Tag Archives: bacon

Summer Country, Corn, and Chowder

My school bus route this summer takes me out to the country. I spend close to three hours a day riding past farms and corn fields which gives me more than enough time for reflection. I’m a semi-city girl and my experiences with home-grown corn came from my grandfather’s and then my Uncle Andy’s gardens. Still, the country holds a certain charm for me. Now that I’ve comfortably adopted the suburbs as home, I experience the accidental proximity of country with an isolated field or preserved farm in the middle of a subdivision.DIGITAL CAMERA

Suburban living makes it easy to forget how amazing farmland is. But what i’m seeing everyday is the real deal. Sky beautifully blue that seems to go on forever. Clouds in that sky that look like cotton batting soft enough to curl up in for a nap. Farms large and small, old and older, and seemingly endless fields of corn. file8191293943525The Midwest is corn country and this part of Illinois has some of the best farmland in the state. Granted, much of our corn is the feed/seed variety. (This blog post  explains the difference.) Even so, there is plenty of the eating kind around, or there will be soon.

Corn season is in full swing here. The stalks have more than reached the requisite “knee high by the Fourth of July” and as I look out the bus window, I think they’re growing taller everyday.DIGITAL CAMERALocal corn won’t be making an appearance for a few more weeks, but as the stalks wave in the breeze, anticipation is high. The corn available is inching closer, much of what is in the stores and even at farm stands is coming from Georgia. It’s sweet and juicy and is wonderful eaten off the cob, but it’s also great used in a recipe. DIGITAL CAMERADIGITAL CAMERAI made a Summer Corn Chowder that used the corn, cobs and all.DIGITAL CAMERA I cut the kernels off the cobs, then the naked cobs went into a soup pot with water, some onion and a pinch of salt. I let it simmer for  about an hour and let it steep for an hour more. The result was golden sweetness that was bursting with corn flavor.

This chowder featured a variety of peppers,and onions and course there was lots of fresh corn. Colored peppers make it look extra festive and sweet and green onion give it lots of flavor. This is your chowder, so choose what you like.DIGITAL CAMERATo make it more “chowder like” I added some bacon and grated potato. My herb of choice was thyme and a bit of ancho chili powder gave it a little heat. To keep it healthier I used fat free half and half.DIGITAL CAMERAThe result was a lighter bodied chowder that was thick with vegetables. Sharp white cheddar cheese and crisp bacon were the crowning glory. It was the perfect dish for a summer supper.DIGITAL CAMERA

This recipe will only get better as the corn grows closer to home. It also lends itself to all kinds of variations. Make it spicier or tame it down to suit your taste.

Summer Corn Chowder
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Summer Corn Chowder
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Corn Broth
Chowder
Servings:
Instructions
Corn Broth
  1. Put the bare corn cobs and chopped onion in a soup pot. Add 5 cups water (or enough to cover) and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 1 hour. Turn off heat and allow to steep covered for another hour. Remove the cobs and onions and use in soup.
Chowder
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crisp. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon, let it drain on paper towels and reserve. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the pot.
  2. Add the onions, celery, jalapeno, and peppers to the pot and cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the corn kernels and cook another 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add the half and half and corn broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add the shredded potatoes, green onions and thyme. cook 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and everything is happy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon and grated cheddar.
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Fresh corn is one of the joys of summer. Eaten off the cob or in a soup or side dish, it is meant to be savoured for as long as the season lasts. Enjoy, Mama D

Ale and Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Noble Cause

I love making soup. It is my go to winter dinner. Since we’ve had more than our fair share of winter this year, I’ve been making a lot of soup. It somehow never gets old, and there is such a wealth of soups to be made and re-imagined.

DIGITAL CAMERAI also love helping my husband make beer. He’s been a home brewer for over twenty years015 and we often have a batch of beer at some point in the brewing process in the basement. I bring this up because I enjoy cooking with beer from time to time.  The beers my husband makes are wonderfully big and hoppy. Great to drink but hard to cook with (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  So most of my beer cooking adventures involve “store bought” brew.

DIGITAL CAMERASoup and beer make for a great pairing. Many a brewpub has an Ale and Cheddar Cheese soup on their menu. Now, Mama D’s Kitchen has one, too. There’s a story that goes with this soup that has to do with the beer. The beer I used to make this is called Blonde Bomber. It is an American Blonde Ale made by Veteran Beer Company. (Check out their website.)

 

This is a small company currently based in Chicago. The back story however is amazing. The company was started by disabled veterans on July 4, 2012. The executive team lead by Paul Jenkins all had impressive military careers as well as various experiences in the private sector prior to establishing Veteran Beer Company.

First production run 257 (1)They started this company to help eliminate some of the high unemployment rate for veterans by creating meaningful careers for them post service. Another goal of the company is to address many of the other issues that vets face. To this end Veteran employs only veterans and donates 10% of everything to veteran’s causes. Cool, huh? The company is small now, but they plan to employ up to 3500 veterans in the next five years. They run their business adhering to the ideals of the military; integrity, courage, and loyalty.First production run 282

First production run 285The beer is currently produced in Minnesota, but Veteran hopes to eventually have their own facility. They had their first production run in November producing two First production run 249beers: the lovely Blonde Bomber mentioned earlier and The Veteran, an Amber Lager that is also very food friendly. The beer travels from Minnesota and is distributed throughout Illinois and Indiana. Veteran plans to expand to several more Midwestern states in the near future. There are more beers on the horizon as well. Rumor has it that a Black Ale and an IPA will join the ranks. The beers are currently available at most Binny’s Liquor Marts and at many Jewel Osco Stores in Illinois and Indiana.1551563_349202748554842_1586154619_n

It’s a fine product working towards a noble goal. Give it a try. As Veteran Beer Company says, it’s “America’s  Most Important Beer”.

DIGITAL CAMERAI’m still writing a food blog so it’s time to talk about the soup. This rich and hearty soup starts with bacon that browns in a large soup pot. When it comes out, the chicken thigh bits go in and brown in the “bacony” goodness. They come out  along with most of the drippings (which are discarded) before the onion and garlic go in.

The flavors in this soup pack a savory punch that could be DIGITAL CAMERAkicked up if you roll that way. I usually do, but to showcase the beer’s flavor I kept things on the subtle side. Smoked Paprika, Worcestershire Sauce, and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce are the main players. A seasoned salt of your choice ( I used Abilene Depot Steak Seasoning from Caboose Spice & Company) and pepper round out the flavors.

Soup isn’t soup until you add the liquid and to make it thick as well as creamy, a roux. Beer and Chicken Stock go in first and  are followed by half & half (you could also use heavy cream, milk or mixture of them). The final step is to add the cheese. I opted for a medium cheddar, again in order to let the beer take center stage.

DIGITAL CAMERAA bowl of this rich and creamy soup topped with a few pretzel pieces, (after all,  what’s beer without pretzels) makes a great winter supper. All you need to add is a salad and maybe a slice of crusty bread. Needless to say, a glass of beer would be the perfect libation. While we are thinking about beer, many types of beer would work in and with this soup. Use any beer you’d like except light beer which shouldn’t even be classified as beer. Sorry, that’s just an opinion….

Since the Super Bowl is just around the corner, think about serving this at your party. For a fun individual presentation, serve it in mini pretzel rolls. Cheers.DIGITAL CAMERA

Cheddar Cheese and Ale Soup
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Rich and creamy with the bold flavor of craft brewed ale.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Cheddar Cheese and Ale Soup
Print Recipe
Rich and creamy with the bold flavor of craft brewed ale.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until lightly crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Add the chicken to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through, 7 -10 minutes. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Remove all drippings except a scant tablespoon.
  3. Add the onions and garlic and cook stirring frequently until the onion is softened and the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Add a small amount of the chicken stock to the pan to de-glaze it, scraping up any brown bits.
  4. Add the butter to the pot and allow it to melt. Add paprika, salt, pepper, chipotle and Worcestershire sauces. Stir to combine. Add the flour a little at a time. Stirring to combine after each addition. Once the flour is all incorporated, Allow to cook over low heat for a minute or two, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the chicken stock stirring to prevent lumps. Add the beer stirring as with the stock. Bring mixture just to a boil, Reduce the heat and simmer stirring occasionally until mixture thickens, 5-8 minutes.
  6. Add the bacon and chicken back into the pot. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the half & half and continue to cook over low heat until everything is hot and happy. Add the cheese a little at a time stirring until each addition melts.
  7. Ladle into bowls and serve.
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What Can Mama D Do With Butternut Squash?

Butternut Squash is delicious, nutritious, and versatile. It’s in its heyday in fall and winter, so the time for Butternut Squash adventures is now. I must confess, I’m fairly new to the winter squash scene. It’s only been in Mama D’s Kitchen for about 5 years (except for Spaghetti Squash which has been in the kitchen for decades). It’s time to make up for lost time.

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I’ve been using this oddly (?) shaped squash quite often and it always surprises me with its adaptability. It also has certain affinities with other foods. It stands up to all kinds of onions. From leeks to shallots and every type in between, squash takes them on and still keeps its identity.  Bacon seems to have been put on earth, for among other things to compliment squash. Something in the smokiness of the bacon goes well with the sweet earthiness of the squash. Besides that, “ Mama D do love her bacon”.

Many people are fond of the sweet notes of squash and expand on them. Personally, I like to keep the sugar sweetness in dessert and let the squash display its innate sweetness in the main part of the meal.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Mama D’s Butternut Squash & Apple Soup. This recipe was born in a cooking class I took several years ago. It’s gotten some Mama D lovin’ and has become what I like to call ” Autumn in a Bowl.”

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
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Autumn in bowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Print Recipe
Autumn in bowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in large soup pot until crisp. Remove the bacon drain on paper towels. Pour all the drippings into a heat proof container. Return 2 tablespoons of the drippings to the soup pot and add the onion. Sweat for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
  2. Raise the heat to medium high and add the squash and apples. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is slightly browned. Add the apple juice and stir to de-glaze the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, add the sage and cook, covered 30 minutes or until the squash is soft. remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.
  3. While soup is simmering, heat a tablespoon of the bacon drippings in a small fry pan. Add the shallots and cook until carmelized, 15 minutes or so. Set aside for garnishing the soup.
  4. Return the pot of soup to the stove and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Add the cream and heat gently until everything is steamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, add a little more stock or cider. If Soup is too thin, add 2-3 tablespoons of potato flakes. Heat until any additions come up to temperature.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each bowl with some of the bacon and shallots and sprinkle with the pepitas.
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Butternut Squash makes a wonderful side dish. Roasting seems to bring out the nutty flavor and provides enough of a reason to coat it ever so lightly in olive oil. While olive oil is the healthier alternative, I’ve come up with a recipe that uses bacon drippings as the lubricant (so to speak). It also repeats some of the same flavors found in the above soup. What can possibly be wrong with bacon, shallots and sage? Nothing, I say!!

 

Butternut Squash Smash with Bacon and Shallots
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A hearty side dish that can hold its own with meat or fowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash Smash with Bacon and Shallots
Print Recipe
A hearty side dish that can hold its own with meat or fowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove drippings from the pan and reserve 2 tablespoons. The rest can be discarded. Keep the skillet, as is, to use later.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay the thyme and sage on the baking sheet to make an aromatic bed for the squash. Lightly brush the cut edges of the squash with 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings and lay cut side down on top of the herbs. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the squash and bake for 15 minutes more or so.it should be quite soft.
  3. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes or until it can be handled, Make sure to save the herbs. Scoop the squash from the skin and place in a large bowl. Throw the skin away. Mash the squash until "smooth-ish."
  4. Heat the remaining bacon drippings and the butter in the reserved skillet. When it is hot, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the mashed squash and the warm half & half to the skillet. Stir to combine (if things seem too thick add a little more half & half).
  5. Crumble the herbs, (leave the stems out of it) and add to the pan. Stir all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon into the mixture. Heat gently until everything is hot and happy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the remaining bacon. Serve with pride.
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This is a wonderful accompaniment to pork, be it chops, tenderloin or roast. It also compliments any poultry dish you may be serving.

I love visiting other food blog sites. One of my favorites is Proud Italian Cook.  Marie has lots of wonderful recipes. I took some inspiration from her Polenta and Squash dish and came up with Chicken and Squash Risotto. It started with Butternut Squash roasted with leeks and garlic.DIGITAL CAMERA

I made risotto using red onions, chicken stock and some leftover roast chicken. The squash and leek mixture joined in the fun.

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The result was a comfort food that satisfied the need for the creamy, slightly chewy and savory flavor that is risotto.

Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto
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This recipe uses a roasted squash, leek, and garlic mixture. You will have enough for this recipe and at least another of your choosing. This will also freeze well if you want to share your squash love at a later time.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto
Print Recipe
This recipe uses a roasted squash, leek, and garlic mixture. You will have enough for this recipe and at least another of your choosing. This will also freeze well if you want to share your squash love at a later time.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Combine the squash, leeks, garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl.Spread the mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring half way though. The squash should be soft and lightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the red onion and cook stirring occasionally until translucent. Add the rice, tossing to coat well. Cook the rice until it is becoming translucent about 7-10 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and continue to cook until it has evaporated (this will also de-glaze the pan).
  3. Using a ladle, add approximately 1/2 cup of the hot stock to the pan. Cook and stir until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Continue to add stock, stirring and cooking until each addition is absorbed. This is probably a good time to pour a glass of wine, it's going to take awhile. You are looking for rice with a creamy texture but grains with a little bite.
  4. Add the chicken and squash to the pan. Add more stock as needed to keep the creamy texture of the rice. Heat until everything is steaming. Add about half of the cheese and stir until it melts. Taste the dish and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in shallow bowls. Pass the rest of the cheese at the table.
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So the answer to the question in the title is, “A lot”. These recipes just scratch the surface of Butternut Squash. There are lots of other squash varieties out there as well and without too much adjustment, they can be substituted in any of these recipes. If you haven’t cooked these odd-shaped, nutrient dense vegetables, give it a try. There’s plenty of squash love to go around.

Happy New Year, Mama D

Smothered Chicken – a Lovely Comfort Food

We all love Chicken dinners. This economical and versatile protein appears on tables everywhere. Mama D’s Kitchen turns out a lot of Chicken Dinners as I’ve shared in previous posts, but there’s always room for another dish, especially one as sinfully delicious and full of love as this.

I adapted this from a Crock Pot recipe that used bone in chicken thighs. This skillet dish is far removed from that, but it uses many of the same ingredients from the original recipe which includes:  Kraft Savory Garlic Cooking Cream.

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Yes, Mama D will use something pre-packaged if it is good quality and enhances the recipe. Do you ever use cream cheese thinned with a little milk to create a sauce? That’s basically what Cooking Cream is. The mixing is done for you and there’s some serious garlic flavor going on. It comes in various flavors but, the Savory Garlic is the best, in my opinion.

I used chicken tenders in this recipe. These are available in most stores both fresh and frozen. These slender little morsels are pricey, but you can create your own tenders from whole chicken breasts.file5191339581170

Buy whole boneless – skinless chicken breasts when they are on sale (several small local chains sell them this way).  A few simple cuts with a good boning knife will give you tenders, filets and some chicken bits for casseroles, all at a much lower price. Cut the breast in half along its cleavage. Remove the tenderloin that runs along the underside. Cut some meat off the underside to give the filet an even playing field and you don’t need no stinkin’ pre-packaged tenders.

The sauce makes this recipe. Bacon, Onions and the Cooking Cream blend together into a velvety blanket for the Chicken. The Smashed Potatoes are a great base to hold the chicken and soak up the gravy. Add a salad or some sautéed green beans so that you have a balanced meal and can feel a little less guilty about the main dish. It can be on the table in relatively short order for a comforting weeknight dinner, but it would also dazzle company.

The season for “stick to your ribs” food is here. So give this recipe a try.

Love, Mama D

Smothered Chicken
Print Recipe
Decadent and creamy, chicken tenders become a satisfying weeknight dinner that would even impress company. Serve with sauteed green beans or a salad.
Servings Prep Time
4 10 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 10 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Smothered Chicken
Print Recipe
Decadent and creamy, chicken tenders become a satisfying weeknight dinner that would even impress company. Serve with sauteed green beans or a salad.
Servings Prep Time
4 10 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 10 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes and the smashed garlic in a pot. Add water to cover the potatoes by about an inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the potatoes while you prepare the chicken and gravy. These can take care of themselves save a stir every now and then.
  2. In a large skillet cook bacon until it is lightly browned and has rendered some fat. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.The bacon will cook more later when it is combined with the onions. Leave 2 Tablespoons of drippings in pan.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix 1/2 cup flour with the Paprika and Bacon Salt. Dredge chicken tenders in flour and transfer to the hot frying pan. Do not crowd the tenders. Brown in batches if they can't brown without touching. Turn to brown on all sides. This should take 7 -10 minutes or so. Remove from pan when browned and set aside.
  4. Return bacon to hot pan and add the onions. Toss to combine and coat with drippings. If the pan seems a little dry, add 1 - 2 tablespoons butter. Cook until onions are golden brown. Add remaining flour to pan and stir to incorporate the flour. Continue to cook 3 minutes or so stirrring often.
  5. Add the Chicken Broth and stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Reduce heat to low and stir in 3/4 cup of the Savory Garlic Cooking Cream. Return the chicken tenders to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated, stirring and turning the chcken until it is evenly coated with the gravy. Continue to cook over medium/low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  6. When potatoes are cooked, drain and return to pan. Combine remaining cooking cream and milk and add to potatoes. Smash, leaving more than a few lumps . Keep warm until ready to plate.
  7. Spoon the potatoes onto four plates. Divede the tenders evenly on top of the potatoes. Spoon the rest of the gravy over everything. Garnish with parsely if desired.
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Bacon Love

I love bacon. There I’ve said it, I love bacon and I’m not ashamed. If you’ve been following my food adventures you may have noticed that many of them involve bacon to one extent or another. I love to cook with bacon. Mama D’s Kitchen always has bacon love available.

Bacon has been around for a long time. Records date it back to 1500BC though I’m pretty sure that’s cured pork in general. The word bacon comes from the Middle English bacoun which referred to anything pork.Pepper bacon Whenever and wherever it arrived,,I’m glad that it’s here now.                                   Thick Cut Peppered Bacon-

 

Oddly, I’m not a big fan of bacon as a breakfast meat,but any other meal, well it just makes most everything better. Lately, I’ve even been putting it in the desserts I’ve been making. One of the best is a Peanut Butter and Bacon Bar.DIGITAL CAMERA The base is made with a peanut butter cookie mix laced with crumbled bacon and flavored with maple syrup. The topping is melted chocolate chips adorned with more crumbled bacon (I used maple smoked bacon).  The bacon and peanut butter go together almost like PB&J. The ingredients make it a meal or at least a protein source. Maybe not so much…

I recently discovered an apple pie recipe that uses bacon. It also includes bourbon so it has become a favorite on many levels.DIGITAL CAMERA The filling is apples, sugar, vanilla and bourbon. Cinnamon doesn’t show up until the streusel topping which also is where the bacon is all crisp and  crumbly. The flavors were  wonderful. We had it topped with whipped cream but a good butter pecan ice cream would be spectacular. This pie could  be served naked and it would still be great.

Bacon is a tasty addition to side dishes. From potatoes to vegetables to salads, bacon can make a big statement . The rich smokey taste is wonderful when combined with roasted brussels sprouts or sautéed green beans. Even brocoli on the grill is better with bacon. When bacon comes to the potato party it brings a salty richness. There’s the classic baked potato topping, but mashed , french fries and au gratin potatoes reach new heights with the addition of bacon. Like potatoes, salads are often topped with bacon as a garnish.

Bacon is worthy of so much more. DIGITAL CAMERAI found a recipe for cole slaw that uses it as an ingredient. It combines cole slaw mix, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, and bacon with a homemade ranch dressing. The heartiness is a refreshing change from typical sweet creamy  slaws. It’s a superb accompaniment to barbecued ribs or chicken. And I would bet it would be good with a burger, maybe even as a topping on said burger.

Bacon, where else is it wonderful? How about in and on soup. Looking back at all of the soups that I’ve written about here and on Facebook, many have bacon as an integral component.DIGITAL CAMERA Many feature bacon as a garnish and quite often that bacon was fried and some of the drippings were used to build the rest of the soup. That’s just what happened with this Cauliflower Cheddar Cheese Soup. Using a little of the bacon drippings for sauteing the vegetables went a long way to imparting a lot of flavor. Some soups let the bacon swim with all the other ingredients and that is a beautiful thing, too.

Bacon is one of the darlings of the culinary world right now. You can get your bacon fix in so many ways. There’s bacon salt and bacon jam (which might be one of the best guilty pleasures on earth.)  How about some bacon chocolate, candied bacon or bacon candy? There’s even a Bacon of the Month Club  that will deliver unique bacon to your door for a price. (The Pig Next Door)

As much as I love bacon there is a place where I’ll draw the line. You won’t find Bakon, a premium bacon flavored vodka or Baconized Makers Mark Bourbon in my cocktail shaker. I won’t put Torani Bacon Flavored Syrup in any of my coffee beverages and I won’t burn a bacon scented candle.  I will however, continue to cook and eat bacon. I’m always looking for new ways to use bacon, so please share your bacon love with me.