Caramel Bacon Popcorn

Phew! What a week! Life has certainly been crazy, because... Jack and I got engaged! Yay! Now the wedding planning is beginning, and I must say that it is a bit overwhelming, but I am sure it will all turn out well in the end.

Now, you're not here to read about the humorous story of our engagement, but I am sure you are here to read about what has certainly been a stress reliever with all that is going on- Caramel Bacon Popcorn! I was inspired to make such a crazy snack from the Boston Food Bloggers event at The Gallows, and decided to give it a try. My only modification was that I used turkey bacon rather than regular bacon. Quite honestly, we could not tell the difference.

I must confess though- popping popcorn kernels in a pan is a lot more difficult than I anticipated! I burnt the popcorn the first time around, more than likely because I was perusing reception venues, but I tried again, and everything turned out perfect. The caramel making process was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be too. I am thankful for a Le Creuset Dutch Oven for easy clean up after making such a sticky treat!

The end result of the popcorn was awesome! Finger licking, sweet and salty and totally addictive! This recipe will be seeing an encore in my kitchen in the very near future.

What is your favorite popcorn or sweet snack?

Caramel Bacon Popcorn
adapted from The Cooking of Joy

1/2 pound bacon
1/3 cup organic popcorn kernels*
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar (I used 1 cup light and 1 cup dark just because)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cut bacon into a fine dice and fry until crisp. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Or, if you are like me and forget to reserve fat, use 2 tablespoons of butter.

Heat the bacon fat (or butter) in a large pot with a cover. Add 3 popcorn kernels and cover. Listen for all three kernels to pop, and add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Listen closely- they are often hard to hear! Cover and shake until popping stops. Put popped corn in a non-stick roasting pan, making sure to remove the unpopped kernels.

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat until it reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, stir in baking soda and bacon (the caramel will explode in volume at this point so make sure you use a large enough saucepan) and pour this caramel mixture over the popcorn (do this quickly so that the caramel does not cool and stiffen).

Stir the mixture with a couple wooden spoons and place in the oven for a total of an hour stirring the popcorn to evenly distribute the caramel and bacon every 15 minutes. Add more salt (if necessary) during this process. Cool and break into bite-sized pieces.


Dark Chocolate Chip Coconut Bread

I swore I was going to try to stop making so many baked goods. I swore I would try to use the library more. I swore I would be running more than 3 times a week. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, especially this week, when I have been VERY under the weather. Like leave work 3 days in a row under the weather.

You know what happens when I am sick and told to stay in bed all day. I don't. I can't. It's not in my nature. Soap operas don't do it for me, neither do marathons of Say Yes to the Dress. You know what occupies me, cooking, baking, reading cooking magazines. So as soon as I even feel the slightest bit better, I hop into the kitchen to whip up something good to eat- and this something was a delicious quick bread involving coconut and chocolate. Who could resist?

I saw this recipe originally from Honey & Jam, and thought it would be to my liking once I tailored the recipe a little- especially to add chocolate chips. Being sick makes me crave comfort, and nothing is more comforting than some good old tomato soup and chocolate.

The bread was super easy to put together- 2 bowls and a loaf pan. I substituted half whole wheat flour, used vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans ( I didn't have a vanilla bean on hand), and of course, added some Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Chips to the mix. The bread did take a lot longer than I had expected. I added on an additional 10 minutes onto the maximum time as the center just would not cook. In the middle of baking though, I did add aluminum foil to the top of the pan to prevent the bread from burning.

The end result was exactly what I was looking for- hearty and just sweet enough to sate my appetite.

What is your favorite quick bread?

Dark Chocolate Chip Coconut Bread
adapted from Honey & Jam


2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- I used vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour, more for dusting pan- I used half Whole Wheat Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup superfine sugar

5 ounces flaked coconut (around 1 1/2 cups)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Soft butter for greasing the pan
1 cup of dark chocolate chips

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla seeds. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the melted butter and chocolate chips, being careful not to overmix.

Grease and flour a 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Pour in the batter and bake in the preheated oven until the loaf is golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Position it again side up to cool a bit more.


Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

I have this habit that I am sure many passionate cooks and foodies do- marking off recipe after recipe in magazines and cookbooks to try out, and forgetting about them or seeing the recipes fall further down the pile of all of the recipes you have marked to try. After a tough weekend, I decided that it was time to start making progress on my ever growing pile of recipes, and finally decided to make the "Best Meatballs Ever," from a fall edition of Bon Appetit.

This recipe was specifically marked because a full two pages in the magazine was devoted to explaining how the author had traveled to city after town after city to try to stumble upon a meatball that wowed her. The published recipe was her ultimate finding, and I can't say I disagree. I am not a huge fan of meatballs, but these were darn good, and relatively easy to make! The recipe also included how to incorporate the spaghetti, which is fairly standard.

Jack and I had so many meatballs leftover that we were able to make open faced meatball sandwiches, which appear in the pictures. Recipes follow for both.

What is your favorite meatball recipe? What is your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe?

Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from October 2010 Bon Appetit

2 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
1/2 tsp (or more) salt

1 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 c whole milk
8 oz ground beef
8 oz ground pork (I used turkey as I didn't have pork)
1 c freshly ground Parmesan Cheese
1/3 finely chopped Parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 large eggs
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb spaghetti

For the Sauce: Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato. Season sauce with more salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat

For the Meatballs: Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl. Stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened and let stand 10 minutes. Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup of Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Whisk eggs to blend in a small bowl, whisk in the garlic, and then add to the meat mixture. Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk (I didn't have any to squeeze). Add the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture, and quickly and gently mix the meat mixture until all ingredients are evenly combined. Chill mixture at least 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Moisten hands with milk and then roll meat into golf ball sized balls. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in sauce in a pot. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until meatballs are cooked through (15-20 min).

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package instructions. When pasta is complete, add to sauce/meatball mixture and serve.

Open Faced Meatball Sandwiches

Turn on broiler
Reheat meatballs and sauce in microwave
Toast bread in toaster
Put toasted bread on plate, add sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Put in oven with broiler on for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts. Add parsley to garnish.


Butternut Squash & Apple Galette

After a pretty successful Super Bowl party, or commercial watching party if you're not into the game (Me!), I bring you a semi healthy, delicious entree.

Here we have a Butternut Squash, Mushroom, & Apple Galette. A galette, in it's truest form, is a handmade, free form pie crust, which is assembled without a pie plate- very rustic looking, and hence, requires one less dish to clean up after eating! Yay for the plus sides!

The cons- lots of dicing of veggies, and knowing how much butter is really in that crust... However, I am a firm believer in the veggies more than making up for the butter, and quite frankly, eating this in moderation makes for a totally healthy meal.

First you must roast the veggies and fruit. I added mushrooms to the original recipe (about half way through the roasting) because I had them around, and quite frankly, love them. While the squash, mushrooms, apples, and onion are roasting, either thaw puff pastry, or make your own pie crust, which I did using a Julia Child recipe. Making your own crust is not overly difficult, especially when you can use a food processor to put everything together. Unfortunately for me, mine is not large enough, and therefore, I mixed my dough by hand.

At this point, you can either put everything in the refrigerator separately, or make everything. I actually pre-made the dough and veggies, and put the galette together the following day.

To assemble the galette, roll out your dough, and put veggies in the middle, leaving roughly 2 inches around the side. Once the veggies are all spread evenly, fold the 2 inches of veggie free crust over to make a free form pie. Put into the oven according to the directions and let stand for 10 minutes upon taking out of oven. Enjoy as this is delicious and filling!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Galette with Maple Mustard Glazeadapted from Perry's Plate

2 T grapeseed oil or canola oil
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups), or thawed butternut squash
1 cup of mushrooms (optional)
2 large, tart baking apples, cored and diced into 3/4-inch cubes- I used Granny Smith
1 medium onion, halved, then sliced thinly
prepared pie crust dough, enough for one crust or make your own!
2 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
fresh Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese for garnish- I used gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place squash, apples, and onion onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Toss with the oil, then spread them out in a single layer. Roast in the center of the oven until everything is tender and beginning to turn golden (and even darker) in spots, about 35-40 minutes. Half way through the roasting, add the mushrooms. Remove from the oven and let it cool until room temperature. TIP: You can do this a day ahead of time. Simply store the roasted bits in the fridge, covered, until ready to use.

Preheat (or reduce temperature) to 375 degrees F. Whisk together the maple syrup and the mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.

Roll out pie crust dough into a circle, roughly 12 inches across. Transfer to a clean rimmed baking sheet. Spread the roasted vegetables on the circle evenly, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Brush the maple-mustard mixture onto the vegetables. Fold the dough toward the center, sealing any cracks or rips.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so before slicing. ( Cut into slices and sprinkle some gruyere shavings over top.


Giveaway Winner!

First off, thank you to everyone for all of the Super Bowl food suggestions. I have officially changed some options on my menu because of it! The decisions were really difficult as to what to make, but I finally have them. They are...

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Wings from Erica's recipe! (Thanks Erica!)
Bacon Caramel Corn
Bongo Bongo Dip
Vegetarian Chili
Brownies and Cookies
And possibly everything else you suggested! Or if not for the Super Bowl, for another occasion.

Now for the winner!
I used a random number generator online, however I still do not know how to do a print screen of it on my Mac! (Insert embarrassed face here!). The winner though was comment number 3, Ashley with Cheese Dip and Taco Dip! Congratulations! Please email me at savoryflavors@gmail.com for your gift card!


February Favorites and a Giveaway!

The month of February has lots in store for my household. We had quite an eventful and sad end of January, so hopefully February will be much better! On Friday, I will be hosting another breakfast at work, and on Sunday, I will be hosting a Super Bowl party at my house. This weekend alone, has lots to prep for, so I am very thankful for yet another snow day tomorrow.

Boston has certainly received its fair share of snow this season. As of Sunday, we were already at 20 inches above the normal year, and between today and tomorrow, we'll certainly be a record year. Let's hope the snow stops soon though! My back has had enough, though this guy hasn't!

This month, Jack and I are also heading to a very good friend's 30th birthday party, and are hopefully going to get some quality ski time in at Stratton Mountain in VT. The end of the month will bring an Oscar's party at the house of a friend I met at the Boston Food Blogger event, as well as a visit from Jack's parents. In between this crazy month, I will still need to fit in cooking, and reading my new New York Times Cookbook!

Before this crazy month begins though, I wanted to host a giveaway! CSN stores has generously offered a lucky winner a $35 gift card to their stores. CSN stores, which include Cooking.com, sell everything from wall art and decor to Le Creuset and Rachel Ray cookware. Be sure to check them out!

All you need to do to win is to add a comment to this post with a good Super Bowl recipe that I should make for Sunday. The giveaway winner will be picked on Friday evening. For a second chance of entry, follow me on twitter @michellet11 and let me know you did by posting another comment. Good Luck!