Bacon, a summer redoux

Next time I pretend to be a health nut, fight the urge to bring up my family’s affection for The Bacon, will you?

It’s all my brother’s fault.  I blame it on him.  (After all, I would never have come up with the idea of pureeing bacon on my own.  Nah, I’m not that kind of innovator.)

So, dinner last week.  I started with a basic idea:  burgers, mushrooms, garden green beans, salad. 

And went from there:

Beans – Easy peasy; by default, I almost always resort to the steam-saute.  The thing I love about that technique is that it is so versatile–I could add garlic, onion, shallots; I could use oil, butter, or…rendered bacon fat.  (Which, now that I type it, sounds ew…. But when you just think about it, it sounds yum…)

Mushrooms – Sautéed mushrooms are divine.  Sautéed mushrooms with bacon? Yes, please.

Burgers – Bacon-topped burgers are delicious, yes, but a little too straightforward for what I wanted out of the meal.  So I threw chopped, raw bacon, along with onion, garden-fresh herbs, and the usual round of seasonings, minus a little of the salt, into the burger mix.

Care to guess the theme based on my Captain Obvious description??

Uh huh, The Bacon.

I browned a couple of slices of chopped bacon in a skillet, and tossed about 2 T. chopped raw bacon into the burger mix.  It gave a great, subtle, smoky flavor to the burgers.

The mushrooms, sautéed in a little rendered bacon fat (again, ew…) and olive oil, were fantastic.  Of course.

And the green beans?  Topped with the chopped browned bacon and a nudge of garlic, they were total winners.

And voila!  An inspired dinner. 

Maybe next time the inspiration will be some beautiful fresh seasonal produce or something. 🙂


A surprise under the lid, or Why you should go toast yourself some coconut

Last night’s dinner was one of those meals that starts with a vague idea

Tacos, with grilled chicken

and ends with something that was more fun to make and tasted better than I could ever have conceivably planned for.

5:45 p.m. 

The Husband, “I’ll throw the corn on the grill.  Anything else?”

Me:  “Uh, yeah…” (…brain scrambling because I really haven’t thought beyond the general idea “chicken. tacos.”…) “Come back in a few for the chicken.”

5:47 p.m.

Chicken’s thawed and waiting on the cutting board.  I stare in the spice cupboard, willing some inspiration to jump off the shelves.  It does, in the form of cumin, seasoning salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Season the meat, drizzle with olive oil.  Done.

5:52 p.m.

Open the fridge in search of salsa components to go with the orange cherry tomatoes on the counter.  Locate: half a garden onion, a lime, half an avocado, some black beans, cilantro.  Oh! and look, there’s some cabbage.  Hmm…crunchy… Toss everything on the counter.

5:55 p.m.

The Husband comes through the door bearing a monster of a cucumber, fresh off the vine.  M’kay, kids will eat that.  Peel (and briefly consider seeding before remembering that they don’t mind seeds), slice, toss with Cucumber Ranch and a little salt.

5:58 p.m.

Quarter tomatoes, chop onion , toss in a bowl with black beans, salt, lime.  Add avocado, cilantro, more lime, more salt.  All the while I’m thinking about that cabbage. Hey, people eat cabbage on fish tacos, why not make a quick slaw for chicken tacos?

6:04 p.m.

Slice cabbage.  Toss with salt, lime juice, a (very) little vegetable oil, top with a sprinkling of cilantro.  All the while I’m thinking about the cumin-lime crema at Dos Rios.  How do they do that?!  What’s in that tasty little sauce?

6:10 p.m.

I honestly have no idea what makes a crema.  So I’ll make something up:  plain yogurt, cumin, lime juice, a little salt.  Taste, add, taste.  Add cilantro (to make it pretty, of course!).

6:10 and a half p.m.

What’s this under the yogurt lid?  A recipe for lemon parfaits?  Scanning it — I have all of those ingredients…mmm…mental note: don’t throw the lid away!

6:30 p.m.

After repeated requests to “please wash your hands and come to the table!” and remembering “oh YEAH! tacos require shells, d’oh!” and “please carry this to the table” and “please get the glasses.  and silverware.”  and “did you wash your hands?!” we are finally ready to eat.

Damn, that was good.  The birdgirl declared the crema/yogurt sauce “Delicious! Can we have this every time we have tacos??”  The Boy said with a full mouth and vigorous nod, “This chicken is really, really good!”  The Grill Master, too, offered his compliments.

A discussion about black beans may have ensued, with birdgirl insisting that she did NOT like them. 

Me: You’ve never had them, silly.

BG: Yes, I have.

Me: No.  You have not. [At least not that you’re aware of, because every other time I’ve served them, I’ve disguised them, a la Meri’s secret, yummy taco filling, or in chili that you won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.]

BG: Well, I’ve had brown beans and I don’t like them.

Me (yes, the adult): Black beans are better.

BG: I don’t like brown beans.

Me: But these are BLACK beans.  And they’re much better than brown beans.

BG: But I don’t like them.

Me: They have lime juice and salt on them. And they’re really, really good.

Finally, she tastes one.  Well, more like, she licked one. 

BG: Hmph.  I don’t like it.

Me: You didn’t. even. taste it. It’s tiny. Now put the whole thing in your mouth.

Finally!  Bean, chew, swallow.  Wait for it…

BG: M’kay.  Can I have another one?

And seven minutes later, “can I have more black beans, please?”


Now, about that mental note.  “Luscious Lemon Parfaits,” said the recipe.  But I twisted it just a bit to continue the “lime” theme.  Same diff, eh?

Oh. These were so, so delicious.  The toasted coconut totally made this a showstopper.  Even the kids loved it.

Luscious Lemon Lime Parfaits

from the foil lid of a quart of Danon plain lowfat yogurt

Layer the following in a parfait glass:

1/3 c. plain yogurt

couple teaspoons lemon lime curd

2 T. crushed graham crackers

2 T. toasted coconut

Repeat layers a second time.  Top with whipped topping if desired.  I abhor whipped topping and therefore did not desire it.  Totally didn’t need it.

p.s.  You’re welcome. 🙂

How have I lived?

So.  The Husband is away this weekend, and the little birds are still at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  As my coworkers and I discussed our respective plans for dinner last night, someone asked if I’d splurge since I was alone and maybe eat ice cream for dinner. 

For a second, I reconsidered my plans.

But then I remembered that having the house to myself means I can make whatever *I* want without having to please anyone else’s palate.  Which also means I can have goat cheese at every meal.  (How have I lived most of my life without the wonder of goat cheese?! I’m making up for lost time this summer.)

And so I did.

Dinner last night was a twist on mac ‘n cheese, inspired by IGE.  I adjusted the recipe a little, subbed green beans for some of the broccoli and steam-sauteed the veggies before making the sauce.  No pictures, but trust me, the goat cheese made the sauce so creamy and fantastic.  Next time, I’ll add some herbs.  Didn’t do it this time since I made dinner after dark and was feeling too chicken to trek out into the backyard at that hour!

Behold:  Breakfast.

Soft scrambled eggs with a bit of whole grain mustard, goat cheese and chives.  I love Deb’s how-to for scrambled eggs.  No one else in my house appreciates eggs this soft and tender.  These were all mine.  So, so good.

Okay, for lunch I skipped the goat cheese, and had black bean tostadas with some avocado salsa instead.  Another something that the usual inhabitants of this house would frown upon.  Again, so, so, good.  The salsa was so fresh — tomatoes from the market and a handful of quartered orange cherry tomatoes from the backyard, a quarter of a red bell pepper, onion from the garden, cilantro, salt, lime, and diced avocado.  Y.U.M.

And, lastly, dinner.  I painted all day and didn’t stop for dinner until almost 10 p.m.  Looking for quick & easy, I opened the freezer and found Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. 

Now, typically I’d frown on ice cream for dinner.  But this?  This was Cherry Garcia Froyo.   That’s right, frozen yogurt.  Totally makes it okay.

But I was still hungry for something savory.  So I cooked up some hashbrowns with S&P, herbs d’provence, and browned goat cheese.  Hit the spot!

Working on something interesting for breakfast tomorrow.  “Breakfast cookie” anyone??

Grilled pizza

Pizza is a staple around our house.  Homemade (or semi-homemade) pizza, that is.  No takeout for us.  Unless it’s from Centro, but even that doesn’t happen often. 

The advent of premade crusts makes it a cinch to prepare pizza on a weeknight, and the incredible deliciousness of homemade crust can make it a truly special meal for when you have a little more prep time. 

Pizza is quick, customizable, and filling, meaning there’s little need for sides, other than maybe a salad.   The Husband likes meat, meat, and more meat on his pizza.  The kids like–surprise!–pepperoni and cheese.  (Though my birdgirl likes mushrooms, so she and I sometimes split a girly pizza with mushrooms, herbs, and, ideally, goat cheese.  I love that she’s an adventurous eater!)  And I want anything but the standard–give me unorthodox sauces, not-your-typical pizza cheese, and just about any vegetable. 

And right now, there are so many veggies at their peak.  When the veggies are young and tender, they need nothing more than a quick chop and to be thrown on top of a crust for a quick, fresh dinner. 

But on a day like yesterday, when the heat index was hovering in the triple digits, I was not about to turn on the oven.  

The grill, however, was calling me. 

I’d grilled pizza once before.  It was edible, even good, but our old grill presented some challenges and the result wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. 

Enter the new grill:  a big, beautiful, spacious fixture that’s so much easier to use.  Big bonus:  the heat from the burners is actually adjustable!   With the old grill, it was “high” or “off.” 

The gist is that the new baby is perfect for grilling pizza, and I’ll bet that, if your grill was made in this century, you can make this dinner, too! 

What you’ll need: 

The crust:  I started with premade crusts, though rolled out pizza dough works, too.  (Dear Trader Joe’s, Please hurry and get that store in West Des Moines up and running!  Would love, love, love to try your delicious pizza dough on my new grill.  Many thanks, JC) 

The toppings:  Cook any meat toppings, obviously.  Prepare your veggies as you like them.  Set out your sauce and cheese (or cheeses).  Julienne some basil, chop some parsley, strip some thyme — whatever suits your fancy.  The key here that you have to work fast once the pie is on the grill, so ready everything you need and assemble all of the toppings in bowls near the grill. 

The heat:  Preheat the grill on high for about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low once you’re ready to toss the crust on.  


The basic idea:  Grill your pizza crust on one side for about 3 minutes, or until it’s got a few grill marks and develops some color.  Flip the crust and–work quickly here–spread a thin layer of sauce (or drizzle with olive oil, S&P), add your toppings, and close the grill for another couple of minutes to brown the bottom of the crust and melt the cheese.  Check the crust often because it does cook quickly. 

Remove to a pan to rest a few minutes.  Then slice, serve, and savor! 

No two pizzas in my house are ever the same; I mix it up every time.  Last night’s pizzas were inspired by what’s fresh right now at the farmers markets and by this photo here.  I made a bruschetta pizza 


and a riff on Deb’s 


Both were amazingly delicious.  

And since my little birds have flown the coop this week (to the grandparents!), I was able to enjoy a couple glasses of this


(Ignore the surrounding mess…) 

Served with a twist of lime and on the rocks, this is some good stuff!  It totally made grilling in the heat bearable. 


Bruschetta Pizza 

 (inspired by various sightings on the Internet) 

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped 

1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped 

1 clove of garlic, minced 

Chopped basil to taste (I have spicy globe basil and the leaves are tiny enough that I just left them whole.  They were perfect.) 

Combine these ingredients, toss with a bit of salt and some pepper.  Go easy with the salt, because the pepperoni offers plenty.  Drizzle with olive oil and a few sprinkles of balsamic.  Toss again and then let it rest while you prep everything else.  That rest time will allow the tomatoes to release their juices and all those fantastic flavors to marry and make some magic. 



Grill the first side of your pizza crust.  Flip and drizzle with olive oil, (little) salt & pepper, then top with pepperoni and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (fresh would be fantastic; all I had was shredded).  Close the grill lid and cook until the crust browns a bit and the cheese is nearly melted.  Remove from the grill and spoon the bruschetta topping all over the pizza.  Let rest a few minutes so the balsamic/oil soak into the crust.  Slice and savor!


To those of you who suggested that my Popsicles! piece was not a real post, behold

Molly’s post at Orangette this week.


And, this,  my favorite line from that post:

Have you ever seen what happens to adults when you put popsicles on the table in front of them? Namely, popsicles in shot glasses? They grin uncontrollably. It’s beautiful.

Just reading that made me grin uncontrollably. 🙂  Yet another reason I can’t wait to visit Seattle again.  I must eat at Delancey’s.

Garden fresh

There are so many things to love about summer:  the abundance of green–and, likewise, the distinct absence of that white crap that hung around for, like, ever; sunshine; baseball; garden-fresh produce; farmers markets featuring said produce, along with beautiful blooms, artisan cheeses, and other fabulous, funky eats and treats; baseball; lounging on the deck with a cold beer; and, have I mentioned yet, baseball? 

Perhaps my favorite thing about summer is the food.  And, no, not just the ballpark food. 😉 

I love that, in the summer, dinner possibilities are endless and practically effortless.  Our meals are fresh and tasty–and probably healthier because the fridge is practically bursting with fresh veggies, and what’s not in the fridge can be found just outside the back door! 

Tomatoes, peppers, onions, greens and herbs in pots on the deck


The bonus?  I find that my kids are much more likely to eat their meals when the meals feature veggies from our own backyard.  

Cucumbers:  The kids are pretty crazy about cucumbers anyway, but if there’s a bowl of fresh cukes from the garden on the table, I think they eat twice as much. 

Greens:  What kid won’t eat something dipped in ranch dressing? While mine will nibble on a single leaf of lettuce from the grocery store, they’ll eat an entire bowl if the tender greens were harvested from our own garden. 

Tomatoes:  My son pops tomatoes like they’re grapes, so long as they’re fresh off the vine. And they seem to taste even better if he picked them himself! 

Beans:  The kids will eats second, and even thirds, of beans picked from our very own plants. 

So, one evening last week, our dinner featured these garden green beans 

Batch 1


with sides of sweet corn and barbequed chicken. 

Green beans with bacon, sweet corn with a side of herbed butter, BBQ chicken


I prepped the green beans using my favorite method for cooking fresh veggies:  adding bacon. 

Okay, just kidding!  

Sort of. 

My favorite method for cooking veggies comes from Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book.  Her steam-sauté technique is fantastic and practically foolproof.  I have yet to meet a vegetable that doesn’t adapt well to the method. 

The basic idea is this:  Drizzle some oil in the bottom of the pan; add your veggies and about 2 tablespoons of water; salt the veggies (it’ll brighten the color and flavor!) and add onion or garlic, if desired; cover and crank the heat to high.  Set the timer for six to eight minutes, depending on the quantity (and tenderness) of the veggies.  The water will come to a boil and steam the veggies. After the steam session, remove the lid and sauté until the water evaporates and the veggies brown just a bit. 


Mmm, delish! 

Finish with a dash of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a little squeeze of lemon (to brighten any green veggie).  

Or forgo the additional salt, and throw in some bacon! 

The end! 

Two thumbs up! Must have been good if it's all gone!

Burger alternative

It would probably be improper or unwise for me to admit that I don’t like to read the newspaper.  I find it a peculiar form of torture to wade through pages of strife and bad news while not letting the whole venture ruin your day. 

However, I won’t give up our newspaper subscription just yet.  If I did, I might miss the fabulous gems in Pam Anderson’s occasional (is it monthly?) article in the USA Weekend magazine insert in the Sunday paper.  I’m a big fan of Ms. Anderson’s.  Her book How to Cook Without a Book was pivotal in developing my confidence as a cook.  I’ve recommended and gifted that book countless times.

Her article in last Sunday’s paper offered alternatives to the standard hamburger and featured an herbed salmon burger and a turkey burger.  We’d been out of town for the weekend. Once we got home midafternoon, a trip to the grocery store was the last thing on my mind.  I needed something I could make with what I had on hand, and between the garden and the freezer, I had everything I needed to make those salmon burgers!

I used four small-ish frozen salmon filets, fresh herbs from the garden, and some pantry staples to create this perfectly light summer dinner.  Some lightly dressed greens and garden-fresh cucumbers and onions rounded out our plates. The kids didn’t care much for the sauce, but the burgers were juicy enough that they really didn’t need much else. 

The burgers were beautiful (wish I had thought to take pictures!) and so tasty.  These are definitely on my short list for quick grilled favorites!

Herbed Salmon Burgers with Lemon Tartar Sauce

from Pam Anderson at USA Weekend

1½ lb. skinless salmon filet, finely chopped

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley, divided

2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

7 scallions, thinly sliced, divided (I used a bit less here, for the benefit of the kids…)

2 ½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest, divided

12 saltines, finely crumbled

1 large egg, beaten

½ tsp. salt

1 Tbs. olive oil

¾ c. light mayonnaise

¼ c. drained, chopped capers

6 whole-wheat sandwich buns

4 tsp. lemon juice

Thoroughly mix salmon, 2 Tbs. parsley, dill, 6 scallions, 2 tsp. lemon zest, crackers, egg and salt in a medium bowl.  Form into 4 to 6 patties.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

Preheat gas grill for about 10 minutes with all burners on high.  Clean the grill rack with a wire brush, then use tongs to swipe a vegetable-oil-soaked rag over the rack. (I, uh, skipped this step.  Our grill is ancient well-seasoned and, well, I didn’t want to bother.  Burgers came out just fine.)

Brush burgers with oil; place on hot rack. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned.  Grill buns until spotty.  (Watch them!  They cook fast!)

Meanwhile, mix mayo, capers, lemon juice, and the remaining herbs, scallion and zest.

To serve, spread a bit of sauce over the grilled bun pieces and top with burger and lettuce and tomato, if desired.

The kids didn’t care for the sauce, but the burgers were juicy enough that they really didn’t need much else.