Pecan Cranberry Green Beans

I think one of my last posts was about how I don’t do too many side dish recipes on here. Well, here’s another one. I make these green beans for Thanksgiving every year. Sometimes for Christmas as well. They are always a hit and are so easy, you can make them any night of the year.

If you want to call it a recipe, you can, but the amounts are entirely up to you. I eyeball everything.

Fresh green beans (not canned!), trimmed and snapped in half

Bacon, cut into small pieces

Pecans, roughly chopped

Leeks, sliced in half moons

Dried cranberries (big handful)

Cook the green beans until crisp-tender. You can boil them for a few minutes or you can microwave them with a little water. My microwave has a fresh veggie setting that cooked them perfectly. You want them soft, but al dente.

In a skillet, crisp up your bacon. I used about 8 slices of bacon for a pound of green beans. Remove the bacon from the skillet, but keep the rendered fat. You really only need a couple tablespoons, so if there’s a lot, you can discard some, but keep at minimum 2-3 tablespoons.

To the rendered bacon grease, add your sliced leeks and cook until soft and starting to caramelize. Add the green beans, pecans, cranberries and bacon back to the skillet and toss altogether. Taste to see if you need salt and pepper, but you probably won’t.

This comes together within minutes, so save until the last minute and serve it warm.

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Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese (U.K.)

Hi Readers!! I was going to post this awhile ago, but I’ve been sick all weekend. Ugh. Being sick around the holidays is the worst, right? I’ve had lots of things to do so I’ve been heavily reliant on DayQuil to get me through it all. I finally took yesterday to just sit and do nothing and try for some recovery time! 

During football season, my husband and I have friends over to watch the games. We are all involved in a Fantasy Football league and it’s a lot of fun. This past weekend, we had a little spur of the moment dinner party for some of our friends who watch football with us. I made a slow-cooker ham, which I’ll share later, but for our appetizer, I made these little gems. Before I get into it, I will give you a fair warning: THESE ARE ADDICTIVE!!

Ok, you’ve been warned. 

For my appetizer, I made bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. It’s OK. I’ll give you a minute to savor those words.

This is an appetizer that originated in 19th Century U.K. and if often known as Devils on Horseback. The dates (or sometimes prunes) are often stuffed with almonds, but can be filled with other things like cheese or mango chutney. The dates are then wrapped in bacon and baked until the bacon is nice and crispy. Devils on Horseback are commonly found at Christmastime, but after trying them, I think I will find any excuse I can think of to make them.

This is a fairly simple appetizer to make and the result is a perfectly sweet/salty/creamy/crispy bite.

Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

15 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise (don’t use thick cut bacon for this) For the kind I bought, it was the full pound.

30 pitted dates

8 oz log of goat cheese

You should be able to buy your dates pitted, if not, you will have to cut a slit down the side and remove the pit yourself. This recipe assumes you have the pre-pitted dates.

Take your date and find the hole in top/slit down the side where the pit was removed. Carefully open the date.

 

Fill the date with goat cheese. I tried a make-shift pastry bag with a ziplock bag, but that didn’t really work. I also tried using a spoon, but that ended up being more messy than I wanted to deal with. Ultimately, I just used my fingers. The goat cheese is pretty crumbly anyway so it worked perfectly.

Put the date back together and wrap it in half a piece of bacon.

 

Place seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. You could also stick a toothpick in it to hold it together, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another 3-5 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Serve hot.

 

I made 30 of these beauties for 5 people and they were gone in a heartbeat!

Spinach and Bacon Salad 

My relationship with salad has become stagnant. Boring. Dullsville. I have been relying on my standby of plain ol’ “side” salad for too long. That’s not to say I don’t still like the old classic: crunchy iceburg lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, maybe a little cheddar and diced avocado for a little treat, all joined together by everyone’s favorite, Ranch dressing. 

Sure, that little salad has gotten my through life so far, but we’ve reached a plateau. It’s about time I upped my salad game, dear readers, and this simple little dish is just what I was looking for. 

I wouldn’t say that I like spinach. I don’t dislike it by any means, but it’s not my favorite. If it is cooked in something (like a dip or those spinach tortillas or made into noodles), I’m all about it, but raw spinach? Eh, I could take it or leave it. 

My husband loves spinach. I make him salads a lot to eat for lunch throughout the week and they are always spinach-based because spinach is really so good for you. It is high in folate, vitamins, iron, dietary fibers… I could go on. That all being said, when it came time to see what kind of salad-trouble I can get into, I started with a simple google search: Spinach Salad. 

There are soooooo many combinations out there! They all look really good too! I found a few recipes that look really good and I can’t wait to try. The best part is they are all so simple. Only a few ingredients and a dressing and you’ve got yourself a healthy salad. I figure you could serve any of them as a side dish or even a main meal, if you wanted. 

This warm spinach salad is the most common one I found, with lots of different recipes for it. The first recipe I came across was from Alton Brown, so I knew it would be good. I was right, it was delicious. And calling “warm” is a bit misleading. The dressing is warm, but the salad was more room temperature. 

Heed my warning, though, and don’t make the same mistake I did. This makes a lot of salad. I broke the cardinal rule of all salad-making and I dressed the whole thing right away, even though I knew we weren’t going to finish it that night. The next day, the texture was way off and it was just not good. I mean the flavor was still there and the rest of the components were yummy, but the spinach itself did not hold up. So, unless you are planning on finishing the whole thing, just dress individual portions. Or make less. 

Alton Brown’s Warm Spinach Salad 

8oz package of baby spinach

8 strips of bacon, diced

2 eggs, hardboiled and sliced

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

*walnuts

**4 large white mushrooms, sliced

**3 ounced red onion, thinly sliced 

*This was my own addition and it was delicious 

**Note: I do not like mushrooms, so I didn’t include them. I didn’t include the onion either because forgot to pick one up from the store and I didn’t want to go back just for one thing. You understand.** 

Wash and dry the spinach. Put into a large bowl with the walnuts, egg, mushrooms, and onion. Set aside. 

In a pan, fry the bacon, remove from the pan and dab with a paper towel. Add to the spinach.

  

Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pan. You can get rid of the rest. To the grease, add the red wine vinegar, sugar, mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Wisk over low heat until well combined.
  

Pour the dressing on the salad and toss.

Serve as an entree or side.

 

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp 

Ah, New Year’s Eve. It’s a young man’s game, and while there was a time when I looked forward to getting all dressed up and going out, that time for me has passed.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love to get dressed up and go out, but just not on NYE. There are always way too many people, it’s freezing (even by SoCal standards), and everything is always overpriced.

The last few years, my husband and I have just stayed at home and still had a great time. The kids are in bed by 8:00 and we put on our jammies, watch movies, pour ourselves a cocktail (or two… or three…) and have a great time. We always turn on the Times Square coverage and watch Ryan Seacrest welcome us into the new year, but we are usually in bed shortly after that.

Every time I watch the people in Times Square, it just makes me tired. Those poor people are standing out in the cold from 8:00 am until well past midnight. You can’t leave for anything. You are stuck there all day long. That really does not sound like fun to me. And in other “How Old Are You Again?” news, I had absolutely no idea who most of the singers who were doing the concerts were. Carrie Underwood? Check? Pentatonix? You got it! But not too many more than that. We saw a bit of the concert done by Jimmy Buffet and our immediate reaction was “That’s where we would be!” First of all, who doesn’t love Jimmy Buffet? Cheeseburger in Paradise, amiright?! Second, they were inside, warm, WITH SEATS… and BATHROOM ACCESS!!

There are two ways to do NYE in NYC: That Jimmy Buffet concert, or pay thousands of dollars to get a nice hotel room with a balcony overlooking Times Square. Not down in the thick of it all, I don’t care what Jenny McCarthy says.

Since we stay in, another tradition that has developed is I try to make a nice dinner. I couldn’t decide what specifically to make this year, so we had a bit of a seafood sampler. It was super delicious. We thought about adding a steak and making it a surf and turf, but I’m glad we didn’t because I was STUFFED after eating all the food. We headed over to Bristol Farms and picked up some lobster tails, crab cakes, shrimp, and asparagus (because you gotta have a veggie!). I just boiled the lobster and seared the crab cakes, but for the shrimp, oh baby, I wrapped it in bacon and it was heavenly. And really easy!

½ pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
bacon, cut in half (my ½ pound of shrimp gave me 10 shrimp, so I used 5 pieces of bacon since you half a slice on each shrimp. Just do the math for however many shrimp you get)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wrap ½ piece of bacon around each shrimp. You can secure with a toothpick, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. Lay them out on the baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Rub a little bit on each side of each shrimp.

Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes, turning halfway. (I actually forgot to flip mine at the halfway point and they were fine. The bottom bacon wasn’t quite as crispy as the top, but it was still fine.)

These were so good! They were a little sweet, a little salty, with just a hint of spice from the cayenne. These would be perfect for a cocktail party appetizer!

I hope you are all have a great New Year so far!

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I don’t know why this photo won’t upload the right way, but sideways photo or not, the bacon wrapped shrimp was out of this world.

Copycat Dunkin’ Donuts Breakfast Sandwich

I’ve lived here in Southern California my whole life. That means certain places like Dunkin’ Donuts were never on my radar. When we wanted donuts, other than mom and pop places, we would go to Winchell’s. I still love Winchell’s, but I’ve always been a fan of the cake donut.

Back in the late 90s, I remember Krispy Kreme opened in California. That was sort of life-changing moment in my donut eating world. It wasn’t a cake donut, but it was still oh, so good. They are pretty much everywhere now, but they are just as good all these years later.

That brings us to last year when Dunkin’ Donuts opened a store in Santa Monica, and the entire West LA crowd lost their collective minds. We’d all been listening to our friends who were former East Coast transplants rave about Dunkin’ Donuts the way Californians evangelize In-N-Out. The line for that first Dunkin’ Donuts grand opening rivaled Disneyland and was covered by local news. Someone at work brought in a box and all us Cali-natives were ready to try this amazing donut. The verdict?

Eh, it was just a donut. It was good, but it wasn’t worth the hype, in my opinion. Then I found out that what is really good there are their breakfast sandwiches. OK, that I can get on board with.

A few months ago, they tore down a dilapidated old Fosters Freeze a couple miles from my house and replaced it with a bright and shiny new Dunkin. The novelty had worn off by then and they didn’t get the big welcome that first one got. But they are doing steady business and I was finally able to get over there a few weeks ago. I picked my hubby and I up a couple breakfast sandwiches and that’s when I knew the hype of Dunkin’ Donuts.

This was a really good sandwich! At about $6 each, though, I thought it would be best to figure out how to recreate it at home. I was finally able to try it and it was really good! Maybe even a tiny bit better, just because it’s homemade.

This was a good weekend breakfast and used up ingredients I almost always have on hand.

For two sandwiches

4 pieces of thick-cut bacon
brown sugar
black pepper
3 large eggs
milk
2 slices of cheddar cheese
2 croissants

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the bacon in a single layer. Rub both sides of each piece with some brown sugar and some black pepper. Just a light sprinkle of the brown sugar and a heavier sprinkle of the pepper. This is a sweet pepper bacon, so you want to be able to taste the sugar and pepper, but not be choked out by it.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the parchment and let it cool a bit. It will get nice and crispy.

Meanwhile, beat your eggs with a large splash of milk and scramble.

Cut your croissants in half and toast up a bit on the inside. This is just so it doesn’t get soggy when you add your eggs.

Finally, assemble the sandwich: Eggs, Cheese, bacon.


This was so, so good. I will definitely be making this way more often.