Monday, February 27, 2012

Bacon, Lettuce & Granny Smith Apple Sandwiches with Goat Cheese


Besides having a break from cooking, I love going out to eat because I usually end up getting so many new ideas.

Recently I was inspired by an appetizer we had, to make the recipe for Cheesy Bacon Oven Chips.

And now this idea came from another local pub we like, called the Brickwall Tavern.  A while ago, I tried their bacon, avocado, and granny smith apple sandwich, with a lemon aioli.

And fell in love.

Honestly, I would never have thought of adding granny smith apples to a bacon sandwich, but it was soooo good.

However, as much as I love avocados, in this instance I felt like that was a little much.  (Though you might disagree).  The aioli was good too, but I thought the only thing better would be some lemon & garlic-spiked goat cheese!

People, let me tell you.  The result was heaven between two slices of bread.


(I am pretty much obsessed with goat cheese.  If you don't like the addition of lemon and/or garlic, just use plain- it will still be amazing.)

Mr. Vittles prefers a plain ol' "BL" so he did not partake in this concoction.  But I savored every single bite.

And that night I tried a new nitrate-free bacon, which did not have as many slices in the package.  So we only got three sandwiches out of it - two for Mr. V, and one for me.

I was quite sad that there was no bacon left.

:(

I would've liked to have leftovers for another sandwich the next day.

:( :(

Oh well.  Guess I'll just be forced to eat the remainder of my goat cheese on salads and crackers!

By the way - since this is so simple, this is not really a recipe but more of an idea.  The amounts are up to you & your tastes!

Bacon, Lettuce & Granny Smith Apple Sandwiches with Goat Cheese

  • whole wheat bread (or whatever kind you prefer)
  • bacon slices, cooked
  • baby lettuce (or spring mix)
  • granny smith apple, sliced into thin rounds
  • softened log of goat cheese
  • lemon juice and/or zest, if desired
  • garlic powder, if desired

Toast bread slices.  (If making flavored goat cheese, mix it with lemon juice/zest and garlic powder in the meantime.)  Spread goat cheese on the toast, and top with bacon, granny smith apple slices, lettuce, and another slice of toast.  Enjoy the fiesta on your taste buds!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mug Banana Bread


This morning I was really craving banana bread, but no way was I going to make a whole loaf for one just piece.

First of all, Mr. Vittles doesn't really like it- so then I get stuck with all this bread, that I either have to eat by myself or give away.

Secondly, I had a very busy President's Day morning ahead that included sitting on the couch and watching Wife Swap reruns on Lifetime.  I needed banana bread, pronto.

But how?

I was thinking, since I've been seeing mug brownies & cakes all over Pinterest, maybe it's possible to make muffins or quick bread in a mug?

After a quick Google search, I found a lot of recipes that didn't look very appetizing.  I was starting to get discouraged when I finally found one that had some promise, on a blog called Micki's Morsels.  She had some really yummy-looking photos on her main page, so this seemed like a good source.

I still had my doubts that the microwave could produce a worthy substitute for oven-baked banana bread, but I decided to give it a shot.  Let me tell you, I was happy to be proven wrong.


It isn't an exact replica, and has a slight eggy aftertaste - but for me the good points definitely outweigh the bad.  The bread has a good consistency, and is very moist & yummy.  Not to mention it's a quick & easy way to make a single serving.   I will make this again for sure!

Mug Banana Bread

  • 3 T. + 1 t. all-purpose flour 
  • 1 packet stevia (or other sweetener of your choice equivalent to 2 t. sugar)
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4  t. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 T. lowfat milk
  • half a banana, mashed
  • cinnamon, for sprinkling (optional)

In a large microwaveable mug lightly misted with non-stick spray, blend flour, sugars, salt, baking powder & baking soda. Add egg & mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in vanilla, oil & milk, then mashed banana.  Microwave 1-1/2 minutes to 3 minutes, depending on your microwave.

*You can stop it & peek in the door at 90 seconds to check if its done - it will probably rise over the top of the mug as it's heating, & if it's still runny it's not done yet.  But be careful not to overcook!  I have a pretty bad microwave, and mine took about 2 1/2 minutes.

Adapted from Mickis Morsels

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Love & eHarmony (and a Giveaway!)



I know that Vittles and Bits is a place where most of you come to get recipes, but some of you come to get stories, too. And today I want to share with you a story very close to my heart. (And also a giveaway! So even if you hate stories-just read on, k?)

Now given the nature of my blog, I typically only consider food-related reviews, but when I was recently offered an opportunity to review the online dating site eHarmony, I jumped at the chance.

Maybe some of you have already tried online dating, but if not, you might have ideas about what it's like.

It's weird.

The people on there are probably freaks.

They might lie to you.

They might hurt you.

And you know what? I thought a lot of those things too, until a time in my life when I was approaching the age of 25 and things were not going nearly as great as I had planned.

I was living in a crappy little place, working at a crappy job, and had just gotten out of a crappy 2 year relationship. (In all fairness, only the last half of that relationship was crappy, but you get the point).

I knew, though, I was ready to be serious with someone.

I knew the characteristics I wanted in a man.

I knew what I could live with and what was a deal-breaker.

I knew I didn't want to start back at Square One with a guy only to have it turn out to be n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

What I didn't know, however, was where to find another person in this same frame of mind.

But I had seen eHarmony commercials and was intrigued. I had some friends who had tried other 'popular' sites with no luck, saying it's no different from meeting a stranger at a bar. What attracted me instantly to eHarmony was the fact that they matched you with people.

This is where the old adage, "You get what you pay for," comes into play. Since I was looking for a quality relationship, I went to a quality website.

No sifting through pages upon pages of profiles that fit some vague criteria you thought would 'narrow things down.' No trudging through countless dates with people you have nothing in common with. No canoodling with people who could care less about your values and life goals, let alone share them with you. (Plus, this process seemed to lessen the probability of running into the aforementioned Freaks, Liars, and People That Can Hurt You. Bonus!)

To be honest, at this time in my life my paycheck barely covered my bills, let alone extras. But I reasoned that what I'd spend over one or two nights out at some lame bar with a bunch of predatory losers could cover a whole month's subscription to eHarmony. And if, in that month, I found no one of interest, then I would chalk it up to experience and move on.

Either that, or it would be the best money I ever spent.

Luckily for me, the latter turned out to be true. In that one month, I went on dates with three people from the site-Mr. Vittles was the first one I started emailing but the last one I met in person. We connected instantly on our first date. The next day, I called the other two gentlemen and told them while I had enjoyed our dates, I would not be able to see them again.

Not because I had psychic abilities and foresaw Mr. Vittles and I enveloped in wedded bliss, but because I knew the way I felt with him was the way every first date should feel. Not casual. Electric. And I wasn't going to settle for anything less.

After a few months, I knew this was light years ahead of any other relationship I'd had in the past. I had been in love before but never like this. After four months of dating, we took our first vacation together. (Belize!) After only six months of dating, we got an apartment together. After a year and a half of dating, we got engaged. And we were married just days before the two-year anniversary of our first date.


Like any couple, we've had our ups and downs. We've been through good times and bad.  But after more than 4 years together, I can honestly say I found not only a 'quality relationship' but a life partner.

Someone to share my hopes & dreams with. Someone who makes me laugh every single day. Someone I can wipe out in front of and not feel embarrassed. Someone whose shoulder I can cry on. Someone I can share my secrets with. Someone I can disagree with on silly issues, but is always on the same page with the things that truly matter. Someone who looks toward the future in the same direction as I do.

Someone who adores me as much as I adore him.

And even though we lived not more than 8 miles from each other, I probably would never have met my husband if it weren't for eHarmony. I owe my greatest happiness in life to this company.

And yet they paid me to write this post. How crazy is that??

Told ya it was the best money I ever spent!

Speaking of spending...eHarmony and BlogHer were cool enough to offer one of you lucky readers a $100 Visa gift card!

If you're like me and already have a great lady or fella in your life, you can take that lucky person out for a night on the town. Or if you're single, you can get yourself a new outfit to help you feel fabulous on your next date.

***PLEASE NOTE THAT THE GIVEAWAY PERIOD HAS ENDED, AS OF 3/15/12***

Either way, to enter for a chance to win just leave me a comment answering the question: "What is the most important character trait your partner must have, and why?"

Rules:
No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: a) Leave a comment in response to the question above b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 2/14/2012 -3/15/2012.

Thanks to everyone for indulging me in this chance to share a story that's very special to me. Now get to entering!

Visit the BlogHer.com eHarmony page to check out more blogger success stories and for more chances to win!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream


I've always had a funny little relationship with Valentine's Day.

As a kid, I guess it was kinda fun to pick out your mini valentine cards for all your classmates and eat candy, but as soon as 'love' started getting involved I became mostly uninterested.

Once, in the 6th grade, I was surprised to find a full-sized Hallmark card mixed in my stack of tiny envelopes.  It was from a classmate of mine who apparently had a crush on me.

His name was Nick.  And if I remember correctly, the card asked if I would be his girlfriend.

Such a sweet thing to do, right?

Well I wrote on it "Never in a million years" and promptly returned it to him.

True story.

I was a mean, horrible, rude little person at the age of 12.  Definitely not my proudest moment.

(By the way, years later I sincerely apologized to Nick for being so awful to him in that situation, and we actually became friends).

But even though I can appreciate a gesture like that now, the truth is I'm still not much of a romantic.

I would choose to watch 300 over Sweet Home Alabama any day.

And while I do indulge in The Bachelor, I view it more as a train wreck you can't look away from then a fairy-tale love story.

Mr. Vittles would wholeheartedly agree.  On one of the few occasions he tolerated Bachelor-viewing in his presence, he said to me "I don't understand why they always have to have rose petals & candles everywhere in this show - somebody's gotta go and light all those candles, and vacuum all those things up afterwards."

So luckily for him, I've really never been a fan of Valentines Day.

Not because I don't like love.  I do!  There's no better feeling in the world than truly being in love, no matter what stage of the relationship you're in.

But I don't need jewelry or overpriced dinners in the company of every other couple in America to celebrate my love.

Plus V-Day comes right on the heels of my birthday, so it seems wrong having my husband shower me with gifts twice in a matter of weeks.

Though I guess most ladies would welcome this.  Some would even demand it.

But that's just not my style.

I can get down with a simple card, and maybe a little chocolate - best way to a Maggie's heart is through her stomach.

(Another true story).


Actually, some chocolate-covered strawberries would be excellent.

Almost as good is... a chocolate strawberry cupcake.


But since I'm fairly certain that Mr. Vittles will be making me neither of these treats, I guess it's up to me to do the baking!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter, cut in 4 pieces
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 C. Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 C. sour cream (4 oz.)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven 350 degrees.  Line a standard-sized muffin pan with baking-cup liners and set aside.

Combine butter, chocolate pieces, and cocoa in medium heat-proof bowl.  Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water, and heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted.  Whisk until smooth & combined.  Set bowl aside to cool mixture until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl to combine.  Set aside.

In second medium bowl, whisk eggs to combine, then add sugar, vanilla and salt.  Whisk until fully incorporated.  Add chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.  Add about 1/3 of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.  Add sour cream and whisk to incorporate.  Then add remaining flour mixture and whisk to combine, using a spatula as necessary to fold in any un-incorporated parts at the bottom of the bowl.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in pan set on wire rack until cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes).  Carefully lift each cupcake from pan, and set on wire rack to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before frosting with strawberry buttercream (recipe below).

Strawberry Buttercream

  • 3 large strawberries, hulled, washed & dried, and at room-temperature
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 t. vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 3 - 4 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. heavy cream
  • 1 t. strawberry jam (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse berries until chopped.  Add butter, vanilla, salt, and 2 C. of powdered sugar.  Pulse until well-combined.

Add cream and small amounts of powdered sugar, pulsing after each, until strawberries are pureed and mixture reaches desired consistency.  The frosting should be smooth & soft, yet hold its shape.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Store leftover cupcakes in refrigerator, and bring to room-temperature before serving again.  Makes 12 cupcakes.*

*If you want to double the amount of cupcakes, make 2 separate batches of batter and bake separately.  According to Cook's Illustrated, doubling the recipe and baking the trays together does not yield as good of a cupcake.

Cupcake Recipe Slightly Adapted from Cook's Illustrated; Buttercream Recipe Slightly Adapted from Sophistimom blog

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cheesy Bacon Oven Chips with Chipotle Ranch Sauce


Ok so I can hardly contain my excitement for the Super Bowl tonight, and I decided that a special weekend like this deserves a double post!

Mr. Vittles and I had an appetizer similar to this at a restaurant recently, and I thought I might be able to replicate it at home.

Well, all I can say is - sorry if you had any health-related New Years resolutions, because I'm pretty sure you will not be able to keep them with these puppies around.


The dipping sauce really takes things to the next level.  But if you don't like spicy dips, start with just a tiny bit of cayenne (or none) and adjust from there.

Also, feel free to use more cheese and/or bacon to your taste.  Never hurt anyone except their pants size.

Now... LET'S GO BIG BLUE!

Cheesy Bacon Oven Chips 

  • 1 large, uniformly-shaped russet potato, scrubbed well and sliced into 1/8" rounds*
  • cooking spray
  • 3/4 C. shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 T. crumbled bacon (about 2 slices) - I used real bacon bits
  • chopped parsley or chives, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring sliced potatoes to a boil in cold, salted water to cover for 5 minutes.  Carefully drain, and transfer slices to a paper-towel lined countertop or cutting board.  Pat to dry.

Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray, and lay out potato slices so they are overlapping on it.  Spray lightly with additional cooking spray, then sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.  Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese & bacon.  Bake 12-14 minutes in preheated oven until cheese is melted & bubbly.  Serve with chipotle ranch sauce (recipe below).  Serves 2.

*You can use 2 medium-sized potatoes rather than 1 large.  Also, I like to leave the skin on but you can peel the potatoes if you prefer.

Chipotle Ranch Dipping Sauce

  • 1 T. ranch dressing
  • 3 T. sour cream
  • 1/4 t. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 t. cayenne (adjust more or less depending on how spicy you want).
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir to combine.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Original Recipes

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars


Today is my 29th birthday.

Tomorrow, the New York Giants play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

I seriously don't know which I'm more excited about?

Probably the Giants, actually, because let's face it - once you hit the age of 21, birthdays kind of go downhill from there.

A couple weeks ago I texted my friend Natalie  - you know, the mom of two in Law School, with the awesome granola who likes those stupid breadsticks & bagel chips in Chex Mix?  Anyway it was her 29th birthday also, and I asked her if she was doing 'anything fun.'

She responded "Absolutely not. Kindergarten tour, homework, sitting through a two hour training right now, then class tonight.  Being old sucks."

Boy I couldn't have said it better myself.

And to top things off, I've been sick with a cold!

Oh well.  It could definitely be worse.  While I'm not 100% I do feel the best I have so far this week, and at least I don't have to tour kindergartens today or do homework.

Nope, today I can devote all my time to celebrating (whatever that entails at 29?) and making Giants-themed sugar cookie bars.


But I talked to my mother-in-law and she pointed out that when people get to her age, the running joke is "How old are you today, 29?"

Which is an excellent point.

So this is it for me, folks.  I'm never getting any older.

Yay!

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

Bars

  • 1 stick (1/2 C) butter, room temperature
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 8x8 baking pan & set aside.

In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs & yolk, one at a time, mixing after each.  Add vanilla & mix well.  In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and stir with a whisk to combine.  Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 14-18 min, until light golden brown and no longer shiny. Cool completely and frost.

Frosting

  • 1/4 C. butter, room temperature
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. milk 
  • food coloring (if desired)
  • sprinkles/decorations (if desired)

For frosting, combine butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments until combined, then add milk (and food coloring, if using) & mix until smooth.  Add up to 1 t. more milk if needed to achieve spreadable consistency.  Spread over cooled cookie.

Makes 9 bars.

Recipe Adapted from Anissa's Kitchen
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