Monthly Archives: June 2014

Itsy-Bitsy BLTs

Itsy-Bitsy BLTs

Even die-hard vegetarians, if they’re being honest, will admit that their mouths water when the intoxicating aroma of bacon wafts in their general direction. It’s primal. My mouth’s watering just thinking about the smell. These last few weeks have blessed us with a revolving door of teenagers, and family, for high school graduation festivities (the twins graduated at different times) and I was cooking up some smoky bacon for breakfast to dish up to the masses one morning, when I decided to make some itsy-bitsy BLTs for a pre-dinner snack later, too. Nothing says love like bacon. And besides, they’re young. They can handle it.

These itty-bitty BLTs are not only diminutive in scale, but also have a few tweaks in the ingredients that you don’t normally see in your standard BLT sandwich. I used pancetta instead of bacon, basil mayonnaise instead of regular mayo, and micro-arugula in place of the lettuce. So, I guess they should be called PATs?

  • 1 package of Pepperidge Farms puff pastry dough
  • 2.5 ounces of thick-cut quality bacon, or pancetta, chopped into lardons (the amount of bacon you want to put on top is totally up to you)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes cut in 1/2
  • 2.5 tbsp quality mayonnaise (make your own or save time and purchase a good brand like Best Foods “Real” Mayonnaise)
  • 2 tsp. minced basil
  • Micro-arugula as a garnish
  • Mini–muffin pan (purchased mine at Sur la Table)

Biscuit cutter that will cut your dough large enough for the dough to come up the sides, 360-degrees, when stuffed into the muffin hole.

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Poke the puff pastry rounds all over with a fork, or use a pastry roller with spikes. This will help minimize the over rising that occurs. Push the rounds into the muffin hole and bake until golden brown. When you remove them from the pan, push down the cooked puff pastry in the center so you have a nice cup to insert your ingredients.

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Cook your lardons until they’re crispy.

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Mix the mayonnaise and the basil together.

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Push the tomato half into your pastry cup.

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Add your mayo, the bacon, and top with the micro-arugula.

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Now, try and eat just one.

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Eat well,

April

“Life expectancy would grown by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon” – Doug Larson

 

Itsy-Bitsy BLTs
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Ingredients
  1. 1 package of Pepperidge Farms puff pastry dough
  2. 2.5 ounces of thick-cut quality bacon, or pancetta, chopped into lardons (the amount of bacon you want to put on top is totally up to you)
  3. 15 cherry tomatoes cut in 1/2
  4. 2.5 tbsp quality mayonnaise (make your own or save time and purchase a good brand like Best Foods “Real” Mayonnaise)
  5. 2 tsp. minced basil
  6. Micro-arugula as a garnish
  7. Mini–muffin pan (purchased mine at Sur la Table)
Hands Across the Table http://handsacrossthetable.com/

Dark Chocolate and Orange Icebox Cake

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Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are the Swiss Army Knife of cookies. They have multiple uses and are one of the more practical cookies sold in the cookie aisle, along with graham crackers and vanilla wafers. You can toss the chocolate wafers into a food processor and turn them into a crumb to make a tart crust, a piecrust, or use them as a layer for an ice cream cake, or trifle. You can use them whole and make a variety of sandwich cookies, ice-cream sandwich cookies, and icebox cakes. I’ve even seen them used as the base to a cookie pilgrim hat: a mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with the wide end sitting on top of the wafer and a thin squirt of orange frosting posing as the band. Ingenious! The only limit is your imagination.

I keep a few boxes of chocolate wafers in the pantry at all times for “emergency” dessert preparations (you know life is good when the only emergency you’re experiencing is what you will be having for dessert) and I was recently asked to bring a dessert to an impromptu dinner. Although I wouldn’t have labeled this an emergency, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the house, yet again, for a market run. Instead, I looked around the house and found all I needed to whip something up (pun intended).

Chocolate and Orange Icebox Cake (serves 8-10)

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream – You could use Trader Joe’s Shelf-Stable Whipping Cream here. Because the whipping cream is merely a vehicle for the orange flavor. An intense dairy flavor is not critical here. For easier whipping, thoroughly chill the TJ’s carton before use.
  • 1 whole box of Nabisco Chocolate Wafers processed into a rough crumb consistency. I used my food processor.
  • ¼ cup mascarpone cream
  • 3 tbsp. of powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 – Lindt “Intense Orange” dark-chocolate bar
  • Zest from 2 oranges
  • 1/4 tsp. of orange extract – I have every flavor of extract you can imagine in my “baking” drawer.

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Zest both oranges and then cut them into quarters. Squeeze enough juice for 4 tbsp. If you have some left over, drink up!

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Add your chilled heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, freshly squeezed juice, powdered sugar, and half of your orange zest to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Or, do it the old-fashioned way and whisk by hand. You’ll burn more calories this way allowing you to have more dessert and less guilt!

 

While your cream mixture is working towards stiff peaks, smash your candy bar in a large bag with a meat tenderizer until you have small chunks.

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Once that’s done, add a layer of cookie crumb to the bottom of your serving vessel. I used a glass pedestal bowl.

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Once you have stiff peaks with your cream mixture, you can begin layering your dessert: bottom layer is cookie, then add cream mixture, then another cookie layer (press down on cookie layer to compress to minimize the air pockets), and end with another layer of whipping cream.

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Garnish the top of your dessert with the broken Lindt bar and the remaining orange zest.

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Wasn’t that easy?!  Now refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours before digging in.

What we brought home. Monica polished it off as soon as I took the photo.

What was left. Monica polished it off as soon as I took the photo.

“Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not! “ – Author Unknown

Eat well!

April

Sweet Tree Farms

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We’re very fortunate in Laguna Beach to host such an abundant Farmers Market every Saturday morning. While I stroll along those asphalt aisles looking for what’s in season, or what I just cannot live without, I often think about the lives of those who toil in the soil for us. They work behind the scenes, without fanfare, growing, picking, and hauling their brightly colored jewels to us in the wee hours of the morning. I recently spoke with one farmer, Annie Florendo, from Sweet Tree Farms about what motivated her to choose the rigors of farming as a career and, of course, her love of cultivation can be traced back to her formative years.

Annie grew up in the small farming community of Dinuba, CA (located in the San Juaquin Valley) and began harvesting fruit and tomatoes at an early age on her grandfather’s farm. When it was time for college, Annie decided to pursue a Master’s in Education from Cal State Bakersfield and she continued to work the family farm to supplement her income and support her family.

After graduating Cal State Bakersfield with her Master’s, Annie left the farm and taught high school PE while also coaching softball. After two years of being divorced from the dirt, she realized that teaching wasn’t for her. Annie explained to me that she ”feels a oneness with nature and the whole aspect of growing nutritious food for people” and she was missing that sense of purpose in her life.

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Annie is a self-taught farmer but credits a lot of what she learned to her peers, friends, and her grandpa. Her dream was to own her own farm and in 2005 she had saved enough money to purchase one in her hometown of Dinuba. It was aptly named Sweet Tree Farms. Sweet Tree Farms uses organic techniques, guidelines, and standards as outlined by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). Her staff is full of love for their jobs and the products they sell. I met Annie’s enthusiastic brother, James, working the booth one morning and I’ve been told that Annie’s sister owns a farm, too. Farming roots run deep and wide in this family.

Annie closed our conversation by telling me “we are truly representing something good in this world and want to continue providing REAL food to people who appreciate our hard work.”

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I purchased some blueberries from the Sweet Tree Farm stand on Saturday and made a blueberry and strawberry crumble. You can substitute raspberries for the strawberries in this recipe, or make it an all blueberry crumble. Because I was only serving 4-6 people I cut the recipe in half, as you’ll see in the photos.

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Blueberry & Strawberry Crumble (serves 12)

  • 5 pints fresh blueberries
  • 2 pints fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • ½ tsp, salt

Preheat your oven to 375°

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or by hand) cream together the butter, sugar, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Combine the flour and salt and slowly add to butter mixture until well combined. The crumble crust will look pebbly.

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Hull your strawberries and slice in half. Line the bottom of an 11’ x 13” glass (or ceramic) baking dish with the blueberries and then put the strawberries on top. Add the crumble crust in clusters to the top of the berries. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the berries are bubbling.

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Sprinkle your crumb mixture over the top of your berries.

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Bake until the berries are bubbling and your crumb is golden.

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Serve warm with a scoop of quality vanilla ice cream.

“The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical — in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.” – Wendell Berry

Eat well!

April