Creole Sugar ‘N’ Spice Pecans

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Also known as… those damn pecans!

Why?  Because you won’t. Be able. To stop. Eating them.

I made a test batch to check on seasoning, then promptly ate nearly all of them before my event.  I had to get more raw nuts to make batch #2.

I first made these nuts as a mocktail munchie for a Painting Night Out at the Farm workshop that my dear friend Jen and I hosted this past Friday night.  We’re having another one on Friday April 11th if you’re interested in joining us.  Friends gather for a few hours of intuitive mixed-media creation, drinks and finger foods and lots and lots of laughs.  Sounds like the recipe for a perfect Friday night!

I experimented with a standard sugared nuts recipe and played with the spices until I stumbled upon this combination.  Thanks to my fellow foodie and Field to Feast compadre, Amy Roth, I’m head over heels in love with cajun and creole seasoning.  If this New Orleans native tells me that Emeril’s ‘essence’ recipe is good, then who am I to argue?  You can find Mr. Lagasse’s creole seasoning recipe here, and I urge you to adjust the salt to your liking. I will admit to wishing these were a little spicier, so next time I will probably add more cayenne.  Your mileage may vary; know your heat tolerance!

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Creole Sugar ‘n’ Spice Pecans
1 egg white
1/3 cup sugar
2 T Creole seasoning purchased or make your own
10 oz pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300° and place a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet.  Alternatively, use a silicone baking pan liner.*

In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.  Whisk in sugar and creole seasoning.  Using a spatula, stir in pecan halves, making sure to coat them evenly and completely.

Pour the nuts onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, ensuring they are in a single layer.  There shouldn’t be much gooey eggy spicy liquid, but if there is, don’t scrape it all out of the bowl and onto the pan.  It will just stick to the parchment and will make for more difficult nut removal.

Bake the nuts at 300° for 15 minutes.  Give the nuts a stir – I used a large off-set spatula to do the dirty work – then reduce the oven to 250° and bake the nuts for another 10 minutes.  Immediately give the nuts another stir to release them from the parchment.  Allow them to cool and store in an airtight container (something with a padlock would have been helpful here) for as long as you can stand not eating them.

* While they began as a Martha Stewart trendy baking accessory way back in the 90s, silicone pan liners are readily available now both online and in stores (use that Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon).  They are a huge help when baking sticky things like florentines and fortune cookies.

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Pi Day 2014: Raspberry Ricotta Pie

rasp ricotta pie IMG_2925I tend to get an idea in my head and dive in – only later realizing that what I thought was a great thing is, in actuality, a shit-ton of work.

Yesterday I woke up and went about my usual routine and set my happy child on the school bus at 8:30am.  My daily scan of the school lunch menu revealed tomorrow (today) is 3/14.  I HAD to make a pie.

How can any self-respecting blogger pass up this golden opportunity?  The pie itself wasn’t really a shit-ton of work.  The list goes on after that: little jam turnovers made with leftover pie dough, almond biscotti (just because…) and homemade egg noodles to go with chicken and broth I’d made the night before.

I need an abacus to figure out how many dishes I washed yesterday. The pile in the dish drainer was HUGE!

So, yeah… Today is Pi Day!

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Big deal, you say?  Or maybe you know you SHOULD know it but really you have no recollection of ever learning this pi thing?

I’m a math geek.  I love it, can’t help myself.  I just really like numbers and formulas and postulates and theorems and graphs and differentiation and integrals and yes, even teaching my youngster what he’s missing (in my opinion) by suffering through the Common Core curriculum.  It’s so sad to see a 9-year-old banging his forehead with his palms because he cannot DO IT the way the teacher says they have to for the [cue evil music] dreaded state tests.

I hope that my guidance and enthusiasm for the subject matter will help him get through this school year with nary a tear, but if not, there’s always pie.

Pie makes everything better.

I set out to make a pie yesterday with things I had lying around since there was no time for a trip to the store.  Plus, like I said, I tend to dive into an endeavor at a moment’s notice. It’s good for me to have recipes in my arsenal that are terrific and rely on pantry and fridge staples.

I found a “sweet ricotta pie” recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia that looked as simple as can be.  Sure enough, recipe contributor Nick Malgieri hit the nail on the head.  The filling could indeed be “made-in-a-minute” and was quite good, but I thought it needed some oomph.  My additions are in the recipe below and, let me tell you, this pie sliced like a dream once it was chilled – like a cheesecake in a crust but not as dense – and firm enough to eat out-of-hand.

Walk-away desserts are one of life’s little treasures.

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Raspberry Ricotta Pie
1 pound whole milk ricotta (use a kitchen scale or buy a 1-lb container)
1/4 cup sugar (vanilla sugar rocks here*)
3 eggs, beaten
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t lemon zest
3 T raspberry jam (choose your flavor, just make sure it’s the best quality you can get)
prepared pie crust to fit a 9″ pie pan*

Preheat oven to 350° and put rack in lower third of the oven.

Make the filling: stir together ricotta, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla until smooth.  Set aside.

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Make the shell: Roll out 2/3 of the pie dough to a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie tin.  Trim the excess with a sharp knife to the edge of the tin. Pour the filling into the shell and smooth the top.  Spoon the jam evenly atop the pie in little blobs.  Using a paring knife or skewer, swirl through the jam – but not too much!  Swirl it just enough, then set it aside.

Roll out remaining 1/3 of the dough into a rectangle about 10-inches long by 8-inches wide.  Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut this rectangle lengthwise into 12 even strips about 1/2-inch wide.  Arrange 6 of the strips across the pie at 1 1/4-inch intervals.  Crisscross the remaining strips across the pie, placing them diagonal to the first.  Trim the ends of the lattice (the crisscross pie dough) even with the edge of the pan and press down gently but firmly.

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Bake the pie for 35 – 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is firm and slightly puffed.  If the crust browns too quickly, crimp some strips of foil over the edges (careful not to touch the filling with the foil) and continue baking.  Cool completely on a rack.  Store covered in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

FarmGirl Notes: * Vanilla sugar is simply made by burying a split vanilla bean in a jar of sugar for a week or more.  I have had the same beans in my canister of sugar for years – I just keep adding more sugar and spent pods to it when I have them.  Using vanilla sugar is not required, but it does add additional depth that plain white sugar does not.

* If you are making your own pie crust, be safe and use a recipe with 2 cups of flour or one designed for a double-crust or lattice pie.  If you are buying crust, get enough for a double crust pie.  You need extra to do the lattice on top.

Recipe adapted from Baking with Julia.

Print the recipe without pictures by clicking the Print/PDF button below.

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Wheat Berry Apple Salad: Hearty, fresh, and you always end up wanting more

wheat berry apple salad_MG_2592I DVR’d Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern the other day.  Thomas and I sat down to watch it and I couldn’t remember for the life of me WHY I wanted him to see it.  He wasn’t too impressed with the Texas State Fair food or the javelina hunt ‘n’ roast, but as soon as the NASA food developers came on the screen, boy did he light up!

My progeny decided long ago that he will be an astronaut when  he grows up.  I have to keep him focused on that goal at times by reminding of things like “they won’t let you pilot a space shuttle if you don’t know your times tables.”
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Cabernet Chocolate Bundt Cake

choc cab 2-IMG_2416Did you ever want to give someone a gift because they did something nice for you?

Maybe 1) they helped you shovel ridiculous amounts of snow or 2) they watched your kid so you could have a girls night out when your regular sitter came down with a (legit) 104° temp or 3) they did something outrageously thoughtful and a simple card just won’t do?

Or, maybe you missed a birthday or Mother’s Day or National Drink Wine Day (Feb 18th. No joke)? Perhaps you missed Valentine’s Day.  I almost did…
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Pineapple Upside Down Cake, or The Way to a(n Old Fashioned) Man’s Heart

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There are some weeks when I go shopping and all I throw in my cart is junk.  I grab lots of cheeses (soft, creamy brie is a favorite) and crackers (wheat crackers are good for me!), ice cream (It’s for The Boy! Riiight.), some Fritos (Scoops are nice, and so salty that your lips hurt after you eat them), Nathan’s hot dogs and a tube of Crescent Rolls (who doesn’t like impromptu pigs in a blanket?).

There are other weeks when I spend more time in the produce section than in the rest of the store.  Those are the weeks when the inside of my fridge looks like a rainbow and good health abounds.

That’s IF I actually prepare everything that my overly ambitious mind thought I could.

I rarely do.

I tend to overbuy fruit, and this particular week I had a beautiful pineapple sitting on the counter, its sweet, tropical aroma wafting over me every time I buzzed by on yet another mission to fish a Match Box car out of the toilet.

The pendulum of motherhood never stops swinging…
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Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Quesadilla

swt pot caul quesadilla 05

Thomas said he does NOT want to participate in the Geography Bee at school tomorrow.  They took a preliminary test and he got 30 out of 35 correct, however… he only knew ONE of those answers for sure.  The rest were guesses.

One that he guessed correctly?  Where is the Klondike?

He guessed Alaska.  Why?  Because Klondike bars are ice cold and so is Alaska.

That’s using the old noggin, I’d say!
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A Sweet Gift: Cranberry Almond Biscotti

cranberry almond biscotti stackIt’s that time of year when you hear bakers and non-bakers alike mutter that famous line: I gotta make my Christmas cookies!

I am not one of those people.

I make a truckload of cookies the week before Thanksgiving for our annual Open House at the Farm and once that weekend is over, I’m so sugared-out that I cannot even think about cookie baking OR cookie eating.

However, for a cause such as Cookies for Kids Cancer, I’ll suffer just a little and bake up a batch.  Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen have teamed up to host The 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  I participated last year and had a blast baking, packaging, and shipping my molasses-spice cookies.  It was even more fun receiving packages of cookies from three other bloggers!  There are so many awesome recipes and fabulous bloggers out there on the web.

I received some terrific cookies already – Melissa sent a soft, chewy oatmeal cookie and the Chat Chow team sent a cute tub of chocolate oat coffee cookies.  Ali’s white chocolate salted caramel cookies are on their way here and I’m expecting deliciousness.

This year, it’s all about biscotti.  I made two different flavors for the Open House and both the anisette and the vanilla-almond flew off the tables like nobody’s business.  This made me very happy as my previous attempts at biscotti-making were less than stellar.

I took a leap and jazzed up the recipe I started with but altered, as I usually do, to include the pretty little cranberries that I had on hand.  A bit of orange extract helped push these babies over the top, and if I’d had an orange in the fridge, I would have also included some zest.

I’m hoping my biscotti arrived at their destinations and that Cari Amanda, and Jenn are enjoying them with a steaming cup of coffee or tea.

cran almond biscotti
Cranberry-Almond Biscotti
2 cups AP flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c whole unblanched almonds
3/4 c dried cranberries
grated orange zest, optional
3 large eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t orange extract

Preheat oven to 350° and have ready a baking sheet lined with parchment.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, almonds and cranberries.  Stir together well.  In a small bowl, beat eggs and extracts together with a fork.

Stir the wet ingredients into dry using a rubber scraper – it’s easier to mush it together.  It will look like a shaggy mess that won’t ever come together, but trust me…. it will.

Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour.  Knead it a bit (a plastic bench scraper helps tremendously), bringing all the ingredients together.  Add some flour if you must, but be careful not to add too much.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a log shape about 2-inches in diameter and about 8-inches long.  Carefully transfer logs to the baking sheet and flatten to a height of 1-inch.  Sprinkle each log evenly with a teaspoon of sugar.

biscotti logscranberry almond biscotti

Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes or until tops are puffy, slightly cracked and golden brown.  Transfer logs, parchment and all, to a wire rack to cool for about an hour.  Move logs to a cutting board, and, using a serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.  Lay slices cut side down onto two parchment lined baking sheets and return to preheated oven for another 10-15 minutes or until barely golden and crisp.

Cool cookies on a wire rack then store in an airtight container for a week or so (if you can keep your hands out of them).

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Cookie Edition.

Christmas 2013 family

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Baking Up a Storm – The Cookie Review

Wow. What a week!

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We celebrated the holiday a little early, as we have each year for the past eight, and hosted our Annual Open House at the Farm last Sunday.  It was a madhouse from the very start and what a fabulous day!  We had plenty of locally grown veggies on hand to sell to all who wished to create a gorgeous Thanksgiving meal in the true spirit of eating seasonal and local.  There were 10 other vendors inside our barn selling their homemade and homegrown goodies as well.

Overall, I’d say it was an amazing turn-out and our customers were truly thrilled to have the chance to visit the farm and chat (kudos to Doris and Sonny), shop for veggies (many thanks to both sellers and veggie preppers: Alice, Irene, Justine, Kathleen, Melissa, Paul, and Sanford), snack on homegrown popcorn  (Haleigh and Bev – high fives!), and devour homemade cookies (*pat pat pat on The FarmGirl’s back).

We started the tradition of hosting an Open House way back in 2004 as a way of thanking our customers for their loyalty and support throughout the year.  It’s now become the biggest annual party at the farm and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our friends and family come out to help us sell our veggies, we’ve got terrific vendors that spend the day with us and kids and adults alike have made our Open House a yearly tradition.  Despite the bone-chilling cold and wind, hundreds of people came by to give us big hugs and thank yous and sincere holiday wishes.

It was pretty damned awesome.  Boy, are we lucky!

In return, we set up a cookie table in the middle of the barn.  The cookie table is stocked (and restocked many times over) with homemade cookies from my very own kitchen.  Yes, yes, I slave away and bake night and day until I’ve exhausted my resources and I can absolutely, positively not tolerate sampling yet another cookie.

Yep.  I seriously got to that point.  I took tiny bites and threw the rest of my samples away.  At this point, I don’t even want to see another cookie, but I’ve got to get my surprises in the mail this Monday for The 2013 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!fbcookieswap2013_white

Julie and Lindsay are at it again this year and, with the help of over 600 bloggers and 4 awesome sponsors, have contributed nearly $14,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.  This event is a fantastic way to support this very worthy cause, and it’s also a terrific way for all of us to snag hundreds of cookie recipes!  The Little Kitchen and Love and Olive Oil will be posting a Recipe Roundup of all the cookie posts that we bloggers post on our blogs on December 11th, so check back soon!

In the meantime,  I’m linking up to recipes I’ve previously posted for anyone who needs a fix (dear GOD, not me….) or wants to recreate the sugary yumminess they sampled at the farm on November 24th.

Thanks for joining us this year, everyone, and we hope to see you at the next Market at the Farm!  Visit BialasFarms.com for information.

P.S. Have you noticed the cool icon at the bottom of each post?  There is a Print & PDF button… click it and you will get a customizable print-friendly version of a post.  You can keep the text you like, eliminate excess photos that you don’t need, and print up a concise recipe to post on the fridge while you create a masterpiece.   Check it out!

Jam crumble bars
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cinnamon-sugar cookies
cinn sugar cookies

salted cashew-toffee-chocolate chip cookies
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molasses-spice cookies
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peanut butter cookies
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Lemon-Cornmeal Gluten Free Cookies
lemon cornmeal cookies 2
Cherry-Pistachio Shortbread Cookies (+GF version)
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And for those with the urge to roll, cut, bake and decorate…
Royally Cool Cookie Decorating Ideas Part 1
Royally Cool Cookie Decorating Ideas Part 2
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Field to Feast: Sunday Morning Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon… plus, A Toast

harvester

Fletch and I took a ride around the farm several weeks ago.  Not only was it a fabulous photo day, it was also a day of memories, and memories are made for sharing.

What’s the point of keeping them all bottled up inside of you when those memories can bring joy to others?  Those memories can help others to understand you better and can even draw you closer together.

When I finally hear the harvester engine start up in August (or this year, September) I know that it’s onion harvesting time.  That sound and the events that follow haven’t changed since 1972.  In fact, Thomas and I were just watching some home movies from the early 70s and we saw the harvester being pulled by a bulldozer (which we still have).  My father was driving and he had my brother and me on his lap.

Nothing has changed, essentially, except the tractor pulling the machine (purchased around 1975) and the passenger (born in 2004).

Oh, and my father’s hair isn’t quite as dark.

harvesting w passenger 2010

An acre covers a square just over 200 feet by 200 feet so you can imagine that 50 acres of anything really adds up in terms of sheer enormity and workload.  Compared to farms out west, I suppose that’s nothing.  But I was forced lucky enough to weed acre upon acre of onion fields way back when I was a young girl.  I know up close and personal just how big 50 acres can be.

After 1972, Bialas Farms switched from growing celery to growing onions, a trend that was growing in Orange County.  I was 2 years old so I cannot comment on how lucrative that turnover was, but I do know I had the best flannel-lined corduroy pants that one could buy at Playtogs.

I do, however, remember with great fondness the celebration and overall jubilant spirit that surrounded the end of harvesting.   When the last round was completed (one round was up and down the field, making a complete circle) , the whole family, even barefoot kids on bikes or in bathing suits, would race to The Shop and hand out the paper cups.  We would toast the occasion with whatever happened to be on hand – in those days it was grape Malt Duck.

We all had to work back then, kids and adults alike.  There was a stretch of time where we four kids (cousins, 2 sets of siblings living next door to each other) would go out to work 6  or 7 hours a day picking weeds.  We got our pay envelope at the end of the week, or the end of the summer, and we would use that to buy school clothes for the coming year.  At harvest time, our job was to pick up any onions that had fallen from the big pallet boxes when they came off the machine.  We made it a game – a race to see who could run to the next  box and snag all the onions that fell in its shadow.

That feeling came back when I saw Dad pulling the harvester out of the field to be cleaned and put back into the barn for next year.  He drove past me with a huge grin on his dusty face, two thumbs up in the air.  I waved, grinned back, and got a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach – a feeling of relief that the onions were finally out of the ground.

Thomas asked me, as only a nine-year-old can, why it was such a big deal and I explained that until the crop was safely out of the fields and hauled off to the barn, there was always the chance that weather would ruin whatever was out there and we’d be left with nothing to show for 7 months’ work.  Sometimes even when the crop is safely tucked away in the barn you can have a devastating fire that destroys not only the crop but the entire barn and all its contents.

But that’s a story for another time.

Now is a time for celebration because the onions are out of the ground and the boxes have been hauled off the field 6 at a time on the bed of an old 1960s army truck.  So please, if you’re so inclined, raise a glass and help us toast the end of harvesting and the crop we were blessed to bring  home with Mother Nature’s help.

onions

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are some veggies we grow that I don’t eat.

Strange, right?  I know.

I won’t touch a rutabaga.  Tastes like spicy cabbage – and I love cabbage, mind you – but to me, rutabagas taste like cabbage after it’s been eaten, if you get my drift.  *Shudder*

I even have trouble with Brussels sprouts.  We just started selling sprouts on the stalk at markets this week and when I hear people squeal with delight and say, “Oh I just HAVE TO HAVE my sprouts!” I think they’re insane.

But that’s the way I feel about my poblano chiles!

Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon

I wouldn’t be so gung ho looney bird over poblanos if it wasn’t for Ms. Amy Roth.  She appeared at my stand in Ringwood in 2012 with a cloth bag full of poblanos.  “I’m so glad you still have these!  They’re my new favorite thing.”

You know that caught my attention.  What does Amy do with poblanos?  She makes rajas con crema.  I had to try this and pronto, so that weekend I did.  This spicy, creamy, salty full-of-flavor mix was piled lightly onto grilled corn tortillas and promptly and completely devoured alongside a spicy hot pepper-infused paloma.

Poblano chiles are like a green bell pepper but with a depth of flavor unlike other capsicums.  They have a bit of heat, sometimes more than a bit, sometimes less… it all depends on weather and growing conditions.  When the plants are under stress, they do what they can to deter pests from devouring their fruit and ending its life cycle.  A killer-hot pepper is quite a deterrent!

If you can imagine, we see a lot of veggies around here every day.  Some veggies?  I can take ‘em or leave ‘em.  Others, like our Polish Plum tomatoes  or these poblano peppers, deserve reverence and I will give up most everything else in my life for an afternoon just to make sure I have these babies on hand for winter cooking.

It all starts with charring.

You can do as I do and char each pepper  until blackened over the gas burners of my stove – be sure to open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan.  You can also line them all up on a sheet pan and broil them, turning frequently, until charred all over.  You could certainly grill them outside if you like.

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Once the peppers are blackened, place them in a container with a lid or a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let them steam until they are cool enough to handle.  Take one out and wipe off the charred skin with a paper towel or your fingers.  It comes off very easily.

roasted poblano removing skin

Slice around the stem end with a knife and remove the seeds, including any of the white pithy stuff that you can.  That’s where much of the heat is, by the way, so if you want to fool someone into tasting a hot chile pepper, eat the flesh and let them bite into it, white pith and all.  It works every time.

At this point, you can simply stack up a few roasted poblanos, place them in freezer bags and freeze for winter.  I say a stack a few because I typically use 3-5 every time I cook with them.  You should package them however you think you will use them in the future.  When you are ready for them, simply thaw them in the fridge, slice or dice and eat!  They are fabulous.

poblano seeds

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Also fabulous?

Sunday Morning Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon
2-3 slices bacon, diced
8 oz waxy potatoes, such as Carola or Red or Austrian Crescent fingerling, cubed no larger than 1/2″
2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded and diced
Eggs, as many as you need plus oil or butter to fry them in
Salt, Pepper, Crema (optional) as desired

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat for a few minutes then add bacon.  Stir bacon occasionally until it releases some of its grease and the white becomes translucent.  Add the potato cubes, stir, season with salt, and allow to cook for around 15-20 minutes or until beautifully golden and crispy.  Yes, it takes a while when you are starting with raw potatoes, but I have issues with leftover refrigerated potatoes.  [I have so many issues.]

Stir in the diced poblanos and heat through, then serve alongside fried, poached or scrambled eggs.  Drizzle some crema over everything if you’re feeling ridiculously decadent and warm up some corn tortillas to sop up all that runny yolk.

potatoes and bacon - Copy

poblano home fries 02

poblano home fries

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Field to Feast Link-Up: Poblano Chile Peppers

I had to share this Minimally Invasive Field to Feast post with you all because Rajas (roasted poblanos) con Crema is one of my absolute favorite dishes.

Plus, Amy’s photographs are stunning and I just love looking at them.

This is what I eat when The Boy isn’t home for dinner.

It pairs nicely with margaritas and spicy palomas.

Poblanos-with-Crema-Minimally-Invasive

What doesn’t?

FYI: Get the poblano chiles before a hard freeze wipes out the plants… or better yet, char and freeze the poblanos so you can enjoy this spicy, creamy delight all winter long :D

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