A Clean Fridge is a Happy Fridge

So I decided to clean out the fridge, which inspired me to utilize the mish mash of random ingredients on hand before venturing out to re-stock the fridge and fill up all of that newly available shelf space. I even cleared away the forest-full of mostly obsolete schedules, expired coupons, and other paper items that have accumulated under our fridge magnet collection in the past couple of months.

And voila! Look at all of that empty space just begging to be filled up! Of course, I quickly realized that I put the drawers in wrong, so there is actually a small shelf now available under them, which I have decided to use for thawing meat items rather than go through the trouble of taking them out and correcting the situation.

clean fridge

And the super clean, brand-spanking-new-looking front! Of course, there are a number of important items that need to live in this location, so I simply moved them to the side of the fridge where they are a little less visible to kitchen visitors who perhaps don’t care about Jack’s karate class schedule or summer reading program rewards coupons.

clean fridge 2

I inventoried what I had against a stack of recipes I have been wanting to try, and made a list of just a few things I needed to make the most of what was on hand.

One of the first things I tried was Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe for banana ice cream, as I am pretty much the only one in the house who eats bananas, banana ice cream, banana cream pie, you name it. It called for Almond Milk, which I have never tried, but decided to in this instance so I could make the recipe…besides, I had a coupon!

The additional topping  of chopped almonds mixed with maple syrup and sea salt really made this extra delicious…so good in fact that I decided to have a second helping, which was decidedly not a good idea when I went for a run an hour later with all of that sloshing around in my belly. Verdict: Absolutely easy once you have the supplies on hand (i.e., almond milk and sliced, frozen bananas), but you really should eat it as soon as it is made because it freezes too hard to eat later. Plus, the almond milk is really good on cereal, less calories than my usual skim milk, etc. Bonus!

Whenever we head downtown Savannah, my son loves to stop by River Street Sweets for a praline sample (or two, since I usually give him mine). If you’ve never had a praline, it is a butter-y, sugar-y, delightful little sugar-high-inducing treat. But at almost $3 per praline (they are sold by weight), and only 4 ingredients, all of which I had on hand, I decided I would try making some myself. Of course, I only had about a half cup of cream on hand, so I ended up having to do some math and half the recipe.

NOTE: This is the first of three attempts (more on the other two tries later) at cooking something that needed a candy thermometer that I thought I could wing without one. Apparently, recipes call for specific tools for a reason, as I have no idea what the “soft ball” stage of cooking is, but figured if it was bubbly and gooey and smelled delicious, I was getting close. I didn’t want to overcook or burn it, but apparently it wasn’t quite done. I dropped them onto waxed paper and let them cool. They were good, but they weren’t transcendental, like those made on site at River Street Sweets. And you’d better believe my candy snob son did not think they were a worthy substitute. I guess I will continue to pay the premium for someone else making them and hope that maybe Santa will being me a candy thermometer for Christmas.And, yes, I realize these pictures make them look ever less-appetizing, but they were all eaten before bedtime, so they weren’t all bad.

homemade pralinehomemade praline 1

Then I decided to get really creative and make ravioli! I had made pasta from scratch years ago in a cooking class at the museum where I planned such events for our members and knew it was pretty simple (again, 2 ingredients! How wrong can it go??). So I mixed up some flour and eggs and rolled it out:

homemade ravioli dough

Then I used up all of the random bits of stuff I had leftover: some ricotta cheese, some frozen spinach, some pine nuts, and parmesan cheese (in the green can, we are not fancy), and threw in some crushed red pepper because I just love that kick it gives everything.

homemade ravioli stuffing

homemade ravioli 2

They weren’t the prettiest pasta I’ve ever eaten, and in fact the dough was a little thick so I should have rolled it out even thinner, but overall, I was pretty impressed with myself!

homemade ravioli 1homemade ravioli

And of course, no pasta dinner is complete without freshly-baked bread! I used the bread machine cook book for the recipe and let the machine do the mixing, then rolled it out to proof, then simply baked it.

french bread 2    french breadfrench bread 1

The house smelled amazing, and I managed to not burn the bottom while having uncooked dough on the inside like I have in the past…it was delicious! The down side was that we were completely out of butter and is there anything better than bread hot from the over slathered with butter? I could’ve sworn I still had a pound of butter in the freezer from the boatload I picked up at Sam’s, but apparently not. Naturally, when I picked some up the next day, at the more expensive store than I usually stop because it was right next to karate so I didn’t have to make a detour en route home, I discovered the last pound of Sam’s Club butter in the freezer. Lesson learned? Cleaning out the fridge is great for organizing meals, but not when you skip the freezer and have an iffy grasp of what lurks in the frozen kitchen netherlands.

Next up, a fancy-dancy, ladies-who-lunch kind of salad reminiscent of one of my fave spots in KC, Eden Alley. I threw together the last of spring greens salad mix, leftover wild rice (crazy!), the remaining half of a peach that Jack vetoed, some blue cheese crumbles (I try to have blue cheese and Frank’s hot sauce on hand at all times for when I crave buffalo chicken, which is pretty often), the last of the pine nuts (I even took a minute to toast them since this was no ordinary lazy girl lunch but a fancy salad), and tossed it all with a little bit of peppery Greek dressing (bottled…I am the only one eating this salad, so no need to be a total overachiever and make it from scratch. Besides, the point is to clean out the fridge, so in using the bottled dressing, I am one step closer to finishing it off). The verdict? Amazing! I even took the time to sit at the table, with a napkin, and enjoy it, as opposed to many of my consumed standing up/in front of the tv/in my car meals.

toasting pine nuts for homemade raviolipeach salad with rice

While walking the dog, I happened upon a fig tree in a vacant lot, so naturally, I liberated a handful before the birds could get them. A little leftover French bread, a drizzle of olive oil, and the last of the blue cheese and I had a snack worthy of a chichi bistro with sky high prices!

fig feta bruschetta

Then I made a couple of recipes that I had pinned. No pics, mostly because mine wouldn’t be nearly as pretty as the original posts. The baked sweet and sour chicken was a little scary in the making…dredging chicken in corn starch and then dipping them in eggs is not as easy as it sounds and I had to stop and scrub all the gooey stuff off my hands a couple of times so I could actually use my fingers and the whole cooking-with-ketchup thing had me grossed out (I hate ketchup…love tomatoes, marinara sauce, salsa, cocktail sauce, but hate ketchup. When I worked at the Wheel at KU we had this big industrial bag of ketchup that I had to refill the individual ketchup bottles from and I don’t think I ever recovered from it.) but everything came together in the oven and was delicious! We had a friend over for dinner and he wasn’t sure if he should be pleased dinner was so good or worried that we served him an untested dish, essentially making him a guinea pig.

.ketchup dispenser

I also whipped up some Spicy White Bean Dip, which I actually bought sriracha sauce for because when I used to eat at Blue Koi in KC, they had amazing lettuce wraps and won tons and I would douse them in sriracha until I was practically crying from the heat. So I thought this would maybe be a little like that. Except it wasn’t. The sesame oil was too overwhelming…I think I might try it again but substitute Frank’s buffalo sauce for the chili sauce, skip the sesame oil, and top with blue cheese crumbles. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out.

Jack has a new favorite phrase, “rub some bacon on it.”

Mine would be “put some Frank’s buffalo sauce on it and add a little blue cheese. sriracha

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Ain’t No Party Like a Bacon Party…

If you are ever in the mood to entertain but not sure what type of gathering you wish to host, may I suggest a bacon-themed get-together? You’ll be amazed how many people come out of the woodwork to join the fun and the creativity of dishes is a nice bonus, too!

We hosted our second bacon club recently. We founded bacon club in Kansas City and the only requirement was that you bring something made with bacon. Once settling into Tybee, we decided it was time to share the bacon-y love again. Our first gathering was small, with only about 10 people participating, and dishes ranged from avocado BLTs to chocolate bacon…all good.

The second gathering was much bigger, with over twenty people in attendance and dishes ranging from homemade pimento cheese with jalapenos and bacon; caramelized bacon; goat cheese rolled in bacon and crushed pecans; deviled eggs with bacon; chocolate bacon cookies; bacon and egg “pizza;” bacon-wrapped l’il smokies; bacon scones with homemade bacon jam (including honey from the Tybee Island Hives‘ bees!); spinach salad with warm bacon dressing…and so much more.

bacon and eggs These bacon and egg candies made with melted white chocolate, a yellow m&m yolk and pretzel stick bacon were Jack’s favorite…I had to hide this last one to snap a pic before he ate all of the evidence!

Tyler set up an event page on Facebook and word spread quickly. Folks came from as far away as Bluffton, SC, and close enough that they rode their bikes. One couple that we had never met before showed up and introduced themselves, saying “Sean and Wen invited us and told us the password is bacon!”

There were even bacon themed hostess gifts!

bacon keychain This is smiling bacon keychain, although I plan to give it a place of honor on our Christmas tree each year instead!

We also received bacon salt AND a tin of bacon-y goodness for dipping the rim of cocktail glasses like Bloody Marys (note to self, add bacon-y cocktails for next bacon club gathering)!

Perhaps the most impressive (to me anyway), was the guest who took the time to re-create the popular Pinterest pin of bacon roses!

bacon roses The fabulously talented Carolyn Williams, posing with her creation. When I realized what they were, I wondered whether to put them in a vase or offer them on a platter for guests to enjoy? I finally decided to pass them around for all to see, take a pic with their creator, and then put them on the counter to re-purpose the “blooms” into salad toppers for later, all the while hoping that the dog wouldn’t figure out a way to reach them (not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Although a small dog, he has been known to leap up and snatch a hat right off of Jack’s head–for some reason, only winter hats, not baseball caps or any other kind of hat). 

krypto on dog sheetsKrypto the super dog…am sure a post dedicated just to him is forthcoming. Notice how at home he is on my pillow? And doesn’t feel the least bit bad about sitting atop dog sheets? But I digress from bacon…

I asked (ok, mandated) that Tyler make candied bacon. His first attempt actually caught fire in the oven and temporarily filled the house with smoke, but his second attempt was well worth the potential 911 call.

My two favorite comments from the event were: “I didn’t think you could improve deviled eggs, but adding bacon was pure genius!” and “bacon is the duct tape of food.”

post script: Tyler and I went to a small local play production last night to see some friends perform. After the show, one of the actresses introduced us to her husband who said, “You’re the ones who host a bacon club?! Can we please come to the next one? I love bacon!” and he proceeded to show us his tattoo of a heart wrapped in…you guessed it, a strip of bacon.