Breakfast Mash-up

There are many oddities in the current food world.  Chefs are throwing things together that normally, well, wouldn't be thought of as a pairing.  For example, chicken and waffles- have you heard of this craze?  It's apparently a southern thing, I guess.  I'd never heard of it before a friend introduced me.  But whatever, to each his own!  I'm not one to judge.

If you crave it, eat it.  Who cares what others think?

One of the current hot-pairings is adding bacon to all things sweet.  A while ago, I highlighted my new favorite indulgence, Vosges' Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar.  Yeah.  It's insane.  The full-flavor and body of dark chocolate with the added hint of salty applewood-smoked bacon. 

Like I said, insane.  Insanely GOOD.

Another thing folks are doing these days is including bacon WITHIN their breakfast foods, instead of alongside.  I've seen recipes for choc chip pancakes with bits of chopped bacon in the batter, bacon-infused maple syrup, and bacon cinnamon rolls.

Huh?  Bacon cinnamon rolls?  Sounds a little quirky, eh?

Well not to this girl.  A friend clued me into THIS recipe and the idea got me thinking, "This could be good.  This could be very, very, very good."  As in, we-may-never-go-back-to-the-original good.

Yes, that good.

And so...I tried 'em.  And so...well, they were simply heavenly.

Even Mr. K (a man who is the "don't even think about messing with my breakfast food" type) raved and groaned and oohed and aaahed over 'em. 

That takes a LOT, folks.  You just don't know this guy.  He's quite stuck in the mud when it comes to comfort foods.  But this one chipped away at him.  He may turn around yet.  I keep trying, anyway.

So anyway- you CAN make the above recipe, just click on the link.  However, with my insistence on all things homemade, I just couldn't do the Grands cinnamon rolls and pre-packaged frosting.  No thanks.  I had to make my own.  But, again, to each his own- you are more than welcome to do what you prefer.

BUT.  If you are willing to delve into the task at hand and forge ahead to the homemade frontier, go ahead and make your own!  I will be along the road cheering you on with a painted game-face and big foam finger.

You CAN do it!  You CAN go from these:

To these:

Let me inspire you.  I'm here to inspire, my friends.  Just do it. 

Here's how...

The recipe calls for 3 parts:  The cinnamon rolls themselves, the bacon, and the maple-frosting.  Once all are ready to go- you create your masterpiece.  Okie dokie?

Homemade Bacon Cinnamon Rolls w/Maple Frosting:

1/4 cup warm water
1 package (2.25 tsp) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2.5-3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
one package your choice maple-flavored bacon

For Maple Frosting:
1 lb powdered sugar (or more)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter
dash salt
1/2 Tbsp maple flavoring

-Combine the yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and honey in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand-mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 5 minutes.  Mix in next 6 ingredients (through salt) by hand or at low speed (using paddle attachment) until blended. 

-Gradually stir in half of the 3 cups flour in 1/2 cup increments, pausing to check the dough after each addition.  Once half the flour (so 1.5 cups) is added, turn mixer off and switch to dough hook attachment.  Continue adding the rest of the flour slowly over a period of 10 minutes, allowing the dough to incorporate itself.  After 10 minutes the dough should be slightly sticky, but not overly so. 

-Take out of mixer and place in well-oiled large bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a slightly warm place until double, about 1.5 hours. 

-Near the end of the initial rising process you will get your bacon ready.  Fry up about 10-12 pieces of maple-flavored bacon- but NOT fully.  Pull the bacon out of the pain while it's still pliable and soft, it should NOT be crispy.  This allows you to roll it into the cinnamon rolls- the bacon will finish cooking in the oven.  Drain the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels and finish the cinnamon roll process.

-Once the dough has doubled, punch down and take out of the bowl.  Place dough on a well-floured surface (the dough will be oily and sticky).  Generously sprinkle flour over top and roll out into a 9x15 inch rectangle (it'll be about 1/2 inch thick).  Spread the melted butter over the rectangle, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Then, starting with the long end, roll upward (away from you) to form a long tube.  Seal edges.

-Cut the tube into about 10-12 one inch thick cinnamon rolls.  Once all the rolls are cut, proceed to take one of the cut rolls and roll it back out so it's a long dough strip (at this point you are copying verbatim the linked recipe above).  Grab one piece of the bacon and place on the dough strip; roll it back up with the bacon inside.  Proceed doing this for each of the rolls.  Once all the rolls have bacon inside, place into two greased cake pans or one large 9x13 dish.  Cover again with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 30-40 min.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

-Make maple frosting by simply mixing the ingredients above, adding more or less powdered sugar to make the consistency you prefer.  If you accidently add too much powdered sugar and it's too thick, thin it out with a little more milk.  If too thin, add more powdered sugar.

-When double, bake the rolls for 12-15 minutes until tops are golden.  Frost with maple frosting while still warm and EAT while groaning and oohing and aahing.

-Sidenote:  I think next time I will try to fry up the bacon, chop it up, then sprinkle it on top of the cinnamon and brown sugar.  When you take a bite of these, the entire strip of bacon comes out- I'd rather have little pieces in each bite.  Live and learn!

You will never go back.

Bacon is the big thing in breakfast mash-ups.

What comes next?  Any other ideas for a bacon-infused sweet item?

I'm open to suggestions...

Meal Swap

So I briefly mentioned in my last post that the pulled pork and buns were my contribution to a monthly meal swap I'm involved in.  I'm sure most of you have heard of something like it but the idea is brilliant. 

Positively brilliant.

If you have no clue what I'm talking about, let me explain.

The first Thursday of every month a group of moms I know (and you certainly don't have to be a "mom" to participate in something like this!) get together to trade meals with one another.  Basically the premise is this:

You, as a participant, make four 8x8 Gladware reusable tupperware dishes (oven-safe) full of one specific meal.  All you have to do is take a recipe for anything in a 9x13 pan and double it- or make a bit 'ol batch of your favorite soup/stew and split it into four containers.  Or you can do what I did and quadruple a huge batch of something entirely different and fill four Gladware dishes.

I always like to be a little different :) 

Anyway- once you've prepared your meal and split it into four containers, you write the recipe on four index cards and attach them to the top of each dish.  Then, you all email each other to share what you are bringing (so each person can make a "wish list" of sorts).  Upon arrival to the host's home that month, you all place your dishes in piles on the table.  The host writes numbers on pieces of paper, 1 through however many people you have participating (we had 12 this time).  Each person draws a number.  Number 1 goes first and chooses ONE of the dishes they'd like, #2 goes next and so forth.  Once you reach the top number, you go back down the list, so in our case, #12 got to pick two times in a row, then #11 went, on back down the list.  Then you start at #1 again and repeat the process.  By the end, everyone should have four entirely new meals to take home! 

Told you it was brilliant.

I don't know who thought this thing up, but it's the perfect way to have four new meals to try without the fuss and hassle of making as many meals yourself. 

Did I mention this idea is brilliant?   If I haven't already, that is.

So here's what I did this month, if you happened to forget already.

I first quadrupled my normal recipes for spicy pulled pork and hamburger buns, 12 pounds worth of meat and 32 buns total to be exact.

Once all was done cooking, baking, and cooling, I placed the meat in four oven-safe Gladware containers.

Then packaged the buns into four large ziploc bags, 8 buns per bag.

Make sure the buns are cool though- you don't want condensation accumulating in those things.  It makes for soggy-ness and festering bacteria.  Ew.  Nobody wants that.

Then, off to the swap!  It was fabulous. 
And I came home with these four fun meals (in no particular order):

#1- Chipotle Chicken Pasta
(a take off the Diablo Chicken dish at Carlos O'Kelley's)
#2- Lasagna
(always a fav 'round these parts!)
#3- Lite Chicken n' Broccoli Alfredo
(a fav of Mr. K)
#4- Chicken Tetrazzini

(Sorry for the dismal lighting- it was late in the evening!)

Some other dishes there (that I didn't nab in time) were:
Stuffed shells, zuppa toscana (an italian soup), upside down pizza bake, vegetarian enchiladas, five cheese penne, and brown sugar chicken (a stir-fry dish).

All fantastic-sounding. 

Yum, looking forward to four easy evenings in my near future!

I suggest you get yourself one of these Meal Swap things.
It's the way to go.

Did I mention the idea is brilliant?

Sidenote:  Because most of the moms in my group have, at most, two children who are younger than 3 years of age- the 8x8 containers are enough to feed our current family size.  However, if you have older (or more) children and 8x8 wont cut it, I suggest forming a swap with other moms like yourself and filling four 9x12 oven-safe Gladware pans with a specific meal of your choice (and having the other moms do the same)- then you all will have four full-size meals for your full-size families!  You can tweak this idea any way you want!  Just let me know what you did...I don't like to be left out of a good idea :)

Spicy Pulled Pork with Homemade Buns

I apologize for the lack of a catchy title but I figured meat and carbs would get your attention.

Am I right?  Well, you're here anyway.

Sorry I haven't been around these parts for a while...but I've resigned myself to the fact that,

1.  I have been busy (as usual)
2. I have a two year old and another on the way--life can be decidedly chaotic (and only getting more so)
3. I haven't been cooking much...or rather, we've been having the same meals over and over (sorry Mr. K) because I've been in a please-let-winter-end slump and have resisted cooking any more stews, soups, pot roasts, etc.  Winter must end sometime, right? 


Well, my friends, winter has been quickly dying 'round these parts.  This week the midwestern highs have been in the low 60s!  Thanks be to God above.  We are now entering spring for real.  And I've been motivated.

Motivated for what, you might ask? 

Well really, whenever warm weather abouds what does anyone yearn for?  Good ol' BBQ.  That's right.  The smell of it, the mere idea of getting out on your deck and taking in the heat (albeit the heat from the coals/gas/whatever, it is still HEAT), it's what we long for.

However, much to my dismay we do not own a grill.


No grill.  So I have had to smell other people's lovely smoky aromas wafting from every other porch, except mine.  Why don't we have one?  A few reasons.  One, we have a small deck- not even large enough for two people to sit on let alone a large cooking contraption.  Two, we have no room in our garage to store one either.  Third, grilling intimidates me. 

There, I said it. 

Scoff all you want.  Laugh if you will.  However, I think there is at least one thing most cooks would say intimidates them.  And to be honest, I see myself as more of a baker and less of a cook.  Most cooks would say yeast intimidates them- but yeast and I are best buds. 

We get along well.

Grills and I?  Not in the slightest.  I admire people like Bobby Flay but grilling is just not my forte.  Another thing that intimidates me?  Roasting birds.  Never done it, haven't even entertained the thought- it terrifies me to no end.  So now you know two slightly embarrassing things about this wannabe cook. 

Anyway- that's another issue for another day.

Since I don't have a grill and don't have the slightest idea how to master grilling perfection, I tend to roast my meat in the crockpot (low and slow), make a sauce of some sort, shred the meat, then add the sauce an hour before eating to let the flavors marry.  It's my BBQ method.  Don't judge.

Last week, while perusing Pioneer Woman's site, I saw a recipe that caught my eye and revived my spirits.

It screamed, spring!  BBQ!  Make me now! 

And so I did.  And here you go.

The recipe?  Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork.  I had a few cans of DP in my fridge, and all the other ingredients so decided, why not?  I'll give it a whirl. 

Now, since I gave you the link you can very well meander on over to her site and make it yourself but let me just give you a few (okay, a lot of) tidbits on what I did- because I generally don't follow recipes exactly.  I like to make 'em a bit leaner, and add some extras. 

First, I used a crockpot rather than a dutch oven.  I didn't want to heat up my whole house.  Basically did all the same things but just put my pot on high for 4 hours, then on low for 2.  Same thing.  Easy breezy.

Second, I only had Diet Dr. Pepper, so that's what I used.  If you don't have either- use Coke!  Or Diet Coke!  Or heck, use root beer for crying out loud.  Just as long as it's cola-based, you'll be fine.

Third, I chopped my onions finely and sauteed them first (rather than just throwing raw wedges in the bottom)...I like the flavor better and I don't like big chunks of things floating around.  I have consistency issues.

Fourth, PW has you dump in the whole jar of chipotle in adobo sauce.  I did this.  However she never says what to do with the peppers at the end- but I vote discard them!  Those things are super spicy.  And again, I don't like big chunks of things floating around.  It's something I'm working on.  Is there a self-help hotline for cooking issues?

Fifth, I used pork loin roast, not shoulder or pork butt.  Pork loin is leaner- less fat to skim off.  And again, less chunks floating around.  [Shudder].  Sorry, I'll stop.

Sixth, at the end she just has you shred the meat, then put it back into the loads of broth.  I don't like fishing through liquid to get to my meat.  Instead, I removed 3 cups of broth and placed it in a medium saucepan, then dumped the rest- I'm sure you could save it for something but I didn't have the energy.  To the stove sauce I added a few things to make it less overpoweringly spicy and a bit sweeter.  You can add whatever you like but some things I chose were: a 1/2 C ketchup, 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce, 1/3 C maple syrup, 1/3 C brown sugar, and a Tablespoon of dijon mustard.  I mixed all the above into the broth, boiled 'em together for about 10 min, then dumped the broth mixture back into the crockpot with the shredded meat.  Let the whole thing mingle for another half hour and voila- it's done (and leaner, less spicy, more flavorful, less chunks-floating-to-be-removed). 

Piece of cake.  And delicious.  Mr. K now votes this as our top pulled pork recipe (we have a few others) and tonight, I'm taking it to my monthly meal swap.  I hope everyone feels the same way about it as we do!  We'll see.

Here are a few shots of the meat:

Low and slow, baby.

I know, there are things floating.  I'm trying not to notice.

Once it's falling off the bone, shred it up.

Then dump it back in the crockpot and make the stove sauce from the 3 cups reserved broth.  Add whatever else floats your boat, then return the sauce to the crockpot.

And that would be all...but PW just threw her meat on some tortillas-which is fine and would be incredibly tasty.  But we like us some carbs around here.

AND me being a baker at heart, I couldn't just go out and (gasp) buy some hamburger buns.  No, no.  That is not how we roll in this house.

I had to make 'em, of course.

So I did.  And here you go.

Again, I know some of you cooks generally don't do yeast and that's fine.  But if I am willing to try my hand at barbeque (and I have, and continue to make feeble attempts) then you cannot just give up on yeast.  It's perfectly easy once you get the hang of it...don't let a few unrisen loaves keep you down.  No pun intended. 

And hamburger buns are simple.  Seriously.  If you have a basic bread recipe down, these are a walk in the park.

So...first, take my basic whole wheat bread recipe.  Make the bread according to the instructions, however when it comes time to shape the dough (after the first rise), you are simply going to shape it into buns instead of bread.

Easy right?


Let's do it.

Break off pieces a little larger than a golfball and round it into a roll shape.

Flatten the ball with a rolling pin, making a 1/2" thick circle, whatever size you like your buns.
Some like 'em big, some small.
I don't judge- they are your buns :)

Place flattened rounds on a greased cookie sheet, cover with greased plastic wrap.

Let rise until double, about 30 min or more.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once the buns have doubled in size, remove the wrap and place in oven for 12-15 minutes.  Keep a watch on them so they don't get too brown (check the bottoms).

Take 'em out, and let cool.

Butter the tops, if you wish- it makes 'em nice and soft.
I wish, so I do.
Aren't they lovely?

Mmm, soft buns.  :)

Slice the buns and top with your meat.

Pleasure on a plate.
And I didn't even have to break out a grill.

Now go enjoy yourself some buns.
And slow roasted meat.
And, perhaps, warmer weather.
I think I shall.