When the going gets tough, the tomato stays bright.
Today, we’re dreaming about the ripe fruits our gardens will produce in the upcoming months, that cheery bright color, and all things round.
Yes, we’re tackling one of those sacred items in the kitchen : versatile, savory, endless uses. There are myriad ways to cook this magical item, and just as many ways to use it, but when it comes to bacon I prefer to bake rather than fry. The thing about baking your bacon is :
You’re left with less mess.
It’s so easy to make it crispy, soft, or crispy on the outside with a soft middle.
There’s more control over quantity of grease.
My method begins with a classic baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil, and dressed with a medium sized puddle of your choice of oil. Strips of bacon are separated from the slab, placed together on the pan, slightly overlapping, and seasoned. Next is the fun part. Typically, I’ll season one side with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and then upon flipping halfway through cooking, will season the other side with generous amounts of black pepper, white pepper, garlic, and paprika.
The key to success when cooking bacon this way is to place the baking sheet in a cold oven, turn it on to 375 degrees, and bake till desired doneness. Mine is usually done in 30-45 minutes, with the strips crispy crunchy on the outside and a little soft in the middle. As mentioned above, I’ll flip and add more seasoning halfway through, and maybe even drain some grease to make the strips more crispy. When done the strips are cooled on a plate of paper towels, grease is drained off pan and stored in the freezer, and foil is balled up and tossed. Easy cleanup!
For softer bacon just leave the grease in the pan through baking and cook for less time; crispier bacon can be achieved by draining the grease several times throughout the process, flipping the strips more frequently, and baking longer.
On another note, if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s bacon ends and pieces then you clearly haven’t lived. Unlike standard strips it’s literally the ends and pieces left over from cutting those perfectly rectangle slabs of bacon. While this isn’t ideal for uses that require a full strip it is super delicious, comprised of hearty chunks, and wonderful for all sorts of cooking, baking, and snacking. Added bonus : sometimes you’ll even get a couple full strips in your package.
Well, this is officially the very first time I’ve ever made cinnamon buns. They’ve always been a little intimidating to someone like myself, the type of someone who can’t seem to roll dough successfully.
Enter the breadmaker. No idea what I’d ever do without this thing. It’s brilliant for all sorts of baking that require kneading dough of any sort. You can add in liquidy things like jam, solids like nuts, and everything in between. It can even be programmed to hang onto those added goodies until exactly the right time, and then add them in when necessary. Luckily, my Breadman Ultimate breadmaker comes with a handy booklet of recipes, one of which is for cinnamon buns.
As I was saying, the breadmaker is a lifesaver. Just add all ingredients from liquid to solid, with yeast being last, set to appropriate setting, and go. For a recipe like this the machine did all steps up through final knead and rise, allowing me to roll the dough out, add filling, and prep for the oven. One small adjustment I made was to use Sucanat in place of sugar. It’s similar to white or brown sugar in that it’s still processed, but different in that it retains it’s molasses content and the associated vitamins and minerals. This gives it a slightly stronger flavor, but it’s still able to be substituted in recipes with not much difference beyond making the item taste a little more rich.
Breadmaker Cinnamon Bun Dough – makes twelve rolls, adapted from the Breadman Ultimate recipe for Cinnamon Bun Dough
1 Egg + enough water to fill 1 cup total
1 Cup Oil
3 T Sugar
1/3 Cup Sugar
1.5 t Salt
3.5 t Bread Flour
2 t Active Dry Yeast
1/3 Cup Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 T Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
3 T Milk, or water
1/2 t Vanilla Extract
Place ingredients in breadmaker, liquid first, then dry ingredients, and lastly yeast on top. Set dough cycle settings. Once cycle is finished, place dough on lightly floured surface, roll to twelve by six inch rectangle, spread with filling mixture, and roll up jelly-roll style, starting with the longest side. Cut into one inch slices, place in greased baking dish, and bake for approximately twenty minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool before drizzling with glaze.
Grilling corn is something we’re still rather new to; we’ve tried several ways, both in and out of the husk, and have finally found a fave. The key here is to remove the silk from your ears of corn, but still manage to keep the outer leaves intact. Those leaves will allow the corn inside to steam and cook thoroughly without becoming dry from the flames of the grill.
First things first : select the best ears you can. When picking corn you’ll want to peel back the tops of the leaves and silks, take a peek inside, and look for fresh, pearly corn kernels. Anything looking dry, brown, mushy, or having an abundance of missing kernels should be discarded. This is usually a good way to pick fresh, beautiful ears of corn without doing a ton of damage to the natural wrapping.
Once you’ve got your ears home and ready for grilling : peel back the leaves, remove as much of the silks as possible, and apply your favorite flavors. We did a few trial runs with olive oil vs. butter, and a variety of seasonings before finding our favorite. Unfortunately, the olive oil doesn’t adhere to the ears as well as the butter will, and although it had a smokier flavor it just wasn’t as flavorful otherwise. Here’s where we landed :
6+ Ears of corn
1 Stick of butter, softened to room temperature
Generous amount of favorite seasonings : we like a blob of wildflower honey, basil (fresh or dried), garlic (fresh or powdered), Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, paprika, black pepper, white pepper, cumin, cilantro (fresh or dried), and a tiny pinch of thyme.
Cream the butter in a bowl with desired seasonings, pull back outer leaves of corn ears, brush mixture directly onto kernels of corn, fold leaves back over ears, and pop on the grill. You’ll want to press the leaves closed a bit to hold everything together prior to placing on grill, rotate the ears after about ten minutes, and if you’ve got a little bit of butter mixture left over it can be reapplied to the ends of the ears that stick out from the leaves. Ours cooked in a little under a half hour, and were buttery, smokey, and flavorful. We cut the kernels off to eat, and later used the leftovers for all sorts of other dishes including wraps, curry, and stir fry. Once cut off the cob the kernels also keep well in the freezer for a few months. Just allow to defrost in the fridge and drain any liquid, if so desired, prior to using.