This little piggy…

I don’t claim to be the best at fryin’ up bacon, but I am the best when it comes to chowin’ down on it. I LOVE bacon just as much as I love cake or even hot summer days. Though frying bacon on a hot summer day I do not love. Bacon in cake, yes please!

See, you must understand that our friend the swine is a good friend, a highly dependent friend, a little dirty, a little on the plump side, but they always clean up after themselves, despite their messiness. The pig and I have a lot in common. Our love of food, any food, really makes us the best of friends. Our relationship might be a little one sided, in that he has more to offer in our friendship than I do. I take and he gives. We’re working on that.

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Many of the other delectable parts of my swine friend deserve a blog post of their own, however, bacon is just well, the best thing since the discovery of, well, bacon.

We must really thank the English and their European counterparts for the animal and the word. Whether spelt bacoun or bacon the word and this particular cut of meat have been around since as early as the 11th century. Heck maybe it even predates the 11th century, but no one wanted to share their wondrous salty and crispy discovery. I don’t blame them.

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Our friend the little piggy, fell victim to the cogs of the Industrial Revolution. As with many other aspects of human life, the poor piggy had to leave the fresh air of the countryside where he could roam free and happily graze during the Summer and Fall months.  Come the Winter, our friend provided his life to sustain a family through those cold and harsh months. The life and death of our four footed friend was short, but sweet. He was local and sustainable. The city air did not make him free.

Unfortunately, everyone caught on to the benefits of our hog friend and he sold out. Yes, the pig went commercial and an industry was built around his assets.
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I guess I should talk about the cooking of this finely cured meat, but honestly, as long as it’s not burnt or raw, then it’s cooked perfectly. Baking bacon in the oven is less messy and super easy. Sometimes I like to sprinkle a little brown sugar on one side before I pop them in the oven. Oh yes, sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy….

Frying bacon in a pan takes a little more focus. Make sure your pan isn’t TOO hot and that you’re not overcrowding your little piglets. You don’t need to add any oil to the pan, since the bacon will depart with its delicious fat rather quickly. I keep a mason jar next to my stove to store all the remaining fat. Yes, I cook with lard. Just make sure to strain the fat before pouring it into the jar. You don’t want to have all the little burnt bits ruining your perfect fat.

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This little piggy…

The Boyfriend Cookies

New Year’s Day had come and gone. Our bellies and heads ached with food and drink hangovers and as the second episode of Chopped came on my boyfriend asked me to bake him cookies. This was the first baking request in our new relationship and I happily obliged to bake him some peanut butter cookies.

I love peanut butter cookies. They are sweet and salty, moist and crunchy, and super easy to make. I decided to add chocolate chips to the batter because who doesn’t love the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

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sifting away

Sift and weight all your dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

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Mmmm brown sugar.

Always make sure to take your butter out of the fridge before baking. Having room temperature butter will help when blending in the suger, especially if you’re mixing by hand.

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Blend butter and sugar together.

Blend butter and sugar till smooth and creamy. This is my favorite part of baking, blending the sugar and butter together. It’s fun to watch the fat and sugar blend into a fluffy sweet mixture.

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Stir in the peanut butter to the batter.

Once the sugar and butter is well blended, add the egg and vanilla. Fold in peanut better by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. You can use any kind of peanut butter that you like. Chunky peanut butter is always a nice way to add some crunch.

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All incorporated.

This is the point when the interested party walked into the kitchen to taste their special treat.

Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in the chocolate chips.

I like to use dark chocolate chips when baking. I used a combination of dark chocolates ranging from 60% to 72% cocoa.

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Shape into 2 inch balls before pressing with a fork.

Always chill your cookie dough before baking. If the fat is too warm, then the cookies will flatten in the oven. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

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Baked and cooling.

These cookies smelled so delicious coming out of the oven. The boyfriend got a plate full of cookies and a tall glass of milk. I think he was satisfied. Maybe I’ll bake for him again.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz (140g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (115g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 oz (165g) brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 9 1/2 oz (265g) smooth or crunchy peanut butter
  • 8 oz (276g) dark chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 *F; grease baking sheet.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Mix together butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  4. In another small bowl, mix the egg and vanilla together and then gradually add to the butter mixture.
  5. Stir in the peanut butter. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Gently stir in the flour mixture and then the chocolate chips.
  7. Chill in fridge for at least 3o minutes.
  8. Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls and place onto sheets.
  9. With a fork, press flat onto the balls making a criss-cross pattern.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly colored.
  11. Cool on baking sheet.
The Boyfriend Cookies

Blueberry Empañada Filling

Don’t get me wrong, I love my savory empañadas, but there comes a moment where sweet wins by a landside. If it’s summer time, then it’s a no brainer. Summer fruits at their peak make the best desserts. Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, oh the choices! My favorite summertime pie or empanada filling has to be blueberry.

Several years ago, I came across a Spiced Blueberry Pie recipe in Sunset Magazine. I live by that recipe. Every summer I make a point to make the sweet and spicy berry pie and it always proves to be a crowd pleaser. If the masses like it, then you know it’s good! The combination of rich spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and black pepper mixed with brown sugar and lemon juice create the sweetest spicy filling.

Baking, like cooking, is the best way to showcase the movement of cultural groups and their foodstuffs. No modern cuisine is exempt from outside influences. When I make my spiced blueberry empañadas I like to think that I’m tasting a little bit of every continent.

Spiced Blueberry Filling  (Makes 12 large or 24 small empañadas)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and any remaining stems removed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup packed brown sugar (depending on tartness of berries)
  • 1 tbsp instant tapioca pearls
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Preparation:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over a medium-high heat. Stir often to incorporate all spices.
  2. Let fruit come to a boil, scraping sides of saucepan often. Once the fruit has thickened to the consistency of a thick pudding, turn off heat and let cool.
  3. Fruit mixture should cling to the side of a spoon. Mixture is done when it holds it shape as it falls back into the saucepan.
  4. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to use.  
Blueberry Empañada Filling

Apple Empañada Filling

Apple season is approaching alongside the coloring of the leaves and the cool fall weather (well not in the Bay Area at least, it’s like summer time over here!). Did you know that there is at least 7,500 varieties of apple in existence today? Insane! Apple empanadas are also one of my favorites to make and eat during the cooler weather days.

Apples for All!

The filling is precooked and cooled prior to stuffing. Any kind of apple can be used, as long as it’s not too soft or too sweet. I prefer to use Granny SmithGala, and/or Golden Delicious (the 3 G’s!). If your apples are sweet, just remember to reduce the amount of sugar called for. Also, I like to use LOTS of spices. This recipe only calls for cinnamon, but feel free to experiment with whatever available spices you have.

Check out the 12 best apples for baking. 

Apple Empañadas  (Makes 20-25 small empañadas)

Ingredients:

  • tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 4-5 green apples
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp dulce de leche (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Peel and core apples; cut into 1 inch chunks. Add apples to a sauce pan with butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir over medium heat. Cook until tender.
  3. In a small bowl mix 1-2 tbsp water with corn starch until smooth. Add to apples and cook until thick.
  4. Remove apples from heat and add dulce de leche until well mixed.
  5. Chill until ready to use. 
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350* and bake for 20-25 minutes. 
Apple Empañada Filling