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!

Disappearing Act

I’m currently sitting in the San Jose airport waiting to fly to LA to spend the next two days working from Cali before spending the weekend with my Kwanster. But when I checked into the airport this evening on Foursquare, it told me I’d had 7 airport check-ins this month.

Sigh.

That’s where I’ve been.

I was (and still am planning on!) writing about my brother getting married, maybe Christmas and the awesomeness of the poncho I bought yesterday.

But for now, I’m tired.

So I’ll write about them. Promise. Oh. And I’ll write about seeing Rev Run. But not about how I sang It’s Tricky to him because that didn’t actually happen. But I do know every word!

And if you stick around, I’ll give you the recipe for the paleo pancakes I’ve been making at least once a week.

Sheesh. I just promised y’all a lot. Guess I have to follow through on all of this!

But for now. In case you’re ever at the San Jose airport, the chairs have plugs in the armrests. It really is the little things.

Not Quite Christmas Cookies

Tis the season of baking.

One downside of being gluten intolerant is that this is a time where I typically take a backseat. I don’t even actually really crave Christmas cookies. You know, the ones in the shapes of Christmas trees, candy canes, stars, reindeer with brightly colored icing on top. But I crave them in theory. Christmas treats of sort.


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To be really honest, I’m not a huge cookie person. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy them. But with sweets, ice cream is my weakness. Except for Christmas time. Christmas time, I want cookies.

Since my friend Maia made the cookies I posted here, I’ve been itching to make some. But this time, I was craving pumpkin flavor, so I did some investigating, and came across this recipe.

I made it as is, so I’ll let you go check it out.

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Some caveats. They weren’t as good as the recipe I posted about before. The almond flour gave it a much more grainy texture that I didn’t enjoy. Maia suggested next time, I use butter instead of the almond flour to help with that. Plus, I bought creamy almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but it still had some grit to it. So I’d make sure to get real creamy almond butter next time.

Also, I added more pumpkin spice because I love the flavor of pumpkin and want to make sure the flavor comes through.

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The next cookie recipe I have on my list is….drumroll please….these. Just look at those! Seriously!

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I’m Alive!

I’ve heard the thing about blogging is sometimes you have to write when you don’t have anything to write about. But clearly, I haven’t taken that advice until now (because I really have nothing to write, but I thought I should let everyone know I’m still alive).

My life has been fully consumed with work, so when people ask me how I’ve been, I typically have really boring responses. Until you know the right questions to ask, and then I can tell you stories for hours. But that’s neither here nor there.

So I’ve been working a lot, and under a lot of stress, but my stomach has held out! Talk about small miracles! I got blood redrawn a few weeks ago, and the tests came back normal, so now it’s a waiting game. And by that I mean, waiting to see when the pain comes back. Or until December when I’m supposed to get another test. Whichever comes first.

The biggest thing that’s going on in my life is really the preparations for Thanksgiving (that’s a stretch…it’s pretty minor…but yeah I’m struggling for content here!). Last year was technically my first year as a gluten intolerant person, but I was on my cleanse, so I wasn’t expecting to eat anything. So this is my first year trying to eat real food. And I’m not exactly sure how that’s gonna turn out. I am ordering some gluten free treats from a bakery in Chicago (thanks Jamie!), so I won’t feel totally left out. But the amazing fried biscuits are out of commission. Major downer.

On another Thanksgiving note, my friend Karen and I did our annual shopping for the Thanksgiving Food Drive with Crossroads. This year we upped the ante and got 3 boxes. That amount of food makes for a very heavy cart. I almost bit it head first when my feet went backwards and the cart refused to move forwards. But thankfully my nose and teeth are alright.

To make this very uninspired entry seem a little more inspired, I will now include photos to make my life look awesome. But don’t worry, it’s all fake.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

 

1. A Reds Championship game with father. I can’t say anything else about it. It still hurts.

2. Annual girls trip this year went to Chicago. Sandwiched between blondes, all wearing leggings.

3. Goofing around at work

4. I’m just really adding to my coolness here. Some iPad entertainment with markerstaches.

5. Halloween! Rocked the crap out of the Replacement Ref costume.

6. The girls on Halloween

7. My absolute little favorite nugget. Please note the size of my hands in relationship to her body. Man hands for sure.

8. Thanksgiving shopping. Left is Karen basting me because last year I shot air straight into her eyeball with one of those things. This year she was prepared.

Singapore

And I’m back. So where was I? Oh right…back in Singapore after the bathtub adventures of Thailand.

So Singapore is hot. And humid. People always seem surprised when they ask me how the trip is and I respond hot. Remember people…I didn’t wear makeup this entire trip. Nothing. I had moisturizer with sunscreen on but I don’t think that counts. And there wasn’t a point because I would have literally just sweat it off and I didn’t feel like looking like a raccoon while on my explorations.

The first day back, it happened to be overcast with a breeze so Luke and I explored all over the city. I got to see two coffee shops he’s worked with on his Be Disloyal card, do some more shopping, and see what all the hype about chicken rice was.

 

I spent most of the time in Chinatown looking for a good Dragon token to bring back since it’s the year of the Dragon and I happen to be one, but I never found one I loved.

We walked down Orchard Road which is the Rodeo Drive of Singapore – except a little more approachable. I found the most amazing flats at Tory Burch but of course they were out of my size (but seriously…how does that happen. I have freakishly large feet so I’m not exactly sure how they ran out? Anyway, rude.). So of course we went on an exploration to find if the only other store on Orchard had them which led me to be able to introduce my brother to the world of Louboutin, Alexander McQueen and Lanvin. He actually managed incredibly well. And that store did not have my Fox flats – and they’re unavailable online, but you can check them out here.

The next day involved more shopping and exploring Arab Street. And me getting reflexology. I spent the previous night researching where to find it, but I actually stumbled upon a place after getting bubble tea while Luke studied for the GRE. By the way, mini bubbles or pearls are deadly and never get them. You may choke.

Anyway, reflexology is no joke. Unfortunately the lady that did it, didn’t speak much English, so she couldn’t tell me exactly why the area she was pushing on on my foot made me wanna cry, but she did tell me I needed to drink more water. Which was ironic because in non vacation life, I drink a lot of water. But I was worried about not finding a bathroom on our explorations so I had drastically cut my intake. Apparently she could tell.

The evening ended with me eating Pepper Crab. For those who don’t know me well, I don’t like seafood. In fact, I can’t stand it. I’ve tried it in every capacity – all types, all styles, but just can’t do it. I know…it’s a personal failure. So when I was told we were going to Chili Crab, I was a little skeptical (okay, mainly I was thinking that I hoped they had chicken on the menu).

While I didn’t LOVE it, it wasn’t bad. I ate a few legs and managed to make a mess in the process. But apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do.

 

I had a full final day in Singapore as I didn’t need to leave for the airport until 11pm. Luke and I went to go see Row at her office (she works at Google) and reap the perks of the free lunch. She also has a killer view of the harbor. She then went with us to get what would be my final bubble tea experience. That happened to be at the mall that was the Rodeo Drive of malls…or I guess the Orchard Road of malls.

Here’s where it gets cool. My brother has a mustache as I’m sure you’ve seen from the photos and the Singapore division of Esquire Magazine wants to bring awareness to Movember (No Shave November) which brings awareness for Prostate cancer. So they asked my brother to be part of a photo shoot to be included in their magazine!! Let me say this in the most laymen words possible…my brother is going to be in Esquire Singapore. My brother is cooler than yours.

So they asked him for his suit measurements which my brother didn’t happen to know, so he asked me for my help. So I took him to Prada. Hey…if you’re gonna get sized for a suit, might as well get sized for an expensive suit. Ridiculously fun.

 

 

On the high of pretending like we belonged in Prada, we did the one thing I put on my request list for Singapore…Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands is a hotel/casino that was built by investors from Vegas. But the reason I wanted to go to it was for the view. You can pay to go to the second highest level OR you can do what the smart people do (ie. us) and go to KU DÉ TA, a club at night, but a bar during the day. It’s also on the highest level of the place.

 

Luke and I got champagne sangria in the afternoon, and just talked. He moved out when I was in 8th grade, so we haven’t spent a lot of time together as adults. Thankfully, not only were we able to do it on this trip, but we didn’t have any sibling spats.

That evening, Luke, Row and I went to get pig feeler soup (sorry..didn’t take any photos of that) and saw major celebrations happening along the river for Moon Pie Festival. Still not sure why the celebrate Moon Pies, but they go all out for it. We also then went to what might be the coolest bar I’ve ever been to, where I may or may not have stolen 2 coasters. But as I decided it would take them longer to track me down than it would for me to get out of the country, I took the risk. If you’re ever going to Singapore, I’ll tell you about it. Otherwise, it’s a secret.

I then took the 36 hour trek back home with stops in Sri Lanka, Dubai and NYC. I’ll be happy not to see an airplane for awhile. Although I am taking a Megabus tomorrow for a girl’s weekend in Chicago. And then, a travel hiatus.

So that’s all she wrote. Except I have to share my recipe for peanut butter pumpkin cups with you soon. Because they’re delicious. And I owe you that much.

 

Dubai, Singapore and Thailand. Oh yeah.

I’m horrible at writing trip recaps. I don’t know why, but I just am. But I went on a huge trip, and you’ve requested photos. I’d also like to look back in a few weeks/months/years and remember all the greatness.

First of all…I have a recipe to share with you shortly, but it’s currently in the freezer, so I’m not quite sure how it turned out. But it involves chocolate, peanut butter AND pumpkin. What up?!

So my trip.

I won’t talk about the long flights involving screaming children, a woman stealing my blanket and feet that swelled so badly I had trouble walking to Immigration. Now that’s out of the way, I’ll talk about the fun stuff.

I had a long layover in Dubai, and had been introduced to a woman that lives there through a woman I met at a conference in Cincinnati. Amazingly, she agreed to not only pick me up from the airport and show me around the city.

As a complete side note – all photos of me on this trip will be of me not wearing makeup. I’ll discuss the reasons why later. But yep…not a stitch of makeup the entire trip.

So Robyn and Bug took me around different markets where I got coconut water, scarves and road the water taxi.

The buildings in Dubai truly are amazing. I got to look up at the world’s tallest building. Yep…it’s pretty freakin tall. The girls taught me a lot about the city and the country – apparently Dubai was crushed by the economy and there are buildings around the city that were stopped mid-construction. It’s also illegal for a man to touch a woman unwillingly (in any sense..on the arm, back, etc.), so men will pin themselves against the wall of an elevator if he’s in it alone with a woman.

I did get a lot of strange looks in the airport being the only single white woman around. And I won’t lie…I was slightly nervous waiting for the girls to pick me up. I didn’t know about the law – all I knew was I was tired so not at the most aware and also alone. But you don’t experience new things if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I must make a note about the hospitality of strangers. Bug and Robyn were beyond amazing. Aside from picking up a stranger at the airport and showing her around the city – they lent me money and bargained so I bought buy my scarves. Paid for my dinner. Let me shower at their apartment. Made me a cup of Rooibos tea (for those who don’t know, it’s a South African tea that makes me pine for the country. Like home in a cup. The girls also called me a taxi and gave me money for the ride. I am forever in debt.

From Dubai, I flew to Singapore to visit Luke and Row! I managed to catch them at potentially the most crazy time in their lives – hosting me, going to Bangkok, packing to move back to the States, and planning a wedding.

We spent the first night of my trip in Singapore with an exploration of Little India. There are going to be lots of photos of food – most of which I won’t caption. If you wanna know what’s what, feel free to ask in a comment.

Also, a important note about my eating on this trip. There was a lot of food I couldn’t eat. Especially food that I wanted to eat. Sticky buns. Oh sticky buns. And street food. But there was also a lot of food I did eat. Like rice dishes and pad thai. But in full disclosure, I was sick almost every day. I’m beyond fortunate that mainly my stomach issues got extreme at night when I was back in a more comfortable place. I never knew what was making me sick, but I would make the assumption it was often in the sauces. You do the best you can, but at the end of the day, gluten isn’t a popular discussion in Singapore or Thailand, so you take risks as to not starve.

Saturday afternoon, we flew to Bangkok (note..this was my 4th airplane) to spend a few days. Bangkok is Luke and Row’s favorite city, so it was nice to spend their last trip there with them.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the weekend market in Bangkok. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is HUGE. And I don’t use caps lightly. We were there from 9-2 and only seemed to scratch the surface of it. Everything was so cheap, but I was able to get some great shirts, amazing jewelry, and purses that I keep getting compliments on.

The next day, Luke and I went exploring. I can’t currently think of the names of these lizards Luke is obsessed with, but they’re not Komodo dragons. They are huge. And slightly scary. And they swim very strangely, not moving half of their body. I would not like to run into one in a dark alley is basically what I’m saying.

We then got some lunch and went off to explore some Buddhist templates – Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Wat Arun is made of broken pottery. It’s gorgeous. But the stairs are scary steep to climb and there aren’t handrails. I may have a slight fear of going down stairs, so we didn’t climb all the way to the top.

Wat Pho is the home of the largest reclining Buddha in the world. It’s amazing. I don’t really know how else to describe it.

We then stumbled upon a wholesale food market while looking for the flower market. It was clearly where restaurants bought their food because there were piles upon piles of ginger, buckets of onions and bags of potatoes with sacks of rice. It was fun to get a glimpse of what real life in Thailand is like.

We also need to take a moment and pause to talk about the bathtub in the hotel room I was in in Bangkok. I know I’m obsessed. Sue me. I’ve never seen such a luxurieus tub. The thing was supposed to overflow AND it was a jacuzzi. I took a bath all 4 days we were there.

I loved Thailand for a lot of reasons. Bangkok had the major hustle and bustle of a big city which felt natural to navigate. The water taxis were interesting to navigate – you were either on or off, there was no waiting for you to make up your mind. We saw people get left multiple times because they got off at the wrong stop and realized too late. But probably the real reason I loved Bangkok so much was for their beverages. Thai Ice Tea is to die for. But Bubble Tea will always have my heart. Known as Pearl Milk Tea over there, I often had it and then wasn’t hungry for another meal. But I was okay with that because I had had bubble tea. Freakin amazing.

So then we went back to Singapore (5th flight). And you know what…you’ll have to read about that later. This post is already ridiculously long. The next post will involve chicken rice, fresh pineapple juice and sick photos of Singapore. Oh, and me eating seafood.

Bon Voyage & Health Update

So tomorrow afternoon, I leave for my trip to see my brother and his fiance.

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m actually going.

Maybe because I’ve been so busy at work that I’ve forsaken my workouts, social events and cooking. Or maybe just because I’ve been anticipating this trip for so long that I can’t believe I actually just checked in for the first flight online.

This is actually the longest I’ve gone in my teenage/adult life between international trips. That sounds super pretentious…but I’ve been very fortunate to have been exposed to the world at a very young age. In high school I would go to Mexico every year on mission trips, then switched to a study abroad program in Asia when I was a sophomore in college, to South Africa junior year, to a graduation trip in Nicaragua.

Travel is my life.

This trip is going to be the first international trip I’ve taken as a gluten intolerant person. And I won’t lie…I’m kind of nervous. But my brother and his fiance are amazing and understand that there are certain things I can’t eat. I also have packed an amount of snacks that almost makes me turn my nose up at myself. Not for the time overseas, but for the travel there and back. Airports are the gfree person’s biggest nightmare. Easy to eat food (think burgers, pizza, sandwiches) don’t lend themselves to gluten free. And I refuse to do what I did on the way back from SXSW and eat frozen yogurt for dinner (not a bad dinner, but not filling for a 12 hour flight).

So I bought Larabars, Luna bars, trail mix, some gluten free chocolate covered pretzels (it is a vacation after all), and fruit based products. I feel like a mom of 3 children who constantly has food on her.

On a more serious note, I finally feel ready to talk about the health issues I’ve been battling. Mainly because there are no answers, so I don’t have a solution for you.

I’ve been having severe pain in the upper left area of my stomach that has been waking me up from sleep. In the world of digestive health, apparently anything in your stomach area that causes that much pain is a bad thing. Food became painful to eat in the sense that as soon as I ate it, it hurt. So I lost my appetite. And then I lost my energy.

I’ve had blood drawn, an ultrasound, a CT scan and a colonoscopy. The only answer they have is that there are levels in my blood that signify an infection in my intestines..but they aren’t sure where.

I share all of this with you, not for your sympathy. Far from it. After years of few answers, I’ve realized it’s easier not to talk to others about it because there aren’t answers. Answers are neat and tidy. My digestive system isn’t. Instead, I write this because I want you to feel comfortable reaching out for any “awkward” health problems you might have. My dad tried to make me feel uncomfortable the other way with the level of detail he was sharing about his health, and was shocked when I told him the details people talk to me about. And I love that.

When you’ve had every digestive test possible, you’re happy to tell people what to expect. Or at least I am.

So peace out for now. But I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from previous trips I’ve taken. Don’t miss me too much.

 

1. Getting up there was some work, but enjoying the view on the Great Wall of China

2. Technically Hawaii isn’t international, but it sure felt like it.

3. The faces. Seriously. The faces (Katie don’t kill me!)

4. My best friend, Abby and I on Senior Spring break in Mexico. She is my life.

5. Potentially my all time favorite photo. Taken in South Africa, it portrays all of my girls for exactly who we are.

6. In South Africa, the monkeys attack.

7. Just falling off Table Mountain.

8. My ultimate dream come true. I live for African elephants. Gentle giants who are smarter than any human.

9. There is no editing to this photo. Nicaragua really is that gorgeous.

10. Karen became an honorary Norman for this trip

11. I will never.ever.seriously ever. go zip lining again in my life. Clearly this photo was taken before.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

(photo credit here)

I LOVE my birthday. Love Love Love Love Love! Did I say I love it? It is the one day I’m truly allowed to be as selfish as possible because the day is about me! Hey..if it wasn’t for August 9, I wouldn’t be here (okay I guess my parents played a minor role as well…).

But as much as I love my birthday, this birthday is actually for my blog. It’s a year old. Holy cannoli! Apparently in the world of blogging, you’re supposed to celebrate such momentous occasions. That celebration means I’m blogging.

So a year old, and only sort of kind of wiser.

My best friend, Jill got inducted into our high school’s Hall of Fame last night for her phenomenal tennis career and I was one of the lucky people she invited. And they served dinner. BBQ. I LOVE BBQ (I think I may be guilty of overusing the world “love”). What I don’t love? Malt Vinegar in BBQ sauce.

A year ago, I would have eaten that and gotten violently ill.

Today, I know better and brought my own food. And I got to celebrate with her. How lucky am I?!

So I’m still occasionally a pain to eat with, but guess what? I’m awesome (so it’s worth it), but I’m also blessed that those closest to me put up with my constant food questions at restaurants and having a waiter leave just as you’re about to order to check on if something has gluten in it.

The past year has been a whirlwind of switching jobs, lots of ingredient label reading, planned and unexpected trips to visit my friends, four medical tests in a month, losing a significant amount of weight, becoming a runner (woot woot!), getting bionic hearing, breaking records and finding my own voice. For the person that is the first to compromise, this has been the hardest part because I’ve had to learn not to compromise my health. And thankfully, that’s slowly seeping into other aspects of my life.

So..raise a glass (preferably champagne) and cheers to many more years.

It’s bad luck if you don’t drink to a cheers.