Tangy Bacon Cheddar Yogurt Dip…

Fall is just about here. I can already see the difference in the angle of the sun that brings about darkness much earlier. You can feel the change in the air. But there’s still some time to fire up the old grill and have a late Summer party with great appetizers and good ole BBQ.

I’ve had a lot of practice making appetizers this Summer as my condo association hosts a happy hour every Thursday and although you’re not obligated to bring anything I like to use it as my recipe tester event. So last Thursday I made this dip and it was a hit.

Nothing very difficult about this one. It’s super easy, has tons of flavor and goes well with cocktails. So let’s talk tangy bacon cheddar yogurt dip…

Lesson Learned 1: Make this as tangy as you like. In my experience light heat is the most effective when making a recipe for a crowd. You can never judge the heat quotient of your guests so it’s best to give it just a little zip to a recipe so the greater majority of people will eat it. But if you know you’ve got a group that loves spicy, feel free to add as much heat as you like. It’s all up to you.

Lesson Learned 2: Used precooked bacon as a shortcut. I found a package of Boar’s Head precooked bacon and I used it when I made this recipe. It is a great time saver, you eliminate the grease and mess you get cooking bacon and the flavor is just the same. So if you’re really looking to cut your prep time, try that. If not, cooking bacon the old fashioned way is perfectly fine.

Lesson Learned 3: Serve this with veggie straws. I’m not sure how I got the idea to use veggie straws but they were the perfect compliment to the dip. I think people just get tired of the usual potato or nacho chips and this was a welcome change. They also lend themselves well to scooping some dip on the straw which makes this appetizer great finger food.

Lesson Learned 4: As with any dip, make it ahead of time. I know I’ve said this time and time again, but dips, cheese balls and the like always taste better when you give the ingredients time to get acquainted. So make this dip a few hours ahead of time and let it chill in the refrigerator before serving. The dip always tastes better a few hours after its had time to chill.

What I like about this appetizer is it’s quick and easy. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this one and your guests will love it. Try it at your next get together. Enjoy!

Tangy Bacon Cheddar Yogurt Dip

  • Servings: Party Size
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

6 bacon slices, cooked, crumbled and divided

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. garlic salt

1-2 tsp. hot sauce

2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 Tbs. chives, divided

1 package veggie straws

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, sour cream and garlic salt. Add hot sauce to taste. Stir in cheese and 1 1/2 Tbs. of chives. Add all but about 1 Tbs. of crumbled bacon. Stir to combine.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. To serve garnish with reserved bacon crumbles and chives. Serve with veggie straws.

Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake…

I’ve just been loving how plentiful the strawberries are this year. And the quality of them has been outstanding. I love to bake with strawberries, but they can be tricky. Strawberries, like blueberries, have what I call the exploding factor. They explode moisture during the baking process. So, if you use too many of them or if they overly ripe you cake will fall it on itself. After a few disasters I’ve learned out to outsmart the pesky fruit and now I bake with them quite frequently.

The flavor of strawberries in a cake like this is more subtle. A co-worker even asked me what kind of fruit was in this cake. Baking them this way gives them a slight tartness that compliments the sweetness of the cake batter – a great combination. So, let’s talk about fresh strawberry yogurt cake…

StrawberriesLesson Learned 1 – Ripe strawberries are not the best for baking: Because of the exploding factor I alluded to above, ripe strawberries are not the best to bake with simply because they hold more water. In baking it’s really best to use strawberries that are only somewhat ripe. That way they release less moisture, your cake will not fall in on itself and you’ll still get that great strawberry flavor. But if your strawberries are ripe, simply use less of them. Cut them in small pieces and discard any piece that may be overly soft. When I made this recipe my strawberries were pretty ripe so I only used about 8 ounces in the cake. If you have less ripe strawberries you can use as much as 12 ounces.

And don’t use frozen strawberries with this recipe. If you do, you can be sure your cake will be a gooey mess.

IMG_6028Lesson Learned 2 – Make sure your cake is completely cool before icing it: I don’t know about you but I’m always in a hurry to put the icing on the cake. I rationalize that if it’s only slightly warm it will be ok. Wrong – o! Even if the cake is slightly warm, the icing will melt into the cake. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want your icing visible be patient and wait until the cake has cooled. The cake will taste great and you will be awarded visually as well!

I took this cake to work and the slices were gone in less than one half hour. This is a very moist and flavorful cake. Try it and let me know what you think.

Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake...

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cup flour, (add 1 Tbs. for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (you’ll need 2 lemons for this recipe)

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

3 large eggs, room temperature

8 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt

8 – 12 oz. fresh strawberries, sliced small (use lesser amount if strawberries are ripe)

Vegetable shortening and flour to prepare the Bundt pan

ICING:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest (I used the zest of one small lemon)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan. Set aside. Zest and juice the lemons. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until each is thoroughly incorporated. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat for another minute.

Add the dry ingredients and yogurt to the mixture, starting out and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. (Scrape the sides of the bowl and under the beater blade to make sure everything has been combined).

Gently fold in the strawberries. Pour into the prepared ban. Reduce the heat in the oven to 325 and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the Bundt pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

 Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf…

Being forced to take it easy after spinal surgery has its advantages and disadvantages. For the life of me I never thought I would feel guilty just taking it easy. It’s made me realize that our lives are so full and programmed that once you’re forced to just relax and heal it feels very strange – and it’s also very hard.

The one could thing about my recuperation is I am relatively mobile. I have to be careful with my movement, no bending or twisting and the waist, and no lifting anything over ten pounds. But other than that my activity is based on what I think my body can tolerate and how I feel. The key is to try to continually build up my strength and activity.

And what kind of activity has in recent years become a passion of mine? Well, cooking and baking of course! So today instead of just loafing around it was time to get active and make a loaf, a lemon blueberry yogurt loaf to be exact. This recipe comes from a website called Sweet Peas in the Kitchen and I found it on Pinterest (surprise, surprise). What intrigued me about the recipe was the process for making the loaf.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The ingredients consist of all the usual suspects, flour, sugar, lemon juice and zest, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, blueberries and such. But the interesting part of making this loaf is what you do to it once it comes out of the oven. This recipe calls for making a lemon sugar syrup that you cook on the stove and brush all over the loaf after you’ve thoroughly pierced it with a toothpick. Once the syrup soaks in you continue the process again until the syrup is completely used up. The idea here is to add moisture to the inside of the loaf after it bakes. This was a new one for me. Then once the loaf is completely cooled you make a simple lemon juice and confectioners sugar glaze and drizzle it all over.  Sounded interesting, so I had to try it.

As with all recipes I get from Pinterest, once I initially try them I like to rate them and talk briefly about some lessons I learned while making them. So, first the RATING: A. I really like this recipe. It is easy and very flavorful. You know when you lick the batter and it’s yummy that you’ve got a winner on your hands. This is definitely one to put into your recipe box.

Lessons Learned: 1 : The recipe calls for fresh or frozen blueberries rinsed and coated with a little flour, a common trick to get the blueberries not to gather at the bottom of the cake while its baking. I couldn’t find fresh blueberries so I opted for frozen. Frozen ones are mushier and wetter and so next time I will use fresh blueberries. Although my blueberries did not totally sink the the bottom, they definitely showed a propensity to being there and I’m thinking fresh blueberries will be drier and because of that more evenly distribute themselves in the loaf.

Folding Blueberries Into The Batter

Folding Blueberries Into The Batter

Lesson Learned 2: I was intrigued by the process of piercing the warm loaf and brushing it with a lemon sugar syrup. I’d never heard of using this type of technique to infuse moisture into a loaf once it’s baked. I found that it does indeed add moisture but felt that using the entire amount was not necessary. The recipe calls for a mixture of 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar cooked on the stove and applied until gone. I would decrease that to 1/4 cup each and maybe even after some experimentation to 1/8 of a cup. I definitely don’ t think you need all of it, but try it and see what you think.

Loaf Basted With A Lemon Sugar Syrup

Loaf Basted With A Lemon Sugar Syrup

Lesson Learned 3: Note to self. I need to get a new loaf pan. I currently use a dark one and it tends to really cook the edges of loaves much faster than the center and so my edges tend to get very crispy before the center is completely done. I want to try either a glass or just light metal pan to see if it makes a difference. I have a feeling it will. Have you any thoughts on what works best?

All in all, as you can see by the final product below, I am very pleased with the way it turned out considering it was the first time I made it. You should add this recipe to your repertoire – it’s a keeper!

The Finished Iced Cake

The Finished Iced Cake

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf