Tag Archives: bacon

Doctoring Store-Bought Food: Tailgating Recipes Edition

Gentle Readers, sometimes one has all the time in the world to create a culinary masterpiece, and sometimes one must PUNT! In the spirit of football season and tailgating parties, here are two recipes devised to save time and save face.

Speaking of saving face, looks like the crowd approves the side dishes. Or you took selfies with my phone.

Speaking of saving face, looks like the crowd approves the side dishes. Or you took selfies with my phone.

If you have to feed a crowd in a hurry, what better choices than baked beans and potato salad? But on a busy weekend during the school year, however much I may like to start from scratch, I will compromise and doctor store-bought. I even signed my name to one of them.

Mildly doctored blondies: wasn't blown away by this mix, better from scratch. But they are pretty.

Mildly doctored blondies: wasn’t blown away by this mix, better from scratch. But they are pretty.

Doctored Potato Salad Recipe

I bought this beauty from SuperTarget, selected for quantity, price, and not being overly mayo-filled or celery seed laced. I have evolved in my acceptance of celery over the years, but I am unyielding on those celery seeds. They are not delicious to me. I digress.

Specially doctored by The Practical Cook: SuperTarget Potato Salad!

Specially doctored by The Practical Cook: SuperTarget Potato Salad!

1 container of potato salad that meets your personal needs (size and flavor profile)
yellow mustard
sweet or dill relish, or  a combination
chopped parsley (optional)
dash of hot sauce
sliced cherry tomatoes

Now you have a decision to make–is the container large enough to stir in your add-ins, or do you need to mix in a separate bowl? I’ll wait while you sort this out. Now you also must decide whether you own the doctoring or go full out and pass it as your own in a nice bowl.

Regardless, stir in the yellow mustard (a healthy dose if you want to offset mayo), relish, parsley (will make it taste fresh, don’t overdo it), and a dash of hot sauce (like Tabasco, and I mean just a dash) until fully blended. Top with sliced cherry tomatoes. Serve with a smile on your face.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Recipe

I adapted this recipe from Beer-Can Chicken, an amazing little cookbook that I worked on promoting many years ago. It calls for ribs and a grill, but bacon and an over work just fine, too.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans before the oven!

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans before the oven!

1 large can of pork-n-beans (yes, the ones with the fatback and tomato sauce that are crazy cheap and taste bad by themselves)
1 can each: black beans, pinto beans, dark red kidney beans–rinsed thoroughly
smoky meat: can be leftover ribs, a bit of ham, or my favorite, cooked bacon
1 small onion, diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup diced mixed peppers (the sweet kind, I use the frozen mixed ones)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (doesn’t have to be fancy, I use Kraft because it’s cheap)
2 healthy teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 of a beer, the rest is for the cook
Ground black pepper to taste
a shot of your favorite hot sauce, to taste

Mix it all up in a 9 by 13 glass dish (or aluminum one if you’re wanting to toss it later), heat in a grill or in a 375-400 degree oven until bubbling and reduced. Thank me later, but feel free to invite me to your tailgate party now.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Completed!

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Completed!

What are your favorite things to buy and make better? Post a comment here or Tweet my way! Special thanks to #vGingerBeard and family for the invitation and the unsolicited thumbs up.

Send your good ideas, lucrative offers, and free chocolate samples 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/18/2013

Gentle Readers, this August is far more marathon than sprint. I will spend more time in restaurants and other people’s kitchens than my own. That is the challenge and the beauty of life. I’m learning quickly that buying less is more, and now is the time to rely on the war chest that is actually my freezer and pantry. Depression era thinking has never been a more useful skill.

Frozen pizza options.

Frozen pizza options.

Once more on the road, we are celebrating with NYC friends this week. Obviously, I love to eat in this city. I love the street food, I love the random hole in the wall places, and I deeply love the latte from the barbershop in Williamsburg that I hope to revisit. But I digress.

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

This summer has been about community around the table–wherever that table may be. From my fellow CloudBunny who opened her home to us in New Orleans to the dynamo that is my Bestie Bride, food happens where it happens, and the people you are with are the most important part. Summer is a time to break from routine and live. We’ve done that.

One shot latte from The Parlor. It was dreamy.

One shot latte from The Parlor. It was dreamy.

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Sunday: Malaysian food
If you haven’t tried this wing of Asian cuisine, get thee to the Google and find some near you. It’s a wonderful fusion of a lot of different cultures. Lucky us, this is the wedding dinner we’ll be attending. A blend of curry and spice without ridiculous heat, I’m a fan.

Malaysian dessert with a candle, complete with singing, from Laut in NYC.

Malaysian dessert with a candle, complete with singing, from Laut in NYC.

Monday: Street Food
I don’t know what it will be, perhaps Halal Cart or just a gyro, but I plan to enjoy it. A lot. I encourage you to go out and find what’s happening locally foodwise in the street. Some great ideas to be had, some great food to be eaten.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Tuesday: Salad and Pasta
Recovery food for us, we can always make something out of the pantry. It’s good to reset the palate back to normal after a lot of travel. I think this may just be a penne with red sauce night, side of Caesar salad.

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Wednesday: Steak and Potatoes
It’s been too long since I went traditional. Let’s see what happens!

I am still missing this ribeye. Hello again.

I am still missing this ribeye. Hello again.

Thursday: Salmon and Green Beans, Bed of Couscous
As back to school looms near, so emerges my inner Betty Crocker.

Friday: Pizza!
Again, something we’ve not had a ton of, seems like a good time to start.

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon's taste. Just saying.

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon’s taste. Just saying.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Believe it or not, I’ll be in SF, and I think dinner should be about bacon.

Thanks for all of the suggestions you’ve sent my way. Keep it up! I am still seeking fabulous fried chicken and the very best in chocolate covered bacon. Game on!

Send bagels, egg and cheese on a roll, and Halal cart food 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, Snack Wisdom: Travel Foods.

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For the Love of Macaroni and Cheese: Homeroom in Oakland, CA

Gentle Readers, sometimes one goes clear across the country for comfort food. In a week of extreme eating (and I do mean extreme, starting with a meat cone and marching across many scones and some chocolate), simplicity won my heart. The Practical Cooks Junior and I went on vacation to San Francisco, staying with family in Oakland, and eating with many friends along the way. Our last meal abroad was at Homeroom, and it was spectacular.

White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese with Bread Crumb Toppings from Homeroom.

White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese with Bread Crumb Toppings from Homeroom.

The restaurant serves macaroni and cheese. Plus vegetables. And that’s really it. Well, plus drinks and beer. There’s a good bit of bacon too. I respect that in an establishment. Here’s what I liked about the place.

Kids portion of traditional creamy cheddar mac-n-cheese. So fantastically good.

Kids portion of traditional creamy cheddar mac-n-cheese. So fantastically good.

1. Clarity of purpose. Do something and do it well. I knew what I could eat before I went. It was reasonably priced, and I was delighted to eat the White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese, with optional crumb topping.

Hello minty peas, so fresh and full of vegetable goodness.

Hello minty peas, so fresh and full of vegetable goodness.

2. Infinite variety. Though the menu is focused, you can alter and amend your mac-n-cheese ad infinitum. Bravo. Next time I’m getting the garlicky gouda or the truffle and mushroom.

Hipster atmosphere for the win!

Hipster atmosphere for the win!

3. Strong vegetable sides. In a world of starch and cheese, it would be easy to fall victim to a junk food mentality. Not at Homeroom. There are several salads and a few main veggie sides. Again, all reasonably priced. We got minty peas and bacony Brussels sprouts: wow. The Youngest could not shovel peas in fast enough. The Eldest launched a full assault on the sprouts. After a week of eating lots of travel food, it was a welcome respite.

Go ahead and drool over these bacony Brussels sprouts. I'll wait.

Go ahead and drool over these bacony Brussels sprouts. I’ll wait.

4. Just desserts. I only regret I lacked the stomach to try more desserts. We had this peanut butter pie, and it was outstanding. A little salty, a little sharp from either sour cream or cream cheese, and well balanced with the graham cracker crust. I will dream of this. The homemade salted oreo is also highly Yelp recommended. I hope someone will eat that and let me know. I will be back for it.

Peanut butter pie was not overly sweet, but full of flavor. No crumb left behind.

Peanut butter pie was not overly sweet, but full of flavor. No crumb left behind.

5. Beer selection. Again, so often it’s easy to try to do everything. Here, they do a few selections that rotate, and they’re diverse and good. Plus they do crazy combos like a lime plus beer shandy. Too sweet for me, but A for effort. Beer and mac-n-cheese may be my new favorite combo ever.

Simple summer ale, wide mouth Ball jar. Made for each other.

Simple summer ale, wide mouth Ball jar. Made for each other.

To conclude, this is run don’t walk. The place is hipster central, but without the snark that so often accompanies it. I do like that about California in general. Right down to the kids’ menus they hold to theme–it was like homework. TPCs Jr were enthralled. They served the veggies first. Genius. Great service, cool atmosphere, rocking food.

Homework time at Homeroom!

Homework time at Homeroom!

I will confess, I tried the bacony mac-n-cheese, and didn’t love it. Too smokey for me. I know, a bacon lover’s sin to say so in my out loud voice. It was me, not them.

Run, don't walk. Homeroom.

Run, don’t walk. Homeroom.

What do you think of themed restaurants? Do you love mac-n-cheese? What’s your favorite combo? Post your comments below or Tweet my way! Great to be back, and more recipes and reviews are coming your way soon.

Special thanks to my crew of tasters.

Special thanks to my crew of tasters.

Send chocolate milk, good ideas, and good intentions 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Happy Birthday to me, Weekly Menu Edition

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Reader Questions and Feedback: Angry Vegans, Punked by a Reader, and More!

Gentle Readers, the questions just keep getting more interesting. First, I’ll address the most common question I get.

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

1. How do you eat all of that food and not die/have diabetes/weigh x pounds?

I do not consume every bite of every piece of food I photograph. This applies to whole cakes especially. Sometimes the people I’m eating with have prettier plates, or I spot something cool. I do my best to indicate whether I made it, ate it, or just admired it.

Pickled Beets, Walnuts, Sartori Cheese and Herb Salad Mix. Divine.

Pickled Beets, Walnuts, Sartori Cheese and Herb Salad Mix. Divine.

Also, I realize that I don’t photograph the endless amount of salad/oatmeal/carrot sticks that I eat, because it’s not as interesting. Perhaps I’ll do a blog dedicated to the oatmeals I’ve loved while on business trips.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

However, in the interest of full disclosure, I eat a whole lot of healthy food in between bacon benders. I encourage people to make good food choices based on their particular dietary needs, and to strive to enjoy what they eat and to try new things. As long as they aren’t full of hazelnuts. I can’t advocate for that.

2. Punked by a reader.

My favorite photo received after tweeting about making corned beef hash comes from vTeen. Yes, you have all of the ingredients (double points for the Easter eggs), go forth and fire up your Easy Bake Oven.

Corned beef hash ingredients. Well played.

Corned beef hash ingredients. Well played.

3. “Want to go to dinner with us?” “Sure, I’m a vegan.” “We’re going to a BBQ place.” “I’ll make it work.”

The Smoking Pig: Someone please start a band called Angry Vegans and use this as the cover.

The Smoking Pig: Someone please start a band called Angry Vegans and use this as the cover.

It’s now a running joke that I won’t go try any restaurant without an Angry Vegan in the car with me. Courtesy of my amazing photographer friend Ashley, I got to eat real BBQ in San Jose, CA, on a recent business trip, and as happens at business conferences, we invited people along. Full review on the food later, major props to my new vegan friend for not only making it work but making it hilarious.

Chicken Lollipop from the Smoking Pig in San Jose.

Chicken Lollipop from the Smoking Pig in San Jose.

Moral of this story: nothing is impossible. Good BBQ exists everywhere if you look, and vegans are people too. Only snarkier.

Send me your questions. All material considered. Post a comment below, or Tweet my way.

Send your questions, snark, and good ideas 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Friday, Waffle Substitution, Cereal to the Rescue!

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Is Turkey Bacon Real Bacon?

Gentle Readers, this post is coming to you from the San Jose airport, and thus will be brief. Apparently, California is already experiencing a bacon shortage. This broad statement is derived from a small data set. Twice, yes twice, I went to breakfast establishments that didn’t carry “real” bacon. Shocking!

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon's taste. Just saying.

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon’s taste. Just saying.

Mind you, I was too busy stuffing my face full of coffeecake on both occasions to audibly complain. But it raised an important question. Is turkey bacon real bacon?

For our taste test purposes, we decided it was not worth the caloric spend. I found it to be more like facon than bacon. It was crisp and salty, but why not just eat a bit less bacon? I’ve never understood substituting as a reason to consume more of something less tasty.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee's.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee’s.

Not that I am biased. Perhaps we will do bacon brackets with alternative bacons this March. Stay tuned.

Real bacon spotted!

Real bacon spotted!

Send questions, quips, and lucrative investments 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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Filed under Bacon Brackets, On the Table

Barcelona in Review: Food Travels

Gentle Readers, what a week it has been. Exploring the food and culture of Barcelona for a few days, I want to go back for another round, with the Practical Cooks Junior in tow. They have seen the pictures and already volunteered. The cafe culture, the pace, the attention to service in detail, wow, just wow.

I love the tapas concept. Many little plates, ideal for sharing.

I love the tapas concept. Many little plates, ideal for sharing.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

Though I’m not a huge potato person, I could easily eat patatas braves every day for quite a long time. If I lived in Barcelona, I would quest endlessly to find the best of the best. I ordered potatoes and padron peppers every time we had tapas.

Patates braves are a staple of Barcelona.Try them all.

Patates braves are a staple of Barcelona.Try them all.

One of many plates of patates braves.

One of many plates of patates braves.

Ironically, some of the other winning meals were Italian. I had two amazing mushroom based dishes, one paparadelle and one risotto.

Risotto with mushrooms in a parmesan bowl. Yes, please.

Risotto with mushrooms in a parmesan bowl. Yes, please.

And of course there was pig. In all its forms. You call it jamon, I call it delicious. More than one dispute broke out around the International Bacon Line, with British folks being the most outspoken American Bacon dissers. To them I say, I’m sorry you lost. 🙂

Pure jamon goodness.

Pure jamon goodness.

Another pleasant surprise, and a lingering favorite, street food. This take on tomato bread, with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins, was off the charts good. Portable and with a vegetable, brilliant.

Tomato bread with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. One of my favorite things from Barcelona.

Tomato bread with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. One of my favorite things from Barcelona.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Overall, my only regret is not having more time or more stomachs. I will return to Barcelona, and encourage you to add it t your bucket list if you haven’t already been.

Down every narrow street in Barcelona, great food awaits.

Down every narrow street in Barcelona, great food awaits.

What’s your favorite non-US food city? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your questions, lucrative deals, and extra coffee 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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus!

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