2015 New Recipe Quest

Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon

I wish I had an image of these after they came out of the oven! 
Sadly, by then the party was in full swing,
 and I am terrible at putting photos before hearty appetites. 
Especially my own. 
And especially after a glass or two of wine. 
I feel it is safer to put that camera away...

None the less, trust me.
These little bites are bad ass.

If you are looking for something slightly different, something rich tasting but easy on the pocket, 
and something that can be made ahead for your next party (maybe Superbowl Sunday?!), 
these are easy to assemble, 
and are a nice diversion from the now seen-at-every-single-party-bacon-wrapped-scallops.

Or, you could serve them in a salad over some fresh greens with a nice balsamic vinaigrette (maybe Valentine's Day?!).

Any way you make them, mouths will be happy!

Makes a tray load

12 slices of bacon, thinly sliced, cut in half, par-cooked, drained and cooled
24 dried dates, pits removed (most brands the pits are removed for you)
1/4 cup of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup of softened blue cheese or gorgonzola
1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts or pecans

Balsamic glaze (if making an appetizer)
or Balsamic vinaigrette (if making a salad)

Tooth picks

Optional: Fresh spring greens for serving as a salad

You can make up to step 4 ahead of time; just wrap, refrigerate then bake before serving.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Cut your strips of bacon in half and par cook. Make sure they are still bendy so you can wrap them around the dates with ease. Drain and cool.
2. In the meantime, mix softened cream cheese, blue cheese and walnuts in a small bowl
3. Working one at a time (obviously), stuff the dates with the cream cheese, blue cheese and walnut mixture.
4. Wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon and pierce with a toothpick so they don't fall apart in the oven. Place on a large sheet pan lined with parchment.
5. Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp and the dates are heated through, about 15 minutes.
6. Put on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.
Serve immediately
or toss the greens with the balsamic vinaigrette and place dates on top of the salad. Again, serve immediately.


Happy Superbowl Sunday and/or Valentine's Day!
To some, these may be interchangeable...

French Lentil Soup with Piave and Red Wine
Winter hollers soup.
I missed my New Year's lentils for longevity, health and prosperity, 
so maybe I can make up for it if I load up on them during my mid-week health craze.
I pulled this recipe together by marrying a few recipes I found in my cookbooks and online over the past few days, adapted it to our flavor palates, and actually made two versions; 
one vegetarian and brothy for me, 
and one thicker, stew-like version with thick cuts of Gary's smoked bacon for Todd.
Although the foundations were the same, and both very delicious, the outcomes were very different;
One, a resemblance of a super food, 
and the other,
 a resemblance of a heart stopper.

This is the beauty of cooking.
Choose your beast.

Serves 4-6 for a hearty meal 

1 cup of french green lentils (found in health food stores or the organic section at most high end grocery stores). You can use regular green lentils, but they tend to break down and get mushy, especially if you want leftovers or plan on freezing the soup/stew. The french green lentils hold their firmness with grace.

3 carrots, sliced into coins (or smaller if you have little ones)
1 rib of celery, including leaves, cleaned and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch of green onions (+-8), white parts only, sliced into coins
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 sprig of thyme, 1 spring of rosemary and 2 sprigs of sage
Olive oil for simmering

2 ripe tomatoes, diced (or a can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped)
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of red wine
6 cups of vegetable broth

grated Piave, Parmesan or Romano for serving
Crusty Bread

*For the even heartier, carnivorous version par-cook thick cut smoked bacon and add to the soup during the simmer step (I cut the recipe in half and used 3 strips, chopped. If you wish to make the entire recipe carnivorous, use 6 strips). For my PA friends, I recommend using Gary's thick cut, double-smoked bacon here!

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and soak the lentils for thirty minutes. Drain and rinse the lentils.
2. Meantime, saute the onion, green onion, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sage until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender (about 15 minutes).
3. Stir in the drained lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for an hour (*Add bacon here if you are using it. Make sure you par-cooked, drained and chopped it first).
5. Add red wine and simmer for about 15 minutes longer
6. Remove sprigs left from thyme and rosemary. Taste soup. Salt and pepper if necessary.
7. Serve warm with shaved or grated Piave cheese and toast or crusty bread

*The recipe freezes and is left-over friendly, making it a healthy go-to meal!


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