The Bacon Project – Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed Bacon, Wellshire Farms All Natural


Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated

Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed, Wellshire Farms All Natural

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated2Opening The Package:

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent was smokey and bordered on sweet. I was so surprised by the sweet smell, I called my wife over to smell it and she agreed. Looking at the bacon, my first observation was that the slices were very meaty, lean even (well, lean for bacon), which was really exciting considering the smell. I know that the smell of bacon is typically in the fat, so a great-smelling bacon with a lower fat percentage means that the flavor is in the meat.

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-SliceCooking:

I cut the slices in half, so that each slice of bacon was about 5 inches long, rather than the 10 inches that they would be out of the package. Heating the bacon up, the sweet smokey scent wafted lazily through the kitchen and dining room. My wife wandered over, pulled by the magnetic scent of the bacon. I cooked it slow for Bacon. Just under medium (4 out of 10) and covered. I’m not sure if I did that because it’s leaner, or to savor the smell. We ate it as desert, a full 90 minutes after dinner, intentionally focusing on the experience rather than combining that with hunger. Not that bacon is better on a satisfied stomach, but we had planned ahead for this particular package of bacon, and this was what we wanted. It started out with great color – a color some more processed bacon would be happy with as a finished color! Cooking started to bring out the deeper reds, making my mouth water. Cooking slowly has it’s drawbacks – you have to be more attentive, since the extra time is so likely to draw you elsewhere. But this bacon deserves the extra effort and consideration. Also, the leaner cut means that it can go from done to overdone quickly, and I prefer my bacon chewy – so I paid close attention!

The Taste:

Wow, that smokey flavor turned out to be just incredible! It’s not overpowering, more like a great job spicing a meat dish – not overpowering, right there if you’re looking for it. The scent of the smokiness rolled around my mouth as I lifted the slices of bacon. It was intoxicating, and I wasn’t drinking! The sweet smell came through as a flavor too. It was almost like some of the chutneys I’ve made; the sweetness is there, but very subtle.

Presentation:

This bacon makes the ideal of American Style bacon proud, and jealous. The last two bacon products I have had here on The Bacon Project have been Irish style and Canadian style. I left the American styles for a little later, intentionally putting some of the really good stuff first, to set the bar. Well, this bacon rises to the challenge admirably! It smells amazing, filling my home with a sweet smokey bacon smell, it plates well, and could be served alongside any meal, and it tastes incredible!

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated2

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_RubbedFurther reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the first three. The fourth rule is a tough one, because I have yet to find a Sustainable Farm Raised commercially available bacon product. But I will keep looking!

And finally, where did I buy it?

Trader Joe’s – I picked this up at Trader Joe’s. Bacon seems to be one of the very few products that Trader Joe’s will sell non-Trader Joe’s brand products. I am not sure how much longer that will continue, or if perhaps that will expand? Either way, this was a Trader Joe’s purchase. I have seen other Wellshire Farms All Natural bacon in Pathmark and Shop Rite, but not the Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed bacon.

Weekend Food Commentary


Chocolate Bars

Chocolate_Bars-CVS_Display

Ever walk in to a CVS or Walgreens with a serious chocolate craving? Ever stop in your tracks when you see that nearly half the store is stocked with candy items, designed and intended to encourage just exactly that craving? Well, I certainly have! Wandering through isle after isle, sometimes even store after store, looking for some chocolate without soy in it can be an incredibly daunting task! Now, I can’t exactly recommend giving up, because high quality, unadulterated dark chocolate is far too good a prize to walk away empty handed – or worse: with some non-Paleo chocolate…

I took far too many photos of displays of CVS, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods to be able to display them here in one post. But there is some good stuff, so I uploaded them to Picasa so that you can take a peak at what I had to sift through (and you will too) in order to find a decent bar of chocolate!

Take a look here for more photos

The Benefits Of Dark Chocolate:

Dark Chocolate contains lots of healthy fats. This is one of the biggest reasons that chocolate is so good for satisfying cravings, because fat is satisfying! Well, cocoa is loaded with high quality fats, and dark chocolate, with less additives in it, contain a good amount of those same fats, making it an extraordinarily satisfying snack. And unlike some freshly cooked bone-in short ribs, chocolate is a lot easier to carry!

Mark Sisson has a lot more to say about the benefits of Dark Chocolate, and I urge you to head over to this post of his and take a good look at it. It’s loaded with facts about the benefits of chocolate, and apparently, chocolate is loaded with benefits!

But the most important point to this article is that I get chocolate cravings, and I really want to pass on to you all the particular chocolate bars that I’ve found to help me with that!

Chocolate_Bars-CVS_Display2So, Which Chocolate Bars Are Paleo?

It’s unfortunate, but in the giant volume of space solely dedicated to sugar products, I was able to find only one single bar of chocolate which is Paleo – no soy, no wheat, no extra additives, just a simple dark chocolate bar. And we’re talking about a space larger than my own apartment, dedicated to encouraging people to have cravings! Of course, logically manufacturers and stores wouldn’t want those cravings satisfied; so they fill that space with things that will entice further craving.

But if you dig deep enough, there are some hidden gems! The one, and only normally available anywhere bar of chocolate which is soy free is the 85% Lindt Chocolate Bar. This is so important to my cravings that I am going to dedicate a full-size mid-post picture to it.

Chocolate_Bars-Lindt_85-Paleo2

Chocolate_Bars-Lindt_85-Paleo_IngredientsThat bar is Paleo. Take a quick look at the ingredients listed to the right here. Not only is it Paleo, the ingredients are simple, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember. This is a quality chocolate bar.

But don’t be fooled in to thinking that every Lindt is Paleo. Nor, even that every Lindt “Dark” is Paleo. In fact, as I discovered (and shared in the link at the top of this post) not even every 85% chocolate is soy free! I uncovered a great looking Godiva 85% dark with soy in it. Doesn’t look so great now!

Ok, so Lindt 85% is Paleo. Is anything else?

Yes! But not in this CVS. In addition to Lindt 85%, some stores sell Green & Black’s 85%, which also has no soy in it, and is also delicious dark chocolate!

If you have access to some specialty grocers or food stores, like Trader Joe’s Market or Whole Foods Market, there are a few available bars of good Paleo chocolate there too. Not as many as I would like, and they’re even more difficult to find! But they’re there. Below I have the two bars I look out for at either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Chocolate_Bars-TJs_DarkChocolate_70-PaleoTrader Joe’s “dark chocolate” brand of organic dark chocolate. There are three varieties of this particular brand, and all three are soy free! There is a pink wrapper, called a “Truffle” chocolate bar. This blue wrapper with raisins and pecans is my personal favorite of the three. And then there is a purple wrapper called “Dark”, and it’s a 70% chocolate bar. All three of these are delicious and nutritious!

Chocolate_Bars-WFs_Theo_70-PaleoWhole Foods Market carries a brand called “Theo” which has several varieties of chocolate on the Whole Foods shelves. I like this brand a lot because I haven’t found a bar from them with soy in it yet! That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, so always be sure to check the labels; but so far so good!

The two that I most often buy are their Sea Salt Dark, shown in this picture, and their Spicy Chile Dark. Take a quick look at their online catalog for an idea of which bars you’ll be looking for. They have a great selection. My personal favorite is the Spicy Chile, I love the extra bite!

Not to be overlooked: a Paleo-friendly restaurant nearby?

Chocolate_Bars-Hu-Paleo

On 14th street, New York City, there is a restaurant called “Hu Kitchen” which serves almost entirely Paleo foods. There are a few dishes with wild rice and quinoa, so they’re easy to avoid. I have mentioned them before (Going Out For Dinner Tonight, and 10 Reasons I love Paleo Holidays), but they are definitely appropriate to this conversation! If there is a Paleo restaurant nearby, scour their shelves for Chocolate! Hu Kitchen has 2 different Paleo Chocolate Bars, and they are amazing! Take a look at this picture on the right. Doesn’t it speak volumes that they’re so confident of their product that they put the ingredients on the front of the package? No need to hide that on the back! Cocoa, coconut sugar, almonds and figs. All organic. And that’s it.

So there you have it – my 5 go-to Chocolate bars. Lindt 85%, Green&Black’s 85%, Trader Joe’s “dark chocolate”, Theo, and the Hu Kitchen chocolate. I round out that list with anything I happen to stumble across, but so far non-soy chocolate bars are rare enough that it doesn’t happen often, and they aren’t always stocked. But the above list definitely keeps me going!

Let me know which chocolate bars you’ve found that are great, Paleo dark chocolate!

I’ll Be Guest Posting!


GuestBloggers1

Photo courtesy of blog.directorymaximizer.com

I have been given the most incredible honor! For any of you who follow me on twitter, you may have already picked up on this, since this came to me via twitter. But for those of you who missed it, or don’t follow me on twitter, here it is:

I’ve been invited to Guest Post at Carl Mason-Leibenburg’s http://www.el3mentsofwellness.com/.

As I mentioned above, being invited to be a guest blogger is an incredible honor, and I just wanted to give you all a quick heads-up so you can go take a look at the blog that I’ll be guest-posting to. Here is what I’ve picked up of Carl Mason-Leibenberg, without stealing any of what he wrote about himself on his blog bio:

Carl is incredibly outgoing. He draws people to him with a magnetic personality (and I only know him through the cybersphere!), and invites those people to congregate in his midst. In addition to being highly magnetic, Carl utilizes his influence in a community driven manner: he coaches and encourages people to follow him down that same path of outgoing, personally charismatic happiness. And trust me, I’m not just saying that. Carl is a very successful net-worker, and many people could take some notes on how he manages to get his name “out there” including me!
His personal brand is fitness and health. He works hard to put the good-word out there about health, the happiness of health, and the motivation for change that so many people really need to embrace!

So let’s check out his blog a bit, and get to know the company I’ve been invited to keep! If you feel so inclined, comment on some of his posts. He loves that!

And definitely keep your eyes peeled for the special recipe I’ve cooked up just for him. You’ll all love this recipe, and it will be posted exclusively on his site – so don’t miss it! Don’t worry, though, I will definitely be posting a quick note to let you all know it’s there.

Avocado


Avocado

PaleoPowerBarI just looked it up, and learned that the Avocado fruit is classified botanically as a large berry. I always knew I loved berries!! Today’s Paley Pantry post is all about the Avocado, what I do with it, and how I utilize the amazing taste and properties of the Avocado, umm, berry.

As A Muse…

In this recent post by a fellow blogger, Avocado was lamented, and yet, somehow appreciated: Ode To The Avocado. Additionally, for some reason, I have always noticed a lot more Avocado specific art (not just “Still Life” paintings with some fruit) than any other food. It could just be me – I am writing a post just about Avocado, after all…

Avocado Posters: http://www.art.com/gallery/id–b9307/avocado-posters.htm

As A Side-Dish, Or Snack

As you can see in the photo above, I frequently use Avocado all by itself. In addition to serving it sliced, or chopped, I also frequently will serve the half-Avocado, in it’s skin, and eat it with a spoon. Avocado is an amazing addition to nearly any dish. I very often utilize Avocado as a green vegetable, served along side a main entree, and another side. From time to time, I will season the Avocado with salt, pepper, or fresh-squeezed lime.

As A Sauce, Dressing, Or Spread

Avocado can be added to many different kinds of sauces as a flavoring agent or thickener, or used as the base for it’s own sauce (Guacamole anyone?). I often make an Avocado paste, adding just salt, pepper, olive oil, and lime juice until it is more like a dressing than a paste, and use that as a salad dressing. As a sauce, Avocado has a bright flavor, very savory, and can be easily combined with other common and desirable flavors; flavors like olive oil, lime, garlic, and all sorts of savory flavors including caramelized veggies (onions, peppers, etc). Warning: This does not keep well; use it all in 

Guac-Mixed

less than a day! I put the above dressing over nearly any dish, from steak and pork to eggs in the morning. It is amazingly versatile, and can be used for almost any meal!

Guacamole

Guacamole is so common, it deserved it’s own entry on this list. When people think of Avocado, invariably, Guacamole is one of the first ways they think of it. I love Guacamole, and look for every opportunity to make it, and use it. As I mentioned above, I frequently use Avocado as a sauce; and as often as not, this started out as Guacamole, and then I thinned it for use as a salad dressing or meat sauce.

BaconAvocadoSaladAs A Salad

You’re all no-doubt familiar with my Bacon Avocado Salad recipe, as well as my post for the Smokey Salad, both of which featured Avocado prominently. Avocado is an amazing ingredient in almost any salad. It is subtle enough not to take over the flavor of a dish, while being strong enough to take the lead when it’s properly encouraged. In the Bacon Avocado Salad, I used bacon to bring out the savory rich flavor of the Avocado as an ingredient, and it works amazingly well! In the Smokey Salad, rather than bacon, I used the Smoked Sesame Seed oil, and Smoked Turkey to bring out the savory sweetness of a perfectly-ripe Avocado (and yes, they definitely can be sweet!).

As An “Extra”

There are times when a recipe calls for a thickener like butter, something creamy like cream, or even eggs, and you just feel like using Avocado instead. Like this recent post by Health Without Compromise: Chocolate Avocado Mousse. Why not use Avocado as the thickener in the mousse instead of milk cream or coconut cream, or even egg whites? Or, in this recent post where the Avocado was used as an “Extra” in some sushi rolls: Lollipop Rolls.

If you’re wondering what you’re going to use your Avocado for, fear not. Grab a few and you’ll no doubt be impatient waiting for them to be perfectly ripe, rather than ignoring them until they’re over-ripe and going bad. There are so many different ways to use Avocado, and all of them are great!

How do your use your Avocados? I can’t wait to hear about it in the comments section!

Toasted Red-Pepper Guacamole


Right Of Passage

It occurred to me the other day that having a Guac recipe on your blog is almost like a Chef’s Right Of Passage. I imagine there are a few food blogs out there with no Guac recipes, like 365 Days Of Bacon. Though, on further consideration, a Guac with crumbled bacon would be divine! Look out for that recipe the next time I host a party! Back to the Guac being a Right Of Passage… I realized that you, my readers, can’t take me seriously as a chef until I’ve posted a Guac recipe. Obviously, every permutation of Guac already exists, and has been done. But this isn’t a food blog until there’s a Guac recipe. So, now it’s a food blog!

Guacamole and Sliced CucumbersToasted Red Pepper Guacamole

What you’ll need:Guacamole Ingredients

  • Three large ripe Avocados
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Orange Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Lime
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Prep and Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Red and Yellow Peppers, about to be toastedStart by toasting the Red and Orange Peppers. Slice them in to 1-inch by 1/2-inch pieces and place them on a cooking sheet with a light covering of olive oil. Put these in the oven for 7-10 minutes at 450. Keep an eye on them, you want to remove them when they are starting to show some black spots, telling you that they’re nicely toasted! As a general rule, I use about 1/4 of each pepper for each avocado in the Guacamole. I want to keep the ratio of pepper to Guacamole fairly low, since these are more for flavor and coloring than they are intended to be the bulk of the sauce. So, for 3 avocados, I would use 3/4 of each of the peppers, or about 1 and 1/2 peppers in total, leaving a half pepper for another meal.

Chopped avocados, about to be mashed with a potato masherWhile the peppers are in the oven, cut up the avocados, in approximately 1 inch cubes and put them in a mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the avocados until they are mostly mashed, and a consistency similar to mashed potatoes.Mashed avocados Now dice the Garlic, and slice the lime. Add the Garlic, fresh-squeezed lime, olive oil, and salt & pepper to the mix and mix thoroughly, again with the potato masher, or with a fork or spoon you have handy.

Toasted Red and Yellow PeppersWhen the Peppers are starting to show some blackening and browning, remove them from the oven. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to dice these, making them smaller chunks, easily stirred in to the Guacamole. As mentioned above, these are for a little added flavor, and coloring; they are not intended to be the entire dish. So making sure that they’re nice and small pieces ensures that they will mix in with the Guacamole well, doing their job without taking over the dish!Unmixed; showing the diced red and yellow peppers.

Serving:

Once the toasted peppers are mixed in with the rest of the Guac, the dish is ready to be served. I like to eat my Guac with cucumber chips, as you see in the first picture. For guests who are more used to regular chips, I always keep Plantain chips in the house, and serve those along side the cucumber chips. I prefer the cucumber because the flavor is much more mild, and they don’t come pre-salted. So the prep time is low, the flavor is excellent, and it doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the Guac!

Guac-Mixed

Tell me how you make your Guac! What extra flavors would you use, or would you like to see me put up as alternate-flavor posts? I will be delighted to try out all kinds of Guac flavors and report back!

Hosting a Party – and Gift Ideas!


My wife and I hosted two parties over the weekend. Hosting a get together is something we love to do. In fact, we love hosting people so much that this past weekend, we scheduled a Saturday night party, and a Sunday brunch party. Call me crazy (go ahead, now is as good a time as any) but I enjoyed every single minute of it! And now I am going to share the menu!

PartyHosting

For Saturday night’s dinner, I put together a mushroom dish as the appetizer which I have been working on for a long time. Here is the recipe post for what I ended up calling a Caramelized Sweet Onion Mushroom Tapenade. And believe me, it is every bit as good as it sounds! The mushroom tapenade in the recipe is the same one you see in the heading picture for this post. I served it with Plantain Chips, and what I like to call “Cucumber Chips,” which as you can see in the picture are just long-sliced cucumber which can be used as a dipping tool. Cucumber compliments the flavor of the mushroom tapenade nicely, adding just that hint of cucumber flavor.

For the actual meal I made the Weekend Pot Roast post from last weekend, using pork rather than the beef that had had in mind when I wrote that post. As I suggested in the post, it worked just right for the pork. For the vegetables, I used medium sweet potatoes, “baby” zucchini, and young carrots sliced once. The baby zucchini came out amazing – the skin held some of the zucchini flavor in, while trapping the steam flavor from the pork in the rum marinade. The carrots and sweet potato came out as expected, and as I suggested in the original post, adding the sweet potato first, and then the carrots and zucchini later was just right. All of the vegetables cooked just the right amount, and the right amount of vegetable flavor seeped in to the pork. It was excellent!

And for Brunch on Sunday I started out with a hand-made guacamole (I will post a recipe post probably tomorrow) with hand-toasted red and yellow peppers. Then, for a main meal, I made a Frittata with hand-toasted red and yellow peppers, finely diced carrot greens, and caramelized sweet onions. I served the Frittata with a side of bacon. And then for desert, I toasted ripe plantains lightly coated in coconut oil.

It was a lot of work, and since I hand-wash my dishes (the dishwasher never does as good a job!) it was a lot of dish-washing! But it was oh-so worth it!! I would do it again this coming weekend if we hadn’t already made other plans.

Gift Ideas:

It has long been a tradition of mine to bring something specially cooked to my closest friends when they are hosting a get-together, having a party, or if we are just visiting. I don’t always have the time or energy to make a special dish, which will keep well, and bring it along – but I usually do! And now that I’ve mastered the Caramelized Sweet Onion Mushroom Tapenade, it will most definitely be the gift I will bring to my next event.

Let me know what you like to bring your friends and family for special occasions in the comments section!

Mushroom Tapenade with Caramelized Onions


Mushroom Tapenade with sliced cucumbers in the backgroundMushroom Tapenade with Caramelized Onions

Mushroom_Tapenade-ThumbnailMy wife and I hosted two back to back small-scale parties at our place over the weekend. It was amazing! And cooking for parties is one of the things that I look forward to the most as a chef. Back in the old days, I used to make a bean dip for parties, visiting, hosting etc. I had a small group of people who would actually invite me to events specifically for my bean dip. They loved it! And it wasn’t Paleo in the least. So, in honor of the old days, I put my creative energies to good use over the weekend, and came up with a recipe for a thick mushroom dip (called “tapenade” in the title) which replaces the otherwise missing go-to party dip which I used to make.

What you’ll need:Mushroom_Tapenade_Ingredients

  • 30 oz White Button mushrooms
  • 2 large Carrots
  • 3 medium Sweet Onions
  • 1 head Fennel
  • 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 4 tablespoons Coconut Butter (or Coconut Manna)
  • Italian Seasoning, Turmeric, Salt & Pepper

Cook Time: 2+ hours
Serves: 8+

Mushrooms and Carrots in the Crock PotIn a slow cooker, combine the chopped mushrooms, shredded carrots, one cup of water and the coconut butter. Start the slow-cooker on high, and turn it down after about 30 minutes of cook time. I like to chop the mushrooms coarsely. This will all need to be processed later in a blender, so I don’t worry too much about the size that I chop the mushrooms down to; I just want to make certain that they are small enough that the cooking is effective. I “shred” my carrots on a cheese grater, and like the mushrooms, I don’t worry too much about them being chopped smaller because this will all be blended later. Let the whole mixture cook on high for several hours (I cooked this for 4 hours before processing; and served shortly after that) stirring every 30 minutes or so. Turn it down from high to low after the first 30 minutes. You can let this cook for anywhere between 1 and 6 hours without any real fear of over-cooking.

Mushroom_Tapenade-Caramelized_OnionsAbout 30 minutes before serving, blend the cooked mushrooms and carrots in a blender. I do this in small batches, about 1/2 cup each batch, otherwise the stirring and re-running the blender will be a very labor intensive process. Put the blended mushroom mix back in the crock-pot, and turn it back up to high. Now is a good time to add the spices and stir them in.

Once the mushroom/carrot mix has been blended, start the onions and fennel in a frying pan with coconut oil. I chop the onions and fennel fairly finely, since these will not be blended. These will provide the “chunks” that you expect from a good dipping sauce or tapenade, as well as most of the texture, so make sure that the size you chop your onions and fennel to is the size you want in the dip. You can season the onions and fennel as well. I cook on a medium-high heat (about 6 or 7 out of 10) and it took me about 5 minutes to caramelize the onions and fennel. Add the caramelized onions and fennel to the mushroom mix and stir.

Mushroom Tapenade with sliced cucumbers in the backgroundAnd Serve!

This is ready to serve as soon as the onions and fennel are added to the mix. This can be kept warm in the crock-pot for more than an hour before the onions will start to break down, so don’t worry if you finished a little early.

I like to serve this with sliced cucumber “chips” for dipping. This is also great on any other type of vegetable, as well as Plantain Chips if you can find them. Leftovers will go great as a top-sauce for a seared steak or pork. This is an Urban Paleo Chef original, so I really hope you all love it!

Let me know what you served this with in the comments section! And if you modified the recipe at all, let me know what you added, what spices you used, and how it worked out?