Bacon Wrapped, Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

I wanted a creative title for this post. I really did. But how do you make a title like that any more awesome than it already is? I don’t think it’s possible.

I challenge you.

So while I say I eat paleo (which I do most of the time), I also incorporate dairy in my life when I want it. I know, I know. Give me a hard time. Call me primal. Or whatever. Here’s why I do it:

I can’t eat gluten. Never. Ever. Forever.

So I can never “cheat” by eating gluten. I’d be so sick, it’s not worth it.

I can however, enjoy whole milk or cream occasionally. Or even cheese. Although, I try to limit cheese where possible, unless raw milk cheese. There are exceptions though.

These are one of those.


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I decided to make these after having some AMAZEBALLS ones at The Misfit Bar in Santa Monica. And to think we almost didn’t order them. But I thought they’d be too complicated for me. I talk a big game, but really, I’m not a creative cook. But I really wanted them. So I did some research, and came across this blog post (here!). But I didn’t have toothpicks, and 12 dates wasn’t that many, so I decided to free-for-all it. And the results were delicious. Plus, everyone has been amazed that I did this. Win-win.

So here’s how you impress people and win friends. Just go with it.

Dates have pits. In case you didn’t know. Fresh dates, that is. I’d make some really awful pun here, but truth be told…I hate puns. Legit hate them. And yep…my name is Hope. There’s irony there. Can we all move past that?

So you gots to cut the pits out. Also a great way to put the cheese in. How else are you gonna stuff them with goat cheese? To do that, just cut it open – aka slice it. Don’t cut the things in half, just cut them open enough to get the date out and put the cheese in. See image below for exhibit A.

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Here’s the deal with this recipe. I’m not gonna tell you how much to use of anything.

I know. That means it’s not really a recipe. But the thing is…I don’t know how many dates you have, or how much cheese you like, or what kind of bacon you prefer.

I bought a package of fresh dates at Trader Joe’s, a small container of goat cheese, and had a package of bacon. I used all the dates. About 1/4 of the cheese, and all the bacon.

Back on track.

Take about a spoonful, or however much cheese will fit in the dates, and put it in there you’ve taken the pits out.

Here’s a little thing I learned – more cheese is better here. I didn’t use enough cheese (in my opinion), so it was very much date-heavy. So cram that thing with goat cheese.

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I know that looks like a fair amount. It’s not. Add more.

Then, you take your bacon, and cut it in half. You probably could cut it in thirds, but I don’t know what that’s like. So halve it.

And really, you wrap it around. Make sure the “seam” of the bacon, or where it overlaps, is on the bottom of the date. So it’s resting on the seam. That way the bacon won’t uncurl itself.

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You’ll see that I used wax paper on the baking sheet. Not really necessary. I could have used foil (I was sort of following a recipe that said to use parchment paper which I never have, so I used wax paper, which I didn’t really need). But do note that again, these make kind of a mess, so use a PAN, not a sheet.

And then you cook at 450 for like…17-20 minutes. Mine took longer because I used thick cut bacon, so probably less if you use thin cut. But I only use thick cut. So there.

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And then enjoy!

I actually found these were better the next day because the bacon got crispier. I just put them in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute to reheat them, and voila!

Oh, and don’t pop these suckas in your mouth without checking the temperature. My friend burnt his mouth that way. I warned him.

On a completely unrelated note to this recipe, but still related to bacon, I just burnt a batch while typing this because I didn’t check to see if it was done and I was going to make chocolate covered bacon. So you’re welcome. Any ideas on what to do with completely burned bacon?

You’ll need (INGREDIENTS):

– Package of dates

– Package of bacon

– Goat cheese

You’ll do (INSTRUCTIONS):

1. Preheat the oven to 450

2. Cut the dates open (but not in half) to remove the pit

3. Take as much goat cheese as you want (stuff the sucka full!) and put it in side the date. Squeeze slightly closed

4. Cut bacon in half and wrap each date with a half a piece of bacon

5. Place date with bacon seam down on a baking PAN (with foil, waxed paper, naked, whatever you want)

6. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, cook anywhere from 15-20 minutes

7. You’ll know it’s done when the bacon looks done

8. Remove from pan so it’s not continually soaking in the bacon grease, and let cool enough so you don’t burn your mouth

9. Enjoy!

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Chicken Legs, Drumsticks, Whatever Recipe

I’m very much of a “show me how to do it” person. I’m without a doubt, a Kinesthetic Learner. That applies to everything from math to hair to recipes. And because I learn by doing, I probably won’t be including the meat crust quiche that is currently in the oven (but you can get the recipe here!) That’s mainly due to my inability to read through a recipe beyond the first step to know that I should have diced the veggies before putting the butter on the stove with the garlic to melt thus meaning I had to cut like a mad woman. No worries – all fingers are still attached.

However, as promised, albeit it a late delivered promise, I do have the recipe for the chicken legs. Or drumsticks. Or whatever you call them. Just call them delicious for ease sake.

It feels silly posting it because it is SO easy, but I’ve had 3 people, multiple times, ask since that photo, so I am now providing it to the masses. With step-by-step photos! The learner in me is pleased.

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Okay so first. Chicken delicious…this is important. I got the small ones from Whole Foods because you know, they sell happy chickens who get killed. That’s your best bet with this recipe. I tried it this weekend with the huge chicken delicious from Tyson who clearly sells the unhappy chickens who get killed. Major difference. The first time, the delicious were cooked to perfection with ultra crispy outsides. The unhappy chickens weren’t as crispy but the outsides were getting slightly burned. It may be because I used more fat. But anyway, doesn’t eating happy chickens mean you’re happier too? I digress.

Preheat your oven to 475. Yep. That’s not a mistype. You want it hot. Like HOT HOT HOT. That helps the outsides get crispy while the insides still say moist. My friend, Maia, says something like because they’re already fatty that helps them stay moist. I know nothing of those such details, but I trust her. She knows her stuff.

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You’re gonna need some fat for these bad boys. I used butter because I had it. But bacon fat (OMG YUM!) or coconut oil (I was out…bummer) would work equally well. But it needs to be in liquid form. So melt your fat. No weight loss pun, intended. I used 3/4 a stick of butter for 6 delicious. Using delicious as a noun is killing the grammar queen in me. But then..go WILD. Seriously. With your spices. I used salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano, but it’s totally up to you. These are your chicken delicious. What flavors do you want?

Anyway…put that all in a bowl and use your hands to mix it up. Oh…you thought you wouldn’t get dirty in the process? Clearly you missed the part above about me being a hands-on learner. That’s what kinesthetic means.

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The goop won’t stay in true liquid form so it’ll become thicker goop. That’s okay. Just make sure your delicious have it on them.

Put it in the oven.

Oh…this is also VERY IMPORTANT. You must use a baking PAN for this. Not a baking sheet. You knew that…right? The goop will melt and will get everywhere if you don’t use a pan. But you probably already knew that. Just double checking.

So there aren’t photos for these next steps because yawn…who wants a photo of a timer. But you cook these for roughly 40 minutes. And you need to flip them every 10 minutes to make sure each side is getting equal treatment.

AND THE SMOKE. So apparently things start smoking over 400 degrees (thanks Maia!). And by things, I’m pretty sure fat or oil. Yeah…didn’t know that. My entire apartment was a haze of smoke. It burned my eyes every time I opened the oven to flip the delicious. I thought about pulling out my swim goggles. I don’t have a remedy for these…except open windows or doors. But maybe wait until it’s not 10 degrees outside to make these.

When the skin starts to come off the delicious and just in general look brown and crispy, you’ll know they’re done. The happy chicken delicious took about 38 minutes. The unhappy chicken delicious, I probably should have left in for about 3 more minutes, but took out after 40.

And the result?

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You’ll have to trust me. They’re super crispy. Since I essentially only use my phone for my photos because I’ve long given up my dream at being anything more than a sometimes amateur food blogger, it doesn’t show the amazingness.

BUT.

These may be the most delicious things I’ve ever made.

And I’ve made a lot of things.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat all of them in one sitting, and I am still unsure of how to reheat them to make them crispy again. Any recos on that?

Okay…so the formal recipe?

You’ll need (INGREDIENTS):

– Package of 5-6 Chicken legs, drumsticks, delicious

– Some type of fat (again, I used 3/4 stick of butter…but whatever coats the delicious)

– Salt

– Pepper

– Your choice of spices – I used garlic powder and oregano, but I’m sure basil, lemon salt, paprika, anything your heart desires would be delicious

You’ll do (INSTRUCTIONS):

1. Preheat oven to 475

2. Melt fat down to liquid

3. Put chicken whatevers with liquid fat, salt, pepper and spices in a bowl and mix

4. Place chicken whatevers on baking pan spread so they’re not touching. Make sure the thickened fat/spices that remains in the bowl gets put on each delicious

5. Open all windows/doors and take out smoke alarm batteries

6. Cook chicken whatevers for 40ish minutes flipping every 10 minutes

7. They’re done when the skin looks brown, crispy and is pulling away from the meat

8. Eat as soon as they’ve cooled down enough to do so.

Julia Child is rolling over in her grave with my instructions.

Oh and that quiche? Here’s a picture of the final product.

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Cookies.

I got in a tiff with food this morning. I was minding my own business, going through my typical morning routine of getting breakfast ready and sitting down to watch some TV while I ate. This morning, I stepped away from my typical smoothie and instead opted to have some bacon that I had made a few days before. Apparently my digestive system and the bacon didn’t feel like getting along because from swallowing for about 30 more minutes, I was in pain. Kind of like when you don’t chew a piece of bread all the way and the edge scraps down your esophagus, like that. Except worse.

So I decided that I was over breakfast.

While I was not eating breakfast, I decided to check my Google Reader, and stumbled upon this recipe. Done.

I’ll save you my thought process, but basically it went something like – looks delicious, soft food that my esophagus might tolerate, paleo, grain free, what what?? So of course I had to instantly make them. Or like 2 hours later. Same difference.

I copied that recipe verbatim, so just go check it out and make it that way.

They are absolutely delicious. Gooey, soft, flavorful, gobble worthy. I even tested them on a few co-workers and they couldn’t believe they’re dairy, grain and refined-sugar free. And my digestive system tolerated them. I’d call that a win-win.

One of my friends did point out that it would make an excellent cookie crust because it is so gooey. So just wait…maybe I’ll actually get back into baking again. But don’t hold your breath. Although my mind is already spinning with delicious cookie crust cheesecakes/cakes/ice cream ideas. Paleo ice cream with pieces of this in it? That might really be the true definition of food porn.

She didn’t note this in the recipe, but to make it paleo, make sure you use raw almond butter, not the regular roasted stuff because that has sugar in it. And if you don’t like almonds (what’s wrong with you??), I’m sure it could work with peanut butter (making it not paleo), cashew, walnut or macadamia butter. It really only yields 15ish cookies, so it’s not the most cost effective recipe with the ingredients, but like I care in this moment. I’ll care when I check my bank account later, but now, psh.

This recipe also only takes approximately 5 minutes to make. And that’s an exaggeration – I could make this in 2 if you made me. It takes longer for the oven to heat up. So what’s your excuse?

The Pain

As I write my posts, I hope that most of you can’t relate.  Ideally, I would hope that food would be a friend for all of you.  But as I know that’s not the case, I hope at least for most of you, food and you are on first name, got each other on speed dial, basis.

Until today, I thought I was getting back to that status.  In fact, last week, I was telling someone I hadn’t had a stomach issue since October.  Well my friends, that streak has ended.

I must have eaten something in the salad I made at Whole Foods that had gluten in it because I’m paying for it today.  I tweeted this once – but if I’m going to eat something with gluten, I’d so much rather know and enjoy it than not know and pay for it later without any knowledge.

The cycle of food allergies goes something like this (for me at least – I can’t say it’s true for everyone):

– eat something bad

– feel a little weird later a few hours later

– very uncomfortable/painful stomach gurglings towards the end of the day

– feel decent the next morning

– about two hours after waking, it starts to hit

– lots and lots of stomach issues

– body shuts down

– lots of stomach noises (like can hear across the room gurgles)

– exhaustion

This is when I don’t think people can relate.  Stomach issues – yeah, everyone has those once in awhile.  It’s the body shutting down.  About 8-24 hours after eating gluten (time depends on the amount I consumed), my body just legitimately begins to shut down.  My brain doesn’t form clear thoughts, it’s almost impossible for me to keep my eyes open, I’m so groggy all I want is bed, but my stomach is so messed up, that’s not an option.

So anyway, I did something kind of radical today because I was so annoyed.  I’m still unsure if I had gluten or some form of dairy that bothered me (dairy – our love/hate relationship is getting old).  But I told my mom I really really really really wanted frozen yogurt, and she said “why not?”

Done.  I haven’t had any form of ice cream/frozen yogurt/my favorite obsession since October.  And since I already felt so sick, I figured it couldn’t get a whole lot worse.  BUT, I decided to get Lactaid and take that, just to see if it helped.

I forgot how much I love ice cream (okay fro yo, but technicality).  So much so, that I got a second helping.  But, just as an FYI – read food nutrition facts before you go because at least half the flavors Orange Leaf had, had gluten (not limited to Chocolate Brownie, Birthday Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Peanut Butter, etc.)  I took a Lactaid after my first bite, as instructed, and after about 5 more bites, I took another one just in case.  After we finished, we sat and talked for close to two hours – and guess what.  I feel fine.  I feel better than before I had it.

So I will now always carry Lactaid with me.  I probably won’t take it every time I have dairy, but anytime my stomach is already slightly on the fritz, I will.  Or any dairy heavy meal.

So those cheese lovers out there, of who cheese will not call you back (or is a stalker), try Lactaid.  Makes life slightly more bearable.

And as for ice cream and myself?  We had a fun run tonight, but for my health, I’m giving it up again.  It’s my achilles heel food, and I don’t want to abuse my body anymore than I have.

Starch Pounding

As I’ve given up gluten, I’ve realized my food cravings has changed.  I know I mentioned this in a previous entry where I talked about craving more fruits.  However, with the weather changing, all I want are starches.  Chili filled with beans, potatoes, gluten free pizza, sweet potatoes – I want it all.  And although I don’t give into every craving for these things, I’m realizing that I am eating significantly more of these things.

Part of it is is that it’s easy.  If I’m in a hurry, forgot my lunch, or don’t have time to fix dinner between evening plans, they’re the very few things I can eat from fast food restaurants.  I have come to love Wendy’s Pick 2.  I can get a small Baja salad (which is gluten free) with a baked potato.  But – because the Baja salad comes with no meat on it, they give you chili to put on top.  So essentially, I get a side salad, a baked potato and a bowl of chili for $4.99.  Typically I only eat the salad and chili and save the potato for later.  But what a deal!

And in regards to eating starches, I’m trying to load up before I start a cleanse later this week.  I’m meeting with the doctor about it Wednesday, but essentially, I’ll only be eating meats, fruits and vegetables to get rid of everything my body has trouble digesting.  After about 6 weeks, I’ll start reintroducing foods into my diet to see how I react.  I already know I can’t eat gluten, but I’m interested to see how I react to other foods – such as lactose.

I do have a recipe for you today, but unfortunately, I failed at taking any pictures.  I’ve had a neck/shoulder kink since Friday that has gotten exponentially worse.  I had to leave work to go see the chiropractor and get the massage therapist to work on it.  It felt better, but by the end of the day I was back to having fairly excruciating pain.  So I was so focused on just getting this recipe done that I didn’t think to snap any photos.

While in pain at work today, I tried to think of comfort foods that I could make with what I had in my kitchen.  Since I’m not buying groceries in preparation of my cleanse, that makes it exponentially more difficult.  However, I remembered I had sweet potatoes (starch!) and I had yet to make mashed sweet potatoes.  I modified the recipe to reflect the 4 potatoes I had.  I also added some honey and cinnamon in addition to the maple syrup.  And if I had to do it again, I’d probably put less butter as the milk and maple syrup make the potatoes fairly creamy.  I also recommend using something sharper than my IKEA knives to cut the raw potatoes into chunks as my hand was killing me by the end of it.  But they turned out beyond delicious, and I have a huge amount of leftovers for the rest of the week.

So now I must unload the dishwasher/load it before I lay down for the evening to rest my neck/shoulders.

And one final note – I want to thank everyone for their comments, e-mails, IMs, phone calls, etc.  I know I have thanked my friends and family here (thank you!!), but I also wanted to thank the people I don’t know who read my blog and comment saying they’re going through the same issues.  Your words help me realize I’m not going through this alone, and as much as it sucks and I really just want a big hamburger with a huge bun, it’s not worth the pain it’ll put me through.  Keep your comments coming!

little blessings

“Prayers go up and blessings come down”

— Yiddish Proverb

Short post today.  For some odd reason I was craving caramel all day – something I never crave.  I’ve been wanting to make some for sometime, but I never got around to it.  So I Googled some recipes, and landed upon this one.

Thankfully I had all the ingredients as I’ve been going to the grocery store almost every day for the dishes I’ve been making.  Incredibly easy recipe to follow, although I wish I had used a slightly larger pan since it got close to boiling over.  And I only burned myself once.  Huge plus.

The dish is cooling upstairs right now, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to give you an update on taste.

And as I use caramel to bring a little brightness to my day, consider bringing brightness into the lives of others.  Even something as a small word of encouragement.

Pay it forward.

the joys of cooking

As I sit her typing watching amazing Monday TV (seriously – Monday is quickly becoming my new favorite night for television), my kitchen is smelling with the delicious scents of baked onions, sweet potatoes and thyme.

I have to thank my friend Karen for inadvertently introducing me to Gojee – a website where you type in ingredients you have or want and what you don’t like, and it gives you recipes.  And as we transition to fall, I hate the cold weather, but I love the food.  Nothing like pumpkin, sweet potato and butternut squash as forms of comfort food.  Did I mention my favorite color is orange?

So I picked a few recipes that stood out to me, went to the grocery store, and after picking up some beef stew from a family friend (thank you Mrs. Badanes!), I got started.

The first thing I decided to make was this because I’m a sucker for pumpkin and oatmeal.  I’m not sure if it will be my complete breakfast replacement, since I was turned on to adding spinach to smoothies by my mom.  I made a strawberry-banana smoothie with spinach, uncooked steel cut oats, orange juice, vanilla greek yogurt and protein powder.  Surprisingly delicious.

Anyway – back to the recipe.  Amazingly easy, and the results are delicious.  I can’t wait to try it tomorrow morning!

So I had leftover pumpkin puree and decided to make a pumpkin smoothie/ice cream of sorts.  Just blended the leftover puree, cream, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ice.  Super creamy and a mild pumpkin taste.

So while the pumpkin oatmeal baked, I decided to make this, which is currently making my kitchen smell heavenly.  I’m not sure if will be quite as amazing as the recipe since I didn’t have the right amount of cheese, and the sweet potatoes were a little old, but it sure does smell amazing.

Can’t wait to see what this looks like/tastes when it’s done!

I even had a helper in the kitchen.

I think tomorrow I may try cooking this and this.

cravings

Today was a bread bowl kinda day.  For those of you who don’t know what I mean, I’ll explain.  A bread bowl kind of day is a grey, rainy, typically chilly day where the only thing you want for dinner is a Panera bread bowl filled with some kind of delicious soup.  So today was a bread bowl today.  And man did I crave it.

For the first time since I gave up gluten, I really craved it.  Not like I want it, like that I really want it kinda craving.  So instead, I decided to roast baby potatoes.  But the idea of 30-40 minute cooking time was a little too much, so I ended up roasting a steak and onions.  And while it didn’t take away the craving, at least it reminded me of all the good food I can eat.

I’ve been getting the question of “Since you don’t have celiac, are you still going to give up gluten?”  Legitimate question.  I still haven’t fully decided on the answer, but I’ll try to explain it this way.

My stomach issues have not been solved.  I got more sick at work than I’ve been in a long time.  Not only is it annoying/painful, it’s downright embarrassing.  So I don’t think giving up gluten has solved all my issues.  However, it has taken away back pain that I had experienced for 3+ months.  Back pain that made me have a bottle of Aleve wherever I went.  And for cosmetic issues – my dark circles have gotten significantly lighter.

So – I’m planning on giving it up 90% of the time.  I’ll make exceptions for special occasions (think Thanksgiving, my father’s grilled bruschetta) and the occasional exception, but otherwise that’s it.  I haven’t figured it out or found a magic solution, but what kind of journey is it if you don’t figure it out along the way.