Bacon-Wrapped Eggs

I’m sitting here with a mug of fabulous tea we found at yesterday’s farmer’s market, listening to the giggles and babbles of the adorable toddler in the apartment above us, and my stomach is full from the fourth straight meal I’ve made from scratch since the semester ended: I am very happy.

There’s still quite a lot on my to-do list that must be done in prep for next semester. I’ve been told we must “hit the ground running” with my research and so I decided I’d spend Winter Break reading a book on data analysis and getting somewhat familiar with SAS. Last semester I all but ignored my volunteer work, which is really important to me, so I’m also determined to not only catch up in that but figure out a way to keep it in my schedule. Oh, and of course there’s exercise (which my poor body thinks is simply walking up 3 flights of stairs now), brushing up on my Japanese (I have a willing conversation partner I’ve completely ignored), and – of course – cooking! …but I gave myself one full week to be a complete and total bum first, and believe me I’ve taken full advantage of it!

Until yesterday, I only went as far as to throw on a hoodie and yoga pants each morning this week. I made myself some tea and, for the first four days, spent nearly all my waking hours (which were reduced significantly, by the way: I slept about 12 hours a night up until Friday, haha) reading Game of Thrones – which seems to be the official Book Of Halifax. No joke: everyone from my students to coworkers to professors has recommended this series to me. I know the HBO show‘s been getting a lot of buzz, so I gave in and read the first book. I’m usually pretty picky when it comes to SciFi/Fantasy, but Haligonians know what they’re talking about. If you’re a fan of political intrigue, blood, sex, betrayal, and generally all things medieval (oh, and did I mention the walking dead?) you should give this series a chance. My favorite character so far is Arya followed very closely by Tyrion. Usually my favorite characters are always the ones who end up getting killed, but I’ve already been warned that nearly everyone meets untimely ends in this series so I’m prepared for the worst.

Getting back to the food, my brother linked me this cute breakfast idea a while ago and I promised to give it a go. Ever since the apple sundaes my family’s been sharing recipe ideas they want me to try. Usually the recipes are ones I wouldn’t have chosen on my own, but they’re almost always fun and interesting so I figure why not? Just because I’m taking what I eat more seriously doesn’t mean I can’t have fun while making it. 😀

Bacon-Wrapped Eggs (via my bro, slightly adapted from RecipeCards)

* makes enough for 2 servings of two eggs each *

Ingredients:

4   eggs (free-range if you can)

6   slices of bacon (I love applewood-smoked)

½   C   shredded cheese of your choice (I used a mix of Pepperjack and Havarti)

chopped fresh herbs, optional*

salt and pepper

* Note: It kills me not to have my potted herbs anymore (live plants are not allowed to cross the border and for good reason) and I simply can’t justify buying a bagful of fresh herbs from the store because – even when I try – I never seem to use it all before it goes bad. May the kitchen gods forgive me, I used dried dill here…and I’m asking for a basil plant for Christmas, haha.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook 5 slices of bacon on Medium-low heat until browned but not crisp. Set slices aside on a paper towel-lined plate and pat with another paper towel to dry. Turn up the heat to Medium and cook the remaining slice of bacon until crisp – you’ll be using pieces of this one as bases for the eggs. Dry this slice as you did the previous ones.

2) Line the bottoms of 4 ramkins (muffin tins work just as well) with pieces from the crispy slice. Wrap a piece of bacon around the circumference of the ramkins and crack an egg into each. Top with shredded cheese, herbs, and salt and pepper as you prefer.

3) Place ramkins on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until eggs are set. If you like your yolks slightly runny (as I do) remove when whites have solidified but yolks are still jiggly when gently shaken (they will continue to cook a bit after you remove them from the oven) – about 10 minutes. If you like your yolks fully cooked, bake for the full 15 minutes or until the yolks themselves turn opaque and are only slightly jiggly.

Beezer’s Notes:

To be honest, these turned out much better than I had anticipated. They were very cute, nicely bundled eggs that were easy to eat alone or on toast. Brad put his directly onto a toasted bagel and had a breakfast sandwich. Aside from missing my fresh herbs, the only thing I’d change in the future is how I pack the bacon into the ramkins since my eggs seemed a little sunken in their wrappings. Havarti and Pepperjack were the cheeses I had on hand, but the goat cheese & chive blend used in the source recipe looks delicious as well. In general, I prefer my bacon so crisp it’s almost burnt so I’ll probably save this recipe for when folks visit (it’ll be so easy to whip up a dozen of these babies – did you watch the video?) or when I want to entertain kids.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥

Spaghetti Carbonara

Ok, I’m going to fess-up: as much as I hate to admit it, I really do enjoy Olive Garden. Their Ravioli di Portobello was the first dish I ever tried and it continues to be my favorite. Zuppa Toscana, Chicken Piccada, and Spaghetti Carbonara are also winners in my book. I don’t eat out often – and when I do it’s usually Thai – but a great dinner/movie combo for my boyfriend and I involves Olive Garden. You’d think I’d be more inclined to try to replicate scratch versions of my favorite movie night meals, yet a recipe for Zuppa Toscana has been collecting dust in my recipe box for almost a year now. Bacon must trump sausage in my mind, ’cause when I found a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara in America’s Test Kitchen‘s 2010 Light & Healthy edition (!!!) it jumped to the top of the stack. The raw egg worried me a bit and if you are pregnant, feeding children, and/or are immunosuppressed you should use pasteurized eggs (learn how to pasteurize them yourself) or leave them out entirely. I am a healthy child-free young adult, so I took my chances and was fine.

Spaghetti Carbonara (from America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1  1/3     oz.     grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 C)

¼          C        fat-free evaporated milk (I only had regular)

2            T        mayonnaise

1     large   egg

1     large egg white

2          oz.        Canadian bacon, chopped coarse

2        slices      bacon, chopped coarse

3        cloves     garlic, minced

1             t          pepper

1/3         C         dry white wine

1         pound of spaghetti (I used whole-wheat)

1             T        chopped fresh parsley (I used thyme)

Procedure:

  1. Process the cheese, evaporated milk, 1 ½ Tablespoons of the mayonnaise, egg, and egg white in a food processor until smooth – about 15 seconds. Leave the mixture in the processor.
  2. Cook the Canadian bacon and bacon together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon browned – about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and blot gently. Set aside.
  3. Add the garlic and pepper to the fat left in the skillet and cook over medium heat about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly – around 1 minute. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ Cup of the cooking water then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of mayonnaise until evenly coated.
  5. Back to the food processor: with the processor running, slowly add the wine mixture and ¼ Cup of the reserved cooking water to the egg mixture, and process until smooth and frothy. Immediately pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss to combine, adjusting the sauce consistency as needed with the remaining cooking water as desired. Stir in the bacon and season with salt to taste. Sprinkle with parsley (or herb of your choice) before serving.

Beezer’s Notes:

This “low fat” version of Spaghetti Carbonara could fool anyone, it certainly tastes rich and flavorful enough to be served at any restaurant. I know that – with the bacon and mayonnaise – this dish still isn’t the healthiest choice out there, but man if this is the healthier version of Spaghetti Carbonara I don’t think I ever want to eat the original again. America’s Test Kitchen did a great job on this recipe (as per their usual) and while it is a bit more complicated than my usual Spaghetti with Parm & Pepper (very self-explanatory, I won’t insult you by posting a recipe), I won’t hesitate to make it again…especially for certain members of the family that love everything with bacon. Have you ever tried bacon-flecked milk chocolate? Well this guy loves it. *shudder*

Overall Enjoyment: ♥    ♥    ♥


 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This soup (like the Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup) comes from Cook’s Illustrated: Soups and Stews. In fact, the recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Soup is on the page directly opposite of Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup. Coincidence? Nope! I read them both and tabbed them immediately. I have a thing for tabs.

I’ll give you fair warning: this soup, while absolutely amazing, would not make it into any diet plan…unless a diet plan included cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, bacon, and fried potato skins. Made from scratch, I would still eat this soup over any other processed soup on the market without thought. You just probably shouldn’t eat this every day. Save it for those cold, wet, dreary evenings when you need some fantastic soul-food. Or, even better, save it for a potluck! The smell of this soup alone draws folks over like moths to a flame and it’s hearty enough to serve in small portions.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup (from Cook’s Illustrated: Soups and Stews)

Ingredients:

8              slices of raw bacon, chopped

3    lbs.    russet potatoes, scrubbed (about 6)

1               large onion, chopped

2               medium garlic cloves, minced

2      T       unbleached AP flour

4      C       low-sodium chicken broth

1      C       heavy cream

1    sprig   fresh thyme (or 1 t dried)

1      lb.    sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (~ 4 Cups)

1      C      sour cream, plus extra for garnish

3              scallions, sliced thin plus extra for garnish

black pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook bacon pieces in a Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed deep stock pot over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until crisp. While bacon is cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove potato skins in wide strips, saving the peels. Cut the peeled potatoes into 3/4″ pieces.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Blot gently with another paper towel to remove excess oil and set aside.
  3. Add potato skins to bacon fat in the pot and cook until crisp – about another 8 minutes. Remove the skins to another paper towel-lined plate and blot as before. Set aside.
  4. Add onion to the fat remaining in the pot and cook about 6 minutes or until golden. Stir in garlic and flour and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant. Gradually whisk in the broth, cream, and thyme. Then stir in potatoes and bring the mix to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it cook until the potatoes are tender, 7 – 10 minutes.
  5. Discard the thyme (if using a sprig) and transfer 2 Cups of cooked potatoes to a small bowl. Set aside.
  6. Puree the remaining soup using an immersion blender or, if using a conventional blender, blend in batches until smooth and return to the pot.
  7. Warm the now-smooth soup over medium-high heat. Once warmed, remove soup from heat and slowly stir in handfuls of cheese until all the cheese has been melted in. Whisk in sour cream. Return reserved potatoes to soup and season with pepper to taste.
  8. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, potato skins, scallions, cheese, and sour cream.

Beezer’s Notes:

Mmm, my mouth is watering just remembering this soup! One of the many things I love about it is how folks can adapt it a bit to suit their tastes: load on all the garnishes or sprinkle just a few – or none! This soup has a multitude of flavors all by itself. As I said before, it wouldn’t win any health awards. That said, you simply can’t deny the benefits of cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Just ask Jamie Oliver.

I’m sure you could tweak the recipe a bit to lower the calorie count. Would it taste as good? Probably not. Would it still be a satisfying meal? Most definitely. I used regular sour cream, so first off change that to reduced-fat. You could probably even omit the sour cream altogether in the soup itself without a fuss and serve it solely as a garnish. I would also try halving the cheese. I know, I love cheese too, but the original soup is so thick that I’m convinced you could get away with a ½ Cup of it. Finally, nix the heavy cream and use whole or reduced-fat milk. I’m going to try these methods the next time around and see how it goes.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥


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