Apple Bacon Upside-Down Cake

Yes, I made a cake.

Yes, it had bacon in it.  Or, rather, it had bacon on it.  With tart apples and coconut sugar.

It was incredibly earthy, marvelously moist and unbelievably delicious; savory and just sweet enough.  I’m already thinking it will be a dessert at Thanksgiving, it was THAT good.

A couple of weeks ago while looking for a gluten-free cake recipe that didn’t use alternate grains, I ran across a recipe someone had adapted from The Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry for Very Vanilla Cupcakes.  I’m not big on cupcakes, but most cupcake recipes can be made into a cake, and vice versa.  While the recipe used almond flour, it also called for safflower oil and agave syrup, neither of which I cook with (safflower oil, even when it’s organic, is still industrially processed in order to make it shelf stable; agave is also highly refined and nearly 100% fructose).  It didn’t take much to adapt the recipe further, so, in anticipation of a picnic at a co-worker’s home, I made a pear upside-down cake – mostly to use up some pears that were in danger of becoming overripe to the point of being fit for nothing other than the compost bucket.

That cake was lovely, but I made it in my 12″ cast iron skillet which was simply too large for the amount of batter this recipe makes (it was still good enough to be devoured by other members of the household before I could have more than a single piece – that’s a win in my book).  I knew immediately what I needed to do to tweak the recipe further to make it better than good.  It took me a week to find the time to make the cake again, but the wait was entirely worth it.  Even The Young One liked the very small piece he had – and the kid has an aversion to cooked apples as well as any cake that’s not chocolate.

Of course, the bacon might have had something to do with that.

If you don’t eat bacon, or simply cannot fathom the thought of it on a cake, you can leave it off and substitute the bacon fat with butter.  It will still be a delicious and healthy indulgence without a single refined ingredient in sight.  Next, I think I’ll see what I can do about turning the basic recipe into a carrot cake.

Apple Bacon Upside-Down Cake

Apple  Bacon Upside-Down Cake

serves 8

2 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Macintosh, peeled and sliced
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Cook the bacon in a 10″ cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and all of the fat is rendered. Take the skillet off of the heat; remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels and set aside. Drain all of the bacon fat except 2 tablespoons and reserve for another use.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup coconut sugar evenly over the bottom of the skillet, then scatter the bacon over the sugar. Arrange the apple slices on top of the sugar and bacon.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until well combined. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the almond flour, salt and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 2 or 3 additions, stirring and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl each time, until the batter is smooth – it will still be “grainy” because of the almond flour, but make sure there are no lumps. Spread the batter gently and evenly over the apples and bacon in the skillet.

Bake the cake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Place the skillet on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin, flexible spatula around the edges of the cake, then invert a serving dish on top of the skillet. Carefully, using pot holders and/or oven mitts, flip the skillet over on top of the serving dish and carefully lift away from the cake. Use the spatula to place any bacon or apple slices that may have stuck to the bottom of the skillet back onto the cake.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 387 calories, 27.9g total fat, 56.1mg cholesterol, 332.3mg sodium, 277.8mg potassium, 23.2g carbohydrates, 3.8g fiber, 18.8g sugar, 3.3g protein.

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Smoked Ham with Maple Apple Glaze

I love pork, something you’re probably aware of if you’re a regular reader –  I’ve got quite a few piggy recipes on here.  In fact, we eat it on nearly a daily basis, most often for breakfast in the form of bacon, fresh sausage or ham.  This wasn’t always true; until our change in diet (and subsequently the purchase of an entire pastured hog) breakfast meat was reserved for Sunday brunch.  Come to think of it, breakfast itself was reserved for Sundays – The Young One usually ate cereal or instant oatmeal before school, mine was almost always cottage cheese or a hard-boiled egg (if I even ate it) and Beloved rarely ate breakfast at all.

How times have changed.  We eat breakfast every darn day and have lost 35 pounds each – and that breakfast almost always includes pork.  No wonder it was a matter of mere months before we purchased a second pig.

Although we love pork, until we went whole hog (so to speak) we didn’t eat a lot of ham; it was usually a “special occasion” type of thing.  It wasn’t until we found ourselves with two large hams and a bunch of ham steaks that we started eating more of it…and I discovered that a smoked ham from Wilbur was a somewhat different proposition than a ham purchased at the grocery store.

Commercially available hams are injected with a combination of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, water and flavorings. The ham is then cooked to a temperature of 150º F; the combination of the chemical cure and cooking make the hams you buy at the grocery store labeled “water added” and “fully cooked” – all you need to do is heat them up (or not, if you like cold ham and a lot of people do).

When we buy an entire hog, we pick up the fresh parts – chops, ribs, roasts, loins, sausage – as soon as the animal is butchered and packaged.  Two weeks later we go back and collect the bacon and hams, which are smoked.  They are cured in a brine of salt and brown sugar (yeah, we’re not real crazy about that, but the sugar makes up a very small portion of the brine and it’s certainly better than all of the chemicals used to cure a commercial ham) and then smoked at a temperature considerably less than a commercial ham – this is known as “cold smoking”.  From what I’ve read, this process essentially cooks the ham, but personally I wouldn’t eat it cold until I’ve cooked it first – for one thing, a ham processed in this manner is a lot saltier than a commercial ham.  They are also drier than a commercial ham, since they are not injected, so a little more thought needs to go into the preparation, at least of the whole hams (we just fry up the ham steaks).

If I were preparing a commercial ham, I’d score it, spread the glaze over it and throw it in the oven at 350º F until heated through – about 10 minutes per pound.  With the smoked ham, I normally rinse the ham well and place it fat side up in a baking dish.  I don’t score it, but I do cover it with foil and heat it at a lower temperature – 325º F – for about 20 minutes per pound. I don’t glaze it until it’s cooked, either, because juices from the ham are an integral part of it, along with sauteed apples and pure maple syrup.

The results are a tender, flavorful ham that’s a welcome change from the usual clove, cherry and pineapple-studded hams smeared in a combination of brown sugar and mustard – it’s certainly worth the trouble of tracking down a cold smoked ham if you don’t have the advantage of one in your freezer.  This will take center stage on our table Christmas Eve.

Smoked Ham with Maple Apple Glaze

Smoked Ham with Maple Apple Glaze

serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound, semi-boneless cold smoked ham

1 to 2 large tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 to 3/4 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325º F.

Rinse the ham well with cold water and pat dry.  Place in a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to comfortably hold the ham, and cover tightly with foil.

Bake the ham until completely heated through, about 20 minutes per pound.  About 10 minutes before the ham is done, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam.  Saute the apples in the butter until tender and golden, about 5 minutes, and add the maple syrup.  Increase the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the syrup begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the ham from the oven and increase the temperature to 350º F.  Carefully pour the juices from the ham into the skillet with the apple/maple syrup mixture and stir to combine.  Spoon the glaze back over the ham and return to the oven.  Bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 to 20 minutes to glaze the ham, basting it every 5 minutes.

Remove the ham to a cutting board and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before carving; reserve the glaze from the pan.  Carve, spoon the glaze over the slices and serve.

Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

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Baked Ham on Foodista

Apple Cheddar Pork Burgers

Well, Spring is definitely here now, despite freezing temperatures overnight this weekend (which we missed, because we were in Cincinnati spoiling a certain G Man).  It is raining now, and is likely going to rain all week, so we took advantage of the beautiful day yesterday to use the grill – one of Beloved’s great joys in life.

There’s just something about men, meat and fire. *insert Tim Allen “Ar-ar-ar-ar” here*

The Young One (naturally) loves burgers, and frankly so do I – I just don’t put them on a bun.  Yesterday we made regular burgers out of ground chuck (lean ground beef makes for a dry burger) and these little gems.  Comprised of ground pork (you could use ground turkey if you don’t eat pork), shredded cheddar cheese, chopped Granny Smith apple and freshly grated ginger, these burgers are wonderfully moist and flavorful.  On a bun or not, it’s a great warm-weather dinner when paired with a salad or good coleslaw (my next recipe, I think).

While this recipe gives you directions for grilling they can, of course, be cooked on the stove, under the broiler, or on a counter-top grill.

Apple Cheddar Pork Burgers

makes 4 – 6 burgers

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat your grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients well, but gently.  Form into 4 – 6 thick burgers and grill using indirect heat – never place these directly over the heat source – about 8 to 10 minutes on each side.   Remove from the grill and allow to rest for a moment or two before serving.

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Chicken Waldorf Salad

Gee, it’s Thursday and this is the first recipe I’ve posted all week.  I know I promised scallops, but the recipe needs tweaking before I post it (Michele, we were divided about the fermented black beans, which were really salty – I may use regular black beans next time or really cut down on the fermented ones).  It was really good, but still…it needs tweaking.

So, you get what we had last night, which was even better:  Chicken Waldorf Salad.  Made with homemade mayonnaise.

I’ve decided if I’m going to do this low carb thing, I’m going to do it right.  My body does not tolerate soy in large quantities very well, and the vast majority of commercially available mayonnaise is just chock-full of soybean oil, even the ones that claim they’re made with olive oil.  The only other option available to me, at least at the local grocery store, is in the “organic” section and costs $8 for a small jar.

Pardon me, but screw that – I can make mayonnaise at home for a fraction of that cost and it will taste tons better.  So I pulled out my trusty copy of Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking and looked for her mayonnaise recipe, which I’d never made before.   And didn’t find it.  Because there’s no “condiment” section in the book.  Mayonnaise is under “sauces.”

Fancy that.  Anyhoo, so I’m getting all the ingredients together and begin reading the instructions when I get to the part about whisking it.

By hand.


Again, pardon me, but screw that says my right hand, in the midst of an arthritic flare-up.  It’s technology to the rescue as I pull out my stand mixer and fasten the trusty whisk attachment.  Which worked beautifully, so those are the instructions I’m providing.  You can always whisk it by hand, if you wish, and mayonnaise can be made very quickly in a blender or food processor as well.

So, here’s the recipe for the Chicken Waldorf Salad, made with homemade mayonnaise and chicken leftover from the bird we roasted Sunday night, served on a bed of fresh spinach.

Note: I’m cutting vegetable oils out of our diet for many reasons, so I made the mayonnaise completely with olive oil.  You can use a neutral-tasting vegetable oil if you want, or a combination of both, but don’t use an extra-virgin olive oil – the taste is overwhelming.  Use an inexpensive, lighter type.  And you can, of course, use a commercially prepared mayonnaise if you prefer.  Also, the recipe for the mayonnaise makes about 2 1/2 cups, so tightly cover and refrigerate the leftovers for up to 3 days.

Note 2: Yes, there are raw eggs in the mayonnaise.  Use clean, fresh eggs with no cracks, and make sure the yolks don’t come in contact with the shells.  You can also use pasteurized eggs.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

4 main dish servings

2 – 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed

1 apple (I used a Fiji), cored, chopped and tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 cup red seedless grapes, sliced in half

3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely broken

3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

To make the mayonnaise:

3 yolks at room temperature

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry or prepared mustard (I used a good Dijon)

1 3/4 cups light olive oil, vegetable oil or a combination of both

2 tablespoons boiling water

Warm the mixing bowl from the stand mixer in hot water; wipe dry and latch on to the mixer.  Place the egg yolks in the bowl and attach the whisk.  Beat for 1 or 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

Begin adding the oil by drops with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the measuring cup on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the mayonnaise. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.

After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the mayonnaise will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis of potential curdling is over.  Beat in the remaining oil in a thin, steady stream.  If the mayo becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out, then continue with the oil.

Beat the boiling water into the mayonnaise – more anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste.

If not using immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it tightly so a skin will not form on its surface.

Assembling the salad:

Combine all of the salad ingredients – chicken, apple, celery, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise –  in a large bowl and stir, mixing well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on a bed of fresh greens.

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Apple Crisp

I am late today posting, and the rest of the week may be a bit haphazard – the drug dealer from Florida who bought this dump, sight unseen, as a “legitimate” front our responsible and immensely caring landlord has taken our rents and run because that’s what sleazy gigolo criminals do forsaken us due to financial difficulties and the power to our office building is going to may be shut off today.  We have a backup plan, since we’ve been unpleasantly aware of this possibility for some time, but implementing it is going to take time and effort we really can’t spare right now.

Life – it surely can be interesting.

Anyhoo, I learned a couple of things while making this recipe yesterday:

  1. Never buy apples in bags no matter how cheap they are; half of them will be bruised beyond use.
  2. I could use a course in food photography.

Oh, I’m getting better, I’m just not progressing at a rate that suits me – I’m definitely not happy with the shots I took for this.  Oh, well; you’ll get the basic gist of it all.

So, faced with half a bag of reasonably decent Macintosh apples, I decided to make an apple crisp with them, and some homemade vanilla ice cream.  Now, if you’ll scroll waaaaay down and look at the sidebar, you’ll see a little button that says “Cook, Eat, Share – Featured Author.”  I have NO idea how they found me, but the people who run this site sent me an email asking me to be a contributor on their site, and since I have what is ostensibly a food blog where I post recipes at least once a week, I got the status of “Featured Author.”

I have absolutely no idea what that entails as of yet, but it is quite flattering.

Anyway, I haven’t had much of a chance to search the site for recipes until this weekend, but when I did I found a treasure trove – if you need recipes, you should really check this site out.  I found one for “Double Crumb Apple Crisp” that looked just wonderful, but it made a ton.  With some adjustments in ingredients, proportions and procedure, I came up with a dessert much more suitable to a household of three (one of which won’t touch it because he only likes “crunchy” apples 🙄 ).

It can be easily doubled if you’re feeding a crowd, and is absolutely tasty no matter how large you make it.

Note: if you use salted butter, cut the amount of salt in half.


Apple Crisp

serves 6 – 8

7 cups thinly sliced cooking apples

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the tartness of the apples

1 teaspoon cinammon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt (I use kosher salt)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for about half an hour.  Stir, and sprinkle with the corn starch; mix thoroughly.

While the apples are macerating, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk the oats, brown sugar, flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl, cut the butter in to the oatmeal mixture with a pastry cutter or two table knives until it is coarse and crumbly.

Press a little more than half the oatmeal mixture in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish; spread the apples evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture over the apples.

Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until the topping is brown and crisp and the apples are tender.  Serve warm, with ice cream if desired.