Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coconut chicken tenders with honey mustard

Are you ready for this?  Chicken for dinner!  Surprisingly, it's the first time this week.  Before you start thinking this is any other chicken recipe, stop those thoughts dead in their tracks.  Go ahead and try to tell me these crispy homemade chicken tenders don't look absolutely mouth-watering:

That, folks, is the newest addition to my arsenal of chicken recipes.  Coconut corn flake chicken!  It was sweet and both chewy and crispy at the same time.  And the chicken was moist!  There's nothing worse than a dried out rubbery piece of cooked chicken... blech.  Plus, it can be so drab to look at next to some colorful veggies.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, the persuasive part of this post. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Pioneer Woman's best cinnamon rolls ever

...because this is the only one you'll ever need!  I've had it bookmarked for ages, finally made them this past weekend, and teased about the cinnamon rolls yesterday.  Today I'll share the glory that is Pioneer Woman's famous cinnamon rolls.  Warm, fluffy, buttery, frosted gems that they are.  (Looking at these pictures makes me want to kick myself that I didn't make more.  Sad face.)

One of the biggest perks about being a food blogger is becoming part of a community of very passionate and honest kitchen fanatics.  When a recipe is good, it's written about in great detail, accompanied by pictures and suggestions to try it yourself.  On the other hand, when a recipe is not so good, no one hesitates to give reasons why and possibly a few fixes so you don't make the same mistakes and waste perfectly good ingredients.  It's like having (hundreds!) of helpful cooks with all kinds of experience perched on your shoulder at all times.  Invaluable! :)

And then there is a third scenario.  When a recipe is so unbelievably good that it's referenced near and far.  On blogs everywhere.  By both baking and health food enthusiasts (who've happily waved a white flag for these babies).

Monday, March 28, 2011

A buttery, frosted cinnamon-scented tease

This weekend was fantastic -- relaxing, lots of family time, and did I mention the delicious food?  I swear that all I did was eat.  Now that I think of it, I don't even remember being hungry even once.  Oops :) 

One of the reasons I wasn't hungry?  The fact that I ate five of these fluffy, buttery, sugary, maple-y cinnamon rolls courtesy of that recipe I shared with you on Friday.  Just look at them!


A belly full of those lead to one monster food coma and some blog-slacking on this girl's part.  I'm going to work on typing a full post tonight so I can share the magic with you tomorrow.  In the meantime, have a great Monday

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

Happy Friday!  I forgot how much I love to sleep past 6:15... but I'll get to that in a minute.  It's been a while since I've shared an end-of-the-week list, so here goes:

1. Weekly dinners with Laura resumed last night, and she knocked my socks off with this delicious tomato and goat cheese tart:

How gorgeous is that?  Laura adapted it from this recipe, and was smart to use canned tomatoes since fresh aren't in season yet.  I watched her put it together, and it couldn't have been any easier.  And oh, my friends, was it ever delicious!  Paired with fresh green beans, I could have sworn we were in Paris.  (Channeling spring 2014!)  You better believe we ate the whole darn thing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homemade white bread (Sally Lunn bread)

...and, look out, it hurts!  Because I'm sure you're not quite sick of reading about the weather in PA, I'll be brief so as not to push you over the edge.  Two days ago it was 70 degrees.  Last night I left work and was soaked to the bone in about 3 solid minutes!  This silly girl thought she could beat the raging storm when, in fact, the storm beat her... with hail the size of golf balls!

A tornado touched down about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh near my parents' house.  The last time a tornado touched down in western PA in March?  1977 or something.  Ridiculous!  (Okay, you can uncover your eyes.  The weather segment is finished.)

So, upon arriving home looking like a drowned rat, I did the most logical thing I could think of -- changed into sweats and baked up a nice loaf of the best white bread this world has ever known!  Now, you must know that this wasn't just another loaf of white Wonder bread.  This is the kind that makes me forget all about wheat, whole grain, ciabatta, foccacia, sourdough, and even the challah varieties.  And, if there's one thing I love, it's bread of all kinds.  I do not discriminate :)  Like I said, self-crowned carb queen.

I spotted this recipe just over a week ago on one of my favorite food blogs. To the casual observer, it was just another white bread.  But, to me, it screamed success from beginning to end.  No kneading whatsoever, just pour the batter and go - two points.  Common pantry ingredients - another point.  Slightly sweet taste with a real crust but an inside that's light as air - point, point, point!  Thank goodness I didn't banish it to the folder of bookmarked recipes on my internet explorer for later baking, as is normal practice.

Sally Lunn bread supposedly got its name from the woman (actually named Solange Luyon) and her eventual bakery in England where it was first made in the late 1600s. But, let's be honest -- who cares about the history? We're here to talk about delicious you because you're here to read about food, not history. What does matter is that her legendary bread has outlived her and kept her baking legacy alive.

This blows that age-old insult "plain white bread" right out of the water.  For starters, it has some serious flavor!  It's sweet without being cakey, moist without falling apart, and enveloped by a golden just-hard-enough crust that's worthy of a food magazine cover.

Oh, and did I mention the little air pockets throughout the bread?  They make the bread so light and chewy, putting to rest those haunting memories you might have of dense and cardboard-like homemade bread.  Shh, we won't discuss it any further.  Let's focus on those air pockets.  Happy thoughts.

Okay, maybe I'll have two pieces.  It is warm and fresh out of the oven.

Oh, and those little pockets?  Perfectly tasty on their own, but truly meant to hold some melted butter, perhaps a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of salt or cinnamon.  Be still my now-warm-and-safe-from-the-hail heart and happily-satisfied-stomach.  Bring rain, hail, or snow, Mother Nature!  Just let me have my bread :)

Sally Lunn Bread
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted the recipe from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
-makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

A few notes: If someone told me she (or he) had never baked bread or wasn't familiar with working with yeast and wanted to change that, this is the recipe I'd offer.  It's very novice-friendly!  The first time I made this (yes, sans camera), my bread was done around 37 minutes.  The second time it was done around 34, so I'd say to start checking your loaf a few minutes before the 35 to 40 window, just to be safe.  Finally, as great as this is on its own, it makes great sandwiches and even better French toast a day later.

2 cups (250 grams or 8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams or 7/8 ounce) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
1 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 packet or 1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup (177 ml) milk
4 tablespoons (57 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast by hand or with an electric mixer.

In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter together until the mixture is warm (105 to 110 degrees); don’t worry if this butter isn’t completely melted.  Gradually pour the warm ingredients into the dry mixture and mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or stir vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk and another 1/2 cup flour and beat again for 2 minutes by machine or 3 by hand.  Add the last of the flour and beat or stir until smooth.

Scrape down bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap.  Let rise for one hour or until doubled. Meanwhile, butter and flour a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.  Once the dough has doubled, scrape it into the prepared pan. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise for a total of 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, however, remove the plastic and preheat your oven to 375°F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out to a rack to cool.  (If you'd like to square off the loaf, cool it out of the pan and upside down on the rack.)  Store, covered in plastic wrap or in a sealed container, for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slow cooker beef Stroganoff

On Sunday, I went for a lazy afternoon walk and enjoyed frozen yogurt sitting on a bench in the sun.  Yesterday, I walked home from the gym wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts (and carrying my coat) and was 100% comfortable.  After all, it was 70 degrees!

And then reality set in when I scoped out the five day weather forecast.  Looks like we're not out of the woods winter yet, folks.

As annoyed as I might have been to see snow predicted not once, but twice, I had to pat myself on the back.  Why?  Because I had a toasty warm meal ready in the crock pot when I got home.  Beef stroganoff was on the menu!  "Have you seen a calendar lately, Katy?  It's spring!   Enough with the cozy comfort foods already."  Well, yes, it may technically be spring, but I'm not quite ready to pack away my winter coats and turtleneck sweaters.  Especially with that kind of forecast. 

Crock pot meals on Monday mean outrageous leftovers for me a few days later, perfect for combating the cold front headed this way.  And those leftovers are even better when they are smothered in a tangy rich sauce chock full of tender beef, mushrooms and onions.  Beef stroganoff, utilizing an inexpensive cut of beef, is typically served over simple egg noodles, another budget-friendly pantry staple.  The sauce that's flavored by Dijon mustard and smooth sour cream is the kind of thing you'd swear you could eat poured over even cardboard.  (What, just me?  Try it for yourself!)  And the mushrooms and onions?  A match made in Heaven, I swear.

One Year Ago: Maple-marinated salmon

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
(adapted, in parts, from Everyday Food and Betty Crocker)
-serves 4

1 pound beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into thin slices (about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long)
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and halved (or quartered, if large)
Ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Cooked thin egg noodles, for serving
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish (optional)

In a slow cooker, toss beef, onion, mushrooms, and 1 1/2 cups water with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover, and cook on low until meat is tender, about 8 hours (or on high for 6 hours).

In a small saucepan, whisk cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water.   Ladle 1/2 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine.   Place saucepan over heat and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute.  With slow cooker turned off, stir in cornstarch mixture, then sour cream and mustard.  Serve beef over noodles; sprinkle with dill, if desired.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Baked eggs in tomato sauce

(How many of you just felt like you were 10 years old again reading that title?  That was my intention, folks, but we'll get to that in a minute.)

It's Friday!  And hello, gorgeous spring weather.  In exactly a week, Pittsburgh has endured snow, whipping winds, very wet rains, and now sun and temperatures in the mid-60s, possibly reaching 70 today.  Spring has (almost) sprung, and green is everywhere -- St. Patrick's Day garb, new grass, tulip bulbs, and delicious spinach pasta.

But this isn't going to be a post about foods that play chameleon and blend into their surroundings.  And it's not going to be about weather, though I have no problem admitting that my father has passed on his love of all things related to weather news.  What it is about is a kitchen epiphany.  A "Why-didn't-I-think-of-that-before?" combination of flavors that left me speechless almost speechless.  After all, I had to share it with you :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top o' the morning to ya!

Feeling greenGood for you!  It's that one day a year when people everywhere seek even the tiniest bit of Irish heritage in their family backgrounds so they can join the celebration, too.  Even if there's no O' or Mc in your last name, get your Irish fix in the kitchen and be festive anyway.

I started my day off with a very green smoothie.  Not one of the famed green monster smoothies (though I highly recommend it if you've never tried one), but a banana oat smoothie with a touch of green food coloring.  In the mix:
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 banana, cut into thirds
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Three drops of green food coloring (optional)
In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Add food coloring to blended drink and pulse until desired color is reached.  Serve immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap, store in refrigerator overnight for consumption in the AM.

This was a champion's breakfast -- smooth and sweet and so filling and satisfying.  I know it'll get me through the 10:30am hunger pangs all the way to lunch.  And that touch of green was exactly what I wanted/needed to put a bounce in my step for the day ahead.  Not technically Irish, per se, but who says adults can't have silly (yet extremely nourishing) breakfasts, too? :)  If you're looking to make your day Irish through and through, here are two recipes to help you on your way.

Traditional Irish soda bread.  Plump chewy raisins in an aromatic loaf, perfectly delicious on its own but even better with butter (shocking, no?). At room temperature or toasted, this is always a hit with guests, friends, and coworkers.  If you love rye bread, this is going to knock your socks off.  However, if you're not so keen on the anise flavor, cut back on the amount of caraway seeds that you add and you'll still have a loaf of sweet and dense bread to enjoy.

And, the winner of your votes that I featured on Monday, Irish beef hand pies.  High five to my past self for freezing four of these little nuggets for later enjoyment.  I'll be warming up one tonight for a no hassle dinner.

Have a great jolly St. Patrick's Day!  How will you celebrate?  Perhaps with the first Shamrock Shake of the season? :)

One Year Ago: Irish soda bread

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crispy prosciutto & white bean salad with ciabatta croutons

Before I get to this rockin' recipe, I've gotta ask -- who watched The Bachelor finale last night?!  Did your favorite win?  I won't spoil the ending for you, but for my first season of watching the show, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.  Looooove her!  After almost 3 months of investing my Monday evenings into this show, I can honestly say that I won't do it again.  It was entertaining as can be but I feel like I've lost brain cells in the process :)

Now, to this salad.  This is a carry over from last week's dinners-for-one series.  A recap of the previous recipes:
On Friday night, after a grueling session at the gym normal work day, I came home and got to work creating this salad to remember.  To be honest, I've never been to Italy, but this reminded me of something I'd order from a little cafe along the street and enjoy outside, watching the locals go about their daily lives.  With ingredients so fresh they were plucked from adjacent markets and stands just that morning. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beef, cabbage & potato hand pies


Happy Pi Day, math fanatics everywhere! :)  It seems like just yesterday that I first celebrated Pi Day in the 6th grade.  Through junior high and even high school, our math teachers were incredibly enthusiastic about this little holiday and planned a full day's worth of activities for students to enjoy.  The halls were lined with 100 yards of continuous computer paper (you know, the stuff for ancient dot matrix printers) with the number pi taken out to as many decimal places as necessary.  A surprising number of people sported Pi Day shirts -- I still have my green one, in fact.  And, for one day, even an advanced calculus class had a party and noshed on Hostess Fruit Pies -- yum!  Did your school celebrate Pi Day?  Do you still celebrate it?

So, from one pi to another (pie), it's time to share with you the winner of the St. Patrick's Day Irish recipe vote-off: beef hand pies!  Thank goodness, because it would be sacrilege not to have some sort of pie on a day like today.  And, with my no sweets Lenten promise, family favorites like this are officially banned.  (That doesn't mean you can't indulge, so please be my guest!)  I didn't think it were possible for a savory pie to live up to its sweet counterpart's excellence, but I happily stand corrected.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cookies for breakfast

Goooooooooooooooooood morning!  I don't usually post on Sunday, but this was too good not to share.  Made a batch of soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies yesterday to welcome back Matt back to Pittsburgh.  One overbooked flight yesterday means that I'm eating these for breakfast today.  Not bad at all :)

If you're looking for a super moist chocolate chip cookie resembling these, look no further!  I switched it up by adding 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and baked the cookies for only about 10 minutes per batch.  Warm and soft right out of the oven, and chewy and buttery the next day!  Deeeeeeelicious!  Off to start my day... hope you're enjoying the weekend!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pittsburgh springtime staycation

Have you ever eaten something so delicious and mind-blowing that you (almost) didn't want to finish it?  Then, when it was gone, you couldn't stop thinking about it?  And it wasn't even dessert but the main course?  That was my Thursday evening dinner experience.  But, let me tell you about the rest of the day first.

Though I'm a few years out of college, summer and spring break will always signal vacation time for me.  A friend and I originally planned a trip out of the area for a few days but prior commitments grounded us here.  Discussing how there are so many things we still haven't seen/done in this sweet little city, even after being here for years and growing up a mere 35 miles away, we opted for a Pittsburgh stay-cation -- the basic idea being to enjoy local attractions that may be overlooked in your everyday life.  So, stay and play we did!  First stop: the Strip District.

The streets of Penn Avenue and Smallman Street are known as the food mecca of Pittsburgh.  You'll find vendors peddling fresh food of every ethnic origin, square miles of cheap Steelers and Penguins (Pirates? TBD) merchandise, and restaurants ranging from total dive to upscale chic within the same block.  Being foodies, we popped into a few stores where I picked up fresh spinach fettuccine and amaretti cookies (to be enjoyed this weekend).  And we spotted oh-so-tiny chick salt and pepper shakes perfect for approaching spring.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Orange brown sugar chicken

...I stayed in and made my very own orange brown sugar chicken!  Check it out.  Sweet and tangy, smelling so fresh it's like the oranges were picked right from a tree in my backyard.

Doesn't this look better than something you'd eat out of a white styrofoam container that would run you at least $10 at the local Chinese food joint?  Absolutely!  But you won't catch me forking over money for that.  I don't have exact numbers for you, but the chicken (half of a one-pound package) cost about $2, one cup of broccoli from a $2 two-pound bag of the frozen stuff, a $0.25 orange, and a cup of rice is what, $0.25?  Being extra generous, that's $3.50 for two full meals.  If it sounds like I threw my arms up in victory at that realization, well, that sounds right!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cheesy broccoli & chicken casserole for one

While yesterday started out with the promise of 50 degree temperatures, it ended with chilling winds and rain rain rain.  Say what you will about spring being pleasant and warm, but this rain is why I prefer winter :)  After a lovely little afternoon tea party (thanks, B!) I headed home and burst into my apartment like a heat-seeking missile.  Must.find.warm.foods.  Thankfully, this is what was on tap for dinner: cheesy broccoli and chicken casserole for one.

Like I said, literally heat-seeking.  And did this ever do the trick.  Warmed me from my head to my toes, starting with my very happy and satisfied stomach.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scrambled eggs with guacamole & tomatoes

Finally!  No, it's not Friday, but I get to share my most favorite meal of the week with you and it's only Tuesday.  Last night I had the most-anticipated dinner of my dinners for one this week: breakfast for dinner.  This is just one of the many perks of planning meals for the week -- you get to look forward to the delicious dishes made in your very own kitchen!  Specifically, homemade guacamole over scrambled eggs with toast on the side (inspired by the lovely IowaGirlEats.  Thank you!).

This protein-packed meal would've been a great refueling meal after a grueling workout.  But, the gym is closed this week on account of Pitt's spring break.  So, forget that workout.  Instead, that protein served as a brain boost for the rest of my evening's activities (i.e. laundry and The Bachelor Women Tell All Special... once again, I know).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prosciutto-wrapped chicken with roasted green beans

Public service announcement: I am not eating cereal for dinner, nor have I in over a week :)  Not that there's anything wrong with a nice bowl of Cheerios or my current fav, Kashi Go Lean Crunch in the Honey Almond Flax flavor.

Oh my gosh, my love for Kashi knows no bounds.  This stuff is perfectly sweet, with slivered almonds, and stays super crunchy even after sitting in milk for a good 5 to 10 minutes -- love it.  What's your favorite all-time cereal?  As much as I enjoy Kashi, my knees get weak for Rice Krispies Treats Cereal.  Though I haven't seen it for months... sad face.  Does anyone else remember that stuff?  Simply the best!  If any of you ever find it, please purchase the entire stock and I'll reimburse you for the cereal and shipping.  Thanks :)

So, why the cereal talk?  Well, as I mentioned on Friday, Matt is channeling his inner beach bum and spending the week in Florida which means that I'm down a somewhat regular dinner guest... and, you know, a super fun and sweet future husband.  That, too.  Anyway, I usually make dinners that serve four, which means a dinner for me, a larger dinner for him, and lunch for me the next day.  Anything more and I'm sure to get sick of the stuff.  I could've taken the easy way out and made a large lasagna or vat of soup, but I wanted to prove that I could cook a different meal for myself each night.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sour cherry breakfast strudels

Happy Friday, friends!  I really should take Friday off from work more often.  Maybe it's because I'm still in the workday mentality that I have so much energy and feel like I'm going to accomplish lots today.  Kinda like a kid playing hooky from school.  "Bueller?  Bueller?"  Come to think of it, a former coworker would put in four 10-hour days and have a three day weekend to enjoy every single week.  That lady was one smart cookie :)

So, after sleeping in until the late hour of 7:15 [gasp!], I got up to start a birthday breakfast for Matt.  Not a cake, you're wondering?  Since he's admittedly not really a dessert guy (I know!) and breakfast is his favorite meal, I told him to stop by for a real treat before his exam this morning.   His hands-down favorite thing that I make is sour cherry pie.  So much so that when I've mentioned making it for a group of friends, his response is something along the lines of, "I don't want to share!"  Well-spoken for a guy one day away from his 27th birthday, no?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Three is for Thursday

The calendar may say Thursday, but today is a bit of a surprise Friday for me!  Thanks to working last Saturday, I've got a day of comp time to use, so I'm giving myself a three day weekend.  And that means tomorrow's breakfast is going to be epic.  Be sure to check back tomorrow.  In the spirit of my personal lucky number, here are 3 things that I've been waiting to share with you:

1. Last night I made Ina Garten's recipe for baked shrimp scampi.  Due to some technical difficulties (i.e. I left my camera locked in my desk at the office, d'oh!), I didn't snap any pictures.  But trust me when I say this is so easy and delicious that you'll forget its stove-top origins.  Tender shrimp with a crunchy topping served over some pasta or green vegetables because it'd be a crime to waste the extra butter and garlic flavors that make scampi such a dinnertime favorite. 

2. From one decadent dish to another, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday is just around the corner (next Tuesday, March 8th) and I'm considering making the quintessential king cake to bring to work.  Many of us are giving up sweets, in some form, so Tuesday is all about feasting.  Do any of you have a good recipe for king cake?  Or, if you're in the Pittsburgh area, do you recommend one from a local bakery?  Any suggestions are greatly appreciated :)

3. And because there is never a shortage of holidays to celebrate with food, St. Patrick's Day is two weeks out, and I want YOUR vote for what I should make to mark the occasion.  Last year I made Irish soda bread, so this year I've narrowed my list down to three Irish staples, and it's up to you what dish wins:
  • Beef hand pies - think beef and potato stew tucked into flaky pastry crust.
  • Irish lamb stew - a satisfying winter soup packed with vegetables and tender lamb shoulder
  • Shepherd's pie - ground beef mixed with vegetables and topped with a hearty layer of mashed potatoes
Please submit your vote by Friday, March 11th for it to count.  Since I'm notoriously indecisive, this takes the pressure off me just a bit... can't wait to see what you pick!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts

Happy Tuesday!  Yesterday I gave you a recipe for black and white cookies... rather fitting since the day started with a temperature of 60 degrees and rain and ended with the mercury settling around 24 degrees and snow falling from the sky.  Like I said, black and white, folks.  Today it's time for the rest of my Academy Award party recap.  I could say that we found food ideas for each of the Best Picture nominees somewhere on the interwebs but that'd be a lie.  Julie and I spent the better part of a month brainstorming, and we're proud of it.  At last, the spread:

  • Black and white cookies (Black Swan)
  • White trash dessert nachos (Winter's Bone)
  • The Queen's mini quiches (The King's Speech)
  • Red wine (The Kids Are All Right)
  • Layered taco dip (Inception)
  • Trail mix (127 Hours)
  • Pizza Hut Pizza Planet pizza (Toy Story)
  • Frozen vegetables for wounds (The Fighter)
  • And, well, for The Social Network...
  • Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (True Grit)

Though True Grit was one of four Best Picture noms that I didn't see in time for the show (but still want to see), it was one of the easiest in terms of food themes.  Cowboys.  Spicy.  Western fare.  I thought of chili and cornbread, but that seemed a little too messy for balancing plates and silverware while sitting on couches.  The same goes for baked beans and burgers.  Finger foods to the rescue!

I started with bacon wrapped around, well, anything.  My love of bacon has been well-documented.  Instead of trying to come up with something exotic, I went with a tried and true favorite of cocktail parties everywhere -- bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.  They are easy to assemble, inexpensive (a can of water chestnuts costs around $1), and finger-lickin' good.

The sauce is sweet and tangy and the bacon flavor permeates the crunchy water chestnut.  You know you can't get enough of them when you find them, so take a little time and make them for yourself!  Unfortunately fortunately, "restraint" isn't found in the list of ingredients below.  You can thank me later.

Bacon-wrapped Water Chestnuts
(adapted from here)
-makes 20

A few tips: When wrapping the bacon around the water chestnut, be sure to alternate directions and completely envelope the water chestnut.

1 (8-ounce can) water chestnuts, drained
1/2 pound bacon
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup.  Cut bacon in half.  Wrap one slice of bacon around each chestnut. Secure the bacon with a toothpick.  Arrange the water chestnut wraps in a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Bake the water chestnut wraps for 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from water chestnut wraps from the oven and drain some of the grease out of the pan.  Pour the sauce over the wraps.  Bake for 30 to 35 more minutes.  Serve immediately.