Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates and Baby Kale Salad

Bacon wrapped dates are basically meat candies. They’re crispy, sweet, savory, and wrapped in a tiny little package. I stuffed Deglet Noor dates with the cheapest blue cheese I could find at Nugget. I used thick cut bacon, and wrapped a third of each strip around each stuffed date. I used toothpicks to hold the little packages in place, and baked them on a rack (You know, to allow all the grease to drain onto a pan. It’s healthy.) at 400°F until crispy. 

I made a quick salad with baby kale and celery. For a vinaigrette, I whisked together some apple cider vinegar, whole grain mustard, honey, lemon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I topped the salad with some red onion, crushed pistachios, shaved Pecorino Romano, and segments of the last few oranges from our backyard tree. 

While the bacon cooked, I brushed a few baguette slices with olive oil and grilled them on a grill pan. When toasty, I rubbed some raw garlic on each side. If only you could smell what I’m smelling!

This salad hit the spot. It hit all the spots. 

Funfetti Macarons!

Macarons are a finicky food to make. So many factors determine whether macarons will turn out or not (temperature, humidity, weight measurements, etc.). When I first started making macarons during my college years, I lucked out every single time. I had fun creating different flavor combinations. Coffee shells with Kahlua buttercream, raspberry shells with lemon buttercream and berry preserves, cayenne cocoa shells with chocolate ganache, Earl grey shells with lemon and honey buttercream, and many more. I don’t even care for macarons, I definitely have more of a salty tooth than a sweet tooth! I kept making them because it was a challenge and I love proving a point. Around this time last year, I decided to try doubling a recipe, since one batch will typically only make 12-18 macarons. I should’ve known better than to alter a macaron recipe. It was my first ever failed batch of macarons and it was a huge blow to the ego. Today I tried to redeem myself, only to toss yet another failed batch. I took note of all of my failures (overmixing, using the wrong sized piping bag tip, low oven temperature) and tried again. The second batch turned out a little better, as pictured. Not pictured are the hollows of each shell, which is not a favorable macaron trait. Nobody’s perfect!!!
I measured out 70g of almond flour and 120g of confectioner’s sugar. Then I combined them and processed them in the food processor, and sifted out the clumps. I started beating 2 room temp egg whites on low, gradually adding 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a splash of vanilla. Then I turned the mixer on high until glossy peaks formed.

I folded the dry ingredients into the eggs by scraping around the edge of the entire bowl, cutting through the middle of the batter, and repeating about 40 times. When the batter felt ready (seriously, you just have to know), I folded in some sprinkles.

I piped 1 inch circles on parchment paper, and rapped the pan on the counter a few times to help the macarons spread and to pop any air bubbles that might’ve formed. One of the most crucial steps is to let the macarons sit, undisturbed, for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the batter to form a shell, and to help it grow ‘feet’ in the oven. A humid day can ruin this step!

I baked the macarons at 305°F for just under 14 minutes. After cooling, I sandwiched the shells with a quick and easy vanilla buttercream.

I am almost certain that I have at least 2 new cavities after eating a few of these.

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with Polenta

Lamb is gamey, overpowering, and I love it. Being the stubborn A-hole that I am, I said ‘No thank you, I will trim them myself’ when the butcher asked if I wanted him to clean up the two dinosaur lamb shanks I picked out. Honestly I saw things and felt textures that I cannot erase from my mind, while attempting to French trim the shanks.

My mom has this ridiculous programmable pressure cooker called the ‘Instant Pot’. It’s basically a pressure cooker made for dummies like me who don’t want to risk blasting their faces off with a stove top pressure cooker.

I heated up some oil and cooked half of an onion, three cloves of garlic, and five carrots on the stove. I also stirred in a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste. Then, I dusted the shanks with salt, pepper, and flour. I tried to brown the shanks in the same pot as the vegetables, but it got a little crowded and things started to burn. I deglazed the brown bits with chicken stock and red wine. For extra fun and flavor, I tossed in some rosemary, thyme, and cayenne.

Once the wine reduced, I threw the entire contents of the pot into the pressure cooker. Meanwhile, I cooked some creamy, cheesy, polenta on the stove.

 

The lamb was so fall-off-the-bone tender that the meat literally fell off the bone.

Excuse me while I disinfect my entire body. Raw meat is disgusting.

Sour Cream Apple Pie: It’s Really Sour

My favorite pie is 100% the sour cream apple pie from High Hill Ranch up in Placerville’s Apple Hill. It is served cold, and it is my favorite Apple Hill treat. Since I had leftover sour cream from my turkey chili, I took a stab at making my own sour cream apple pie. Disclaimer: the last time I made a pie from scratch by myself, I was twelve.

I researched a bunch of recipes and ended up freehanding the filling. For the crust, I followed this New York Times’ crust recipe. Though the Apple Hill pie uses a crumble topping, I wanted to make a lattice crust on top. A buttery, flaky, crust.

For the filling, I peeled and sliced five Granny Smith apples, and coated them in lemon juice to prevent browning. Then, I whisked together 1 cup of sour cream, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract. I tossed the apples in the sour cream mixture, and drained the excess.

After the pie crust dough chilled in the fridge for an hour, I rolled the bottom crust into a 9 inch pie plate. I filled the crust with the apples, and criss crossed thin and thick strips of dough to make the lattice. I also threw in some braids and flowers because I’m a really interesting person. I brushed the top with egg wash and sprinkled sugar on top.

I baked the pie for 10 minutes at 400°F, and then lowered the temperature to 375° and baked it for another 40 minutes. Somewhere in the 40 minutes, I brushed the top with more egg wash and sugar. I also covered the edge of the crust with foil to prevent it from browning too much. I am so dang impatient, I opened the oven door at least 10 times, which is always a bad idea when baking since the heat escapes every time.

As you can see from the picture, the pie is a soggy mess when served hot. Even when it cooled, the bottom crust was a little soggy, but the top was flaky and crisp. Overall the pie was too tart for my liking. Maybe I’ll try making a pie in another 12 years. For now, I’ll leave it to Apple Hill.

Edit: It is so much sweeter after chilling in the fridge for an hour.

DIY Paper Bag Planters

I’m into the ‘paper bag’ planter trend. I picked up a roll of kraft paper and a roll of clear contact paper from the hardware store. I simply cut a rectangle of the kraft paper and stuck the same sized rectangle of contact paper on top of the kraft paper. Apparently, contact paper isn’t as sticky as I thought it would be. As long as the inside is covered and the seams are reinforced with lots of glue and tape, the bag should be fine. 

Next, I folded the two-ply paper into a bag, with the contact paper on the inside. To make it look cute as frick, I crumpled the bag. The end.

Turkey Chili and Cornbread Croutons

Every spring, I get motivated to do the health. I rarely spoil myself, but when I do, I splurge on something very un-indulgent, like a Fitbit. I figure now that I’m 24, I should really start getting my life together. Fitbit users really seem to have their lives together. 

Although it’s spring, I am still freezing my toes off. I picked up a bunch of ingredients to make turkey chili on this chilly morning, and I decided to try using a crock pot for the first time. Crock pot users really seem to have their lives together. 

I prepped by draining and rinsing a can of black beans and a can of kidney beans. I cooked half of a white onion, three cloves of garlic, two bell peppers, and lean ground turkey on the stove. I tossed in massive amounts of chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. I turned the crock pot on high and dumped in half a carton of low sodium chicken stock, a can of tomato puree, a can of diced tomatoes, and all of the canned beans. Cans, cans, cans. I added the turkey and veggies into the crock pot. 

In the meantime I made cornbread, cubed it, and toasted them to resemble croutons. After two hours of anxiously waiting for the crock pot to work its magic, nothing was happening and I gave up. I definitely do not have the patience to use a crock pot. 

I served the relatively healthy chili with a load of relatively unhealthy toppings: cheddar, cornbread croutons, sour cream, avocado, lime, and cilantro. The chili itself is high in protein, high in fiber, low in fat, and low in effort. Some days I stay in bed and watch 6 episodes of The X Files. Some days I buy a Fitbit and cook turkey chili in a crock pot.