Category: bacon

Bacon fat brownies up in ya grill.

You know, last week’s recipe was light, tangy, crisp & springy. This one is definitely not. You probably read this title & thought “Seriously?” Well, yes, actually. It’s 100% serious. Quite serious.

When is bacon fat something to be taken lightly? Never.

Brownies made with bacon fat!

If you’re like me, you save your bacon fat. Every time I make bacon, I save the fat in a jar & when it’s cool… I pop that baby in the fridge & save it for later. It has so many possibilities! Add it to a skillet or pan before making cornbread, make pancakes in it, make candles with it, pop some popcorn in it, make grilled cheese in it, etc. It’s a magical substance that imparts a bacon-y flavor & scent into whatever you use it for. Of course, if you bake your bacon in the oven (or microwave it *cringe*) you won’t get as much of this magic, so if you’re looking for a lot of fat then just do it the old school way: in a skillet on your stovetop!

And NO TURKEY BACON. None of that fake stuff. You need real bacon. I know that seems self-explanatory but you never know.

Bacon fat brownies!

I know I said they weren’t light, but they’re not obscenely heavy either.

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My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

Happy 30th birthday Jay!

Yesterday was Jay’s 30th birthday. I can’t really believe it, ’cause I remember meeting him shortly after his 19th birthday, and it doesn’t seem that long ago. But it is! Now we’re boring & old; me with my baking and him with his death metal band touring all over the U.S. Hey- wait a second. That makes only one of us sound boring! Damn it. Anyway… this is the 9th birthday of his I’ll be celebrating with him, and I wanted to make it special-er than normal. Like I said, it is his 30th!

I decided to make a few different things for him, this being a pretty big birthday. And since he loves anything involving chocolate & peanut butter, I made this awesomely easy chocolate peanut butter fudge from the Food Network magazine. He isn’t a fudge fan by any means, but I knew I couldn’t go wrong with a PB/chocolate combo. I also made him some cupcakes (of course). I asked him about 4 times what kind he wanted, and each time I got a different answer. He said chocolate stout cupcakes, then he said chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, then he said a Guinness/chocolate stout cupcake again, and the fourth time he got overwhelmed and said he didn’t know. Pfft. In all fairness, I did ask about a month in advance. Well I asked a fifth time and this time I got an answer: Maple Irish Whiskey-frosted white velvet butter cupcakes, topped with crumbled bacon. Oh yes.

These aren’t a new concept for me. I’ve actually made them two other times in the past 2 months; both for St. Patrick’s Day & then later on that month for our friend Melanie’s 30th birthday. However neither of those times were they topped with bacon, and I didn’t use a white velvet cupcake recipe for ‘em, just plain vanilla. But in all honesty, this frosting is so amazing that it’s worth repeating & making over & over again. Add bacon it just takes it over the top. Jameson & bacon, together with maple in a cupcake? Insanity. And very manly, now that I think about it. Jameson & bacon could practically be a men’s cologne. And Jay loves his Jameson. Jack too, but really, Jameson is way better.

The funny thing is, that in past years I’ve ordered supplies, namely toppers, with plenty of time to spare & yet still didn’t get them in time. So I had these toppers waiting here for almost 2 years, begging to be used. I thought it’d be funny to get some camouflage liners and combine ‘em with the fish toppers for his cupcakes. Jay loves fishing, and there’s a sort of ongoing joke about his camo BDU’s he used to wear a lot, so the two things together make almost a perfect “Jay cupcake.” If you add some mini-death metal CD’s & mini-handcuffs, it’d be really perfect. I cannot for the life of me remember where I bought the toppers, but I will say that the Etsy shop littlemonsterhugs (which is awesome!) saved my ass by being the only shop to have the camo liners in stock as of a week & a half ago, and then on top of that, getting them to me in plenty of time when I ordered them late! Thank cupcakes for littlemonsterhugs! I’ll definitely be a returning customer. And the best part is they didn’t lose their color after baking- they stayed just as bright. LOVE THEM.

Alright, so those are pretty fucking awesome. I smelled like bacon & whiskey for a half hour after making them, I finally just had to shower again, haha. The recipes for the cupcakes and frosting are linked to up there in that paragraph. And here are some photos of the delicious fudge. That recipe to follow.

CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for brushing
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 cups peanut butter chips

Directions:

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, pressing it into the corners and up the sides; leave an overhang on 2 sides. Brush the foil with butter.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup condensed milk, the chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Combine the remaining condensed milk, the peanut butter chips, and the last pinch salt in a separate saucepan. Put both pans over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chips are melted & smooth.
  3. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan, leaving spaces in between the spoonfuls. Spoon the peanut mixture in between the gaps. Brush an 8-inch square parchment paper with butter and lay it directly on top of the fudge; press to flatten evenly & fill-in the gaps. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Lift the foil to remove the fudge from the pan and cut into 1-inch squares. Store up to 1-week in an airtight container.

You may notice that my fudge isn’t necessarily “two-tone.” That’s because the supermarket I went to didn’t have peanut butter chips (*gasp* I know!), they only had these two mixes from Nestle.

So I figured, it’s technically the same thing. It made it easier because I just made it all in one saucepan as opposed to two. But it didn’t have a two-tone or swirled effect. *shrugs* It was to die for, and tasted like chocolate-peanut butter, so there! Basically, in all honesty, it was the same. It comes out fantastic this way, so if you don’t have peanut butter chips on hand either, these will work.

So my best friend turned 30. I really can’t believe it; I remember his silly ass at 19 calling me ‘whitehead’ because of my white bandanna & how I wanted to kick his ass. But he turned out to be the best thing to ever cross my path. We’ve been through a lot, both together & separately, over these past 11 years, and most especially during the almost 8 that we’ve been “a couple.” When I say he’s my best friend, I’m not exaggerating by any means. In him I have a confidante, a fellow “foodie” (that is a terrible word), someone who can help me fix almost anything- computers, plumbing, construction, ANYTHING… and most importantly someone whose personality fits so perfectly with mine it’s like we were made for one another. I love you, Jay, happy birthday. Now finish eating the cupcakes & fudge so we can go back to Angelo’s for dinner & Chip Shop for dessert.

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.

BLACK & TAN IRISH MAC-N-CHEDDAR

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)

Directions:

  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

For Thanksgiving, why not get baked.

By baked I mean bake something- in this instance, donuts. When I bought my donut pan it came with a recipe that sounded really delicious: spiced cake donuts with glaze. Doesn’t that sound good? I thought they’d be great to have on Thanksgiving. Of course, I can’t let people down, I did make cupcakes as well.

Here are the pretty cupcakes (french toast with maple buttercream and crumbled bacon topping, in case you’re wondering; and if you want the recipes, they’re down at the bottom).

And here are the donuts!

GLAZED SPICE CAKE DONUTS

First get:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons shortening
Glaze
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons HOT water

Then do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease the donut pan.
  2. In a large  bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir in milk, eggs, vanilla and shortening. Beat together until well blended.
  3. Fill each donut cup approximately ¾ full. bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until donuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.
  4. To make glaze, blend confectioners sugar and hot water in a small bowl. Dip donuts in the glaze when slightly cooled.

Again, like I said with the chocolate donuts, the best way of filling the donut pan is with a disposable pastry bag, or plastic sandwich bag. Just fill with batter and snip off the tip, then fill the pan. I recommend Crisco shortening, it tastes way better than other brands.

If you’re looking for a few last minute turkey day baking ideas, take a look at my “Best of” Thanksgiving post. Otherwise, here are the recipes for the cupcakes & buttercream.

FRENCH TOAST CUPCAKES

Get together:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and then cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  • ½ cup milk

Then you:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking pan with paper liners.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Make sure the butter is cool or you’ll have scrambled eggs.
  4. Whisk in maple extract and then alternate between whisking in flour mixture and milk. Make three additions of flour mix and two of milk. Beat until smooth.
  5. Scoop batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.
  6. Cool the cupcakes on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

The maple buttercream is just a basic confectioner’s sugar frosting flavored maple. I used maple extract, but you could probably just use maple syrup or maple syrup plus extract, that works too. For the topping, I fried up some bacon and then let it cool. Then I crumbled it/cut it into small pieces (getting rid of the fat) and just placed it on top of the frosting. It’s pretty much amazing; it tastes like breakfast in a cupcake. Don’t use bacon bits for this, please. That’s gross. If you’re gonna do it- go for it. No short cuts. I recommend an Applewood or maple bacon.

Happy White-People-Take-Advantage-of-American-Indians Day.

Margherita pizza all up in your face.

Another one of my obsessions in life is pizza. A good margherita pizza is like heaven on earth. Just a nice dough, good simple sauce, fresh mozzarella (or buffalo mozzarella) and fresh basil. Mmm. So delicious. I also enjoy grandma pizza, a big fat slice of sicilian pizza and regular ol’ pizza too. I’m a New Yorker, come on, these things are ingrained in us since birth, along with the love of bagels.

What is margherita pizza?

Pizza Margherita is a pizza prepared according to a recipe of the Italian chef Raffaelle Esposito. The pizza was first made in 1899 when Queen Marghereta visited Naples to escape a cholera epidemic in the north of Italy. The ingredients used to make a Margherita pizza, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, imitate the colors of the Italian flag. Queen Marghereta liked the pizza so much that she wrote a thank you letter to Esposito, who decided to name the pizza after the Queen.

I’ve made pizza before at home, a lot. It’s one of my favorite things to make. I’ve shared a few recipes on here and it’s starting to become a phenomenon like my macaroni & cheese obsession. But my whole point of this site is making life easy for busy cooks and bakers, yet making good, delicious food as well. And what’s better than pizza? Everyone likes pizza. It’s simple, doesn’t require a lot of planning, and even if you wanna make a more complex dough you still only have to do it the night before. But you don’t have to make a complex dough. There are tons of easy quick pizza dough recipes out there. Some of which you don’t even need to use a mixer for (this makes Lola sad, however). So in this post, I’ll show you a quick margherita pizza, and one with mushrooms as well, and I’ll also give you a recipe for another favorite pizza around here: carbonara. There are no pictures of that, as I didn’t make it this time, but I think you’ll get the idea.

Regular margherita pie in all it’s glory

QUICK & EASY PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet (¼ oz.) active dry rapid-rise yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water (105 to 115° F)
  • 1 ½ tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Mix ½ of flour with yeast, salt, water with honey dissolved in it, and olive oil.
  2. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Mix in remaining flour (dough should only be slightly sticky). Knead 5 minutes on a floured surface until smooth.
  3. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 10 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Punch dough down and divide in half. Punch down dough thoroughly and spread/stretch dough portion by hand and roller on a greased pizza pan. Move dough crust to pizza peel spread with coarse cornmeal or to pizza screen. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake in preheated 500° F oven directly on the pizza stone for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 2-3 minutes on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

This particular dough recipe requires both a mixer and a pizza stone. If you have neither, then try this recipe. If you’re looking for other pizza dough options, check the ‘pizza’ category. Usually, most recipes can be divided to make more than one, stretched thin to make thin crust, or used to make a thick crust, depending on your preference. Remember that some recipes rise more when cooking too, so go a bit thinner than you normally would if you like a super thin crust. This dough has a bit of a sweeter taste background because of the honey. If that doesn’t appeal to you, one of my other three dough recipes should. I personally prefer these two recipes to this one, but it’s good to try new things. I will say this: if the concept of honey in your pizza dough does not appeal to you, choose another recipe. If you’re open to trying it, then go right ahead. If it’s your first time making pizza at home, definitely use this recipe instead.

I topped it with my homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella (you know, those little balls? Not the shredded stuff in the bag or the block of Polly-O, although if you can’t get fresh then you can most certainly use that) and a basil leaf cut in a chiffonade (I’ll explain how to do that below) and on the other pie I put sliced white button mushrooms. As far as the fresh mozzarella, if you don’t have an Italian deli near you or can’t afford the higher priced fresh ones, BelGioioso now makes fresh mozzarella, it’s in the regular mozzarella section of supermarkets. It’s in a ball shape, and there’s also a larger one that comes in a sort of rounded tube.

Margherita with mushroom… up close & personal


If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, here’s a recipe for making an easy carbonara pizza, thanks to Rachael Ray. Carbonara is traditionally made with guanciale (pig’s cheeks), eggs, and parmesan. This recipe makes it a bit more appetizing by using pancetta, which is Italian bacon without the smoky flavor regular bacon has, ricotta cheese as well as pecorino romano, and it involves provolone cheese as well. Just follow the dough instructions above, or whatever dough creation/preparation you like, and use this as the topping.

CARBONARA PIZZA

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pepper
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
Directions:
  1. In a small skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Add the ricotta, pecorino romano, egg yolks and garlic to the pancetta; season with pepper and stir to combine.
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza dough, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Top with the provolone. Bake until the crust and topping are golden and cooked through. Scatter the parsley on top, cut and serve.

I just love how fresh mozzarella melts, it’s like cream. And let me tell you that the sauce I make is so amazing… I highly recommend you try it. At least once. You won’t be sorry. Delicioso! Go make some pizza, eat some pizza and then get some Red Mango. Yum.

Keep in mind also that homemade pizza dough can be used to make stromboli and calzones as well! You don’t have to always make pizza with it. Also, you can make cheesy breadsticks with it, or garlic knots. And as far as pizza toppings, anything you like can be used. Ham & pineapple (ew), pepperoni, chicken, broccoli, buffalo chicken & blue cheese, any kind of mushroom, cheddar cheese, monterey or pepper jack cheese, meatballs, peppers, anchovies, spinach, baked ziti… the choice is yours! Sauce or no sauce, even barbecue sauce… whatever floats your boat.

Okay… chiffonade. Chiffonade is the realy professional way of cutting basil, the way it comes on your dishes at restaurants: perfect little curled strips of fresh basil. It’s so easy to do, you’ll feel really stupid (just like I did) when you see how it’s done. First, take a basil leaf. Cut off the excess stem. Then, roll it up from the point down to the stem so you have a long tube. Holding the tube so it’s horizontal, use a sharp knife to cut the tube in even little pieces. Each of those pieces will be a “curl” of basil. Ta-da!

Now you can impress everyone you know by cutting your basil in a chiffonade. And if that doesn’t impress them, screw ‘em. They aren’t worth knowing.

Slumber Party Potatoes.

A couple of months ago I was sick, and stuck in bed for a week, and during that time I read about 700 books. One of these books was Diane Mott Davidson’s Prime Cut. Its a culinary mystery book, with recipes intertwined with each chapter. One of the recipes was something called ‘Slumber Party Potatoes’ and even though I was so sick I could only ingest soup, it sounded so incredibly good I almost became delirious.

A few changes: I used a bag of frozen broccoli cuts, because that’s what I had. I prefer to cook my broccoli in a pan with a little butter or oil so that’s  how I prepared it for this. I did not use chicken broth granules either, I had regular chicken broth but I didn’t bother to use it.

SLUMBER PARTY POTATOES

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 2 T. (¼ stick) butter
  • 3 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. chicken broth granules
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound fresh broccoli, trimmed of stems and separated into florets, lightly steamed
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub and prick the potatoes in 3 or 4 places with a fork. Bake them for about 1 hour, or until flaky.
  3. While the potatoes are baking, melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Stir in the flour; cook and stir just until the flour bubbles, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth granules, stir, and then gently whisk in the milk. Heat and stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until it melts, 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Split each of the hot potatoes in half and place them on a platter. Place the steamed broccoli florets and chopped bacon into bowls. Pour the cheese sauce into a large gravy boat. Diners serve themselves assembly-line style, ending with the cheese sauce.

OH. MY. GOD. So good. So good you won’t be able to move after having one… or uh *cough* three.

I doubled the cheese sauce recipe so I could serve more, and it worked just fine.