Brunch Cups featuring Hormel Natural Choice Bacon

Warning: This entry is photo heavy! As always, click on a photo to view a larger image.

Bacon. Seriously, other than folks with allergies and specific diets, who doesn’t like bacon? (I know there are a few of you out there, but what you don’t care for is our treat.)

34985143_10214773115775264_2706663659517509632_nI have had an opportunity through My Magazine Sharing Network to give a free sample of a Hormel product a try: Natural Choice Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon. There are other flavors of course, but this one appealed to my partner in crime, so that’s what we took home.

 

From Hormel:

No Preservatives,* No Artificial Ingredients

The makers of HORMEL®NATURAL CHOICE® Bacon believe everyone deserves to eat better. That’s why they’re committed to making honest products you can trust that are both enjoyable and affordable. HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE®Bacon is made without artificial preservatives or ingredients. It’s gluten free, minimally processed and comes from pork raised without added hormones.** Whether enjoyed alone or in a recipe — it’s a delicious way to start your day.

*No nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in cultured celery and cherry powder
**Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork.”

 

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Look good, don’t they?

Now that you have the pertinent information, let’s get down to business. The recipe. I’d been wanting to make brunch cups sans pastry dough (my usual tactic) for a while, and this was a golden opportunity. There were a bunch of photos taken during this kitchen session, so you can get a step by step idea of how these lovely cups are built, if you are not already aware. The recipe is good for breakfast, brunch, or anytime you feel the need for these flavors, and can be a wonderful cooking project to share with kids at home or at Gramma’s when you go to visit.

As usual with any of my recipes, feel free to make additions, deletions, and alterations to suit your own dietary and taste needs. The more variations, the merrier!

 

BRUNCH CUPS
Prep time: minutes
Cook Time: minutes
Servings: 6

34874862_10214773116295277_866612718298202112_nIngredients:
1-12 oz package of bacon,
6 whole strips, the rest cut into thirds
10 large eggs
4-6 oz potato, pre-cooked
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
1 tsp parsley
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
Sea salt, garlic, and pepper to taste

 

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Freshly washed yard eggs, medium to large in size.

NOTE:
-I used slices of baked potato (Golden) that had been stored in the refrigerator, tossed with sea salt and diced garlic).
-Olive oil baking spray is a standard in my kitchen.
-Cupcake pan should be larger than normal, but not cake sized. This handy chart helps with sizing.-The Cherry Wood Smoked bacon smells amazing!

Directions:

35080231_10214773116055271_8061552674270609408_nPre-heat oven to 350F. Spray cupcake pan liberally with olive oil.

Line baking cups with bacon in stages: 2 cut slices on bottom, one whole slice around the inside of the cup. Place slices of potato (with garlic and salt) into the bottom of the cup. Place a single slice of cut bacon on top of the potato. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest while other prep work continues.

34963243_10214773153696212_9215589916891676672_nIn a moderate sized bowl, crack eggs. Whisk briskly while adding parsley, paprika, and cumin.

 

 

Pour egg mixture into baking cups slowly, to allow any air bubbles to surface. Return to hot oven for 15 minutes.

 

Remove cupcake pan from the oven. Divide Swiss cheese evenly among the cups, making sure that coverage is even and no bits of cheese are hanging out to make cleanup a chore. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is all melted.

 

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Emplated, with a dab of onion sour cream.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes. Carefully remove the cups so as not to scratch up the pan. They may be plated individually or removed to a serving platter.

 

Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

The brunch cups may be served with fruit, a bit of sour cream on top, or however you prefer to emplate them. The meal is fairly low in carbohydrates and quite high in protein, making is a delicious main dish for diabetics. It is not particularly ketogenic friendly due to the potato content.

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Try this recipe with one of the Hormel Natural Choice bacons, and let us know how you like it. We, and our guests that morning, have enjoyed the experiment a great deal.

 

“That bacon is not too salty and not too sweet. Great stuff!” – Adrian
“I found the cups to be an interesting bit of breakfast. The egg mixing with the bacon and the cheese had a slight sweet taste. Yet, I found the cups to be soft and easily eaten with little mess. My furbaby even enjoyed a few nibbles that escaped from my plate! I would be interested in trying this again — maybe with sausage or a different type of cheese to see how the flavor changes.” — Billie Jean

 

– Ann Cathey

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Elotes!

My partner in crime, Christopher, works with a company that indulges in company lunches once every month or two. Employees are encouraged to bring side dishes and desserts. One of his fellows decided to bring a favorite in Houston and other American cities along the Texas-Mexico border – Street Corn, also called Elotes.

While Christopher was too busy munching to get a photo of the dish, he did manage to bring home the recipe and permission to share it with our readers.

ELOTES – Grilled Mexican Street Corn
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
6-8 ears sweet corn, husks removed
½ cup Mexican crema (or sub sour cream)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup minced cilantro
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¼ tsp ground chipotle pepper, to taste
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp lime juice
½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled (or sub crumbled Feta or grated Parmesan)

Directions:
Set up your grill as you normally do. Light your coals and get them good and hot.

While the coals are getting started, in a large mixing bowl combine crema, mayo, cilantro, garlic, ground pepper, lime zest and juice and mix until homogenized.

When grill is ready, place ears of corn directly over hot side of grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all sides.

Transfer corn to cheese mixture and coat well on all sides. Set coated ears onto serving tray and sprinkle with additional cheese and cilantro before serving if desired.

Serve immediately. Lime wedges and crisp corn chips are good sides for this dish.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

If the specific dairy items above are not available in your area, please note the suggested substitutions.

 

Christopher enjoyed the elotes quite a bit, and hopes that you will, too.

Bon appetite!

– Ann Cathey

Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

Harvest Endive Salad

Fall seems to be a time to start thinking about using apples and walnuts more than during the spring and summer. It may be because the the traditional harvest has come in and these are fresher ingredients than any other time of the year.

Down in the southern United States, where this blog originates, the weather seems to swing between hot and cold for most of the fall and part of the winter, leaving us wanting warm and savory dishes part of the time, and salads the rest of the time!

Below is a salad recipe that lends itself to both savory and sweet. It’s great for a light lunch, a brunch addition, or an accompaniment to grilling. It’s also a swift and simple side to take to a family gathering or holiday party.

HARVEST ENDIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 heads endive (or substitute Romaine)
1 medium apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 tbsp fresh chive, chopped for garnish

Directions:
Wash, dry, and trim endive. Cut each leaf into quarters lengthwise. Crosscut into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Place in large salad bowl.

Wash apple, core and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Add to salad bowl.

Cut cheese into approximately 1/4 inch cubes. Add to salad bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

If serving immediately, toss with dressing and serve. Sprinkle with chives for added color.

If taking to a gathering, wait until you are about to serve before adding dressing and tossing salad.

 

Dressing:
1/4 rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt

Directions:
In a lidded glass jar, combine vinegar, oils, salt and sugar. Cover and shake vigourously to combine ingredients.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

SAUSAGE LASAGNA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 hours on Low
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb uncooked ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
6 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken in half
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Cook sausage and onions 8-10 monutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Drain well.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Spoon 1/3 of the sausage mixture into the slow cooker, spreading evenly over the bottom.

Arrange half the noodles on top.

Combine 1 cup of the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses in a medium bowl. Spoon half of the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.

Repeat to add another layer.

Top with remaining 1/3 sausage mixture. cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses; sprinkle over top of the lasagne.

Cover and let stand for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna sets up slightly.

Serve directly from the slow-cooker.

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

Reuben Pie

On a road trip about 15 years ago, I had a culinary epiphany. Little did I know how well the
initial test would turn out, or how much demand there would be. I conceived something we like to call Reuben Pie.

If you like Reuben sandwiches , you’re likely going to love this one. For those not in the know, the Reuben is an American hot sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. There are plenty of variations out there, but only one real Reuben.

This dish is not an inexpensive one due to the ingredients, and it’s deceptive in it’s
simplicity. Making one, let alone two of these things is a labor of love.
Rueben Pie
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 raw pizza crust or preferred dough
2 lbs corned beef sliced at 0.5

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Grated Swiss cheese

1 pound Swiss cheese, shredded or grated
1 15 oz jar of sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, and pressed
1 bottle Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing
10″ spring-form pan
Parchment paper

Directions:

Grate the cheese and set aside.

Drain, rinse and press as much water as you can out of the sauerkraut.

Line the bottom of a spring-form pan with parchment paper and lock the ring in place. You may cut away the excess paper on the outside of the ring, or leave it for a larger “handle” when removing the pie after baking. If your pans are non-stick, don’t bother spraying them olive oil. If using a cast iron or other pan, spray the sides and line the bottom as with the spring-form.

Roll out the pizza crust and fit it into the pan. Be sure to cover the bottom and sides,
pinching any seams or holes closed, and pushing the dough into the edge where the side meets the bottom. You may have to cut away corners and pinch them in to fill gaps along the sides.

Place in a 400F oven for about ten minutes to give the crust a little more definition. If you
have an extra pan that will fit to keep the sides upright, I suggest using it.

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Upon removing the crust from the oven, remove the shaping pan (if you used one) and begin layering in your other ingredients. Begin with a thin layer of dressing, spread evenly around the bottom and sides. Add a sprinkle of Swiss. Add a layer of meat, thick enough so that you cannot see the bottom crust. Spread a layer of kraut around, as thick as you like. Next is a layer of Swiss.

Begin again with the dressing and continue layering until the pan is full. Be sure that your
top layer is cheese and that nothing is hanging over the edge of the pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to ensure cheese melts and dish is heated through.

Once out of the oven, unlock and remove the ring from the pan. Using the edge of the parchment paper slide the pie onto a cutting surface. Allow to sit for three or four minutes before cutting.

Cut into eight wedges and serve with deli mustard and kosher pickles.

 
I’ve made some notes on the process and ingredients I prefer for this dish, as well as some
excellent alternatives. You might find some or all of them helpful.

DSC_0176The Pan
I use a spring-form pan for this dish for it’s ease in releasing the pie once it’s baked. A
deep dish cake pan or cast iron would do as well, provided you don’t mind it getting scratched from having the pie cut in it. This is not a dish that turns out like a cake with anyreliability, tending more to oozing cheese everywhere.

Parchment Paper
Parchment paper in the bottom of the pan will make it easier to remove. With a spring-form, you simply unlock the ring and lift it away, then slide the parchment paper and it’s burden onto a cutting surface. With any other type of pan, the corners of the parchment paper may be used to lift the pie out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Parchment paper also helps give the bottom crust a crunchier texture, reminiscent of the grilled bread of a Reuben sandwich.

DSC_0180Pizza Crust
A pizza crust found in the canned biscuit case is readily available and easy to use. If you
have other breads available (at one time I could get pre-made rye bread dough at the grocery), or prefer to make your own, it’s entirely up to you. Be sure that with whatever crust you choose, the flavors will be compatible with the filling ingredients. We have tried pizza crust, rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel over the years and found them all to be quite tasty.

DSC_0192Corned Beef
Corned beef is typical of the Reuben sandwich, though you may prefer pastrami. Pastrami or even a mix of the two meats is perfectly acceptable. While I have always preferred corned beef sliced extremely thin, you may choose to use thicker slices (tougher) or even chunks/strips if you have home-cooked a corned beef and have leftovers. I know – such leftovers are not likely. Thinly sliced meat will not only allow fats to more readily cook out to combine with the other ingredients, it will give you a more tender texture overall, and allow your cheese to melt into the meat as well as the kraut layers.

Turkey also makes a decent Reuben style sandwich, though I have yet to try it in a Reuben pie. White meat especially is rather dry on it’s own and should be compensated for by adding a bit of an oilier cheese such as Mozzarella to compensate.

DSC_0184Sauerkraut
There are actually several styles of kraut on the market. There is a sweetish kraut (Bavarian style), a red kraut, and the generally well known white sauerkraut. Most people are unaware that when buying commercial kraut, it should be drained of the can/jar fluids, and rinsed before being used. That’s a trick I learned from my father after he had spent some time in Germany. For this recipe, the less fluid in the kraut, the less fluid will run off and move down to make the bottom crust mushy, so be sure to press it well after rinsing.

Swiss Cheese
I recommend buying your cheese in block form and grating it yourself. You may slice it if you prefer, but you will not get the same coverage in the end. Pre-grated or shredded cheeses are commonly coated with an anti-caking agent such as corn starch. If you don’t want those extra calories and carbs, you might consider avoiding the temptation. Besides, pre-shredded Swiss is more expensive per pound than the block.

 

DSC_0200The Dressing
Russian dressing is reputed to be the original dressing used for the Reuben sandwich. Many restaurants over the years have switched to using Thousand Island due to it’s accessibility and popularity on salads. I like either dressing, though this time around Thousand Island was requested.

 

Pickles
Reuben sandwiches, being a deli creation, are generally served with a pickle spear or a whole kosher dill on the side. The same is true for the Reuben Pie. I do not recommend putting slices of pickle into the layering of the pie for a couple of reasons. Pickles hold a a lot of liquid, and it will bake out into your pie. While the flavor may be delicious, the potential for a mushy crust is not. Pickles also change texture somewhat when baked or otherwise heated, losing the lovely crunch and often becoming mushy themselves, rather like sliced squash.

If you like the recipe, experiment with different flavor combinations and let us know what you come up with.

Here are a couple of extra photos of the no-sauerkraut pie and the crust-less pie that I made at the same time. One was a special request, though not strictly in the Reuben tradition, while the crust-less pie was simply a test of the ingredients without bread.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana

Hello and welcome once again to a round of foraging in my kitchen to produce a meal worthy of my family. In this episode we will discover so many little treasures, and combine them to make a delicious main course!

Tucked away in my freezer was a package of thin cut beef steaks and a small parcel of pre-cooked, shredded chicken breast. A step down into the refrigerator produced fresh mozarella, sliced Provalone, shredded parmesan, some leftover tomato based pasta sauce, and couple of ounces of pepperoni.

What to do with such a combination? Stuffed Steak a la Italiana, of course!

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes at 350F
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1-1/2# steak, thinly sliced
6 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry parsley
1 tsp olive oil
Olive oil spray
6 oz Provolone, sliced thin
6 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thick
2 oz Parmesan, shredded or sliced
2 oz pepperoni
8 oz pasta or pizza sauce

Spray a baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

Spray a saute pan with olive oil, heat, and sear steak on both sides. Add salt and pepper if desired. As steaks come out of the skillet, curl them like taco shells and place into the sprayed baking dish.dsc_0032

Lightly deglaze pan with water, then toss in chicken and spices, stirring over heat until everything is hot and thoroughly combined.dsc_0034

Lay strips of Provolone into the bottom of each curled steak. Using tongs, divide chicken mixture evenly into the curled steaks. Place another layer of Provolone to cover the chicken. Fold slices of pepperoni and tuck two into each steak. If you have extra, go ahead and add it.

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Spoon a teaspoonful of sauce into each steak, spreading to distribute fairly evenly.

Layer sliced mozzarella across top of entire dish, covering as much of the surface as possible. Spoon a teaspoonful of the sauce into each corner, then dole out the rest and spread it across the top of the mozzarella evenly. Any leftover Provolone may be sliced or diced and added to the top of the dish, as decoratively as you prefer. Sprinkle shredded (not powdered!) Parmesan evenly over the top.

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Bake for 45 minutes at 350F to ensure even heating of meats and melting of cheeses.dsc_0043

Serve on a bed of pasta, with a side of garlic bread, or any other preferred accompaniments.dsc_0044

 

Yes, I know things like this are normally rolled and tied, but I was lacking cooking string at the time and feeling a tad lazy besides.

If you have such things available, feel free to add fresh spinach, extra garlic, sauteed onion, mushrooms, olives, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey