Tag Archives: bacon

Mushroom Duo

Spring is finally here … daffodils are the first flowers that bloom in my ‘garden’.

I didn’t grow up eating mushrooms. In fact, my first exposure to them came in the form of canned mushrooms which, texturally, didn’t appeal to me at all.

And then I discovered fresh mushrooms, especially the ubiquitous white, button mushrooms that are often found on sale. They used to be available loose in grocery stores but now, they’re usually packaged in half and full pound versions, sliced or whole.

BUYING TIPS for button mushrooms: If possible, buy them whole as they’ll last longer. Also, make sure that the mushrooms in the package are compact and white without the browning ‘gills’ being exposed. Gills are an indicator of maturing/mature mushrooms and the flavour is more intense. If you want a ‘cleaner’ presentation, stick to the young, solid white mushrooms. Size is not an indicator of maturity so don’t be fooled. There’s also less wastage if you buy young mushrooms since, as they mature, the stems become tough and ‘woody’ and you’ll want to discard them.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

I used one of the pre-baked shells from the coconut cream pie recipe. With the additional baking and the savoury filling the pastry was perfect, backing up my belief that under-baking was one reasons for the disappointing cream pie result.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche – serves 1

1 5 1/2 inch pre-baked pie shell
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2-3 strips crispy bacon, sliced
1-3 (depending on size) mushrooms, diced
2-3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pie shell on a baking sheet to prevent spillage during transport. Spread the bacon and mushrooms over the base of the pie shell.  Sprinkle some of the cheese over the top.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, salt and nutmeg. Pour the custard mixture over the contents of the pie shell. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar over the top.

Transfer the baking sheet and quiche into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set. Let cool and serve with a salad for a light lunch.

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi – serves 2

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced and diced
1 small red, orange or yellow sweet pepper, medium diced
9-12 large raw shrimp, peeled except for the tail
2-3 tbsp green onion tops for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder

200 gm fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

In a small bowl, combine the raw shrimp, a pinch or two of salt and the garlic powder. Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top and saute until most of the moisture is gone and the mushrooms are lightly golden. Add the diced peppers and saute for another couple of minute until barely tender.

Push the vegetables to one side and add the seasoned shrimp. Saute just until the start getting pink on one side and then turn and continue sauteing until the second side is also pink and the shrimp have started to curl up. Combine the shrimp and veggies, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta, stir through to coat with the butter and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning a final time.

Divide the pasta evenly onto two plates, sprinkle the green onion tops over the pasta and serve

BONUS: Tortilla pizzas topped with the last of the mushrooms in the veggie crisper.

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Creamy Avocado Pasta and a Quick Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Cooking for one can be a chore, but these two pasta dishes need few ingredients, and can be made at the end of a tiring work day. In fact, waiting for the water to boil takes longer than actually cooking/assembling the dish. You can use leftover pasta warmed in very hot tap water if you’re in a hurry. (Or heat 2 cups of water to a boil in the microwave and dilute with a cup of tap water.)

The creaminess of the sauce for this dish owes nothing to cream, butter or even cheese, just a whole avocado mashed with a fork, a bit of lemon juice to cut through its bland richness, and salt and pepper to taste. I’ve seen recipes that add whole kernel corn, diced whole or halved cherry tomatoes but I was too lazy to thaw the corn and didn’t have (nor do I like) raw tomato.

Avocado Pasta

Creamy Avocado Pasta – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of garlic powder
1 small avocado
1 green onion, top only, thinly sliced on diagonal (for garnish)
2-3 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
2 tbsp fresh corn kernels, or thawed and drained (optional)
dry red pepper flakes (optional, for garnish)

Slice the avocado in half, pit and scoop out the meat into a medium sized bowl. Add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch each of salt, pepper and garlic powder and use a fork to mash the avocado into a fairly smooth paste. (I like to leave some smaller chunks for texture.) Add the cooked pasta and 2 tbsp of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir together. Taste. If the sauce seems bland, add a bit more lemon juice. If it’s too thick, add some more reserved pasta cooking water. Adjust salt and pepper amounts to taste.

Sprinkle the tomatoes and corn over the pasta and stir in. Sprinkle on the green onion and red pepper flake garnishes, if using.

Serve immediately as it will not keep.

I’ve made spaghetti carbonara before but am repeating my ‘recipe’ for one person, with the addition of asparagus, cause I had some in the fridge. Delicious, creamy without using ANY cream and fast to put together.

Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
6-8 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
3-4 strips bacon**, fried until crispy and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, reserve some of the fat to cook the asparagus  and add to sauce
1 tbsp bacon fat**
1 egg yolk
2-4 tbsp ground Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

** Vegetarian Option: In place of the bacon/bacon fat, use 1/4 cup coarse seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil to saute the asparagus and toast up the bread crumbs.

Cook the pasta just before assembling the dish or rewarm by dipping in some very hot water, if using leftover pasta. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tbsp bacon fat and a couple of tbsp of the cooled pasta cooking water.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, saute the asparagus, just until tender using the remaining 1/2 tbsp of the bacon fat. Sprinkle some salt and freshly ground black pepper over the asparagus.

Add the diced bacon strips and re-crisp if using leftovers.

Add the warm pasta and stir to combine and to warm through the pasta.

Take the saute pan OFF the heat and pour the yolk mixture over the hot pasta. Stir well to coat the pasta with the mixture. The grainy mixture will smooth out and become creamy and slightly thickened. Add additional warm pasta cooking water if needed. Season with more salt if needed.

Serve immediately with additional freshly ground pepper over the top.

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon)

A quick and simple noodle dish with few ingredients, and, if you already have some egg noodles in your pantry, you just have to cook the pasta and assemble the dish.

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon) – serves 1

3-4 strips of crispy bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp of bacon fat, melted
1 serving of cooked egg noodles
1/4 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and combine the hot noodles with the melted bacon fat, then stir in the cottage cheese. (If your noodles have cooled, you can add the cottage cheese and warm them in the microwave just long enough to warm up the cottage cheese. You DON’T want to cook the cottage cheese.) Stir in the chopped bacon leaving some for garnish.

Season with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling the last of the bacon over the top.

I had the day off so I decided to make fresh egg noodles rather than cooking dried ones from my pantry.

Pie … Sweet or Savoury

I haven’t made a pie in ages but the various flyer sales for stone fruits (nectarines, peaches and plums) tempted me and so I scoped out what was available. I ended up going to Food Basic and picking up a clamshell of nectarines cause I had a bad experience with last year’s basket of peaches. They were firm but not as sweet as I would have liked and I had to guess-timate how much sugar to add. I erred on the side of caution. With a scoop of ice cream the result was perfect but it was a bit tart on its own.

The next question was … which of several pie crust recipes should I use. I went with the one on the Crisco vegetable shortening package, though I replaced half the shortening with unsalted butter. The recipe makes enough pastry for a single double crust pie, but I made two minis in disposable aluminum pie tins instead.

Crisco Pie Crust Recipe – makes 1 double crust pastry, ~580 gm pastry, enough for 2 8″ bases, and 2 6 1/2″ tops, plus leftover pastry

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup vegetable shortening (or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening)**
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp ice cold water
1 tbsp vinegar

** What I used this time

 

Nectarine/Peach Mini Pie Filling Recipe – rough formula for filling

2 – 2 1/2 nectarines per mini pie shell
1 tbsp sugar per nectarine (if the fruit is fully sweet, reduce to 2 tbsp per each 3 nectarines)
1/2 tbsp cornstarch** per nectarine
pinch of salt

** If planning to freeze baked tart, use flour, otherwise, use cornstarch. For every 1 tbsp of cornstarch, you’ll need to use about 3 tbsp of flour. Also, cook whatever you’re thickening a few minutes longer to get rid of the raw flavor of the flour. Baking should take care of that issue. Plus, the filling will be more matte than glossy when using flour.

Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

Bake pies for 35-40 minutes on a baking sheet in case of overflow or melting of butter

The remaining pastry became a savoury tart with broccoli, Canadian (peameal) bacon and cheddar cheese. No waste at all. Though I still have five nectarines in the fridge to deal with.

NOTE: For a filling recipe, I used the same amounts and timing as in an earlier quiche recipe baked in the same ceramic pan. Pre-baking the crust is advised.

It’s All Gravy … Tomato and Duck

My mom only made one kind of gravy.

It started with bacon fat.

About once a month, my dad would slice up slab bacon with the thick rind on it, like in “the old country”, for the two of them. It took forever to render down enough of the fat to get any bacon grease but the results were worth it. (My brother and I liked the regular kind of bacon – thin slices, plumped up with water so it didn’t have a lot of flavour – but it crisped up quickly and the drippings were SO tasty.)

After frying up a pound or so of the bacon in her old cast iron frying pan, my mom would drain off most of the fat, leaving a few tablespoons in the pan, and add about the same amount of flour. She’d whisk the flour into the fat and cook the mixture (roux) for a while. The flavouring was about half a small can of Unico brand tomato paste. And then she’d add water and cook it up until it got nice and thick.

A bit of salt, and, at the end … well, each of us would add some of that tomato sauce or gravy to a soup bowl and dip in chunks of Italian bread and a few strips of bacon for a simple but filling brunch washed down with a cup of hot coffee.

Since she never measured anything, sometimes there’d end up being a lot of smooth, tangy and tasty tomato gravy. And sometimes, it would be lumpy and the flavour would be just slightly flat. Still, I never remember there being any leftovers.

Weekend Brunch – I didn’t have any bacon to fry up but I boiled up a smoked picnic shoulder ham and sliced off some of the uneven pieces and served it with tomato gravy and slices of home made French baguette to dip into it.

Over the years, I’ve learned to make different kinds of gravy. Turkey, breakfast sausage, pork chop pan gravy and buttermilk gravy. Sometimes the flavour is just slightly flat, sometimes it’s not as smooth as I’d like especially if I’m in a hurry or distracted with other things.

Recently, I ran across a treasure in the freezer. A container of duck drippings and fat. I thawed it, lifted off the layer of hard duck fat on top, and guess-timated how much flour I’d need to add for my roux. I ended up with about a cup of duck juices, jellied and dark and flavourful. A bit of chicken stock to extend the contents and this was the result. A delicious bowl of duck gravy.

Basic Gravy – 2 tbsp oil/butter/fat, 2 tbsp flour and 2 cups of liquid/drippings and meat juices. It’s just that simple.

Tomato Gravy – 1 tbsp bacon fat, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 cup tomato juice, additional water as needed, salt and pepper to taste.

Pine Nut Brittle and a Break

I  think I’m going to take a bit of a break … not sure how long though so I’ll leave you with a quick candy recipe post. This will give anyone reading a chance to catch up on earlier posts which they may have missed (hint) and give ME a chance to come up with some ideas for what to make during my two months of summer break.

POSSIBLE projects are mostly rehashes of things I haven’t made in ages … like cannoli shells, potstickers, pastas (I’ve been meaning to try a beet puree for colouring), yaki onigiri. (I may add more ideas here as they come to me. Right now I’m too hungry to think clearly.)

I had a brittle craving a while ago, but the only nuts in the house were pine nuts from my freezer, so that’s what I went with. Not cheap to make compared to something like a peanut brittle, but OH SO GOOD.

Pine Nut Brittle

A very simple basic brittle recipe using equal amounts by weight of sugar (100 g /1/2 cup sugar, 100 gm/1 cup pine nuts, 1 tsp butter, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and a few finely minced fresh rosemary leaves).

I made a second batch in which I doubled the sugar and halved the nuts. It was good too and more economical on the nuts if that’s a concern. Here’s a picture of the two versions for comparison. At least I could spread out the 2nd batch of brittle more thinly on the sheet.

Meal Round-up

Breakfast of sourdough starter pancakes topped with macerated strawberries and maple syrup, eggs over easy and LOTS of bacon.

Various chicken dishes: a disappointing chicken kebab recipe which was transformed into a chicken shawarma wrap, a couple of ways to serve leftover shredded chicken mole

Leftover pea-meal bacon roast, mac and cheese and peas … all from the freezer

Potato salad with hardboiled eggs with my home made blender mayonnaise.

Butternut Squash – Ravioli and Soup

I hadn’t picked up a butternut squash in ages, so when I happened to spot a heap in my grocery store, before Christmas, I brought one home. And then forgot about it until I ran across it while looking for something else. The question was … what to do with it. I wanted to be creative but after the Christmas eve day and Christmas day meal preparation, I didn’t want to get TOO complicated.

And then I did.

(When I throw together the recipe for the soup, I may post it below. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.) DONE

Butternut Squash

Wash off the outside, cut into half. Scoop out the seeds and then cut each half into quarters. Place in a microwave safe bowl with about 1/4 cup of water and microwave on high for 5 minutes at a time until tender. (15-20 minutes should do it.) Peel and then puree.

I turned part of the pureed squash into a filling for home made ravioli.

Butternut Squash, Stilton Cheese and Bacon Ravioli in an Aglio e Olio (Garlic and oil) sauce

Easy Ravioli Dough – makes enough dough for 15 3 inch diameter or square ravioli with some leftover dough

1 cup flour
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

Knead the dough for a few minutes, cover with food wrap and let sit on the counter at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Roll out to a thinness of 6 (out of 7) on pasta maker.

Butternut Squash, Stilton and Bacon Ravioli Filling – fills 15 3 inch diameter or square ravioli

4 oz/ 1/2 cup butternut squash puree
2 oz Stilton cheese, crumbled
4 strips bacon, fried to crispy and chopped
pinch of salt
grind or 2 of black pepper

Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce/Aglio e Olio

1 clove garlic, finely mince
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch or two of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Mix the above together. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Fill ravioli and boil for about 2 minutes from fresh.

Saute minced garlic clove in extra virgin olive oil until just golden. Add cooked ravioli and toss to coat. A pinch of red pepper flakes may be added for a bit of a kick. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese.

The rest of the pureed butternut squash (~2 cups) became a curried sweet soup with the addition of some leftover poached pears.

Butternut Squash and Pear Curried Soup

Butternut Squash and Pear Curried Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 cups butternut squash puree
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 heaping tbsp caramelized onions
1/2 cup sweet potato, coarsely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 pear, peeled, cored and finely chopped*
sour cream to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

* used ~1/2 cup leftover poached pear puree (cranberry mead, honey, sugar, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick)

In a large saute pan, fry the ginger, garlic and caramelized onion in butter, over medium heat until the garlic is translucent. Add curry and cumin powder and fry for about 1 minute more.

Add 2 cups of stock, sweet potato, pear and butternut squash puree. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender.

Using a stick or counter blender or food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. Return to saute pan if not using the stick blender and taste, adding salt and pepper to taste. If it’s too thick, whisk in additional stock and warm.

Stir in sour cream, if using.

Picspam: Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong

ETA: For more ideas of ways to use this dough, go HERE.

WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY POST

The recipe for this amazing bread is found everywhere on the net. I referred to this web page which had lots of great pictures of the process, especially of the tangzhong or flour/milk paste, which is cooked first, and then added to a fairly ordinary sweetened, butter, egg and milk-based bread dough.

The results, however, are anything BUT ordinary.

Crumb of the plain loaf

And the cheddar cheese and bacon loaf

I do NOT recommend trying to knead this dough by hand. If you have a bread machine or a strong stand mixer (use the dough hook attachment) you can make the entire recipe. However, if you have a cheap stand mixer like I do, make a half recipe. I still had to babysit the mixer cause it kept travelling across the counter and I didn’t want it to end up on the floor.

Kneading the dough – after 12 minutes

Stretch the kneaded dough … you’re looking for it to be elastic enough NOT to rip.
Poke a hole in the stretched dough and if the edges of the hole are even, it’s been kneaded enough.

Cover dough and let it rise for an hour.  After an hour, poke a hole in the dough with your finger. If it doesn’t spring back, it’s risen enough.

I had some grated old cheddar cheese and crispy bacon bits in my fridge from the Southwestern Turkey and Corn Chowder that I made yesterday so I used it with half of the dough I made for a savoury loaf.

Risen dough divided into 4, rolled into balls and allowed to rise for 30 minutes. Two of the balls were divided into half and rolled into ovals.

Then covered with crispy bacon bits and grated old cheddar cheese, and folded in thirds like an envelope.

The package is turned 90 degrees, and rolled out with a rolling pin until it’s as long as the loaf pan. Then the sheet is rolled up into a snake with the sealed edge at the bottom.

The 4 rolls are fitted snuggly into the baking pan, which has been sprayed with cooking spray, and allowed to rise for 30 minutes.

Then the dough is brushed with an egg wash and allowed to rise for another 15-30 minutes while the oven is preheated to 350 deg Fahrenheit. Bake, covering with a sheet of aluminum foil if the top gets too dark before the loaf is cooked through.

Southwestern Turkey and Corn Chowder

ETA: I had a brilliant idea for a turkey mole soup but I’m going to put it on the backburner and use the leftover mole sauce for shrimp instead. I’ve not decided yet whether to serve it over pasta or rice.

Menus evolve and change and my original plan to make migas out of the refried beans, tostadas and pulled turkey leg in my fridge changed. I flirted briefly with a baked casserole, a white chili with turkey and no beans and then finally settled on this Southwestern Turkey and Corn Chowder … mainly because it called for a cup of salsa verde and I had exactly that amount in a jar in my fridge. And a red pepper.

I DID have to run down to the grocery store to pick up a bag of frozen corn … but hadn’t remembered that canned green chilies were also needed. No biggie. I left them out. And, it turned out I really didn’t need them as the soup already had a lovely spicy back note which was delicious.

Southwestern Turkey and Corn Chowder – makes 8-10 cups

6-8 slices bacon, diced
1 large (1 cup) onion, small dice
2 stalks (1 cup) celery, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
6 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup (8 oz) green salsa (salsa verde)
1/4 cup flour + 1/2 cup cold water
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies, undrained (omitted)
2-3 cups diced or shredded cooked turkey* (or chicken)
1 – 1 1/2* cups corn, frozen, canned or fresh
2 large (1 1/2 cups) carrots, small dice
2 large potatoes (1 1/2 cups), peeled and diced medium
1-2 cups additional vegetables (optional ie cauliflower, shredded cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, green beans)
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese*
Salt and pepper, to taste

Extra grated cheddar cheese for garnish

* Used

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it’s crisp (about 10 minutes). Remove the bacon from the pan and drain off the bacon grease, leaving 2 tbsp bacon drippings in the pan. Add the onion, celery and red pepper to the bacon drippings in the pot. Cook until tender.

Stir in the broth, cream and salsa verde. Mix flour with 1/2 cup water until no lumps remain. Stir into the saute pan. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in the green chilies (if using), turkey or chicken, corn and carrots. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the diced potatoes. (If desired you can also add 1-2 cups of other vegetables at this point.)

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Take saute pan off the heat and gradually stir in the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Stir in reserved bacon, or sprinkle on top of individual bowls of chowder as garnish.