Photo Girl Travels

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Vegetarian BACON Lasagna!

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For those of you who know me – you know I LOVE bacon. I’ve been in this relationship since I was a child. It wasn’t one I had to constantly work on.  No, no, no… It seems to always just be there. In my drawer, at the store, on a plate on my desk….So it just made sense one day, bacon would be the perfect 5th food group – in lasagna! And hence it was born… My special Vegetarian Bacon Lasagna.

I hope I’m not posting this too late for those of you trying to decide what to cook for Super Bowl Sunday. As I sit at my desk it’s early morning on that exact day. I’m sure men and women had sleepless nights, tossing and turning, and dreaming the color of the team they are hoping to win. But as you check your email, Facebook, Linked In pages – wrapped under your covers, I hope this will give you the perfect recipe. Imagine sitting in front of the TV with a huge plate of steaming Bacon Lasagna, ice cold beer in your hand, watching your favorite team play. This recipe is packed with fresh vegetables, multiple cheeses and a few surprises, capers being one.

My Vegetarian Bacon Lasagna Recipe

Your shopping list:

  • Package of bacon – cooked so it’s crispy (pre-cooked, microwave ready, or standard is fine)
  • Lasagna noodles – 1 box – I like the kind you don’t have to boil but if you like to boil then go for it
  • Ricotta cheese – larger sized container
  • 2 eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Jar of capers
  • Vegetables: Whatever you like but here are some ideas: These are ones you’ll want to sauté first: Eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, onion, garlic. I also love spinach but don’t cook it first. You’re just going to layer it raw.
  • Pasta sauce: Either make it yourself or get a jar. I like Newman’s tomato basil
  • Can of chicken broth to sauté things in
  • I think that’s it

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How To:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • First I prep everything, sauté onions, add sliced zucchini, mushrooms and whatever else you think you’d like
  • I slice the eggplant into thin discs and sauté them with a little chicken broth
  • Cook the bacon (I guess you could cook it first and then use the oil to sauté the veggies but that just doesn’t seem quite right)
  • Prepare the Ricotta cheese by adding 2 eggs and mixing it up
  • Once everything is ready, you just layer. I put the pasta sauce on first, then the noodles, then the ricotta cheese, veggies, bacon, other cheeses, a few capers, spinach, a dollop of sour cream.
  • If you use the no boil noodles you need to make sure they are by something moist (pasta sauce or ricotta cheese)
  • The last layer should have pasta sauce and cheese on top.
  • Save out a few pieces of bacon to put on top

Cook!

  • Cover with a sheet of non-stick foil and place the dish on a cookie sheet. I do that so that if it bubbles over, your oven still stays clean
  • Bake at 375 degrees for around 30-45 minutes. It’s hard to say because it depends on how large your baking dish is. It should be bubbling. I also take the foil off when it’s ready and let it cook just a bit longer to brown the top.
  • Let it sit for about 10 minutes to let everything absorb together
  • Put your bacon garnish on
  • Voila! You’re done!
  • Serve with a fabulous red wine or super cold beer!!!  And of course, GO NINERS!!!

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Breakfast at Among the Flowers

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If you’re visiting Martha’s Vineyard and looking for a place to have breakfast you absolutely must try Among the Flowers on Mayhew Lane. I’m sitting outside, surrounded by flowers and just had the best egg sandwich!

20140520-085932-32372256.jpg (what I’m looking at right now) Although everything is pretty much hidden, stacked from bottom up is bacon, over medium egg, cheese, avocado and a ton of spinach. Next time I’d order it without bread 😉

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I are there twice, here’s my second breakfast

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Ever “Baked” Bacon & Eggs??

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Baked Eggs and Bacon

Baked Eggs and Bacon

This weekend try something new for breakfast. Instead of frying up a few eggs in an ordinary, pan get adventurous. I’ll tell you how to make this scrumptious treat below. And I’ll add the disclaimer – it’s SUPER EASY. Here what you need. Use as much of the following as you’d like:

  • Uncooked bacon
  • Eggs
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cut jalapenos with the seeds removed
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Non-stick foil for easy clean up

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place the strips of bacon on a foil lined sheet pan and place in oven. Mine were thick, large pieces so they took a little longer to cook, about 12 minutes. But keep a real close eye those strips. They go from uncooked to cooked pretty fast. Once the bacon is the way you like it, remove it from the oven. Drain the grease from the pan (leave a coating for flavor). Add the veggies onto the same pan and toss them around to coat them with the oil. If you removed most of the oil you’ll need to add a little olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper and put the veggies in the oven. Keep a close eye on them. I cooked mine for about 5 minutes but essentially you want them not quite cooked.  When they are still a bit crispy remove the pan and crack the eggs over the vegetables and then they go back in the oven.

Here are the eggs about 2 minutes in

Here are the eggs about 3 minutes in

I cooked the eggs for about 4-5 minutes. It depends how you like them.  I like the whites cooked and the yolks runny.  When the eggs are done remove the pan from the oven and add the bacon to the whole lot of it. Plate and serve!

Plated pre my first bite

Plated pre my first bite

Yum!!!

Yum!!!

I have to say, baked eggs have a very different, luscious texture vs when you cook them in an “ordinary” pan.  And the bacon for some odd reason is not greasy. I hope you’ll try it and if you do let me know what you think!

BaconUrkey: You Know You NEED It! (And Can it Make You Smarter???)

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Bacon wrapped turkeyIt’s one week before Thanksgiving and thousands of free range turkeys are blissfully running around barnyards. Donning buffed out legs and chests, they are well oiled, gluten-free machines. High on endorphins, life couldn’t get any better. Even “fresh” sounds good until, well…”their” holiday rolls around.

In fact, many of them must think they’re safe.  I mean seriously, every store is decked out for Christmas and Thanksgiving seems to be forgotten.  I truly believe these fair feathered friends are jogging side by side, planning their New Year’s celebration when they will toast with “grain” alcohol cocktails and drumsticks (ice cream, not…).  With all that said, I’m sure one or two will be able to outrun the Whole Foods and Trader Joes trucks, spinning their legs like egg beaters to help get them over to the bushes.  As for the others? Well, Thanksgiving, here you come.

So you’ve ordered your turkey either fresh, frozen, brined or Butterballed. Either way, you’ve got a week to figure out how to set this Thanksgiving apart from the rest. And that’s where I come in (along with my bacon obsession). Today I am going to help you wow and amaze your friends and family – while keeping them healthy at the same time.  It’s all about “Baconurkey”, and yes, this will change your world.

Last year I shared my bacon-wrapped turkey recipe along with a few factoids.  First, did you know that in a “lighthearted” survey 23% of men ranked bacon as their favorite fragrance? They didn’t qualify this but I’m fairly certain it’s cooked vs. raw so thought it was important to add that disclaimer.  That factoid makes total sense. But in my heart I knew there MUST be something healthy about bacon. I’m sure you’re thinking, how could adding bacon ever be healthy??? Well I’m glad you inquired because I believe it’s my responsibility to find a way to help relieve any guilt you might have, every time you reach for that perfect strip.

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After weeks of research I was finally able to find one healthy fact about bacon. And you know, just as in bad dates, it only takes one 😉  Here’s the one healthy fact I could find about bacon – “Pregnant women should eat bacon because it contains choline which helps fetal brain development.”  What’s confusing is that if it helps fetal brains, why can’t it help ours? I’m sure it’s quite intuitive to take a flying leap, allowing us to assume you’re smarter, if you eat more bacon. (If that’s the case, I swear I must be a genius) So get ready to host a table full of brilliant people. To test them, see if they know what this means before and after dinner: Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum. (translation below)

So how to start…Today, I want to take you into my kitchen where people become smarter. Yes, I am here to introduce you to Baconurkey (“bacon wrapped turkey” – if you were unsure what that word meant, please have 2-3 helpings) I will add a disclaimer – By no means am I licensed to provide cooking instructions, but I’m willing to “chance” it.

So this idea came to me 2 years ago. The thing about turkey is that we really only cook them once a year. Because of this, every November we find ourselves hovered over our computer keyboard typing out the words “how to cook a turkey”. Last time I looked, this search brought over 580 million results! Well, no more. This blog is going to solve any anxiety you may have about next week’s Thanksgiving dinner and make you a superhero at the same time. Out with the plain old browned up turkey. It’s time to put a little sass on your table!  I’ll keep this simple and use photos to describe how you can make a bird like this.

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How to Cook a BaconUrkey (Bacon Wrapped Turkey), 101

  • Defrost or use fresh – typically it takes 5 hours per pound to defrost
  • Scrub that poor bird inside and out
  • Dry the old bird off
  • Stuff your bird with cut apple, onions, celery, parsley, rosemary, garlic (a great time to clean out your fridge)
  • Open a 1 -2 pound package of good bacon (feel the love wash over you)
  • Carefully lay the bacon on top of the bird – note, you can use 2 pounds if you want to completely suffocate it (legs, wings, oven, et al)

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  • Dump a few cans of chicken broth over everything
  • Add and drink 1-2 cups of white wine
  • Cover with a large piece of foil
  • Follow standard cooking instructions
  • Once your sassy bird hits the correct temp ( ~180⁰, take or give a few), pull the foil off and let that bacon brown up
  • When the bacon is golden brown –  get-ur out of the oven
  • Let your beautiful, amazing bird stand for 30 minutes
  • During this time you’ll need to protect the bacon. I’ve lost a few strips during the waiting period.
  • Secret tip: Remove the bacon (and hide it), pop the turkey back in to brown the skin. Then place the bacon back on top for your family photo.
  • A quick note on the gravy – drain off the fat and make it like you usually do. The bacon will give it a divine flavor.
Baconurkey!

Baconurkey!

Good luck and let me know if you’re going to try it! And if you do, and you love it please post a comment. If it doesn’t work out for you, I’ll just remind you of something my Momma used to say… “If you don’t have something nice to say…don’t say anything at all.”  Happy early Thanksgiving everyone!  PS: Mark your calendars!  Bacon Day is less than a year away – August 31, 2014 (the Saturday before Labor Day)! That’s right, even bacon has its own day.

PS – What does “Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum” mean?  Translation: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” I mean, just because we’re all baconurkey-smart, doesn’t mean we can’t be fun…

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Me – pre-bacon wrapped turkey …. No more boring – Today, I’m living the life of bacon! Are you?????

If you’d like to purchase a print to remind you of this beautiful bird, cooked or not cooked, please click on “Contact”.  My photography is printed on aluminum. Utilizing an advanced process which infuses dyes directly into the metal, the colors / saturation of the bacon and bird are really amazing. In addition, your print will be displayed using mount blocks which float the image ½ inch off the wall.

©2013 Shelley D Spray – No content on this site (including all photography) may be reused in any fashion without written permission from the author.

Biltmore Estate Decked Out

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People who know me know I LOVE the holidays. It starts with Halloween and my giddiness extends through Christmas. Yes, my house is the one decorated for Halloween in September and Christmas in November. Unlike many if you I gasp in delight when the Christmas decorations are decked out in the stores in September. So when I was looking into a trip location in November I was thrilled to find out one of my favorite places would be decorated for the holidays: The Biltmore Estate. The photos below are ones from my visit. The first one is of the tree in the dining room. Here’s a close up.

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The tree is a 40 foot fresh cut tree a and the smell is incredible. They said that they decorate so early that on December 3rd they will take this one down and put a fresh on up overnight. They would decorate the tree hanging the presents on the branches so the estate keeps the same tradition which you see in the above photo. It you’re lucky they will be playing Silent Night on the organ and the music will float throughout the house. Here are some more photos.

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Above are the trees across the room from the 40 foot tree by a massive fireplace. You have to stop and imagine what the room was like with the fires a blaze and the lighted and decorated trees glowing on Christmas Eve….

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The library.

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Many of the rooms have period dress which is very interesting to see. The women must have been no taller than 5 feet tall. The dresses are tiny!

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After your tour, head over to the area with the shops and order a hot chocolate and stroll through the gardens and shops. Me, by my favorite lion.

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The first day photo with my lion.

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Actually during the first photo I got photo bombed by the cutest kid 😉

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Second day… Yes I am obsessed with this handsome guy.

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And the last day the put a bow on him!❤️❤️❤️

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If you are able to tour the Biltmore Estate over the next two months I hope you do!!! You will not regret it. Also, now they are doing evening candle light tours who’s must be incredible. We will your the grounds in my next blog and also take a walk out to bass pond throughout the wooded forest. Sending everyone early holiday cheer!

Some links for more information:  http://www.biltmore.com/ and http://www.biltmore.com/visit

 

#BACON Anyone? My Breakfast at the #Biltmore

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While staying at the Biltmore Inn, I am on what they call the bed and breakfast package. I have to confess I usually don’t eat breakfast and consider the large amounts of cream that I pour into my coffee to be enough. But the Biltmore Inn has one of the best so I splurge and load up for the day. The photos below are a combination taken over the last two days.

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I personally LoVe the buffet which offers a lox area with everything you could ever want to load onto a slice if salmon.

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Fresh fruit.

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You can also have them make a custom omelet (I always order everything with extra spinach). And the bacon is some of the best I have ever had.

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And my lox plate.

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Finally, the topper is that the have cheese grits which melt in you mouth!

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Here’s the omelette bar where they will cook it to order. And some photos of the restaurant where can either sit by the window and watch the sunrise, or maybe you’d prefer to sit by a crackling fire, perfect for a fall morning.

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This is where I’m sitting right now, I’ll finish and then one last walk to the Estate. So sad this is my last day.

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Sorry, the omelette bar didn’t upload and I’m attempting all of this on my phone and can’t figure out how to insert an image above 😉

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And finally a photo of the most amazing bacon ever! (Not including Vermont bacon.) off to the Estate!

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A Sea of Cypress Trees

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My very dear friend Richard told me about a grove of Cypress trees that sits on the cliffs in Moss Beach, just north of Halfmoon Bay in Northern California. So today I went in search of it. It’s a very peaceful, beautiful place to visit so I wanted to show you what it looks like and tell you how to get there.

First the pics…

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You’ll also see some nice views of the ocean while walking under the shade of the trees.

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To get there put the address to the Moss Landing Distillery in your GPS system. Park there (the last photo was one I took from the parking lot) then walk up past the restaurant and around to your left until you see the sign to the park. Walk straight past the sign and soon you’ll see the trees. Here’s the address for the restaurant and the location to the entry of the park. I hope you’ll check it out!

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