Category Archives: snacks

A sea of cellophane and cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls



Well, I am fairly certain that there is not a single tube of cellophane left in the entire Middle Tennessee region. Nobody defied Judith Atkinson and brought their treats for the Women of St. Paul’s bake sale in plastic wrap. When Judith, the bake sale chair, says, “Make them pretty,” she means there had better be a trip to Michael’s involved.


Of course, I immediately spied my arch baking rival’s Chocolate Bacon French Macarons. Charlotte Fraser is just insufferable. She is only in her early 20s and she just makes us all look like slackers.


See what I mean? What a show off. And she had the audacity to charge a dollar for a cookie the size of a nickel. I wish I’d bought more. That, by the way, is how church fund raisers go, if you don’t know the protocol. We spend fifty or sixty dollars baking cookies, cakes or pies and then spend another forty bucks buying other people’s baked goods. We do the same thing at the annual bazaar in August. We bring our junk from home and then buy other people’s junk. Not very efficient, but it’s the Christian thing to do.

But I digress. I realized halfway through packaging my coveted peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies that I was going to run out of tags before I got to the cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls. And, by the way, I will digress again to say that I am fairly certain my prowess with bacon cookery is what inspired Charlotte to add bacon to her macarons. Unfortunately, I believe bacon is in the public domain so I will not be able to pursue a legal remedy to such thievery.


I will say I wish I’d used italic lettering like Charlotte did. My font kind of looks like EAT THIS. Since I was not making another trip to Michael’s for more tags, I cleverly raided my Christmas room and disguised a gift box tag.


I know. It looks clunky. Don’t tell anyone, especially Charlotte. She will just lord it over me for the next 11 months.

Cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls
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  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Thaw the puff pastry in the refrigerator.
  3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and spread half of it on a large cutting board.
  4. Top the sugar with the puff pastry and put the remaining sugar on the exposed pastry.
  5. Roll out into a thin rectangle and then tightly roll the pastry into a cylinder. Cut the pastry into ½-inch slices and lay them flat on a parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the pastry begins to brown. Cool on a wire rack.



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Bacon, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies reprised

Peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies

Peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s annual BBQ is Saturday. It is accompanied by a bake sale put on by the Women of St. Paul’s. In the olden days, before we all apparently developed into uber Type A women, the bake sale was comprised of some very decent but not particularly fancy desserts – chocolate chip cookies, brownies and the like. Perfectly acceptable.

But no more. Somewhere along the way the bake sale became IMPORTANT. The Women of St. Paul’s are over achievers in the world of hospitality. Our English Tea every December has no rival, either here in the states or across the Pond. Our celebratory wedding, christening and other joyful receptions are monuments of excess. And funeral receptions? Over the top. I hope the Women throw one for me before I expire because I’d sure hate to miss the food.

For the bake sale, we are now encouraged to think outside the box. Chocolate chip cookies wrapped in Saran Wrap will, of course, be graciously accepted. But there will be a knowing nod, a little wink indicating that’s not what is expected. Treats must be unusual. They must be wrapped in that expensive cellophane stuff you get at Michael’s and have clever tags extolling the virtues of the organic and artisan ingredients.

Charlotte Fraser has been toiling over her French macarons for days. I know this because I’m friends with her on Facebook and she’s posted her progress.

Bacon chocolate macarons

She is making, among other flavors, chocolate bacon macarons. Here’s her photo of the incredibly delicate shells she will fill with some decadent creamy concoction. I am much Charlotte’s elder, but she is shaming me. How impudent. I am a cook, not a baker. But I try my best with my award-winning (in my own mind) peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies. They now seem…pedestrian… next to chocolate bacon macarons.

Tomorrow is my baking day. I will make my sad, pedestrian peanut butter, chocolate chip and bacon cookies. I will also make blackberry tarts with a homemade pie crust. I will travel to Michael’s to procure the cellophane stuff and some fancy tags. I will shudder to think of the mass macaron production taking place at the Fraser household and the dozens of other women toiling over God knows what. I will update you on what will clearly by my shame Saturday morning when I arrive with my treats. I am fearful.


Bacon, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies Reprised
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  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and sliced into fine strips
  • ½ cup sugar, for rolling

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and peanut butter with a hand mixer. Add the two sugars and blend well. Add the egg and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Add the chocolate chips and bacon.
  4. Roll the cookie dough into walnut-sized pieces and roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on a greased or Silpat-covered cookie sheet and press horizontally and vertically with a fork.
  5. Bake 10-13 minutes or until cookies are firm.
  6. Yield: 3 dozen cookies.




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The perfect hot dog

Hot-Dog-1-500x375What makes the perfect hot dog? It involves these things and they are non-negotiable:

  • Hot dogs with casings. There is no snap to a hot dog without a casing and without a snap there is no point.
  • Chili out of a can. Yes. Hot dog chili out of a can. No beans. Vietti Hot Dog Sauce comes to mind. It’s made by a Nashville company. I think it costs $1.29 a can.
  • Plain yellow mustard. No Dijon. No deli mustard. No honey mustard. Plain and yellow.
  • Diced yellow onions. Enough said.
  • A buttered bun. Yes, add butter to the hot dog and chili. Why not? You’re not eating these every day. Please say you’re not eating these  every day.
  • Grilling. No boiling of the hot dogs. Can’t you hear them screaming?

Want the complete story? Head on over to Char-Broil LIVE to get my recipe for The Perfect Hot Dog.


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Anatomy of a recipe: Why am I up at 4 a.m. thinking about bacon?

Modestly,  I am somewhat famous in various circles around town for my adoration and frequent use of bacon. I have actually researched the health benefits of bacon and found that is is marginally better for you than sausage. I’ll take it. I pretty much make up 85 percent of what I cook and so, last night, I struggled with a new recipe for BLT Bites.

Hang on to your sanity. It is dark out. King Daddy is fast asleep. You’re about to enter my OCD mind. I apologize in advance.

How should I construct these things? I have the phyllo cups and I’ve already made the bacon. How about I roast some tomatoes I got at the farmers market and use them instead of raw tomatoes? That won’t work. There are textural issues. Don’t do it.

How about I put a wee bit of mayo in the bottom and top it with lettuce, a cherry tomato slice and bacon. Alrighty then, done. But that’s just going to be all loose and kind of dry. Not very creative… It’s just for church coffee hour. Nobody is going to judge me.

Maybe I should just rethink this and fill the phyllo cups with pimento cheese and top them with bacon. That will be easy. No, that won’t work. You’re already serving cheese and crackers, plus there’s cheese in the sausage balls. Too much cheese. Can there be too much cheese? Would people judge me for that?

No one will judge you. If you served Ho-Ho’s and Slim Jim’s they wouldn’t judge you. Well, maybe they would. Wouldn’t that be funny – Ho-Ho’s and Slim Jim’s? NO.

Okay, okay. Let’s try again. What if I cut the lettuce into thin ribbons, dice the tomatoes and mix everything with mayonnaise?  I think you might be on to something here. But doctor up the mayo with some lemon zest and minced fresh oregano.

Am I over-thinking this? Do you think? Of course, you’re over-thinking this. That’s the obsessive part of your undiagnosed OCD. Get ready to act on the compulsive part.

I’d better get up right away. I’ll have to dice the tomatoes and then drain them on paper towels so the mixture’s not soggy. Then chiffonade the lettuce, but don’t add it to the bacon, tomatoes and mayonnaise until the last minute or it will wilt. Seriously, get up if you want but just STOP!

BLT Bites

They lapped them up at coffee hour. Not a single one left.

“Can I have the recipe?” asked Ellen Kirk. Sigh. It’s in my head.








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What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain

Cheers from the Women of St. Paul's

Cheers from the Women of St. Paul’s

Yes, the Women of St. Paul’s are dressed in pajamas. Why wouldn’t you combine a pajama party and a wine tasting? What’s wrong with you?

IMG_3611Every year, the Women of St. Paul’s adjourn to Monteagle (otherwise known as “the mountain”) for a weekend of renewal, fellowship, eating and drinking. The first year there were about 50 of us, but the word got around and this year’s retreat numbered almost 100. We learned to arrange flowers, we made felt flowers, we practiced yoga, we belly danced, we learned a newfangled form of doodling, and we made appetizers. We ate every three hours whether we needed to or not. And we had a wee bit of wine, a few appletinis and maybe one or two shots of vodka. Maybe. I know, I know. Those of you ladies who don’t attend St. Paul’s are wondering, “Where do I sign up?”

The appetizers class made all the finger food for the wine tasting. While we swapped tales, told lies and gossiped. In the nicest possible, most Christian-like way.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato CanapesWe made Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Canapes.

Marinated CheeseAnd marinated cheese trays.

IMG_3624And adorable little mini shrimp cocktails in plastic shooter cups.

Leslie and garnishesOh, and Leslie taught our class how to make garnishes for the platters. Yes, we are Episcopalian. There must be garnishes.

Well, I will modestly say that everyone had a great time and our efforts were very well received.

Buffet 1Salami-rolled mozzarella sticks, shrimp shooters and marinated cheese…

Buffet 2Bacon, lettuce and tomato canapes…

IMG_3651Meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce…

Buffet 4Saltine toffee…

Nacho BarAnd the very popular nacho bar…

The Women of St. Paul’s had dinner not 20 minutes after the wine tasting ended. We are nothing if not troopers.

Becky and BeckyAlrighty. By now I assume you think all we do is carry on and tipple and eat. And belly dance. But you’d be wrong. I did a bad thing today. I took a picture in church during a service. That is so not correct. But I couldn’t help myself. Even with all our frivolous fun, the Sunday morning Eucharist is maybe the best thing that happens all weekend. Instead of a sermon, women tell their personal stories. Kleenex is abundant. The music this year was from an all-woman band. Amazing Grace. Who doesn’t cry while singing Amazing Grace? Not us. Instead of receiving communion from a priest, we give it to each other. Even if you didn’t know to say, “Body of Christ…Bread of Heaven” and “Blood of Christ…Cup of Salvation,” it was just fine to offer the wafers and wine with a “Here you go.”

Sunday Church“I’m gonna let my feet go dancing to my very favorite songs,

‘Cause I know my time for leaving is bound to come before too long.

And there ain’t no way of me knowing how tomorrow’s gonna be,

So I’ll just dance the shores of Jordan ’till the angels carry me.”

Shores of Jordan as sung by the Women of St. Paul’s on February 9, 2014.



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Saltine Toffee and the Women of St. Paul’s annual cocktail party

Saltine Toffee 2It is time once again for the Women of St. Paul’s annual retreat, spiritual revival and continuous cocktail party. There will be the opening night appletinis, kind of like the Opening Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics but safer and more enjoyable. There will be Saturday night’s wine tasting, “tasting” being a relative term. There will be flower arranging, candle making, yoga, a make-up tips class and general frivolity.

And my friends, Leslie and Marida, and I are doing an appetizers class. First, you must understand that Episcopal women are, without  a doubt, the world’s leading producers of appetizers. We have receptions for one thing or another almost every week – births, deaths, anniversary celebrations, the Bishop’s visit – they all require nibbles.

So I am a little intimidated. But I am more fearful of something the retreat committee had not anticipated. Last year’s group numbered around 60. This year’s crowd is creeping up on 100. And our humble appetizers class is providing all the food for the “wine tasting.” Do you know how many sausage balls it takes to soak up the alcohol intake of 100 Episcopal women? I cannot even count that high.

I told Marida the other day, we’ll just make what we make and when it’s gone it’s gone. How existential. But I do worry that we’ll turn the class participants into hors d’oeuvre slave laborers. Get that cheese sliced for the marinated cheese tray stat. Faster, faster! 

I’ll be demonstrating mini BLTs, for which I cooked three pounds of bacon tonight and only stole one slice (thank you very  much), and saltine toffee. Marida’s making her world-famous baked onion dip and her coveted marinated cheese tray. Leslie…what an over achiever. She started with individual shrimp cocktails in shooter glasses, followed with marinated meatballs and then started thinking of two or three other things to add. Faster, faster!

So we’ll let you know how it goes. It will either be a triumph or a disaster. But about 30 minutes into the “wine tasting,” no one will remember. Thanks be to God.

Saltine Toffee
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Serves: 15

  • 4 ounces saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  2. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.
  3. In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces.


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Game day recipes

So here are some fun Super Bowl food factoids (thank you, Reuters):

  •  Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for consumption of food and drink for Americans, behind Thanksgiving Day.
  •  Dips and spreads are the top choice of food to eat during the Super Bowl, followed by chicken wings and pizza.
  •  Americans will consume an estimated 50 million cases of beer on the day.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, but King Daddy and I are not Super Bowl Party kind of people. We are solitary football watchers. We don’t even watch games together as King Daddy’s incessant yelling upsets my delicate nature. However, if I were having a Super Bowl Party, I’d be serving mini BLTs, roasted red pepper dip with crudites and skirt steak quesadillas.

Now here’s a few of the dumbest questions of all time that reporters asked Super Bowl players on media day. I am sad to say I used to belong to this profession.

Question to Broncos Defensive End Shaun Phillips: “Is this a ‘must-win’ game?”

Question to Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald: “Who has the better hair, you or Steelers Safety Tony Polamalu?”

Question to Cardinals Quarterback Matt Leinart: “Can I measure your bicep?”

Sports Illustrated has got a million of them (well, 25 actually) right here.


Mini BLTs

Mini BLTs
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Serves: 10-12

  • 1 loaf of white bread, crusts removed, cut into 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter
  • Mayonnaise (Duke’s)
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 2 containers cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

  1. To assemble the mini BLTs, spread mayonnaise on the bread rounds.
  2. Top each bread round with shredded lettuce, a couple slices of cherry tomato and crumbled bacon.

Red pepper dip

Roasted red pepper dip
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Serves: 10-12

  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until creamy.
  2. Chill for 30 minutes.


flat iron flip

Skirt steak quesadillas
Prep time: 
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  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 1-pound skirt steak
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

  1. Combine the vegetable oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and hot sauce in a small bowl. Put the skirt steak in a large plastic bag, add the marinade and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium high.
  3. Sprinkle the green pepper and onion with a little olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until they are nicely charred and crisp/tender. Reserve.
  4. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Salt and pepper the steak and grill it for 5-6 minutes with the grill lid up. Flip and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the steak is 140 degrees (if you press on the steak it will feel like a half-deflated tennis ball).
  5. Remove the steak and let rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Cut the steak into thin strips against the grain.
  6. Cut the reserved green pepper and onion into thin strips.
  7. Heat a large frying pan on medium high on the stove. Assemble the quesadillas with the vegetables, steak and cheese on one half of each tortilla. Fold and brush one side with oil. Fry the oiled side until the tortilla begins to brown. Brush the other side with oil and flip to brown the other side.


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We might starve: Part two

We are getting ready for the Mayhew/Harbin/Mayhew Family Reunion. And, as always, if we do not lay in enough supplies, we might starve. Tammy, my daughter-in-law, has already stockpiled the entire freezer section of the Piggly Wiggly because she is the snack lady and a pox will be upon her if she runs out of Pigs in a Blanket and Stuffed Potato Skins.

We barely made it through the last reunion with the few ingredients we had in the refrigerator

We barely made it through the last reunion with the few ingredients we had in the refrigerator

So I made a little trip to the grocery store just in case Tammy forgets the cheese puffs and Bunny, my mother-in-law, does not produce adequate amounts of ham dip and chicken biscuits.

Just a few things. Let’s see. Bacon-flavored smoked almonds. Protein and pork. Have to have those. Crunchy Cheetos – a nice contrast to the softer cheese puffs my granddaughter prefers. Thirty-two ounces of sour cream to make two “servings” of onion dip. Josh, my stepson, has a habit of sneaking out to the refrigerator in the middle of the night and absconding with the onion dip. I shall leave a container under my bed for safe keeping.

Cheese. Five different kinds of cheese. And crackers. Two kinds. Little Smokies. One must have Little Smokies for that mid-morning pick-me-up. Tammy and I need to keep up our strength for the long drive (two minutes) to the spa for our pedicures. Dark chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups. Quick energy for making our way out to the porch to read. Bacon. Seriously, how can you survive in the wilderness that is just five miles from Dollywood without bacon?

Oh, and Danish Butter Cookies. Honestly, King Daddy should not be eating Danish Butter Cookies. Well, none of us should. But we will. And dried apricots. Because we want to set a good example for my granddaughter, Puddin’.

Sydney Funnel CakeBy the way, here’s a photo of Puddin’ eating a funnel cake. Because we don’t have enough food in the house, Bunny always takes her and Noah to get funnel cake.  I realize when she’s 13 Puddin’ will hate me for this. But right now Nana is willing to take the risk.

Bunny and SydneyAnd here’s Bunny teaching Puddin’ how to create a massive sugar overload by dumping three pounds of candy sprinkles into canned icing for cupcakes. As I said, we try to set a good example.

I can’t even remember how many reunions there have been, but not a single one of them involved kale or carrot juice. I believe we have our priorities straight. Bless our hearts.

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We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.



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Cheddar Bacon Swirls

Cheddar Bacon SwirlsIf you had asked me 20 years ago why it was a bad idea to buy our house I would not have been able to give you these answers.

In hindsight:

  • It was a bad idea to buy our house because it’s made entirely of wood and our roommates over the years have included squirrels, birds, skunks and groundhogs. We liked the groundhogs best. They were quiet and they didn’t smell.
  • It was a bad idea to buy our house because it is surrounded by forest. Let no light penetrate the lot at 5117. That means no vegetable garden or beautiful flowers. Hope you love hostas as much as we do.
  • It was a bad idea to buy our house because it has an incredibly steep driveway. People visiting us have actually refused to drive up it. Poor Noah did not have a natural childhood because if he attempted to play catch at the top of the driveway and missed, he’d traumatically watch the ball roll about a mile downhill before stopping. And in inclement weather it ices over at the blink of an eye.

Here is a brief illustration of the steepness of our driveway.

Char-Broil Delivery 2This poor man had to deliver a grill to me last spring. It was painful to watch. It took him about half an hour to get the grill up the driveway. I did not offer to help. By the way, he’s only about a third of the way up.

Which brings to me to the Women of St. Paul’s Christmas Party at the Austin/Faulkner home. It may be the best Christmas Party ever. The food is fabulous, the wine flows and all the guests genuinely like each other. It is tonight and the weather is crappy. It’s rain right on the edge of turning to ice. Rain at the bottom of 5117 can be ice at the top. I call my friend, Claire. “What do you think? Should I make my appetizer?” She checks the weather and is uncertain. I stew about this for far too long before deciding I just don’t want to end up as a sad statistic. My obituary would read: “The deceased met an untimely death as she slid down her driveway into a telephone poll but her Cheddar Bacon Swirls were delicious!”

But I did make them, chewing over whether to go to Helen and Katie’s until the last minute. They are delicious. I’ve already had three.  If I put one on edge at the top of the driveway it would roll all the way to Franklin Road.

Cheddar Bacon Swirls
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 


  • 1 pound of center-cut bacon
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • 1 jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 cups finely shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Parchment paper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon in a rimmed, foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Drain and cool. Finely dice bacon by hand or using a food processor.
  2. Unfold one sheet of the puff pastry. Spread a thin layer of the raspberry jam on the puff pastry. Top with half the bacon, spreading it evenly over the pastry. Top that with 1 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese, also spreading it evenly.
  3. Roll the puff pastry up as you would a jelly roll. Using a serrated knife, cut the pastry into ½ inch rounds. Place the parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put the swirls on the parchment paper, leaving room for them to expand. If you have leftover swirls, refrigerate them.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry begins to brown. Remove the sheet from the oven, gently loosen the swirls from the parchment paper with a rubber spatula and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.



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