Tag Archives: trader joe’s

Weekly Menus with Bonus Tapas Recipe: Week of 11/10/2013

Gentle Readers, what a long strange week it has been. Just finished up with a very large project that involved time spent cooking in a kitchen (not my own). What did I discover? I love asparagus and pancake mix is infinitely better when you doctor it. Not earth shattering, perhaps, but it’ll do for this week.

One of the best tapas from Barcelona's famed Cervezeria y Catalana, Asparagus and Mushrooms. We ordered two.

One of the best tapas from Barcelona’s famed Cervezeria y Catalana, Asparagus and Mushrooms. We ordered two.

Having recently returned from Barcelona, I find myself missing the concept of small plates. Though so much of the traditional tapas fair is meat or seafood focused, my heart was won over by the simplest of dishes, roasted mushrooms and asparagus. This was not fancy, just some good salt and olive oil, fresh ingredients, and a practiced hand.

My version of asparagus and mushrooms at home!

My version of asparagus and mushrooms at home!

Since then, it’s created a small obsession. I reenacted at home, to much fanfare (the small bit left over made for a killer lunch omelet the next day). Again, I discovered that asparagus is often the answer for me. I love the combo, too, either standing alone as tapas, or in an omelet, pasta, risotto, etc.

Asparagus from the Bull and Bear at The Waldorf Astoria in New York. My favorite thing on the menu.

Asparagus from the Bull and Bear at The Waldorf Astoria in New York. My favorite thing on the menu.

Tapas Recipe: Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the dirt of some baby bella (or white button) mushrooms. Drizzle with good Spanish olive oil and a bit of coarse salt. Roast until tender but not dry, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Pair with asparagus, soaked in water to remove grit and rinsed and patted dry, woody ends snapped off. You can oven or pan-roast the asparagus, same technique. Enjoy. Ole.

Sometimes I struggle to stop cooking once I start: 3 side dishes for Sunday dinner? Sure. (Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Acorn Squash with Maple Syrup)

Sometimes I struggle to stop cooking once I start: 3 side dishes for Sunday dinner? Sure. (Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Acorn Squash with Maple Syrup)

But back to this week’s weekly menus. I can’t stay out of the kitchen right now–I want to practice all the things I’ve learned and eaten, which means:

Weekly Menus: 11/10/2013

Weekly Menus: 11/10/2013

The Four-Square Grocery list is pretty simple:

The Four Square Grocery List: 11/10/2013

The Four Square Grocery List: 11/10/2013

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Pork, Brussels Sprouts, and Acorn Squash, with Green Bean Casserole
I really do love casseroles, and apparently it’s genetic. TPCs Jr ate their weight in the Trader Joe’s rendition. Not gonna lie, I heart their Portabella Mushroom Soup and Fried Onions. The addition of extra sauteed mushrooms makes this nothing but win for team TPC. (Sidenote: the deli already cooked pork loin was a crime against pigs. Please do not cook your pork to sawdust. Thanks, the mgmnt)

Trader Joe's Portabella Mushroom Soup

Trader Joe’s Portabella Mushroom Soup

Monday: Burgers and Fries
The Jrs decided they wanted to honor veterans, and shy of MREs, this is what we came up with. This All-American meal, we may have it on English Muffins. Don’t judge. Thank you for your service.

Tuesday: Mexican
Favorite quote from the grocery aisle today: what’s the “International Food” aisle? I explain, the Jrs respond, oh, you mean dinner. I still find the denotation odd and amusing, but straight from the International aisle to you, we’re serving up leftover pork soft tacos. Or Fauxnitas.

Korean Pork Tacos

Korean Pork Tacos

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner
Mainly an excuse to eat grits and biscuits, truth be told. I will throw sauteed spinach and heirloom tomatoes on the eggs to fancy it up, but there will be molasses involved. It’s fall, and one must battle anemia where one may.

The Practical Cook Loves Molasses

The Practical Cook Loves Molasses

Thursday: Spanikopita and Salad
We’re trying a slightly crustless spanikopita thing from the frozen aisle of Trader Joe’s. We shall see how this goes. I think the salad will be fruit to provide balance in the force. Perhaps some sliced apples with Maple Butter. Seriously fall, I have a crush on you right now. Even if you have a pumpkin aftertaste.

Friday: Tuna Noodle Casserole
I don’t joke about casserole love. Clearly I was born in the wrong decade, or have fallen under the spell of my latest kitchen wall hanging. Oh, this is a classic.

My latest kitchen acquisition: calorie counter from days gone by.

My latest kitchen acquisition: calorie counter from days gone by.

Saturday: Dine Out
I feel a run to China Wok or some other exotic location is in order. Bahn Mi? I say oui.

Pulled Pork Bahn Mi from Num Pang. It's like Cambodia meets the South plus Sriracha.

Pulled Pork Bahn Mi from Num Pang. It’s like Cambodia meets the South plus Sriracha.

Thanks for sticking around. I’m planning to limit the blog to once a week for a while so that I have time to cook and keep up with TPCs Jrs’ active lifestyles. I’m still doing recipe and menu prep, and will break out the blogs accordingly as time and ingredients permit. What challenges can I solve for you? I take requests. Post a comment below. I don’t bite unless you’re shaped like a lamb-burger.

Send your casserole dishes, mulling spices, and strokes of genius 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 with Bonus Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes!

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More Pumpkin in Review: The Pies Have It!

Gentle Readers, it is with great relief that I’m winding up this personal pumpkin challenge. To be frank, I almost wept openly in Trader Joe’s when I saw the number of pumpkin items yet untried, mainly in the frozen dessert aisle.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I'll scream like those bananas though.

The cutest pumpkins ever. Clementines with an apple stem. One more pumpkin and I’ll scream like those bananas though.

But enough is enough–why do I need to buy pumpkin bread pudding when I’m more than capable of making my own? In spite of the toll my real life schedule takes on my cooking time (and my blogging time for that matter), every day that I cook something from scratch, or simply feed myself and TPCs Jr, feels like a victory.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

Almost from scratch pumpkin pie. Hold the Cool Whip please.

So making a pumpkin pie from “scratch” (air quotes to honor the Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust deployed into this fight) seems worthy of a ticker tape celebration. I even served it with Pumpkin Ravioli. Thus the pumpkin tales end where they began.

Three More Favorite Pumpkin Things:

1. Pumpkin Ravioli. These are actually good, though the batch we had was less than smooth in the filling of a few of them. Serve with a simple brown butter and sage sauce–melt butter, fry sage, toss with cooked pasta, call it gourmet. This is a family favorite, worthy of serving special guests.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage--Nom!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage–Nom!

2. Pumpkin Pancakes. Still the house favorite, using the Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle mix as a starter, we often add ground flaxseed, applesauce, almond meal, and/or chopped walnuts. It’s very flexible, have at it. On rare occasions, we add chocolate chips. I still don’t like them in my pancakes, judge me if you will.

World's Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

World’s Largest Pumpkin Pancake. I totally flipped it midair, no spatula. #win

3. Pumpkin Pie. I made the recipe from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can, a time-honored approach. I swapped in the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice, which I adore, and used the aforementioned frozen crust, also from TJ’s. I know it’s got no trans fats in it, but I found it a bit doughy and brittle, and that’s not just operator error. It’s crust in the end, so it’s still good, but apparently I like a little more trans fat in my pie crusts.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice: With Cardamom and Lemon Peel, I Love This Stuff

Honorable Mentions:

  • Pumpkin Toaster Pastries. Not my favorite, but TPCs Jr gave these a thumbs up as a seasonal travel food.
  • Pumpkin Bars. Not a bad entry, bordering on the dessert category.
  • Pumpkin Biscotti. These were also not bad, but having made my own, I’m now permanently spoiled.
  • Pumpkin Blondies. Okay, but I didn’t really see the point here.
  • Pumpkin Loaf Bread Mix. Again, a pretty strong contender, but quick breads aren’t hard to make from scratch, and you have more control over the flavor profile. Secretly, I still greatly prefer Starbucks Pumpkin Bread. It’s the seeds I tell you!
  • Pumpkin Butter. A nice side with apples or the Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps.
So much pumpkin at Trader Joe's: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

So much pumpkin at Trader Joe’s: butter and mix and decorative gourds oh my!

And thus ends my pumpkin journey. I’m now heading into Thanksgiving season with a healthy portion of condensed soups and fried onions from my favorite alternative grocery store. It’s casserole and stuffing season, and I’ll pay allegiance to other winter squashes henceforth. Acorn and Delicata, I’ve missed you.

What’s your favorite of the pumpkin products? Send a Tweet or comment below! The pumpkin polls are open!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Until next year, leaving the largess of pumpkin behind. TPCs Jr celebrate the overlarge veggies at N.C. State Fair!

Send your Cool Whip, maple syrup, and spooky thoughts 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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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Casserole Edition!

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Pumpkin Pumpkin Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink: Round 1

Gentle Readers, it seemed like such a simple mission at the start, trying all of the pumpkin things at Trader Joe’s. I gleefully tossed them in my cart with the joy of a completist blog in my future. It looked like this:

Back when I thought it was all about the Pumpkin Pancakes and a fun challenge. Trader Joe's Round 1.

Back when I thought it was all about the Pumpkin Pancakes and a fun challenge. Trader Joe’s Round 1.

Then I went back to the store the next week. And the pumpkin offerings expanded. Now my cart looked like this:

Pumpkin soup, oatmeal, ravioli--wait, how did the Joe Joe's get in there.

Pumpkin soup, oatmeal, ravioli–wait, how did the Joe Joe’s get in there.

Is it possible to suffer from Vitamin A poisoning? Or is this a Michael Pollan level conspiracy, as wonderfully outlined in The Pumpkin Industrial Complex? I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

So rather than everything, I’m going to start by reviewing a few of my favorite things.

3 Practical Pumpkin Things

1. Pumpkin Granola. I love this cereal. I would eat it regardless of season or the PIC (Pumpkin Industrial Complex). Crunchy, spicy, with a little bit of raisin sass, this is two spoons up.

Pumpkin granola cereal from Trader Joe's, in aggregate.

Pumpkin granola cereal from Trader Joe’s, in aggregate.

2. Pumpkin-Cranberry Scones. Of the mixes I’ve tried, this is one of my favorites. They are simple to make, with a pretty good texture, and a nice pumpkin-ness to them. The cranberries make a lovely addition as well.

Nice texture and warmth, this scone mix is pretty easy to work with.

Nice texture and warmth, this pumpkin scone mix is pretty easy to work with.

3. Pumpkin Crisps. If you’re a fan of the rosemary crisps, this is a run don’t walk situation. Fabulous with a touch of goat cheese or a schmear of pumpkin butter, these I would eat until I foundered. Not your mama’s cracker.

Pumpkin crisps atop, wait for it, pumpkin soup from Trader Joe's. TPC's Jr are pretty much over it.

Pumpkin crisps atop, wait for it, pumpkin soup from Trader Joe’s. TPC’s Jr are pretty much over it.

That’s it for round 1. I’ve got lots more to review, and will even reveal some of my less favorite options. But I will need help from you loyal readers. If you’d like to guest blog, email me. If you’d like to just drop a quick one-line review in the comments, go for it. If you want to get into a pumpkin pie eating contest, I’ll take you on there as well.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

Send your non-pumpkin items, good ideas, and mind-blowing suggestions 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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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: State Fair Edition

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Soft Foods That Don’t Suck: Ideas for Eating with Braces

Gentle Readers, one of my very favorite parts of eating, is the chewing of food. While that may sound funny, endless studies indicate that chewing makes you feel full, and I’ve certainly found that to be true. Texture matters. A lot. So many foods are hated (looking at you tomatoes and coconut) because of less than flattering descriptions of their mouthfeel.

The Eldest transformed into a teenager overnight, complete with braces and a digital native's gift for the craycray-eyed "selfie."

The Eldest transformed into a teenager overnight, complete with braces and a digital native’s gift for the craycray-eyed “selfie.”

So why am I crafting endless meals around soft food? Meet The Eldest Practical Cook Jr, newly minted into the world of braces. As anyone who has every had their teeth monkeyed about with can tell you, it hurts. Add to this the challenge of a lunch period that has been sliced down to nearly nothing (seriously, try eating in 15 minutes or less, not easy), and you’ve got trouble.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

PB and J’s are a little challenging to consume quickly, chips are out, carrot sticks are out, apples are out. How can I provide food that is nutritionally sound, reasonably interesting, and palatable to the rest of us on occasion (so we can use leftovers in lunchboxes)?

Kale and Spinach Bites from Trader Joe's: Nutrition Doesn't Have to Suck

Kale and Spinach Bites from Trader Joe’s: Nutrition Doesn’t Have to Suck

3 Soft Foods That Don’t Suck

1. Kale Spinach Bites. Special thanks to TraderJoesMom for bringing this one to my attention! (Yes, a classmate’s mom works at TJ’s, and she is currently my hero for having tried everything on both herself and her kids.) These bites are actually delicious, and I plan to try my hand at making them from scratch. They are much like spanikopita without the crust, and work well at room temperature.

Don't miss these Kale and Spinach Bites from Trader Joe's. I'm working on a recipe now.

Don’t miss these Kale and Spinach Bites from Trader Joe’s. I’m working on a recipe now.

2. Drinkable Yogurt. This is a two-fer: calcium, calories, and a potentially reusable container for me to pack with homemade smoothies. The blender is getting a workout these days. The combinations are infinite. Look for a feature next week on smoothie ideas and recipes.

Raspberry Mango Smoothie? I say yes.

Raspberry Mango Smoothie? I say yes.

3. Soup. Again, seems obvious, but one of my favorite tricks is making stock from the carcass of a rotisserie chicken. You’ve then got the basis of a soup, plus add in a little of the leftover meat, noodles, and cabbage and carrots. There’s some chew, but also plenty of easily accessible calories. Try Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup for a simple recipe. It was a hit with everyone.

Other things that are soft: poached eggs. My brunch from Beaufort Grocery Company, just because I miss it and remember it fondly.

Other things that are soft: poached eggs. My brunch from Beaufort Grocery Company, just because I miss it and remember it fondly.

More thoughts and reviews coming. There’s nothing like a food challenge to start the creative drive. We are busily blending, stewing, steaming, and serving things on the side to make a single meal work for all of us, with potentials for leftovers to be served in lunch. Share your ideas! The options have certainly evolved past the milkshakes and mashed potatoes period post my wisdom teeth extractions!

The Practical Cook's Mom's Homemade Chicken Soup

The Practical Cook’s Mom’s Homemade Chicken Soup

Send your good wishes, bright ideas, and actual 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus, It’s Finally Fall Edition

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Polenta: Mexican Style! (Recipe of Sorts)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook listens to the crowd in planning menus. And TPCs Junior have spoken–polenta for the people! Apparently, if a casual counting of likes, reactions, and genial nods are indicators, you, the viewing public, also like polenta recipes.

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Here’s this week’s offering, Polenta: Mexican Style!

1 shelf-stable package of Trader Joe’s polenta (feel free to make your own, or sub your favorite brand), cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 Tablespoon butter/olive oil combo, in any ratio
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 can diced no-salt tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package Trader Joe’s soy chorizo (or the real stuff, or another kind of soy chorizo)
1 avocado, diced
shredded cheese for topping
sour cream for topping

1. Heat the butter/oil in a large skillet over a strong medium heat. When hot, add the polenta and fry both sides well, at least 8 minutes per.

2. Meanwhile, open, drain, and rinse the black beans. In a small saucepan, heat a dash of olive oil over a low medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute until you smell it, about 30 seconds, then add cumin and oregano. Add black beans and tomatoes, stir. Lower the heat and simmer until flavors meld, which I find happens right when the polenta is done because I’m hungry.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe's: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

3. Meanwhile, yes, there’s a lot of meanwhiling going on, saute the chorizo (remove the casing!) over medium heat in a dash of olive oil.

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don't be afraid).

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don’t be afraid).

4. Assemble by placing at least 2 rounds of polenta, a dollop of beans, chorizo, cheese, and sour cream on the plate. Dig in.

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

I suppose that was actually a recipe. Enjoy, it was my favorite iteration to date. Not quite the masa cakes of Brooklyn Star, but I’ll get there yet. I suspect I need to find a way to make my own polenta cakes, or masa cakes, but the shelf-stable one is so very easy and in demand.

Have you tried polenta yet? What’s your flavor? Post a comment below, the crickets will thank you.

Send your corn meal, witty rejoinders, and favorite cereals 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 next, it’s Weekly Menus or Wait, Where’s November?

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Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

Gentle Readers, on rare occasions, everyone in the family likes the same thing. Team Practical Cook prides itself on individual palates, to the point that certain Practical Cooks regret raising Juniors with discriminating tastes. Overheard at the table: that’s not how it tastes to my mouth. Arrgghh!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Yes, the Practical Cooks Junior are seriously 2.0, with all the requisite improvements, but you try cooking for short people with very clear notions of food. Enter Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta. It was the featured sample a few weeks back, and it’s graced our kitchen ever since.

Trader Joe's Shelf-Stable Polenta

Trader Joe’s Shelf-Stable Polenta

This time we made it hearty. The Youngest didn’t like mushrooms much before, so we had everyone select their own type of mushroom from the bin. Naturally, she went for the shitakes, at $9.99/lb. Oh well. They were delicious.

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

1 package Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta, or feel free to make it yourself, I won’t wait
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
about a pound of mushrooms, any variety, cleaned and sliced
salt
red pepper flakes
1/2 bag prewashed baby spinach
6 grape tomatoes, quartered
3 – 6 eggs
Romano cheese

1. Slice the polenta in 6 to 8 slices, and prepare according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dollop of olive oil in a medium-high skillet and add the garlic cloves. When you can smell them, add the mushrooms. Add salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until they lose their water and reduce.

3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the spinach. Saute until wilted. Add the grape tomatoes and heat briefly.

4. By now the polenta should be done. Turn off the heat but leave in the pan. Meanwhile, fry as many eggs as you want, over easy or medium, at least one per serving.

5. Make a stack: polenta, mushroom mixture, egg. Top with grated Romano cheese. Enjoy.

This was a runaway hit. It was beautiful, it felt special, and with some fruit on the side, made for a very filling meal. After all, polenta is really just Italian for grits.

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Are you a polenta fan? How do you serve it? Post a comment below, I’m listening!

Send your confessions, questions, and bacon 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, on video: Booberry vs Frakenberry: The Ultimate FauxBerry Taste Challenge

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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

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

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