Thursday, May 26, 2011

Need to save some bacon?

I know I post a lot of recipes. But there are other ways to save money besides making your own foods instead of buying it. I decided to take another inventory around the Bacon house to see where else we can cut out a few bucks. Here are some tips I wanted to share with you, how many of them do you do?

Tips for saving money around the house now that it's warmer out:

*It's spring now (well it's questionable here in Minnesota with the frost warnings still!), start opening the windows. Fresh air helps tire the kids out too, airs out those stinky rooms that have been closed up all winter, and helps cool off the house! Opening windows at night lets in the cool evening air too!

*Keep the curtains shut where the sun is coming in. Ok this seems opposite from what I just mentioned, but on really hot days, it's good to keep those shades closed when the sun is shining in to help keep the house cool, and run the AC less. We have also opted to tint with the peel n' stick kind, a few of our windows that let in a lot of light. It really has made a difference in keeping the Bacon house cool and the sun doesn't damage our floors and furniture as much.

*When you do have to use the A/C, close off rooms you are not in, and close off vents in your basement to keep the upstairs cooler.

*Unplug anything you are not using. Take a trip though your kitchen, unplug the toaster, the mixer, coffee pot anything you are not using at the moment. It's crazy how just having those items plugged in costs money even if they are not in use! OH and 'unplug' the kids too, from the TV that is. It's nice out side, let them burn of some of that energy out there!

*Turn off the dishwasher heat, just open the door after they are done washing and let them air dry. Or if the kids have been naughty, make them hand dry them when they have cooled down a bit! Better yet, have them hand wash them too! (ok so that doesn't work with the bacon kids yet, but in a few years I will be trying it out! Grandma Bacon always said she had 4 dishwashers in the house, it happened to be her kids!)

*Turn down the hot water heater. I thought about this the other day AGAIN after the water from the kitchen faucet burnt me. I have to get Mr. Bacon on this one right away.

*If you haven't switched already, wash your laundry in cold water when you can. It saves the money it would cost to heat the water!

*It's warm out, go hang the sheets outside! Ahh... you'll thank yourself for this one when you crawl into bed with fresh line dryed sheets.

*Keep up on replacing those light bulbs. We are all energy efficient bulbs at the Bacon house and it really does help lower the bill. Better yet in the summer, let the light in instead of turning on the light. It gets light out so early now (little boy bacon thinks just because it's light outside, it's time to get up, at 5:30 am. Oh he needs to learn how to tell time!) use the light instead of the lights!

*Cook outside more! It's nice outside now, or getting there so break out the grill! Oh how I miss grilling so much in the winter. We do still grill a bit in the snow, but some days it's just too cold! Also break out the crock pots and stove top recipes to avoid using the oven. If you do have to use the oven, try to combine as much cooking as you can. Bake up a batch of cookies, make dinner, a banana bread, ect so you won't have to use the oven for a few days again hopefully.

*Combine shopping trips! Gas is unreal for a gallon right now! We try to go to town only twice a month to do our shopping. We try to combine as many stops as we can into our day. Yes it gets long for the kids, bring some snacks and water so you don't get tempted to buy them!

*Check the tires! Keeping your tires inflated properly will help you save gas!

*It's garage sale season, OH how we love garage sale season!! No one loves it more than Little Miss Bacon, seriously she can sniff out a sale sign a mile away. Go though the kids clothes and figure out what sizes you'll need for fall, make a list so when you stop you can look for what you need and are not tempted to buy other treasures! Also while you are going though those closets, take out too small stuff and sell it at your own garage sale, or thrift store or donate it so you have extra space!

Well there is a good start! Now I know some of these don't sound like they'll make you rich, but every little bit counts and adds up fast! So take a walk around your house, how else can you save some Bacon? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Sometimes you just need some comfort

Ahhh...comfort food. Everyone has their favorite right? Mr. Bacon's is hot dogs, really I'm not sure how he can eat so many! One of mine is a childhood favorite. But I have to warn you, I think I'm the only person out there that eats it! Ok I can maybe think of two others, Grandma Bacon and Sis Bacon, none of the Bacon kids will try it (perhaps Bacon bit will enjoy it, I craved it enough while he was inside me baking!), neither will Mr. Bacon despite the fact it has hot dogs in it! This does make me a bit sad since I don't think this recipe will live on, which is why I'm posting it here, perhaps there is another crazy reader out there that will decide they like this enough to make it too!

Regardless, I still make it as a special treat for my self on occasion. And every time I do I remember back to when my mom would make it for us kids. I can still remember the beat up old fry pan (I'm pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with the many times one of us kids dropped it) she made it in. I'm sure Grandma Bacon made it because it's pretty easy and a cheap meal (thrifty lessons started early for me!) that would feed some hungry kids, besides how yummy we thought it was!

So I know I've gotten you wondering what it is. And I'll say this, even if you don't like my comfort food, keep reading because I'm sure you'll love the 'mommy treat' I have posted at the end!

So this recipe has no 'exact' amounts that I use, it's all measured by 'guess' you could say. I'll try my best to add what I think are approximate amounts to the measurements for you.

Noodles, eggs and hot dogs:
2 handful's of wide egg noodles (about 1-1.5 cups uncooked noodles)
2-3 hot dogs cut up
2-3 eggs, depending if you prefer more or less eggs, I prefer more!
a splash of milk- about 1 tbsp per egg
dash of salt & pepper
spoonful of butter- about 1 tbsp

Boil noodles according to package, drain and rinse. Place in skillet with cut up hot dogs and butter. Cook over med heat, stirring occasionally until bottom of noodles start to brown.

While that is in pan cooking, in bowl mix eggs, milk, salt & pepper well with fork (like making scrambled eggs). Once noodles start to brown on bottom, add eggs to pan. Stir until all egg is cooked well and no runny egg left.

Now for me I usually will leave this in the pan once the egg is cooked for a few more minutes to insure the noodles start to get a little crispy on the bottom. Place it on a plate and true to kid nature, I eat mine with ketchup! Ok, that's the one part of this meal my kids did decide they liked, they eat EVERYTHING with ketchup. Some days I think I should have bought stock in ketchup. By now some of you probably think I've gone completely crazy (no Mr. Bacon, you can not agree with them!). But there is something about eating a meal you had when you were a kid that takes you back to your childhood. So please share yours with me! I love to read your comments!

Now on to that yummy 'mommy treat' I mentioned above. Trust me, this will appeal a lot more to most of you. Ever have one of those moments when you just are craving chocolate? Open the pantry only to find you did actually eat that last hidden chocolate bar you thought was still there. Can't run to the store, what to do? What to do? I make these yummy treats. But SHHHHH... they're a secret! Because some treats we need to just keep for mommy!

Mommy secret:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter (about 1.5 tbsp normal size)

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 1 minute or until chocolate chips are melted. Stir in Peanut butter.

Drop by tablespoons onto wax paper covered plate. Place plate in freezer for 5-10 minutes until chocolate cools.

Once cooled, peel off wax paper and ENJOY! They taste a lot like a peanut butter cup. One of my favorite things about these is they don't take long to make, which means I can cure my chocolate fix fast!

Keep these hidden in the freeze if you have any leftover. You don't want the kids finding them! Also they melt very fast in your hands (hey they're not M&M's!) and at room temp so they are best eaten straight from the freezer. I hope these help you out next time you are in need of some chocolate fast!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quick hit!

Those yummy pizza puffs I posted about last week have become a huge hit in the Bacon house! I've made 4 batches since then. Each one has been gobbled up just as fast as the first. I decided to get creative and think of other ways to make these great treats. A quick one that I wanted to share is the ham and cheese rolls.

These were just as easy as the pizza puffs to make. I made the basic pizza dough recipe once again. this time when I divided it out I made the dough balls slightly bigger - about 1.5" instead of the 1" I used with the pizza puffs. This time instead of rolling them into circles, I kept them more rectangles. Then I laid down a piece of cheese, co jack is one of our favorites! And added some black forest ham on top.

I started from one end and roll it up. I pinched the ends together to seal it so the cheese wouldn't run out while it baked. Popped them in a 400* oven for about 10 minutes again.

HEAVENLY. These almost beat out the pizza puffs, I like them so much. Mr. Bacon of course said he loves them both. The kids dug into them as well! They don't take much time to make which I love and they make a great lunch. I also decided to go ahead and freeze some of these and some pizza puffs. Guess what, they work great that way too. I took out a frozen one and microwaved it for 30 seconds for a warm treat. I can see Mr. Bacon having lots for a late night snack! I'm going to keep using the dough recipe to come up with more winners. I'm thinking some homemade pigs in a blanket are in order for the kids soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Equal Opportunity Bacon Lover?

So do we love all kinds of bacon at our house? You bet! But I am partial to the green kind a 'bit' more! But that yummy kind you find at the grocery store tastes a lot better! I often hear the question, "what can I do with pork?" It's a fair question, after all it's not beef or chicken, it's the other white meat. But there are a lot of delicious ways to make pork. One of our favorite is throwing it right on the grill. I can't always grill it, and that's where the oven comes into play. Tonight was one of our favorites. And I'm happy to report Little Miss Bacon actually ate it and cleared her entire plate! That's a huge accomplishment around here for our picky daughter. The other thing that I love about the recipe I made tonight is that it's easy to make.

Bacon wrapped Pork Loin

Here is what you need:

Pork loin
Olive oil
seasoning- I used Weber Smoky Mesquite

I LOVE recipes that use 5 ingredients or less!

First take your potatoes and wash them. I used 7 medium potatoes for our dinner, you can adjust for how many people you are serving. Dice the potatoes and toss them in a bowl. Go preheat your oven to 375* also.

Next in a 9x13 pan, place your pork loin. Cut your bacon in half, right though the package even! Take a peek at it. I take the half that looks more lean and stick it in the fridge for breakfast tomorrow! Take out 6-7 slices from the half pack of bacon you are using for dinner and lay them on top of the pork loin. Take the remaining slices and cut them in to thin slices.

In the bowl that you placed your diced potatoes, add 2 TBSP olive oil, 2-3 tsp of your seasoning (more or less of both depending on how many potatoes you used) and the chopped up bacon.

Mix the potato mix well in the bowl. Next place the potatoes around the pork loin in the pan. If you have really lean bacon for this, you can add up to 1/4 cup of water in the pan.

Place the pan in the oven- 375* until the pork loin is fully cooked. I cooked this loin which is about 2.5lbs for almost 2 hours. If you have one of those handy food thermometers you can take your pork's temperature! Pork is fully cooked when it reaches 160*.

Here it is fresh out of the oven. YUMMY! If your bacon isn't crispy on top don't worry. You can crisp it up by turning on the broiler in your oven for a few minutes before taking it out. Watch it close since broiling browns things fast!

See my pork loin is ready for the table!
Another way to make sure your pork is done if you don't have a thermometer is to make sure it's no longer pink in the middle. Slice the pork loin, pair it with your favorite veggies- Little Boy Bacon chose corn tonight. Simple, easy to make and tastes delicious! You know you want to try it.

Can you guess what else I've been up to this week? Making yet another batch of yogurt. Seriously I can't keep up with how fast we eat this. I'm quite happy to have found an alternative to buying it all the time. I've had a few people ask about how thick the yogurt turns out. Some of these people have tried to make their yogurt in a crock pot and have had their yogurt turn out runny. Even with my first batch, it wasn't that runny. But now that I've perfected my recipe here is to show just how thick the yogurt turns out. This is vanilla, made with 1% milk.

It's not moving! Need a bit more proof...

Still won't fall out into my bowl. That's thick, creamy yogurt!

Thanks to all my readers, old and new. I love how many of you are stopping in to see what's going on at the Bacon house! Keep stopping back, I have lots of great things planned. Especially some ways to keep the kids busy this summer. Are you curious how the cloth diapers are coming along? I also have some great cloth diaper posts coming up too!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Perfect Pizza Puffs

 My Pictures have gone missing!!  I'm working on retaking pictures for this post- thanks for your patience.  ~Ma Bacon

Every have one of those days? Where SOMETHING sounds good, but you have no clue what. Last night before Mr. Bacon headed off to work he let was trying to find something to take for a midnight snack. Yes it was the night shift again. He couldn't find anything in the cupboards, nothing in the fridge or freezer either. So I asked what sounded good to him. And what does he say, pizza rolls. Yes those little pillow like things with the goo inside that is suppose to be pizza. Ok can you tell I don't care for them much! I wasn't about to run out to the store and buy some, especially with the cost of gas, and the price of processed convenience food! I had once come across a recipe for pizza bites, I tried to find it but I couldn't so I just decided to wing it, at 8:30 at night! But let me tell you, they were worth it!

I started out with my basic pizza crust from Here. Mix just as it states, and let it rise the 10 minutes you need to. That is why I LOVE that crust recipe, it takes 15 minutes tops to make pizza crust unlike the hour or more most need to rise. While the yeast was proofing and dough rising I decided to whip up a batch of homemade granola bars for the kids snack today too. Yes, they are so easy to make, I did it in under 15 minutes!

Once the dough is ready, it's time to get to work. First go and preheat your oven to 400*. Now these do take a bit more time than say rolling out a big pizza, but it didn't take me longer than 20min to get them all wrapped up and that was with putting Bacon Jr. back to bed once!

Pinch off a chunk of dough and roll it into a ball about 1" in diameter. I compared it to some pepperoni so you can see how big it is. You don't need a ton. Next take a very small amount of flour - no more than 1/4 cup and put it on your work surface, no need to spread it out yet. Roll your dough ball lightly in it. This will hopefully help keep it from sticking to the surface when you roll it out. You can always add more flour to the dough if you need it to not stick, but the more flour you use, the harder dough you'll get so remember just a little!

Next roll out the dough. No need for perfect circles or anything. You can roll it out by hand or with one of these handy pizza rollers. This one is from pampered chef but you can find several similar to it on amazon, and perhaps in stores too, I haven't looked. I LOVE this roller, it makes the top 10 handy gadgets I have around my kitchen easily. I was happy Grandma Bacon just happened to have one that she wasn't using and was willing to part with.

Now to the toppings... I went basic toppings and not too many because you have to remember you need to fold these up. So Sauce, pepperoni & cheese. I used a yummy 3 cheese blend of mozzarella, provolone & cheddar! I rolled out several and made them up to save time. After the first one I made and took a picture of, I decided the sauce stayed put better in the roll up stage if I put the cheese down first and sauce on top of it.

Next to fold them up. I just started grabbing at the edges and bringing them up to the center. There really is no good trick with doing this. Yes some of the toppings might try to slide out. Mine sure did, I just poked at them until they went back inside! Keep pinching until all the dough is folded up and it forms a little pouch. Place it pinched side down on a well greased cookie sheet or on a pizza stone.

I was able to make 22 of these little cuties! Here they are all ready for the oven.

Bake them in 400* oven for 10-12 minutes and tops are golden brown.

While they are baking I melted 2 tbsp butter and added 1 tsp Italian garlic bread seasoning to it. We love this seasoning. It's from tastefully simple and really yummy, but kinda expensive and only offered during the winter season. We use it all the time when we make garlic bread. I have also found I like Mrs. Dash garlic & herb seasoning too and tastes similar in garlic butter. It's also cheaper and easier to find!

Once the pizza puffs come out of the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter. Yes some of the insides sometimes ooze out of them (just like the store bought one's!) They still tasted delicious!

I let them cool for a few minutes and then grated some fresh Parmesan cheese over the tops of them! If you do it too soon and they are too warm, the cheese just melts. Still tastes good though!
Next, pop some of these on a plate and ENJOY! Mr. Bacon was so surprised when he stopped home for snack time to find these yummy treats waiting for him. He happily dug in and approved them right away!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's even better than it looks!

Amazing isn't it? Like one of those pieces of cake you drool over in the glass case at the restaurant. Only without the $6 a slice price tag. Even better is that it's all home made and total for the whole cake cost about $6! This is one of Mr. Bacon's favorite cakes, Cheesecake. Even better that it's a Mocha chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache. I don't often make this cake, can you guess why? Honestly it is probably better for me to rub it directly on my hips, than eat it. It would probably come off easier that way too! But when I do make it, I savor EVERY.SINGLE.BITE. And I don't like to share it either!

This would be the perfect cake to make for mother's day coming up. I'm sure your mom might be surprised by how it tastes. Or perhaps leave the recipe up for your wonderful better half to find and make for you. Ahh, you're worried they'd burn the kitchen down?! Ok so even if you have to make it for yourself, hide out in the bathtub with a big slice of this cheesecake, a glass of wine and a good book and treat yourself for all that hard work. (even if you're not a mom!)

Ok normally I have great pictures that help walk you step by step though my kitchen making process, but to be truthful, I forgot last night. It was late, I made those wonderful donut muffins for Mr. Bacon's breakfast too and didn't even think of my camera. But I have some mouth-watering after shots!

Mocha chocolate cheesecake:
2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers or sandwich cookies (like oreos)
5 tbsp butter - melted
3- 8oz cream cheese, softened
1.5 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp instant coffee
3 tbsp Kahlua or coffee liquor
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp espresso coffee

Preheat oven to 325*. Crush crackers or cookies in a large baggie. Add melted butter. Seal the baggie and mush together until moist. Dump the cookie crumb mix into a spring form cheese cake pan and press firmly to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the fridge to chill. In mixing bowl (I happily use my kitchenaid mixer- who I have named Gertie) place cream cheese and sugar and mix together. Add eggs, one at a time and mix between each one. Place 1/4 of this mix in a separate bowl, and set aside. In the bowl with the remaining batter, add in flour, instant coffee (I use Maxwell house international cafe) and liquor, mix well.

Don't worry about the liquor, the alcohol will cook off when it bakes. If you don't want or have the coffee liquor, you can replace it with water. I'd mix the water and the instant coffee together first and then add it to the cream cheese mix.

Pour this mixture over the crust. Take remaining 1/4 of batter and mix in cocoa powder and espresso (If you don't have espresso, just brew up some strong coffee!) into cream cheese batter. Pour this on top of the other cheese cake mix.

Place the cheesecake into the oven and let it be! Bake it for 50-60 minutes until fluffy. It's ok if it cracked too. Take it out and let if cook on the counter for a bit (the cake will fall, so don't worry about that either) and then for 4hrs to overnight in the fridge. I found that for my cheesecakes to turn out, it's best to make them when the pitter patter of tiny feet are not running around! The cake rises better and is more fluffy.

Once it's completely cool, it's time to add the chocolate ganache. This is why it's better to plan ahead if you are making this cake and do this step the next morning.

Chocolate Ganache:
9oz chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

In sauce pan, heat cream until boiling. Remove from heat and add in chocolate. Stir until melted and creamy. Let the ganache cool 5 min and then pour over the top of your cheesecake. Put the cake back in the fridge to chill until you need to serve it. Or can't stand it any longer and NEED to have a piece of it!

For a fancy touch for mom's big day, add a swirl of chocolate syrup underneath.

Garnish the top if you'd like. I thought it looked great and tasted yummy with a dollop of cool whip and a few mini chocolate chips sprinkled over the top.

Indulge and enjoy every bite of it. We did!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

MAYday MAYday... A muffin story

Once upon a time, in the land of Bacon.

"What's for breakfast Mom?" the kids questioned.

"Cereal again". the mom said.

The Bacon kids groaned "not again... We want something different".

Panic struck Ma Bacon's face. What can I make the kids that is different, that they will all like she wondered. She was about to call mayday for the reinforcements to come in, well just one really. But Mr. Bacon was still fast in his slumber (I can't blame him, he worked all night long). And then an idea grew in her head. "Let's make muffins" she exclaimed.

"I want chocolate." cried little miss Bacon.

"I want banana!" yelled little boy Bacon.

"No, apple for me." Bacon jr said.

And yet another dilemma arose.

How with the story end you ask? Is the suspense killing you yet?! I won't keep you waiting any longer. I will say I managed to please all 3 of the kids without needing to call mayday, on May day for that matter! I've had this recipe for a while now and decided this would be a perfect way to start our morning.

Mystery Muffins

1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
Mix in's

Preheat oven to 350*. In mixing bowl add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and oil. Mix well. Add in salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour. Mix well. I have to say if you are looking for a good muffin base, this one is perfect! Pour into well greased muffin tins. We used mini muffins and it made 3 dozen, I'm guessing you'd get 12 good sized regular muffins if you went with the bigger muffin tins.

If you looked at the picture of my ingredients, you notice I have no oil. I decided to substitute some pear sauce for the oil. For one Bacon bit isn't eating it, and two, I figured with all the chocolate I knew was going into these muffins, I needed to do something to make it a bit more healthy!

Next its time for the fun. Your mix in's. today we went with chocolate chips, diced apples with cinnamon sugar on them, chopped bananas, dried cranberries, raisins, chopped pecans, vanilla chips and triple berry jam. Oh and lets not forget some M&M's that somehow slipped into a few of these muffins! Better the kids get their sugar high in the mornings right?

Other ideas you can use are:
strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Peanut butter
any dried fruit

Go search your cupboards, I'm sure you'll find lots of other inspiration to mix in these fun muffins.

The next part is what the kids were waiting for. Making their own creations! Little miss bacon was up first and happily added chocolate chips and M&M's to her muffins.

Little boy Bacon created his next. Not too shocked on all the chocolate that went into his, but he did try his taste buds on a few other things like the bananas he said he wanted and cranberries.

Finally Bacon Jr tried out his culinary skills by getting quite creative. Wanting to try a bit of everything he made apple pecan, cranberry M&M, banana raisin, apple vanilla chip, triple berry jam & pecan, and apple chocolate chip!

I created the rest of them. Here they are all ready for the oven.

I baked these in the oven for 14 minutes. For large muffins you'll want to bake them for 20 minutes.

Let them cool on the pan for a minute or two and then cool completely on a wire rack. I have to say I thought the toppings would sink in a bit more than they did. I think next time we make these I'll take a tooth pick and push them down inside a bit. I have to say, it was a fun time. I loved watching how creative the kids were making them. And how they critiqued their own work while eating them. They are already talking about what they want to mix in their own muffins next time we make them! As for me, I enjoyed mine with one of these! Hope you have a great May 1st!