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Here’s a quick weeknight meal, inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s “Best Spinach Salad Ever.” 

Where can you find kosher beef bacon? Both Grow and Behold and KOL Foods carry it. Some kosher grocery stores may carry it too. Sometimes beef bacon is called “beef fry” instead of beef bacon (and may look like fatty porcine bacon or be more processed, like turkey bacon). I can’t eat the grocery store kind, at least the kind that Kosher Mart carries, it has carrageenan in it (which gives foods a thicker/creamy mouth feel but also gives me sad tummy in moderate doses).

Oh, you don’t want an rant about my food issues, you want a recipe, right? Here I am, teasing you with a messy kitchen table photo of my dinner that I started to eat before photographing it (this salad is best eaten immediately after all).

Deena's warm spinach and beef bacon salad

Deena’s warm spinach and beef bacon salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 slices BEEF BACON
  • 1-2 Tbls good olive oil, as needed
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 4 oz white button mushrooms
  • 8 ounces, clean, dry, baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. reserved BEEF BACON grease (or beef bacon fat + olive oil to reach the correct volume)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • small sprinkle of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • OPTIONAL: 3 hard boiled eggs
  • OPTIONAL: chopped cherry tomatoes (I had some from my garden)

DIRECTIONS

In a tiny bit of oil, fry the beef bacon until crispy/chewy. Set aside on a paper towel.

Remove the warm grease from the pan with a spoon, add olive oil as needed to come up to 1 and 1/2 tablespoons, and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the warm skillet and return to medium heat.

Slice red onions very thinly, add to skillet. Slowly cook the onions until they’re caramelized and reduced. Set aside on a plate.

Slice mushrooms and add to the same skillet. Slowly cook the mushrooms until they’re caramelized and reduced. Set aside with the onions.

Chop up beef bacon into little nibbles.

OPTIONAL: Peel and slice eggs.

Make hot beef bacon dressing! Add the 1 1/2 set aside bacon grease/oil, vinegar, honey, and Dijon to the skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk to combine and heat through.

Place spinach in a large bowl. Add onions, mushrooms, and beef bacon on top. Pour hot dressing over everything; toss to combine.

Top with optional eggs and/or tomatoes and serve immediately. Serve with focaccia or other fresh bread.

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Sorry I’ve been quiet on the blog-o-sphere for so long. Busy + happy = no time to mope around and blog. Ben and I have been doing a lot of local exploring lately with friends, which means I’m shy about bringing my camera along and then using it when I do bring it and posts without photos are just dull.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let any remaining readers know that I haven’t abandoned you, I’ve just been busy. Also, I’m tired and cranky today and that seems to be my trigger to blog!

Why am I tired and cranky? The fire alarm in our apartment building went off THREE TIMES yesterday. Once at 3:30 PM (no big deal, we went for a walk). Then again at 11:10 PM (thankfully we were running late with the whole bed time thing and hadn’t gotten in the shower yet, though normally one of us would be all clean and brushing their teeth while the other showered right then. Than again at 12:45 AM this morning. BLECH! Apparently there is some sort of pressure issue with the sprinkler system in the parking deck next to/attached to our building (not the first time this has happened) and it was so drastic that it set off the alarm for the apartment building too!

What I’m wondering is that there are over 100 units in our building, most of which are 2 bedrooms, where were all those people!? There were about 40 people milling around outside the building for the afternoon alarm, then maybe 20 for the 11:10 PM alarm, and then only about a dozen people milling around the front door for the 12:45 AM alarm. Did people sleep through it? HOW!? Did they stay inside? WHY?! What kind of person ignores a fucking fire alarm and stays inside? I knew there was a 99% chance of it being a false alarm, but I still put on a coat, boots, hat, mittens, and grabbed my nook HD (it’s an awesome little Android tablet I bought myself for hannukah with leftover birthday money), cell phone, and purse each time. If I’d actually smelled smoke I may have made the stupid choice to grab a few choice items (change of clothes, meds, laptop, ketubah, jewelry, and viola). But the hallway was cool, smelled like curry (not usual in our building), and no one seemed panicked.

I suppose I can save this post from being whine-fest 2014 by summing up some of the awesome things we’ve done over the past few months, you can see why I say we’ve been busy:

  • Ben was on partial leave due to the shutdown (only allowed to work 5 hours/week “to preserve property”)
  • Becca came to visit from Calgary! They went and did touristy things and made me some awesome dinners while I continued to adjust to my new job
  • Visited the Maryland Renaissance Festival, where we met up with some friends to see an organ recital in the woods
  • Attended a CU alumni event focusing on the NASA/CU collaboration on MAVEN
  • Saw CAVALIA at the National Harbor with my dad and got a VIP tour of the stables after the show
  • Hosted a cooking party where we cooked fondue bread pudding in a pumpkin with vegan “bacon,” yum!

baked pumpkin

  • Visited the White House for the Fall Garden Tour (post forthcoming)
  • attended the National Kidney Foundation masquerade gala (sans masks, but with peacock feathers!)

Kidney Foundation Gala photo

  • watched a rocket launch from Wallops Island Spaceport from the roof of our apartment building
  • Cooked a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast (served with a side of turkey, for those who wanted it) at my parents house for my dad, my brothers, and a friend of ours
  • Went shopping for some very specific good deals on Black Friday, then stopped by my parents house to eat leftovers for lunch and finish my shopping online (new carry-on suitcases, nook HD and cover, etc.)
  • Hosted a friend for Shabbat Thanksgiving to help sooth her nerves before arguing before the Supreme Court
  • Attended a last-night-of-Hannukah holiday potluck (yum!)
  • Attended and helped deep fried a kosher turkey at “Friendsgivikkah” pot-luck feast
  • Attended my office holiday party and Secret Santa gift swap at a nice steak restaurant downtown (we each had a beautiful, huge, salmon steak)
  • Went out for pre-Christmas Dim Sum and a movie [the Hobbit, part 2 of 3] with my family (even Gramma came!)
  • Attended Ben’s uncle and family’s holiday party
  • Spent a whole day visiting the Newseum
  • Attended a potluck New Years Eve party at a friend’s apartment building’s party room downtown
  • Spent a whole day cooking party with Andrea and company preparing a Turcchetta with a sues-vide machine and then deep frying it and serving it with other modern-American Thanksgiving fare
  • Had pizza with an old friend and her family in McLean and then went to see the Capitol Steps show at the community center

What else…. My weight loss goal is going SLOOWLY, but mostly steadily down. It’s frustrating when you keep weighing in at -0.4 lbs per week, but then I realize that that adds up to almost -2 lbs/month, and that .4 lbs is just shy of two sticks of butter (eww!). Slow and steady supposedly stays off more easily and more permanently than binge dieting, but sometimes I just want to fool the scale and be done with all this meticulous attention to my food intake and exercise-earned flex points allowance. Re-learning proper portion and teaching myself to have self control and around tasty foods is HARD. F’ing cookies, salt water taffy, home made caramels, and other holiday treats. I’m just grateful that I’m allergic to most traditional treats (no nuts, peanuts, chocolate, or berries, plus lots of other things too). My allergies are a good reason not to try something and great and easy excuse as to why I’m not eating something at parties. SELTZER WATER IS MY FRIEND, but then I have to occasional be seen with an alcoholic beverage or folks start to stare and my mid-section (which is still kinda plumpy, but not in a baby-filled way, just a food-baby way).

Please remind me to post about the White House tour if I forget by the end of the week!

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In case you missed my Avocado Pie Fail, you can read a summery of it here: http://www.pinterestfail.com/2013/09/18/fail-avocado-pie/

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Let me start by saying that this pie was DELICIOUS! It also looks like Slimer from the Ghostbusters cartoon. I’d say it also qualifies as a FAIL inspired by Pintrest.

Almost every week one of my favorite bogs, Serious Eats, has a Share Your Sweets photo roundup. This weekend’s challenge was “summer pie.” I had just bought a bag of HUGE, Costco-sized avocados (from Costco) and decided that since I’d purchased them in August they were a summer fruit and therefor I would look for a recipe for avocado pie (also because I realized WTF am I going to do with 7 huge avocados when they all ripen within 24 hours of each other?!). This seemed like a good plan to use up the smallest two (AKA normal sized) avocados.

Here were my inspirations:

Pinch My Salt’s seemingly simple avocado pie, as modified by chez us.

Yeah. Mistakes I made:

  1. We didn’t have any sweetened condensed milk, so I googled how to sub evaporated milk and sugar (hint, it’s 3/4 cup of sugar for every 5 oz of evaporated milk, I eyeballed 1 1/3 cups of sugar into 12 oz of evaporated milk to “keep the sugar content down”). You have to heat the mixture to combine the sugar and then cool it completely before using it, mine was tepid. FAIL ONE.
  2. I misread 3.5 oz of lemon juice for 3.5 Tbls. FAIL 2. Plus, I used lime, but that shouldn’t have mattered as much as the missing 1.5 Tbls of juice.
  3. I tried to “bling out my pie” by slicing a small avocado into thin slices and fanning them in the crust before pouring in the goop. FAIL 3. SPLORT!

Oh, you want to see how mine came out? Sure, OK:

VERDICT: I will try it again with the right ingredients, without sliced avocado, and without the meringue topping and maybe just a dollop of plain yogurt or unsweetened whipped cream. Even with the slightly reduced sugar it was a seriously SWEET dessert. I remember sweetened condensed milk as a more mellow sweet, kinda caramel-y, rather than the assertive WHITE SUGAR sweet that I got from the glop I made. With so many possible easy fixes, how can I not try to make this again in the future?

avocado lime pie

avocado lime pie “glamor shot”

I know I’m not going to win any food photography contests any tim soon, but I really did want to try with this! Look, I had props and everything! I was going to cut open the avocado and display the 1/2 with the pit, but decided against “wasting” good fruit on such a deliciously sloppy pie.

FINAL LATE NIGHT THOUGHT: If I rename this Slimer Pie, would that make it better?

NUTRITIONAL INFO: I don’t want to know. I guessed 7 WW PointsPlus per 1/8th. It might be closer to 11. Like I said, I don’t want to know. I ate my slice 90 minutes ago and now I have a slight sugar hangover.

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Colca Cañon Quinoa Soup

For a yummy KOSHER soup recipe, please click on, visit, like, save, etc. my Colca Cañon Quinoa Soup recipe on Food52.com. If you all like, save, click on read my recipe enough times over there in the next 2 days, maybe I’ll win some swag from Bob’s Red Mill (a company I’d love to support more, if their products weren’t so out of my price range).

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What happens when you’re bored in the summer and a former Michgander who is SUPER excited by gorgeous, late season cherries in the grocery store? POPSICLES!

See that photo below, those beautiful cherries are are almost as big as the lime in the background! Yum. This popsicle tasted a lot like store-bought cherry yogurt but less sweet and with a little extra tang from the lime soaked into the cherries. Mmm.

CHERRY LIME YOGURT POPSICLEScherry lime popsicle

  • 1 cup of cherries, pits removed and chopped into bits
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • 1 Tbl lime juice
  • 7 oz Fage 0% yogurt (one single serving package)
  1. Chop up your cherries (I cut them into 8ths), removing the pits as you go (if you don’t have a cherry pitter).
  2. In a bowl, macerate the cherries in the sugar and lime juice for at least 30 minutes, but no more than an hour.
  3. Combine the yogurt with the soupy cherry mixture.
  4. Spoon the mixture into your favorite popsicle molds, using a chopstick to knock out as many bubbles as possible, insert popsicle sticks or the handles that go with your mold before freezing.
  5. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.
  6. To remove your popsicles from the mold, place the mold in a glass of room temperature water for about 3 minutes to soften the edges and make it easier to remove the popsicle from the mold.

Nutritional Info: 3-4 servings, depending on your popsicle mold size. 1 WW PointsPlus each.

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This is one of my go-to meals for when I realize it’s after 6PM and there’s nothing to eat for dinner yet. Yes, it’s a pasta dish but it’s also 1/2 good stuff too! Carbs get a bad wrap from some folks, but I don’t care because I know that I’m one grumpy chica if there’s nothing in my tummy but veggies and protein; carbs are what make me feel well fed in a way that other foods don’t.

To me, carbs are rice (brown over white), pasta (depends on the sauce, but regular and whole wheat both have their place), bead, corn, and potatoes. Seriously, it’s not a meal to me if none of those things is present. I was NOT a happy camper during phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. Also, it is expensive to fill up on non-starchy foods. Per serving grains and starchy foods are relatively cheap compared to veg and protein, even organic grains and starches!

Anyway, here’s my newest recipe that is SUPER simple and only takes as long as it takes to boil water and make a box of pasta (about 30 minutes for me).

Kale Chorizo Skillet Dinner

  • 1 box (12 oz) of WHOLE WHEAT PENNE*
  • 1 box (10 oz) FROZEN CHOPPED KALE
  • 1/2 package (6-8 oz) SOY CHORIZO SAUSAGE (chopped up, if in link form)
  • 3 cloves GARLIC, sliced
  • 1 Tbl OLIVE OIL
  • 1/4 cup REDUCED-FAT COLBY JACK CHEESE, shredded
  • bonus ingredients: SMOKED SALT
  1. Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil (I used a 4 qt sauce pan). You don’t want to use your largest pot because you want the water to be super starchy. Get your pasta in there as soon as it comes to a boil. Don’t forget to set a timer for the pasta according to your packaging!
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium.
  3. Defrost your kale in the microwave, give that “defrost” button a try!
  4. Sautee the garlic until golden brown, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the chorizo to the skillet, chopping it up with your spatula, keep stirring frequently.
  6. Once the chorizo is heated through (it may or may not start to brown), add the defrosted kale (drain off any water present before adding kale).
  7. Just before the pasta timer goes off, and you’ve got your colander set to drain the pasta, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the kale chorizo mixture, stir.
  8. Drain the pasta, combine in the skillet with the kale chorizo mixture.
  9. Serve topped with a sprinkle of cheese and smoked salt.

Serve immediately and goes well with your favorite rosé or cervesa/light beer!

Serves 6. 6 Weight Watchers Points+ per serving.

*Ben was the cook tonight and couldn’t find the whole wheat penne behind the regular penne in the cupboard, oops. I thought that it wasn’t as good as the last time we made it because it was a) lacking in the slight nuttiness of the whole wheat pasta and b) there is more regular pasta in a box (16 oz rather that 12-13.25) so the add-ins were more sparsely distributed. Oh well.

And while I still have your attention, I’d like to compose a mini love letter to my Cuisinart Ceramic Nonstick pans and dutch oven. After a few years of use they’re getting some nicks around the edges of the pans (either from moving or knocking around in the drying rack) but they cook so wonderfully! If you’re looking for teflon-free nonstick these are my #1 recommendation.

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