"Mmm...bacon."- Homer Simpson

Sunday, August 29, 2010

One of my dear friends, Emily, has recently started a food blog about bacon. Bacon is one of my favorite foods and a guilty pleasure.

When I came across this recipe, I thought it would be a great addition to both our blogs.

For those of you who don't like bacon, you can substitute chopped pecans for the bacon. I haven't made this recipe yet. Perhaps I will once the weather cools down considerably.

This recipe is dedicated to all adventurous and curious foodies, bacon lovers, and dessert lovers.

Pumpkin Caramel Bars with Bacon

Makes 24 bars. Total time: 1 hour + cooling

For the bars:
  • 8 oz. bacon, diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
 For the Frosting:
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Sea salt, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Cook bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until crisp; drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Reserve 2 Tbsp. drippings.

Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter, bacon drippings, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in flour mixture and pecans, if using.

Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick comes clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Boil 2 cups brown sugar, water, and a pinch of salt for the frosting in a large saucepan over high heat, 5 minutes, gently swirling occasionally to prevent scorching. Whisk in cream and butter pieces. (Mixture will bubble furiously; keep whisking.) Boil 2 minutes more.

Transfer caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer; whip on high speed until sides of bowl are cool to the touch and caramel is thick, 8-10 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cream cheese, 1 cube at a time, until frosting is smooth. Frost cooled bars.

Finely chopped cooked bacon (or pecans) and sprinkle onto frosted bars with sea salt. Store bars in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2010, Issue 83.

Birthday calories don't count

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." ~James Beard

 Yesterday was my birthday. It was a time of reflection, gratitude, and of course, good food. Although my life is quite different now, I have different blessings and new friends. 

My parents came into town to visit me. The hubs was working so it was the three of us. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Cheesecake Factory, where portions are huge and the menu is long. I was super excited to see more dishes added since my last visit. 

One of my new friends, Orange Blossom, wisely said at her own birthday party, "Birthday calories don't count". I wholeheartedly agree. I had fun looking at the menu both online and in-person. One of my absolute favorite appetizers is Ahi (Tuna) Tartare.

I'm not sure when I started enjoying this refreshing dish but I've been hooked ever since (pun intended).

I can sum up this great dish in this equation: Ahi + avocado = bliss.

They had some special items that weren't featured in the regular menu. I had this wonderful dish called Chicken Bellagio. It had parmesan crusted chicken, angel hair pasta in a cream and basil (?) sauce, topped with arugla and prosciutto. 

For dessert, I already had chosen my cheesecake: Wild Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake. It was light, smooth, creamy, and wonderful.

After my parents left, I decided to go to Nordstrom for some new makeup. I had just enough time to change into my new dress and heels.

I had invited several friends to an outdoor Mexican restaurant called Hacienda De Vega. I had discovered this restaurant online and decided it would be fun to try someplace new. It is a beautiful, tranquil place. 

My friend, Freesia, and I ordered Mango Mojito Margaritas were as fun to say as they were to drink. My other friends, Peony, and Orange Blossom, got a Strawberry Margarita, and a Mojito Clasico. 

After much (inner) debate, I had decided to try the Enchiladas Tlaxcala. I have to admit I was clueless about the pronunciation. Four years of high school Spanish doesn't quite cover foodie terms. The food was good although their tomatillo sauce was not mild in my opinion. I probably will try something else next time.

We had a great time, filled with stories, "me too"s, and laughter. 

All in all, it was a vast improvement over last year's disappointing dinner elsewhere.

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