Celebrating a Florida Christmas with Sweet Green Smoothies and Maple-Candied Bacon

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I am spending the holiday weekend in Orlando, Florida, hanging out at my brother and sister-in-law's cozy little apartment. My parents drove down from Wisconsin and I flew down from Minnesota, and the warm Florida sunshine is a welcome departure from the wildly snowy, grey weather up north.  The weather in Florida has been marvelous, perfect for sitting outside playing cribbage and telling stories, going on walks, and simply enjoying the sunshine. I forgot that there are many parts of the world where things remain colorful, sunny, and green all year round, and this has reminded me that I need to get away to warm places more often during the cold Minnesota winters. I don't even want to think about the snow back home, and I'm sure my parents don't either. I mean really, when this snowy mess (otherwise known as my parents' house) is what the northern Midwest has to offer right now, why wouldn't we want to see all this beautiful color that Florida has to offer?

Why deal with this in Wisconsin and MInnesota when you could have warm, sunny weather and flowers in Florida?

little purple loveliesmy brother and mepalms at Christmastime!Hibiscus are one of my favorite flowers.I'm always amazed at the way that trees become habitats for so many other plants and animals, especially in warm climates. This tree had lichen and two other varieties of plants growing on the bark. Amazing.

Of course, since this is a food blog, I have to talk about what we have eaten thus far. We have eaten lots of great food together so far.  My mom brought down their Vitamix, so we have been able to make lots of delicious green smoothies.  The warmer temperatures left me craving fruit and raw foods, which is an unusual departure from  my normal winter desires for warm stews, meatloaf, and starch!  So, the smoothies were a welcome addition.  In addition to smoothies, I have made lots of other things, like roasted butternut squash, seared Brussels sprouts with apples, chickpea and celery spread, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, and a wonderful clean-out-the-fridge leftover soup. I made awesome red curry with chicken, squid, and fresh vegetables, served with quinoa (I will share that recipe soon!).  And my dad made grilled salmon and grilled mahi mahi that brought us to our knees.

Since the holiday always makes me want to bake, I did spend plenty of time whipping up sweet treats to satisfy the cookie craving. I made raw "trail mix" truffles, a nice mixture of a Larabar, dried apple juice-sweetened cranberries, homemade trail mix, and coconut oil.  We ate those on Christmas Eve instead of cookies, and they absolutely satisfied everyone's taste buds.  Later on, I dug through the pantries and my mom's snack box, and managed to throw together a really delicious breakfast scone/biscuit/cookie thing, made from freshly ground rice flour, oatmeal, apple sauce, finely shredded carrot, among other things.  Everyone loved it, and I'm going to refine that recipe and share it in my  next recipe collection.  

But the real star of the kitchen thus far has undeniably been the maple-candied bacon we ate on Christmas morning, accompanied by green smoothies.  

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After seeing this recipe, I knew I needed to make the maple bacon with my family this holiday. Meats are the new sweets, after all. To quote my brother, this maple-candied bacon is "stupid good". I agree. It is sweet and crispy and smoky and better than any cookie I've eaten in ages. I'm addicted!!!!

We ate it with green smoothies that were full of kale, soaked cashews, apple, banana, and carrot, which may seem like a strange contrast to bacon, but was actually quite lovely pairing.  It was the perfect way to share the holiday morning with family!  So, I wanted to share it with you.  Both are easy to make and use common ingredients that can be found at any well-stocked grocery store. 

Enjoy! Today I'm off to Tampa and St. Petersburg, to wander around Ybor City, check out the Salvador Dali Museum, and enjoy the Palm Conservatory. Yippee!

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Sweet Green Smoothies

serves 2-4

This smoothie is sweet, creamy, and surprisingly filling.  It makes a large batch that will either feed a crowd or a couple people, depending on your serving size. I think this smoothie is an excellent liquid meal, providing a good mix of protein, carbs, and fat.

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, preferably soaked 2-4 hours
  • 2 large kale leaves
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 large carrot
  • 10 drops stevia liquid
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 2 handfuls ice

If soaking cashews, drain and rinse them, then place in blender. Lightly chop veggies and fruits, and add to blender. Then add 1 cups water, and blend until almost smooth, then add ice and continue to blend until creamy and totally smooth. Add additional water as necessary to reach desired consistency.  Serve!

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Maple-Candied Bacon

adapted from Claire Robinson, Food Network

I made a few small adjustments to Claire's original recipe, mostly because my package of bacon was smaller than her recipe called for, and we didn't have any dijon mustard - but it was still totally delicious!  Here is my version of her recipe, with a few notes.

  • 12 oz nitrate-free, high-quality bacon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup, Grade B
  • a generous sprinkling of chili powder
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy foil. Place a baking rack over the lined sheet tray and arrange the bacon slices across the rack next to each other, not overlapping.

Whisk together the maple syrup and a generous sprinkling of chili powder. Generously spoon most of the maple syrup over the top of the bacon, reserving a small amount. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the bacon over and baste with leftover syrup, and sprinkle with more chili powder. Bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon has reached desired crispiness. 

NOTE: Claire's recipe called for 5-10 minutes of additional baking time, which I noted above, and which wasn't enough baking time for me. Instead, my batch took an additional 15-20 minutes of baking time to get crispy enough for my tastes, and I had to change the foil underneath the rack because the maple syrup was starting to burn and smoke. You may find something similar, depending on your oven. Just keep an eye on it, and use your best judgement.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle hot bacon with a pinch of finely ground black pepper. Let the bacon rest on the rack for 5 minutes, then serve!


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