Snack Time! The Good For You and the other OMG one.

I love snacks. I love snacking. The problem with snacking though is when to stop. Portion control is very important so I’ve learned that with my snacks I pour, slice, dole out a measured portion and put it in a bowl or on a plate an then put the remainder away so I don’t keep eating.

A good snack my sister recently turned me on to were homemade protein bars. (Thanks Shannon!) These little tidbits are packed with protein, gooeyness, and just down right tasty. She’s a fitness trainer, I’m a fitness newbie so getting the right nutrition can be tricky at first.

While this recipe calls for peanut butter, I opted to use fresh ground almond butter as hubby is allergic to peanuts. My grocery store has one of those dispensers for fresh ground peanut butter, and another for almonds. So be sure to look for that in your store.

I think what makes this recipe so easy is the fact you don’t have to cook anything! Just heat the almond/peanut butter in the micro and add your ingredients. Line a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper. I used a pyrex baking dish so I even lined the sides.

16 oz Almond or Peanut Butter (Folks your ‘butter should only have 2 ingredients – nuts and sea salt nothing else)
12 oz Honey (I like using honey local from my area. This also helps with allergies)
3 cups rolled oats
2 Scoops Whey Protein Powder – Chocolate Flavor

This is the basic ingredients. You can add dark chocolate chips, almond slivers for some crunch or maybe some shredded coconut. The possibilities are endless.

Microwave the ‘butter for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Add the honey and blend well. Next add the whey powder and mix well. Slowly incorporate the oats. If you’re adding chocolate chips now is the time. Once it’s all thoroughly mixed put into a pan and press it to fill the pan. Top with coconut or even granola. Put in the fridge for about an hour or so and cut into 2″ squares. I store mine in a plastic tub lined with parchment paper to make layers. They will last quite a while, unless you gobble them all up too fast.

Wonderful Snack!

Wonderful Snack!

The OMG snack – Bacon Brittle! Yep forget that peanut stuff you’re used to. Now you get to have the wholesome goodness that is bacon and sweet crunch that is brittle. I do recommend making a double batch because it is that good. (Recipe at the end)

It all starts with bacon. Heck probably all you really need…but lets continue. You want your bacon crispy. I bake mine in the oven because I don’t want to stand at the stove cooking a pound of it in batches. Preheat oven to 400. Line your pans with foil and lay out the bacon. I turned the pans once during the process which takes about 25 minutes. But do check it after 15. Some ovens run hot.

Yep a whole pound of bacon!

Yep a whole pound of bacon!

Perfectly Crisp

Perfectly Crisp

Crumble in bigger pieces

Crumble in bigger pieces

Before you start the brittle make sure your pan is ready, bacon is crumbled and the last 2 ingredients are ready to go. Once that sugar starts to get close to temp things start happening really fast.

Get everything ready ahead of time saves frustrations later.

Get everything ready ahead of time saves frustrations later.

Next we start the brittle. A simple mixture of sugar, water and light corn syrup. You must have patience as you need to melt the sugar and get it to the soft ball stage which is 238 degrees. I highly recommend a thermometer! If you don’t have one you can find instructions here for how to determine the temp.

Stage 1

Stage 1

As you can see the difference between stage one and two is dramatic. And also very HOT! Stir gently, you do not want this to splash on your hand.

Stage 2

Stage 2

Cooking Tip for today – Did you know the handles on most pots have a hole at the end. I love to be able to hang my pots up and keep them out of drawers so I have more storage space. But, did you also know they are great for holding cooking utensils? Believe me when working with sugar when you stir and put that spoon down the minute that sugar cools it will be like mortar. Oh sure you can get that piece of wax paper to use but you’ll still have to pull it off. Instead utilize the pan.

Pan handles allow for them to be hung up or used as spoon handles.

Pan handles allow for them to be hung up or used as spoon handles.

Bacon joins the bubbling mass.

Stage 3

Stage 3

Cook it till it’s a nice amber color. You remove from the heat, add your baking soda and vanilla. Baking soda? Why? Well because this is what adds those nice fluffy air holes that makes brittle ‘bitable’. Otherwise it’s like biting thru glass. Now this stuff starts to cool and set up rather quickly. This is why it’s important to have the pan ready to spread it out.

Not real pretty yet.

Not real pretty yet.

It might not look like much now but wait about an hour. Mine is a bit dark, mainly because the minute you look away for more than 30 seconds, like I said things will happen. What happened to me was I was taking pictures for you all. But it was worth it.

Break it up into pieces and you have something well worth your time!

Such a great treat!

Such a great treat!

What you will need –

9×13″ Baking Sheet
Room Temp Butter, just to coat the Baking Sheet
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
3/4 cup cold Water
Pinch of Salt
1 lb Crispy and Crumbled Bacon
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Baking Soda

Brush a 9×13″ Baking Sheet with butter and set aside. I lined mine with parchment paper and buttered the paper.

Combine the Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water and Salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cook, swirling occasionally, until mixture reaches the softball stage on a candy thermometer (238 degrees). Stir in the crispy and crumbled Bacon, continue to cook, stirring often so the Bacon doesn’t burn, until the mixture is amber in color. Remove from the heat.

Carefully stir in the Vanilla and Baking Soda. The mixture will foam up in the pan.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and quickly spread it evenly. Set aside until it’s completely cool. You can lift up one side and it will start to break in chunks. Now go enjoy your work, sit on the roof of your house yelling out “Neener, Neener!! I have bacon brittle you don’t!” Of course you could always make a batch to hand out to your neighbors for the holidays.

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Burger Project – Breakfast Burger

Well Burger Project 2013 is taking a twist tonight.

I don’t know about you, but there are times I love breakfast for dinner. And for breakfast I often times indulge in dinner leftovers. Who doesn’t love cold pizza for breakfast? Or leftover Chinese tossed into a frittata? So with that in mind…I love bacon and eggs, with a side of biscuits and gravy. Oh my stars but that is a luscious breakfast to me. And on the dinner flip side, give me a great burger and I can have all the things I love on one plate.

This dinner has simple ingredients, but requires timing. First up, the ingredients.

Breakfast Dinner!

Breakfast Dinner!

So a pound of ground round, some breakfast sausage seasoning, eggs, bacon and yes a package of country gravy mix. (But I do make mine with milk and not water)

Before you start preheat your oven to 150 degrees. This is going to be your warming area. Mix the hamburger with 1 Tbs of the sausage seasoning. Form into 4 equal patties and let rest so the flavors can develop in the meat.  In a cast iron skillet fry up your bacon so it’s crispy. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plate and place in oven to keep warm.  Next in the bacon drippings fry your burgers on a medium heat for about 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and place on warming plate and place in oven. Next cook up your gravy and keep warm. Using the same pan as the hamburgers were cooked in brown the hamburger buns cut side down and remove to plate.  In a non-stick skillet add 1-2 Tbs of butter and gently fry your eggs just till set. The yolks should be bright yellow and still liquid. As soon as they are done, take one burger, dunk into the gravy and place on toasted bun. Next add 2 pieces of crispy bacon and top with cooked egg.

And you will be eating a luscious, creamy with a salty crunch burger. When the egg yolk breaks over the burger it adds such a wonderful flavor and richness.

Burger1 Burger2

Now go forth and create the goodness!

Summertime! That means all sorts of yummies!

Since summertime is here it’s time to indulge in all of the wonderful produce this season offers us. It’s also time to light the smokers and partake in succulent slow cooked meats.

So first I had to make some watermelon sorbet. This is so incredibly simple and it’s one of those sweet desserts that won’t weigh you down. Make it easier on yourself by buying a seedless watermelon. You’ll save yourself a lot of time. Cut it from the rind and dice it in about 1/2 inch cubes. You’ll need about 3-4 cups. Put this into a food processor or blender along with the zest of one lime and the juice of same lime. (Do be sure to zest it before you cut it in half and squeeze the juice out of it) and 3 tablespoons of honey or heavy simple syrup. I prefer to use the syrup over honey because 1 – it does not impart a lot of flavor to the sorbet and 2 – it’s a lot cheaper than honey. One ingredient that is optional is wine 1-2 TBS of white wine such as a sweet riesling or pinot grigio. While the wine will impart just an ever so small flavor, it’s main reason is to help make your sorbet smoother because it lowers the freezing temperature.  But don’t add it to sorbets that call for coconut milk. Next blend or pulse until it’s liquified and put into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions (about 20 min). If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t worry you can make sorbet! Just put a metal bowl in your freezer while you are blending the ingredients. Once they are all blended pour the mixture into the bowl and put back in the freezer. After about an hour take it out and using a fork mix it up and break up the larger chunks. Check again after about 30 minutes. Then you can transfer to a plastic container to make it easier to store.

Note – Simple syrup is equal portions of water and sugar. Heavy simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to one part water. Make up a batch and keep it in your fridge for up to a month. I usually make up a pint to keep around. It’s great to add to ice tea too because you won’t get those sugar granules. Face it nobody likes to chew their iced tea!

So cool and delicious

So cool and delicious

Another summer time must do is BBQ. Now don’t confuse this with grilling, which is how steaks, burgers and chops are usually cooked. This is when you put the meat into a smoker and slow things way down. I’ve been smoking meats for a few years now and I am still learning so much. One book I must recommend is Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book by Chris Lilly.

Today’s recipe of choice – Bar-B-Q Chicken with white sauce.

Big Bob Gibson's White Sauce

Big Bob Gibson’s White Sauce

So here’s a copy of the book and the white bbq sauce I just made. Folks this is just some of the best tasting sauce that I’ve had in a long time! I love making my own sauces because you can tweak them towards your palate. But this sauce is perfect just as it is. 

And when added to this – sublime!

Smoked chicken with white BBQ sauce.

Smoked chicken with white BBQ sauce.

But what would dinner be without side dishes. Tonight was cast iron skillet corn bread and green beans fried in bacon drippings.

Skillet Cornbread

Skillet Cornbread

Bacon drippings make all things good!

Bacon drippings make all things good!

I’m sorry if I made you hungry, but hope I inspired you to get out and get cooking!

The Burger Project

So with the advent of getting 75 lbs of hamburger with our side of beef (this is after we gave 40 lbs to neighbors) I’ve decided to start playing with my favorite food The Hamburger.

Yes I WILL gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

So while I got caught up in making this new burger I totally forgot to take a picture. What is worse is, I made them again for lunch and forgot again.

This burger I am calling the Ciabatta Bacon Burger.

Ingredients:

For The Burgers

1 pound Ground Beef (don’t use that 2% fat beef for these. You’re not saving yourself. Get the 15% and live a little)
2 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
6 ounces Smoked Pork, finely chopped (see note)
1 small Onion, sliced
Slices Of Monterey Jack Cheese
2 each Ciabatta Buns, sliced in half
2-3 Tbs. Bacon Fat

For The Sauce

5-6 Tbs. Mayo
2-3 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce

Directions

Mix hamburger, garlic, salt & peppers, and smoked pork together. Form into 4 even patties and let chill at least 1 hour.

Next mixed the mayo and worcestershire sauce together and season with s&p.

Slice the onions thin and cook in 1 Tbs of the bacon fat. Do not caramelize, just quickly brown them a bit and soften them just a tad. You still want that crunch.

When time to grill heat grill to medium low (burgers should never be cooked on high heat. My BBQ does quiet well when all burners are on low. I only heat up the side the burgers are cooking on) Cook burgers to desired doneness. We like ours with just a blush of pink. Put cheese on top of each burger and let rest.

While the burgers are resting – take remaining bacon fat and heat it up a bit. Using a pastry brush, brush each side of the Ciabatta buns. Grill the buns cut side down till nice and toasted. This is where a lot of the flavor comes from.

Assembly – The burgers are served open faced. Take a Tbs of the mayo sauce and generously put on cut side of bun. Add a cheese covered burger, top with onions and some fresh cracked pepper.

Note – Wait what do you mean you don’t have any smoked pork?! Doesn’t everyone smoke a 10 pound pork butt before they make burgers? No?! Ok ok fine, if you don’t have some smoked pork on hand, then use bacon. Cook it a bit, but not to the crunchy stage. Crumble it up and add to the beef. You’ll need about 6 slices. This is a great way to get your rendered bacon fat for the rest of the recipe if you don’t keep all your bacon in the fridge like I do.

PS – which is great for fried green beans, fried potatoes, making hash..well you get the idea.