Balsamic Bacon Fig Jam

Balsamic Bacon Fig Jam

I attended a grand, Southern wedding this fall with a buffet selection to make a bacon lover weak in the knees. There were four rooms of buffet tables and every single dish involved bacon. Candied bacon, peppered bacon, bacon wrapped potatoes, bacon mac & cheese, bacon shrimp and grits, and even the vegetable dishes were cooked in bacon grease. I think I even heard some guests squeal. All that food posed a predicament though. So much deliciousness and not enough stomach space.

My husband and I must have eaten a pound of bacon each that night. I don’t recommend this. We felt less than optimal the next day and we didn’t have one sip of alcohol. How do you say no to bacon though?! It’s nearly impossible.

I believe in real bacon. None of that sorry imitation turkey stuff. Thick, juicy pork fat. Bacon from happy hogs is preferable too, pastured pigs raised humanely in a natural environment.

The bacon feast inspired me to take the fatty meat to a new level. Balsamic Bacon Fig Jam was born.

Balsamic Bacon Fig Jam
Balsamic Bacon Fig Jam
Makes 2, 12 ounce jars.

4 pieces thick bacon
4 cups of onions – chopped
1 tsp salt
7 fresh figs – chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
½ tsp fresh rosemary or 1 large sprig
¼ cup water
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

►Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and cook bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes. Move bacon to a cooling rack and let the grease drip off into a bowl. Pour ¾ of the bacon grease from pan and leave the rest. Reserve the extra grease for other cooking.
 the onions in bacon grease over medium heat. Sprinkle in the salt, cooking until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in figs, maple syrup, black pepper, cayenne and rosemary.
►Once bacon has cooled, chop into small pieces. Add to the pot with water and stir together. Cook for 10-15 minutes until a thick, jam consistency forms.
►Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.
►Keep refrigerated in a glass mason jar. Serve as an appetizer with fresh chopped veggies or as an accompaniment to pork, chicken or eggs.

*Recipe loosely based on Chef John’s Bacon Jam.

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

This week I brought home the spaghetti squash to feed a village. The thing was at least 12 pounds! Check out the photo is you don’t believe me. It would be a big, blue ribbon winner in any county fair. Needless to say, I needed some recipes to use up all that squash.

First I made Brittany Angell’s Bacon Carbonara sauce with chicken. So delicious! The coconut milk is the perfect substitute for cream and I didn’t even miss the cheese. Now that’s a huge game changer. I thought creamy pasta sauces were expelled from my life, never to be enjoyed again. Coconut milk is saving my taste buds. The carbonara gave me a hankering for more cream-based pastas and I went all in for an old childhood favorite, spaghetti alfredo.

The sauce cooks in less time than the traditional dairy-filled version and is just as rich and creamy. I included heavy amounts of onion and garlic in this so if you’re not a fan just scale it back by half.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
Serves 2
Rich, creamy dairy free alfredo sauce.
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  1. ½ cup full fat canned coconut milk
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 2 tbsp sweet onion – minced
  4. 2 garlic cloves – minced
  5. 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  6. ¼ tsp salt
  7. ½ tsp pepper
  8. ½ tsp dried basil
  9. ½ tsp dried oregano
  10. ¼ tsp lemon
  11. 1 tbsp fresh parsley – chopped
  1. ►Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the squash. Slice in half lengthways and place skin-side-up in a shallow baking pan filled with a ½ inch of water. Roast for 1 hour until tender and the meat easily pulls away from the skin.
  2. ►For the sauce, place onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until fine. Set aside.
  3. ►Heat coconut milk and water over medium heat in a small sauce pan, stirring constantly. When it begins to simmer, turn down to low heat. Stir in the minced onion and garlic.
  4. ►Slowly add in the arrowroot a ½ tbsp at a time, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps. Cook for five minutes until mixture begins to thicken. If too thick, add more water and if too thin add ½ more tbsp of arrowroot.
  5. ►Once to the right thickness, add in all spices and mix well.
  6. ►Toss with spaghetti squash and serve topped with parsley. You can add your favorite fish or seafood to this dish for a complete meal. I paired mine with yummy wild caught salmon.
Adapted from Brittany Angell’s Bacon Carbonara
Sparkle Kitchen

Hollandaise Sauce and Cracking the Code on Eggs

Salmon Eggs Benedict

Rich, creamy hollandaise sauce. Pour it over any dish and you have something decadent. The sauce harmonizes the flavors and ties every ingredient together. But really, who am I kidding? I just want the sauce. The egg, salmon and vegetables are simply vehicles for the main attraction.

Hollandaise sauce has a secret weapon, it’s all in the quality of the eggs. Quality will always trump quantity in my book. When it comes to food, the source matters. And it matters most when you’ll be consuming it raw. The last thing you want to worry about is a contaminated egg.

Egg yolks from your local, trusted farmer are quite different from the styrofoam container you picked up at the grocery store. Chickens need a nurturing environment so they can be the best chicken they can be and in turn provide us with stellar nutrition. They need to roam free, eat from the land and get plenty of sunlight. How many grocery stores have eggs coming from this condition? Close to zero. Get to know your local farmer. Do you know where your eggs come from?

Pasture raised chickens:
-roam free on pasture outside
-eat their natural diets of green plants, insects and worms
-have higher nutrient percentages of vitamin A, vitamin K2, vitamin D, choline, sulfur, selenium and healthy cholesterol, which are primarily found in the yolk
-eggs have a longer shelf life, lasting for several weeks

Conventional chickens:
-live in cages or without access to sunlight most of their lives
-eat an unnatural diet of GMO corn, soy and cottonseed
-given antibiotics to prevent disease caused by their unnatural living conditions
-eggs are pasteurized and twice as likely to be contaminated

When conventional eggs are your only option, it is almost impossible to decipher all the marketing lingo saturating egg cartons. Companies know that consumers are looking for certain specifications. And since the companies’ goal is to turn the greatest profit, they have created new marketing tactics. Use this guide below designed by Richard Leo to steer you to the best option.

Guide to Unscrambling Egg Cartons

Salmon Eggs Benedict

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes ½ cup.

2 egg yolks
dash of salt
1 ½ tbsp of water
3 ½ tbsp of butter – I used Kerry Gold.
½ tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

►Chop butter into 1 inch pieces.
In a small sauce pan, combine egg yolks, water and salt. Whisk together before placing on the heat.
►Slowly heat over low heat, stirring constantly for five minutes. The mixture will thicken so that it coats the back of your spoon. If lumps form in the eggs, move away from the heat for a minute and continue stirring. Once the consistency is smooth, place back on the heat.

►Keeping the burner on, take the pan away from the heat. Stir in the butter 1-2 pieces at a time until all is combined and melted.
If sauce begins to harden, place back on the heat for a minute until creamy again.
►Add in lemon juice and cayenne pepper, stirring to combine.
►Serve immediately or place in a double boiler over the stove for up to thirty minutes. Stir before serving.