My motto is “everything’s better with bacon.” And in the case, everything’s better with bacon candy!
Preheat your oven to 400° F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dark brown sugar with the cayenne pepper and hickory smoked sea salt. Arrange the bacon strips on the foil and coat the tops with the brown sugar mixture. [I recommend that you sample the brown sugar mixture first to see if the heat level is to your liking. Remember, during the cooking process the sugar and pepper will caramelize with the bacon. The ratio in this bacon candy recipe will deliver a mild heat. You can add more heat (if you like) by increasing the amount of the cayenne pepper in proportion to the brown sugar.]
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until caramelized and crisp. Transfer the bacon candy to a wire rack set on top of a sheet of aluminum foil and let cool completely. Makes approximately 10 servings (2 slices per person).
Hickory smoked salt can sometimes be hard to find in your local store. In the Midwest, Hy-Vee usually carries it and Williams-Sonoma has a house brand of their own hickory smoked sea salt. Bacon candy can be made ahead of time. If made on the day of consumption, store at room temperature. Or you can store it in an air-tight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Best enjoyed slightly warm or at room temperature.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon hickory smoked sea salt
20 slices thick-cut bacon
In medium saucepan, combine condensed milk with dark chocolate and butter. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until shiny and very thick (about 15 to 18 minutes).
Spread the mixture in a shallow dish and let cool for 15 minutes. Arrange 30 paper candy cups on a baking sheet.
In a shallow bowl, mix the pecans and ground cinnamon. Rub your hands with butter. Scoop up rounded teaspoons of the chocolate mixture and roll them into balls. Roll the candy in the pecan mixture and set them in a paper cup. Repeat to form the remaining candies. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.
The candies can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The candies can also be rolled in shredded coconut, sliced almonds, chopped pistachios or rainbow sprinkles.
Generously butter a standard baking sheet. Set aside.
Combine sugar and corn syrup in a 2-quart glass casserole dish. Stir to blend, then microwave (on high power) uncovered for 4 minutes. Stir after 2 minutes.
Stir in pistachios and microwave for 3 to 5 minutes more (until mixture is light brown). Then stir in butter and vanilla, blending well. If pistachios are unprocessed and unsalted, add a pinch of kosher salt (optional). Microwave for 1 to 3 minutes more. The mixture will be very hot. Add baking soda, stirring until mixture is frothy (about 1 minute).
Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Let stand for 30 to 60 minutes, until hard. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Substitute pistachios for your favorite nuts (cashews!) or peanuts.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1 cup pistachios, shelled
1 teaspoon butter plus additional butter for baking sheet
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of kosher salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, combine egg, oil, sour cream and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Then fold in mashed bananas and chocolate chunks.
Fill greased mini muffins tray about 1/2 full each. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans and transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 36 mini muffins.
For regular-sized muffins, bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Makes about 16 regular-sized muffins.
Lightly butter one side of two slices of bread. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread, then top with pear slices and drizzle with honey. Top with another slice of bread, butter side up. Grill in a skillet for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until toasted golden. Slice and serve warm.
Cracker Jack was born in Chicago after being introduced by F.W. Rueckheim and Brother at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago’s first World’s Fair in 1893. Here’s a recipe you can try at home, made with another tasty Illinois original – Beer Nuts®.
12 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups Beer Nuts®
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250F degrees. Place popcorn and nuts in a large bowl. Melt butter in large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring. Cook until mixture reaches 248F degrees on a candy thermometer for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Add caramel to popcorn mixture. Stir to coat. Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring twice. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let cool and break into clusters.
Cooled caramel popcorn can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
In mini food processor, puree seeded jalapeno along with 1/4 cup of lime juice. Transfer puree to large bowl. Stir in beer, soy sauce, unseeded jalapeno and remaining 3/4 cup of lime juice.
Take beef and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices with or against the grain. Add beef to marinade a few slices at a time. Stir well to coat each slice with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 200F degrees. Set a large wire rack on each of 3 large rimmed baking sheets. Remove beef from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange beef on racks, leaving 1/4 inch between slices. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake for about 4 hours, until jerky is firm and almost completely dry. Let cool completely on racks before serving.
Jerky can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 6 weeks.
This is a great breakfast, dessert or snack in under 2 minutes. Substitute your favorite fruit jam for additional flavor options. And if you don’t have a panini press, you can fry up in a skillet in a jiff.
Make a sandwich with the Challah bread and jam. If using a panini press, heat according to instructions. Butter both sides of the bread evenly. Put on panini press for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. Remove from heat and dust with confectioners' sugar and serve. This recipe serves 1 person.
If using a non-stick skillet, do not butter bread. Rather heat butter over medium high heat in skillet. Cook sandwich until golden and crisp, turning once. Remove from pan and dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.
1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
1/4 cup marinade
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 package (16 oz) egg roll wrappers
1/2 pound thinly sliced American cheese
Brown steak over medium-high heat and drain. Add vegetables and cook until tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in marinade and cook, stirring frequently until thickened. Remove steak mixture from skillet and set aside.
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tablespoons marinade; reserve.
Arrange egg roll wrappers with corners facing. Top with 1 slice cheese, then 2 tablespoons steak mixture. Brush edges of wrapper with water. Fold bottom corn up over filling, then fold in sides. Roll tightly and set aside. Repeat with remaining egg rolls.
Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray. Arrange egg rolls seam-side down on sheets, then spray egg rolls with nonstick spray. Bake, turning once, for 16 minutes or until golden. Serve with reserved sauce.
The Perfect Movie Night Snack – Without the Drama!
Chicago is in the middle of a week-long deep freeze. So I’ve been staying in, catching up on books I’ve meant to read and movies I’ve rented from Amazon that have been parked on my TiVo. This weekend I’m planning to finally watch some of those movies. I’m most looking forward to “Julie & Julia,” “Google Me,” and “(500) Days Of Summer.”
But when I get in a major movie mood I think of popcorn. And Chicago’s Garrett Popcorn immediately jumps to the top of my list. There’s something about the unique salty sweet combination of the “Chicago Mix” flavor that I crave. But until I discover that Garrett’s has a local 30-minute delivery service or a drive through window for an easy pick up, I’m resolved to staying indoors to keep warm. Here’s a recipe for a popcorn snack that makes movie night at home quite delicious.
Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add popcorn, sugar and salt to pan. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until kernels begin to pop. Shake pan frequently and continue cooking for about 2 minutes more (shaking the pan constantly). When popping slows down, remove pan from heat. Let stand, covered, until popping completely stops.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray shallow baking pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Stir together 1/4 cup sugar and warm water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add pecans; let soak for 10 minutes. Drain water and discard.
Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cocoa, chili powder and cayenne pepper in medium bowl. Add pecans and toss until all cocoa mixture coats pecans. Spread coated pecans on prepared baking pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until pecans start to glisten and appear dry.
Stir occasionally while baking. Cool completely. Store in cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.