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Bacon bytes

There’s nothing quite like a crispy piece of bacon. A popular sandwich ingredient, salad garnish and an integral part of fine dining, a bit of bacon is all you need to feel good. So here’s to some happy hogging!

Bacon is one of the most easy things to cook. Just remember to watch for its fat content and use lean meat whenever you can. For those on high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, bacon makes a great snack when fried to a crisp. It has crunch, when most of the fat is rendered out. A standard cooked slice of bacon contains about 30 to 40 calories per slice, and even less if you cook it slowly until very crisp and drain it well on paper towels. Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:

•Plan ahead and take the bacon out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.

• If the packaged sliced bacon is cold from the refrigerator, slowly slide the dull edge of a butter knife along the length between the strips, gently rocking to separate slices.

• If you prefer crispy bacon, choose thinner slices to fry.

• Pour off the fat as it accumulates in the pan.

• Use medium to medium-low heat for cooking.

• Cook slowly, turning often, to render out the fat and reduce shrinkage.

• Prick with a fork to prevent curling.

• Bacon can be easily baked in the oven, resulting in amazingly flat slices. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a rack inside a baking sheet. Lay out slices and bake for 10-15 minutes. You actually get crispy bacon with no curls.

icebERG wedges with bacon

Ingredients: 1½ cups mayonnaise; 2 tbs lemon juice; 1 tbs coarsely ground black pepper; a few dashes of Tabasco; 1 cup crumbled feta cheese; 1 head of lettuce, cut into wedges with some core attached; 1 red onion, finely sliced

Method: Mix the first 4 ingredients in a glass bowl. Add the cheese and stir until well blended. Adjust the consistency as desired. Cook the bacon over medium heat until golden-brown and crispy. Arrange the lettuce on a plate. Spoon the dressing over the lettuce. Garnish with bacon bits and red onions and serve immediately.Baked Potato & Leek Soup with Cheddar & Bacon

Ingredients: ½ kg potatoes; 1/4 cup butter; 2-1/2 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts, rinsed well; 4 medium cloves garlic, minced; salt and freshly ground pepper; 2 cups chicken stock; 1/2 cup milk; 1/2 cup cream; 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice; 1 cup grated Cheddar; 2 tablespoons thinly sliced spring onions

Method: Heat the oven to 375ºF. Clean the potatoes in and pierce in several places with a fork. Set them directly on an oven rack and bake until very tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Let it cool completely on a wire rack. Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the leeks are very tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the bacon in a non stick pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp. Transfer the bacon bits with a slotted spoon to a saucer lined with paper towels to drain and cool.

When the potatoes are cool, cut one of them in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh in one piece from each half. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. Coarsely chop the potato skin and the entire remaining potato and add to the pan with the leeks. Purée the contents of the pot in a blender until smooth. Return the puréed soup to a clean soup pot and reheat over medium low. Whisk together the milk and cream until smooth and then whisk this into the soup, along with 1/2 cup of the Cheddar. Stir in the diced potato. The soup should be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, thin it with a little stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with the remaining Cheddar, the bacon bits, and the spring onions.

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