Tag Archives: bacon

How to Build a Bagel Bar

The holiday season is officially upon us.  I had my entire house decorated Friday by about noon but I am nuts.  I was at the White House yesterday and the army of volunteers are still putting up their decorations (check out my insta for a pic!) so if you haven’t gotten around to it, don’t feel bad.  For this crazy season I thought I would post things that are perfect for making ahead, ideas for simple but elegant entertaining and of course cocktails to get you through.  This bagel bar is a great combo of all three and daytime entertaining is ideal for the holidays.   Question: who doesn’t love a #sundayfunday brunch?  Answer:  the person who has to wake up early to cook!  I love hosting people for breakfast and brunch as seen here and here but sometimes it can be a real “scramble” getting everything ready in the morning.  Have a bagel bar means just a bunch of arranging and yes I guess some cooking making bacon but come on, we cannot skip the bacon!  Everything else can be prepped a head of time so all you need to do it pop the bubbles and enjoy the day.

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Step one:  Night before order the bagels – these beauties are the thing holding up the whole party so you don’t want subpar bagels and you certainly don’t want to show up at the bagel place to discover that they are out of the best flavors.  I like to order from Bullfrog Bagels on H Street here in DC.  If your bagel place doesn’t have online ordering just pick up the phone and place the order directly with them.  I would budget a bagel per person even though I find that most of my friends only really eat a half once they load up on the other goodies and toppings.  However, no one ever wants to be skimpy and any leftovers can be frozen.  Get a mix of plain, everything and sesame (the most popular flavors) and then grab whatever looks good – I love salt bagels in case anyone is inviting me to their bagel bar!  Now that the bagels are pre-ordered that means just popping out to grab them first thing in the AM or getting a helpful friend or spouse to do it for you.  If you want to save even more time go ahead and order cream cheeses with the bagels, if not stay tuned for how to spruce up plain old spreads.

Step two:  Night before bake some sweets – brunches are built on the two pillars of salty and sweet.  The bagels and their toppings have you set for savory so you need to provide some sort of dessert/sweet option.  If you order your bagels from a true bakery go ahead and grab some sweets there but I like to at least have my hands in something for this party.  This last time around I made Ina’s Ultimate Ginger Cookies but my cookies Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies would be perfect for brunch instead.

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Step three:  Night before prep the fixings – here you can really be creative.  What do you like on a bagel?  What would look pretty and colorful?  What is in season?  What is in my fridge that I want to get rid of?  Valid questions all.  For this bagel bar I went pretty traditional – I had lox, radishes, red onions and horror of all horrors, cucumbers.  One of the few things in the world I DO NOT EAT but here is where being a good hostess kicks in.  Its my understanding that some people actually like these thing and actually the green was a nice addition to the plate so what the hell.  Slice everything thinly and store in plastic bags in the fridge.  If tomatoes are in season they are also a nice addition as well as thinly sliced fennel.  For cream cheese I wanted to have a nice selection so I had plain as well as three flavors.  Flavoring cream cheese is incredibly easy – just blend finely chopped herbs or veggies in with the cream cheese.  The key is to have room temp cheese so that everything blends well.  I find that the paddle attachment in a stand mixer is the best way to do this but good old elbow grease and a spatula will work as well.  Just add in fixings until you get the flavor you like.  For this party I did scallion, honey and walnut and a veggie cheese made with carrots and celery.  Fill small bowls or ramekins with your custom or store bought cream cheeses and cover with saran wrap so they are ready to go.

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Step four:  Morning of make bacon and coffee – ok so yes you do have to do some work here but its truly minimal.  Patrick makes the coffee in our family so that’s one less thing I have to do but get it set up the night before and all you have to do is push a button.  The bacon you should do in the oven as I taught you here so you can do a huge batch at once.  Put as much as you can on baking sheets at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then drain on paper towels and done.

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Step five:  Morning of set up bar – dual meaning here.  You want to set up the bagel bar and the booze bar morning of.  Slice those bagels and arrange them prettily in a basket or on a tray.  Do not make your guests navigate the hazzards of slicing their own bagels – your friends will thank you.  Pull out the prepped fixings from the fridge and set them out as well to come to room temp (except the lox which should be set out right before).  Grab your toaster and set that out as well so people can toast if they want to (do you have toast tongs?  If not this is a great excuse to get some).  Also set up the bar so your guests can grab their own drinks.  I put out sparkling water as well as sparking wine (my house cava of course), some red and white wine, sodas and a variety of juices.  Glasses and an ice bucket and you are all set.

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This bagel bar is the perfect brunch for after a family event like a graduation or recital as you only need a few minutes of prep before your guests arrive and everything is served room temperature.  Pretty presentation and thoughtful homemade touches will make your guests feel special while you can catch some extra zzz before the party.

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

Now that order has been restored to the world with Tom Brady back at the helm of the Patriots I figured I would share a great football dish for this Sunday.  These potato skins are admittedly not as good as the deep fried ones (is anything baked as good as fried???) but they do the trick and even manage to sneak in a little broccoli as well.  I made these last week when we hosted some friends for football and they were all gone by halftime.  It’s usually tough to find a vegetarian bar snack but this is super easy to leave the bacon off and with all the other toppings you won’t be missing much.  Let’s go Pats!

Image result for free tom brady

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  are you ready for some football??

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.

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Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.  Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.

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Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.

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Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

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Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

  • Servings: 4 skins
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.  Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.  Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.  Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

 

 

 

Patrick’s Irish Stew

Growing up in an Irish family in Boston, you pretty much take it for granted that everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  I didn’t realize until I left the nest that EVERYONE celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  And who could blame them?  The Irish are the friendliest people you will ever meet, love to drink, eat, dance and have a good time.  No wonder everyone wants to be Irish!  St. Patrick’s day is a terrific excuse to have a party or at the very least a nice tall Guinness.  However, I had to take my celebrations to a whole new level when I met my husband, Patrick.

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In Adare, Ireland

Every March 17th I make this incredible soda bread made with brown butter and rosemary and have plenty of Irish whiskey and beer on hand to share with our friends.  This year I thought my man should have his very own stew with all of his favorite things included.  Jameson, Guinness and coffee pretty much fuel Patrick so I added those to a hearty beef stew and came up with the perfect way to celebrate this year.  Sláinte!

Patrick’s Irish Stew (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my hubby
Special Equipment:  large dutch oven with a cover, butchers twine (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure all of the pieces of beef are around the same size, if not cut them until they are.  Sometimes I am lazy and buy the precut stuff (or it is on sale) but often they are all weirdly shaped.  It’s worth taking the time to cut them all the same so they cook at the same time.  Salt and pepper the beef cubes.  In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot add half of the beef cubes, making sure not to crowd them.  Let them cook about 5 minutes and don’t mess with them much or they won’t get brown.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and then remove them to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil (if necessary) and add the remaining beef cubes, repeating the 5 minutes then flip and 5 minutes more routine.  Add the second batch to the plate and toss in the bacon.  Let the bacon cook until starting to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the chopped onion, leek, carrots, garlic and butter.

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Leeks, onions and carrots = the Irish flag!

Salt and pepper everything.  Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion and leek have softened.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute until all the flour is absorbed.  Add the Jameson and let cook for 1 minute.  If you have butchers twine tie the herbs together and add, otherwise just toss them in.  Add the beef broth, Guinness and coffee and stir to combine.

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Bring to a simmer then cover and put it in the oven.  Cook for an hour and a half, stirring once.  At the very end fish out the herbs then stir in the frozen pearl onions and frozen peas and cook for a minute or two more either in the oven or on the stovetop until they are heated through. The stew can be served right away, kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for several months.

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Patrick's Irish Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  large dutch oven with a cover, butchers twine (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Salt and pepper the beef cubes.  In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot add half of the beef cubes, making sure not to crowd them.  Let them cook about 5 minutes and don’t mess with them much or they won’t get brown.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and then remove them to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil (if necessary) and add the remaining beef cubes, repeating the 5 minutes then flip and 5 minutes more routine.  Add the second batch to the plate and toss in the bacon.  Let the bacon cook until starting to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the chopped onion, leek, carrots, garlic and butter.

Salt and pepper everything.  Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion and leek have softened.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute until all the flour is absorbed.  Add the Jameson and let cook for 1 minute.  If you have butchers twine tie the herbs together and add, otherwise just toss them in.  Add the beef broth, Guinness and coffee and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer then cover and put it in the oven.  Cook for an hour and a half, stirring once.  At the very end fish out the herbs then stir in the frozen pearl onions and frozen peas and cook for a minute or two more either in the oven or on the stovetop until they are heated through.  The stew can be served right away, kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for several months.

Love is…Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

Valentine’s day has never been a big deal to me – probably because I was single for most of them. In fact one of my worst dinner parties was a single girl valentines dinner I made for myself and my friend Amy where I totally had to trash my first attempt at a new recipe and a cockroach crawled up the side of the wall as we were eating! Even after I found and married the love of my life Valentine’s day still didn’t really do it for me.  Sure the candy and flowers are nice but my hubby gets me flowers all the time and if I want candy I am not going to wait until February 14th to eat it!  So to me it’s really just another excuse to tell the person you love how much you appreciate them.  That’s why in the Costello household it won’t be truffles or pancakes in the shape of a heart.  The quickest way to my man’s heart is bacon jalapeno mac and cheese!  This recipe builds off of my Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese and adds two of Patrick’s favorite things in the world.  The bacon adds even more smokiness and the heat of the jalapeno cuts through the rich cheese sauce – perfection.  So cancel your reservation and stay home with your honey and this mac and cheese.

Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my man’s love of meat and heat plus my love of cheese = happy marriage
Special Equipment:  none

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3/4 pound shells or other short cut pasta
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 8 ounces smoked gouda, shredded

Turn your oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the 4 strips of bacon on the cookie sheet so they are not touching and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  They won’t look super crispy but they are.

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Put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and set to the side.  Turn your broiler to high.  Cut the jalapeno in half and scoop out the seeds (plastic gloves are good for this).  Place both halves on a foil lined cookie sheet, skin side up and place in the broiler.  Broil for 3-4 minutes until the skin is blackened and blistering.  Place the jalapeno in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the heat and moisture.  After 5 minutes or until cook enough to touch, peel off the skin and finely dice the jalapenos.

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While you are cooking the bacon and jalapeno, cook the pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or so then – whatever time is indicated on the box – then drain.  In a large sauce pot melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour and whisk both together until the flour has absorbed all of the butter (this is called a roux and the best way to thicken sauces).  Keep an eye on it and let it cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it darkens a bit and the raw flour flavor has been cooked out.  Really keep and eye on it or the butter will burn (like I did!  Eh, no biggie – just rinse out the pan and start again.  It’s only flour and butter).

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overdone roux

Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the time to break up any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit and wait for the mixture to boil.  Once it has you can lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Stir it occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn and you can keep track of how thick it’s getting.  You want it to be able to coat a spoon.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese (best to switch to a spoon here otherwise the cheese gets stuck in the whisk).

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The cheese should melt in effortlessly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the pasta and return it to medium heat for a minute or two – just enough for the pasta to take on some of the sauce.  Fold in the half the bacon and half of the jalapeno.  Serve in bowls topped with the rest of the bacon and jalapeno.

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Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3/4 pound shells or other short cut pasta
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 8 ounces smoked gouda, shredded

Turn your oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the 4 strips of bacon on the cookie sheet so they are not touching and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  They won’t look super crispy but they are.

Put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and set to the side.  Turn your broiler to high.  Cut the jalapeno in half and scoop out the seeds (plastic gloves are good for this.  Place both halves on a foil lined cookie sheet, skin side up and place in the broiler.  Broil for 3-4 minutes until the skin is blackened and blistering.  Place the jalapeno in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the heat and moisture.  After 5 minutes or until cook enough to touch, peel off the skin and finely dice the jalapenos.

While you are cooking the bacon and jalapeno, cook the pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or so then – whatever time is indicated on the box – then drain.  In a large sauce pot melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour and whisk both together until the flour has absorbed all of the butter (this is called a roux and the best way to thicken sauces).  Keep an eye on it and let it cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it darkens a bit and the raw flour flavor has been cooked out.  Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the time to break up any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit and wait for the mixture to boil.  Once it has you can lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Stir it occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn and you can keep track of how thick it’s getting.  You want it to be able to coat a spoon.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese (best to switch to a spoon here otherwise the cheese gets stuck in the whisk).  The cheese should melt in effortlessly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the pasta and return it to medium heat for a minute or two – just enough for the pasta to take on some of the sauce.  Fold in the half the bacon and half of the jalapeno.  Serve in bowls topped with the rest of the bacon and jalapeno.

 

Easy Peasy Brunch Menu

Since this week is the Patriots bye week our Sunday is wide open.  This doesn’t happen too often in the fall – the perfect excuse to throw an impromptu brunch party.  Having people over for brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain.  It’s pretty inexpensive, there is usually bubbly involved and people can go about their business later in the day.  The key is to have some simple to throw together dishes, that only necessitate a quick run to the store.  Actually you may just have all of this stuff in your pantry already.  For me brunch is about having something salty and something sweet so you don’t have to decide between the two.  Oh and bacon.  Of course bacon.  Add a bubbly drink on top and you will have some very happy friends.

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If it’s nice out doing brunch outdoors is really fun and adds to the festivity of it.  Just because you are outdoors though doesn’t mean should always turn to paper plates and solo cups.  I like to use real linens, footed glasses and sparkly flatware.  I found these amazing gold accented plates at Home Goods that go perfectly with my Izon flatware set from Target.  When the menu is this easy it’s always nice to make extra effort with the presentation.

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Easy Peasy Brunch Menu

Aperol Spritz

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This is the easiest pitcher drink you will ever make.  Slice an orange and drop it into a pitcher with some ice.  Top with a whole bottle of Aperol and a whole bottle of bubbly (go ahead and make it with prosecco or cava to save some money).  I like to add about a cup of Lillet Blanc as well, but it’s not necessary.  Done!  This drink is sparkly, citrusy and a little bitter – perfect for cutting through rich food like the frittata and low alcohol enough that you can still run errands after brunch.

Pasta Carbonara Frittata with radicchio and arugula salad

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This frittata is delicious and has all the elements of pasta carbonara.  It is pretty rich (pasta, cream, bacon, eggs…) but the recipe also has a delightful side salad made with bitter greens.  The radicchio and arugula salad tossed with the lemony vinaigrette are the perfect foil to the frittata and side of bacon.  Everything in this menu is about balance and this is the perfect centerpiece.  Prep all the salad ingredients and cook off the pasta before hand so you only have about 10 minutes of actual cooking to do.

Baked Bacon

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Baking bacon is so much easier than cooking it in a pan.  You don’t have to doge grease splatters and the bacon comes out nice and crispy and flat.  There was bacon in the frittata but who ever accused a brunch of too much bacon??  Place the bacon on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  This way you can make trays and trays of bacon at one time if you are doing brunch for a crowd.  If you want to bake this off at the same time as the frittata all the better – go ahead and crank the temperature to 425 as indicated for the frittata, and just start checking on the bacon at the 10 minute mark to make sure you don’t burn it.

Nutty’s French Toast

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This post has to be the one I get the most positive feedback on.  These mini french toasts stuffed with nutella are perfect for this easy brunch.  I made them as a psuedo dessert but you could certainly serve them alongside with the frittata.  Good news is they only take a couple of minutes to make so if you do make them at the end you only have to slip away for a few moments.  When you come back with these babies your friends will be smitten!

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