Slow Cooker Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

Most everyone loves bacon.

You can easily make a spreadable bacon that you can slather on your burgers and other sandwiches, your breakfast toast, or even crackers for a salty-sweet snack.

If you have a skillet, slow cooker and food processor, you only need the right ingredients and a little time to make this delicious Bacon Jam. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it all the ways we suggested above—and in your own creative uses for all your favorite foods. Let us know what you think!

What You Need:

1 ½ pounds bacon sliced into 1-inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

3 smashed garlic cloves

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup maple syrup

¾ cup brewed coffee

What You Do:

1. Cook the bacon until it’s slightly browned in a skillet. (I prefer cast iron for this.) Drain the bacon.

2. Keep about a tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet, add the onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, syrup and coffee and bring to a boil. Scrape fat from the pan to include, then add the bacon to the mixture and stir to combine.

4. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, and cook uncovered on high until the liquid is syrupy, about 4 hours.

5. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

You can refrigerate the bacon jam in airtight containers for up to 4 weeks. Enjoy!

Foodie Travels: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Ala.

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For nearly 95 years, the legend of Bob Gibson’s delicious barbecue and his unique white barbecue sauce have spread across North Alabama. Despite that near-century tradition, however, most casual diners even in other parts of the South know little if any about “Big” Bob Gibson or the white sauce.

When I lived in North Alabama I had the opportunity to sample barbecue across the region—and Big Bob Gibson’s two restaurants in Decatur became my measuring stick for BBQ chicken perfection and, in my mind, the de facto original home of white sauce. (If this is your introduction to white sauce, think of it as a peppery ranch dressing-type condiment with an extra “kick” to it.

Gibson’s restaurants, still operated by his family, offer a full menu of pork, ribs, brisket, sides and other fixings, but it’s the chicken doused in that white sauce that keeps my mind coming back. So it’s fortunate you can also order bottles of the white sauce and have them shipped to your home, which is exactly what my wife Molly did this past Christmas. I couldn’t wait to open the concoction, dunk a few freshly grilled chicken breasts in it and serve them alongside a feast of Southern food favorites.

Obviously there’s nothing quite like visiting Big Bob Gibson’s two establishments in Decatur, but thanks to the restaurant and American parcel services, I can recreate the next-closest thing at home. The sauce even comes with a recipe for Grilled Chicken Breasts using the white sauce. You just coat chicken breasts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, cook with your desired method and then bathe the chicken in a bowl of white sauce. In my experience, you’ll need about half a sauce bottle for two large chicken breasts.

If you’ve visited Big Bob Gibson’s in person and you taste the sauce on your own grilled chicken at home, it’s almost like you’re instantly transported to North Alabama. And in the vast barbecue world there might be no tastier place to be.

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, 1715 6th Ave. SE or 2520 Danville Road SW, Decatur, Alabama

Quick and Easy Vegetarian Tacos

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What’s a good vegetarian meal?

That may be the most difficult common food question for us to answer. Although we cook and eat a range of foods, we do enjoy meat and often include it in our meals, both made in house and when dining out. Molly has at times considered a vegetarian-oriented diet for its health benefits. And while we often enjoy a vegetable-dominant meal, most of the time at least one dish includes chicken, beef or pork.

We recently made these Pineapple and Black Bean Tacos from a similar recipe I saw in one of my mom’s magazines. They’re exceptional, both in intense flavor and as a departure from our normal penchant for meat. And since we make Mexican food at least once a week, we already had the ingredients in our kitchen.

These tacos will certainly become a go-to recommendation for an easy, affordable recipe for vegetarian eaters. And if you’re a strict vegetarian—preferring no animal products whatsoever—just change the contents a bit to exclude ingredients like the optional sour cream. Like most of the recipes we share, you have the creative freedom to modify many parts of the recipe to meet your needs. So go all out and enjoy! We anticipate you’ll be both full and fulfilled!

Pineapple and Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 Tablespoon seeded and finely chopped chipotles in adobo (small can found in many grocery stores on the international foods aisle…We get ours at Aldi.)

1/4 small pineapple, cored and cut into thin pieces (you can also use canned chunks or slices)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

8 small tortillas (corn, flour or our homemade tortillas, your choice!)

fresh cilantro (for serving)

sour cream (for serving)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees or outdoor grill to medium-high.

2. Tear off four squares of foil and arrange on two baking sheets.

3. Rinse your black beans. You don’t want too much liquid.

4. Toss together the beans, seeded chipotles, pineapple and onion in a bowl.

5. Divide the mixture among the four squares of foil.

6. Fold each piece of foil into an enclosed packet.

7. Roast or grill (covered) for 15 minutes.

(PRO TIP: Heat your tortillas in a damp paper towel in the microwave to freshen them up. This works especially well for corn tortillas, which can quickly become more stale than desired.)

8. Carefully open your foil.

9. Spoon 1/2 the mixture in each packet onto a tortilla.

10. Top with cilantro and sour cream to taste before serving.

(BONUS PRO TIP: We recently purchased a taco stand for easy assembly and holding of our tacos. We love it and highly recommend a similar device to keep tacos from falling apart all over your plate. We just supplement with a “splash” plate for spillage for each taco eater.)

Let us know how you like this #FoodieScore! Just comment on this post or our pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Rwandan Beef Stew

Rwandan Beef Stew

For more than five years, my wife Molly has sponsored a child through global aid organization Compassion International. That means she sends money through Compassion each month to benefit the child’s family, corresponds by letter with the child and occasionally sends special gifts via the agency.

Molly’s child, who shares the same birthday in January, lives in the east-central African nation of Rwanda, a country ravaged by war and genocide, even decades after its most well-known time of tragedy. Compassion often shares information about life in Rwanda through its magazine and other materials we receive by mail and online.

In one of Compassion’s magazines, the organization shared a recipe for Rwandan Beef Stew, along with background information that children in Rwanda look forward to times when they can eat roasted goat or beef stew because they don’t often have meat available to eat.

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I decided we should enjoy a Rwandan Beef Stew to think about Molly’s sponsored child, her family and all of the nation’s people who experience life so much differently than we do in the United States. We are blessed to be able to eat meat most every day, and we were especially blessed by Compassion sharing this meal with us as a thank you for our gifts to a child in need halfway around the world.

Here’s how you make the Rwandan Beef Stew.

What You Need:

2 pounds stewing beef (you can use a smaller package)

1 chopped onion

3 large green plantains, sliced

2 tablespoons peanut oil (you can use another oil)

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

1 beef bouillon cube

1 large peeled, de-seeded, coarsely chopped tomato

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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What You Do:

1. Brown the beef and onions in oil using a heavy, large pot over gentle heat.

2. Add plantain slices that have been rubbed or soaked in lemon juice.

3. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Add the remaining ingredients and enough water to cover.

5. Keep adding water where necessary, cooking until the meat is tender.

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We cooked our stew for almost six hours, and it was delicious! We were amazed how much the plantains tasted just like potatoes after cooking that long! This particular recipe reminded us very much of beef stew we’ve eaten in the Southern United States throughout our lives. It’s amazing how we can find similarities with people and experiences in very different places! All we have to do is open our eyes and try.

Visit compassion.com/sponsor for more information about helping a child in need.

3 Food Books We Love

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Molly and I are both North Carolina natives. Specifically, we each grew up in a separate corner of Gaston County in the western part of the state, her in Cherryville and me in Alexis. We’ve lived our entire lives here, with the exception of about a year total that I spent in Alabama and Florida. I lived in eastern North Carolina for about four years, and together we’ve crossed the state many times, stopping at local restaurants along our journeys.

So, with more than 60 years of combined eating experiences in North Carolina, we know this state’s food well. And we love this state’s food, from barbecue and burgers to homestyle plates and pies. That’s why we also love these books about North Carolina cuisine so much, because their authors share our deep love, appreciation and devotion to the delicious array of food in our home state. They also share our preference to eat at local, one-of-a-kind restaurants when they’re visiting North Carolina’s many great big cities and small towns.

1. Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue, North Carolina’s Favorite Food, by Bob Garner, published by John F. Blair

Bob Garner loves North Carolina food. That’s evident when you watch his restaurant reviews on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Weekend program, which is where we first discovered Garner several years ago. He particularly appreciates a great plate of Tar Heel barbecue, which is the subject of this book that offers such an interesting overview of North Carolina barbecue history, cooking methods and restaurants across the state.

2. North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints, by D.G. Martin, a Southern Gateways Guide published by the University of North Carolina Press

D.G. Martin’s vast collegiate, military, legal and media experiences have kept him traveling North Carolina over the years, and that has afforded him many opportunities to sample and revisit many of the state’s great local eateries. This book is a fantastic guide to North Carolina restaurants, organized along interstate lines as a companion for pinpointing places to eat when you’re on the road.

3. Tar Heel Traveler Eats: Food Journeys Across North Carolina, by Scott Mason, published by Globe Pequot, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield

As host of Raleigh-based WRAL-TV’s renowned Tar Heel Traveler segment, Scott Mason has studied North Carolina restaurants and shared them on the screen for years. As a follow-up to his excellent Tar Heel Traveler book, which contains many great dining suggestions of its own, this particular version highlights some of the most unique and outstanding eats North Carolina dishes up.

Have a book on North Carolina food or the cuisine of another Southern U.S. region you think we should read? Comment on this post at FoodieScore.Blog, or send us a quick message here. We never get too full when it comes to great Southern food ideas, especially in our home state!