Everyday Kitchen -
The flavour punch delivered by one itty bitty slice of bacon far outweighs the fat and calories it contributes to a recipe. This does not apply to a pound served next to a dozen fried eggs and a mound of hash browns, of course, but bacon is not the kitchen criminal it's been made out to be in recent years.
In fact, a package of bacon in your fridge or freezer can be a saviour when confronted with unexpected company, a last-minute potluck at the office or a run-of-the-mill case of the cold-weather blahs.
Hot bacon cheese dip
Holiday season is fast approaching and this recipe is a great strategy for alleviating some of the stress of entertaining. Prepare the ingredients in advance - even the day before if you like; just stir in the bacon at the last minute.
On the other hand, if you're in a hurry, you can warm the cream cheese in the microwave and bring the milk nearly to a boil to reduce the cooking time.
This is also a great idea for lunch at the office or as a bring-along to the next family time. Big pretzel or bread sticks, crackers, celery, broccoli florets, carrots or crusty rolls are all delicious dippers.
This makes a good amount for a big crowd, but I admit you couldn't exactly consider this light dining.
2 8-oz. packages softened cream cheese (low-fat works)
4 cups grated old cheddar cheese
1 cup evaporated milk (regular, skim or 2 per cent)
2 tbsp. spicy, grainy or Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. minced or grated onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
few drops hot pepper sauce
1 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, well-drained and crumbled
Place all ingredients except the bacon in a slow cooker and heat on low one hour, stirring at least twice. Add bacon at the last minute.
Bacon stuffed red peppers
These make such a beautiful and comforting supper on a cold day. Serve them with a salad for a lighter meal or with chicken breasts or pork chops for a substantial dinner.
You could also boil any pasta your family likes and serve with the tomato sauce from the baked peppers on top.
Substitute green - or any other colour - sweet peppers for equally delicious results. Allow one per person.
4 large red bell peppers
1/2 lb. smoky bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
3 tbsp. cream or evaporated milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup chicken broth (divided)
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Cut the stemmed tops off the red peppers; set aside.
Cut thin slices off the bottoms so they don't tip over.
Scoop out the seeds and ribs and boil in water for one minute; drain well.
Fry bacon until crisp, drain well and crumble, reserving a couple of spoonfuls of fat in the pan.
Fry onion in bacon fat until wilted, then stir in garlic; cook until fragrant.
Stir in bread crumbs, cream, eggs, Parmesan, half the chicken broth, parsley, basil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spoon into drained red peppers and place in a baking dish.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth with tomato sauce and pour around base of peppers. Cover and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Garnish with stem covers.
Bacon and egg breakfast biscuits
These delicious and substantial breakfast cups are more quiche than biscuit. Call them whatever you like, they're fabulous take-alongs to hockey practice or great in front of Saturday TV. Come to think of it, they're pretty good in front of the TV any time.
These are good piping hot, but also delicious at room temperature.
This recipe makes 10 biscuits - depending on the brand you buy - but most adults could eat two.
8-10 slices bacon, cooked crisp, drained well and crumbled (divided)
1 12-oz. tube refrigerated flaky biscuits (you know the ones)
1 8-oz. package soft cream cheese
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1 green onion, finely chopped
Place 1 biscuit into each of 10 well-greased large muffin cups and press into the bottoms and up the sides, with about 1/4 inch over the top.
Sprinkle bacon crumbles into the bottom, reserving some for garnishing the tops. Beat cream cheese, milk and eggs until smooth.
Stir in cheddar and green onion and divide among biscuits.
Bake at 375 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is set and biscuit crusts are golden. Sprinkle remaining bacon on top and serve.
To prevent damage to your muffin pan, put a little water in the two empty cups before baking.
Emergency toasted bacon appetizers
You probably already have everything you need to make these.
This dish takes a few minutes and makes a fabulous first course when you weren't expecting to need one.
You can buy pre-cooked, crumbled bacon in the grocery store that makes these a trivial kitchen exercise.
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, drained well and crumbled
1/3 cup firmly packed grated cheese - any kind you like
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tbsp. mayonnaise or salad dressing (mayonnaise is a bit better)
1/4 cup black or green olives, minced (a nice addition, but optional)
1 green onion, finely chopped (or 1/2 small yellow onion)
few splashes Worcestershire sauce
thin slices of whatever bread you like - enough to use up the filling
Combine bacon, cheese, sour cream, mayo, olives, onion and Worcestershire sauce.
Cut bread into small squares or triangles - about what you'd like to pick up in your fingers. Spread filling sparingly on bread - you don't need much.
Place on a baking sheet - a foil cover makes cleanup easier - and broil until cheese topping is bubbling hot and bread is toasty brown.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 5970, St. John's, NL, A1C 5X7.