Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Bacon Bark

DSC_4386I love Sunday mornings.  About 12 years ago, I started a habit where I would get up early on Sundays, go to the gym, and then as a reward, go to a local coffee shop for a pastry and The New York Times.  This simple weekly routine would give me boundless pleasure.  I looked forward to it all week.  Part of it was getting up before the rest of the city was awake.  There are very few moments when NYC is quiet, but early Sunday morning is one of those times.  And I savored every minute.  I actually enjoyed my workouts on Sunday mornings because I knew I was getting a reward afterwards.  Often times, I would bring my favorite donuts (cake donuts or bust!) in a Ziploc bag and settle in at a table with steaming hot coffee and the Sunday paper.  I would take my time reading it from cover to cover (except the unnecessary Sports Section) over the course of two hours.
DSC_4367But somewhere along the way, I stopped doing this thing that brought me so much delight.  Shortly after moving in with my husband things started to change.  He really enjoys staying in on Sunday mornings, so I thought it would be nice to stay in with him.  I had fantasies of us reading the paper together while curled up on the couch with our pastries in hand.  But Mr. K isn’t a big pastry guy.  He prefers a savory breakfast on the weekends.  And he isn’t really into reading the paper from cover to cover.  He mainly enjoys the Automobiles section, to which I say booooooo.  Eventually, the television would be turned on while I was reading the paper, and I would try not to feel disappointed.  It took me a few years to realize that I no longer enjoyed my Sunday mornings.  By trying to incorporate my husband into my routine, I was giving up something that brought me joy.
DSC_4374Of course, all it took was for me to simply communicate all of this to him.  He thought it was a no-brainer:  Why don’t I go back to the routine that I love so much?  Mr. K said his feelings would not be hurt in the least bit.  In fact, he said he really enjoyed getting work done on Sunday mornings, so this would be a win-win for both of us.   I sheepishly agreed that this was indeed a very simple issue to resolve.  If only I had spoken up sooner!  But the good news, readers?  The good news is that I am back to my old routine and loving every peaceful minute of it.  I’ve even discovered an adorable Maltese (Maltese!) bakery in my Queens neighborhood that has incredible pastries, so no need to smuggle in donuts anymore.
DSC_4370Since Valentine’s Day is officially on the horizon, I figured I should do something with one of my favorite foods:  chocolate!  One of my favorite chocolate bars right now is Mo’s Bacon Bar made by Vosges.  The pairing of crisp bacon and smoked salt with the dark chocolate is incredibly delicious.  (f you have a hard time finding smoked salt in your area, you can find it on Amazon.)  I have a hard time eating one square at a time when it’s in my apartment.  And then I thought, why spend $7 on a bar when I could easily make this at home?  So I did!  It’s as easy as making any other bark.  After tempering your chocolate (which is the trickiest part), you simply mix in the crispy bacon and smoked salt.  Voila!  You just saved $7.  Place the bark into cellophane bags, tie with red ribbon, and give one to your Valentine.

Bacon Bark

1.4 oz dark chocolate (about 2 cups; bittersweet or semi-sweet is fine)
4 pieces hickory smoked bacon
1/2 tsp. course smoked salt (I use Alderwood smoked salt)

Place parchment paper into a 9×13″ baking pan.

1.  Fry bacon over medium-high heat until extra crispy (around 7-8 minutes).
2.  Place bacon on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Cool completely.
3.  Finely chop bacon and set aside.
4.  Roughly chop dark chocolate and set aside 1/3 of chocolate.
5.  Place 2/3 of chocolate in double-boiler over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently until chocolate is completely melted.
6.  Remove from heat.  Add remaining 1/3 of chocolate and stir continuously until all of the chocolate has melted.
7.  Test temperature of chocolate with your finger.  Chocolate should feel neutral (not warm).  If chocolate is still warm, continue stirring until chocolate feels neutral in temperate.
8.  Stir in chopped bacon and smoked salt.  Pour into parchment-lined baking pan and spread out evenly.
9.  Place pan in refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.  Bark should be completely set.
10.  Grab the parchment paper and pull bark out of pan.  Using a sharp knife, cut bark into bite-sized pieces.

Homemade Nutella

DSC_4451Mr. K and I have been trying to conceive for almost a year now.  Anyone who has struggled with this knows that it can be an emotional rollercoaster.  At our highest point, we were ecstatic with the news that I was officially pregnant (I miscarried six weeks later), and our lowest point was my 3-day hospitalization from a procedure that went horribly wrong.  And there have been many numb days in between.  When we first started trying, we were extremely confident that it wouldn’t take us long to become pregnant.  I’m sure that’s what everyone thinks in the beginning.  And although we remain cautiously optimistic (my husband likes using that phrase), we have had many discussions about what our lives might look like if we aren’t successful:  We’ll travel more!  We can move to another country!  We’ll get a dog!  Or a cat!  And yet.
DSC_4415And yet I can’t help but wonder about everything we will miss out on if it turns out we can’t have kids.  I know, I know, there are pros and cons to both lifestyles.  And part of me is still scared to death to have children.  I have read so many articles about parents being less happy than childless couples, marriages being strained due to kids, and financial stress due to all of the added expenses of raising a child.  And yet.  You can’t fight biology.  I want to have a child.  I was listening to a Slate podcast on parenting last week (iTunes started downloading this podcast onto my computer a few weeks ago and I didn’t question it) and one of the hosts was talking about her nightly routine.  She stated that between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. it was complete chaos in her house.  Dinner has to be made, homework has to be supervised, baths have to be given, stories have to be read, and then bedtime arrives.  As stressful as all of it sounded, I found myself wanting that chaos in my life.  I thought to myself, “What are all of us childless adults doing with our time?”  It all just seemed so pointless without kids in the picture.  Ok, maybe not pointless.  But I definitely have days when it all feels meaningless.  There’s just something about living for another human being that sounds so freeing.  You can’t be stuck in your head all day long when you have a child to take care of.  As Louis C.K. once said, “There’s no time for depression when you have kids.”  Ok, there must be a little time.
DSC_4419Why have I never made homemade Nutella before?  It’s sooooo easy, dear readers!  I have loved Nutella ever since first discovering it while studying abroad in England.  I think I’ve eaten my weight in banana-Nutella crepes over the years.  But guess what?  This version is EVEN BETTER.  Without additives and chemicals masking the flavor, the milk chocolate and hazelnuts are much more intense.  And it doesn’t have that waxy residue that the store-bought stuff has.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, this would make a nice homemade gift.  Your Valentine will be forever grateful.
DSC_4432Homemade Nutella
Adapted from The Splendid Table

1 cup hazelnuts
12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little.
3.  Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible. Let cool completely.
4.  Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool completely.
5.  In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste.  Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
6.  Add the melted chocolate and blend well.
7.  Place into airtight container.  Mixture will keep at room temperature for 2 weeks.