What to do with a Year’s Supply of Bacon

What would you do with a year’s supply of bacon?

I’m so excited that I get the chance to find out, but I need your help.

Blog World Bacon WinnerLast week for my last session at the BlogWorld Expo I attended a workshop taught by Marcy Massura about how to be a Social Media Community Manager. I had no idea when I walked in the door that I would be walking out with a year’s supply of bacon!  Wow!!!

It turns out that Marcy works as the Community Manager for the one and only Oscar Mayer.  Can you say AWESOME!  AND she was able to procure a gift of 52 full value coupons each for a pound of bacon! Wow again!  I guess I don’t have to say much more…I won the raffle drawing!!!  Wahoo!  My husband was ecstatic when I told him.

Now, I need your help in discovering fun new recipes to fill the next year with amazing bacon-licious dishes.  I’ve heard of bacon ice cream, a bacon bomb, chocolate-dipped bacon, but what’s your favorite? Please share a recipe or a link to a recipe in the comments,then on Saturday, November 19thas my thank you to you, I’ll share the love and award one of the coupons for a free pound of bacon to the most delicious sounding recipe. (contest over – maybe you’ll win next time)

THANK YOU MARCY and OSCAR MAYER and THANK YOU ALL for your creative ideas.  I’m looking forward to a very tasty year.

Want more fun with bacon?  Check out the Oscar Mayer Facebook page,but don’t cheat by using one of their recipes in the contest, o.k.?

47 Foods You Should be Eating on Vacation (or Anytime)

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time making good food choices when you’re on vacation, especially when you’re eating out and have literally dozens of options, both healthy and unhealthy at your command.  This summer our family is making plans for a BIG vacation in August when we’ll be going to Scotland for a week and Ireland for a week.  And right now I’m in the process of losing some extra weight, especially before the trip, but also don’t want to go too crazy on vacation either.

So, here’s something that might help all of us make better choices both at home and away.  Today, my Frommers Travel Newsletter provided a timely link to MohrResults.com where I found this list of “47 Foods You Should be Eating“.  I’ve segmented the list into easy snacks for travel, then those with a higher likelihood of finding in restaurants, and last are the ones that you’ll probably find in the grocery store or in some cases, your local farmer’s market.

I would recommend posting the list in the kitchen, adding it to your smart phone or iPod or carrying a physical list around with you until you have it memorized.  Then on your next trip (or even your next local outing) when you’re sitting at a restaurant trying to decide what to get, look for one or more of these items in your food choices.  And of course, when you’re at the grocery store, make it a game to see how many of them you can include in your weekly menu.

I took my own inventory and discovered that I actually had 23 or the 47 items already in the kitchen!  Yeah!  I guess that means we’re off to a good start.  Plus I picked up a few more at the grocery store today.  Woohoo!

Also don’t be afraid to try some foods on the list that may be new to you.  Yesterday, (before I saw this list) I was at True Food Kitchen in Phoenix and tried their Tuscan Kale salad as a side dish and it was DELICIOUS!  I’ve always been leery of kale, thinking for some reason that it would be too bitter, but this was amazing with a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a wonderful lemon dressing.  If there were places like True Food all over the planet, then we wouldn’t have to worry about eating healthy.  They make it easy and scrumptious too!

So today when I was at the grocery store, I decided to broaden my horizons and picked up some kale in the produce section.  Then when I got home I did a little more research on this AMAZING super food.  Check out this summary of the benefits of kale.  Wow!

Now here’s the cool part.  When I was researching, I also came across the Kale Salad recipe from True Foods here.  So I made it for dinner!  Here’s the picture of MY Tuscan Kale Salad (below) with the addition of cucumbers and a few minor changes (I added some lemon zest and Queen Creek Olive Mill  Meyer Lemon olive oil (instead of EVOO) to the dressing) because I LOVE lemon flavor.  Be sure to watch the short video showing how easy it is to make.  

In addition, when I googled “Kale Salad”, near the top of the list was another recipe from the food blog, “Oh She Glows“.  The strange thing about that was that I had just finished reading my daughter’s blog post about her Top 5 Food blogs and she had mentioned this as one of her top five favorites.

So here’s the list as promised.  I hope it helps you to take a step toward healthier eating.  For me summer is always a better time to eat lighter when the temps are higher and the produce is fresher and less expensive.

47 Foods You SHOULD Be Eating

Snack options:

  1. Pistachios
  2. Almonds
  3. Apples
  4. Blackberries
  5. Sardines  (if you don’t have to worry about the odor offending your neighbor)
  6. Carrots
  7. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers
  8. Blueberries
  9. Red grapes
  10. Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc)
  11. Coconut (either fresh, where you crack the shell or unsweetened, shredded)
  12. Tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes make great snacks (for meals – raw and cooked both have unique benefits)
  13. Cherries
  14. Pineapple
  15. Raspberries
  16. Strawberries
  17. Plain Greek yogurt
  18. Green tea
  19. Black tea

Look for these in addition to those above on restaurant menus:

  1. Wild salmon (fresh and/or canned)
  2. Whole eggs
  3. Spinach
  4. Lean red meat (we prefer grass fed beef)
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Avocados
  7. Garlic
  8. Beans (black, kidney, chick peas, red beans, etc)
  9. Sweet potatoes or yams (technically not the same, yet they’re often used interchangeably)
  10. Broccoli
  11. Red and green cabbage
  12. Onions
  13. Cinnamon
  14. Mushrooms (all types)
  15. Barley
  16. Canola and olive oils (replace other less healthy fats with these, don’t simply add these to the diet)
Add these to your grocery list and try them at home if you can’t find them in a restaurant:
  1. Swiss chard
  2. Quinoa (pronounced “keen wah”)
  3. Rolled oats
  4. Barramundi (often called “the sustainable sea bass”) can be found in the frozen section of Whole Foods & has half the calories, yet equal omega 3′s to coho salmon)
  5. Pink grapefruit
  6. Turmeric (benefits)
  7. Kale
  8. Pumpkin (we often add canned, unsweetened 100% pure pumpkin to our smoothies)
  9. Unsweetened cocoa powder or cocoa nibs (also often added to smoothies or Greek yogurt)
  10. Lentils
  11. Oat bran
  12. Beets (try this Summer Salad Recipe with beets)
Let me know which of these are your favorites already or any ideas for ways to incorporate them in your daily routine.

4th of July Ideas – Part 2 – Recipes

I thought I’d share a few favorite recipes and food ideas for your 4th of July gathering.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes and Nancy’s Baked Beans

When I think of Independence Day, a particularly memorable celebration comes to mind.  One of these holidays in my youth was enjoyed at my Uncle Allen’s house in rural Ohio.  My dad had a huge family – 10 siblings, each with big families of their own and would get together as often as they could, but especially on holidays.  Grandparents, aunts, and uncles gathered in the shade in their favorite lawn chairs to catch up on the latest news.  The cousins would all play croquet, badminton, volleyball and whatever else kept us busy.  The younger kids got to climb up in the tree house and everyone grazed on amazing food all day.  This particular year, one of my aunts made pineapple-upside-down cake, which I tried for the first time.

Now I’m not really a cake person, because I generally don’t like the sugary too-sweet frosting. But as you may know, Pineapple-upside-down cake doesn’t have frosting.  It just has scrumptious slices of pineapple, swimming in a brown sugar glaze…and I LOVED it!  Over the course of that day, I ate SEVEN – yes SEVEN pieces of that cake.  Not sure what everyone else had, because I ate so much of it myself.  It was heavenly!  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much cake in one day before or since then (thankfully).

So, in honor of that memorable Independence Day treat,  I’m posting this link to a recipe for Pineapple-Upside Down Cupcakes (pictured above)  Doesn’t that sound like a great idea?  I’ve never made these, but I love the cupcake idea for a potluck, picnic, barbecue or even a nice dinner with friends.  So much easier to transport and lovely to serve.  These are probably big enough for at least 2 people to share (unless of course, they love pineapple-upside-down cake as much as I do).  Let me know what you think.

And in looking through my old posts, I’m amazed that I’ve never shared my crock pot “Baked” Beans recipe, so here it is below.  This one  is so quick, tasty, colorful and easy.  It is the hit of any casual gathering.  I serve it all year long and often get requests to bring it to potlucks. This week, my husband was asked to bring something for an “All American” themed potluck at work, so I’ll help him make this recipe to share.

In case you’re wondering…the current most favored theory about the origin of Baked Beans notes that American Indians cooked beans with maple syrup and bear fat. Now how much more American can you get!

Since we don’t have bear fat, let me offer this variation of a baked beans recipe.  It’s much more colorful and has added protein to make it more filling as well.  The great thing about it is that it’s so flexible.  Feel free to experiment to find your favorite combination, then you can personalize it as “Amy’s Beans”, “Emma’s Beans” or ________________ Beans [Insert your name here].

Nancy’s Beans Recipe

  • 1 can Pork-n-Beans or Ranch Style Beans (do not drain)
  • 1 large can Baked Beans (Bush’s or your favorite brand) (do not drain)
  • 1 can butter beans (no need to drain)
  • 1 can black beans (drained), 1 can kidney beans (drained) 1 can Cannelini or Great Northern beans (drained), Navy or Pinto beans
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of cooked and chopped bacon
  • 1/2 to 1 onion (sauteed)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of cooked ground beef (optional)
  • 1 Tblsp mustard
  • 1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup

Really you can use nearly any combination of beans in addition to the first 2 cans.  The more variety you have, the more colorful the dish is.

Empty the first 3 cans of beans into a large crock pot without draining.  The sauce in these adds to the flavor and thickness.

After you drain the liquid from the Black, Kidney, Cannelini, Great Northern, Navy or Pinto beans, add them to the crock pot.  Easiest is to pour all the beans that need to be drained in a colander and rinse with water.  This should also wash away some of the excess sodium that comes in canned products.

Add the cooked onions, bacon, and/or ground beef

Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar(or molasses or maple syrup)

Stir everything together and set to low for 4-5 hours or until hot.  Everything is already cooked when it goes in, so all you’re doing is warming it up and allowing the flavors to blend together.  It can even be warmed in a microwave if you’re in a hurry.  It does seem to taste better after it sits together for a few hours.  If you’re cooking it in a crockpot and it seems to be too watery, just take off the lid and let it cook for a while with the lid off. The sauce will thicken more the longer the lid is off.

This will fill a large crockpot and serve 10-15 at least.

I hope you try these out.  Let me know how you like it and if you have ideas for ways to make it better.


Here are more recipes from some of your favorite magazines to check out for your Independence Day celebration:

Better Homes and Gardens: Festive Fourth of July Desserts and Cooling Cocktail Recipes

Bon Appetit: Fourth of July Picnic Menu or The Perfect Slaw

Cooking Light: Fourth of July Celebrations

The Daily Green: Delicious Summer Recipes

Food & Wine: July 4th Chef’s Celebrations

Good Housekeeping: Fun and Festive Fourth of July Recipes

Martha Stewart: Fourth of July Recipes

Taste of Home:  July 4th Entertaining

Happy Independence Day!

4th of July Ideas – Part 1 – Beverages

In looking for some refreshing summer beverages for the 4th of July, I was reminded of a delicious pitcher of Sangria that we had recently with some friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson.  If you haven’t visited El Charro Cafe in Old Town Tucson, it’s a place that’s well worth your time.  This is a view of the welcoming courtyard. When the weather’s nice (as it is for over half the year in this part of Arizona) it’s the most relaxing place to enjoy dinner or even just a drink with friends.

El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ
El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ

Ryans and Hanns

We happened to be in Tucson for Terry and Bob (aka The Catfish Hunters) to play at the Tucson Folk Festival and we had a chance to enjoy a wonderful dinner here with Bob & Helen.

But I digress.  This post is supposed to be about beverages and one of the sweet parts of the evening was our Summertime Blackberry Sangria. Doesn’t it look delicious!  I can taste it now.  Imagine washing down your chips and salsa with that colorful concoction.

So to bring this full circle.  I’ve been enjoying Sangria at a variety of spots this year and thought I’d share a patriotic version and eye-catching recipe for serving a group without having to make individual drinks for everyone.

Check out this Red, White and Blue Sangria from Recipe Girl!  (and she’s having a giveaway too)

She used pineapple for her stars, but I think I’d try star fruit since it already has the shape you need.   I LOVE the red strawberries, “white” (kinda) pineapple or star fruit, and blue-berries to carry through the patriotic theme.  Just imagine your giant glass beverage dispenser filled to the brim with all these summery ingredients.  It’s a party waiting to happen.  In case you haven’t seen it before, this is what star fruit looks like and here’s some more info about it too.  Hey, think about adding star fruit to your salads on the 4th as well!

…now where are the fireworks.

Let me know your plans for the 4th.  I’d love to hear how you celebrate.

Stay tuned for parts 2 (food) and 3 (DIY crafts and decorations) for the 4th of July series in the coming days.

Amazing Summer Salad!

First let me say thanks to those of you who have hung in there during my “slow blogging season”.  I just realized that I only did 2 posts in all of April, which makes me sad.  Good news is that my lack of posting, in this case, means that I’ve been quite busy, as mentioned before.  And I’ve added even more since that last list was made, so THAT means I have lots and lots of photos and news to blog about, which I hope will be good news for you.

Roasted Beet Summer Salad
Roasted Beet Summer Salad

Today I’ll start with a quick and delicious recipe that I tried tonight.

Something that I LOVE about the internet (and Google in particular) is that I can type in a couple of ingredients that I have on hand and find a recipe that uses those exact ingredients.  In this case I have fresh peaches that were picked at the Queen Creek Peach Festival (more on that in a future post) and some freshly roasted beets that I wanted to use in a salad.  So…I Googled “peach and beet salad” and this is one of the recipes that I found.

The original salad recipe can be found here at the PCC Natural Markets site.  As usual, I tweaked it to fit the ingredients that I had on hand.  You can check out the recipe for ideas on quantities and other options.  Here’s what I used.

  • red beets
  • green onions
  • yellow peaches
  • fresh spinach
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • sugar snap peas
I’m sure the dressing in the recipe would make it even better.  But instead of the dressing, I merely drizzled a little bit of Blood Orange Balsamic Vinegar over the top of the salad and it was great!  I found the vinegar at our local Sprouts Farmer’s Market.  Fresh, healthy and a great combination of sweet, salty, fruits and veggies.  Mmmm!  Great way to ring in the unofficial beginning of summer!  (We’re creeping closer and closer to our 100 degree days after all.)
I hope you get a chance to enjoy this salad sometime this summer.
By the way, I was raised on canned beets, which was really all I knew (and loved) for decades.  In the last few years, I’ve tasted more fresh beets in restaurants and on salad bars and recently decided to oven roast some fresh beets of my own.  If you like beets or enjoy trying new foods, please give them a try.  They’re SO MUCH better tasting than canned and certainly more nutritious.  The last time I roasted them, I served them warm from the oven drizzled with a good balsamic vinegar.  You would think that the vinegar would make them taste tart, but it actually brings out the sweetness of the beets and makes them sweeter!  They are delicious hot or cold!
Let me know if you like beets and how you like to serve them.  I can always use new ideas.  Thanks!
I’m linking this to:

The Girl Creative

Double Bonus – Recipe and Giveaway!

Just a quick post to let all you photographers know about a lens giveaway.  Although I guess my odds are better if I don’t tell you about it, but oh well…maybe you’ll let me borrow it if you win.

Check out this post from The Steamy Kitchen with a Stuffed Zucchini recipe and then scroll down on the same page for the awesome lens giveaway!

Stuffed Zucchini Boats from The Steamy Kitchen



Actually if you want to be really nice you could comment there and register for the drawing even if you don’t have a camera that uses that lens, then you could GIVE it to the person who told you about the drawing!  Great idea?  O.k. maybe that’s asking a little too much.

Anyway, enjoy the recipe and the giveaway!


Fort Myers, Florida (Part 8) – Our Visit to Sea Salt in Naples

I’m sure you’re wondering what “Sea Salt” is in the town of Naples, besides of course the actual salt.  Well, we were wondering too.  Diane had decided that she wanted to buy a few more of those delicious Norman Love chocolates to take home for family and friends and when checking online, she found out that they were also sold at a place called “Sea Salt” in Naples.  We weren’t sure if it was a store or what, and didn’t really have time to look it up before we left.  We didn’t even write down the address, but Alice thought she had a good idea of where it might be, since there are a few well known shopping areas in the town.

After the rest of our adventures in Naples, we decided to try to find Sea Salt, so we drove around 5th Avenue and 3rd Street with our eyes out for a sign.  Finally, we decided to ask a couple of women who were walking down the street.  They didn’t live in town, but said they thought there was a restaurant named Sea Salt somewhere on 3rd Street.  That was the case and soon we were walking up to the door.

When I saw how welcoming the outdoor terrace was, I was disappointed that we hadn’t given it a try for lunch on such a beautiful day.  Oh well, too late for that now, but at least we could track down the chocolates we were looking for.

Well, it turns out that in addition to chocolates, they also have a little shop inside that sells all manner of treats, including – you guessed it – sea salt.

Now this wasn’t just any old run of the mill boring white sea salt.  The owners, Venetian chef (that’s Venice, Italy, not Florida or California) Fabrizio Aielli and his wife, Ingrid have collected dozens of flavor-infused salts. And our first surprise was that Fabrizio himself offered to let Diane and I sample a few!  He was so enthusiastic about every detail of our tasting.  I wish we had had more time to savor his descriptions delivered in that wonderful Italian accent, as well as the flavors and the moments of discovery.

He let us try Lemon Twist, Chipotle and Ghost Pepper infused salts.  The Lemon would have definitely been delicious on any kind of fish, chicken or even vegetables.

Of course, I enjoy lemon flavor on most anything so this was a special treat.

Next we tried the Chipotle, which had a smoky southwestern flavor reminiscent of our familiar Arizona spices. Obviously this would be great on Mexican food, but also pork, beef and so much more.

And for the big finale, Fabrizio took great care to explain that the Ghost Pepper from India, is recognized as the hottest pepper in the world and that it was wise to use it very sparingly. I was actually familiar with it, since our friend Jay is a big fan of hot spices and has been trying to buy some seeds so he could raise his own Ghost Peppers.  So, knowing what I know about those peppers, we made sure to have some water available to douse the heat after we tasted this unique salt flavor.  When I tasted it, I actually took only one grain of salt and that one little piece felt like it was burning thru my tongue.  It wasn’t horrible, but I don’t think I would use it very often in cooking, if at all. In fact, I think it was quite daring of Fabrizio to even consider using it on his dishes.  I imagine that there’s an elite audience for it.

Soon Fabrizio was told that he had a gentleman waiting for an appointment and although he appeared to enjoy our little adventure much more than the thought of his upcoming meeting, he had to say goodbye.  We were so appreciative of the time that he took to share his passion with us.  Diane bought a small bottle of the Lemon Twist and we headed for the door.

And our last surprise was seeing this adorable dog waiting at the table for Fabrizio to come for his meeting.  I’m assuming it belonged to him because he was watching him so intently and waiting so patiently for his master to join them.

So that was our last big adventure in Florida and what a fun little detour it was!