Amish Foodie

I just got back from a week-long trip to the Homeland.

I know most of you believe that I made up this mystical place where mashed potatoes are piled high with egg noodles and served on a slice of snowy white ‘Wonder Bread’, but I’ve been there. I have pictures. I brought back 10 pounds to prove it.

The family I stayed with are Amish. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Amish, they’re a religious order that practices simplicity and separation from the world in their day-to-day lifestyles. They reject being on ‘The Grid’ and power their machinery with propane, generators and dangerous looking patched-together systems of car batteries, jumper cables and tiny wires. The women wear dresses and head caps, the men have beards and use suspenders to keep their homemade trousers up.The don’t have cars but commute using bicycles or horse-drawn buggies.

I tried on their dresses, ironed with a terrifying butane iron (fire and cloth – ummm), washed my clothes in their outside washer/ringer set up and bathed my little bear in a large wash tub on the front porch. We took a dusky buggy ride along a few old back roads just as the lightning bugs were waking up and making their first appearance. I thought my heart was going to choke on itself; I had forgotten just how beautiful the sight of a thousand neon stars twinkling in the cornfields could be.

One delightful dish my friend prepared was Honey Mustard Swiss Chard. Chard is a tender-leafed green that has a mild, ‘earthy’ taste I find works well with strong flavors. Martha fried up a bit of bacon (of course) until it was crispy before adding honey, sugar, mustard, cream and Miracle Whip to make a sauce. The chard was chopped then simmered in the dressing until it was thoroughly cook and then it was served on top of – you guessed it – mashed potatoes.

Now, I had never heard of such a thing in my life, but it was pretty tasty. I decided right there and then to make a version of this when I got home – here’s the result.

Creamy Honey Mustard Chard

1 large bunch of cleaned swiss chard, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/4 nitrite-free bacon diced into 1/4 inch pieces

2 Tbsp local honey (maple syrup could be substituted)

2 Tbsp prepared mustard (such as dijon)

4 Tbsp chèvre goat cheese or thick greek yogurt

1/4-1/2 cup water or broth

 

If you can’t get your hands on any nitrite-free, regular bacon will work just fine. You can adjust the amount of bacon if you want, I tend to be a bacon hog (pun fully intended!!).

In a large skillet, fry up your bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Scoop out the bacon bits and add your honey and mustard and then the water/broth. Stir well until everything is mixed together. Add your swiss chard and lower the heat a bit to keep things from scorching. Depending on how big of a skillet you’ve got, you might be able to put all the chard in at once, otherwise, add a little at a time, stirring and waiting until the chard wilts until adding more. It’s going to seem like your sauce is never going to be enough, but the chard is going to cook down quite a bit. Let it simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the chard is cooked and covered in sauce –  add the goat cheese or greek yogurt and the bacon bits and give it another good stir. I figured chèvre was a healthy swap for Miracle Whip since they’re both white and creamy and tangy. If you have dairy restrictions, this dish will be just as tasty without the cheese!

You can serve this however you want, over potatoes (I can see the look on your face, it’s actually really good), as a side for a meat dish, with scrambled eggs (another odd but delicious option) or just as it is!

Eat it on a warm summer night as the lightning bugs are just coming out and slow down, for pity’s sake. Sit around the table with your family or friends or enemies – doesn’t matter – and enjoy a little bit of life at buggy speed. Life isn’t a race, after all.  Enjoy!

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bacon haters gonna hate

But that’s not going to stop me, no way.

I read this statistic once that claimed that people who eat a mere two pieces of bacon a day can expect a 20% higher mortality rate than non-daily-bacon-eating people.

Given the inerrant accuracy of Internet statistics, and comparing the 20% mortality rate with other mortality rates such as those tacked to smoking or taming lions or riding in cars on highways – I figure that my current bacon-eating ratio of 2 pieces every third month shouldn’t kill me any time soon.

Having said all that…

What if I add chocolate to bacon, and sugar, and eggs? What if I tempt fate and wrap marshmallows in bacon before I roast them and eat them like that? What about a bacon-wrapped s’mores?

I feel my mortality rate spinning out of control just thinking of it. The rush is making me feel dizzy and Alive. How far can we go without doing serious damage to our life expectancy? Or better yet, how can we make bacon into something that isn’t so prone to be hated on?

What about Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Yes. Let’s do it.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

*dedicated to Andy and Lizzy, two people who will go out with a smile on their lips, no doubt*

4-6 pieces of  uncured bacon, cooked until crispy, drained well and then crumbled

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

 1/3 cup egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup and 2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Before we dive into the actual making of the cookies, let’s sit down and have a word about the ingredients, shall we? You are about to start a culinary revolution in your oven and I don’t want anyone rushing into this without having given it enough thought.

I borrowed the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from my trusty, batter-splattered copy of Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker’s immortal classic, “Joy of Cooking” cookbook and altered the daylights out of it. Firstly, I cut the amount of butter called for in half (figuring that the bacon will add a little fat on its own) and instead of using whole eggs, I used whites, trying to save a little on the cholesterol intake and thus lowering our overall mortality rate to about 17.5% higher than those who wouldn’t touch the cookies. As for the flour, I mixed half whole wheat and half white, and I figure that brings us to an even 14%. Lastly, but not least, I spent the extra couple of dollars and bought the all natural, uncured bacon *without* nitrites. No nitrites?  No problem. These cookies are practically health food.

Now, for the business end of things.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and then gradually add the two sugars, then beat them well.

Now add the egg whites and vanilla and beat again, until everything is smooth and creamy.

Stir in the flour, salt and soda with a wooden spoon or spatula.

When everything is all mixed up and there are no pockets of dry ingredients – fold in the chocolate chips and bacon crumbles. Go ahead and sample some while you do, you have my permission.

Drop the cookies by tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie tray and then bake them for about 10 minutes. When they’re golden brown – and remember, if you use whole wheat flour they will be a bit darker than if you use only white – take them out of the oven and put them on a cooling rack so that they can cool off. Once thoroughly cooled, they are ready to enjoy. And enjoy them you will.

This recipe made about a dozen cookies for me, but this is because I like them decent-sized and I ate a good deal of the cookie dough while waiting for the oven to finish heating up. True story. Use smaller spoons, don’t eat the dough, get more cookies -it’s really very simple. Not saying that I’ll do it any differently next time… but it’s a good thought.

hate me if you dare