Butternut and Bacon Bisque

My aunt and I were on a road trip together last fall (which is its own whole story) and one of the most memorable meals we had been a delightful lunch at a cafe on lake Winnipesaukee. We had just gone wild at the Keepsake Quilting store in Connecticut and were looking for a lunch of champions. We almost missed it, a little stand alone house converted to a cafe that just looked appealing. In fact I think we turned around to go back to it.  I would tell you the name of it if I could remember. (see photo below)

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I DO remember we split a lobster roll, the best I’d ever had, and each had a bowl of butternut bisque, wherein we both licked the bowl clean, looking over at the others bowls to see if maybe she missed a bit. Continue reading “Butternut and Bacon Bisque”

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Spaghetti Carbonara

(I noticed that this recipe is 4 years old and needs to be taken out for a dusting. We had some tonight and so I am updating the pics and the recipe just a little.) (I also added a wonderful discovery at the end, unrelated to this dish.)

If you have never heard of this, you would not believe it. Spaghetti with bacon and eggs. Ewww! I pictured a plate of spaghetti with a fried egg on top and maybe some boingy bacon in it.

Then one day I was having dinner out with hubby and friends at a nice Italian place. He ordered Fettuccine Carbonera. hmm, looked good. Creamy with bits of pancetta. He graciously let me have a bite, then two, then…he started body blocking me with his arm and shoulder. I turned to bribery and blatant flirting. Turns out this Roman dish is quite wonderful and so easy to make, it’s just silly. Here are the list of main characters:

Bacon, my pancetta substitute

You need some pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine.

You need some eggs, lets say 2, cracked into a bowl and beat until mixed.

You need about 4-6 slices of good bacon. I use thick sliced. Or Pancetta if you can get it. It’ s the Italian equivalent to our bacon.

2 cloves of garlic, whole.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, or just buy a bend of the 2, like at Trader Joes. Sometimes I use the block of cheese and grate myself. Just not this time.

This dish does not take long to make.

You do not need cream. Some versions use cream, but that makes it a different dish.Good maybe, but different.

Here is what you do:

Boil the water for the pasta. Add salt when it is boiling.

Put a little olive oil in a skillet, maybe brushing it around with a basting brush, and heat on medium heat.

Dice the bacon or pancetta and put into the pan with the oil.

Put the garlic cloves in too.

When the bacon is just crisp, not overdone, take a slotted spoon and lift it out onto a paper towel lined plate. Take out the garlic too and set aside or discard. Leave the bacon fat in the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, I hope you started boiling your pasta. (I actually made 2 pots of pasta, one regular and one corn pasta which is gluten free. Hubby prefers it.)  Read the directions on the package and don’t  over cook. Probably not more that 8 minutes or so. You don’t want mushy noodles for this. One of the things Roman dishes are noted for is their almost crunch pasta. I’m  not saying to make it like that, but time it and taste it. You want it just done, not over. Save some of the pasta water in a mug before you drain it.

Mix half the cheese in with the eggs. Stir it up good. You are about to undertake the only  tricky part…

 

And that is mixing the raw eggs with the hot pasta. You do NOT want to cook the eggs and end up with scrambled eggs in your pasta. That’s what I got when I ordered this dish in Venice. I could not believe it!  I would have thought in Italy of all places you would get good Carbonara. But it is a Roman dish, not a, um, Vesuvian?

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First, I put the drained pasta in the skillet that I cooked the bacon in and mix it around. The pasta picks up the bacon fat. This gives it a silky texture. If the pan is cool,  you can work right from there. If it is still hot, pour the pasta into a mixing bowl at this point. (Remember, we don’t want the eggs to set and became scrambled.

Add the cheesy egg mixture to it and stir it up quick!  Toss-toss-toss.Add the rest of the cheese and the bacon. If it looks too dry add some of the pasta water to it. You want it a creamy sauce. Mix it all up. Taste. Mmmm. Need a little salt? Probably not. Both the bacon and the cheese are pretty salty already.

What you will not see in this old picture is peas. I thawed out some frozen peas this time and added them in at the end, both for color and because it’s a veg. Now see a new picture with our new pasta bowls:

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That’s it! Once you get the hang of it you will start making it regular like. Impress your friends. Add a Cesar salad and bread sticks. A side of Parmesan Asparagus maybe? Enjoy!

I was at a Pampered Chef meeting (fun stuff, really.) and the guy from Chicago (used to be a policeman, got injured and was strong armed by sister to sell Pampered Chef. Now he loves it and does great!) showed us how he uses the apple wedger to cut his onions for fajitas!

Wow, just never occurred to me to use it for anything other than apples. I am so an ‘in-the-box’ thinking girl.

So, trying to break out of my box, I thought of what else you could cut with the apple wedger. I was making beef stew that night. I got out the little red potatoes and…

Voila!
Voila!

So now we know they work for apples, onions and little red potatoes. Anything else you can think of?

Love L

Pauls Favorite Baked Potato Soup

Here is a facelift of an old post on making baked potato soup. Because it’s that time of the year. The cold time. When a warm bowl of soup is like a warm hug in a bowl. This soup can warm you twice. Once when you bake the potatoes, unless you use the micro. Then again when you eat it. You will need the following, but is open for adaptations.More or less potatoes, a blob of cream cheese, some frozen corn or maybe some cubed up leftover ham.

Oh, and enjoy a ‘cyber Monday’. Do some online shopping. Then dance a little jig when it gets delivered and forget you had to pay for it. It’s like a gift from the FedEx/UPS/USPS guys and gals, which you then wrap and have the joy of giving away again at Christmas. Win-win-win.

  • 2-3. large baking potatoes
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour (to make a roux)
  • 4 cups milk,
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • about 4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled (or 6 or 10)
  • 3 oz, cheddar cheese, shredded

Bake the potatoes and remove pulp. Save the skins for baked potato skins later, during a football game or something.

Melt butter in a soup size pot (like I did in my new Rockcrok from The Pampered Chef). Add the flour and stir for a minute or two. You are cooking the flour a bit and it will thicken the soup.

Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon as  you go, about 5 mins. until it has thickened a bit. It will thicken more when you add the potatoes.

Stir in all your other ingredients. Gently stir together and add milk if it seems to thick. When steamy warm, dish it up! Serve with salad or just a chunk of warm bread.  Or just another bowl of soup.

Ready to dish up.
Ready to dish up. This picture really does not do it justice. You will have to imagine the bacon peaking out at you and the melted gooey-ness of the cheese.
some of us weren't ready. So pop on the lid and this stone dutch oven will keep it warm for a long time.
some of us weren’t ready to eat. So I popped on the lid and this stone dutch oven and it  will keep the soup warm for a long time.

Gluten Free Brown Rice Penne Pasta with creamy bacon pesto sauce

Pasta on the patio. No better way to beat the heat around here.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but thats gluten-free penne pasta there. No one even noticed the difference. It  isTrader Joes brown rice pasta. Very delicious with this sauce. I have not found a gluten free spaghetti pasta that we all like yet. But for penne, you cant beat this with a stick!

Just don’t over cook it. Thats the only thing.

you need:

bacon

garlic

peas

cream

parmesan or romano cheese

dried tomatoes

jarred pesto sauce

brown rice penne pasta

This is similar to a recipe I already put on my site, creamy pesto pasta. I just wanted to add this because it has bacon. And bacon is wonderful. Also because I wanted you to know that this gluten-free penne from Trader Joes is just the ticket for those trying to cut down on their gluten.

But if you are dairy free, this is not the way to go. This is all about dairy. Cream, Parmesan or in this case, Romano cheese.

(Okay, if you have to do it without dairy, I would hate for you to miss out on the whole bacon-penne experience. How about a little Earth Balance non-soy non-dairy spread? Then some olive oil. Maybe coconut milk? Or not. But the garlic, bacon, pesto and peas could all be the same. But more salt since you can’t have the Parmesan. How about topping it with some seasoned bread crumbs made from gluten-free, non-dairy bread? Food process a slice into crumbs, then season it and toast in the oven. Put some on top to add flavor and a little crunch. That might work. )

Like I said, this is almost exactly like the other recipe. But I cooked up some bacon first and crumbled it up. (I like to crumble after cooking as opposed to dicing while raw, then cooking.)

Cook the penne. In the meantime…

Drain off all but a couple of Tbsp of bacon fat. Cook some garlic in that. Add some frozen peas, some dried tomatoes, cream and a big spoonful  of pesto sauce. Stir it up and add salt and pepper as needed. Then add lots of grated cheese of your choice. I happened to have Pecorino Romano this day.

It is very versatile. Have fun with it and let me know what you come up with.

He never knew…okay, he probably wouldn’t have cared either. As long as it tastes good.

fried potato egg scramble and a trip down memory lane

Every summer, for many years while the children were being born and growing up, my mummy and I and the kidletts would all go up to Crestline, a small mountain community in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead for a week or so in the summer. I have pictures in my scrapbook of them in all stages of childhood near the same rock, or in the same pool or by the same growing tree. We bowled, swam, ate. It was a small town. There wasn’t much else to do.

One of my favorite food memories was my mother making this scramble with fried potatoes and cheese and eggs and either bacon or ham, depending on what we picked up at the town store. We would walk and carry the food to the cabin. The cabin was on the main highway, so it wasn’t far to walk. Sometimes a new place would open up and we would eat there, like a mexican restaurant and a Round Table pizza. Right across the street was our favorite chinese place. As the kids got older we could leave them in the cabin and walk across the street to eat there, knowing there was only a few yards and a roaring highway with speeding vehicles separating us from the kids.

the cheese is hiding all the goodness inside. Kind of makes me think there should be a parable in there somewhere…

My mom would boil a potato until just soft.

Then chop it up and fry it in some oil. Or cook some bacon and fry it in the bacon fat.

She would add some chopped onion to brown in the skillet too.

Then add the chopped bacon or ham.

In a bowl she’d scramble up some eggs with  splash of milk. Mix, mix, mix.

Pour into this same skillet and let cook for a minute. she would gently reach under with a spatula, lifting the potatoes and meat and stuff, flipping it over to let the eggs cook. Add some salt and pepper. Mix and flip until the eggs are set the way we liked them, then topped it all with grated cheese.

You might serve this with fruit, bagels, cinnamon toast or more bacon. Have fun and you may find yourself making your own memories.

What was I doing during all this? Oh, maybe out feeding the bluejays peanuts with one of the kids. The grandma that lived at the cabins would leave out lots of peanuts for them or the squirrels, whichever got there  fastest.

Or I might be enjoying some quiet time reading a book in bed, smelling all those nummy smells and briefly reverting back to my childhood of not having responsibilities (or knowing how to cook).

Warrior Womans Meatloaf

Did any of you watch Pioneer Woman on the Food Network a couple of weeks ago when she made meatloaf? I did. In fact it’s the only one I have watched on time and not taped that I can remember. Usually I go to my moms house to watch  it during the week.

I think there must be some subliminal messaging going on. Or blatant obvious messaging even. “Eat this! Make meatloaf now and your life will be complete!” ‘Cause I sure couldn’t rest until I made some for our family. Suddenly making meatloaf consumed me. And we are not even big meatloaf fans. Didn’t matter a bit though. We had to have it and you know what? We all loved it.

I found the recipe was in the Pioneer Woman’s Cookbook (otherwise known around my mom’s house as “Warrior Woman”. Why? It just is). I had all the ingredients too. Whoo-hoo!

So meat and potatoes, green salad. Real he-man food with a side of girly.

Here are some of the ingredients, except for the parmesan, which I had and forgot to use (weep...)

Meatloaf (oven 350)

1 cup milk

6 slices bread

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (sniff-I forgot this. I am sure it would have made a big difference, even though it turned out great. It would have been greater!)

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp seasoned salt and some pepper

about 1/2 cup minced parsley (it says flat leafed-but I am growing regular and I really can’t tell the diff once it’s in the food.)

4 eggs, beaten (yes, this makes a pretty big batch. I think I made half a batch).

8-12 thin bacon slices

Topping: (Don’t forget-Oven 350)

1 1/2 cups ketchup (I used half spicy ketchup, just because we had it in the fridge.)

6 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

dash or two of hot sauce-more if you like heat

Pour the  milk over the bread in a bowl and let it soak in.

Put everything else in the bowl and squish with clean hands. (they won’t be clean for long, unless you wear gloves).

I use a meatloaf pan, but you can put for the loaf shape on a broiler pan, the bottom of which she lines with aluminum foil and it  will allow the fat from the meat to drain.

Lay the slices of bacon over the top, tucking their little ends in underneath the meatloaf.

All stripy pink and cute. Just needs little eyes and a pig nose. (Oven 350)

Mix together the topping sauce ingredients. Put about 1/3 of it over the top of the meatloaf and pop into the oven (how high?) for 45 minutes.

Then put another third of the sauce over it. Bake another 15 minutes.

The rest of the sauce will be served on the side.

yes, it shrinks. Half a recipe is just right for the 3 of us, with a few leftovers for sandwiches. Jut right for 4 people.

I can just about smell it…Don’t let anyone pick off the saucy-bacony topping. That knife was there as a warning to presumptuous bacon thieves. (not really).

Make mashed potatoes and have a crisp salad with homemade ranch dressing!

Baking Bacon, what a concept!

I feel like I have just discovered a new source of atomic energy or something! Its amazing, easy and frees me up from the drudgery of flipping bacon. Where has this been all my life!

Okay, I get carried away. But we like our bacon around here. When I fry it,  I usually burn some, or get the boingy ends undercooked. I have to make batch after batch because I can only fit so many in my pan. Now, I just pop a sheet of them in the oven and it does all the work for me, so I am free to.. to.. make the pancakes, or scramble eggs, or watch “Flapjack” with Paul, whatever. I can’t say I exactly invented this idea, but I did find it and come next fall, when we are not suffering from the heat, you will all thank me for this.

 

Its soo easy. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees.

Take a cookie sheet and a piece of aluminum foil a tad bigger than the cookie sheet you are using. Crumple the foil up a little, then pull it out to lay on the cookie sheet. The crinkles keep the bacon out of its own fat a little bit. Now lay as much bacon as you want, as long as it is on one layer, not overlapping.

Put it into the oven and thats about it. It takes about 12-17 minutes depending on how thick your bacon is and how crunchy you like it. (I had a picture of Paul eating a piece, but it turned out blurry. Next time!)