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.

*Warning- photo overload in this post!

Squash Chickpea Raisin Stew with Couscous

Well, our honeymoon was a blast! Due to hurricane Sandy, we actually got an extra day since our original flight was cancelled. I don’t think I actually told you guys where we were headed, but we spent 10 days in the Pacific Northwest. My first time, but not Nate’s.

We spent our first 2 days in Seattle, staying downtown at the Edgewater. It was a really cute room.

Seattle Edgewater

We managed to eat as much as we walked…stopping for some donuts in Pike’s Market plus a cookie later in the day. We had an amazing meal at The Pink Door for dinner one night, which I highly recommend for anyone visiting the area. We also took a tour of Theo Chocolate factory and ate a ton of samples- including a freshly roasted coffee bean.

Theo chocolates

But the highlight of the tour was the fact that Nate had to wear a facial hair net. There actually was another bearded guy on the tour so he wasn’t the only one.

beard net

We then headed NE of Seattle to a small town called Woodinville that’s known for its wineries. My parents’ friend’s sister owns a Winery there called Columbia Winery, and she VERY generously pulled a few strings and we got a free upgrade to the biggest, nicest suite we’d both every seen at Willows Lodge…complete with fireplace, 4 poster bed, huge bathtub…and some chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us!

She also sent over a bottle of champage and wine from her winery plus a coupon for a free tasting. We took her up on it the next morning. Unfortunately the well-known restaurant at Willows Lodge, the Barking Frog, was all booked due to restaurant week, so we headed into town to a place they recommended called Purple. They also had restaurant week so we lucked out and had huge portions of delicious food for a reasonable price!

There are some big leaves way over in Washington…

dino leaf

Unfortunately we only spent one night at Willows Lodge. Before we left though, we did happen to stumble upon the home of their truffle sniffing pig…what a cutie!

truffle sniffing pig

The next day we headed to a little resort NE of Mt Rainier called Suncadia. We thought we’d be close enough to Mt Rainier to hike there, but unfortunately the closest entrance was closed for the season, so instead we enjoyed the hikes near the resort.

Cooper River Trailhead

When we got to our room there, there was a bottle of champagne and chocolates waiting for us…and by mistake they brought us another bottle and more chocolates a few minutes after we got into our room!

Suncadia lodge

Then they gave us more special treatment with MORE champagne and chocolate covered strawberries when we got to dinner- we ate at one of their in-house restaurants since the town nearby was extremely small. On the last eve there, the chef prepared a special 5 course tasting menu. To say we left stuffed is an understatement.

outdoor fire pit Suncadia

Next it was on to Hood River. We stayed in an awesome little cabin at a place called Carson Ridge B&B on the Washington side of the river. We had our own porch :)

Carson Ridge Cabins

They had a tasty homemade breakfast daily. Aside from the rain every day until 5pm-ish, it was really nice. We hiked to a couple waterfalls- the very hidden Panther Creek Falls and the larger Tamanawa Falls- both were breathtaking. The hike to Tamanawa was very rainy and unfortunately my raincoat was sub-par, completely absorbing all the water that hit it. I wasn’t a happy camper.

Tamanawa Falls

We also managed to walk over a mile in the wrong direction due to poor signage. We arrived at the falls cold and wet (at least I was), but it was definitely worth it!

 Tamanawa Falls2

Finally, we headed over to Portland by way of Cannon Beach.

Cannon beach

Portland was the cutest little city. Our first stop was to Patagonia to buy me a new raincoat :) A very smart purchase given the weather for the rest of the trip. The fall foliage in Portland was gorgeous, and despite the rain we enjoyed ourselves. Again, we found some amazing little restaurants: Tasty ‘N Sons and The Original Diner. I highly recommend both. We made stops at Pittock mansion, The Rose Test Gardens, Voodoo Donuts…

(I have way more photos but wasn’t sure how many I could get away with posting since I haven’t given you a recipe in weeks!)

By the time we made it back to NY, I think I probably gained back the weight I lost in that last frantic week before the wedding…which is totally fine by me. But Nate and I were both sick of carbs and rich food and were craving a healthy, veggie-ful meal.

Squash Chickpea Raisin Stew with Couscous

This one hit the spot. It was warm and comforting, perfect for these chilly days we’ve been having in NY. And I changed the original recipe to include even more vegetables! A perfect end to a perfect couple of weeks!

Squash Chickpea Raisin Stew with Couscous

P.S. Check out my beautiful new everyday dishes in the photos!

Chickpea, Squash and Veggie Stew with Raisins and Couscous

Adapted from Serious Eats

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Serves 4-6

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine half rings
1- 14oz can chopped tomatoes
1- 15.5 oz can chickpeas,  rinsed and drained
1 red or orange pepper, in 1 inch pieces
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 heaped cups peeled, seeded pumpkin or butternut squash cut into 1-inch dice
3 tablespoons raisins
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
5 oz. bagged kale (or kale with stems removed and torn in pieces)
2 cups couscous
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Combine the spices in a small cup and set aside.

Put the oil in a large saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cinnamon stick. Stir for a few seconds and then add the onion. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the onion is medium brown and soft (about 10 min).

Stir in the cup of mixed spices; almost right away, add the tomatoes. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened.

Add the chickpeas, pumpkin or squash, peppers, mushrooms, raisins, stock, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is just tender when pierced with the point of a knife. Add the kale and stir in, simmering until wilted.

While the vegetables simmer, make the couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. When it is about to boil, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame and toast the couscous in it for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the pot of couscous, add a teaspoon of salt, and stir once. Immediately cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit somewhere warm, still covered, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro. Fluff the couscous thoroughly with a fork. Put a mound of couscous on each plate. Make a well in the center and use a slotted spoon to fill it with solids from the stew. Dampen the couscous generously with the liquids.