Monday, February 25, 2013

Jalapeño Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ever since I discovered Bacon Wrapped Dates from local tapas bars and restaurants, I've been wanting to create them myself at home.  But I didn't know how to make them a bit more intriguing than just bacon wrapped around a date... until I saw Jalapeño Flavored Bacon by Farmer John at my local grocery store (how did I not know this existed?!).  And I knew immediately that this was the kicker to create the perfect appetizer.  Not only does the jalapeño bacon still give these sweet dates that same smoky and salty flavor we all love from the average everyday bacon, but it also adds just the right amount of kick to spice up the bite.  And if that doesn't excite you enough, I've paired them with three different citrus yogurt dipping sauces to make them all that more tasty and fun to eat.  The tartness from the yogurt is a great complement to the savory dates and the citrus juices/zest and spices make for a new flavor combo that will perk up your foodie pleasures!
What you'll need: serves about 4

1 small pkg dates (about 2 dozen)
1 pkg Farmer John mild jalapeño flavored bacon (patted dry and cut in half for 4 inch strips)

Yogurt Dipping Sauces: 

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp smoked steak seasoning (I used South African Smoke Seasoning Blend - sea salt, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, onion, garlic, paprika & chili pepper)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp ground cardamon

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg

If your dates have pits, cut them longways, remove the pit and close up.  Wrap each date a 4 inch strip of bacon.  Place 1 inch apart on a cookie cooling rack (seam side down) placed on top of a foil lined baking sheet.  This allows the fat from the bacon to drain through the rack and onto the foil (for easy clean up, too!).  Bake at 450 degrees on the top rack for 15-20 mins, depending on how crispy you like your bacon.  As you can tell, I like my really really crispy.  Let slightly cool for 5 mins.

While the dates are cooking, make the yogurt dips.  Combine all ingredients (per flavor) and serve along side the slightly cooled dates.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homemade Tea

When I think of it, Valentine's Day oddly has never been about a boy.  In, fact, my fondest memories about the holiday have always been nonromantic but loving jesters made by my parents - the little treats and note secretly stuffed in my lunch bag from my mom or the handmade construction paper cards from my dad.  For me, it's not about the dozen roses or fancy jewelry, but the smaller thoughtful things made with love from the people I love.  There is just something about receiving a gift made from the heart that just seems to melt my own.  So instead of cards or candy, I'm making homemade tea for my Valentines this year.  It's personal but also a fun pick-me-up for this long winter season.

With all the colds and flus spreading like crazy this winter, tea has been my saving grace.  So in thoughts of perking up others' winter blues for this Day of Love, this sweet flavor of homemade tea is reminiscent of the Fall that I already desperately miss but a glimpse into the Spring up ahead.  With a mild white tea base, dried orange peel, apples and spices, this particular concoction is comforting, soothing, healthy and tasty!

What you'll need: Serves 4

1 orange
4 tsp loose white tea
4 dried apple rings (cut in small pieces)
8 cinnamon sticks (broken in half)
1 pkg whole allspice (slightly smashed)
Fillable tea bags (found mine at Sur La Table)
Thick white string cut 4 inches long
Card stock paper (two colors)
Heart hole punch
Small hole punch
Double sided tape

Unless you can find already made dried orange peels, it's really easy to make your own.  Using a paring knife, peel off strips from the orange rind (cutting as close to the surface as possible).  The more white pith you leave, the longer it will take to dry out.  For quick results aline the peels on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 150 degrees until the peels have completely dried out.  Check the peels every 10 - 15 mins.  Timing depends on how thick the strip are, but mine took about an hour to completely dry out.

Once the orange peels are done, start assembling each tea bag with 1 tsp of white tea, dried apple pieces, a couple of orange peels, 4 cinnamon stick halves, and a handful of smashed allspice.

Create the tea hang tags by cutting a small piece of rectangular card stock, fold it in half, punch a heart shape hole on one half and tape a piece of contrast paper behind the cutout.  Using a tiny hole punch, make a hole for the thick string in the corner of the tag and tie a knot with one end of the string.  Punch another hole in the fillable tea bag and tie a knot with the other end of the string around that hole.

Once completely assembled, let the tea bags steep in boiling water for about 5 mins.  Remove and enjoy.