Tag Archives: bacon

Bean and Bacon Soup

26 Oct

Over the years I have purchased a wide assortment of dried beans.  Each time I’ve used whatever I needed for a specific recipe, closed up the bag, and stacked it in the cupboard.  Now, after several years, I don’t just have “some beans” in the cupboard, I have a BEAN CUPBOARD.

Some people collect Precious Moments, and I collect dried beans.  And still, I win.

Dried beans are a great thing to have on hand, but using them requires a bit of planning.  My favorite way to prep beans is to brine them.  It just couldn’t be easier and consistently produces a tender and well-seasoned bean.  Brining beans works basically like this: mix water and salt, add beans, let sit for good while, rinse, then cook.  Done.  And that’s exactly what I did when making this soup.  In the morning I brined the beans and by the time I was ready to make the soup for dinner they were ready to go.

This soup is very hearty, flavorful, and tasty.  It is stick-to-your-ribs thick, so feel free to add more stock or water to bring it to the consistency that you like.  If you save it and reheat it, you’ll definitely want to add more water.  Between the brining and the bacon, this is a fairly salty soup so be sure to give it a check before adding any more at the end.  And although it doesn’t fit my official criteria for a low-calorie item, it comes in awfully close at 309 calories/serving.  Plus, there’s bacon in it.

Make some; it’s delicious.

Bean and Bacon Soup
Serves: 5

4 c. water
1/4 c. Kosher salt
1 c. dried pinto beans
1 c. dried cannellini beans
2 strips pepper bacon
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 c. chicken stock
1 c. carrots, sliced


In a large bowl, stir together water and salt until salt is dissolved.  Add dried beans, and let sit at least 4 hours up to overnight.  After soaking, remove beans from brine and rinse.  Set aside.

In a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove and set aside.  Add onion and garlic, reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 5 minutes or until it is golden in color.  Slowly add stock, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.  Increase heat, add beans, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 60 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Using a potato masher, mash some beans to help thicken the soup.  Crumble the bacon and add to the soup, add carrots,  and cook covered for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.


Estimated Calories:  309 cal/serving

Print it: Bean and Bacon Soup

Green Beans with Tomatoes, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

14 Aug

In Minnesota, there’s a slim space in time when fresh tomatoes are available.  After making it through a long winter filled with mealy, flavorless tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes taste gloriously wonderful.  If you are like me and your green thumb is actually plant poison, what you hope for is that someone in your family or one of your neighbors have a bumper crop of tomatoes and want to share their bounty.  For the past few years, this has been the case, and almost nothing makes me happier.

For a few awesome weeks, I will have a tomato at every meal.  And I will be so happy.

Last week, my mom loaded me up with treasures from her garden including cucumbers, green beans, and a bag full of tomatoes.  Earlier in the day, I had also purchased a few yellow and pink tomatoes from the farmers market.  And as they lined up like a tomato beauty pageant waiting to see who would be crowned, I pulled a few winners out of the queue and whipped up some dinner.

This is a very simple and fast dish to prepare.  Wonderful as a side dish, or in my case the main course, the combination of tomatoes, green beans, and bacon is divine.  Throw a little goat cheese on there and you can practically hear the archangels sing.  For real.  You can use any variety of tomato, but know that they cook down so the colors that show up when using non-red varieties are fleeting.  But for those few moments, your pan will look really, really pretty.  For my own dinner, I used pink and yellow tomatoes from the Tomato King (location: Albany, MN).  If you’re lucky enough to spot his tomatoes at your local Farmer’s Market or co-op, grab a few.  They are mighty fine.

To start, I cooked up a little bacon until it was crisp, then removed it and set it aside until it was cool enough to crumble.  In the meantime, I added the veggies and a little garlic wine to help sauce it up and add some flavor.  This was my first time using a garlic wine and it might be one of my new favorite things.  Made at the Crow River Winery (location: Hutchinson, MN), the wine is light in color and packed with roasted garlic flavor.  Added to this dish, it gave a nice, mild, and slightly smoky garlic flavor.  If you don’t have any garlic wine on hand (which is a very likely scenario), feel free to use another wine or water in its place (see notes below).

For those of you who love making foods ahead (hey mom!), this dish is excellent reheated.  For best results, add the bacon and goat cheese after reheating.    As a side, I’d definitely recommend this with pork, BBQ, or any grilled or smoked meats.  As a main dish, I’d recommend grabbing a big bowl.

Green Beans with Tomatoes, Bacon, and Goat Cheese
Serving size: 1 to 1-1/2 c.
Serves: 2

2 strips pepper bacon
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. garlic wine
Dash crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. goat cheese, crumbled

In a skillet over medium to medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside to cool.  Reduce the heat to medium low, add green beans and garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Add wine, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Divide mixture between plates or bowls.  Top with goat cheese and crumbled bacon.  Serve.

Estimated calories:  247 cal/serving

Print it: Green Beans with Tomatoes, Bacon and Goat Cheese

– Although this was a really great way to use fresh produce, this is the kind of dish that would also be pretty good in the winter, using frozen green beans and canned, diced tomatoes.  It would not be as fresh tasting, but the flavors would hold up really well as a tasty winter side.
– Don’t have any garlic wine?  You could substitute any wine.  Red will give it a full flavor, white will be a bit crisper.  I’d stay away from any sweet wines for this one.
– If you’re a vegetarian, substitute the bacon for some olive oil.  The flavor will be different, but it will still be quite tasty.
– Need to make it non-dairy?  Simply omit the goat cheese or top it with a dollop of non-dairy sour cream.

Seven Layer Salad

16 Feb

A few weeks ago my friend Erin mentioned that she’d made a Seven Layer Salad, and much like a song you can’t get out of your head, this salad has sat in my mind just begging to be made.  In the 80’s, it seemed like you couldn’t go to a special occasion or a potluck without having a Seven Layer Salad on the table.  It has been YEARS since I had one and couldn’t exactly remember what each of the seven layers were.  After asking a few people, it turns out that there are lots of variations on this salad, each one OFFICIALLY THE BEST.  I’ll take every single person’s word for it.

The basic premise is this – pick six of your favorite ingredients, layer them in a tall-sided glass bowl so that they look beautiful, and top it off with a dressing made of sour cream and mayo.  In deciding what to put in this version, I chose ingredients that I knew would be well received by my family.  Of course, if you are not rigid like me, you could definitely add more than seven layers.  And considering some of the delicious ingredients people have used in their OFFICIALLY THE BEST salads, I would not blame you for making a nine or ten layer salad.  When you’re creating your own layered salad, consider the following ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Mixed greens
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Bacon
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cucumbers
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peas
  • Cheese (non-dairy, cheddar, feta, really any cheese because you cannot go wrong with a cheese layer)

For this version, I have also made it non-dairy by substituting non-dairy cheese and non-dairy sour cream (feel free to use dairy versions if you prefer).  The thing about non-dairy products is that sometimes they just don’t taste that great, and since the non-dairy sour cream is such an important part of the dressing, I decided to add in some flavor by using part of packet of Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix.  This dip mix does not contain any dairy, and really adds a lot of good flavor to the dressing.  Add as much or as little as you’d like, I found that about 1/4 of the packet seemed right to me.  The rest of it went into some more sour cream and we ate it with veggies this week.  I would also recommend making the dressing ahead of time so that it has more time to soak up the flavors of the dip mix.  The non-dairy sour cream really needs it, but if you’re using regular sour cream, you may not need that extra time.

This is a big, and hearty salad, but the calories are not super high per serving.  We ate loads of it at dinner, and we’ve been having the leftovers all week.  I was surprised at how well it holds up the next day.  I was also surprised at how good it was for breakfast.

See all that condensation on the inside of the bowl?  That happened because I made it ahead of time and it started to fog up a bit when I set it on the counter to serve it.  After just a few minutes at room temperature, the condensation was all gone.  Of course, so was about half of the salad.

Seven Layer Salad
Serving size: 1 scoop
Serves: 12

10 oz. bag romaine
6 eggs, -, cooled, peeled, and sliced
4 strips bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1-1/2 c. shredded non-dairy cheese
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1/2 c. non-dairy sour cream
1/2 c. reduced-fat mayo with olive oil
1/4 packet Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix
1 T. sugar


In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight to let the flavors come together.

In large bowl (a flat-sided trifle bowl works great, but any deep bowl will do), layer the salad ingredients.  Press the layers to the outside of the bowl first, then spread evenly any remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle salt and pepper every layer or two.  After all of the salad ingredients have been added, drop spoonfuls of the dressing around the top. Gently spread to the edges, trying not to disturb the cheese layer.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Estimated calories:  230 cal/serving

Print it: Non-Dairy Seven Layer Salad

Pancake Muffins with Maple Butter Icing and Bacon

25 Oct

JACKPOT.  Of all the breakfast recipes I’ve ever made, this was by far the most popular.  Of course, it is pretty hard to go wrong with pancake flavor, maple butter icing, and bacon.

It started a few weeks ago when I had a conversation with my friend Jeremy about some delicious doughnuts he and Meghan had on vacation – maple long johns with a slice of bacon.  Not able to stop thinking about the perfect combo, I decided to try to make something that had similar flavors, while also cutting out some of the calories.  Instead of using a doughnut as the maple/bacon carrier, I decided to try a pancake muffin.  I started with a recipe from Baked Bree (who said she started with a recipe from Bakerella), cut out a bunch of stuff and made it non-dairy.

While I wanted all the flavor of a maple butter cream frosting, I did not want all of the calories.  So, I made a lighter version that uses less fat, sugar, and has a touch of maple flavor.  The result was more of an icing, easy to spread but not super thick.

Then, topped it with some crumbled pepper bacon.  Oh. My. Yes.

BONUS:  Less than 100 calories per serving.  For real.

Pancake Muffins with Maple Butter Icing and Bacon
Serves: 12

2/3 c. soy milk
1 t. cider vinegar
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
2 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla

1-1/2 T. non-dairy margarine
1 T. maple syrup
1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-1/2 t. soy milk

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together 2/3 c. soy milk and cider vinegar, then set aside to curdle.  In another bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, mix egg, sugar, vanilla, and soy milk mixture.  Then add flour mixture in two batches, mixing in-between.  Divide batter into liners, they will be around half full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Set on a rack to cool.

While the muffins are baking, make the icing.  In a large bowl, mix together margarine, maple syrup, vanilla and salt.  Add half of the powdered sugar and mix.  Add soy milk and mix.  Add remaining powdered sugar and mix.

When pancake muffins are cool, spread icing on each and top with crumbled bacon.

Estimated Calories:  99 cal/serving

– You can substitute dairy ingredients for the non-dairy counterparts in this recipe.  If you’d like, you could use buttermilk in the pancake batter – simply use 2/3 c. buttermilk in place of the soy milk, then omit the cider vinegar.
– If you do not eat meat or would prefer it without bacon, skip it (and remove six calories from each serving).  And next time we’re at brunch together, sit next to me so I can have your bacon.

German Potato Soup

15 Sep

This year seasonal changes have happened very quickly.  BAM!  It’s summer.  BAM!  Now it’s fall.  These quick shifts have made it very hard for me to adjust to each change.  I don’t know what to wear, I don’t know how to dress my children for the day, and I don’t know what to make for dinner.  My mind is all swimsuits and grill, but my body is sweaters and soup.  It is confusing.

The shift from hot to cold weather makes me crave rich flavorful foods, the kind that cook all day and fill the house with warm smells.  One of my favorite fall dishes to make is Hot German Potato Salad.  Not so much a salad as a hearty side, the flavors hit the spot but it can get kind of heavy.  I decided to make some soup that contained the same kind of flavors found in the dish, but with less of a caloric commitment.  I based the flavors on my very favorite version of this dish which can be found at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge in Minnesota.  It is thick, rich, and full of bacon and vinegar goodness.  With that recipe in mind, I created a soup that is just as hearty and full of flavor, but comes in under 300 calories per serving.

The recipe is easy to make and requires just a bit of prep, then a few hours in a crockpot to cook the potatoes and bring the flavor together.  It makes a batch that is perfect for dinner with enough leftover for lunch the next day.  This soup improves with age, and freezes very well.  I would highly recommend this soup, and will definitely make it again.

German Potato Soup

Serves: 6
Serving Size: 1-1/2 c.

2 lbs potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced into thick slabs
1 c. carrot, sliced
1/2 c. onion, diced
1 T. olive oil
3/4 lb. venison, cubed
4 slices pepper bacon
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/2 t. celery salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
4 c. beef stock, divided
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
Place potatoes, carrots, and onion into a crockpot, turn to high.

Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add venison and cook until browned.  Remove and place in crockpot.  Add bacon to the pan, reduce heat then cook until bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside on a paper towel. 

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, celery salt and pepper.  Add to the pan and stir for one minute until the flour mixture absorbs everything in the pan.  Add 1/2 c. beef stock and 1/2 c. cider vinegar to the pan and stir until a thick sauce forms.   When it starts to bubble, add the remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Pour stock mixture into the crockpot.

Crumble all of the bacon, add half to the crockpot.  Cook for 4-5 hours on high.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with bacon crumbles and fresh parsley.

Estimated Calories:  284 cal/serving

Print it: German Potato Soup

– If you don’t have venison, you could substitute beef or leave it out entirely
– I used Yukon Gold potatoes, but baby reds would be a great substitute