BaconFest By The Bay – you heard it here first!


Just a quick post – as many of you know, I am fortunate enough to have an employer who provides us with an excellent dining facility. We have available, on a daily basis, a large salad bar that uses vegetables which are organically grown on-site, fresh soups made from scratch and low-carbon-footprint, sustainable foods, carefully crafted by trained culinarians into tasty meals. There’s even a vegan option – every day. My favorite lunch item, however, is the made-to-order deli wrap, grilled panini -style. The facility isn’t quite on par with Google’s kitchen, but close enough for me.

With all of the wonderful options presented, imagine my surprise when one of the employees (a healthy-looking one, at that) ordered:

“a bacon sammich, on white bread – with a bit of mayonnaise. Please.”

I started hearing Aretha Franklin music in my head, and had a strange hankerin’ for some fried chicken…and plain white toast. (shameless Blues Brothers reference, sorry.)

Which brings me to my next quixotic venture: BaconFest By The Bay 2014.  Do you hear the trumpet fanfare? I do. No, not just another blog extravaganza (search this blog for Baconfest 2010) but a “come to the beach, listen to some music, and have some great bacon cooked up by our area’s leading chefs. Smithfield Foods, purveyor of fine pork products, has already hinted their interest in supporting the event.

Of course there will be wine. Duh.

BaconFest By The Bay – it’s still in the concept phase, but with bacon – how can it go wrong?



Can a Regular Guy Cook?


Most of my readers are women. That’s okay – most bloggers and blog readers are women, especially when it comes to the topic of cooking.  But that doesn’t mean regular guys don’t like to cook. Far from it. The problem, as I see it, is that most cooking blogs are written by women for women. Us guys try to follow along, but since we don’t understand the language, we tend to open a can of something and then put cheese on top. The microwave is our friend.

So today I am posting the first in a randomly written series called “Can a Regular Guy Cook?”  These will be recipes written in a manner that most men, if adventurous enough to try, will end up with a good tasting, and hopefully nice looking plate of food to share with someone special.  And while I am certainly not the expert when it comes to relationship advice, if a man knows how to cook – and doesn’t mind doing it – it will only help him get / keep the person of his dreams. (see disclaimer)

Disclaimer:  No promises are made and no results are guaranteed. This is Exploding Potatoes, not e-Harmony or the like.  Cook at your own risk. Please be cautious – some utensils are sharp, some plates are hot, and please do not drink alcohol until after the food is on the table AND the stove / oven is turned off.  It wouldn’t hurt to know where the fire extinguisher is, either.

Today’s Dish – Vegetarian Lasagna – written in “cooking-challenged man-language.”

Veggie Lasagna, by yours truly.

Why cook something vegetarian first?  Because for most of us omnivores, cooking meat-less is a challenge. And if your significant other is a vegetarian, you can’t just fry up some bacon and slap it on bread – there won’t be a second date.  Plus, you can always add meat to your plate after the fact.

What you will need:

9 x 13 glass Pyrex baking dish. Don’t worry that the measurements aren’t exact. It’s just the way it goes. Just be sure to use an oven-safe glass dish, or you will have a whole ‘nother problem.

One box of “No Bake” lasagna noodles. For your purists, we will explore making our own pasta at a later time. For now, baby steps. Brand isn’t important. If it has an Italian sounding name, it’s probably good enough.

One Jar of Marinara Sauce. I prefer Newman’s brand, but only because he was great in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and he drives race cars.

One big tub of Ricotta cheese. You will use all of it, and (bonus) you get a nice container for spare parts and other stuff.

Some Mozzarella  cheese.  This is a white cheese; the same stuff that is on pizza. You really can’t have too much of this stuff so don’t worry about the quantity. You can even buy it shredded. In a bag. It’s great. Less work!

Parmesan cheese.  You can buy a “triangle” of this in the fancy cheese section of the grocery store, or pick up a bag of pre-shredded parm when you get your shredded mozzarella!

5 – 6 Carrots – Save a few pennies and buy regular carrots. If you aren’t handy with a vegetable peeler, buy the little carrots called baby carrots. Costs more, but less work for you.

2 Green Zucchini – Okay, this is important – Cucumbers ARE NOT zucchini. If you need help at the store, ask someone.  (Ahem, this is a good ice-breaker to meet someone. Just don’t start channeling Animal House.)

1 Yellow Squash  – usually found right next to the zucchini.

1 handful of fresh spinach – man, fresh spinach comes in a bag. It just doesn’t get easier than a bag, does it? All you gotta do is open it, and you can use whatever cool knife you want. (see disclaimer, again.)

Spices – this one is easy. You probably have some sitting in the pantry already. A little garlic, some oregano and some cilantro would be perfect. Now, can you use fresh spices instead of dried? Absolutely! But, man, I hope you have a bottle of wine. Using fresh spices takes this to a whole new level! (see disclaimer, one more time.)

Here’s what you do:

First – shred any Mozzarella and grate any Parmesan cheese that hasn’t already been shredded or grated. If your cheese grater is one of those four-sided jobs, it’s probably on the shelf. If it’s one of those wooden handle graters, it’s in the junk drawer with all the other miscellaneous kitchen things.

Now – get a big bowl and put in the Ricotta, shredded Mozzarella, and half the grated Parmesan cheese – mix it all together. Save the other half of the Parm. You will need it at the end.

Next – Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots, then chop off a half inch off each end (and discard the ends.)Don’t peel the zucchini or squash, but do chop a half inch off each end and discard, like the carrot ends. Now chop the carrots, zucchini and squash up into little bits. If you have a food processor, that would be even better.  Mix the chopped veggies in with the cheese.

Alright Popeye – pull the stems off that fresh spinach and add to the cheese-veggie mix.

Then – add four to five good shakes of the garlic, oregano and cilantro. If you are using fresh, try three cloves of garlic (smash ‘em then chop ‘em) plus a hand full of the oregano and cilantro leaves.

Mix it all up one more time. I usually hum will I do this. Makes me sound more authentic.

Putting it all together

First, get your oven going. Dial in the temp control to 350 degrees. Once the ding “dings” or the beep “beeps” – your oven will be hot enough.

While you are waiting for the oven:

Spread a thin layer (quarter inch for those engineering types) of the cheese mixture into the bottom of the glass baking dish.

Put a single layer of the noodles on top.

Now add a layer of the cheese; this time a little thicker than the bottom layer. Be sure to cover all of the noodles.

Add a thin layer of marinara sauce next.

Now just repeat: noodles, cheese and sauce until you either run out of something or run out of room in the baking dish.

Top it all off with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.

Carefully open your pre-heated oven (watch out for the blast of hot air) and put the lasagna dish in the middle rack, in the center of the oven. Close the door and set the timer for 30 minutes.

After the timer dings/beeps, reduce the temperature down to about 300 degrees and cook for 20 more minutes. If it starts to look like it is burning (edges turning black) then set a piece of aluminum foil on top of it. (see disclaimer – the part about things being hot.)

If all goes well, and it should – once the timer dings/beeps, you should have an awesome dish of veggie lasagna!!

See?  A regular guy CAN cook!

Black Bean Corn Cilantro Salsa


Making black bean corn cilantro salsa is actually step one to my three-step, complete Tex-Mex dinner. This recipe is easy to make and functions as a salsa for dipping chips as well as the base sauce for step two: chicken enchilada casserole. Today is just one of those “we want good tasting food but nothing too complex”: kinda days. If I really felt ambitious, I would have made my patented “Boot Stompin’ Kick Butt” Salsa. But I’m not. Maybe next time.

This version of salsa is reminiscent of my days stationed in Southern California. Back in the day, every restaurant used fresh ingredients, mostly those grown right there in California. They had a low carbon footprint before the term was cool.

This made about 6 cups, but the amount will vary based on how long you let this simmer.


1 can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz)

1 can of chopped green chiles (4.5 oz)

1 cup of corn kernels

1/2 cup of cooked black beans

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded

4 sprigs of fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper


Put the seeded jalapeno peppers into a food processor.

Before: Jalapeno Peppers

Add the leaves off of the cilantro sprigs, then pulse two or three times, just enough to chop everything up.

After - pulsed jalapeno and cilantro

Add this, along with the other ingredients into a stock pot or large sauce pan.

Cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Black Bean Corn Cilantro Salsa

The longer you can simmer this salsa, the better it will taste. The best option is to let it cool, then refrigerate it until the next day. This will give the flavors time to bloom!

Hot or cold, it is ready for dipping with your favorite chips! Just make sure you save a good amount for the chicken enchilada casserole!

What? I write a food blog? This one?

First ever "Earthrise" photograph, t...

Sometimes, you just can't get a good ISP anywhere!

Okay, so I have been somewhat remiss in my duties regarding this blog. And I can think of numerous excuses for my lack of posts, but you wouldn’t believe the whole alien abduction thing, so why bother? (And I know who I saw on the ship, so you all can’t comment.)

Back to Earth now, I propose the following upcoming posts:

– Mashed Potato Pizza

– History beckons with a remembrance of Chef Rudolf, an “old school” chef I shared many a cup of coffee with, many years ago. I’ll quote his recipes verbatim. Unique. And tasty.

– An interview with a special guest from the world of Internet cooking. Of course, I need to ask her first.

– Then maybe I’ll get back to my New Years’ resolutions and see how we are tracking.

But first – mashed potato pizza. I am hungry just thinking about it!

Today’s Bonus: Always use a wooden spoon. I don’t know why, but Rudolf always insisted. And if he could beat the Nazi’s, then his wooden spoon advice must be worth something!


Bacon Jam – better than…


Bacon is all the rage these days and why not? There isn’t a more versatile pork product, probably. (Stand down, you scrapple lovers. Bacon beats scrapple for versatility, any day of the week!) Anyhow, when my mother in law sent me a recipe for Bacon Jam, I just had to try it out. You should, too – this is the best thing in a Mason jar since moonshine!

Bacon Jam - just after being "canned."

The recipe took a long route to get here, but here’s the provenance:

Nigella Lawson – an internationally known, wonderful chef, had nothing to do with bacon jam, except…

Lorraine Elliott – a great food blogger from Sydney, who uses the the nom de plum “Not Quite Nigella” for her blog – did create the original recipe, which was read by…

Kate Lawson (no relation) – a food writer for the Detroit Free Press – who wrote an article on the wonderment of bacon jam, bringing Lorraine’s recipe to the greater Michigan area, which was read by…

My mother in law – who sent it to me!

Lorraine’s recipe is for a one cup serving. Check it out here if that is all you need. I went big and created the recipe below, which yields 4 half pint jars.

Bacon Jam – hold on to your spoons – here we go:


3 pounds of smoked bacon, cut into 1-2 inch lengths

2 medium, brown skinned onions, peeled and chopped

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

9 Tablespoons light brown sugar

4 heavy dashes of Red Rooster sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

2 cups of coffee (I used Starbucks Christmas Blend, decaf, but it’s your choice)

1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

8 oz Maple syrup

How to make it:

Cook the bacon until almost (but not) crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain the grease.

In some of the bacon drippings, saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes, until they start to become translucent.

In a large pot (I used a 5 qt stock pot), place the cooked bacon, the sauteed onions, and the remaining ingredients. Stir to mix them up.

Cover the pot and simmer the mixture over medium heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. This should reduce down quite a bit, but not all the way.

When there is just enough liquid left to keep the mix from sticking to the pot and burning, turn off the heat. Carefully – remember, this is hot! – spoon the mix into a blender or food processor.

Give the machine two or three short bursts. You don’t want to grind this stuff up into a paste, but then again, some people do. I’m not one of them.

Ta da! You are done. Transfer to a container suitable for storage in your refrigerator. Don’t worry about how long the bacon jam will keep – it won’t last long.

Try it on hamburgers or steaks just off the grill. Bacon jam is pure awesome-on-a-stick, without needing a stick!

Another option, if you are trying to suck up at work or school, is to “can” the jam, using half pint Mason jars. Just follow the general directions on your pressure cooker. I went for 20 minutes at 15 psi.

I should probably go ahead and measure for curtains in my new VP office…okay, maybe not, but the boss will certainly like the jar of Bacon Jam she received today.  Everyone that eats bacon does. And who doesn’t eat bacon?  (Shhh. I know, some of you don’t. But you get the point!)

Bacon Jam – better than (fill in the blank).

No matter what you put in the blank – Bacon Jam is better!  Except maybe for Chuck Norris. But that is a whole ‘nother story.


Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting


Gingerbread Cupcake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Tomorrow is bring a dozen cupcakes to work day so I thought I would bring back a classic recipe from Gourmet magazine (January 1990, as I recall.)

Three hints:

1.  These are very rich. You’ll want to eat them all, but start slowly. One or two will be good per sitting.

2.  I used commercially made crystallized ginger as a garnish. If you have the time, make your own. Here’s AB’s recipe, if you need a good one.

3.  Unlike my usual measure by eye technique, I followed this recipe exactly. I think that is the key to success here. But you do what you want. Your call, amigo!

So here we go. First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then…

In a large bowl, mix the following:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt. It’s what I had)

Now, in another bowl, cream the following with an electric mixer:

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

Then add the following to the butter / sugar mixture:

1/2 cup unsulphered molasses

1 egg

Beat just until mixed. Set aside for a moment.

Heat a half cup of water to boiling. I used a microwave to speed things up.

Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the hot water. Stir until dissolved.

Slowly pour the solution into the molasses mixture. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

Finally, pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients.

Stir with a spoon until smooth.

Okay, now the fun part:

Either spray a muffin pan with a non-stick cooking spray or use cupcake liners. Do one or the other. Trust me on this one.

Spoon the cupcake batter into the liners. Fill half-way. These will rise so don’t worry. And when they are done baking, they should have a flat top, or even slightly indented. No crowns here.

Bake in the 350 degree, preheated oven for 20 minutes. Not 18, not 21. Twenty minutes. Of course, your time may vary (I suppose) if your oven varies from mine. But go with 20 minutes. Then stick a toothpick in one. If it comes out clean, you are done! With this part.

When done, set aside on a cooling rack to…do I really need to say it?

For the frosting:

In another bowl, cream together:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons of butter (salted is fine)

Then add:

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix until smooth.

Then add:

zest from one lemon

2 teaspoons of lemon juice OR three drops of pure lemon oil extract. (I used the latter)

Mix it all together, then cool in the refrigerator for about a half hour. This will also force you to give the cupcakes more time to cool. Don’t even think about eating one yet. Okay, go ahead and think about it – but don’t do it!!

Okay, so your frosting has cooled for 30 minutes. Carefully take the cupcakes out of the pan and plate as desired. Spoon some frosting on top, swirl or smooth as desired.

Top each cupcake with one or two pieces of crystallized ginger. This is powerful stuff so don’t over do it.

Keep cool in the fridge until ready to serve.

Have cold milk on stand-by!

Enjoy – and Merry Christmas from the staff at Exploding Potatoes!

Yes! Lemon Meringue Pie for Dinner!


Lemon Meringue Pie

So my fabulous photographer, whose nickname is  “Double M,” decided she wanted a lemon meringue pie as part of her birthday dinner. While most families would put such a dish at the end of a meal, we are not most families.

Pie first!

And she even baked it! A special thanks to Double M’s grandma for the recipe, here is our version of Lemon Meringue Pie!

First – either make a plain crust or buy a plain crust. Place it in a large glass pie dish and bake it 8 to 10 minutes at 475 degrees F. Set aside to cool.

Now, the filling:

Put the following in a blender, in this order:

– juice and pulp of 4 lemons

– zest of 1 lemon

– 12 egg yolks (save the egg whites for later!)

– 2 cups of sugar

– 6 Tablespoons of corn starch

– 3 cups of hot water (water from the tap is fine as long as it’s hot)

– 4 Tablespoons flour

Blend away until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat on the stove top (medium heat) stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. Take off the stove and blend in 2 Tablespoons of butter. Stir until smooth.

Time to make the meringue!

12 egg whites (see? I told you they would come in handy!)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Put the three ingredients in a chilled metal bowl and using an electric handheld mixer with whisk attachment, beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form. You can do this by hand, but be prepared to get tired, very quickly. Just use the electric appliance. It’s okay, even for you purists!

Pour the lemon mixture into the baked pie crust. Cover with the meringue.

Bake at 400 degrees F. until peaks are a delicate brown.

Keep watch! It won’t take too long.

Once done, you should really let it cool before slicing. You can chill it, also, for excellent slicing.

We couldn’t wait, so as you can see by the picture, the slice started to fall apart a bit. But for a birthday dinner – it was perfect!!

Happy eating! And for Double M, happy birthday!!

Birthday Pie!