International Bacon Day and . . .

It’s also National Fig Month. What’s a girl to do?

Well, a girl can go to Southern Living’s website and search for Fig recipes, and find one that is SO OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS that she can’t still believe it.

They call the recipe ‘bacon-wrapped figs’, but I am officially renaming it:

FIGS IN A BLANKET

(A blanket of BACON, that is!)

How could this possibly go wrong?

IT CAN’T!!

Five ingredients:  fresh figs, bacon, goat cheese, basil, and pecan halves. I used Brown Turkey figs. I like them better than the Black Mission type.

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Then you assemble them like this, using a toothpick to secure the bacon:

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And then you bake them for 6-8 mintues at 350°.  Be prepared –  the aroma is tantalizing . . . no, intoxicating!  I wish they made a perfume in this scent!

I took a quick picture of them before devouring them.

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OH MAMMA are they good!  THIS is what they eat in Heaven.

Since I don’t like to consume pork, I took the bacon off before I devoured them, but the bacon strips left  a nice, salty bacon flavor on the fig and in the cheese. They were SO GOOD! Such an incredible combination of flavors and textures! Sweet and salty. Crispy and chewy. And the basil and the bacon together  . . .

This is the best recipe I have ever made. I’m officially naming it as My Favorite Food.

If only we had fresh figs all year round! But it’s better for my waistline that the stores here only have them for 2 weeks in August.

I actually thought about making this for a church brunch, but I knew the only way they would make it out of my kitchen would be in my tummy.

So I’m counting the days until next August, when the fresh figs travel from California to the Florida grocery stores.  Thank you, California, for excellent fresh figs, and thank you Southern Living, for a knock-your-socks-off recipe!  😀

 

 

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World Coconut Day!

Yes, the WHOLE WORLD is celebrating Coconut! (Except for my coconut-averse cousin.But that’s okay, because more for me!)

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Although the American Food Holiday Calendars celebrate coconut only in the form of Coconut Cream Pie (on May 8th), I am happy to tell you that the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) has declared September 2nd as World Coconut Day. (Take that, American Food Holiday deciders!) I wonder if the APCC is hiring? Because I would like to work there if they have an all-you-can-eat coconut bar in the break room.

I am also celebrating Coconut Day because I finally found some packaged unsweetened coconut at the grocery store. YAY!

So I used it to make my version of candy:  Fresh, ground dates rolled in unsweetened, dried coconut. Just looking at this picture, I hear the song. . “Heaven . . .I’m in Heaven . . .” because this is what the angels eat in Heaven. Yes, indeed.

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These were ridiculously easy to make, and RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS!  They put me in a Coconut Stupor. (FYI, this is not the first time I’ve been in a Coconut Stupor. It can happen when I’m just thinking of coconut.)

Just two ingredients:

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To make them, you put some fresh pitted dates in a food processor, and grind them until pretty smooth, then form into little balls and roll them in the coconut. I let them sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld, and to let the dried coconut absorb some moisture from the dates, and WOW were they worth the wait!

The only problem is that I couldn’t stop consuming them, one after the other. They didn’t last too long!  🙂

Thank you, APCC, for letting the WHOLE WIDE WORLD celebrate coconut!

 

 

September Food Holidays Preview

September is a GREAT month where Food Holidays are concerned. So many of my favorite foods!

The best part is that  . . . are you ready? . . . it’s National Fig Month. YAAAYYYY!!

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Later in the month, I will be featuring a fig recipe that is possibly the best hors d’oeuvre in the universe. It’s really THAT GOOD. So be ready. Hint: It involves bacon.

Other Notable September Food Holidays:

  • September is National Apple Month, so have your “apple a day”!
  • Sept 1 – National Gyro Day. Yay! Because I found a Greek restaurant I want to try.
  • Sept 3 – International Bacon Day.  Um, when is National Lipitor Day?  😉
  • Sept 4 – National Macadamia Nut Day. My favorite nut. Coffee Hour possibility.

  • Sept 13 – International Chocolate Day. So go get some International Chocolates!
  • Sept 14 – National Cream Filled Doughnut Day. You know what to do, Cousin Leah!

  • Sept 16 – National Guacamole Day. I could eat my weight in guacamole. Seriously. I may have to skip this one due to lack of self-control. One bowl is not enough!

  • Sept 18 – National Cheeseburger Day. Maybe I skip the Gyro on Sept 1 and go to Five Guys on the 18th? That’s a tough call. 
  • Sept 21 – National Pecan Cookie Day. Coffee Hour possibility!
  • Sept 23 – National Chocolate Day. Because you’ve probably finished your International Chocolates by now.
  • Sept 26 – National Pancake Day. This one makes me wish I hadn’t given up refined sugar.

There is one MAJOR problem with the September Food Holidays calendar. It doesn’t include WORLD COCONUT DAY on Sept 2nd. Since coconut is one of my favorite foods, I am including it because I cannot find any mention of a National Coconut Day on any Food Holiday calendar. So I’m going with WORLD Coconut Day. Woohoo!

For full list of the September Food Holidays, see link at right. Choose a few to celebrate!

Now I must say a few words about some Food Holiday comments I heard on WAY FM last week. One of the hosts on the early afternoon show was very unhappy that Food Holidays are decided by the food food industry and lobbyists. He seemed miffed that the Food Holidays were a form of advertisement. Yeah . . . and . . . ?  OF COURSE THEY ARE! I see nothing wrong with that. If anyone has a product or service to sell, isn’t it only natural that they would advertise it? Doesn’t WAY FM advertise? Yes, it does. (Could it be that Mr. Radio Show Host was irritable because he was hungry, in need of a snack?)

I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Radio Show Host’s opinion. I love the Food Holidays! They’re fun! They have helped me to get out of my Food Rut AND to bake some new things for the Hungry Episcopalians at coffee hour. Everybody wins!

National Banana Lovers’ Day

What to make? I couldn’t decide. Banana Oatmeal cookies? Nah. What I really wanted to find was a good banana bread recipe.  I’ve never been a big fan of banana bread because it usually has a slightly gluey quality. And it usually contains walnuts, which is the only nut I don’t like. What about slightly lighter banana bread that has some kind of twist to it?

After much searching, I found this one. It’s a recipe for Orange Banana Bread. And it’s only a hint of orange, so it doesn’t overpower the flavor or the bananas.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe:

  • To make it lighter, I replaced the whole wheat flour with whole wheat pastry flour.
  • I used  1/2 C brown sugar + 1/2 C white sugar instead of 1 C white sugar.
  • I used  1/3 C buttermilk instead of 1/3 C yogurt.
  • I added an orange glaze (recipe to follow)
  • I used 4 mini-loaf pans and baked for 35 min, turning the pan halfway through.

HANDY TIP: Although I had purchased the bananas several days in advance, they weren’t quite ripe enough to use for the bread, so I went to the internet and learned how to make bananas ripen: just put ’em in the oven at 250°F for 10-15 minutes. When the peels are black, they’re banana-bread-ready!

These bananas were from the same bunch, but the bottom one was a victim of the aforementioned Handy Tip.

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I tasted one of the speed-ripened bananas to make sure it was really ripe, and indeed it was super sweet – just perfect for banana bread.

The recipe calls for a bit or orange zest in the dough, but it was only a little, so I decided to add a little orange glaze to the top of each loaf, for some extra orange flavor.

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Glaze:  In a saucepan, heat 2T orange juice, 1/3 C white sugar, and  1/2 t fresh orange zest, until the sugar has melted. When the bread is done, poke a few holes in each loaf using a toothpick, and then brush each loaf with glaze several times.

When cooled, you can remove them from the pan.

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They’ll stay nice and moist if you wait until just before serving to slice them. I sliced each loaf into 6 slices – thick enough so they don’t fall apart when picked up off of a tray.

The texture of this bread was really nice – not gluey, but still moist – and the flavor was great! Just a hint of sweet orange to compliment the yummy banana. The brown sugar and whole wheat flour made it richer and a bit heartier that the same ole banana bread. And for the nut-averse, here’s one for you!

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The Hungry Episcopalians at coffee hour consumed it all in less than 5 minutes, even though there was something chocolate on the table right next to it. So this one is going in my Coffee Hour Recipe Notebook for future use. Might even make them for the Christmas Market!

 

National Orange Month!

As far as I’m concerned, EVERY month is National Orange Month. Not just August.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE oranges, and living in the Sunshine State gives me plenty of opportunity to enjoy them on a frequent basis all year long.

So as an Orange Fanatic, I am compelled to spread my love or oranges: Here’s something easy and delicious that you can do with orange juice. I call it an Orange Crush.

It’s simple:  orange juice (not from concentrate), club soda, crushed ice, spearmint leaves.

When it’s sweltering outside, this is a most refreshing beverage!  (And yes, that is spearmint from my very own spearmint plant that I have remembered to water every single day . . . well . . . so far.)

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I know a lot of people who like the taste of oranges but can’t handle the intensity of orange juice. This is a great way to enjoy OJ in a less intense way. And if you want to change it up, you can use orange-pinapple juice or orange-mango juice. (Simply Orange has both kinds. Check your grocery store’s produce department.) Or to go ultra-sweet, use orange-tangerine juice.

Simply Orange<sub>®</sub>  with Mango

 

The Orange Crush is also really good when you have a cold: Vitamin C for your immune system, and the cool fizziness for soothing a sore throat.  🙂

Tastee and good for you. Can’t beat that!

 

National Sandwich Month

Woohoo! It’s time to celebrate my one of my favorite food groups – SANDWICHES!

And here’s a Sandwich Fun Fact to start the celebration:

The Sandwich is named for the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was at 4th Earl of Sandwich | RecipeReminiscinga gambling event and wanted something he could eat using only one hand because he needed his other hand to keep gambling. So he
asked for meat between 2 pieces of bread.  I don’t know if he won any money, but he definitely should win the Nobel Prize For Practicality.

So now . . . on to THE SANDWICH.

I have been in a Sandwich Rut for several  years.  The only variation is that occasionally I use turkey instead of chicken. And occasionally I use whole wheat pita bread instead of Ezekiel toast. That is pathetic.

So in keeping with the “get out of your food rut” theme, I had to come up with something different that 1) tastes good, and 2) is easy to make and 3) fits into my healthy diet.

Looking online, I kept finding “healthy sandwich” ideas that involved flavorless grass (alfalfa), flavorless soy (tofu), and flavorless glue (fat-free cheese). BLECH!

So I perused my grocery store for Things That Would Be Good In A Sandwich. I came home with the following:

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By the way, that is NOT alfalfa on the left. They’re brocooli sprouts, which actually have flavor (like a mild radish) and are even better for you than broccoli! And the rectangular bread up there on the top right is a Toufoyan Smart Pocket.20160815_131551

I used goat cheese, but provolone would also be a good choice. And I found some tastee salad dressing in the fridge to use i/o mayo. Other ingredients: cucumber, avocado, tomato, grated carrot, broccoli sprouts, organic baby spinach.

To keep the bread from getting soggy, I put the goat cheese on the bottom and the broccoli spouts and spinach leaves on the top. The “wet” stuff went in the middle.

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It looked over-stuffed, so I pressed it down into something manageable.

 

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And it fit perfectly into a zip-lock bag!

Oh, the sense of relief that comes from knowing that My Sandwich Rut rut is over at last.

Sorry, Boar’s Head. You’re no longer my only option.  😉

 

P.S. 2 days later:   I found that these keep really well in the fridge for a day or two! Also, it’s really good with white bean dip i/o cheese.

 

 

National Zucchini Day

I  admit it. I haven’t always been a fan of zucchini. And I’ve never understood why people want to put it in cookies and cakes. What ever happened to Separation of  Dessert and Vegetable?

Then when I saw National Zucchini Day on the Food Holidays calendar, I was prompted to find a zucchini dish that I would actually want for dinner. I saw a few interesting recipes online that used thinly sliced zucchini in place of lasagna noodles, but these recipes also used abhorrent “foods” like fat-free cheese or . . . I can hardly utter it . . . TOFU.

No thank you. You can be healthy without eating old glue fat-free cheese or indigestible soy tofu.

So after much fear and trepidation because my cooking experiments usually come out inedible, I put aside my fear of failure and experiented with the “Zucchini As Lasagna Noodle” idea:

Using a mandolin slicer (thank you Cousins in Oklahoma!), I sliced a large zucchini the long way,

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sprinkled the slices with sea salt to help them release moisture, and let them sit on paper towels for about 45 minutes, after which I blotted them with another paper towel to make them as dry as possible.

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Then I sautéed ¾ C chopped onions, 1 clove minced garlic, and 4 oz of mushrooms in 2T olive oil and added them to 2 C of tomato sauce from Fresh Market. Every time I buy meatballs from their prepared foods counter, they give me waaay too much sauce, so I freeze it.

The sauce was a bit “tomato-ey”, i.e. a little too acidic, so I mashed up 1 C of thawed butternut squash cubes (available in your grocery’s freezer section) and added that to the sauce.  I couldn’t taste the squash, but it really helped the sauce be less acidic. And it’s good for you!

In a 10×8 Corningware dish, I layered the zucchini strips, fresh organic spinach leaves, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. I repeated the layers two more times, then sprinkled a little Parmesan-Romano on top.  I used mozzarella goat cheese b/c I can’t do cow’s milk.

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Baked it at 350° for 50 minutes.

It actually tasted really good! But as you can see below , it was too gooshy to look like lasagna. If I were a judge in the Lasagna Olympics, I’d give it a very high score for Flavor, but a big fat zero on Appearance.

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So I gotta figure out how to reduce the liquids and make this LOOK like lasagna. Suggestions welcome! As long as they don’t include fat-free cheese or tofu.  😉