Bacon, Baking, Donuts, Family, Foodporn, Grandchildren, Italian Traditions, Maple Syrup, Uncategorized

Doesn’t Everything Taste Better With Bacon?

During the Christmas holiday school break, my 11 year old grandson spent a few days with me, and he had Nana’s kitchen shaking, and baking for as many hours as he was awake. Once you see the pictures of him, you will understand why I continually ask…”Where does he put all of the food he consumes?” It’s amazing to me the amount of food he can put into his thin frame of a body, and by the end of Day 3, Nana told him, “I would need more than a job just to feed you alone or I might need to rob a bank to keep up with your appetite!(Only kidding!)

After a two day marathon of eating, between Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, along with the holiday excitement, and late nights, I think the exhaustion finally caught up with him, and the day after Christmas he didn’t wake up until around 12:30pm….starving, of course! As usual, the ritual of a typical dialogue between the two of us began, “What do you have to eat, Nana?” As I ran down the endless list of things I could whip up for him, from bacon and eggs with home fries, to challah bread French toast to pancakes to homemade waffles…he proceeds to tell me about this video he watched. Two young guys, who make these Candy Bacon Maple Donuts. The animation in my grandson’s vioce, along with his facial expressions, had captivated this Nana’s undivided attention.

Honestly, though, my first thought, “Are you kidding me, buddy?”…DONUTS! Especially after a Nana marathon of cooking, for days, in preparation of our Italian traditional Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day feast of food! He excitedly ran to get my iPad to show me the YouTube video, “How to Make Candy Bacon Maple Donuts – Handle It” by Epic Meal Time. We watched the video, several times, me with disbelief, and him with pure excitement, and enthusiasm. After the third run through, he asked if I had all of the ingredients, and tools. Being a true Nana, who loves to cook, of course I did! He was so excited, and more surprised than anything else that his Nana had all of the ingredients in the house.

Nana’s kitchen got busy…out came the tools, a large, heavy Dutch oven, a whisk, a cooking thermometer, three mixing bowls, a knife, a slotted spoon, cutting board, baking pan, rolling pin, and a circular cookie cutter. Then the ingredients…cooking oil, flour, bacon, brown sugar, baking soda, vanilla, white vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, confectionary sugar, milk, heavy cream, shortening (butter), and pure cane sugar. As I pulled out all of the tools, and ingredients, there was this priceless grin on his face, from ear to ear. One that would capture any Nana’s heart, and we were actually going to make donuts!

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This was my first time making donuts, and to my amazement with all the flour flying, oil heating up, bacon being candied, the glaze coming together…it smelled ridiculously delicious in Nana’s kitchen! Honestly now…doesn’t everything taste better with bacon? If you take bacon, and slather it with brown sugar, cinnamon, and bake it in the oven until it is all gooey, and sticky, the aroma in the house is indescribable, and then you cool it in the refrigerator until it hardens like a candy…are you feeling me, yet? It was off the chart delicious!

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As you will see, he enjoyed every moment of rolling that dough, cutting out donuts, and the donut holes, which by the way we fried up those donut holes, too, and dipped them in the maple glaze. They were our taste test, and there was only one word to describe the donut holes dipped in the maple glaze…yum! He tells Nana, “The best donuts I ever had!” I was amazed how easy they were to make, how they puffed up when they hit the oil, and they were cooked to perfection, I might add.

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Once they were done, and cooled down, we chopped up the candied bacon, the maple glaze was ready to go, and my grandson formed an assembly line of all of the completed items. He dipped each cooled donut into the maple glaze, and then carefully placed them on a serving dish because he absolutely gets, and understands presentation is key. After he dipped, and coated each donut with the maple glaze, with complete precision, he covered each donut with the candied bacon. Once completed, the real taste test began, and there were barely any words being spoken, just a lot of humming….mmmmmmm!

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The end result, I applaud the two gentlemen in the video, and my sous chef of a grandson for a job well done, and to quote my grandson, again….”The best donuts I ever had!”, which made the clean-up, and the flour everywhere, along with a sticky, small disaster in my kitchen, well worth it just to see the huge smile on his face!

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If you are anywhere as structured as I am with cooking or baking, pausing the video with each step, can interrupt the creative process. While the video is quite entertaining, and I do recommend watching it, I took the liberty of writing down the recipe for future use.

Tools

3 mixing bowls

Baking sheet

Large, heavy deep pot for frying

Frying thermometer (recommended)

Cutting board

Slotted spoon

Tongs

Rolling pin

Chef knife

Large circular cookie cutter or a plastic container

Small cylinder cookie cutter or a small bottle cap

Whisk (my addition)

Candied Bacon

1 lb bacon

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup cinnamon

Mix the brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Lay the strips of bacon on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil (easier clean up) or use a throw away aluminum pan. Gently, and generously apply half of the brown sugar mixture to one side of the bacon, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Flip the bacon, and reapply the remainder of the brown sugar mixture, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove the bacon, immediately, from the cookie sheet to a plate, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Once cooled, chop the bacon into small bits, and set aside.

Maple Glaze

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups confectionary sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

Pinch of salt

Using a whisk, mix all of the ingredients, in a bowl, until thickened, and smooth. Set aside until you are ready to glaze the donuts.

Donuts

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp shortening or unsalted butter (softened)

2 tbsp white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups cooking oil for frying

Mix the milk, egg, vanilla, shortening or unsalted butter (I used butter), and white vinegar, together in a bowl, add the sugar, mix well, and set aside. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Once the dough forms, knead on a lightly, floured surfaced. Let the dough rest in a bowl for 10 minutes.

Flour the working surface, and roll out the dough to about 1/3 of an inch thickness. Cut the dough with a large round cookie cutter or round plastic container. Lift the donuts circles, and set aside on a lightly floured surface. Recombine the excess dough, and repeat the process to make more large circles rounds. Use a small cylinder or bottle cap to cut a hole in the middle of each donut. Save the small circles to make the donut holes.

Heat the cooking oil in large, heavy deep pot, over medium heat, until a frying thermometer reads 375 degrees. Carefully place a few donuts at a time (3 – 4 donuts) into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd. Cook until the donuts are golden brown on one side, and carefully flip them over, once, with a slotted spoon (1-2 minutes total time). Remove the cooked donuts with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place the donuts on a plate lined with paper towels.

Cool the donuts for 10 minutes. Dip one side of each donut into the maple glaze, and allow the excess to drip off. Place the glazed donut on a serving plate, and apply the candy bacon to the top of each donut. Ready to serve, and eat!

NOTE: Carefully place the small saved circles of dough (donut holes), with the slotted spoon, into the hot oil, and fry until golden brown (about 30 to 45 seconds). Drain, and cool on paper towels. Dip the donut holes into the maple glaze. Pop in your mouth!

Donuts! Enjoy!

Believe, Dreams, Food, Foodporn, Italian Traditions, Life, Uncategorized

What Am I Really Suppose To Be Doing With My Life?

I don’t believe there isn’t a one of us that hasn’t dreamt of life being anything less than a smooth ride, and I am no exception. For the past year, I have found myself pondering more, and more about finding my true life purpose, how it would be possible for me to fulfill, and live my life passion, and share it with the world, along with making a difference. There were many days over the last year or more, where my life appeared completely uncertain, confusing, in a disarray, and I just couldn’t sort through the chatter in my head to make any sense of it all. The chatter consumed me, and more often than not it made me completely immobilized. I was scared, alone, and I couldn’t see through the darkness.

To add to my angst, six months ago, I lost my job, and today, I am amongst the millions of other Americans, who are unemployed. During these past months, I have applied to nearly 300 jobs in corporate America, with the hopes of being gainfully employed by year end. I posted my resume, and joined every job seeker website out there. After about a month or so, I was approach by a reputable site, who convinced me to have my resume revamped by a professional resume writer, who would gear it towards my dream job. Every day I spent hours at my desk, searching every employment site imaginable looking for a job. It’s a good thing that over the years, I have developed very strong shoulders because with the continuous flow of rejection letters…they just don’t seem to sting as much as they use too.

Knowing my reputation proceeded me in my former industry, I reached out to every resource available, including former colleagues with pleas for help with any type of introduction, guidance, support, and recommendations. Their quick responses, along with their call to action, and their encouragement were all overwhelming. I felt fortunate, and blessed to have crossed paths with such an amazing group of individuals, who continue to check in on me, and offer additional advise, and suggestions. Unfortunately, to date, any referrals have not panned out but I remained hopeful.

As the days passed, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and as humans when this happens a lot of thinking transpires. Some not so healthy, and other times some turned into inspirational thinking. All I wanted was to see clearly, and being such a structured person with very little patience…I needed direction, and answers, today, not tomorrow or next week or next month, but today. I found myself reading more, and more, learning things about myself, and really digging deep with trying to figure out if my life passion could anyway possible come to fusion.

Some of the most disconcerting times, and utter disappointment was the lack of support from a good portion of those close to me. I found myself getting more encouragement from friends, and colleagues on how to make things happen, and how important it was for me to believe in myself, and my abilities. I’m sure most of you are aware of Kid President and his mission to make the world a better place. While reading an article, today, they listed just a few of his thoughts that people should be saying every day. I thought how simplistic, and why is it that I wasn’t hearing these things from those that I dearly wanted to support my dreams, and vision.

  • “Everything is going to be okay.”
  • “You are awesome.”
  • “You can do it.”
  • “Hello…here’s a high-five.”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”

Then I realized it wasn’t about anybody else, it was about me, and me believing in my passion, and my dream. I thought about what I learned, “What you think, and what you believe is what will come true in your life.” Our thoughts create our life…it’s purely that simple, and when we overcome the self-doubt, release the enormous barriers in our life, and make conscious choices that we understand, and accept them, things start to evolve. You begin to create your very own road map of your vision, step by step, and your instincts come into play. Either it feels right or it doesn’t, and when it feels right, you begin to understand this is your life, you start to take full responsibility, and start to believe you deserve the best life, and you begin to express the gratitude for all the good in your life.

I have been following Deepak Chopra for some time now, and when I listen to him there is such a sense of calmness that overcomes me, and he has helped me develop this sense of awareness about myself that seems freeing. Some might laugh but I truly don’t care…remember, it’s about me, and if it feels good, and stirs enthusiasm in my life…how could it ever be wrong. One thing I know for sure, I want to be excited about what I do every day, and I want to share my gifts, along with my passion with the world because I truly believe that’s how we achieve joy, and abundance in our lives.

Chopra teaches that we all have a calling in life that is as unique as our fingerprint, and it’s that calling that will lead us to our passion. When we find something that we are truly passionate about it feels like our breathing is so natural, and effortless. I discovered, a long time ago, what ignites my passion, and lights me up, and I found a way to share it with others. Cooking has always been a love, and passion of mine. I throw my heart, and soul into it, and it all comes through in the taste, and presentation of all my food.

After a long year of contemplating a business venture, I am finally listening to my intuitive inner voice, and I am pursuing my life passion, and dream. I believe my vast business knowledge, wisdom, along with my level of confidence, and comfort in the kitchen, and my creative ideas are all possessions I am eagerly willing to share. I am a firm believer that taste, along with presentation are the fundamentals with awakening an eclectic palate. I hosted this past Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and the responses to my food, and presentation just solidified for me…this is what I am suppose to be doing with my life.

christmas20133Christmas Eve Table for 12

christmas20134Christmas Eve Table Setting

christmas20131Christmas Day Table for 12

christmas2013Christmas Day Table Setting

As I enter, 2014, I believe that honoring my life’s true purpose, and passion will lead me on a path of pure happiness, and success. I look forward to sharing my passion with many of you.

Happy New Year and may 2014 be filled with good health, hope, love, abundance, gratitude and promise.

Food, Uncategorized

‘Tis The Season of Fall

You clearly know the season of Fall is upon us when there’s a little nip in the air, you break out the sweaters, the trees burst with magnificent, brilliant colors, you hear the sound of rustling leaves beneath your feet, and the aroma, along with the wonderful taste of the first soups of the season strike your senses. There is just something about soup that envelopes you, makes you feel all warm inside, embraces your heart, palate, and for whatever reason just feels like home.

Fall Folliage

Growing up, in an era where we were considered to be middle class, and honestly, reflecting back, I think we probably would have been considered poor by today’s standards. However, we were rich in family, and a long history of traditions. Being raised by an Italian mother, who grew up during the depression era, most dishes were referred to as “peasant food” but they were always delicious, and stretched to feed a family, small or large, and there was always enough, and room for the unexpected company. To many our meals weren’t elaborate but to me they were rich with an Italian heritage, along with flavors, tastes, and smells that fill my head, and heart with many special memories. The meal was a time where the family gathered around a table, and reunited from a day of school, play or work. Soups were made from anything, and everything. From the cheapest cut of beef to vegetables to beans to poultry. Everything in one pot, and it simmered for hours on the stove. Add a loaf of Italian bread, a little or a lot of grated cheese, rice, ditalini or friselle (Italian pepper biscuits), and ahhhh, a meal that was a feast.

Friselle

Today, as a mother, and a Nana, I have taken my Italian family traditions, and the teachings from some of the best home cooks that I admire, and grew up with, and added my own twist on some old, and new favorite soups. Sometimes, we make life so complicated but there is no need to make soup complicated…keep it simple, make it with love, enjoy it with those you love, and add some great conversation. Family is about building strong bonds, making loving memories, and you can build, and make both around any meal.

La famiglia, and buon appetito!

Deborah's Italian Wedding Soup

Butternut Squash Soup