Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

In keeping with the theme of bacon (because, why not?!) I am going to introduce a recipe that is completely random given that it is July 1st, not April – lets blame it on the 108 degree heat today. While yes, this concoction was created out of necessity for Passover, the Jewish holiday where eating bread or any other leavened products is a no-no for over a week, I see no reason why it can’t be a year-round staple.

As far as Passover goes, bread I can honestly do without – I am a fan of the matzo. All things matzo – matzo brie (sort of like french toast, with matzo), matzo pizza, and so on. I also love Passover – I love a good sedar and I love the challenge of trying to stay bread (and other leavened products)-free for as long as I can. However, it is the lack of sweets that always gets me. Passover sweets (fake cookies and cakes) are rarely any good. Thank GOODNESS for my friend Nicole, who introduced me to Matzo Crack – a delicious chocolate caramel covered matzo deliciousness. It doesn’t matter that I was unaware of this creation until college, nor that it was my non-Jewish friend who was never required to eat matzo that introduced it to me – all that matters is that I now am in on the “secret.” And this year, I felt that it was my responsibility to make my contribution.

This year was not the best year for my favorite holiday. It was busy busy (again, grad school, ugh); not only did my clinic schedule keep me from going home, I didn’t even attend a sedar. Womp womp. Now, don’t start feeling bad for me though. I had fun experimenting with some new types of matzo pizza (I used kale! and paired it with tortilla espanol…kosher Italian Spanish fusion time). I also made some matzo brie, some charoset, AND in exchange for some matzo crack, I even got myself some delicious homemade matzo ball soup courtesy of my awesome cooking class teacher/fantastic cook/dietician friend. Not too shabby.

Of course, Passover came and went and I was left with boxes upon boxes of matzo (I always buy too much. ALWAYS!). So, rather than wait and see if it would stay good for until next year (I bet it would have), I decided to take matzo crack to the next level. A level that was far more unhealthy and ridiculous than it had been before, not to mention completely un-kosher.

My new creation was inspired by a vendor selling candied bacon at the annual Terrapin Brewery carnival. After a few glasses of Terrapin’s super strong 10th anniversary beer, I could not resist the tempting scent of candied bacon being sold. It looked so good and I was so excited…only to be told I had to wait 15 minutes for the next batch. Fine. What wasn’t fine though? That when I returned 15 minutes later the vendor had almost sold the last of the bacon to SOMEONE ELSE. Unacceptable. I did finally get my bacon, and it was so good that I had to share. This left me with very little pork candy to myself, which led me to the obvious conclusion that I must make my very own candied bacon, which I did bright and early the following morning.

Then I got really creative – why not crumble that on top of matzo that has already been covered in caramel and chocolate?! And thus, Candied Bacon Matzo Crack was born. I do not regret creating this spectacular snack, potentially the most unhealthy and un-kosher concoction I have ever come up with; however, it will likely be awhile before I attempt it again. Not for health reasons (well maybe a little bit for health reasons…maybe this should be a once a year thing), nah, really it is because making candied bacon was a mess and a half. Messy, but delicious. So, please don’t let the mess prevent you from trying this at least once, it is worth it. And now for the recipe, inspired by Nicole and the rude vendor that almost didn’t give me bacon:

Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

Bacon

  • 4 strips of thick sliced bacon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Cayenne pepper OR Sriracha to taste

Matzo Crack

  • 4-5 pieces of lightly salted matzo – egg or flour (enough to fully cover a cookie sheet)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 12 oz bag chocolate chips (my faves – basic Nestle or bittersweet Ghirardelli chips if you want to get fancy)

Preheat oven to 400. Place a wire cooking rack on top of a baking sheet completely lined with foil. Toss bacon strips with brown sugar and hot spice of your choice. I used a few drops of Sriracha and it was perfect (in my Sriracha-obsessed opinion). Lay bacon strips flat on the wire rack and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Line another baking sheet with foil and cover completely with matzo (unfortunately, you will have to do some maneuvering with the matzo, keeping the crackers whole won’t cover a baking sheet – rather, break it up and piece it together…like a puzzle!). Meanwhile, cook butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly (I find that caramel burns easily, it my easily distracted experience). Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue mixing for about 3 minutes until it foams up and the sugar seems completely dissolved in the butter. Pour the caramel over the matzo and spread into a thin layer with a spatula. Stick the caramel matzo into the oven for 10-15 minutes – the caramel will start to bubble, and I always want to take it out too early – DON’T! Or you will be left with grainy-ish caramel like I have been, and nobody wants that. Once all of the caramel is bubbling, take it out of the oven and cover with chocolate chips. Wait 5 minutes and then spread into a thin layer with a spatula (if you don’t wait long enough, it is very difficult to spread – trust me, I know). Now, crumble some of that delicious bacon on top* and stick in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened (about 45 minutes 😦 ). Break into pieces and store in a tightly sealed tupperware container (who am I kidding, it rarely lasts long enough to make it to the storage phase).

*Obviously, this could be made without the candied bacon, but why?!

 

Advertisements

BACON (+ some other stuff) PASTA

So, I am a little sad that I have not been able to update this blog as often as I would like – who would have thought things as silly as school and life might get in the way of food blogging?! Crazy. So, now that my fantasies of cooking a new inventive creation and updating daily are behind me (at least until I can get this grad school nonsense out of the way), I am going to admit that I haven’t cooked anything this week. My excuses? Midterm in my single subjects research class (stressful situations like that drive me straight to the bacon – bacon cheeseburgers + tots + jalapeno ranch dipping sauce to be exact – ooo if ANYONE can help me figure out a way to create that wonderful dipping sauce that they make here at Clocked in Athens, I would be forever grateful – but I digress).

judge away but if anything can help de-stress after a long day (or multiple days) of studying and class-ing and midterm-ing – it is this amazingness from Clocked.

Another reason not to cook?! CHIPOTLE finally opened in Athens…not that I have been excited about that or anything…

And yet another reason why I just don’t have the time – when I wasn’t studying/mildly freaking out about studying/in class, I was anxiously sitting by my computer listening to my favorite old radio station (WHFS) to win tickets to see The Gaslight Anthem. I am still having a hard time believing this but my hard work paid off – I ACTUALLY WON. I cannot even begin to express my excitement to be seeing one of my top 5 favorite bands (with one of my favorite concert companions!) in a teeny tiny venue in DC.

So, all together, despite the lack of activity in my kitchen and whole midterm thing, this is turning out to be possibly the BEST. WEEK. EVER.

My “OMG I CAN’T CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT BETWEEN GASLIGHT ANTHEM AND CHIPOTLE” face (otherwise known as the dorky face I make while dancing)

So, anyways, aside from sharing my fun news with the internet – I do have a recipe to share (that is the whole point, right?). This recipe for Bacon Pasta is from pre-blog days (aka about 2 months ago), when I first started making a concerted effort towards using my leftovers.

Usually I forget about any produce or leftovers I have from previous cooking endeavors and things end up going bad and getting thrown out – horrible waste, I KNOW. I have been trying to be better about that lately; this recipe was created out of me attempting responsibility and using leftovers before they grew mold. For once, I thought to combine ingredients I actually had on hand (what a novel idea) from the previous weeks risotto and some canned and frozen veggies to make what turned out to be a pretty tasty pasta dish. With no recipe to guide me, I threw together some bacon, chicken, frozen peas, pasta, plus a few other odds and ends to create a rich and super filling pasta dish for the week. Now, if only I could do this more often…

Now, I recommend throwing on The 59 Sound by The Gaslight Album (if you don’t have it or have never heard of them, do yourself a favor and go get it! Or at least hear it out on Spotify…along with the rest of their albums) and whipping up some yummy, bacon-y pasta while dancing around the kitchen. At least that’s what I like to do.

Bacon Pasta…w/ Chicken, Peas, & Thyme Too!

  • 1/2 pound chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup bacon, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatos
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

Bring water to a boil, add salt, and cook pasta al dente. Meanwhile, salt and pepper chicken breasts (both sides!). I bought chicken tenders – smaller/thinner/cheaper/faster cooking. Drizzle olive oil in pan and fry chicken breasts, about 4 minutes on each side. Once cooled, shred. Cook bacon for a few minutes to render fat. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onions, cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, lemon juice and thyme, raise heat to medium and reduce. Once slightly reduced, add cream. Cook for a few minutes, then add chicken and pasta. Right before turning off stove, add peas. Scoop into bowls, top with some freshly grated parm, and dig in.

Garlic & Herb White Bean Dip

This white bean dip – slightly adapted from a Giada De Laurentis recipe – has been my go to dip for when I need to bring something to party that isn’t a baked good or when I have people over. It is always a big hit, but for some reason when it comes to just normal weeks with no food parties, I would just go to the grocery store and buy packaged hummus or some other dip (I am a bit of a dip fiend). Even though the grocery store stuff was nowhere near as satisfying as Giada’s white bean dip, I never thought to whip up a batch of the dip JUST FOR ME. What was I thinking?! Luckily, I recently came to the realization that I was being silly and started making it almost every other week. This dip is way easy to make, pretty inexpensive, and generally healthier than most of the pre-packaged products at the store. And it is TASTY!

Giada might as well have called it garlic dip – the taste of garlic is super strong, but it works well with the smoothness of the white beans plus the herbs and lemon. Now I like the extreme garlicky-ness, but if garlic breath isn’t your thing – I recommend roasting the garlic before adding it, or only adding 1 clove.

I recently made this dip to eat for lunch paired with some carrots, broccoli, and sliced up zucchini (trying to be somewhat healthy to make up for the fact that I have been sitting in the clinic for 12+ hours a day). Also for the sake of being healthy, I cut down the amount of olive oil from 1/3 cup to about 3 tablespoons – and guess what?! It still tasted great and had that smooth, creamy texture. I added some basil leftover from the farmers market, a welcome addition to the dip in my opinion. My only wish was that I had some Marti’s at Midday pita chips to dip in it along with the veggies…but oh yeah, that whole healthy thing. For the original recipe – see White Bean Dip with Pita Chips Recipe : Giada De Laurentiis : Recipes : Food Network.

Garlic & Herb White Bean Dip

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves**
  • salt + freshly ground pepper

Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley (or other herbs of your choice) into a food processor and pulse until mixture is smooth (or more coarsely chopped depending on preference). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Voila – easiest. dip. ever.

*I don’t know if this is just me – but I always seem to have a hard time finding cannellini beans at the store. They are also known as white kidney beans. I did not realize this, but since making that realization, finding them has been much easier!

**I used 1/2 parsley and 1/2 basil. I have also made the dip with dried oregano, which turned out good as well. The fresh herbs are definitely better, but it seems to work with a variety of fresh and dried – so experiment!

 

Rainy Day Caprese Quinoa Salad

This is what it looked like outside today:

YUCK! So…this is what came out of my kitchen today:

That’s right, the rain (plus my horribly busy crazy unhappy week with clinic and then friends leaving for internship 😦 ) drove me to make Strawberry Biscuits (recipe posted only a few days ago on Smitten Kitchen that I could not wait to make), Blueberry Raspberry Lime Salsa (I got a taste of that yesterday at the farmer’s market – amazing), and Quinoa Caprese Salad. Nothing quite like unwinding in the kitchen – cooking and listening to music (today, The Menzingers – one of the bands opening for The Bouncing Souls in Atlanta this week. I hadn’t heard them before…pretty good!). Plus bonus – looks like I made enough food to last the week! Stay tuned for a post on the salsa – I have to get back to school stuff at some point since tomorrow is Monday 😦 For now, the Quinoa Caprese Salad!

I’m going to be honest, I am not typically the biggest fan of raw tomatoes. However, something miraculous happens when you combine them with some basil, garlic, balsamic, olive oil, and fresh mozzarella. I think the people of Italy were on to something there with the invention of Caprese salads. This weekend at the farmer’s market, I picked up some fresh tomatoes (they always taste better when it gets warmer out) and basil. The minute I bought those 2 ingredients, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be picking up some fresh mozzarella. Now these weren’t the cheapest ingredients, so I justified my spending by promising myself I’d eat this salad every day for lunch. My only concern was that the teeny amount of protein in the mozzarella would not be enough to get me through the day, which sparked a light bulb moment! Of course, I should throw some quinoa in there for protein to make the meal a bit more filling (I thought I was being oh so creative here…then I google searched “quinoa caprese salad” out of curiosity and my bubble was burst. Oh well, while it may not be groundbreaking it is at least healthy and tasty). I am not lying when I say I am super pumped to eat this for lunch this week.

Caprese Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped*
  • A few basil leaves, loosely chopped/torn apart
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup (or so) fresh mozzarella (I used cherry-sized Ciliegine, cut into fourths)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt + pepper

Prepare quinoa and let cool. I usually use a ratio of about 1 cup dry quinoa to 1.5 cups of liquid (for this recipe I used lightly salted water). While quinoa is cooling, combine the tomatoes, onion, basil, and garlic. Add balsamic and olive oil (everyone’s taste is different but I think I ended up using about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar) as well as salt and pepper to taste. Add quinoa, taste, season more if necessary. Enjoy!!

Note: I added the quinoa as a last step, but then realized that more seasoning was needed (especially more balsamic). In the future, I think I will add the quinoa before the salt/pepper/olive oil/balsamic, and even maybe try a balsamic reduction to increase the balsamic-y flavor, but for now, this version is more than acceptable (in my opinion!).

*I know that onions and garlic aren’t typically found in Caprese salads, but they are two loves of mine (and they help mask the tomato taste)

Chickpeas – it is finally time to eat you! Plus – 15 More Ways to Flavor Roasted Chickpeas | The Kitchn

Cluster analysis chapter read! Complete understanding of cluster analysis and how I will successfully use it in my thesis study…not so much (All in good time…I hope). However, that doesn’t matter right now – my goal was to finish the chapter and that goal was met!

Here is my update – the chickpeas were good! Cruncy, salty, and savory – a worthy alternative to potato chips in my opinion, and healthier. Next time, I think I will use a little more olive oil and cook for a few minutes longer (I found a few uncrispy chickpeas in the mix). I also want to switch up the spice blend next time – I liked mine a lot, but this soy sauce/sesame oil/chili powder variation from thekitchn.com sounds AMAZING!

15 More Ways to Flavor Roasted Chickpeas | The Kitchn.