Sauteed Spinach with Bacon

Sauteed Spinach w/Bacon
original Joelen recipe

1-2 packages fresh baby spinach leaves

5 slices canadian bacon, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

In a saute pan, melt butter and saute garlic and bacon.
When bacon is crisp, add chicken broth and spinach; toss until it wilts.
Serve immediately.

German BBQ Potato Salad

I made the following for my Oktoberfest event. You can read and get other recipes from the event HERE.

Joelen’s German BBQ Potato Salad
recipe adapted from HERE

6 large potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 cup Bermuda onions, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup salad oil
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 egg
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Thoroughly wash potatoes and boil with the skins on until tender (about 25 minutes). Remove potatoes from pan and drain the water. Return the potatoes to the pot and place over a low heat shaking constantly to dry the potatoes. Peel and chop potatoes into 1/4-inch pieces. Place potato pieces in a large bowl and toss with onions, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside. Meanwhile combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Whisk egg in a bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over top while stirring. Add salad oil and stir. Pour this mixture over potatoes and place in a large skillet or pot over a low heat. Cook until evenly heated. Top with crumbled bacon.

Dates Wrapped in Bacon

The following recipe was made and shared at my Tapas party. You can read about the event and view links to the other recipes shared HERE.

Dates Wrapped in Bacon
shared at the event by Fatima
recipe from here

6 slices very lean bacon,7 inches long,halved crosswise
12 pitted medjool dates
light brown sugar (optional)

Soak 12 tooth picks in water for 15 minutes; preheat oven to 500°; line a jelly roll with parchment paper.

Wrap each date with a piece of bacon and skewer with a toothpick; place seam side down on the baking sheet; sprinkle with brown sugar if desired.

Bake 6 minutes or until well browned; rotate and bake 2-4 minutes more until bacon is crisp; drain on paper towels; cool a bit and serve.

Braised Chicken with Onions, Garlic, and Balsamic Vinegar

The follow recipe was shared at my Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Event. You can read and view links to other recipes that were featured HERE.

Braised Chicken with Onions, Garlic, and Balsamic Vinegar
shared at the event by Mary
recipe from Gourmet Magazine

6 bacon slices (4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips (lardons)
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 pound onions or shallots, thinly sliced
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Cook bacon in a deep, 12-inch, heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning twice, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and reserve bacon fat in skillet.

While bacon is cooking, pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown in bacon fat, beginning with skin side down, in 2 batches, over moderately high heat, turning, about 8 minutes. Transfer browned chicken with tongs to a plate, and pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

Lower heat, add onions to skillet and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and pale golden, about 10 minutes.

Remove lid and cook onions, stirring, until deep golden, about 10 minutes more. Add garlic and 1 cup water to skillet and boil, stirring, 1 minute.

Return chicken to skillet, turning pieces to coat, then arrange them skin sides up and gently simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through and garlic is tender, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken with tongs to a serving dish. Add vinegar to sauce and boil, uncovered, mashing garlic with back of a spoon or a potato masher, until slightly thickened. Season sauce with salt and pepper and pour over chicken, then sprinkle with bacon.

Can you Carbonara?

Several years ago, I went to Europe (specifically, Paris and London) for my birthday. I’ve always treated myself to travel on my birthdays and its a great reason to get out and see the world. While in Paris, I remember having dinner with my friend, Jodi. I’ll never forget what I ordered – Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

It was the very first time I ever had this dish and ever since, I was always hesitant to make it at home. Maybe it was the timing involved… I had to time it just right so I got the perfect consistency. Maybe it was the nervousness of using raw egg and leaving it to the mercy of the residual heat of my pasta to cook it enough. But I’ve overcome those concerns and have made Spaghetti Alla Carbonara confidently. How? With the help of my trusty America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. What we wanted: Restaurant carbonara is often an unctuous, congealed mass of cheese, eggs and bacon. We set out to make the sauce silky and smooth.

What we learned: Use a blend of cheeses for the right flavor, combine the cheeses and eggs in a small bowl and pour this mixture over the host pasta for even coverage. Use regular American bacon, white wine and raw garlic to balance the richness of the eggs and cheese. Also, add sea salt flakes to the pasta cooking water. We like the full flavor they bring to the carbonara.

This recipe has never failed me and the result is a smooth, creamy sauce… perfectly balanced with the pasta and bacon. The hint of wine carries nicely into the bacon and throughout the dish. This is definitely a winner! Here is the recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook, pages 17-19:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound bacon (6-8 slices), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 pound spaghetti
sea salt
ground black pepper
basil, chiffonade for garnish

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set heatproof serving bowl on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees. (I just microwaved my serving/mixing bowl for 5-7 minutes to keep it nice and hot.) Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large stockpot.

2. While water is heating, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp. about 8 minutes. Add wine and simmer until alcohol aroma has cooked off and wine is slightly reduced 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Beat eggs, cheeses, and garlic together with fork in small bowl; set aside.

3. When water comes to boil, add pasta and 1 tablespoon sea salt; stir to separate pasta. Cook until al dente; reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta for about 5 seconds, leaving pasta slightly wet. Transfer drained pasta to warm serving bowl;l if pasta appears dry, add some reserved cooking water and toss to moisten. Immediately pour egg mixture over hot pasta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or 3/4 teaspoon table salt; toss well to combine. Pour bacon mixture over pasta, season generously with black pepper, and toss well to combine. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Wild for Wildfire Salad!

One of my favorite salads comes from a regional restaurant chain, Wildfire. It’s a restaurant where I’ve celebrated some memorable occassions such as past birthdays of mine, family members and friends, and even our engagement party. In fact the last time I went to Wildfire was 2 years ago, which was when we had our engagement party. But back to the salad… Wildfire has an amazing chopped salad. The citrus lime vinaigrette is what completes this salad for me and I remember several years ago, I even called the local restaurant requesting to speak to the chef in hopes of getting the recipe for the vinaigrette. But no such luck.

Forwarding to present day, I was reminded of the restaurant by a friend and all the memories of this salad came flooding back. I checked out their website to see if any changes have been made to their menu. Little did I know that since the last time I’ve been to Wildfire, they began bottling the citrus lime vinaigrette. I loved so much!

That same day, I made a stop at Wildfire on the way home and picked up 2 bottles of this prized vinaigrette. Tonight, I used it and recreated the Wildfire Chopped Salad… and boy, it definitely hit the spot.
Here’s the recipe for Wildfire’s Signature Chopped Salad
(which is also printed on the bottled dressing label)

1 bag of mixed greens or chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup chopped roasted chicken
1 avocado diced
1 tomato, seeded & diced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup cooked bacon, crumbled
1 scallon, sliced thinly
1/2 cup super sweet corn
fried corn tortilla strips, for garnish
1-2 tablespoons Wildfire Citrus Lime Vinaigrette

Toss all ingredients in a large salad bowl.
Serve immediately.

BBQ Potato Salad

We made the following dish during the Tailgating Cooking Class I hosted. You can view pics of the event HERE.

BBQ Potato Salad

2 lbs red potatoes

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

2-3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon BBQ rub seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1/2 cup crispy bacon, crumbled

1/4 cup chives or green onion

Boil potatoes in water until tender; drain.

Place potatoes in large bowl and coursely chop in chunks.

Add mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream, BBQ seasoning, salt and black pepper; combine.

Gently fold in eggs, bacon, chives/green onion.

Cover and chill at least 2 hours up to overnight to meld flavors.

Sprinkle additional bacon, chives/green onion and BBQ seasoning to taste and for color.

BLT – Bacon Lovin’ Treat

Another day at home so for lunch, I decided to make a long time favorite… BLTs. Rather than cooking up the bacon on the stovetop, I baked it in the oven. It’s easier, less clean up and allows more effective use of my time.I didn’t toast the bread, but still good nonetheless. Ideally, I would have served this on a homemade rosemary, garlic & sundried tomato bread I made… but I was too hungry to wait.

8 Layer Salad

8 Layer Salad
Combine your preferred amounts of the following building from bottom to top in a trifle bowl. Allow salad to chill at least 2 hours or even overnight before serving.

Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Salad Dressing seasoned with garlic powder
Chopped Bacon

Hungry for Hungarian!

Every first Saturday of the month, the Un-Gourmet International Cooking Club gets together to create an amazing pot luck dinner highlighting various cuisines around the world. I’ve been a part of this talented group for over a year and it’s steadily growing. We’ve even been featured in a local magazine, Time Out Chicago! Tonight we feasted on a table full of HUNGARIAN dishes.
Hungarian food is known for its exotic, tasty and spicy food and delicious wine. What is different about Hungarian cooking? In general, the preference is for rich and spicy sauces, stews and sweets over rather “drier” dishes. Common ingredient staples found in the cuisine include pepper, pork, fresh green peppers & tomatoes, sour cream and sweet paprika.

For the pot luck dinner, I brought in Hungarian Style Spinach (Magyaros Spenotfozelek):

1 lb fresh spinach or swiss chard, cooked, drained & chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove of fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 cup of cream or milk

— Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat with the garlic. Saute for a minute, but do not let it burn.
— Add the flour to the butter/garlic mixture to make a roux.
— Add salt, pepper and heat until mixture bubbles, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
— Gradually add cream or milk; return to heat and stir until mixture is smooth & thickened.
— Add spinach to sauce and serve. Serves 4

and I also brought in Hot Bacon Potato Salad & Sausage (Sultszalonnas Krumplisalata):

8 whole red potatoes, washed
1 small onion
1/4 lb bacon
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
polish kielbasa sausage, cooked & sliced on bias

— Cook potatoes in boiling water. Peel & cut in slices. Place in mixing bowl.
— Dice & fry bacon until almost crisp. Add to mixing bowl.
— Saute diced onion in bacon fat and add to mixing bowl.
— In remaining bacon fat, add the flour and cook until smooth and bubbly. Add a touch of butter if there is not enough bacon fat.
— When roux is formed, add vinegar, sugar, salt and water to make a medium sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
— Pour sauce over ingredients in mixing bowl, toss and mix to combine.
— Add salt to taste if desired. Top with sliced cooked sausage. Serves 4.