day 24: sugar, spice + everything nice, well bacon at least

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. Everything is better with bacon. So how on earth could one possibly perfect the already perfected?

You see, I think bacon is like a really wonderful makeup palette (gents, stay with me). A natural beauty with just the right combination of makeup can make you weak in the knees, by merely glancing in your general direction (you know it’s true).

So next time you want your Bloody Mary to truly shine or you’re thinking of a good ole’ fashioned BLT, do yourself a favor and dress it up a bit.

*Though the bacon was delicious and did receive a photo shoot, I found it to be best to simply show ingredients (you try shooting bacon – it’s hard)!

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

What you’ll need:

  • 12 pieces of thick sliced bacon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of course ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cayenne pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat to 350 degrees
  2. Layer cookie sheet with bacon (ungreased and in a single layer)
  3. Meanwhile combine the brown sugar, cayenne and pepper
  4. Cook for 12 minutes, then flip the bacon
  5. Coat with the mixture on the uncooked side and return to the oven
  6. Cook another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes (if you don’t, you’ll burn your lips like I did).
  7. Enjoy!
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day 10: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … punchy pimento cheese

In keeping with yesterday’s theme of using what you’ve got on hand (and at the request of a follower here at akitchensomewhere.com), I dove into the depths of the snack drawer to see what other concoctions I could muster without a trip to the grocery. Pimento cheese it is!

Now as I understand it, this may be a completely Southern standard. But, as I believe … it should be anyone’s standard. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of takes on the classic, all of which I’m sure are someone’s favorite. However, there are a few ingredients that I simply have to object to no matter the recipe – cottage cheese, store bought shredded cheese, Velveeta (it has it’s place, this is not it) and olives or frozen vegetable add ins (gross) are a few. To the contrary, a few others are indicative of a delightful taste bud treat – sharp cheddar, a splash of vinegar and a bit of spicy specifically.

Let’s concoct, shall we?

Punchy Pimento Cheese

Punchy Pimento Cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of cheese! ( I used about a cup of Vermont Seriously Sharp White Cheddar & about a cup of extra sharp cheddar)
  • 1 small can of diced pimentos, drained (you’ll find these in the canned vegetable section. If you can’t find them diced roasted red peppers will do just fine.)
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of quality olive oil mayo or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp of vinegar (apple cider, white balsamic, red wine – whatever you’ve got on hand)
  • 1 healthy dose (about a tsp) of hot sauce of your choice (I used sriracha because it’s the best thing ever)
  • a pinch of cayenne

What you’ll do:

  1. Shred your cheese. Please do not try to use that pre-shredded mess in the bag, it does no one justice.
  2. Combine all ingredients
  3. Serve it up on a sandwich, with celery sticks, pretzel thins, bagels, burgers, out of the bowl, or whatever else floats your fancy
  4. Enjoy!

day 4: what’s evil & beautiful … beet pickled deviled eggs (duh)!

Sometimes, things are simply not as they seem. There are things that are seemingly easy which turn out to be difficult. Others that are indeed a beast in the initial phase, but common in the execution. I suppose that would be life.

I won’t lie, I’m exhausted today. I had a game plan that failed to execute properly. I mapped the seconds to minutes and hours to no avail. Excuses? Nada … Still trucking along. Slowly and heavily caffeinated, but I’m moving!

The whole point of this insane challenge is to prove that – when you THINK you’ve got no more to give, when you THINK you have nothing you are wrong. Dead wrong. There’s always a half miracle in your pocket (you just forget you’re wearing jeans today).

Remember those beet pickle you gloriously whipped up yesterday (and I told you to save the brine)? Hello! I have plans for you … yes, you!

Beet pickled deviled eggs!

Don’t even bother attempting to have just one

What you’ll need:

  • Half a dozen of boiled and peeled eggs
  • The brine from yesterday’s pickling
  • 1.5 heaping tsp of mayo (quality – I use the olive oil mayo always)
  • a little bit of prepared dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 dashes of your favorite hot sauce (I used Louisiana)

What you’ll do:

  1. Place prepared eggs in the remaining brine to cover (a ziploc bag works beautifully)
  2. Walk away from eggs for a minimum of 8 hours
  3. Cut eggs in perfect halves and remove yolks. Do not discard. Rather, place in a bowl you can work with.
  4. Combine all ingredients (eggs, mayo, dijon, salt, pepper, and hot sauce) with yolks and whip into smoothness.
  5. Place whipped mixture into a ziploc with cut end or pastry bag
  6. Squeeze fair amount of mixture into each halve of egg and place into serving dish (don’t have one? use dried beans on a plate to secure the prepared deviled eggs)
  7. Garnish with one or any combination of these: fresh jalapeno slices, Italian parsley sprigs, fresh chives, or anything green!
  8. Enjoy! Seriously, ENJOY!

day 3: beet, beet, sugar beet … sugar beet, beet, beet (pickle)!

The holiday season brings all sorts of traditions out in full affect. Things that we forget about every other day throughout the entire year. Then, like clockwork, the smells and memories come flooding back like a typhoon. Today is no different. Amidst the ornaments, pine needles, and holiday cards from days of old there’s the memory of my grandmother’s beet pickle.

I remember going away to college, being far away from my loved ones and friends, all the while thinking of her kitchen. Her infamous back room lined with the fruits of the season in those ever-so familiar mason jars. Green beans, apples, chow-chow (southern relish for everything) and my FAVORITE pickled beets.

As we age, it’s our responsibility to carry on these moments to the next crew of folks … be it kids, in-laws, extended family, friends who are your family and beyond. So, when my mother and my aunt took the time to learn to make these delicious pantry treats … well, let’s simply say I jumped on the opportunity to learn on my own. I’m sharing with you today. *Please remember this gracious gift when you’re out shopping and someone steals your parking spot.

And for you 80’s kids, with your throwbacks … ah, the memories!

Gran's Beet Pickle courtesy of Mom

Gran’s Beet Pickle courtesy of Mom

What you’ll need:

  • 2 bunches of fresh beets (6 medium sized)
  • latex disposable gloves (beets stain EVERYTHING – don’t try to cheat on this one)
  • 2 cups of quality apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves (one for each jar)
  • 2 wide mouth mason jars

What you’ll do:

  1. Put on gloves
  2. Peel and rinse beets
  3. Cut beets into halves then into 1/4 inch slices
  4. Bring all ingredients to rapid boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to continue gently boiling until beets are slightly tender.
  5. Transfer beets into jars and cover with brine (pickling liquid – and yes, you’ll have extra. Save it, we’re using it tomorrow).
  6. Seal ’em up! And allow to cool to room temperature. This will preserve the pickle.
  7. Thank my mother for sharing her altered version of my grandmother’s recipe profusely
  8. Enjoy!

*Note: Pickled beets are delicious on salads, in the company of charcuterie platters, a side for your simple country ham sandwiches, by themselves or with slow cooked beans!

**Further note: The brine described about is a wonderful way to pickle just about ANYTHING (don’t forget, I’m a Southern gal).