Tag Archives: bacon

Weekly Menus: Week of 6/24/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook must confess something, yet again. Please lean in close. Last week, I patently ignored my Weekly Menus. Wednesday is my CSA day, and it involves a visit to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. At said market, there is a food cart from The Pig in Chapel Hill. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior can read. The Youngest Practical Cook Junior is not afraid to place an order. They had allowance money in their pockets and are experts at collaboration.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Two hot dogs later, we ended up having salad for supper. Thus is the rhythm of summer. A bit chaotic and vegetable fueled, with a fair bit of pig thrown in. Alas, I try, but bacon follows me.

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can't Help Ourselves

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can’t Help Ourselves

But I shall fight the good fight, and I’m putting out a menu again this week. However, I encourage you to fill your house with vegetables and then commit to using them. It’s summertime, and the meals should be easy.

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

So here is my weekly menu (aspirational):

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List to back it up:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The CSA from Brinkley Farms includes:

1 dozen eggs
1 bundle swiss chard
1 bundle carrots
1 lb red tomatoes
2 green peppers

Which may or may not translate into:

Sunday: Cookout!
Happy birthday to The Practical Cook’s Mom. You don’t look a day over <redacted>. We’re having burgers, dogs, and watermelon, with a bunch of sides I’m not actually making. My SIL rocks, as does TPCM. I am however bringing Scotch Chocolate Cake:

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Monday: Salmon, Green Beans, Potatoes, Fruit
The other joy of summer, guests! We are hosting almost once a week these days, and we are happy to be doing so this night. It’s a great time to cook a little bigger than usual, and break out some traditional favorites. For one of our guests, fruit is not optional, and it’s a great addition to the table in the summer.

Tuesday:  Sausage and Pierogies
I just have to keep the freezer clean! Still laden with the spoils of the winter and spring, I’m going to cook something heavier but string out the consumption of it.

Wednesday: Tapas Night!
If I get near the Farmer’s Market, I will buy something extra. I have goat cheese and bread at home, I can top it with a green and call it crostini. Mama Tapas, as we call it at Chez TPC, can be any series of small bites. Great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover food.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

Thursday: Dine Out!
Okay, I’ve got an event. More on that, follow my Twitter stream for more details. I plan to leave the at-home team with either sammies or lasagna. Let’s see if it goes to plan.

Friday: Spinach Quesadillas
This says, Punt! I know I’ll be tired, there’s a big week ahead, and I predict feelings of laziness and exhaustion. Martha won’t mint this recipe, but the kids will eat veggies.

Saturday: Dine Out!
There is always more research to be done! Send a suggestion my way, and I’ll put it on the list!

Do you find yourself cooking more extemporaneously in the summer? Do you cook at home more or less now? Post a comment today! It’s free AND easy.

Send your birthday candles, fire extinguishers, and veggies to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday, Nuevo Southwestern Salad Recipe!

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Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe (a Guest Blog)

Gentle Readers, rarely have I been so excited to share a recipe that I have not yet tasted. This post really highlights the power of Twitter and bacon in terms of connectivity, and I am heading into the test kitchen to work on a lazy lady version based on the power of the picture alone.

Hello world, meet Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Sundae!

Hello world, meet Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Sundae!

But I digress. Without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to my friend Lisa (@TheRealLisaC). In her own words, here’s her fantastic culinary breakthrough.

Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid of making the ice cream too rich, too sweet, too over-the-top. It turns out that with bacon ice cream, as in business and life, opting for the cautious–or as some prefer to call it–the sensible approach produces acceptable but underwhelming outcomes. There may also be some lessons in here somewhere about cooking against type: I’m really more of a chocolate person, to begin with.

That said, I am rather fond of making myself a small sundae of vanilla ice cream, Trader Joe’s Caramel-Sea Salt sauce (warmed), and candied pecans, which I also get from TJ’s [Editor's Note: I plan to run, not walk, to score some of both for the test kitchen]. Sometimes I use their “Very Crunchy, Lightly Sweetened” pecans, which are a bit cinnamony, but I really like it with their “Sweet & Spicy” pecans. The vanilla ice cream that I prefer to make is creamy but fairly mild in flavor; it only uses two eggs. Think Dreyer’s without the stabilizers that make it chewy instead of creamy. That sundae was, flavor-wise, my starting point in figuring out this bacon ice cream idea.

Burger King Bacon Sundae!

Burger King Bacon Sundae!

Now, in terms of how I made it…Lord Google put me on the path of using brown sugar instead of white in the custard. And I liked this recipe’s approach to candying the bacon.  But this is when I started getting scared. 5 egg yolks? Wouldn’t that be too rich with the bacon? (Not to mention I generally avoid making ice creams that involve tossing 4+ egg whites–the waste annoys me. And my schedule doesn’t allow for making something else with them in addition to the ice cream!) So I reverted to my usual vanilla ice cream, with some minor variations (see below). I also decided not to use plain toasted rather than candied pecans of either variety–can’t be too sweet! Would be too weird with the bacon!

 Custard for bacon ice cream:

2 eggs
2 Tbps all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 c. whole milk
2/3 c. light or dark brown sugar (I used dark) [Editor's Note: I support this, more caramelly]
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat eggs in a med-large bowl until thoroughly combined, then beat in flour and salt. Set aside. Combine milk with brown sugar and bring to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan (2.5 qt non-stick is a good bet). Using an instant-read thermometer, heat milk to 175F. Slowly beat hot milk mixture into eggs, a portion at a time. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan. Quickly rinse out the bowl to remove any sugar granules, etc, and set aside to dry. Heat custard on medium-low heat, stirring *constantly* until it begins to thicken–many recipes give the wonderfully vague instruction, “until it coats the back of a spoon”. IMPORTANT: don’t turn up the heat or try to hurry this along. It’ll take a good 15 min to get there. I produced many a pot of milky scrambled eggs until I finally learned to view this part as a meditative exercise, like kneading bread. The other absolutely critical thing: as it starts to thicken, check the temp regularly. Once it gets between 183-185F, immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve back into the bowl. Dispose of any lumps. Allow the custard to cool, stirring every once in a while to release heat and prevent a skin from forming. Once mostly cooled, stir in the cream and vanilla, cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Once it’s chilled, you pour the custard into an ice cream maker and let it go Per Manufacturer’s Instruction, adding in solids (like, say, candied bacon and pecans) once the custard is semi-frozen, usually 5-10 min before it’s supposed to be done.

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

The next morning I candied the bacon following the Lebovitz instructions. BTW, 2 tsps of brown sugar isn’t anywhere close to what you need for 5 strips of bacon. 1 tsp per slice still equates to a fairly light dusting. We normally bake our bacon on a rack, but this recipe seemed to suggest the grease was supposed to merge with the sugar to form a glaze, so I went with the bacon straight on aluminum foil. I wound up pouring off 2/3rds of the fat halfway through. The glaze never turned brown, but when the bacon itself was browned enough and crispy I took it out and let it cool on a rack. It turns out this approach, even with 5 tsps of brown sugar instead of two, makes for a fairly light glaze. It’s actually quite nice: just sweet enough to offset the aggressive saltiness of the bacon and add a bit of crispness without being crusty. It was light enough that I started to think candied pecans might have been just fine after all, but by then it was too late–I needed the ice cream done and didn’t have any candied pecans in the house. So I toasted ~1 c. chopped pecans and let them cool, then got the custard going in the ice cream maker.

Mr. Lebovitz says the bacon should be cut to the size of rice grains, but that didn’t seem toothsome enough, so I went for about 1/4″ dice. Even at that size, the bacon wound up being broken down quite a bit in the ice cream maker, so I might cut it larger next time. Also, as it turned out, the mildness of the ice cream didn’t set off the baconness; instead the creaminess kind of hid the bacon flavor. Next time I think I will go with a version with more eggs, perhaps just follow the Leibovitz recipe in its entirety (except no liquor and yes candied pecans).

2/3 male consumers of this ice cream* said the custard base should be smokier. One suggested using Liquid Smoke, which I’m thinking one could use in place of part of the vanilla extract–maybe 1 tsp of each? I also thought of using smoked salt in place of the regular salt (and no Liquid Smoke), which would be subtler, but perhaps insufficient for a whole batch. Further experiments in this area may be conducted at some undetermined point in the future.

*Knowing your audience may be important here: the two lobbying for smoky custard are American-born and -bred, and also fairly serious barbecuers. #3, who expressed no opinion about this, was born in India and grew up partly in Dubai, and views American barbecue as a charming and delicious foreign custom. Women were slightly skeptical of this smokiness idea.

Final takeaway: it’s bacon–go big! Go bold! Display wacky American excess in all its glory!

Now that, my people, is a recipe!! Hats off to you Lisa for a most excellent experiment! I’m going to take a few shortcuts and do some experimentation. Look for an upcoming blog inspired by this recipe. I have enjoyed bacon-bourbon-pecan Locopops at my local paleteria, but also found the bacon not bacon-y enough. With my aversion to Liquid Smoke, I am going to have to find a different way to turn up the BAM!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop Before

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop Before

What is the wackiest flavor of ice cream you’ve ever eaten or craved? Post a comment below. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to take your ideas and make sundaes out of them.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop After

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop After

Send your sugar cones, spoons, and outrageous challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus! Summertime is here, and the cooking is easy!

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Reviews from the Road: San Diego Style!

Gentle Readers, last week’s journey was sponsored by, wait for it, bacon. And avocado. And dessert. It is so very difficult to eat properly while traveling, particularly when the days last for 22 of 24 hours. However, there was much deliciousness to be found in San Diego. This was my first trip, and I very much liked what I saw. I kicked things off with this:

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

And it just kept going from there. Because what could be better than mixing my professional (social media) life with my personal (food) life? Answer: nothing. So we threw a Bacon and Waffles Tweetup at Brians24. Ironically, I had eaten so much bacon by this point I went for the lo-cal option, fried chicken.

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

But that wasn’t enough! We also held a team meeting at Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy. The taxi driver kept trying to drop my teammate and I off at the bail bondsman, no matter how many times we repeated the address. A hint perhaps? The desserts should have been illegal. They were delicious, and so artfully presented. Carrot cake is a vegetable, right?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

I spent some quality time with my favorite California ingredient, the avocado. I had it in omelets and as presented here, in this fantastic blackened tuna wrap. I attacked this like a wild dog. It was at a cafe in the Gaslamp District, where there are endless little bistros ready to serve you.

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Of course, there was also plenty of my road food staple: oatmeal. Hats off to my friend, SirMinceALot, for pairing a parfait with bacon for the morning meal.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

In my meager health defense, I did run a 5K in the middle of the event. I ran most, I walked some, I worked a 12+ hour day after doing so. Not my best planning ever. However, we raised over $1700 for the Wounded Warrior Project, so well worth it.

My first 5K ever!

My first 5K ever!

Overall, I loved the parts of San Diego I got to see, and plan to return when I have time to explore further. Very relaxed vibe, and some truly fantastic food. Have you been to San Diego? Would love to hear your recommendations for the next trip. Post a comment below!

Send your good will, questions, and restaurant recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up on Friday, a guest blog: Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe!

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Bacon Quest: Bacon Bacon Truck in San Francisco Reviewed! (with video)

Gentle Readers, it has been too long since The Practical Cook broke out the video review. Fear not, she is reunited with her camera and on the road. Better still, she is stalking that crowd favorite, bacon.

I learned about the famed Bacon Bacon SF food truck a few months ago, when I was, well, talking about bacon at a Tweetup. You would be shocked how often that happens to me. They have everything from your standard bacon grilled cheese to bacon popcorn and chocolate bacon.

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

Accompanied by fellow bacon fan, whom I shall call Semper Fried, we decided to try as much as we could across the menu, for science of course. In our meager defense, we walked to and from the truck, and that was some reasonable distance.

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

I had the Bahn Mi and Chocolate Bacon, he went for the Pork Belly taco and Pork Belly fries (they made me think of Southern BBQ, a win). The bacon was exceptional. I am in the process of determining where it came from. My sandwich was good, the pork meatballs were nice, but I’ve had better pork belly. The money is really on the bacon here, it is outstanding, thick without being jerkylike, not overly hammy or salty, very balanced with a pronounced bacon flavor.

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Would I go back? Absolutely, if only to buy more chocolate bacon. Yeah, it’s good, don’t try to kid yourself about that. Go early, the line forms fast. I think I’m going to try the vegetarian option next time, with bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon. <3

Will you go out of your way to eat bacon? Tell me your story or issue a bacon challenge in the comment box below!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

Food truck recommendations, kudos, and culinary challenges can be sent to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, Roasted Spring Vegetables Recipe.

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Eating My Way Through San Francisco: Reviews from the Road

Gentle Readers, my heart belongs to San Francisco. At least the food part. The biting wind I could well do without. This may be controversial, but I will take a stand here. Of great meals I’ve had in my life, more of them have been in San Francisco than anywhere else.

Salmon with Veggies (technically in Santa Clara, but still FTW!)

Salmon with Veggies (technically in Santa Clara, but still FTW!)

I know, New York is great, but the risk to reward ratio has been much better in the city by the bay. My favorite spot, my respite from the bustle of a conference floor, Samovar. The tea descriptions are fantastic, and the tea itself is not too shabby either.

Mmm, lingering artichoke tea.

Mmm, lingering artichoke tea.

The food is limited in choice, well done in execution, and the pairings are interesting and challenging. I tried the Jook this time, and fell in love. Yes, I will add some more Sriracha, thanks!

Jook with smoked duck from Samovar, San Francisco.

Jook with smoked duck from Samovar, San Francisco.

Also on tap, Thai food, recommended by a food fan to a food fan. Thankfully, I’m not the only one keeping a running list. Koh Samui was a delight, but be warned, their medium is Thai medium, not bland medium. I had the tofu curry with coconut rice, which was fabulous, but enjoyed the fusion samosas at the start even more.

Koh Samui is a refuge off the beaten bath. Well worth the trek for good Thai!

Koh Samui is a refuge off the beaten bath. Well worth the trek for good Thai!

Noveau Indian at Amber was very nice, my favorite being the Gobi, with recommendations of the “best Indian” being in Fremont, CA (home of Afghanan de Kebab). Rest assured, Gentle Readers, I will take the challenge and commit to the necessary field research on my next trip.

Spiked lemonade from Amber. Made with thyme and lemon infused simple syrup. Well done.

Spiked lemonade from Amber. Made with thyme and lemon infused simple syrup. Well done.

And as for bacon, there was bacon. You’ll have to wait till next week for that particular update, but a pilgrimage to the famed BaconBaconSF food truck was made.

Portobella Sandwich from Samovar

Portobella Sandwich from Samovar

But my favorite meal, the home-cooked one. Thank you. How awesome to be on the other side of the country, and yet get to share in the family meal. I learn something great in every kitchen, and this was no exception.You are welcome to come sit on my porch anytime.

Refuge on the Road: Samovar San Francisco

Refuge on the Road: Samovar San Francisco

As always, the importance of good company with good food is emphasized on the road. Good food becomes great when the conversation serves. Thank you to one and all.

Okay, gauntlet tossed. Where have you had more great meals, east or west coast? Go! (Post a comment below, let the games begin.)

Send your restaurant recommendations and food pictures to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday: Crostini with Broccolini, A Recipe.

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Can this supper be saved? Three Fast Flavor Boosts!

Gentle Readers, today’s post comes from a wonderful question The Practical Cook has asked herself many times. That moment when dinner is almost done, and you taste it, having followed a recipe, only to be disappointed. Perhaps it’s bland, undersalted, or just the wrong profile for your taste buds of the moment. What to do?

The simpler the meal, the more important proper seasoning is!

The simpler the meal, the more important proper seasoning is!

The inspiration for the timing of this post, a lovely meal of leftovers from Blended Familia. Yes, yes I will show up to eat your leftovers. It’s a service I provide. But I digress. What if you make something you feel just “meh” about when it’s done?

Here are Three Fast Flavor Boosts (the diving catches of the kitchen):

1. Salt. The very first thing to consider is whether the dish is seasoned properly. Everyone has a different tolerance, and the line between full flavor and salty is thin indeed. But taste, season lightly, and see if it is improved. The Juniors and I do this at the table a lot. It’s a great practice to taste first and season later, teach them young. And let them taste the difference as more is added.

Grits are a great place to practice your salting skills.

Grits are a great place to practice your salting skills.

2. Heat. It takes many forms. Sriracha is a great one, to be added as a condiment. I like Tabasco as an ingredient, you can add at the end, but cooking it a little balances the heat. Red pepper flakes are a simple last-minute add. And no fridge should be without some pickled jalepenos. Not every dish can be a wonder-filled exercise in subtlety, if heat gets the family to eat bok choy, bring it.

Indian cuisine owns the market on interesting ways to add heat and flavor. Take notes!

Indian cuisine owns the market on interesting ways to add heat and flavor. Take notes!

3. Garnish. Sometimes the “optional” item saves the recipe. Don’t overlook the power of diced green onions, lime or lemon juice, pickles of all stripes, diced avocado, parsley, diced tomatoes, bacon, etc. That extra minute you spend prepping some garnish could make the several minute difference in selling the dish or agony of defeat.

Salmon Cakes are more interesting with garnish!

Salmon Cakes are more interesting with garnish!

What’s your strategy for saving something bland? Post a comment, save a supper.

Send your flava, challenges, and witty remarks to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday,  Bruschetta for Dinner: Tips, Guidelines, and a Flexible Recipe.

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The Best Bacon: Bacon Brackets Winner Declared, Stunning Upset (with video)

Gentle Readers, the smoky haze is clearing, the fat has been rendered, and a winner has been declared. The Practical Cook can now resume purchasing and consuming bacon in rational rather than rasher quantities. So who won?

Bacon Smackdown!

Bacon Smackdown!

Let’s roll the tapes:

That’s right, out of all the fancy pants brands we tried, the victor is Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon, sold at a reasonable price at your local grocery store. The results are so shocking, I plan on doing a blind taste with some local food talents, just to confirm or deny. If you’re interested in running your own test, or participating, let me know.

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Winner of the Grocery Store Round!

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Grand Champion, Best Bacon

You see, the favorite going in, by far, was Nueske’s. I thought it would win, easy. The fabulous Wonder Woman surprised me with a 3 pound sampler pack of the stuff, and having mowed through the two more unique varieties, I spared the standard hickory smoked for the Bacon Brackets. I couldn’t eat it.

Blind Tasting Bacon!

Blind Tasting Bacon!

That’s right, bacon I could not eat. It was so smoky, though I admittedly have a problem with high smoke, it was inedible to me. Improv Cook backed me up on this one, though she’s not as put off by smoke as me. I went and bought another sample, this time sliced to order. Better, but I loved the cherrywood smoked Nueske’s way more.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving. This is the Nueske's!

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.This is the Nueske's!

So the champion went down. I consolidated this final post, as the first place winner in the Mail-Order is hard enough to source, and not delicious enough to bother, in my opinion. So here’s the Final Four, ranked from last to first:

4. Applegate Sunday Bacon. This only won the Gourmet grocery store bracket by being the least unappealing. Not recommended if there are other options.

3. Niman’s Ranch. This was the barely named winner of the mail-order category. It was smoky, salty, and a bit chewy with some good fat, but neither Improv Cook nor I loved it enough to stake our bacon reps on it.

2. Bacon from Cliff’s Meat Market. Proving that butchers know what they’re talking about, the mysteriously labeled “Bacon” from Cliff’s in Carrboro, NC, was really good. I would eat this very versatile locally-obtained bacon any time.

1. Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Grand Champion. This bacon was flavorful, meaty, with some smoke, extremely versatile, and really just a pleasure to eat. And isn’t that what bacon is all about?

Thanks to everyone for joining us on this journey, and my comrade in tasting and the founder of this awesome quest, Improv Cook. Special thanks to Cliff’s Meat Market, Brinkley Farms, and John at Eco Farms for the great info and the bacon.

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

And another special thank you to Neal’s Deli, for hosting the Bacon Summit that led to the Bacon Brackets. I’m coming in soon for another one of those pastrami biscuits, or perhaps the egg and garlicky spinach. I need a little bacon break . . .

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

What a long salty trip it has been. So I challenge you to go try this bacon and post a comment! What do you think?

Send your fresh veggies, challenges, and actual cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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We will meet again on Sunday, with Weekly Menus and a Bonus Recipe!

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Bacon Brackets, Round 2 Results: Gourmet Grocery Store (with video)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook has exciting results to share. This week’s Bacon Brackets involve the first of a series of upsets. And really, aren’t we in it for the Cinderella story? In searching for the best tasting bacon, Improv Cook and I just assumed, right or wrong, that the gourmet shops would have something up their porcine sleeves.

Let’s roll the game day footage:

We were wrong. Here are the contenders:

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

And here are the stunning results of the Gourmet Grocery Store Bacon Brackets:

1. 365 brand. $4.99/12oz Some shrinkage during cooking, low salt, crisp chewy, meaty but more like beef than pork. 4th place “not good” (Yeah, we said it.)

365 Bacon is not delicious

365 Bacon is not delicious

2. Wellshire market style. $7.99/16oz This bacon had moderate salt, some chew, some bacon flavor, okay texture, good on a biscuit. 3rd place with texture caveat  (as in if you have texture issues with thicker bacon at all, don’t buy this one)

Wellshire Farm bought in bulk

Wellshire Farm bought in bulk

3. Pederson apple smoked. $7.99/16oz This bacon was noticeably sweeter, had a slight chew, some smoke, good for salad or bitter greens, 2nd place, best to cook with this one instead of eating straight up

Pederson Apple Smoked bought in bulk

Pederson Apple Smoked bought in bulk

4. Applegate Sunday bacon. $4.99/8oz This bacon suffered shrinkage, but was bacony with moderate to high salt. However, it was not crispy, so we award it a  reticent 1st place.

Reluctantly, we've crowned Applegate Sunday Bacon as the winner this time.

Reluctantly, we've crowned Applegate Sunday Bacon as the winner this time.

The big shock: the gourmet grocery store bacons got their porcine behinds handed to them by the plain old grocery store bacons. We tasted these back to back, and though I hope our finalist judges aren’t reading this, we agreed we wouldn’t go out of our way to eat any of these “gourmet” bacon contenders.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.

Up next week, Round 3, Local Bacon! I’ll let you gather your local bacon and test along. Do you have a favorite so far? Post a comment, even just to cheer us on or provide exercise tips. :)

Got bacon? Send your challenges, ideas, and vegetarian recipe requests to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Sunday, we’ll have Weekly Menus, Plus Another Bonus Recipe!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/4/2012 (bonus recipe)

Gentle Readers, with life’s hectic pace, and the winter months upon us, The Practical Cook must confess she did not go to the Farmer’s Market for a long time. Yesterday, driven by a cause (bacon), she went with the Juniors. Hog wild barely describes the scene. And that was just the Juniors. We came, we saw, we tasted and bought. We also learned.

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

If you haven’t located or visited your local Farmer’s Market lately, make a point of doing so. Interesting things are starting to happen again in most climates, and the baked goods are not to be missed. In fact, I’m so inspired, I’m making bread tomorrow. I have a partner in crime, though she doesn’t know it yet. Thanks CV Tall in advance.

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

I’ve included my Farmer’s Market purchases on the grocery list, though retroactive, as proof that I don’t exist solely on bacon. Especially since, irony of ironies, I’ve gotten multiple requests for veggie recipes lately: salad, grains, etc. I am here for you. Look to the bottom of the post for the bonus recipe inspired by today’s shopping trip.

Without further delay, here is this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List (still very spartan, still trying to eat down my unfreakingbelievably large pantry warehouse + my assault on the Farmer’s Market = fresh veggie overload):

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Which translates into:

Sunday:Salmon and kale
I think I’ll do something orange-ish, as I have a few oranges lingering in the crisper drawer, and pair it with Quinoa or couscous salad (recipe research!)

Monday: Butterbeans, cornbread, and beets, et al TBD
I’m looking to do a serious veggie meal, as the Juniors are developing a bacon withdrawal problem.

Wednesday: Sausage and Chard
Of course, then we’ll eat more pig, but as part of a cassoulet-like dish, with white beans.

Thursday: Bacon and Egg Sammies with Salad
Maybe I’ll have nailed the homemade bread by this point . . .

Friday: Soup and Sammies!
I’ve got some beef stock I need to use, so it may be time for a French Onion soup of some stripe.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Field research is so necessary. I’m scoping some new spots, let’s see if I can gather a research team. Volunteers? Mission: Chinese.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Bonus Recipe: Spinach Salad with Cherries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

This is too obnoxiously easy to be a true recipe, but it permits me to lecture on what to keep in your pantry/fridge, so you’re salad-ready at all times.

baby spinach (don’t be without this, for real)
dried cherries
chopped pecans, lightly toasted
goat cheese, fresh is best and way less goaty
good quality Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Combine in portions that work for you. My Youngest, a notoriously picky salad eater, literally wiped the plate with her spinach leaf. She would walk on hot rocks to get to goat cheese, so I crumbled a heftier portion on her salad. The basics here are sweet, crunchy, and salty. Spinach is a good salad back-up. It stays fresh longer in the fridge, is less bitter than some greens, and packs a serious nutritional punch. Keep dried fruit always. Raisins are good, but red dried fruit (cherries and cranberries) look more festive in salads. Nuts or seeds, also keep on hand. Of course, if you’re me or have a nut allergy, you can sub bacon bits. And though I’ve got both feta and goat cheese in the house, I find goat is way more versatile. If you hate it, go with feta, but you want creamy/salty here. It melds with the oil and vinegar.  End of lecture. Salad on!

What are you eating between seasons? Post a comment with your meals or your cravings!

Send salad suggestions, vegetarian challenges, and lucrative book contracts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For Wednesday, we’ll be testing one more round of M&Ms: Pretzel vs Peanut!

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Filed under Recipes, Weekly Menus

Weekly Menus: Week of 2/26/2012

Gentle Readers, this week The Practical Cook was ready to accept a personal challenge. Excepting a very few fresh items, what could be made from what is at hand. You see, I do dearly love the grocery store. And sometimes I buy more than I should, or stockpile. This accumulates over time, and while I can make any one of 10 meals at any given time, I have to make those meals to deplete the inventory.

So this week is about not adding to the problem. What will I do? How will I adapt? Will this make me more grateful for the deep freezer or the fresh foods? Fear not, there are plenty of frozen veggies here at The Practical Cook Kitchen. So aside from the fresh fruit I bought today on my quest to buy 10 types of bacon, I’m buying milk.

Here’s proof, the Weekly Menus for this week:

Weekly Menus: 2/26/2012

Weekly Menus: 2/26/2012

And the very bare Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/26/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/26/2012

Which means we’ll be eating:

Sunday: Dal and Rice
I have a cabinet full of both, time to man up and use them up.

Monday: Beef Stew
Slow cooker, meet my busy lifestyle. This takes some time in the morning, but it is low-fuss during crunch time. And you know what’s good in beef stew? Bacon, of which I have an abundance.

Tuesday: Leftovers
Perhaps I’ll combine meal one and meal two and put it in a tortilla.

Wednesday: Salmon and Greens
I have a wicked salmon craving right now, and the salmon I had last week was not 100% satisfying. Perhaps with some quinoa on the side?

Thursday: Sausage Surprise
I have sausage, and whatever else I put in there will be a surprise to even me. I’ll keep you posted. Probably some tomatoes, beans, and even a hint of chicken stock.

Friday: Bacon Squash Tart
This one needs to happen soon! I’m trying something new with puff pastry. We shall see what happens! If it fails, there’s always pasta.

Saturday: Dine Out!

Because if you’re like me, you have the added challenge of someone, ahem, bringing more food into your house when you leave town than gets eaten while you’re there! I only have one stomach you know who, and I’m not raising cattle.

Want to join me in the don’t buy much for a week challenge? What are your cupboard meals? Post a comment below! And there’s still time to vote for a favorite local bacon! Start filling out your brackets and taste testing, the results are coming for Bacon Brackets: Round 1 this week!

Send in your questions! We’ll be doing a mailbag edition soon. Email them to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Throw in the Dish Rack, Keep the Towel.

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Weekly Menus