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.

Dairy Free & Nut Free Cheese

Dairy-Free Cheese

Cheese and I had a special bond for many years. It was my go-to quick afternoon snack that kept me going until dinner. At some point I’d even read an article that influenced me to eat a piece of cheese before dining out at a restaurant. That one piece was supposed to prevent me from over-eating. I stuck to this rule for years and I think all it did was make me constipated.

I gave up most dairy in 2007 and felt incredible. Until that year, my body had been inundated with lactose, which I did not have the ability to metabolize. Cheese was one of the last foods I completely eliminated though. I just couldn’t give up the cheesy goodness. I held onto it for as long as I could, then I had to face the facts. My body hates all dairy. I cut it out slowly, still eating goat cheese from time to time. I knew my body didn’t need it but I kept going back for more. Why couldn’t I break this habit?

Is Cheese Addictive?

Cheese is an addiction. It is actually a scientific fact. The compounds in cheese alter our brain chemistry. Seems crazy, right? Definitely, but you can’t argue with science. Compounds called casomorphins are concentrated in cheese and when they are broken down by digestion they have a drug-like response in the brain. Our brains on cheese is similar to a junkie looking for his next hit. If you want a more in-depth look at the effects of cheese on the brain, check out Steph’s post at

And it’s important to note that these casomorphins are also shown to slow intestinal movements, which is why I was frequently challenged in the bathroom department after eating cheese.

I still miss cheese though. It’s so easy, so portable and easily enhances any recipe. There are cheese alternatives out there, although they are either made from soy protein or some kind of nut/seed. I keep these foods out of my diet and I didn’t think there was another option. Until I met Hayley via Instagram. Hayley made cheese out of vegetables! Now that’s something I can get into.

The secret ingredient in this vegetable cheese is the nutritional yeast.

What is Nutritional Yeast? 

It provides that cheesy flavor we all crave. Andrea Cespedes describes it as:

“Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for several days. The primary ingredient in the growth medium is glucose, often from either sugarcane or beet molasses. When the yeast is ready, it is killed (deactivated) with heat and then harvested, washed, dried and packaged.”

Just two tablespoons provides 9 grams of protein and is also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It is also a good source of selenium and potassium.

With Hayley’s recipe I’ll never have to long for cheese again. This is quick to make and can be sliced, grated, crumbled or melted.

Dairy-Free Cheese

Makes 12 slices.

1 cup zucchini – chopped
2 tbsp carrot – grated
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp gelatin  – I use Great Lakes brand

►Line a 9×9″ dish with parchment paper.
►Bring 1/4 cup water to boil. Add zucchini and carrot. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
►Drain water and veggies through a colander. Place veggies in a food processor with oil, lemon, salt and nutritional yeast. ►Pulse until fully combined then add the gelatin. Pulse to distribute the gelatin throughout.
►Pour into prepared dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and enjoy!