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Ring in the New Year with Family, Friends and Tasty Appetizers…


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about….more ringing in the New Year! It’s a night for nibbling, noshing, toasting, remembering and celebrating. The best part for me, however, is for us to be together as a family. It’s funny, when the kids were little, they would try so hard to make it ‘til midnight. Now, Chuck and I are nodding off, trying desperately to keep our eyeballs open. One way to stay awake is to look forward to a delicious appetizer buffet. I made two of my tastiest treats to share with you today. They are always a hit with my family and friends and will sure to become a favorite of yours as well.

Bite Size Crab Cakes:

You know my motto is more of everything is always better, which totally applies to appetizers. I made a double batch because if 24 are good, 48 must be better! The measurements listed are for a single batch.

 

8 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature

¾ grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup for the filling, ½ cup for the crust

1 large egg

¼ cup sour cream

1 tsp orange peel, grated

½ tsp lemon peel, grated

6 tsp chopped chives for the filling, another 2 Tbsp for the crust

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

8 ounces fresh lump crab meat (I love the 16 oz container from CostCo)

1 cup panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs

½ stick butter, melted

Plus extra butter for greasing the mini muffin tins

The filling can be prepared the day before. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 350°

Grease mini muffin tins generously with butter

For the filling:

With an electric mixer, beat;

 

Cream cheese

Mix until creamy and smooth

Add;

Parmesan cheese

Egg

Add;

Sour cream

Orange peel

Lemon peel

Chopped chives

Salt

Cayenne pepper

Beat until well blended and smooth

Gently stir in crabmeat

 

 

Set aside

For the crust:

Mix together;

Panko breadcrumbs

Parmesan cheese

Chives

Melted butter

Toss until evenly moistened

 

Press one tablespoon of panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup to form the crust

 

Add;

1 tsp crab mixture for each cup

Top each cup with a teaspoon of panko mixture

Bake the mini crab cakes for approximately 30 minutes, until they are a nice, golden brown

 

Cool for 5 minutes

To remove, slide a knife around the edge of each cup and remove carefully from the pan

Plate and serve

Everybody’s Loves ‘Em BLT Cups

One batch makes about 36 appetizers. Feel free to double and triple…. I like to make this the night before my event. I go so far as to get the dough in the tin and fill it with the bacon mixture. All that’ll be left is to pop them into the oven.

8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped (approximately ¾ cup)

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped (approximately ¾ cup)

½ small onion, chopped (approximately 2/3 cup)

1 ¼ cup grated Swiss cheese

½ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ Tbsp fresh chopped basil

2 cans of flaky biscuits, such as Hungry Jack

Pre-heat oven to 375°

 

In a mixing bowl, combine;

 

Bacon

Tomato

Onion

Swiss cheese

Mayonnaise

Basil

 

Stir until well mixed

 

Separate each flaky biscuit into two

Press a disc into the bottom of the each muffin cup

Fill each cup with a heaping teaspoon of bacon filling

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a nice warm golden brown

 

Plate and serve

Your guests will be delighted to ring in the New Year in style!

More tasty morsels, more time together, more celebrations…..

Mini Crab Cake and Blt Cup Appetizers

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Family Life; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…


As the More is More Mom®, I am all about….. more mixing things up. When the kids were little, Chucks hours permitted for him to be home everyday by 3:15 p.m. Seriously, these kids were just finishing their afternoon snack by the time he walked in the door. Those were the days……

 

While being self employed meant that Chuck could almost never miss a day of work, much less take a real vacation, we had him for what mattered most to us, which was our everyday life. Most dads have more conventional work schedules, but Chucks suited us just fine. With him being home so early, he really got to be a part of our home life; the good, the bad and the ugly. 

You know how much I like to have fun, so the kids were forever be-bopping back and forth with friends. With a motto like mine, more of everything is always better, clearly extending to the quantity of friends as well, we always had a house full. Nick and the fellas loved to play baseball in our backyard. They wore out the grass at the pitchers mound, home plate and first base. The boys were always so sweet to allow Amanda to get in on the action too, one boy remarking to the others, “Don’t get Sis out.”She would prefer to hit off the “T” much to Nick’s distress. He maintained that she would never get any better if she didn’t take the pitch, and he was perfectly willing to pitch her a thousand balls for the sake of authenticity (like mother, like son). Amanda, of course, had no desire to ever take the pitch, forever happy to hit off the “T”, which always lead to a heated debate (otherwise known as…..the ugly). It was great that Chuck was home to umpire/referee the game before there was a bench clearing brawl.

We were lucky that Chuck almost never missed a hockey, basketball, baseball or track practice, much less games, which is a good thing because Nick always likes us to be watching. Every time he would take the ice, step up to the free throw line, approach the batters box or take his position at the starting line, he glanced up to make sure we were watching, and naturally we were. At the ripe old age of 18 his still makes sure we never miss a shift, and we never would.

Not only was he home for practices, but he was always home for dinner. Some nights we would eat dinner at 4:30pm because of Nick’s hockey practices, but that’s okay. The most important part was that we were together. As the homemaker, the only downside to ones husband always being home was that men typically like a real meal for dinner. You know the drill; salad, meat, potatoes, vegetables, dessert….. for 20 years. That’s a lot of four course meals.

Well, the other night, Chuck went out to dinner and to the Hawks game with some of the fellas. I turned to both my pals (High School students now; practically grown ups) and suggested breakfast for dinner. Amanda said, “OMG! That’s exactly what I was thinking!” Nick asked, “Can we have chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs?” Sure! The sky’s the limit. How about bacon too? We got the eggs cracking, the bacon sizzling, the toast toasting and the maple syrup drizzling. While the cats away, the mice will play. It was delightful!

More comfort food, more tasty goodness, more being in cahoots…together!

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More is More Mom Appearing Today on Chicago’s ABC 7, News at 11AM! Labor Day Appetizers…


Today I will be appearing on Chicago’s ABC-7, News at 11AM sharing my tips and inspirations for throwing for a great Labor Day party. As the More is More Mom®, I am thrilled to share these beautiful appetizers with you. I hope you can celebrate with your family along with ours!

I find that while the ladies like snicky snacks, the fellas prefer something a little heartier. To satisfy the tastes of everyone at your party, I have selected four recipes to share with you. Enjoy them one at a time, or all together, for a wonderful celebration with family and friends.

Steak Crostini’s:

The tender steaks and creamy topping are such tasty goodness! I love that this recipe is so simple and can be largely prepared in advance.

Please note that each strip steak will provide 12-15 appetizers.

Topping:

In a mixing bowl, combine;

¾ cup mayonnaise

3 heaping tsp horseradish

6 tsp Dijon mustard

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ tsp salt

Mix well, until nice and creamy, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be prepared a day in advance.

Crostini:

Slice nice crusty baguette bread approximately ½” thick for manageable, bite size pieces. Depending on how many appetizers you are making, you may need more than one loaf of bread. My preference is to slice the bread in advance and store it in an airtight container or a re-sealable baggie (Ziploc’s my favorite. This is not a paid advertisement…yet). Put aside until ready to toast and serve.  

 

Steaks:

The New York strip is a very nice cut of meat. The marbling gives it a little extra flavor.

Sprinkle steaks on both sides with salt (I love sea salt) and pepper (I am highly in favor of cracked black pepper on everything).

Depending on your preference, you have two choices.

Option 1: Pre-heat your grill to medium. Cook each side for approximately 4-5 minutes for medium-rare. Let stand for 10 minutes. Trim off any uneven edges before slicing ¼” pieces.

Option 2: In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook for 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. . Let stand for 10 minutes. Trim off any uneven edges before slicing ¼” pieces.

Toast Crostini while steaks cook.

Finely chop 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley.

Assembly:

Arrange toasted baguette slices on a platter.

Place a small dollop of topping on each slice of bread.

Put a slice of steak on each Crostini.

Top each slice of steak with another dollop of the creamy topping.

Generously sprinkle with parsley.

Serve.

Bacon, Chicken and Potato Salad Lettuce Wraps:

A delicious mouth full! Again, like the Boy Scouts, my motto is…Be Prepared. You can make everything in advance and assemble right before you are ready to serve. What could be more beautiful and easier than that?

This recipe will produce approximately 24 appetizers.

Bacon:

Who doesn’t love bacon? You’ll want to cook about 10 slices of your favorite flavor (I like a smoked bacon); 6 to mix in to the salad and 4 to chop and sprinkle on top when you’re ready to serve.

You can certainly fry the bacon in a skillet, but I love to bake it in the oven on 350° for about 30 minutes. You can cook a lot of bacon in a short amount of time that way. I make 2 lbs at a time and store in the fridge in an air tight container. Then you can just warm it up in the micro as needed. It’s so easy to simply line a lipped baking sheet with aluminum foil, evenly place the slices so they are close, but not quite touching, cook and toss the foil in the trash when you are finished. Wipe the baking sheet with paper towel and wash out the pan. Cinchy!

 

Chicken:

 

Place one 6 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover slightly and poach until cooked completely through, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool until easy to handle. Cut chicken into bite size pieces.

Potatoes:

Pre-heat oven to 400°

In a large mixing bowl, toss;

 

4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Tbsp olive oil

¾ tsp salt (kosher or sea)

¾ tsp cracked black pepper

 

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil

Evenly spread potatoes

Roast until golden and tender, approximately 30-40 minutes

Cool slightly and transfer to a large mixing bowl

Mix:

In the large mixing bowl with the potatoes, add;

6 slices of bacon, chopped

Chicken, cut into bite size pieces

1/3 cup diced celery

½ cup diced onion (your choice; red, Vidalia, scallions)

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

Optional: 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (depends on how much you like cheese)

Dressing:

In a separate bowl, combine;

½ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp paprika

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

4 sage leaves chopped

Mix until smooth and creamy

 

Add:

Dressing to bacon, chicken and potato mixture. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assemble:

In order to get 24 appetizer size portions of lettuce, you’ll need about 4 heads of Bibb lettuce. This doesn’t have to be a waste at all; chop or tear the leaves that are too big for the appetizers into bite size pieces. Store in a re-sealable baggie lined with paper towel and serve as a salad another day. Separate the leaves you are going to use, wash and store the appetizer portion size leaves in a re-sealable baggie lined with paper towel until ready to serve. 

 

On a decorative platter, arrange lettuce leaves.

Scoop a generous portion of salad mixture into each lettuce leaf.

Sprinkle portions with additional 4 slices of chopped, cooked bacon.

Serve.

Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Ginger Dipping Sauce:

There is sooooo much flavor packed into each cube of meat, not to mention the dipping sauce, it will leave your guests wanting more (and this is just an appetizer!).

One pound of pork tenderloin makes about 15 skewers (with 3 slices of meat on each).

Marinade:

In a re-sealable baggie (so much less mess), combine;

1 cup sliced green onion (green and white parts)

½ cup of vegetable oil

7-8 cloves of minced garlic

1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper (bring on the heat)

1 Tbsp chopped, fresh ginger (Heavenly aroma)

2 Tbsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp lime juice

1 large pork tenderloin (approximately 1 ½ lbs, cut into 1” cubes)

Marinade for at least 4 hours, or even better, overnight

Sauce:

Over medium heat, heat up a saucepan.

Add;

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

½ cup red onion, chopped

Cook until the onion is tender, approximately 4 minutes

Add;

1 heaping Tbsp chopped ginger (sooooo fragrant)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

Cook for a minute or so (until delightfully aromatic)

Add;

1 – 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

1 Tbsp sugar

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Bring sauce to a simmer for 10 minutes, over medium-low heat.

Pour sauce into a blender, puree until smooth.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

Garnish with chopped scallions

Skewers:

Soak skewers for 30m minutes.

Remove pork cubes from marinade.

Thread 3 cubes on each skewer, allowing a little space between each cube, for even cooking. Discard marinade.

 

Option 1: Pre-heat grill to medium. Add cubed pork skewers and cook 5-8 minutes per side.

Option 2: Pre-heat grill pan on cook top over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add pork skewers and cook 3-5 minutes per side.

 

Arrange artfully on a platter and serve with the dipping sauce.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip:

This dip is delicious with veggies, pita chips, or perhaps even on a Panini sandwich…..

In a blender, place;

2 – 7 oz jars of roasted red sweet peppers, drained

½ cup oil packed, sun dried tomatoes, drained and snipped

 1 heaping tsp fresh thyme

2 tsp honey

1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic minced

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Blend until smooth

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve

 

Blanch Vegetables:

Blanching brings out the beautiful color and flavors of your favorite veggies.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add kosher salt.

Dunk;

1 lb trimmed green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

Dunk:

1 lb peeled, trimmed and sliced carrots in boiling water for 2 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

Dunk:

1 lb trimmed asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

Dunk:

3 squash, trimmed and sliced into spears in boiling water for 2 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

Dunk:

3 zucchini, trimmed and sliced into spears in boiling water for 2 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

Dunk:

1 lb of broccoli florettes in boiling water for 2 minutes

Remove and immediately place in an ice bath

When cool, place on a paper towel to soak up the water

 

When ready to serve, arrange veggies on a platter and dip in a bowl

Put pita chips (you can make your own or purchase the fantastic Stacy’s brand pita chips) in a bowl

Serve

 I hope you have had a great Labor Day with your family creating….more memories!

 

 

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Throw a Great Memorial Day Party…..Part Two: The Main Course Menu


Setting the stage for a fun-tastic, blow out bash is only half of the equation. While I completely agree with Billy Crystal’s sentiment (channeling Ricardo Montalban), “You look mahvelous; absolutely mahvelous. You know, it’s much better to look good than to feel good”, while entertaining I want everything to be visually attractive, but it’s equally as important that everything taste good too.

I love the fantasy 0f a party and satisfying all of the senses. The visual presentation should be a feast for the eyes. The different textures incorporated in to your bar, buffet and table should be interesting to the touch. The sounds should be soulful and thoughtful, be they subtle or obvious; music to your ears. The scents should be reminiscent of the theme of your party through candles, or the heartwarming smells wafting through your kitchen. The final detail, of course, is a menu lovingly crafted for your guests to savor.

As the More is More Mom®, I am a huge proponent of……more food. Throwing a cocktail party is always a blast. It’s the perfect opportunity for a dazzling array of interesting appetizers. Dinner on the other hand can be a tad bit more complicated. Once you have developed a menu suitable to the occasion, there is still the matter of determining what little snicky-snacks to offer your guests while they are gathering and the finishing touches are being put on the meal. Then of course there is the ever important matter of dessert. While dessert may seem like an after thought, I think it is the perfect opportunity to end the evening on a high note….even if the note is small, it should be meaningful.

Today I would like to share with you my main course menu for a Memorial Day Celebration. I want for you to have plenty of time to consider incorporating these delicious dishes in to your own celebration this coming weekend.

Lemon and Herb Marinated Chicken:


This chicken smells so ridiculously good while cooking on the grill your neighbors are going to invite themselves over for dinner (so make extra!). It’s always great to find a dish that serves a crowd, so feel free to double and triple as needed.

3-4 lbs of chicken (my family really prefers breasts and drumsticks, but you can choose whatever you like.).

You know I am totally obsessed with Zip-Loc Baggies. Rather than use a bowl, or a large lidded container, I mix all of the ingredients in a gigantic 2 gallon Zip-loc baggie (much easier cleanup!). Combine:

• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 2 tsp finely chopped lemon zest (fresh is best)
• 2 tsp soy sauce
• 2-3-4 tsp rosemary, finely chopped (it smells sooooo good!)
• 1-2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
• Lots of garlic, 5-6 cloves pressed or minced
• 1 large shallot (or 2 very small) finely chopped
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper……Hot! Hot! Hot!
• Salt and pepper to your liking….

 

Add your chicken to the bag and marinade over night, flipping over a few times to make sure the marinade is well distributed. You could allow for just a few hours of marinating time, but that would scarcely allow all of the fresh flavors to infuse the chicken.

You have the option to do one of two things here.
1. Roast the chicken.
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the chicken on a rack in a large roasting pan, pouring 1 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Baste occasionally, until the outside of the chicken is a nice golden brown and an instant read thermometer registers at 180°, for somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-60 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Transfer to a platter and garnish with any leftover sprigs of rosemary.
Tent with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

2. Warm up grill.
Reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 45 minutes (when you poke a fork in to the chicken, you’ll want for the juices to run clear.)
Remove from the grill.
Place on a platter, adding garnish if desired, and you’re ready to serve.

I almost exclusively have employed the grilling option as I grill 12 months a year. Everything on the grill is super tasty and clean up is a snap!

Bacon and Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes:


These potatoes are so good it’s criminal! I frequently make your basic D0 Ahead Mashed Potatoes (especially for the holidays when the need for planning ahead is at a fevered pitch), and have never made this particular recipe before this weekend. After eating a spoonful of mouth watering goodness my family has informed me that I should only make the Bacon and Smoked Gouda variety forever more……

This is yet another recipe that could easily be multiplied, even if just for yummy leftovers. Some things are even better the next day.
Ingredients:

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped up in to cubes

 

8 slices of bacon (or more…..and who wouldn’t enjoy more?). I like a nice smoky flavored bacon, but maple is good too for a sweet treat.

A bunch of scallions….you choose how many you like. I used about 6 onions, finely chopping them until I got to the dark green ends

¾ cup sour cream
½ cup of milk
¼ – ½ stick of butter

2 plus cups of Smoked Gouda (I used a peppercorn flavor enhanced Gouda and it was to die for!), coarsely grated. Reserve ½ cup for topping at the end.

Cook bacon in either a skillet, or my favored method for making pounds and pounds of bacon, on a rimmed, aluminum foil lined, cookie sheet (for pounds and pounds of bacon you’ll need several….) cooked at 350°, for approximatley 20-25 minutes. It depends on how crispy you like your bacon. I’m a fan of more crispy……. Truly, if you are going through the mess of the bacon, make enough to warm up through the week; great with breakfast, on a sandwich, in a salad or even by itself. In any case, drain the bacon on a paper towel to soak up some of the grease and chop it up. Place the chopped bacon in a bowl.

Chop the scallions, add to the bacon and combine. Set aside.

Place the peeled and cubed potatoes in a large pot, fill with cold water, place lid on pot slightly ajar, and boil for 20 minutes or so until tender.

Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. On a very low heat, cook potatoes until all of the moisture evaporates. This should only take a minute or so.

 

Add the sour cream, milk and butter. The potatoes will be nice and hot, and the good creamy stuff should melt in quickly. Mash with a potato masher until nicely smoothed.

Stir in both the shredded Gouda (reserving ½ cup) and 1 cup of the bacon mixture (reserving the balance). Season with a little salt and pepper….you know me, I love, love, love the cracked black pepper for a kick (and a field goal!). Mix well.

 

Butter a 13x9x2 baking dish and evenly spread the potato mixture.

At this point, I topped the Heavenly mashed potatoes with the remaining shredded Gouda and the left over bacon and scallion mixture. It was so pretty!

Now, you will either be covering up the pan, refrigerating and cooking the potatoes later, or plug ahead and heat your oven to 375°. Cook until the cheese starts to melt a little bit and the edges begin to turn a warm, golden brown (about 30-40 minutes fresh, 45-60 minutes from the fridge, but either way…watch ‘em.).

Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette:


I must confess, unless I mix up a quick bottle of Good Season’s Italian Dressing Seasoning with vinegar and oil, most nights we douse our salad with bottled dressing (we are fans of the Western French). When company is expected it’s always nice to prepare a little something different.

This dressing is lovely with the fresh basil and grated parmesan. It is special enough to simply toss on a bed of pretty greens. For this particular meal I have enough flavors colliding, that the richness of this vinaigrette doesn’t need to be complicated with a medley of other vegetables. How about that? Simplicity from the More is More Mom®? (Though I would prefer to view it as a well honed matter of restraint.).
Ingredients:
• 2-3 cloves of garlic
• ½ tsp or so of salt
• 2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp lemon juice (again, since there are so many other rich, fresh flavors, I don’t think it’s worth the time or mess of squeezing fresh lemon juice. Sorry).
• 3-4 Tbsp fresh, chopped basil (little smells as delightful)
• ¼ – ½ cup of finely grated parmesan
• ½ tsp cracked black pepper (I’m going through this stuff like crazy!)
• ½ cup or so of olive oil

With a mortar and pestle mash the garlic with the salt.

Whisk together with the vinegar, lemon juice, basil, parmesan and salt and pepper.
Slowly add olive oil and whisk until well blended.
Toss with greens and serve.

Fruit Kabobs:


The beauty of the kabob is that you know from the get go just how many servings you are preparing. You can select any number of different fruits, or stream line the process and select two or three, alternating them on the skewer for a pleasing display.

Over the next two days I will be sharing with you ideas for setting up your buffet and recipes for versatile, easy starters and dessert.

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