Thursday, August 27, 2015

Achin' for some bacon?

by Leanne Ely

Today's Focus is on BACON

The Chinese started enjoying salted pork bellies in 1500 BC. The Romans and the Greeks also enjoyed eating this preserved pork product.

In 1924, the first packaged and sliced bacon was patented by Oscar Mayer, and the world would never be the same.

Oh, bacon. Those of us who are living a Paleo lifestyle, well, we go through pounds of this stuff each month. Known as the candy of meats, bacon is one of those foods that basically just makes life better. The average American eats 17.9 pounds of the stuff each year!

All bacon really is, is cured, smoked pork. But, depending on where you live, bacon comes from a different part of the pig. Here in the US, the bacon we know best (long strips of meat) comes from the belly. In the UK, back bacon reigns supreme (a cut from the shoulder) and in Canada, bacon is little round cutlets from the loin. Those long strips of bacon are enjoyed in the UK and in Canada as well, but each country has its own national treasure.

 As yummy with eggs for breakfast as it is with slices of tomatoes on toast, or crumbled into a Caesar salad, bacon is just a wonderful food, all around.

Think you know all you need to know about bacon? Well, how much have you experimented with your cooking methods? In your trick and your tip, I'm going to try and inspire you!

Here's Today's TRICK:

Ever try cooking your bacon in water? It's a great method that allows for more even cooking. Put your bacon in a skillet and enough water to cover the strips, bringing it to a boil. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium. When the water has mostly cooked off, reduce the heat again to medium low, flipping the strips of bacon and cooking until perfectly brown and bacony! This prevents your bacon from burning while waiting for the fatty bits to cook properly.

Here's a TIP:

Not in a hurry for your bacon? Heat your oven to 350, and roast your strips of bacon on an aluminum foil-lined pan for about 12 to 15 minutes. You can put it on a rack if you like. For a special treat, put some maple syrup and fresh ground black pepper on the bacon strips before cooking.

And Your RECIPE:

Linguine with Bacon and Onions
Serves 6

1 pound Linguine pasta
1/2 pound  bacon, chopped
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 large egg yolks
Black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water. In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; remove from skillet and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the pasta cooking water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Stir in the cooked pasta and remove from the heat. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Add the bacon, season with pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Per Serving: 540 Calories; 22g Fat; 23g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 103mg Cholesterol; 614mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 3 Fat.  Points 14.

Copyright (C) 2013 Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Honey, Orange, Bourbon Chicken Skewers

The other night I was trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner - I knew it would be chicken, but WHAT kind of chicken?? 

My kids love orange chicken, but time was short and the thought of all the steps involved in making it on a hot summer evening, standing over the frying oil was just slightly more than I was up for.  So I started thinking of how I could make them an orange-y chicken without the dredging and deep-frying and immediately I thought of skewers!  But I couldn't just brush some orange juice on them and call it done, nope - it had to have more flavor so I started mixing and tasting... and adding, and tasting and ended up with something everyone loved.

Using both freshly grated onion and onion powder gives it another layer of flavor without making it obviously "onion-y" - oh, and there should be plenty of salt on the chicken when you season it before putting it on the skewers that it's not really necessary in the glaze - although you could add just a little (or even some soy sauce) if you like yours on the saltier side.

Here it is, quick, easy and (I think) super tasty!

Honey, Orange, Bourbon Chicken Skewers
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs Chicken Thighs
Salt and Pepper

3/4 Cup Orange Juice (freshly squeezed, with pulp if possible)
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Bourbon
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (orange part only)
1 Tablespoon grated Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped or grated
2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Preheat Oven to 400
(If you have the option, I really like to use the "Convection Roast" setting - but regular Bake will work well also)

Cut chicken thighs into about 1" cubes (just get close - it's more important that the sizes are close to uniform rather than a specific size).  Season well with Salt and Pepper.

In a saucepan mix together all ingredients for glaze - I really like using a microplane for the grating on this one - it gets you a really nice, small grate and it's especially good for the onions as it makes more of a "puree" than actual pieces (handy when someone in the family doesn't like onions - they'll never know they are there but you'll still get the great flavor).  Bring to a boil and reduce down to about 1 Cup - set aside.

Skewer Chicken onto four skewers (I really like these skewers that I picked up at the Cost Plus World Market - they're metal so not only are they reusable, but they conduct the heat into the middle of the meat so it cooks more quickly.  An extra bonus: you don't have to soak them AND you can pop them in the dishwasher!)  Try to put an equal number of chunks on each skewer.

Pop the skewers onto a foil lined pan sprayed with nonstick spray (make sure it has some sort of sides as there will be juices).  Cook for 15 minutes.

After 15 min, pull the pan out, brush both sides of each skewer with the reduced glaze mixture - pop back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

After the additional 10 min, pull them out again, bush with remaining glaze and return to oven for 5 minutes.

After the last 5 minutes, heat your broiler up and pop them under the broiler for 5 minutes to give them some really great color and a bit of char.

Rest skewers for 5-10 minutes before serving.

I served these with a rice pilaf but they would be equally as good with just a side salad that has some mandarin oranges mixed into it.

Enjoy and let me know how you like it!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pucker Up!

I remember standing on a chair in Grandma's kitchen helping her make all sorts of baked goodies.  Her old black and white Sunbeam mixer with the glass bowl whirled away as yummy, sweet goodness mixed to perfection.

One of my favorite things to make with Grandma was pie - partly because I got to make my own creations with the leftover pie crust dough and partly because I could watch those egg whites turn - like magic - from slimy, clear liquid to a white, shiny, fluffy cloud that would top her tangy, sweet lemon pie.

My backyard lemon tree is bursting with yellow meyer lemon deliciousness right now so I decided it was time to break out Grandma's lemon pie recipe and make dessert.

Grandma has been gone for a few years now, but her lemon pie recipe (probably mostly gleamed from the back of the yellow cornstarch box) lives on.  Her recipe never fails to turn out delicious - and it's pretty easy which is probably why it's still in the family recipe book.

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie

1 9-inch Baked Single Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups Sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Cold Water
1 1/2 Cups Boiling Water
1 Heaping Tablespoon grated Lemon Zest
4 Large Egg Yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Butter


1/2 Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
4 Egg Whites

Pre-Heat Oven to 325

To Prepare Filling:
In a large saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt together with a whisk.  Whisk in the cold water, lemon peel and lemon juice making sure everything is well mixed.  Whisk in the egg yolks.  Add the butter and slowly (very slowly at first) whisk in the boiling water.

Once everything is mixed (butter may not be completely melted yet but that's okay), cook the mixture over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the mixture boils (about 6 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium, while continuing to stir the filling and cook for one minute more.

Pour the hot filling into your pre-baked pie crust.

To Prepared Meringue:
In a clean, cold mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites and the cream of tartar (Use a whisk attachment if you have one) begin sort of slow until the cream of tartar is incorporated - then beat at high speed until your egg whites are foamy and no liquid-y stuff is left in the bottom of the bowl.

Mix together the cornstarch and sugar.

Keep beating your egg whites while slowly adding the sugar/cornstarch mixture a spoonful or so at a time.  Beat until your egg whites are smooth, glossy and have stiff peaks that pretty much stand up when you pull the beater out of them.

Top your hot filling with the meringue and, using a spatula, spread it around so that it touches the crust all the way around your pie.  Then make it pretty by adding some nice swirls and/or peaks in the meringue.


Bake until meringue is browned, 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool completely (at least 3 hours) before serving.

I cannot tell you how yummy this pie is....  The filling is set, almost creamy in texture, tart - yet sweet.  The meringue is light and as fluffy as a cloud with a little sweetness - and the best part... the combination of the granulated sugar and cornstarch in the meringue give it an ever-so-slight crispness that "just" crunches as you begin to bite and then melts into fluffy heaven... oh, my, yum!!!

This would also be great with a graham cracker crust or a sugar cookie crust - although the pie would be extra sweet.

So pucker up and give a lemon pie a try today - it will be easy and you CAN do it - I promise!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Vinegar. It's not just for pickles anymore!

by Leanne Ely

Once upon a time, there was white distilled vinegar that our mothers and grandmothers would use to pickle vegetables and clean the floors. And that was pretty much it as far as the vinegar train went.

Today there are enough options in vinegars to make you nuts.

There's cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar . . .  There are flavored fruit vinegars in everything from peach to raspberry . . .  There are herbed vinegars and flavored balsamics.

So much vinegar, so little time!

But which ones should you choose?

Well, the answer to that is simple: it depends on what you want in a vinegar!

Let's look at our options.

White vinegar
The one we're most familiar with. I would stick to this one for chemical-free cleaning (it does an awesome job of everything from windows to floors). It does have its place in the kitchen though. I always add vinegar to my boiling water before poaching eggs.

Balsamic vinegar
True balsamic vinegar is difficult to produce. That's why it's expensive. If you want the real thing, you want to look for the word "Modena" on the label. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy, is made from sugary white grapes found in a place called Modena. This balsamic vinegar is aged in wooden barrels for between 12 and 25 years. This vinegar is thick and sweet with a rich aroma and a nice light acidity. It is delicious on meats, salad greens, strawberries and in gravies. You can find less expensive balsamic vinegars that will also be a nice addition to your pantry, but if you're cooking a dish such as a balsamic lamb or if you're serving balsamic strawberries for a party, splurge on the good stuff.

Red wine vinegar
This vinegar is made from red wine that has fermented until it's sour. The longer it's aged, the more subtle it will taste. Red wine vinegar is nice in reductions or in salad dressings.

White wine vinegar
Made from (you guessed it) white wine, white wine vinegar is quite acidic and tangy and it smells quite a bit like . . . well . . . wine! It's great in a salad and it brings out the sweetness in fruits like melons and strawberries.

Malt vinegar
This vinegar is made from fermented barley malt or other malted cereals. The starch has been converted to maltose. This is the type of vinegar you may find served with french fries in fish & chip joints.

Cider vinegar
Cider vinegar is made from fermented apples. This should be your go to vinegar because it actually has some nice health benefits (it may help acne, arthritis, gout and it can also aid in weight loss) on top of being a versatile type of vinegar that can be used just about anywhere vinegar is called for.

Rice vinegar and Rice wine vinegar
They're both made from fermented rice, but with rice vinegar, the alcohol is turned into acid with the addition of bacteria. Use rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar in Asian dishes.

Fruit vinegar and Herbed vinegars
Fruited vinegars are made from every fruit you could imagine and the same goes for herbs. From peach vinegars and garlic vinegars to  combos like ginger pear and rosemary sage. The options are endless.

If you want to add some excitement to your salads, I suggest playing with the vinegars you use in your dressings.

What does your vinegar collection look like?

Copyright (C) 2012 Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The cutest fruit you will ever meet!

A friend of mine is an avid gardener - not only is she really great at it, she loves to plant new and interesting fruits and veggies and is super generous about sharing the bounty!  At the very beginning of spring she told me of the awesome things she was planning for her garden this year - one of them being a fun, tiny fruit called the cucamelon.  We were both excited to see how this little gem would taste once harvested and I finally got the chance!

These little gems are about an inch long but look just like a watermelon - no, really, they are adorable!!  Just to give you a better idea of their size, the plate I photographed them on is a saucer from a demitasse cup.

After I initially photographed them I had to give them a try - so fun, just pop them in your mouth for a pop of flavor.  The outside has the texture similar to a very thin watermelon rind and inside you get flavors of cucumber along with a little sour lime just to keep things interesting.

One could do so many things with them (including just eating them as the are!)  Here are a few ideas for them...

Cucamelon and Radish Salad (from wanderlust & food stuff)

How awesome would this salad be if you used watermelon radishes??? 

Cucamelon Bloody Mary Salad (from Chicken in a Cherry Sauce)

But the thing that is really calling my name for these little beauties is...

Cucamelon Pickles!!  (from homegrown-revolution)

You will also find everything you need to know about growing your own cucamelons on this page!

So go ahead, be brave - give the cuamelon a try. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you've been to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram today, you will quickly realize that it happens to be National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  The Internet is abuzz with photos and recipes of chocolate chip cookies of every shape, size and variation you can imagine...  With milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chunks, bacon pieces, salt on top - you name it, there's a photo and most likely a recipe to go along with it... "Food Porn" at it's finest.

Yep, they all "look" delicious (well, most of them, anyway) - but I'm kind of a purist when it comes to this cookie - I grew up helping my mom make the recipe on the back of the yellow bag (although she only used HALF a bag of chips for a recipe - what was she thinking?).  Yes, I have toyed with the idea of putting some pieces of crisp bacon into my delicious cookies (and I still may... one day) - but I always chicken out and go for the tried and true cookie and chip only version.  After all, that yellow bag recipe has been around forever, it can't be wrong... can it?

My girls, like most, are cookie connoisseurs and love chewy cookies, but quite often (depending on the weather) the yellow bag recipe can be a bit crispy unless you add extra flour to keep them "puffed up" but then you get cookies that are sometimes on the dry side.  I came across two recipes on Pinterest for soft, chewy cookies - one called for the addition of cornstarch in place of some of the flour, it helps keep the cookie from spreading so much, thus creating a thicker and, in some sense, chewier cookie - it also helps keep the moisture in the cookie making it moister - chewier.  The other recipe called for the addition of a box of instant vanilla pudding to the dough and, while the pudding mix probably contained cornstarch, accomplishing the same thing - it had a weird fake vanilla taste to it - the kids didn't mind it, but it was just plan awful - trust me.

Then...... I found THE recipe....  Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I knew they'd be good, after all, has Alton ever steered me wrong before??.. nope - so I gave them a try.  I can't tell you how many compliments I got on these cookies - every single person who ate them couldn't stop talking about how great they were so I'm sold - THIS is my new "go-to" chocolate chip cookie recipe.... goodbye yellow bag!  Mr. Brown has tweaked the yellow bag recipe so that your cookies are moist and chewy without adding weird ingredients - I'll let him explain the hows and the whys this recipe works in his uber-cool Mr. Science kind of way - but believe me, it works!

You, too, can bake chocolate chip cookies that your family and friends will gush about... really, you can! 

Here's the recipe....

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A quick tip when making these gems:  Please, please, please WEIGH you ingredients instead of measuring them in measuring cups - it is a must when baking to be more precise and this recipe does call for the dry the ingredients by weight, not measurements - sure, you will still get cookies if you measure, but I cannot guarantee they will turn out the same.

Give them a try and let me know how you liked them!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Outside Lands Announces the GastroMagic Lineup

Look for Iron Chef Morimoto, Chris Cosentino, Humphry Slocombe, Pete Holmes,      Dan Deacon, Rich Table, Guittard Chocolate Company & Big Freedia
Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival reveals details on GastroMagic, a stage devoted to fantastical entertainment in the way of star personalities, food, cocktails, comedy, improv, music, and of course, sorcery. Introduced in 2014, GastroMagic was an instant hit, taking Outside Lands’ wildly popular culinary personality to even greater heights. GastroMagic is located in the wooded wonderland that is McLaren Pass; themed cocktail experiences and BaconLand will neighbor its stage. The 2015 GastroMagic lineup is once again co-curated by San Francisco’s own ChefsFeed, which has an inside connection to the best of food culture and the world’s top chefs.  

At GastroMagic, fans can expect to dance, shuffle and bounce for food, watch DJs join forces with culinary masters for fascinating festivities, and see magicians perform mind-altering tricks. Several of the GastroMagic performances will have an intimate tasting table component where fans will have the opportunity to indulge in creations from the show. Seats are complimentary and will be given on a first come, first served basis to the first ten fans to arrive before that particular performance; details will be released via the Outside Lands mobile app.  

Adjacent to GastroMagic, and enhancing its fun, are four top-notch cocktail experiences under humorous themes like Talk Like A Pirate Bar, Uh Oh It's Magic, Let's Get Fizz-ical and Mission Agave. Leading bartenders from Bon Vivants, 15 Romolo, The Boxing Room and Nopa will be behind this mixology magic. BaconLand will also return to the area, fueling the crowd with flights of the country's best swine.

The current GastroMagic lineup is as follows; for the most current updates on the schedule please check and the Outside Lands mobile app.

1:20pm - 1:50pm
Magician Jon Armstrong
Jon Armstrong, GastroMagic’s emcee for the weekend, kicks things off with a few tricks up his sleeve. He may have a few up yours as well.

2:45pm - 3:10pm
Trash Talk Cook Off with CUESA
Waste not, have more! Chefs vending at Outside Lands hit the stage to concoct an all-star dish made from a mix of food by-products from popular recipes and “ugly” vegetables.

4:00pm - 4:30pm
Unknown Donuts w/ Rich Table
San Francisco’s Rich Table showcases their artisanal donuts, so out of the box they’ll launch you into another dimension.

5:30pm - 6:00pm
Morimoto Karaoke
Iron Chef Morimoto shares his expertise in the art of sushi rolling and rocks the stage with his hidden talent. It's only rock and roll, but he likes it.

7:15pm - 7:55pm
Breakdown Breakdance w/ Avedano Meats & Belcampo Meat Co.
B-boy troupe Beatz N Pieces bring the beats while Bay Area butchers bring the meat. Watching their process unfold will make your head spin.


1:50pm - 2:20pm
Truffle Shuffle w/ Mina Test Kitchen & DJ Vin Sol
Chef Adam Sobel from The Mina Group is joined by dance instructor Julia Hubara to reinterpret the infamous Truffle Shuffle. Fans must shuffle for a taste of his Truffle Ribeye Cheesesteak.

3:10pm - 3:40pm
Beignets & Bounce Brunch w/ Big Freedia & Brenda’s Soul Food
Big Freedia is back to shake and bounce during the second annual bounce brunch. Brenda's Soul Food beignets for those willing to twerk.

4:30pm - 5:00pm
Evolution of Collaboration w/ Chris Cosentino
Last year, the topic was evolution of creativity and this year, Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb talks collaboration, food, cocktails and more.

6:00pm - 6:30pm
PopStars w/ Emilie Baltz and Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon provides the sweet sounds for this lickable popsicle orchestra imagined by experiential artist & storyteller, Emilie Baltz. Join them on stage to help bring this concept to life, one lick at a time.

7:40pm - 8:25pm
PB & MJ w/ Humphry Slocombe & Forever Land: A Michael Jackson Tribute
Awaken the smooth (peanut butter) criminal in you as you indulge in Humphry Slocombe’s Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple ice cream and relive the MJ classics. PB&J has never tasted so good.


2:30pm - 3:00pm
Dough Throw w/ DJ MoPo & Tony G
It’s a Dough Throwdown with MoPo spinning tracks and World Pizza Cup Champion Tony Gemignani spinning dough and pizza bites.

3:50pm - 4:20pm
Food Fight w/ Pete Holmes - Ne Timeas vs Big Night
Food Fight is not your average game show. Comedian Pete Holmes hosts an epic battle of the food world as Ne Timeas (Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, etc.) takes on Big Night (Marlowe, Cavalier, etc.). Only one survives!

5:20pm - 5:50pm
Sexual Chocolate w/ Karl Denson & Guittard Chocolate Company
The Sexual Chocolate band led by Karl Denson is going to take us back in time while Donald Wressell explores chocolate art. Look out for delicious Guittard chocolate bars!

6:50pm - 7:35pm
Mac Sabbath w/ Richie Nakano
Mac Sabbath brings their one of a kind “Drive Thru Metal” while Richie Nakano creates his “one time only” Nakano Nuggets. Join if you dare!
For updates and more information, check and follow Outside Lands on Facebook: Outside Lands Music Festival, Twitter: @sfoutsidelands and Instagram: outside_lands

OUTSIDE LANDS: Founded in 2008, San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival annually takes place in the historic Golden Gate Park. With an incomparable vision for marrying local food and drinks with music, art and comedy unlike any other festival in the country, Outside Lands has become one of the most popular summer events for both the culinary and music enthusiast alike.  The three-day festival features 77 restaurants, 38 wineries, 32 breweries and numerous cocktail bars, all local to California. It also showcases more than 60 legendary and emerging artists. To date, Outside Lands has raised over $10 million dollars for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and with a heavy emphasis on sustainability, boasts one of the best environmental records of all US festivals. Outside Lands was co-founded by Superfly and Another Planet Entertainment and takes place each August.  Learn more at or on Twitter @sfoutsidelands, Facebook, and Instagram @outside_lands.
 About ChefsFeed: ChefsFeed is the inside connection to the best dishes and food culture, proudly presented by the world’s top chefs. Headquartered in San Francisco, ChefsFeed brings the chef voice to the forefront of food discovery through dish recommendations and culinary content. ChefsFeed offers chefs a seamless platform to engage with existing and potential guests, while gaining actionable insights and analytics. ChefsFeed is available in 50+ global cities and its curated food insights have inspired consumers to mark chef recommended dishes as eaten or planned more than one million times. For more information, visit,, or follow @chefsfeed on Twitter. Viewers can subscribe to the ChefsFeed YouTube channel at