Sweetheart Maple Bacon Shortbread

Fact: the real way to obtain your sweetheart’s love is through their stomach…with bacon! And this Maple Bacon Shortbread is a sure fire way to please.

A few weeks ago I attended a most fabulous themed pot-luck party: bacon! Everyone had to bring a dish made with bacon. We had bacon guacamole, a bacon cheddar apple pie, scotch eggs, bacon chocolate cupcakes. That was like a third of the menu. I brought a Maple Bacon Shortbread as one of two contributions.

Looking at my cookie cutter shapes I decided to go for a heart shaped one. And as soon as the cookies came out of the oven I knew this recipe was perfect for Saint-Valentine’s Day.

Maple Bacon Shortbread Hearts

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Maple Hickory Ice Cream with Buttered Pecans

It’s Food ‘n Flix time again! In this monthly group a host picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe you want. This month’s pick is hosted by Deb from Kahakai Kitchen and she picked an in theme Thanksgiving movie, Pieces of April.

I can cutting it short to the last minute on this one, it will be a short post, but I was inspired by an item on the foodie neighbor’s menu … with my twist of course … Maple Hickory Ice Cream with Buttered Pecans.

Maple Hickory Ice Cream with Buttered Pecans 1

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Maple Walnut Coffee from BLEND and a double Giveaway

I really need to get on a smoothie wagon! I know they are healthy and the rave right now but for some silly reason I forget. No more procrastination, now that I have two amazing books devoted entirely to smoothies which were written by two fabulous fellow food bloggers. They are just delicious whether they are fruit based, surprisingly great veggie based, tea or coffee based, and some that are just a decadent yet healthy dessert.

I will tell you all about these two books shortly and I will share with you the recipe I first sampled. If falls under the coffee category but I would have this for dessert to: the Maple Walnut Coffee. And read all the way to the instructions on how to win the 2 giveaways!

Maple Walnut Coffee 3

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Creative Cooking Crew: Candied Bacon and Apple Halva with Maple Gastrique

I am sure I have mentioned this before but just in case, I do not really watch cooking shows. So don’t say to me :have you heard of the latest crazy chef “enter name here”? Chances are you will be the first to tell me. I like cooking shows but I have trouble keeping full attention. It is the same with sports on TV. Of course I am aware of the hit shows, take Chopped for instance where a mystery basket of ingredients is given and must all be used in a recipe.

apple bacon halva 9

Well that is exactly our theme this month for the Creative Cooking Crew which is hosted by Lazaro Cooks and Foodalogue. I was really excited by this challenge. Give me weird stuff to mix up and I am a happy gal! The ingredients we were given were Granny Smith apples, nut butter, vinegar and bacon. When I read the list I had no idea what to make but I wanted the extra challenge of coming up with a dessert. My creation is a Candied Bacon and Apple Halva with Maple Gastrique.

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5 Star Makeover: South African Pampoenkoekies and Delicata Rings

This month’s 5 Star Makeover could not be more seasonal: we are cooking or baking with any squash of our choice. My recipe lead me down an unusual path for a squash recipe, it actually took me to South Africa. I bet you would be surprised to learn that pumpkin and other squash are served as a side dish in almost every restaurant. The South Africans love this vegetable and some varieties are indigenous to South Africa.

South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. For me it feels like a whole world away, making it that much more intriguing. Although the country has had its fair share of historical turmoil, South Africa is the most stable country on the African continent, making it a great introduction gateway if you plan to explore Africa some day. The urban cities are quite developed and modern. Chances are any trip to Africa will have flights to Johannesburg in your itinerary so why not stop a bit and explore.

The culture is astoundingly varied. Did you know the country has 11 official languages? The big cities are getting closer and closer to our Western standards of living but it is a reality that the rural population is still considered of the poorest in Africa. Yet the rural inhabitants are also the people who hold on to tradition the strongest, such as the Zulu culture which is still very much alive; we are mostly familiar with their tribal dance and song.

There are so many wonderful sights to explore: the number one main attraction is the wildlife reserves where you can see elephants and rhinos. There are many unique things to see with strong political influences like the prison that held Nelson Mandela. The one attraction I am most curious about is the Cradle of Mankind, a large collection of caves rich in hominid and advanced ape fossils. And no trip here would be complete without a tour of the wonderful vineyards and tasting the local dishes…which brings us back to the Squash theme of the 5 Star Makeover for October.

I wanted to cook with new squashes I had yet to explore. I could not resists these two beauties: the Turban and Delicata squash. The Turban has a unique shape that has earned it its name. The flesh has notes of hazelnut when ripe. If you pick it to soon it could be bitter. The Turban squash has been used more for decorative purposes in the past but it is now making an appearance in the kitchen. It is great for soups and desserts as the flesh is quite moist.

The Delicata squash has an elongated shape marked by yellow and green stripes. This is a heirloom variety. The flesh is an orange-yellow color. Taste wise it is the sweet potato of the squash world and the flesh is creamy while still holding its shape. This one is great for stuffing, in meat dishes or as a side dish.

hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!

Pumpkin Fritters, or Pampoenkoekies, are a traditional South African meal that can be prepared as a savory or sweet dish. Of course you can substitute the pumpkin for another moist flesh squash like the Turban squash. If you want a sweet fritter reduce the salt a bit and add 2 tbsp of sugar, then dust with a cinnamon sugar.

I chose the savory version which pairs beautifully with a spicy mango salsa. And I just so happen to find a South African Mango Salsa recipe. It is kind of unique with some cucumber in there. The recipe asks for a super hot chilli of your choice. I actually changed it with a African Bird pepper powder I have. On the hot scale this pepper kicks ass so better to add a little bit at a time.

The Maple Glazed Delicata Rings have no relation to South Africa but they look cool and are wonderful to snack on in between fritters. It’s like vegetable candy.

Ξ South African Pumpkin Fritters (Pampoenkoekies) Ξ
adapted from Weight Watchers

1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin or squash
2 large eggs, separated
olive oil

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin with egg yolks; mix until well-combined. In another small bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Alternating in batches, add flour mixture and egg whites to pumpkin mixture, stirring after each addition.

Coat a large skillet with oil; heat until oil shimmers. Drop 4 large spoonfuls of batter onto skillet to form four 3-inch fritters; cook until bubbles start to form along sides, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip fritters and cook until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more; remove fritters to a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat process two more times to make twelve fritters total. Yields 1 fritter per serving.

Ξ Maple Glazed Delicata Rings Ξ
adapted from Diana Rattray

1 medium Delicata squash
1tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoons maple syrup
sea salt

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Grease the foil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the squash in 1/2-inch thick rounds; scoop seeds out of each round. In a bowl, toss the squash with the melted butter and maple syrup. Arrange the squash on the foil-lined pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 400° for 35 to 45 minutes, turning once about halfway through the baking time.

Ξ South African Summer Mango Salsa Ξ
adapted from Ocado

1 mango
1/2 Red Onion
1/4 Cucumber
1/8 tsp African Bird pepper (or 1/2 Hot Chilli)
1/2 good handful Coriander
Dash of sea salt
1 pouring lime Juice

Dice mangoes in 1/2 inch cubes, shop red onion, and dice cucumber. Chop up the hottest chilli you can find  or add chilli powder. Chop coriander and add. Pour in lime juice and add salt. Mix well. Leave in fridge for an hour.

Maple Apple Brussels Sprout Salad

So Mother’s Day was the push I needed apparently to really get me back in the kitchen. After 8 weeks I finally made real recipes, 3 of them actually. Well I will admit I chose very elegant dishes that were easy enough to prepare to give my wrist a break. I’ll blog about all 3 recipes in the next days but the first I want to show you is the salad.

My mom loves Brussels sprouts. My father and I hate them. Well I hate the boiled bitter ones I associate with my childhood. I now know you can prepare them minus the bitterness. So to make Mom happy I used her loved veggie in a raw green salad very reminiscent of a slaw. I found an intriguing recipe at Kitchen of Health and I knew this was the one for me, adapted of course. It was a hit all around. I had my dad taste it too, asked what he though t and only told him after it was Brussels sprouts…to his disbelief.

Ξ Maple Apple Brussels Sprout Salad Ξ

3 cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
1/2 onion, sliced finely
3/4 red apple, julienned with skin
chopped walnuts or pecans to taste, optional.

Although you can prepare your veggies with a good knife, if you have a Mandoline it will make your life that easier. Add  Brussels sprouts, the apple, the onion and a sprinkle of chopped nuts to a salad bowl (of course I forgot to add them before the photo shoot). Toss with Maple Citrus Dressing before serving.

Ξ Maple Citrus Dressing Ξ
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 c apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.

The weather as so wonderful, we enjoyed our meal on my balcony. Yes I am high up, 18th floor.

Baked Almond Feta

I came across this recipe quite some time ago and I made it shortly thereafter. Time flies, I am only writing about it now. What got my attention in the first place was the word “feta”, a cheese I really enjoy. Upon further reading I realized there was not a crumb of feta in sight. It is actually  a recipe for an almond paté which has the texture of feta a little bit. How cool is that? I had to try it.

I found this Baked Almond Feta  recipe on the vegan blog Maple Spice, a new find for me. This is a great addition to a vegan recipe roster. To me almonds excite my sweet taste buds since I mostly use almonds in desserts. But this a savory recipe, a nice change. Spread it on bread slices and if you like drizzle with a flavored oil. This baked almond feta makes for a lovely and different kind of  snack.

Ξ Baked Almond Feta Ξ

1 1/2 cup ground almonds (I used whole almonds and processed, it was a coarser texture )
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Place everything in a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. It may take a few minutes.

Line a small bowl with 3 layers of cheesecloth and spoon the mixture into the cheesecloth. Bring all the sides of the cheesecloth together and tie into a ball with kitchen rope or a rubber band. Place the ball in a strainer over a bowl. Leave to drain in the fridge for about 12 hours. Discard liquid, I had very little.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease a small baking dish. Unwrap the cheese from the cloth and transfer to the baking dish. You can free form it, I decided to pat mine down in the dish. Bake for about 40 minutes or until slightly golden and cracked on top and firm to the touch.