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Bakin’ bacon

If you’re like me and love the salty, fatty, crispy, awesome deliciousness that is bacon, but hate cooking it because of the mess and the ever constant fear that you’ll lose an eyeball to a torpedo of hot grease, you’re going to love this. And you may never cook bacon in a skillet again. And, if you’re like me and never knew/thought of cooking bacon in an oven before, you’re also going to wonder how you made it your early 30s (er, did I say 30s? I meant late 20s) without discovering the brilliance that is baking bacon. Plus it’s fun to say.

So how do you turn those delicious strips of pig into crispy delicious strips of pig in your oven? Easy as pork. I mean pie. Either way, it’s easy. Line a cookie sheet with foil for easier clean-up, then lay out your strips of bacon in a single layer, like so…

Baking bacon

If you have an over-sized cookie sheet, you might be able to fit the whole package on one sheet, but you may need two cookie sheets to bake it all at once. Then just pop it in the oven, preheated to 400 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes, turning the strips about halfway through.

Baking bacon
Halfway there…time to turn it!

If you like your bacon extra crispy, leave it in a little longer. If you prefer your bacon like the Kiddo–a little “soggy”– take it out a few minutes early.

Crispy bacon

Ta-da! That’s it! You now have baked bacon!

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Impromptu Pasta (aka Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato with Bowties)

I’m the queen of improv. Cooking that is. I would claim comedy as well, but the Guy would probably argue with me. So back to cooking. I’m always finding a way to “make things work” when I have a recipe I want to try but don’t have quite all the ingredients on hand. Google often comes in handy for this, as I find myself sitting down and typing in “substitutes for __________.” Or, sometimes it’s not a matter of making a recipe with less than the required ingredients, but figuring out if there is some way, some how that I can make something edible for dinner out of what’s already in my pantry and fridge, without making a trip back out to the grocery store after I’m home from work and already in my “comfy clothes” (read: pajamas).

Tonight started out as an effort to do the former–make a recipe I already had in mind work. The goal was this Mini Farfalle with Roasted Peppers, Onion, Feta and Mint¬†recipe¬†(yes, that is a really long name) I found the other day when I was planning my menu for the week. Ok, ok, I realize that, since I was planning ahead for this recipe I should have had all the ingredients. And I did, except the three I was already planning to omit–pine nuts, golden raisins and mint–because they just sounded, well, odd in the recipe. Several reviewers reassured me that the odd-sounding ingredients actually worked well together, but I wasn’t quite daring enough to try them. This week anyway.

So I got home tonight and started getting out the makings of dinner, only to find that the roasted red peppers I had planned to use had gone bad. I looked at the recipe, looked at what I did have of the ingredients (plus the chicken and bacon that I had decided to add for a little protein–the Guy doesn’t do well with no meat), and then poked around the door of the refrigerator to see what I had that could bring everything together in a somewhat tasty way.

The answer came in the form of sun-dried tomatoes. Have I mentioned that I love sun-dried tomatoes? Because I absolutely do. One day, I will share my recipe for feta-stuffed chicken, which takes advantage of sun-dried tomatoes in a beautiful way. The Guy said that is one of his favorite meals that I make–maybe the favorite. Which I guess explains why he loved my “impromptu pasta” tonight so much; it’s basically just a pasta version of the stuffed chicken. And in the end, not really very close the original recipe I was aiming for–but completely delicious.

Alright, I’m done boring you with the narrative explanation. Here’s the recipe:

Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato with Bowties

12 oz. bowtie pasta (farfalle)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tsp. minced garlic (about two cloves if you’ve got fresh garlic–I had a jar)

1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (about 8 oz.)

4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 cup cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded

5 oz. crumbled feta cheese (the reduced fat version tastes great, if you’d like to trim calories)

1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

While pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Drain oil from sun-dried tomatoes into skillet; add onions and garlic and sautee until onions are transparent. Using a food processor or Magic Bullet, pulse tomatoes until finely diced (almost a paste). Add chicken, bacon and tomatoes to skillet; stir and heat on low until warm (only a few minutes).

Sun-dried tomato & chicken pasta
The tomato-chicken mixture….yum!

Add tomato and chicken mixture to pasta and stir to mix. Stir in feta, basil and pepper, then serve.

Sun-dried tomato & chicken pasta
The final product–the Guy had to stop himself from a third helping.


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Two-Minute Magic Bean Dip

In honor of the football playoff season, I thought I’d post this quick and easy but delightfully addictive recipe. Warning: this dip is crazy hard to put down, so you if sit down to watch a game, you might realize you’ve cleaned the bowl out by halftime.

Sometimes you just have a craving for something crunchy, something salty….just something. It was one of those cravings that led me to come up with this easy concoction. I had some tortilla chips on hand and some salsa, but I need something more than that. Maybe something cheesy and creamy? So I scoured the pantry to see what I could throw together to kick the craving, and this turned out to be exactly what I was wanting. Bonus–with my beloved Magic Bullet, it took no time to whip up, so I was happily munching just a few minutes later. If you don’t have a Magic Bullet, a regular blender will work fine. If you do have a Magic Bullet and you have block cheese (I never buy pre-shredded cheese), there’s no need to get out the shredder–just use the Bullet.

Two-Minute Magic Bean Dip

1 can black beans, drained

1 cup salsa

1 pkg taco seasoning

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Tortilla chips for dipping

Combine all ingredients and blend. Serve cold, or, if you like the cheese all melty and gooey, pop the dip in the microwave for about a minute.

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What’s this all about?

This blog, that is.

If you read my About page, you’ll see it’s about finding balance, even when balance is a little messy, and hard to juggle amid work, home, family, health… and the list goes on.

But what does that translate to in the day to day? In other words, what can you expect to find when you happen upon this site? Well, a little bit of a lot of things and a lot of a few things. I love to cook, so many of my posts will originate in the kitchen. That might include posts on time saving tips, quick meals, healthy recipes and maybe a few product reviews. And while sometimes life gets hectic and I have to find ways to get in and out of the kitchen, I really do enjoy my time there, so you may also find some posts about more involved kitchen projects for the days when I have more time to devote. It’s all part of the balance between the demands of life and taking time for the things that bring us fulfillment.

I’ve also experienced a huge shift in my life in the past year, taking on a new role as wife and stepmom, so you’re likely to see posts related to that–particularly the stepmom part. That might mean ideas for activities to keep a 10-year-old engaged, or maybe just funny stories to share.

Beyond that, we’ll have to see where the road, where life, leads us. I’m excited about this project, but also realize it’s one more thing to “balance” into my life. I’d love to get your feedback on what you like and what you don’t like, and if you have ideas for posts, please feel free to share!