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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Maple Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Fall is the time of year when maple-bacon flavors start turning up in the odd niches where pumpkin spice has already been and gone. In this case, I’ve run across a recipe that takes an old favorite and gives it a sweet-n-savoury twist.

MAPLE BACON MASHED POTATOES
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients
2-1/2 lbs gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp maple syrup
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, reserve some for topping
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until a fork will easily slip into the center of a chunk of potato. This should be about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the milk, cream and butter in small saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the maple syrup. This may be done while the potatoes are cooking.

Drain your potatoes and return them to the pot. Using a potato masher or electric hand mixer, slowly stir in the milk mixture until potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Fold in chopped bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are not serving int he mixing bowl, turn the mashed potatoes out into a serving dish. Top with remaining chopped bacon and sprinkle with chives.

Serve hot. Refridgerate any leftovers.

 

NOTE: Potatoes, like pasta, prefer to go into boiling water rather than to be started cold. Starting your potatoes in cold water will allow the outer layers to cook more rapidly than the interior, allowing the out layers to actually cook off the chunks. While this is a great method for reducing potatoes for potato soup, it’s not so great for mashed potatoes.

 

I can smell this just typing about it. It sounds like a wonderful take on sweet and savoury, just in time for your holiday gatherings.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Crock-Pot German Style Potatoes

A line of severe weather cruised through our area, knocking out power for a couple of days and just making life miserable. I had plenty of time to think about what I was going to be making out of the surviving food stuff in the house, and this recipe was born of that brainstorming.

German potato salads have both hot and cold variations. As I was too weary to stand around and boil potatoes, I chose a hot style, based on a recipe that my mother and grandmother used to make in the oven.

The ingredients may be switched around however pleases your tastes. More or less garlic, hot or mild onion, bacon or sausage instead of prosciutto, and so on. The addition of bell pepper of any color will also add an additional spark of flavor and color.

Crock-Pot German Style Potatoes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 hours on low
Servings: 10-15

Ingredients
1.5 pounds butter yellow or red potatoes, sliced 1/4-1/8″
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz prosciutto, diced (or meat of choice)
2 sticks butter, thinly sliced
2 tsp beef bullion power or 2 crushed cubes
2 tbsp water
Garlic powder
Dry parsley flakes

Line or spray inside of crock.

Arrange diced onion across the bottom of the crock evenly. Sprinkle 1 tsp bullion evenly across the onion.

Layer in half of potato slices, evenly distributed. Dust this layer with garlic powder to taste. Sprinkle in some parsley flakes. Add 1/3 of prosciutto, evenly distributed. Layer in 1 stick of butter slices.

Repeat the layering step with the remainder of potatoes, garlic and parsley to taste, remainder of prosciutto and butter. Dust top with remainder of bullion.

Seal the crock and allow to cook on low over night or about 8 hours. When the cooking time is done, open the crock and gently stir the mixture to integrate all ingredients.

Serve.

A dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of cheddar or Swiss cheese just before serving are delicious additions.

The finished potatoes are pictured here with last Saturday’s offering, Corned Beef Hash Quiche Tarts.

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My apologies for the lack of step-by-step photos on this post. I was really tired putting this dish together after a long day of storm cleanup.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Quick Casserole Meals

Remember all those casseroles your grandmother used to whip up in her sun-filled kitchen? She was on to something with those one-dish sides and meals. You can be, too.

Most casseroles include a starch (potatoes, pasta, or rice) as a base, veggies, meat, and some cheese. It all depends on what’s on hand or what you prefer.

Here’s a basic casserole that my family enjoys once every couple of weeks. While I have had to put a strong low-carb rule in place, you may not have to.

Ingredients:
2 cups dry rice, cooked
12 oz concentrated cream of something soup (potato, chicken, mushroom, etc.)
1/2 cup fluid (milk, heavy cream, chicken broth, etc.)
1/4 cup hard cheese, fine grated (Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, etc.)
15 oz can of beans or peas, well drained
Other veggies as desired, pre-cooked and diced (potato, carrot, green beans, etc)
8 oz meat, diced or broken
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
4 oz shredded cheese, any firm type (cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Gouda, etc)

In a large bowl, place rice, soup, fluid, veggies, spices, and hard cheese. Fold together gently so as not to break up the veggies.

I will also fold in the meat at this time. You may choose to layer it in the baking dish.

Place the contents of the bowl into a baking dish, spreading it evenly. If you are layering the meat in, put it between two layers of the rice mixture so it doesn’t dry out during baking.

Sprinkle a couple of ounces of shredded cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Everything in the dish is precooked, but you want it to heat throughout.

Remove dish from the oven and uncover. sprinkle on remaining grated cheese. Allow to sit for five minutes or so while the cheese melts and the dish comes to a reasonable serving temperature.

When emplating, feel free to toss on strips of fresh basil, more cheese, chopped parsley or whatever topping you desire. A dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream is also tasty.

Leftovers can and do add a lot of variation to this meal. A teaspoon of sour cream left from taco night? Throw it in! Some shredded mozzarella left from pizza night? Stir that into the mix to create a gooier texture. Black olives? Mushrooms? Broccoli crowns? The more the merrier!

Want an Italian flavor? Use Italian spices, Italian sausage and or pepperoni with a mix of mozzarella and provolone shredded on top. A white or navy bean works well for the added texture. Serve with garlic bread or bread sticks.

Tex-mex more to your liking? Add chili powder and onions, black beans and use Monterrey Jack or pepper-jack cheeses. Top with sliced jalapeno or salsa.

Cajun Crazy? Try andouille or boudan, Ementhaler, and Cajun seasonings (We like Tony Cha’s) with diced bell pepper and onion.

The ham and cheese option is also nice. Use cheddar, leftover ham, and black-eyed peas for a southern variation.

In short, this dish can be customized pretty much any way that pleases your palate. It’s also hearty enough to put leftovers into microwavable containers for tomorrow’s lunch, or for a side dish later in the week. Just heat and serve.

Bon Appetite!

— Ann Cathey

Home-made Pot Pies

Whether you prefer to make them single serving size, or make larger family sized pies, pot pies are a wonderful dish to serve warm on a cold evening.

You can use traditional recipes, making your crust from scratch and cooking up a stew-pot of sauce and veggies. You can also use a lot of modern day short cuts as you will see below.

CRUSTY CONCEPTS
For single serving pot pies, grab a can of biscuit dough in your favorite variety. Separate the biscuits on a board and using a rolling pin, roll them out flat while retaining their round shape.

Using a cup cake tin, line each cup with one rolled out biscuit. Add your filling (we’ll discuss that below), and use a second rolled out biscuit to cap the cup. Inch the edges together and slit the top for a steam vent. You might also use a quarter of a biscuit on top as dumpling instead of a cap.

Bake these as directed on the biscuit container. When they come hot out of the over, top with a bit of grated cheese and serve warm.

Another crust short-cut for family sized pies is to use pre-made pie crusts or pizza dough. For pie shells, pre-bake them for ten minutes before filling. This will give you a better, less soggy texture. Pizza crusts are great to slice and weave for a beautiful cap on the pies. You can also skip the lining crust and just use a lattice on top to reduce your carbs a bit.

FILLINGS
Broken meats, or meats purchased specifically for pie fillings are both good to work with. Canned chicken, turkey, beef or ham will bring an extra load of salt and preservatives to the dish, but they are also very handy.

If your meats need to be cooked first, use a fat-free or low-sodium broth to start your filling out.

Fresh vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, or turnips should be diced to 1/2 inch cubes and tossed in with the cooking meat to cook through. Peas and mushrooms, which cook much faster, should be added later in the process. Remember that mushrooms release a lot of water.

Leftover veggies are also great for this dish. They are precooked and ready to be tossed into the sauce. Baked potatoes, savory yams, buttered carrots are all likely candidates. Drain them well, skin them if you prefer, and dice them to a comfortable size before adding them.

Canned veggies, which are of course already fully cooked, should be drained thoroughly before being added to anything. Again, low or no-salt is encouraged.

For the sauce, follow your recipe for the next few steps. If you are taking short cuts, you might consider a condensed cream soup such as a cream of mushroom, asparagus, chicken or potato. Do not add any liquids! You do not want your sauce to be runny.

Turn the soup out into a bowl. Fold in your meats, veggies, and additional spices you may desire. Garlic, onion, rosemary and thyme are a good mix for most meats.

If you find yourself in need of a thickening agent, don’t rely on corn-starch. While it works very well, it also adds a lot of carbs/sugars and calories to your dish. Use finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano, as thickeners. These are a tasty addition as well adding extra protein.

Fill your pastry cups 3/4 of the way with whichever mixture you decide to use. Cap, lattice or dumpling the tops and bake as directed.

SERVING
Unlike most dishes that are called “pies” the inside of a pot pie of this sort will not gelatinize. You will wind up with a very thick stew in a shell. Be prepared to spoon out some extra filling if you serve family sized pies, and to be very careful when popping the individual pies out of the baking cups. Place your serving in a dish, sprinkle with some shredded cheese and a slice of toasted baguette.

If all of this sounds vague and less like a recipe than an idea, that’s because it is. The variations are seemingly endless, and the choice of ingredients is up to your own tastes. Make your pot pies creamy with chicken and mushrooms, or a bit more tart with turkey and turnips. Use Italian spices and tomato paste for a roseate alternative, or wild onion and venison in a brown gravy style sauce. No matter what angle you choose, it’s sure to be delicious!

— Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Sides

There are an amazing number of side dishes that can be cooked in a crock pot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that mac-n-cheese and even dinner rolls can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than in a conventional oven. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

MAC AND CHEESE
Slow cooked mac and cheese is creamier than baked, so make sure to have some nice crusty bread on hand to bring it all together. Whisk together 1 1/2 cups of milk, 12 ounces of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup of melted and cooled butter, three eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour into a buttered crock pot. Add three cups of shredded cheese and 1/2 pound of macaroni. Stir gently to combine and cook on high for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for three more hours.

DINNER ROLLS
Cooking dinner rolls in a slow cooker creates bread that is warm and soft with a steamed bun texture. Take any yeast bread dough and cut into small roll-sized pieces. Put them in a buttered crock pot and let them rise for an hour. Cook the rolls on high for 60 to 90 minutes until they’re no longer sticky. Serve warm, and moan because they’re so delicious.

GERMAN “FRIED” POTATOES
My mother used to do this dish in a cast iron skillet, first on the stove top and finishing in the oven. In experimenting with crock pot cooking, I have discovered that these potatoes can be easily set up and cooked without constantly being watched. Spray or spread a little olive oil in the bottom and lower sides of your crock pot. Add sliced potatoes (skin on is more traditional), thinly sliced raw onion, minced garlic and a bit of salt and pepper to taste in layers to fill the crock pot about half way. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with a spot of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives on top.

POTATOES AU GRATIN
Everyone loves cheesy potatoes, right? As with the potato dish above, spray olive oil to coat the bottom and lower sides of your crock pot. Layer sliced potatoes (skin on or off as you prefer), grated cheese (cheddar, Gouda, or another firm cheese is recommended), and a little minced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste on each layer if you like. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with a spot of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives on top or just add more grated cheese.

Give these side dishes a try and let us know how you enjoyed them. See if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these home-made favorites.

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Breakfast

With the weather being cool to cold in most of the United States, I thought these warm breakfast dishes might be appreciated.

There are an amazing number of things that can be cooked in a crock pot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that breakfast can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than on the stove top. Here are a few recipes that are sure to delight.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

OATMEAL
Instant oatmeal is quick, true, but it’s also just not the same as the real thing. Steel cut oatmeal or whole oat groats are a great way to kick start your morning, but the hour they take to cook can make that difficult.Instead, you should prepare oatmeal the night before for that wonderful smell in the morning. First, toast two cups of oats in a dry pan for five minutes until you can smell them.Then put the oats in a buttered crockpot with eight cups of water, two cups of milk, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt.Cook on low for eight hours and enjoy!

APPLESAUCE
Fresh applesauce is amazing served with a pork loin or just as a comforting snack, but it may seem a little intimidating to make. Never fear! All you have to do is peel, core, and dice 10 McIntosh apples and put them into a slow cooker with 1/2 cup of water, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and one cup of sugar. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours and enjoy the warm cinnamon smell that permeates your house. Eat warm, cold or freeze for later.

HUNTERS BREAKFAST
I think this concept has been covered before, but this blog is about breakfast and it bears repeating. Layer potatoes (sliced leftover bakers, diced leftover french fries, frozen or leftover tater tots, frozen hash browns), meat (crumbled sausage or bacon, diced ham, or any combination you may prefer), cheese, and diced bell pepper. Do as many layers as you have ingredients for. If your crock pot is half full, use 6-8 eggs, if it’s mostly full use 12-18 eggs. Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk them thoroughly with a splash of milk or cream for fluffiness. Salt and pepper the eggs to taste. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the ingredients in the crock pot. Sprinkle extra cheese on top. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (overnight). if the smell of a hot breakfast waiting for you in the morning doesn’t make your tummy rumble, you may have a cold. Serve as is or wrapped in a warm tortilla for breakfast tacos.

Give these dishes a try and let us know how you enjoyed them. See if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these breakfast favorites.

–Ann Cathey