Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Mac N Cheese Casserole

Ok, it's been a while.  Sorry about that.  Now, on to the deliciousness.
Pumpkin Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese
Hello my yummy friend.  You are even better with broccoli mixed in, then I can say I'm doubling down on the veggies for my family!  (Picture from Rachel Ray's Official Website)

I haven't always loved pumpkin. Until recently, pumpkin and I held a grudging agreement-- I respect that it probably in the top three definitive symbols that Autumn has really arrived, and it agreed to stay out of my food.  Certainly out of my pie.

But then one day it snuck itself into my bread.  Then into my mocha latte at the local coffee shop.  Then last year our CSA gave us something like 12 Long Island Squash, which are really pale looking pumpkins.  I couldn't just relegate them into our compost pile, so I spent many an evening post dinner roasting them, then pureeing them the following morning.

So I went on a hunt for something besides Pumpkin Bread I could make.  Not because Pumpkin Bread isn't awesome, but really, I wanted to try to use this offensive squash for a main meal, and I couldn't be talked into pumpkin soup.

And I came across this gem.  And it has become a favorite in our house.  It is SO yummy, and has had multiple variations.  Now, along with those crock pot dinners, it has become one of our Fall Favorites.

Below, you will find my most common variation, based on what we like the most, a way to trim out some of the fat, and based on what we have in the cupboard.  I'll list in parentheses other things you can use instead of the stuff I have listed.  Feel free to interpret to your heart's desire.  Also, I double down on the pasta, and then freeze half (or more) of the recipe, and just throw in the oven on another day, so I've made two dinners for literally the extra $1.50 and no extra time.  Because it makes a LOT of cheese sauce.  Which is always good.

Pumpkin (or butternut squash) Mac N Cheese


  • 2 boxes whole wheat or whole grain short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 2 bags of frozen broccoli
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef broth (chicken broth or amber beer, although if you were going to use beer instead, I would follow Rachel Ray's recipe for proportions of beer and milk)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Molasses (2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • A couple of pinches ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée or 2 cups puréed fresh roasted pumpkin or butternut squash (Lets be honest, Fresh is better, but sometimes canned just works)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese, divided (let's be honest- I probably use more than 2 cups of cheese, but it depends on the kind you have, how sharp you like it, and what the sauce tastes like.)
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley or chives to garnish 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente.  One minute before pasta is done, add frozen broccoli. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add broth or beer. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in molasses (or honey or syrup) and milk. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.

Whisk in pumpkin purée then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Lemony Pasta

Its like an easier version of mac and cheese.  And spring-ier.

My good friend Theresa. introduced the idea of "Fat Kid" as a lifestyle (versus being a number on a scale) when we were in college, doing our best not to be fat kids, in preparation for her upcoming wedding.  (At which we both looked great, by the way.)  Fat kid as a lifestyle means that you can be the skinniest person around (which, to be clear, I am not) but if you find joy in occasionally sitting around all day watching TV and eating food that may or may not be good for you, you are indulging in a fat-kid kind of day.  My friend Theresa, by the way was not able to be at my first baby shower because the day I was sitting around, 8 months pregnant and enjoying cupcakes and punch with friends was the day she she was completing the Ironman Triathalon.  You know, the kind where you bike a crap-load of miles, then swim a bunch more miles and round it all out with a marathon.  An actual 26.2 mile marathon.  My guess is she doesn't indulge in as many Fat Kid days as I do, but I am forever grateful to her for bringing the Fat Kid Lifestyle into my life while also showing me you can still be healthy.

When I'm having a Fat-Kid day, I could sit and eat this stuff ALL DAY LONG.  And I suppose if you use low-fat or fat free sour cream (and there are some decent ones out there these days), it really wouldn't be too bad for you.  So easy, so delicious, and its got a minimum of ingredients.  My friend Tara (another fellow Fat-Kid) showed me this recipe, and I've made it at least four times this summer.  My two year old LOVES it, and I could stand over a pot and eat it all day. 

Its essentially this exact recipe, but with extra lemon and asparagus thrown in.  You could use broccoli in a pinch, and I bet it would be delightful.  :)  Watch out for seeds while squeezing the lemon-- biting into a lemon seed you thought was garlic is a good way to ruin this dish.  Also, I've found, since you're going to bake the pasta, whole wheat or "super" pastas work well as they stand up pretty well to the oven.  While on the subject of pasta-- I really prefer this with spaghetti, but I'm a firm believer that most of the pasta shapes I have are pretty interchangeable, and really, what you're seeking here is creamy lemon goodness over carbs.  Who really cares what shape it comes in?

(And just to keep you coming back for more: since this is my summer 'mac and cheese' style dish, I'll post my "fall" mac and cheese recipe as my next posting.)

Lemony Pasta

1 pound pasta (whole wheat ROCKS for this recipe!)
1 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 Tablespoons Salted Butter 
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
3 cloves Garlic, Minced 
2 whole Lemons, Juiced And Zested 
2 cups Sour Cream 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt, Or More To Taste 
Plenty Of Grated Parmesan Cheese 
Flat-leaf Parsley, Chopped 
Extra Lemon Juice

Preparation Instructions 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta until 2 min before the box suggests it's "al-dente".  (EX: If the box days 9 min for al-dente, cook for 7 minutes).  In the last 30 seconds, add chunked asparagus to pasta water.  Drain pasta and asparagus and return to pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Squeeze the juice of 1 1/2 lemons into the pan (saving that last half a lemon for later). Turn off heat.

Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.

Pour mixture over drained pasta/asparagus and stir together, then pour this lemony goodness into an oven safe dish.

Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)

When you remove it from the oven, squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top. Top generously with Parmesan cheese, then chopped parsley (or whatever herb you happen to have-- I used cilantro, it was delicious).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Potato, Squash and Cauliflower Burritos

Day 6- The Vegetarian Challenge- "Wrapped in a Tortilla"
Sometimes after a long day, after everyone has gone to bed and I have the house to myself, I'll watch a documentary on our instant movie player.   One evening I watched Forks Over Knives, which essentially talks about two doctors who, through their individual research, have come to discover that a certain diet, namely vegan (no foods containing animal products, including eggs and milk) and cutting out processed wheat and sugar, that you can not only stop the progression of, but reverse heart disease and cancer.

And their evidence is pretty convincing, even to the scientist in me who asks a lot of questions in her head as the movie is playing.  And for me, given the family history I have with both of those diseases, it made a lot of sense.  So I went to bed, thinking, "Hey, we might be able to give this a try, even if just for a month"  And I was super hyped-up about it.

Then I woke up the next morning and gave my little Duke in Training eggs and toast with a side of yogurt for breakfast.  Not exactly as easy as I thought.  So I gave up the idea.  Because really, it was late when I watched the movie and who ISN'T easily swayed at 1am?  Isn't that when most of the worlds orders for Ginsu Knives and the Miracle Bras are placed?  Its a gullible time for everyone.

Later that day, I took my little ones to our local coffee shop so they might get out of the house and I might have some adult interaction.  I sat down on the couch and in front of me was an old issue of Vegetarian Times, that, no kidding said, "Take our 28 Day Vegetarian Challenge".  So I opened it up and I read about it, and it seemed feasible.  But then my Duke in Training started to pull stuff off the shelves, so I dropped it.

THEN, still at the coffee shop (after twenty minutes of convincing my older child not to pull stuff off the shelves) I opened up another food magazine (because I'm always perusing for new recipes) and inside the cover there was a small blurb, "Please come to our website to see our discussion with the Director of Forks Over Knives."

So that is how we decided to become vegetarians for the month of October-- God spoke to me through an old documentary and two past issues of a magazine.  And since He had chosen to speak to me through food, I figured the least I could do is try one of the recipes.

This one should really be called "Burritos that taste better than they sound".  They're yummy and flavorful and EASY!!  They don't really freeze well, (although do ok as left overs), but you could always forgo the tortilla if you're REALLY trying to be healthy and just serve it OVER brown rice for a totally wheat free option.  Both My Loving Duke and I really enjoyed them, and didn't feel like we were missing meat at all.  Even the Duke in Training was excited about them, although he really used his tortilla more like a shovel.

I used purple cauliflower because my store carries it, its the same price as white or orange, and I thought it would look prettier.  It all gets covered in red sauce, so color doesn't really matter, but it was fun anyway.  Also, there are a lot of chilies in a can of chilies in adobo sauce (which can be found in your "Hispanic/International" isle.  You only need one here, so gently pat some of the sauce off the remaining chilies, spread them out on a baking sheet and freeze them.  Once frozen, you can remove them from the baking sheet, and stick in a ziploc bag and put back in the freezer for future use

Potato, Squash and Cauliflower Burritos
Adapted from a recipe from the June 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times

1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tsp canola oil
12 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cups small cauliflower florets
1 potato, cubed into 1/4" cubes
2 cups butternut squash, seeded,peeled and cubed (about 1/4 butternut squash)
3 Tbs chopped cilantro
1 cup cooked brown rice, warmed
1 c Monterey Jack cheese
Flour/whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed

Preparation instructions
Pulse tomatoes (and their juice), chipotle chiles and garlic in food processor (or blender) until coarse puree forms.  Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat  Add onion and oregano, saute 2 minutes.  Add squash, saute another 2 minutes, then add potatoes, cauliflower and tomato mixture.  Cover and simmer 10 min.  Uncover and simmer 5 minutes more, or until veggies are tender.  Stir in cilantro.  Divide mixture among tortillas, top with rice and sprinkle with cheese.  Roll up tortillas, leaving one end open.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Curry, Soup and Enchiladas! Yum yum!

So much for posting every day.  I really do intend to do it more often, but we seem to be passing a cold around the Wholesome Household, and of course I got the worst of it, so I've been sleeping when I'm not chasing around two adorable munchkins.  Also, as a result of the offending virus we have not been making lots of new and exciting recipes.  We've stuck to our commitment-- we're still meat free, but I've basically been making recipes I already make, just subbing veggies.  We've had some interesting ones though:

Day 2- Sunday October 2nd
Sunday night we had delicious Thai Curry, made just like my Thai Chicken Curry, but I left out the chicken and subbed in four carrots and two russet potatoes.  I steamed the carrots and potatoes in the microwave for three minutes before adding them to the crockpot in order to keep cooking time down.  We served it over quinoa  instead of rice for some extra protein.  Yum yum!

Day 3- Monday October 3rd
Monday night was the worst of it, so I made veggie soup, much like my Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup, and beer bread.  It took 10 minutes to prepare, and another hour of me laying down, waiting for it to be ready.  (Its a hard life, I know.)  I subbed vegetable base instead of chicken/beef base, and left out the meat, but honestly, didn't miss it for all the heavy veggies and brown rice we added to it.  Yum yum!  (Also set aside some spinach and brown rice for other dinners later this week.)

Day 4- Tuesday, October 4th
Tonight was enchiladas, made for me by my friend M after we had our second son.  I liked the recipe so much I got it from her, and now they're a favorite around our house.  They're delicious, easy to make, and SUPER eat half and freeze half.  Chalk full of yummy goodies, it doesn't take but 10 min to prepare a pan full.  Plus our two year old Duke-in-Training likes to help fill the enchiladas, so making them can be family affair!  I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more recipes by my friend M, since she's my resident vegetarian friend, and a mommy to boot, so she's got lots of quick and easy vegetarian recipes.

So far, we haven't felt like we're missing much.  I'm looking forward to feeling better so I have the energy to really try some new and different stuff... right now I'm feeling rather couch potato-ish.

Speaking of getting recipes-- I've already had a couple of emails with quick and easy veggie recipes-- please keep sending me more!  I'll try them all, I promise!  We need all the help we can get with yummy recipes, especially those that might use veggies we don't normally eat.  Feel free to post them below!  Thanks!

M.C.'s Delicious Enchiladas
This is a double recipe-- I make them in two pans and freeze one for future use.  Feel free to half ingredients if you're not the "freeze ahead" type.

2 packages Spanish Rice
2/3 block cream cheese
1 jar salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package frozen spinach, drained well
1/2c Mexican cheese
2 container enchilada sauce
12 whole wheat tortillas- (you could use corn, but you'd need more of them.  Also, heat them up before rolling if using corn, it makes it easier)

Preparation Instructions
Prepare rice according to package directions.  Add in cream cheese until melted, then stir in salsa and black beans and spinach.  (Voila!  You now have your filling!)  Put a little enchilada sauce in the bottom of two 8x8 pans (or one 13x9 if you're making them to share!).  Fill tortillas with rice/bean filling, then roll up and place in pan.  Once pan is full (I like 6 per pan) then cover with remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
Bake at 350 for 15 min covered, then bake uncovered until warmed through.  Serve with avocado!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Vegetarian in the Land of Turkey Legs

My Loving Duke assists our two year old in using a bubble wand at the Renaissance Festival!
There is a really long and involved story behind this decision that includes signs from the Universe and long discussions with My Loving Duke.  But in an attempt to force myself to try new recipes, to eat more healthfully, and because we entered a drawing to win $1000 if we commit, MLD and I have decided to go vegetarian for the month of October.  (Just October, mind you-- we plan on returning to the land of the Omnivore November 1st, but hopefully with some new and exciting food ideas practiced and under our belts.)

We're pretty excited about it, and looking forward to including lots of new winter veggies into our diet, and we've been mulling it over for about three weeks now.  Fully vegetarian with the promise to eat vegan (no animal products including milk/eggs) at least twice a week through Halloween.  Its kind of a scary prospect, even for me, who was vegetarian for six years as a teenager.  Last time though, I went about it all wrong, and didn't end up any healthier or wiser for it.  This time, we're committed to eating more healthfully and trying new recipes to broaden our repertoire.  I'll be blogging daily in an account of how it's going, weather it is actually healthier/cheaper/easier, and giving feedback on new recipes I try.  I figure the daily blogging part is going to be harder than actually giving up meat for a month... we'll see.

In choosing October 1st as our start day for our Vegetarian Challenge, we neglected to take into account our plans to attend the Renaissance Festival with family that day.  Have you ever been to a Renaissance Festival?  Not exactly a haven for vegetarians.  Not, presumably because people back during the Renaissance at meat at every meal, but more likely because the meaty dishes such as beef stew and turkey legs have a much larger draw to the average tourist than, say, a vegetable mash.  Everywhere you looked there was primitive meat for sale.  And it all smelled delicious.  And looked more and more inviting as the day wore on.  I could personally feel myself wearing down already, and it had only been half a day!

But we had made a committment, and spent the day at the Renn Fest enjoying the fun festivities, and trying to ignore the giant turkey leg in the hand of every third spectator.  Our son's favorite activity was watching the "hosies" at the jousting competition, followed in a close second by making bubbles at the Bubble Fountain.  My Loving Duke and his sister bonded over knife and axe throwing.  And four hours after we arrived, as we were gathering to find something to eat, it began raining rather hard.  It was almost like another sign from the Universe-- "DON'T EAT THE TURKEY LEGS!"  This was a hard sign to take, as MLD had been talking about the turkey leg and mead since we went to Renn Fest two years ago.  And this was only the FIRST day of our vegetarianism.  We could always start on Sunday, the first day of the week, which could arguably be a clean start as well.  But no, we decided that with two kids under the age of two, it seemed best to head out to someplace dry and with more non-meat options.

All in all it was a good day!  We did enjoy that glass of mead- I was at one point, carrying mead in both hands with a three month old strapped to my chest, it was quite a sight- and had a blast.  We saw elephants (didn't know those were big during the Renaissance, did ya?), listened to some great music, found our official Scottish Tartan, and drank some mead.  (Oh, did I mention the mead?  Mead is yummy.)  We're sorry that it rained and we felt we had to leave, but in the end, we survived our first intentional day without meat, feeling rather proud of ourselves for sticking to our (potato) guns.  Even if we did end up with cheese pizza for dinner, (which isn't a new recipe OR healthy) we are one day down, and looking forward to the next 30!
My Bad-Ass Duke and Sister-in-law during the knife throwing contest.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crock Pot "French Dip"

Back when we were young, with extraneous income and no one to be responsible to, my friend T and I used to go out to dinner in our old neighborhood.  We always went out for Burritos and Beer (and often cake because the bar made its own cake with HOMEMADE carmel sauce poured over the top).  During our weekly B&B evenings, we would discuss very important things like what we want served at our funerals.  The food should, of course, be food you loved and which celebrates your life.  T, I'm here to make an official addendum to my funeral foods!  In addition to burritos and fried chicken, I need to add THIS FRENCH DIP recipe to the mix.

This stuff is "'da bomb".  I mean, its so good that I feel ok about posting this on the web with the words "'da bomb" attached do it.  I am salivating just thinking about it.  Ay dios, I'm now thinking about it in another language, that's how good it is.  Sadly, I have no pics of my own to show you how amazing this recipe is.

And preparing it comes with my two favorite caveats:
1) It couldn't be easier!
2) It makes enough for leftovers!

I used this recipe from the Pioneer Woman (the first one on the page), but made some changes according to what I had in the cupboard, what I thought my family would eat and the mistakes I made from not reading the recipe right.  :)  God Bless yummy mistakes.  Because I'm thinking about going into the freezer to defrost what I just put away and eat it straight from the bag.

Except that would leave me with less for next time.  And that would be sad.  Unlike my funeral, with all that good food, which will not be sad at all.  :)

Crock Pot French Dip 

1 whole Beef Chuck Roast, 2.5 To 4 Pounds 
2 cups water + 2 tsp beef base OR 2 cups of beef broth/stock
1 packet dry Italian dressing mix

1 jar (12 Oz) Pepperoncini Peppers, With Juice 
Buttered, Toasted Deli Rolls
Top with cheese- optional 

Preparation Instructions
Put roast into crock pot.  Blend pepperoncini peppers in blender with juice.  (You can leave whole, but I don't really like pepperoncinis, so the blending works well).  Pour over roast.  Pour beef flavoring (either water plus beef base or beef broth) over roast.  Add Italian dressing packet.  Cover.  Cook on  high 5-6 hours or low all day until fork tender.  Place meat on buttered rolls (I like to melt cheese on the rolls first, so as to prevent sogginess).  Serve with small bowls of liquid from crockpot.  Don't forget the bowls to dip, that's what makes it "French Dip".  Die of goodness.

**Also, this makes enough for at least one nights of leftovers.  After everything has cooled (usually the next day, after I've removed the fat from the top), I'll divide the leftovers into freezer bags with the liquid.  It "freezes beautifully", and provided you have rolls and cheese, you have an EVEN EASIER meal for another night in the future.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies with Candied Bacon

I know it looks kind of like a regular chocolate chip cookie, but I promise, it is SO much more, my friends.
Recently My Loving Duke and I were discussing our Roads Not Taken.  Not in a sad way, but simply some of the choices we contemplated in our younger days but chose not to make.  Things like moving in with an old college roommate or back across the country to be closer to your parents.  These weren't sad reflections, just a respectful nod to the things that might have been.

But if I am being honest, I do kind of kick myself for not following through on my largest road not taken: becoming a doctor.  I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the age of 5.  I don't know why or how I knew, but I knew.  For the next 17 years, when someone asked me what I wanted to do, I said "Pediatric Oncologist".  Then my senior year of college rolled around and in the midst of some serious reflection during a spiritual retreat, I decided that perhaps I'd been letting the inertia of "becoming a doctor" substitute for the actual dream.  Once I decided not to pursue medical school, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and rather enjoyed finding my new calling.  And that my friends, is how I became a teacher.

But now, in my newest career of Diaper-Changer/Boo-Boo Kisser/Snuggler-in-Chief/COO of the Wholesome Household, I look back and wonder if I wasn't letting fear of the unknown and the very hard work scare me away from medical school.  No matter what the reason, however, that choice is gone.  Sure, I COULD go to medical school, if I could re-take a lot of those science classes, then finish up my pre-med program, interview and gain entrance to a program.  But the reality of me actually going to those schools, spending that time away from my family is just... well, not a reality at all, because I work harder now than I ever would have in med school.  But I'm not sad about this, for even with nostalgia and a little bit of a grass-is-greener sentimentality, I can't really imagine my life having gone any differently.  I can't imagine my children being anything other than they are, and I love being with them, even on the hard days and in the worst of tantrums and middle of the night feedings.  (Ok, maybe not RIGHT during the worst tantrums, but shortly thereafter I remember again why I like them so much.)  One of the roads I've taken is to raise beautiful, strong people who will leave the world a better place than they found it.  To be a strong role model, I don't have to be a doctor, but I can distill that lifelong dream of medicine down to its elements and instill those I hold dearest into my children; a deep love of science and how understanding the world around us in a deeper way can enrich our lives and an ingrained need to give back to the universe through service to others as a way of saying "Thank You" for the beautiful gifts we've been given.

Some might say, myself included, that as a stay at home parent, I do spend my life in service to others.  Most certainly I've learned humility and flexibility in my two years as a mom.  (Also traits I'd like my kids to have in measure.)  But there is something important, I think, about offering of yourself to others, to do your best to help not only those you know and love, but people in general.

And so I try to take the things I'm good at and use them to help others, even with what little "free time" I have.  I try to help babysit when a mom really needs an afternoon out.  I make dinners for my friends when they are undergoing a big life change.  And next Tuesday, I will be baking two different kinds of cookies for the Cookies for Kids Cancer Bake Sale, hosted by Moms of Fredericksburg.  All proceeds from the bake sale go directly to pediatric cancer research.  (Local friends-- feel free to come by Picnic in the Park next Tuesday to buy some!!)  I do this not because it will benefit directly anyone I know, but because this is a gift my parents gave me-- to say thanks for your own blessings, and to use what you're good at to serve others.  And I know my munchkins are too young to remember this event; it won't even be a blip on their radar.  But its important to me to demonstrate with something other than lip-service how we are all dependent on each other, and small kindnesses for others in turn help make us better people.

So I will bake.  Because its about all I've got time for, and because I'm pretty good at it.  I'll be baking my famous Nursing Cookies (famous only to my friends who read the blog, I know, but I'm pretty proud nevertheless) and I'm baking Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies with Candied Bacon.  I have no claim to this recipe-- my friend posted it on Facebook one day, and I made it exactly as it is.  The second time around I've added more bacon because, well, frankly, I think if you're going to use Candied Bacon you should go big or go home.  I mean, really, what's the point if there are just little bits of bacon in the cookies?  You're already eating cookies with bacon in them... there is no health food here, my friends.  Go big or go home.  Consequently-- when chopping the chocolate coated candied bacon (do your arteries hurt just reading those words?), make sure its a really rough chop-- you're going to want nickle sized pieces.

There are two pieces of advice I'd like to offer if you're planning on making these cookies.  First, and this is VERY important: Don't skimp on the bacon.  Make sure you buy good, Applewood Smoked bacon.  Its worth it.  I buy mine from the local butcher shop as a special treat every once in a while.  Nice, thick sliced bacon.  If you use the stuff you get in the cold case at the store, unless its really high end stuff, you will be disappointed, mostly because it tends to cook away entirely.  And the applewood smoking process makes your house smell like a campfire while its cooking, which is just delightful.  Secondly: and this is probably the most important in your enjoyment of the cookie: wait for them to cool.  They're SO much more amazing when they're cool.  I don't know why-- that is the opposite of most cookies.  But they are PHENOMENAL.  I wish there was a font big enough to demonstrate how wonderful these cookies are.  They are a must make, sometime when you have a free bit.  And a little bit of extra room in the waistline of your pants.  :)  I suppose the good news on that front is that this recipe doesn't make that many, so you can't go TOO overboard on eating them.

How To Candy Bacon
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

8 slices (or about half a pound) of Applewood smoked bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I like it hot-- its a nice compliment to the cookie)
1/2 cup chocolate chips for melting
vegetable oil

Lightly oil a cooking rack with the vegetable oil, and place over a cookie sheet.  On a plate, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  Gently press each side of each slice of bacon into the sugar mixture.  Place sugared bacon on rack with cookie sheet underneath, and bake 20-25 minutes until crispy, turning once.  Remove from rack, place on a towel for one minute to drain, then leave on a plate to cool.  (Don't leave on paper towel, or you'll have paper coated candied bacon, a terrible sad waste.)  At this point, either eat as is OR--- melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips (either in the microwave or on double boiler) and drip bacon in said chocolate, place BACK on rack to dry.  Then use in recipe below.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies with Candied Bacon
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
makes 12-15 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 slices candied bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, peanut butter and sugars together in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy – about 3-4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mixing until combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt, mixing until just combined and dough forms. Crumble bacon and fold it into dough. Drop tablespoon-sized dough balls on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.