BACON WRAPPED DATES

The perfect appetizer, this bacon wrapped dates recipes is simmered in brown sugar and bourbon and is delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey
  • 13 medium thick cut strips of bacon, cut in half
  • 26 pitted Medjool dates
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add the brown sugar, butter, bourbon, and cream to a medium size pot and cook over low to medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

Wrap each date in a 1/2 slice piece of bacon and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and place each bacon wrapped date bacon seam side down and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until the bacon is browned and crispy. Cook in batches if necessary!

Drain the rendered bacon fat and add the crisp bacon wrapped dates back into the pan and pour the caramel over top. Bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 15-17 minutes.

Lemon layer cake with lemon cream cheese buttercream

This 3 layer lemon layer cake is made from scratch with real lemons. Light and delicious made even special with tangy cream cheese buttercream frosting!

INGREDIENTS:

(notice all “room temperature items—this is important! Take out of the refrigerator in advance)

  • 3 cups sifted AP flour (sift before measuring)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)-softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups regular sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract -pure
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest (takes about 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (takes about 2 lemons)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block-room temperature)
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3- 9 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. You can use Pam for baking.

Sift the flour, then measure 3 cups into a large bowl. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisk together. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Crape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs on at a time and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the buttermilk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You made need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.

Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cooled before frosting and assembling. The baked cakes are fluffy, but they are not thick, about 1-1.5 inches.

MAKE THE FROSTING:

In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioner’s sugar if frosting is too thin, more on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more lemon juice if frosting is too thick, or add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I always add a pinch of salt!)

ASSEMBLE AND DECORATE:

Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface, discard top (or use as crumble over ice cream). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or turntable. Evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 cup frosting. Top with third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. (Optional: Use homemade whipped cream with a piping tip to decorate the top—more to come on this!)

Refrigerate for at lease 30-45 minutes before slicing, this will help the cake to hold it’s shape. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

(Make ahead—cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before serving)

(If you want to make the whipped cream decorations on top, here’s the recipe. Use a piping bag with a tip to make the swirls, then top with a small cut lemon)

OPTIONAL:

BONUS—HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS:

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Use immediately or cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Homemade lemon curd

This is delicious lemon curd, sweet yet tangy. I doubled the recipe and made 6 individual gifts for friends. Great with morning toast!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 extra large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor and pulse. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. (If you mixture curds, don’t worry, it will blend when heated!)

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. (I used a thermometer to reach 170 degrees). The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

(Note: I doubled this recipe and made individual gifts. This filled 6 – 6 3/4 oz. jars)

CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD WITH GRAPES & CASHEWS

What’s spring without a great chicken salad, this one has succulent oven roasted chicken, juicy grapes and crunchy cashews drenched with a creamy curry dressing!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Use Hellmann’s)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup salted cashews, lightly chopped
  • 6 large stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 6 scallions, finely sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange chicken breast skin side up on baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done. Let cool.

In the meantime, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, curry powder, honey and a heaping 3/4 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and pull meat off bones. Cut into small bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to dressing. Add the cashews, celery, grapes, and scallions. Toss well. Taste, adjust seasonings to taste. Serves 8

TOMATO BASIL SOUP WITH FRESH CROUTONS & FETA CRUMBLE

Elevate your soup with a topping of fresh croutons and feta crumble and optional, a splash of olive oil with truffles!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 —28 oz. cans San Marzano tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • bunch of basil (about 8 leaves)
  • feta cheese, crumbled
  • ciabatta bread to make croutons
  • garlic salt for croutons
  • olive oil for drizzle

DIRECTIONS:

Add butter to a large pot over medium low heat until melted. Add in the onions and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the sugar, mix and cook for 7-9 minutes until browned. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and stew for 5-6 minutes. Add in the chicken stock and ten add in the balsamic vinegar. Either use an immersion blender or a regular blender or food processor and blend on high until smooth.,

Add the soup back to the pot if using a food processor. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Chiffonade a bunch of basil leaves (around 7-8) and add it to the soup. Stir and keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, cut up the ciabatta bread into small squares. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Toast in the oven at 350 degrees for 6-7 minutes, take out and stir, bake for another 6 minutes or until golden brown and crispy (can store in an airtight container for up to one week. When serving, top with a few croutons, about a tablespoon of crumbled feta and a splash of olive oil.

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