parmesan-stuffed piglets

Sweet and salty. Cheese and bacon. What is not to love? These parmesan-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates are super easy, super tasty, and will impress your dinner guests.

You need:

  • 15 pitted dates (Medjool are good, but whatever you have)
  • 5 strips of bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 15 “matchsticks” of parmesan or romano cheese, about the size and shape of a date pit (see what I’m doing here?)

Fill that sad empty cavity where the date pit used to be with cheese morsel, the wrap the date with a third of a piece of bacon. Place on a baking sheet with the seam down.

get your piggies in a row.

Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, turning periodically so they get evenly crispy. I do it in a toaster oven and it works brilliantly, but you’ll need to use your oven if you make a bigger batch. If I make a bigger batch I will eat a bigger batch, so.

Serve warm and humbly accept praise.

for some reason this picture won’t rotate (thanks, WordPress) so not only do these look delicious, but they look like they defy gravity. double plus good.

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WORLD PEACE

It was glorious.

The testosterone. The food. MIA flipping the bird.

Plus I was right and the Giants won.

We had a great Super Bowl party, complete with pounds of meat from a variety of animals, dripping in BBQ sauce. Also: hummus, baba ghanouj (however you spell it), caramelized onion dip, curry dip, chips of all kinds, veggies, apples with caramel-skor dip, Katie’s mystery dip, deadly mini-marshmallow squares, and… beer nuts. Which, I learned, have no beer in them.

Combine in a 12-inch skillet:

  • 2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

peanut soup.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. When the sugar syrup starts to go granular, this is your chance to add seasonings. I did one batch plain, and to the second batch, I added:

  • cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste

Crank the heat to medium-high and stir constantly, as the sugar starts to caramelize. If the sugar starts to smoke or burn, you were too enthusiastic. Turn down the heat.

caramelize-y.

Once about 1/2 to 3/4 of the sugar is caramelized (so some of it still looks granular), remove from heat and spread on a greased or parchment paper-ed cookie sheet. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in your kitchen, or two minutes on your balcony in the midst of a Canadian winter.

go sit outside and think about what you did.

Once they’re hardened, you can bash the big clumps apart with a wooden spoon (it’s therapeutic). Store in an airtight container. Give them to your amigos and secure your rightful spot as favourite friend ever.

clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose

The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski brings back the old-school touchdown spike. Al Bello/Getty Images

I am “doing” the Superbowl this year. As in, I am actually paying attention for the first time ever. Giants! Patriots! Linebackers and tight-ends! Eli Manning? Tom Brady!

Okay, it mostly means I plan to cook stupid amounts of food based around blocks of cheese and pounds of meat and the glorious sound of a bubbling deep-fryer. (For inspiration, I am turning to one of my besties and her detailed list of game day recipes. You should too, here.)

Right now, everything I know about football I learned from Friday Night Lights, so my actual participation in the watching of the game will probably be limited to making snide comments about the players’ tattoos and facial hair. If I do get roped into a conversation about the actual game, I’ll have to refer to field positions by the names of the characters on the show.

Well hi there Tim Riggins.

To avoid having to refer to the fullback as “that position that the really cute drunk guy plays,” I’ve been doing scattered football research. I have found some amazing things. Here is your one-stop shop for random conversation starters for non-fans, if you get roped into watching the game on Sunday:

  • Tebowing, obviously.
  • Rob Gronkowski’s reinvention of the spike.
  • If you’re not into the game itself, check out this primer on the reasons for the outrageous costs of advertising during the game. (In a nutshell: “…nonfootball mass entertainment has been in a decades-long spiral of decline that was only temporarily halted by an ice-world knee-clubbing.” Brilliant. Except I don’t think the author takes into account the aura that surrounds a buying a spot during the big game. People google “Super Bowl ads” and then settle in for a long evening on YouTube.)
  • And then there’s this fun fact — Americans will devour 1.25 billion wings on Sunday… that’s about 312 million chickens for one day of feasting.

Now, when I say I’m doing the Superbowl for the first time, it’s a bit of a lie because there is one tradition that I have squarely participated in for years: the commercials. One of the few bad things about being Canadian is the fact that we don’t get the Amurrrrricahn commercials… so thank god for YouTube. My favourite from last year:

So anyway. Go…. Giants, I guess? I do love me an underdog. I call it for the Giants by 10, solely because I’m copying the DJ on Montreal’s 94.7 Hits FM.

sukuma your wiki

Well, I’m still running into a few consistency challenges with these kale burgers but who has time to wait for perfection? Just eat your greens.

Sukuma Wiki Burgers
makes 4 patties

stay together for the kids

I adapted this from a couple different recipes for spinach burgers, adding my own flavours and using sukuma wiki — Kenyan kale, literally meaning “stretch the week” since it is extremely inexpensive and therefore popular with those who need to stretch their grocery budgets. (Lots of people here hate it because they ate it so much as kids, but it’s way more nutritious than the staple “fill kids’ bellies” food in Rwanda: green bananas.)

Kale is a lot coarser than spinach, so I did significant tweaking from the recipes that used spinach… therefore I don’t know if this is backwards compatible with a spinach substitution. If anything, I used more liquid because I think kale’s stiffness requires more sticking power, so if you want to try this with spinach maybe err on the side of less wet ingredients. Also I think maybe the spinach in those recipes was supposed to be cooked, and my kale was raw. So… yeah. Have you decided yet that you don’t trust me, or this recipe, at all? LET’S JUST COOK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. With sesame oil and parmesan in a frying pan it is doubtful this will taste bad.

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1 + 1/2 c roughly chopped kale (packed)
  • generous 1/4 c grated parmesan (plus a slice to eat while you cook)
  • 1/4 c chopped coriander
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder, or to taste
  • chilli powder to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

Toss those ingredients to combine well, then add:

  • two eggs
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Mush it together with your hands! Once everything is goopy and fantastic, slowly add:

  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs (approximately… just add until it seems like its the right consistency to be burger-ified.)

Set the mixture aside. Add to a skillet over medium heat:

  • olive oil or other fat for frying — these suckers soak up oil, so add the amount you’re willing to ingest. The more, the crispier.
  • a few drops of sesame oil

While the oil is heating, make your burgers.

This is where I ran into technical difficulties. It can be hard to make your little burgs stay in one piece. I roughly formed each burger as a ball in the palm of my hand, and then placed it on a chopping board and really pressed down to make it all flatten out and stick together — then transferred it to the frying pan with the spatula. Once it hits the heat of the pan, everything on the outer surface binds together, so it holds together pretty well… the hard part is just handling the raw burger.

Fry 3-4 minutes each side in a covered pan. Watch carefully — mine burned. (Both times I made them. Ok now you definitely don’t trust me.)

Enjoy with your leftover Spiced Lentil Rice from last night, and a side of smugness. You are eating kale burgers, you are so healthy. (Just exercise selective memory when it comes to how many “one more small one” slices of parmesan you ate while you were waiting for the burgers to cook. Ahem.)

kale patties + spiced lentil rice with yogurt and curry powder on top + the tail end of a lonely cucumber = dinner

you, me, and a little challah on the side: it’s bashert

The Mrs. got lucky and had two birthday parties, and at celebration-the-second, the topic of baking bread came up. I lament the day humanity became too busy to devote hours on end to waiting for little yeasticles to elaborately construct flexible strands of gluten. (Clearly I have no idea how the science of bread works.) I think the lack of bread-baking going on in the modern home has a lot to do with the fact that women aren’t just hanging around the kitchen all day, hanging out laundry and scrubbing floors between rises. Those uppity bitches.

I agreed to share my challah recipe with another charming party-goer. And then I thought, faithful reader, why not just do it up style: bake some challah and share it with the world.

Challah is the first bread I ever baked. I’ve since moved on to a five-minute no-knead bread as a standby, but nothing beats the egginess and the lightness and the faint sweetness of challah done right. I tend to eat the entire loaf within 24 hours of baking it — most of it directly after it comes out of the oven — so my suggestion is to just slather with butter and die a thousand little deaths of happiness. I swear to god if Gaddafi got a taste of this there would be peace in Libya. I’d say it has the power to bring peace to the Middle East, but when we consider the religious origins of challah the argument falls apart.

Challah At’cha Boy
…I think that’s Yiddish for “this bread is bomb diggity”

This recipe makes two large loaves and is an all-day affair. Give yourself five hours start to finish (most of this is waiting for your rises, during which time you can paint your toenails or throw cats at the neighbours’ kids). You can easily halve the recipe — I usually do so, because I know if I make two loaves, I’ll eat two loaves. Unwise.

We start with the liquid ingredients. In a medium saucepan, bring just to a boil:

  • 2 c milk
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c white sugar

Pour it into a large bowl and let it cool to lukewarm, about 105-115 degrees farenheit. This is where a kitchen thermometer comes in handy, but if you don’t have one just cool it until you can comfortably leave your finger in the mixture for more than 10 seconds, but it still feels plenty warm to the touch. Too cold and your yeasticles won’t wake up, too hot and they’ll die. Fussbudgets. Stir in:

  • 2 packets (4 and 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast — if you have a jar of yeast refrigerate it after opening, I learned this the hard way

Let sit for 10 minutes, while you get out a small bowl and beat:

  • 3 eggs — this is where it’s a little tricky if you’re halving the recipe. In that case, you’ll need to beat 2 eggs and reserve about 1/4 of the eggies until the last stage in the process (egg wash!).

Once the yeast is all cozy and snuggly, add in:

  • your eggs (minus 1/4 of them if you’re halving the recipe)
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix well, then add:

  • 5 c flour, one cup at a time

Now, you should have a sticky dough. Flour a (clean!) work surface and turn your dough out onto it. Gradually sprinkle over the dough:

  • 1 c flour

And begin to knead. This part isn’t hard, per se, but I always find it a challenge to know when the bread is kneaded enough. You want a smooth, elastic dough. As you’re kneading, add more flour as necessary (beyond the 6 cups we already put in). You want to knead for about 5-10 minutes, until it springs back to the touch when poked. Alternatively, you can rip off a small piece and try to stretch it out in a sheet — if it gets to the point where it’s so thin that light can get through, without ripping or stretching unevenly, then it’s good to go. Wash your big bowl, and smear it with:

  • 1-2 tbsp butter

Toss your doughball in there, and turn it to coat lightly with delicious buttah. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and put it somewhere warm — but not hot, or you’ll kill our yeasticle friends!* On top of the fridge is good, or on top of the stove if you’ve recently been baking/cooking.

Once your doughball is tripled in size (1-2 hours), re-flour your work surface and introduce it to your risen dough. Cut your dough in half, and then cut each half into three even pieces. Roll each piece out into long “snakes” of approximately 18 inches. Take three snakes and braid them together, pinching the ends together and then tucking them under the loaf (pinching them onto the bottom of the loaf to make sure they stay). Repeat with the other three snakes.

Dust a large baking sheet with:

  • corn meal/corn flour

And put your loaves on the sheet, with room in between them so they can rise again (it’s Jesus bread!) (oh wait it really is, he was a Jew too!). Allow to rise for one hour. About 10 min before they’re ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In your egg bowl, beat together:

  • 1 egg — if you’re halving the recipe, you already have half a beaten egg set aside.
  • about 1 tbsp cold water

Brush this egg wash over the top and sides of your loaves. It will make your bread shiny and even fancier-looking, like it’s not impressive enough to boast that you baked bread from scratch. Sprinkle over the loaves:

  • poppy seeds or sesame seeds, to taste

Pop those buns in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until they sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Sounds weird, but you’ll know exactly what I mean.

When it comes out of the oven, tear into that baby! I’m writing this as my batch bakes, and it’s all I can do not to wrench that oven open right now, open my mouth and bury my face in its half-baked splendour. It’s great with anything: butter, honey, jam… whatever cranks your caboose. When it’s hot it almost doesn’t need anything.

I know this recipe is a little involved, but I mastered it my first time out and I think you can too! It is guaranteed to impress the most difficult people in your life, with the added bonus that it’s so good they’ll stuff their faces and eventually end up fat.

* should vegetarians and vegans technically be eating bread that has yeast in it? Doesn’t it kill a living thing? Think of all those little yeasticles sacrificing their lives so we can have fluffy, magnificent loaves of joy! Sounds like we’re getting into slippery slope territory here.

in which the Biebs turns 17 and we celebrate with hummus

Yesterday marked an important turning point for two individuals: Justin Bieber crept one year closer to being legal, and my dear friend — we’ll call him “The Mrs.” — attained the exulted age of legal + 11. If you don’t know who the former is, clearly you’re living under a rock inside a sensory deprivation tank in a cave in Outer Mongolia. If you don’t know who the latter is, well you should’ve come to the party, shouldn’t you? It was OFF DA HOOOOOOK. I spent the evening being maybe just a little bit too loud, but in an endearing way I’m sure.

So we celebrated, with Biebs tattoos, enthusiastic dancing (ok, that was just me), and this glorious hummus. I wanted a dip that was more filling and less heart-attacky than a dairy-based dip, but retained the flavah… and this hummus turned out to be up to the job. As with most dips, the amounts are all somewhat loose — so I’ve provided general measurements here, erring on the skimpy side. Taste and adjust and add as you go!

Belieber Curry Hummus
…one less lonely chickpea

You’ll need a blender/immersion blender/food processor for this (or a potato masher and a lot of pent-up rage). Beware — my last blender suffered an overheated and untimely death at the hands of a too-thick hummus. The poor little motor just couldn’t cope. So, if you’re using a blender let’s be sure we’re not overheating the poor child. You can do this by making sure you’re adding enough liquid.

We start by assembling into your chosen food-mashing machine:

  • 1 can (about 16 oz) chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans — if you’re concerned about your blender’s strength, just toss the whole can in there without draining them, weird bean liquid and all. This will make for a smoother, more liquidy hummus, but it will also maintain your healthy relationship with blendy.
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) — I start with this much but usually end up adding more, the more you add the “nuttier” it is.
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, or 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp curry power — this depends a lot on how spicy your curry is, or what kind of tolerance you and your co-eaters have for curry. I put much more than this.
  • 1 tsp salt

Now turn that blender on and call that meeting to order. If it’s too thick, slowly pour in olive oil to lighten the load. Now taste it. You’ll probably want to add more of everything. Go for it. There are no rules here. When you’re happy with the flavour, pour it into your serving bowl, drizzle it with:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Then sprinkle on:

  • paprika, to taste

And now devour it. You can go the traditional pita bread route* or you can dip in any veggie your heart desires: sweet peas (my personal favourite), carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, on and on. By the end of last night I was dipping in blue-cheese-and-buffalo-wing potato chips, and that was delicious too. So the possibilities are endless.

* if your pitas are stale (personally I feel as though all the pita I get at the grocery store is stale since I used to live next to a Lebanese bakery), you can cut them into triangles and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. It’s not necessary, but you can brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary/basil/garlic powder/etc if you’re feeling fancy. Toss them in the oven for a few minutes on 400 degrees — and voila, pita chips! Watch them carefully while they bake… otherwise your kitchen fills with smoke and you have to go running into the hall of your apartment building wearing only sweatpants and a bra to retrieve a fire extinguisher. And then your apartment smells like charred pita for days. (Hypothetical situation.)

As seems to be the theme these days, I have no hummus photo because we dove into it too quickly/I forgot. So here’s some birthday joy/friendlove to sate your appetite:

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.