I know this photo is not great - it gets too dark for photos at 5 now, and I'm not profesh enough to make dinner in the middle of the day or make multiples of a dish for photo purposes, sorry! But did you read that title description? DID YOU? Bourbon. Bacon. Sweet Potatoes. Brown Butter. Sage. Need I say more to convince you to try this?
I haven't actually cooked with Bourbon a whole lot before, and now I am loving it. It lends such rich, smoky, and sweet flavors to a dish - which go perfectly with bacon, by the way. I mean, duh! And the nutty brown butter and crispy, buttery fried sage? Just awesome. And super healthy sweet potatoes make up for all that fat and booze, right? Maybe? Just a little? Plus - since sweet potatoes are more fibrous than starchy, you can whip them into fluffy perfection without worrying about them becoming gummy like regular potatoes.
This would make a perfect Thanksgiving side, and if I were a better blogger I would have told you about them BEFORE the holiday. But they also go really well with pork or chicken, and I have a recipe coming up for each that would be perfect, so I promise to make it up to you.
Bourbon Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage
adapted from How Sweet Eats
4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
15-20 sage leaves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp bourbon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Add the potato chunks to a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until they are fork tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook the bacon until it is crispy and all of the fat has been cooked out.
Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to drain. To the same skillet, add the butter to the bacon fat and heat it over medium heat. When it has melted and starts to foam, add the sage leaves. Cook until crispy - 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. By this time, the butter should have browned (it will smell nutty) - remove from heat and reserve.
Drain the potatoes thoroughly and add them back to the pot. Mash them with a fork or potato masher, then use a whisk or electric hand mixer to whip them. Once whipped, add in the milk, the bourbon, and the brown butter bacon fat mixture. Whip the potatoes again until everything is combined. Taste the potatoes and add the salt and pepper, seasoning more or less if desired.
Spread the potatoes into a dish and top them with the crispy bacon. Crumble the sage on top.
Alternatively (if you are not serving immediately), you can bake them for 25 to 30 minutes at 325 deg F, then remove them from the oven and crumble the sage over top. If you are doing this method, it is best to only cook the bacon 3/4 of the way and let it finish crisping in the oven.
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
This is a perfect winter weeknight meal. Buy some pizza dough from the store, throw on some delicious winter veggies, finish with smokey bacon and mozzarella. Done. Awesome.
Remember how I only needed a little bit of squash for last week's Carbonara? Well, this is what I did with the rest of it - cubed it up and roasted it with shallots, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I only used about half of this squash for the pizza - the rest of it? Stay tuned.
Ugh, blurry picture. Sorry. Anyway, top some rolled out dough with slices of smoked mozzarella, the roasted squash, some kale rubbed with olive oil, and some halfway cooked bacon. I bought some fresh dough from Whole Foods because I really didn't feel like making my own, but I wish they sold wheat dough. That would make things easy AND healthy. Also, I really should have split this into 2 pizzas. It was almost too big for my stone and I ended up with a lot of crust.
In the super hot oven, the bacon finishes cooking, the kale becomes crispy, and the cheese gets all melty and golden. Yum. The smoked mozzarella is really key here, it goes so well with the bacon and the kale - so don't skip it!
By now, you guys should have figured out that I love butternut squash and pasta together. I could practically rename my blog "The Butternut Squash Blog". So when I saw someone grate butternut squash so that it dissolves into their velvety carbonara sauce, you know I was all over that. Especially because I had a nasty cold and wanted comfort and didn't care that the pasta wasn't whole wheat.
The original recipe used buccatini, which I love, but I couldn't find any at the store. I did see these gorgeous long fusilli noodles though. I have to say, after having cooked with them twice, I wouldn't actually recommend these. It takes longer to cook than advertised and the inside is still crunchy (not al dente - crunchy), while the outside has gotten soft so that it breaks apart and doesn't stay long and beautiful. Sigh.
Anyway, grate up that squash (just a little chunk, not even a whole one) and toss it into a pan with a little rendered bacon fat, butter, and garlic.
You guys. This is my FAVORITE movie. Ever. Seriously. And it is the January pick for Food 'N Flix! I am so excited that I can't even... wait... wait a second... how is this a foodie movie? I mean they do eat food in it, but... whatever, I don't even care. A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal thrown together for one day of detention - it's The Breakfast Club!
Mad props to Eliot's Eats for choosing this movie, but what a tough one to get a recipe inspiration from! In the end, I decided to make what I would want for lunch if I was stuck in detention. I mean, sushi would be great (looking at you, Molly Ringwald), but I can't make that at home yet. So instead I present to you the best sandwich in the world! To me, at least. Turkey, bacon, avocado, and a fried egg on toasted whole wheat bread slathered with roasted garlic aioli. Everything I want and nothing I don't, this is sandwich perfection. I'm calling it The Breakfast Club Sandwich because it has breakfast food like bacon and egg, and is kind of like a club sandwich. It's so clever, I'm dying.
I don't have a recipe for you (cuz it's a sandwich), but I want you to bust out your copy of The Breakfast Club and tell me what your detention meal would be. A classic pb&j, perhaps? Or something more exotic like cereal and pixie sticks with mayo?
Merry Christmas, y'all! We went on a bit of a crazy roadtrip (which I will tell you about later, because there are restaurants involved) and didn't get back til late on the 22nd, which left us in a bit of a scramble to get ready for Christmas. We managed to get some outdoor decorations up (check out the wreath I made!), but no tree or anything indoors.
We also spent all our holiday money on travel, so no presents this year. But we did have a nice Christmas dinner (I mean, come on - how could I not, right?). Honey Baked Ham (going store bought on the main let me focus on sides); Spinach and Gruyere Strata; Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions; and Bacon Popovers.
And a Cranberry Raisin Tart with orange zest and spices for dessert.
Oh yeah, and breakfast! Can't forget Christmas morning sweets! I made these Cranberry Orange Rolls by Smitten Kitchen - yum!
I'm not really sure how to do food styling for mac and cheese - as you can tell from this photo. Oh - a chunk or orange stuff, yum. Well don't let my bad photography fool you - this mac and cheese is the bomb. It's the ultimate comfort food, and I should know.
You see, I lost my cat last month to illness. Other pet owners out there might understand this - he and his (adopted) brother were my first pets as an adult. That is a whole different situation from childhood pets, or even pets you get later as a family. I literally think of my boys as my children, so this was extremely difficult for me. It was also very sudden. Animals, as you may know, hide their sickness so that they won't be perceived as weak. Which means that by the time they start acting sick, it is often too late. In our case, we took him in the same day he was acting weird and found out that night that there was nothing we could do. He was gone the next day.
The grief affected me like the flu - I had fever, chills, and nausea. The only thing I could stand to eat was macaroni and cheese, and after a couple of days of my husband making me the boxed stuff, I finally started cooking again. I made this butternut squash mac and cheese and lived off it for a week. It was definitely very comforting.
It's ooey gooey with both cheddar and Gruyere, with a bit of caramelized onion, pops of salty bacon, and sweet butternut squash - partially mashed so that there is sweetness throughout, but also some chunks here and there. I even splurged and used regular, white pasta so that I could get my favorite shape - gemelli.
The top is sprinkled with more cheese and buttery breadcrumbs. Perfection. This is possibly the most delicious food ever. So whether you are sad or you just like macaroni and cheese, go dive face first into a bowl of this stuff. You won't regret it.
So I actually made this a year ago and didn't manage to post it before it was way past butternut squash season, doh! I figured I would just hold off and post about it the next Fall, which is what I am doing now. The problem is, my photography has improved leaps and bounds since then so these photos look really awful. I am so sorry in advance, but the mac and cheese is really good. I promise.
I saw this recipe on an episode of The Chew, and the idea was that it was orange and black for Halloween. Orange from the squash, black from the kale. Except that kale is green, even when it's wilted... Whatever - it uses Fall produce and it's delicious, so let's pretend it works.
Cook up some bacon (I used pancetta because stuff and things), add some butter, sweat some onions and garlic, wilt some kale - awesome. So here's where the original recipe gets weird (The Chew website is notoriously bad at reviewing their recipes) - it says to have 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced, and to saute the squash in the pan. Then later it says to add in the butternut squash puree. What butternut squash puree? There is no butternut squash puree in the ingredient list. Huh? Also - sauteed squash? Meh. So here's what I did (as you can see in the previous picture) - tossed that cubed squash with olive, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; then roasted it. Yummy. Then I took half the roasted squash and mashed it. Ah-ha! Now there is butternut squash puree, sort of.
I am trying to avoid carbohydrates and starches as much as possible for health reasons (and not being very successful). For this reason, I like it when I happen upon a tasty looking Paleo recipe. I do not follow the Paleo diet by any means, but I do agree with some of their basic assumptions - like grains and processed vegetable oils are bad, and animal fat is good.
I liked this recipe even more when I saw that it was for the slow cooker. Loaded up with carrots, cauliflower, onion, garlic, and chicken stock - a pot of goodness!
Now, I usually don't like chicken thighs, especially skin-on and bone-in, but I get that breasts dry out and fall apart so I followed the recipe on this one. Picking around the bone was still pretty irritating to me, but that skin that I crisped up (twice) in bacon fat? Yum city. I also threw a little fresh thyme in here because I grow it and why not?
The flavor is rich and satisfying, really great as comfort food. I will say that the proportions of this recipe as written are off. There is so little meat on these thighs that it would take 3-4 to fill someone up, especially if you don't make some other kind of side (greens would have been so good!). And there was a huge amount of puree - I had enough leftover after serving to turn into a soup! So next time, I would double the amount of chicken and will reflect that in the recipe below.
I saw these guys at the Farmers Market and though, "What the heck are those?" So out came the phone and Google searching commenced. Garlic Scapes, as it turns out, are a shoot that grows out of the top of the garlic plant. They need to be removed so that the plant can focus on growing the bulb instead of flowering. This is fortunate, because the also happen to be insanely delicious. They taste like garlic, but without the bite, and can be used like scallions.
I bought myself a big handful and set about looking up recipes. The most common way to use them is in a pesto, so of course I did not make that... because I'm weird.
Instead, I made carbonara - with guanciale (cuz I'm legit) and peas (which put an end to my legit-ness, but I don't care cuz I love peas). You are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about, I don't blame you. Here is a link to a great article about the do's and dont's of real carbonara. TLDR (too long, didn't read for all you non-techies) - while bacon and pancetta are acceptable, guanciale is the best; peas are a definite don't.
I also made biscuits - with garlic scapes, Gruyere, and goat butter (another new obsession of mine).