Platypus cake I made for O’s birthday.  Perry starts out as a pound cake!

fettucine alfredo

Fettucini Alfredo, for my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  It turned out to be her final birthday, and I’m glad I got a chance to make her one of her favorite dishes.

chickensandwich

The chicken sandwich that was so good, it changed my life.

bacon roses

Roses, made out of bacon.  I’m sure no further explanation is necessary.

blue moon cupcake

Blue Moon beer cupcakes to celebrate the blue moon we had in August.  Hope you made it count!

apple crumble pieApple crumble pie we made after apple picking.  It was the first project I took on with Chef M and Chef O, and I can still hear O declaring his love for the “apple peeler machine.”

cranberry apple sangriaCranberry Apple Sangria.  This delicious (and easy) beverage saved my sanity this holiday season.

cheesecake3Classic cheesecake.  I brought this for dessert the first time I met Lane’s family and it was enjoyed by all.

Looking through the twenty posts above has provided me with a great look back at 2012, and I can’t wait to share the excitement of 2013 with all of you.  Happy New Year!

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