Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bacon Jam, Horseradish and Ricotta Dip

Bacon Jam, horseradish and ricotta dip.

There aren't many times I find myself frying a pound of bacon at one time, but last Sunday found me catering to the needs of two football crazy guys. Since one was Manservant and the other was China Boy, I was happy to accommodate. After the exciting Bronco's win I was hoping the thought of staying another two weeks to watch the Super Bowl, might be enticement enough to keep Alex Odie San China Boy in this part of the hemisphere, but alas he left yesterday. We were lucky enough to have him for a month and now he heads back to a new job and even new roommates. If you are ever in Shanghai and like to drink wine, he has moved into the realm of sales, and I think he will be quite good at it.

But now that the entire house smells like bacon, I guess I better tell you about this dip that both deemed Superbowl worthy. Whole Foods has us thinking healthy this month, but they also know that Superbowl is one of those days that health has a tendency to go out the window. Maybe it's the supercharged air that causes us to eat bite after bite of dips and dogs and mile long sammies, well, at least at our house. In any case if you don't feel like cooking, Whole Foods is sure to have a variety of freshly made salsas and guacamole, dips and wings, all available to serve with their fabulous house made tortilla chips. I love those!

Bacon Jam, horseradish and ricotta dip

I served this with my home made honey and beer chips. Stay tuned for that recipe. You could also serve this with some of the great new lentil, quinoa or bean based chips at Whole Foods. I love the new taro chips and don't even get me started on the sweet potato version. Chips of any kind are my downfall and I'm so excited that there are some healthier versions to choose from.

This bacon horseradish dip sure is super. Use the nitrite free bacon that Whole Foods offers and you have a dip that will be a winner, even if your team isn't. It is important to at least keep those tummies happy! This dip begins with bacon jam. I made the entire recipe of the jam but only used half of it in the dip. That way I have the other half to slather on toast, use instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, or place on a cheese tray to make my guests swoon. Feel free to use light ricotta or yogurt to replace the cream fraiche and save a few calories. And if you want to save even more calories, this would also make a great stuffing for a celery stick.

However you choose to make this, just be sure to eat it. It is super! Go Broncos!

Bacon Jam, Horseradish and Ricotta Dip

Start with some homemade bacon jam or if you find some you can buy and like use it! Add some ricotta and horseradish and a few other items and you have a bacon lover's dip! #bacon  #appetizers #dip

Bacon Jam, Horseradish and Ricotta Cheese Dip
Serves about 8
Time to Make: About 45 minutes
Adapted from: Brian Voltaggio
1 lb bacon
1 medium onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 T sherry vinegar
3 1/2 T maple syrup

7 oz ricotta cheese
3 T prepared white horseradish (from the refrigerator section)
3 T creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
5 T fresh chives, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 t sea salt

Cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is a beautiful golden brown. You will probably have to do this in two pans. Well. You will. Transfer bacon to paper towels and drain fat. Now cut or tear it into small pieces. (I always save the bacon fat in a container that I store in the fridge. There are so many ways to use it.) Reserve about 1 T of fat in the pan. Add shallot and onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add vinegar and maple syrup and bring to a simmer. Add reserved bacon and simmer on low until mixture forms a thick glaze. This won't take long. Drain off any excess fat.Now you have a choice. You can leave it like as is or pulse it in a food processor to make a smoother jam. (You can make the bacon jam ahead of time as it will keep in the fridge for up to one month. Don't worry though as it won't last that long!)

Now put the ricotta and horseradish in a food processor and process for about two minutes, or until completely smooth. Add half of the bacon jam, pulse a few times and transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the creme fraiche, chive and scallions. Season with more salt or horseradish if needed. Serve at room temperature with your favorite chips.

More Super, Super Bowl Food:

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Start with some homemade bacon jam or if you find some you can buy and like use it! Add some ricotta and horseradish and a few other items and you have a bacon lover's dip! #bacon  #appetizers #dip

Friday, January 22, 2016

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup and a Wedding in Costa Rica

No, I did not disappear into the sunset.

And I promise if I invite you to dinner, that I am a great host. So with the best of intentions I thought that writing this little blog would be easy while China Boy is home. I thought that writing this blog would be easy while off to Costa Rica. I was wrong; I admit it. I was too busy dancing at weddings and watching blue morpho butterflies and gasping at mesmerizing  views filled with lush green mountainsides and the most beautiful cows. I have a thing for beautiful brown eyes.

I have a thing for family and treasure the moments we have together. My China Boy came home on the 29th (that was last year...hard to believe!). We celebrated New Year's with him and friends and had a great meal with some fun new recipes. Thank you Greg, for this great date appetizer and thanks Brooklyn Ragazza for these chicken riggies and I made a good tiramisu too. No photos; just memories.

It was then a busy week before it was off to Costa Rica for a special occasion for a special girl that we've known since she was three. You may remember that Zoe and I threw her a shower this past summer. We couldn't feel closer to this family if we tried, even though we aren't blood related.Time flies and now little Whitty is MARRIED!

She and Scott had a spectacular wedding in Las Catalinas and we were so happy to be a part of it. Aren't they the most gorgeous bride and groom you've ever seen?

 Zoe was in the wedding and we all met up, including Zoe's boyfriend, for a fun filled 10 days of wedding and seeing Costa Rica. It went way too fast.

After driving to the spectacular Las Catalinas in an elegant pick up truck- oh yeah-( thank you Priceline and Alamo for that),

we discovered a totally fabulous community where it is oh so easy to forget your troubles and forget all your cares and go downtown... well, in this case Las Catalinas!. Yes, it did take almost a full day to find a new rental and return said truck, but hey- all trips are an adventure. (If you are going to Costa Rica call Adobe.) They were honest and reputable.

As we relaxed, the kids partied forever. The girls had a bachelorette party on a giant sailboat and the boys went surfing and drinking beer in Tamarindo. I think maybe though... that the girls had more to drink than the boys.... There were night hikes and kayaking and good food and tables set like this

 and then there was a gorgeous bride and groom. Oh my. And the sunset. One must not forget the sunsets.

It was also a time for losing glasses. Manservant proceeded to lose his to the waves after partying at the wedding. Three times I told him to take them off, but being a boy who grew up on the Gulf and knows everything about waves, he assured me they were fine - that is until they weren't. Zoe lost hers to quicksand - as she described it. The kids and Manservant climbed  what is a very hard climb up CerroChato and because it rains a lot in a rain forest, duh! it creates lots of mud.

While scrambling out of it, said Ray Bans came off. The third pair of glasses was lost when Geordie ate China Boy's upon return to Denver. He bit right through the lenses.  Mine are lost to Manservant who discovered that my prescription is very close to his. Which wasn't a bad thing because otherwise he might not have been able to drive us around Costa Rica's notorious gravel roads.

After the festivities we traveled up to Arenal, the volcano country,

We hiked down to the waterfall and back up again. Some swam.

and then it was on to  Monte Verde where the cloud forest is. Costa Rica is a spectacular country with grandiose landscapes. We didn't get to experience the clouds though, because we had no rain what so ever. Our views were crystal clear.

Seeing wildlife was a bit harder because of this, but we still saw macaws and monkeys and butterflies and the elusive quetzal. Luckily we saw no snakes in the jungle, though we did see bullet ants. Watch out for those! I even saw a toucan. Makes me wish I had a new gigantic lens on my camera!

It was a trip. And I mean that. The family got along great with the exception of one car ride where the kids still acted like kids... It was glorious and I can't wait to do it again. I hope it is sooner rather than later. And I hope the next one will be to China. China Boy, Alex Odie San heads back on Tuesday and I will miss him. I do hope that the next family trip, including Zoe and Evan, will be there to see him.

But this is a blog about food and life and so it is on to the food. Costa Rican food is typical food

and that is even how they define it! It is simple food. Beans and rice. Some grilled chicken or fish. Ceviche of which we never found one we thought was great, even though we went to the ones that were supposed to be. The papayas and avocados and pineapples were superb. But in our case Costa Rican food was plain and simple. We still feel our best meal, besides the wedding, were the pasteles we bought on the side of the road.

The way back home found us going through Houston so we couldn't not stop to see my in laws. It was great to see family and cousins that we haven't seen in a long time and I can't believe I didn't get a picture! Shame on me. But I did get a photo of the boys with my in laws and Buckie. Alex insisted we go to Buckie's.

And then we were home. Cold and sunny, but home. The dogs gave us a giant welcome. And as our tummies were worn out, we started the week with something simple. Well, I guess we really started on Sunday after the BIG Bronco's game with a giant muffaletta. China Boy really misses sandwiches which are hard to get in Shanghai, so we made a big one. And then we were worn out. Our tummies said enough. He headed to Vail and I made chicken soup. Not just any chicken soup. Not my mama's chicken soup. I made Vietnamese chicken soup. Simple and quick, this one uses a store bought rotisserie chicken. It is full of flavor and perfect for when you have those after the vacation blues.

Vietnamese soups are often served with the broth in a separate bowl. It is up to the eaters to add the condiments of their choice. You will love the addition of 5 spice powder and the star anise. This tastes like a very complex broth, when in actuality, it is  simple to put together. Vietnamese chicken soup just may become your next go to soup. Frankly I could slurp this every day!

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves About 4
Time to Make: 30-45 minutes
8 1/2 c store bought low sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves
2 star anise
1/2 t 5 spice Chinese seasoning
1 peeled red onion halved
2.5 oz ginger or a good sized knob
2 t sugar
1 t sea salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t garlic powder
2 T fish sauce
1 T brown sugar

14 oz dried pho noodles unless you want more!
14 oz cooked rotisserie chicken
2 large bunches of finely chopped green onions
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
Basil leaves for seasoning broth
Jalapenos (thinly sliced for seasoning broth)
Limes (a wedge for each bowl to season broth)
Fresh ground black pepper
In a large stockpot over medium high heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the garlic cloves, star anise, 5 spice, onion and ginger. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Pick out and discard onion, ginger and whole spices. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, fish sauce and sugar. Taste and adjust with more salt or sugar if necessary.
To assemble bowls:
Cook noodles according to package directions. Noodles should fill a quarter to one half of the bowl. Arrange the shredded chicken on top of the noodles. Divide the green onions between the 4 bowls. Divide broth between the 4 bowls. Assemble a plate with the rest of the garnishes and have diners add as they like. A fresh squeeze of lime and a fresh grind of pepper is perfect!

Adapted From: The Vietnamese Market Cookbook (Van Tran and Anh Wu) I am loving this one!

More Soups and Vietnamese Dishes for a Winter's Day:
Matzoh Ball Soup
Meatball Noodle Bowl
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
Corn and Green Chile Chowder
White Bean, Bacon and Kale Soup

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