Roasted Vegetable and candied bacon salad

One day on our honeymoon, we had been hiking all day in the cold, pouring rain and after visiting several of the orchards on the Fruit Loop, petting some very cute alpacas and checking out a glass-blowing shop, we had nothing left to do that day before dinner.

Roasted Vegetable and candied bacon salad

The cabins we were staying at were a long and treacherous drive away and since I was the designated driver, I didn’t want to deal with driving back to the cabins for an hour or two and then back into town. You see, we were staying in Washington and dinner was in Oregon, and so we had to go over this really really really really scary little metal bridge to get from one to the other. The bridge probably wouldn’t be so scary in broad daylight on a nice clear day, but we had neither weather or sun in our favor on this occasion.

And so Nate and I headed early to dinner and played Letterpress (a highly addicting word game) against each other in the car for an hour while we waited for it to be late enough for us to legitimately arrive for our dinner reservation. We had plans to eat at this delicious restaurant in the Hood River Valley called Nora’s Table, as per Nate’s father’s recommendation.

Roasted Vegetable and candied bacon salad

The restaurant is small and cozy and I believe they vary their menu based on the season. On that particular day, there was something on the menu that was cold roasted veggies in a balsamic dressing on top of arugula, with candied bacon. I can’t remember the exact combo of veggies but I know there was definitely butternut squash and beets…and i remember there being some other squash or root veggie.

I had meant to recreate this recipe because the candied bacon was the most delicious thing either Nate or I had ever eaten….but I just never got around to it. Then a couple weeks ago, Shannon posted a recipe for bacon candy, and I knew it was a sign from the food blog gods that I really needed to get on this recipe recreation, STAT. It was also because after telling Shannon about said meal, she threatened my life if I didn’t begged me to immediately make this recipe and share it with her.

Roasted Vegetable and candied bacon salad

And so I took this threat request very seriously. Plus I now had a recipe for the most delicious part of the recipe (bacon candy!), courtesy of her. So I came up with a little something that I think gives Nora’s Table a run for their money. I hope you enjoy it.

*Just a note/warning: I tried using yellow beets for this recipe to maintain a yellow/orange color theme. However, I unfortunately learned that yellow beets oxidize to an ugly blackish color when left in the fridge overnight. Since these veggies need to be made the day before (or earlier in the day to cool to room temp), I recommend using red beets. If you were going to make the veggies same-day and serve room temp, then yellow would probably work.

Roasted Vegetable and candied bacon salad

Roasted Balsamic Squash & Root Vegetable Salad with Candied Bacon

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Serves 4-6 large servings

1 bunch red beets* (see note above recipe)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
olive oil
5 oz. arugula
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Candied Bacon (recipe to follow)

*It’s best to roast the vegetables the day before you want to eat this so you can serve them cold, or room temperature

Preheat oven to 400

Thoroughly wash beets, trim off greens leaving 1 inch (you can saute the greens for a yummy side dish!). Wrap beets individually with a bit of olive oil in a piece of foil and wrap tightly. Put on a baking sheet in case of leaking. Roast for an hour or until beets are easily pierced with a knife. Let cool until easy to handle and rub skin off under running water. Pat dry and cut into 1″ thick slices.

Toss squash and carrots with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt and some pepper. Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add to oven after beets have been cooking for 15 min. Roast for 45 min total or until slightly browned, tossing halfway through.

Cool veggies to room temp or refrigerate over night.

When ready to serve, combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss all veggies with about half of dressing, or however much you like.

Toss arugula with more dressing. There will probably be a little extra, depending on how much you like.

Put arugula on plate, top with mound of veggies and a couple slices of the halved candied bacon.

Candied Bacon
adapted from Shannon’s blog

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons chili powder
6 slices thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a lipped baking sheet with heavy duty foil, completely covering.

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and chile powder with a fork until evenly distributed and all brown sugar lumps are out. Press bacon into brown sugar mixture, heavily coating both sides.

Spoon excess brown sugar mixture onto the bacon.

While your bacon is baking, get out a metal cooling rack, overtop some paper towels.

Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes, checking at the 15-minute mark and watching like a hawk from that point on. Watch for your bacon to turn a deep red color towards the center and darker at the edges. Take it out when it is almost crisp and the sugar is caramelized. DO NOT BURN.

Remove the bacon from the oven and transfer the pieces to the wire rack using tongs. Be careful as it will be VERY hot. Allow to cool, as it will and crisp up. Cut each piece in half.

This is the meal that I made Nate for Valentine’s day…because nothing says love like lentils.

Also because I didnt’ have any better ideas and I got a craving for something like this. I know this isn’t much to look at, but it tastes amazing!

We could have gone out to dinner but making something seemed a little more special.

I don’t think Valentine’s day really needs to be a meal any different than a regular dinner.

Dessert, on the other hand, must be either red, pink, or heart-shaped, but as you may remember, I had that covered!

P.S. Those biscuits you see…I totally cheated. They’re Pillsbury. Who doesn’t love Pillsbury biscuits?!

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Lentils with Sausage, Sweet Potatoes, Feta and Balsamic Dressing

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makes 5 very generous servings 

1 cup dry lentils
1 lb sweet italian turkey sausage
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4″ cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
s+p to taste
1 1/4 cups feta

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil

Rinse and drain lentils, then add to a 4 quart pot filled halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 min or until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain lentils and set aside.

Remove sausage from casings and heat in a large saucepan over med-high heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Stir until cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

Add sweet potato to pan with sausage drippings and cook over med heat for 5 minutes.

Raise heat back to med-high, add 1 Tbsp oil, onions, carrots and celery and cook 5-10 minutes or until onion is soft.

Add sausage and lentils into veggies and stir until warm.

Mix dressing ingredients and pour over lentil mixture, tossing well.
Serve with a generous serving of feta sprinkled on each plate, or toss into lentil mixture if desired.

i.e. Heaven on a Plate

Nate and I have had non-stop plans since Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong, we love travelling and spending time with family and friends, but sometimes it’s nice to have a lazy weekend at home where we can sleep in (a luxurious 8 am), and make something fantastic for breakfast.

Nate’s in the midst of his marathon training since he qualified for the Boston Marathon, so I try to make meals with enough calories to carry him through his runs.

I’m not gonna lie and tell you that these waffles are perfect for your New Year’s diet, but I can tell you that they’re worth every.single.calorie.  I actually cut down on the amount of butter and bacon in the original recipe, if you can believe it.

They taste like cornbread with a bite of bacon in every forkful. The thyme-infused syrup is herby and delicious- a combo I’d never have dreamed up on my own.

So please, make this for someone you love this weekend.

Cornmeal-Bacon Waffles with Thyme-Infused Maple Syrup
Slightly adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

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makes 12-14 waffles 

For the thyme-infused syrup:

8 small sprigs fresh thyme
1  cup pure maple syrup
8 whole black peppercorns
4  tablespoons cold water

For the cornmeal-bacon waffles:

1 pound thick-cut bacon
4 large eggs
3 cups (12 fluid ounces) buttermilk, plus more as needed
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Make the thyme-infused syrup:

Pull off most of the leaves from the thyme. Place both the leaves and the stems in a small saucepan with the maple syrup, peppercorns, and water. Place over very low heat and bring to a very gently simmer. Let it bubble for 10 minutes to infuse the syrup with thyme. Strain the syrup into a pitcher. (You can make the syrup up to 3 days ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate, then gently reheat over low heat just before serving.)

Make the cornmeal-bacon waffles:

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, turning once, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and let stand until cool enough to handle. Crumble the bacon into small pieces. You should have about 1 1/4 cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper, if using. Make a well in the center of the cornmeal mixture, then pour in the egg mixture. Whisk until the batter is mostly smooth with just a few lumps. If the batter is too thick, stir in another 1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Gently fold in the bacon.

Preheat your waffle maker.

Ladle the batter into the waffle maker, using 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter per batch and spreading the batter so that it almost reaches the edges. Cook until crisp and browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a spatula, remove the waffles and serve hot or place on a baking sheet in a single layer in a 200°F (95°C) oven for up to 20 minutes while you make the rest with the remaining batter. Drizzle with the warm thyme-infused syrup.