Fun Combos I’m loving

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So this time last week, I was heading to Myrtle Beach for a few days with my man. Best. Trip. Ever. Sunny skies, 70 degree weather, no to-do lists, not a ton of people…. Bliss. Now that spring break is over I’m counting down until summer break!

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Good grief it was wonderful!

So I don’t have any pictures of what I wanted to share with you but I do have some combinations of food that I think you might enjoy….

1. Oatmeal: I’ve started having oatmeal a lot for breakfast recently, because it is relatively quick and portable. I use old-fashioned oats, and heat up 3/4 cup with just enough water/milk to have the oats covered (I like my oatmeal on the drier side) for 3 minutes. There are two variations I have for you. My standard go-to combo is to add a spoon of brown sugar, a splash of maple extract, and a handful of raisins. A new one I just discovered was to add a spoonful of strawberry jelly and a few chopped basil leaves – YUM!

2. Chia Pudding – If you’re not a fan of tapioca consistencies, you probably won’t be into this, but it’s super good for you and pretty dang tasty. My recipe consists of 1/4 cup black chia seeds, 1/2-3/4 cup almond milk, a splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of lavender buds that I grind a bit with my mortar & pestle. Mix them all up in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. And I love adding in a handful of chocolate chips just before devouring it!

3. When I discussed breakfast foods recently I mentioned a few breakfasts I wanted to try, including these broken yolk sandwiches with garlicky kale. Well I tried them, and they are WONDERFUL! I made some modifications that really make my tastebuds happy. I used pumpernickel bread and threw in some charred red pepper slices and bacon… Divine.

Well that’s all I have for now! Enjoy mixing things up and trying new things!

Monday Munchies: Breakfast!

On a weekday when I’m running to school, I usually have something quick and easy, and it’s usually something I can take in the car. I’ve done green smoothies for the past few months, and recently I’ve gone back to good ol’ oatmeal. Growing up, I was never one for a large breakfast. If it was brunch, larger plates of eggs, bacon, and toast were completely acceptable. I guess it was just something about waking up early and not wanting a full meal?

This is one of the ways in which Brandon and I differ. The man can cook himself a plate of eggs and toast almost every morning. He loves his breakfast, and loves opportunities in which we can eat breakfast together.

All this to say that Saturday we had the most glorious breakfast ever. And Brandon said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked. So of course I have to share this with you!

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What are these, might you ask? They are JALEPENO CHEDDAR BISCUITS! And what could be better than that, you say??

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JALEPENO CHEDDAR BISCUITS WITH EGG, SALSA, AND AVOCADO!!!

….I’m sorry, I don’t mean to shout. It was just an incredibly brilliant creation from Annie’s Eats, and you should follow the link to check it out here.

The one thing I noticed that I would go back and change was that the recipe calls for black pepper but was left out of the instructions. So just mix it in when you’re mixing together the flour, baking powder, and salt. I could definitely tell that it was missing in my batch, and would have loved the addition.

The biscuits aren’t spicy, but the jalapeño adds a wonderful flavor, and of course you can’t go wrong with cheddar cheese in your biscuits! These biscuits can even be frozen before cooking, which I did with half the batch so that we didn’t devour all of them in one sitting. (However, we did wipe them out on Sunday afternoon!) Major Kudos to Annie for this phenomenal recipe!

I wanted to leave you with a few other breakfast recipes I’ve been eyeing but haven’t yet had a chance to try. If you beat me to it, feel free to comment and let me know how it tastes!

- These strawberry jam toaster pastries look wonderful! Brandon and I were just talking the other day about pulling out my toaster pastry press and making some strawberry ones soon!

- A Cozy Kitchen’s black pepper strawberry butter sounds like a fun adventurous try for topping bagels! And it’s so pretty! She also posted about this lovely toasted almond french toast that I’ve been dying to try. Now that we drink almond milk, it would be exciting to try this out.

- These baked clementine vanilla bean doughnuts look awesome. I would have never thought to use clementines because I’m much more prone to just peeling them and eating the cute little segments as quickly as possible!

- These blueberry yogurt crumb muffins.

- And these broken yolk sandwiches with garlicky kale, especially now that I know I love kale!

Like I said, if you cook it before me, let me know how it goes! And feel free to comment if you have other favorite breakfast recipes you’d love to share!

Plated: a review

Hey there blogosphere, it’s been awhile!

The past two months have been an interesting sort. It’s been a blend of long days at work, regrouping, and dreaming. And true confessions, there have many days that I haven’t felt captivated by cooking at all and take-out would be our go-to dinners. But, here I am, back and ready to post some fun things that have been going on!

At the end of February, I entered a contest to win a pretty hefty gift card to Williams-Sonoma and a year supply of Plated meals. Although I didn’t win, Plated made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – a chance to try their service for free and a free 3-month membership! All I had to do was pay for shipping and handling of the goods. It was too good of a deal to pass up!

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For those of you who don’t know about Plated, it’s a meal delivery website. The beautiful thing about it though is that they believe in the importance and significance of one preparing and plating one’s own food. So, after selecting from a weekly menu which meals you would like to prepare, they ship you just about every little ingredient you need to prepare it, complete with an illustrated recipe card for each meal. Fun, right?!? Since my free order came with 4 portions, I ordered 2 meals, 2 servings each.

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The first meal I tried was Berbere Salmon with a side of kale, red onion, and new potatoes. Berbere is a red-orange spice mixture found in many Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes. I had never had the combo before, and I really enjoyed the flavorful kick it gave to the salmon. The red onions were marinated in red wine vinegar as the new potatoes cooked. Then both veggies were tossed into a kale salad with fresh mustard and olive oil. Oh. my. goodness. I have been terrified to try kale – it has looked so menacing to me and I didn’t think I’d ever try it. But WOW – I loved it so much! It was a terrific meal and was served with lemon slices for adding a little citrusy flavor to everything.

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Meal number two was a vegetarian dish: mushroom and leek udon with tofu and spinach. I have been craving a soup like this for a while, and I have also been wanting to incorporate tofu into a meal. It was my first time using shiitake mushrooms and leeks, and I really enjoyed them. I also really liked the thick udon noodles, which were tossed in sesame oil before being served with the soup.

Earlier I had mentioned that Plated gives you almost all of the ingredients to make each meal. They are all labeled and pretty portioned out for the amount you’ll need. Aside from the fact that for this meal they gave me exactly one garlic clove and an inch of ginger root in a tiny baggie, the soy sauce was my favorite tiny portion:

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Aren’t they the cutest little soy sauce packets you’ve ever seen?!? I couldn’t get over it.

Okay, so now that you’ve seen all of this gorgeous food, it’s time to pull out the yellow legal pad and have a good ol’ pros and cons list:

Pros:
– The meals are flavorful and delicious!
– The recipes are easy to follow with step-by-step illustrations. They also provide additional little hints that may be helpful in preparing the dish.
– The things that you need to provide yourself for the meal are simple things like olive oil and kosher salt. The recipe card also specifies what types of pots and pans you’ll need to use.
– All of these important pieces of information are also available on their website before you even order, so you know in advance what you’re getting into.
– Ingredients are shipped in a box that is equipped with adequate ice packs to keep your food fresh.

Cons:
– The price (at least for me anyways!). Plates are $15 each, $12 each if you are a member. Membership is $10 a month, and there is a shipping and handling fee as well. Since I used this promotion to try things out, I just had to pay $20 for the shipping/handling. But if I hadn’t had any special deals, my total would be $98 for those two meals with two servings each. It’s a bit too steep for me.
– The lemon for the Berbere salmon was a bit bruised when I opened everything up. And although everything else was fresh, some ingredients were leaning towards the end of their freshness.

Really there was not much to complain about at all! I honestly wish this was more feasible for me, because I love the concept and the incredible combinations they create! Check out Plated.com for more information and lots more great recipes!

Note: Captivated by Cooking is not affiliated with Plated in any way and received no incentives to create this review.

Birthday Fun

So it seems as if Mondays and I are not getting along recently with respect to blog posts! Thanks for hanging in with me despite my blunders.

So I was one of those metro-Atlanta folks caught in the crazy ice-filled debacle. Skids, slippery roads, hours in the car, the works. I’m definitely thankful to be past all of it.

On a positive note, it did mean that I got to spend January 30th, my 25th birthday, with my husband! It was the perfect treat. And I have to tell you about what we did for lunch, because it was so. much. fun!

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We headed to the grocery store and picked up some awesome cheeses (gouda, garlic & herb cheddar, and tomato basil goat cheese), summer sausage, and some entertainment crackers. Combined with some pecan halves, green and kalamata olives, and hot pepper jelly we already had at home, we had ourselves a feast!

I went to spend some time with my parents and siblings on Friday and vast greeted with this beauty…

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It’s a Whopper cake! Aka a triple malt chocolate cake: cocoa and malt cake, malted buttercream icing, and crushed malted milk balls all over the outside. I’m not sure exactly what recipe my mom used, but this looks about how she described it to me. It’s very rich but oh so wonderful!

It’s weird to think that I’m not smack dab in my mid-twenties, but I plan to fill this 25th year with much more exciting cooking ventures to share with you!

Monday Tuesday Munchies: Kebabs, Orange Chicken, and Dessert!

Yesterday I spent my day pathetically sniffling at home battling the icky congestion bug that seems to be skyrocketing across the area. And back at school today, Now I’m at school and it’s been snowing for a few hours and school will be let out early. What a January!

So although the sickness put me off of my exercise kick for a few days, we have still been eating well and have found some terrific new recipes!

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1. Honey Lime Chicken Kebabs: These kebabs have a super tasty marinade and were easy to throw on the George Foreman! My only suggestion? Make more of them, and add veggies! We’re making these again tonight with onion chunks, green bell peppers, and mushrooms – YUM!

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2. Orange Chicken Stir Fry: I love chicken fried rice, so this was definitely a relative I wanted to try to make. The sauce is wonderful and fresh, and I loved the combo of chicken, broccoli, snap peas, onions, and imaginary mushrooms (I forgot to chop mine up!). I would recommend boiling your chicken before hand if you’re anything like me, because with the high heat it was hard to get my chicken cooked all the way through without having everything burn.

3. Finally, I have a yummy dessert that is picture-less. Mine was a bit unphotogenic. This healthy sticky chocolate fudge cake was AWESOME. It bakes in a loaf pan and uses honey instead of granulated sugar. There’s no flour involved either, and a little bit of pumpkin puree makes it very moist. It’s tasty and I don’t feel bad enjoying it! :)

Monday Tuesday Munchies: Purple is Power

It’s always nice to have a Monday off to get to catch up on things, like folding massive amounts of laundry or allowing our dinner table to see the light of day again. True confessions: I’m the messy on in the house. I’ve grown accustomed to coming home and dumping everything down, and sometimes it’s just good to get everything all spic and span and restart the process of putting things back when you’re done. It’s refreshing and makes me feel like such a better person!

This weekend was also marked by good fellowship. I was beyond blessed to spend time with a handful of dear friends. I even got a chance to use a new online app I have to call my friend in Mozambique! As someone who gets beyond busy often, it’s good to slow down and make time for some good ol’ heart to hearts.

This week saw an increase in the color purple on our plates. I bought purple potatoes to make a steak salad (inspired by Real Simple – we’ll talk about that soon!) and was able to incorporate them into two dishes. I also brought home some purple cabbage for another dish. Needless to say I fell in love with the coloration. I get so amazed by the brilliance of raw food sometimes! Take a moment and revel in this with me ….

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WOW. Am I right!?!

Alright so now to the meals I actually made them with…

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1. Remember this lazy Sunday casserole? I made it this time with purple potatoes instead of red. The purple potatoes are softer and creamier, almost as if they were buttered. Combined with sausage, bell pepper, conion, and carrots, and all topped with a delightful chicken broth and balsamic dressing marinade/this stuff is super savory and tasty!

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2. This chili-garlic shrimp noodle bowl from Real Simple was amazing! The recipe called for soba noodles, which are made with buckwheat, but my grocery store didn’t have these so I just used rice noodles. The shrimp are tossed in a chili-garlic sauce that you can find in the Asian section at the grocery store, but I decided to make my own. I used this recipe and cooked it with jalepenos. You can use pretty much any chili pepper, but I was glad I used one with a lower heat because this sauce packed a punch! The noodles are tossed in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and then topped with the shrimp, shredded cabbage, snap peas, and carrots, with a lice of lime. YUM!

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3. This is not the steak salad recipe from Real Simple. Yes, it has purple potatoes and steak and it is a salad, but it’s different and I’ll post about it later this week. But I wanted you to have the link to their salad as well because it sure looks tasty!

Hope you’re having a great Tuesday and that you enjoy everything on your plate this week!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Almond Milk Ice Cream

So I mentioned recently that I fell in love with an easy chocolate banana almond milk ice cream recipe. I love it, because I love all things ice cream and things that include frozen bananas. Yum! My husband does not share the same affinity for bananas in dessert, but he loves ice cream. So I needed to find an almond milk treat that could satisfy both of us. The only complaint I have with my newest concoction is that it wasn’t nearly enough to satiate us ice cream monsters. So I would recommend doubling or even tripling (or get crazier with it!) the recipe.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Almond Milk Ice Cream
inspired by Denise Santoro Lincoln’s almond milk ice cream recipes

Ingredients:
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter

Instructions:
. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, gradually heating and stirring until melted. Add canola oil and stir to incorporate. Place mixture into a Ziploc bag and set aside.

n a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup almond milk with cocoa powder and sugar. Microwave for 40 seconds and then stir. Place mixed milk along with the remaining cup of almond milk in a blender with the vanilla and peanut butter. Blend until fully incorporated

Place mixture into an ice cream mixer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A few minutes before the ice cream is completely churned, snip the corner of the Ziploc bag containing the melted chocolate. While the ice cream mixer is still running, drizzle the chocolate into the ice cream. Let the ice cream to continue to churn for 5 minutes.

Monday Munchies: Healthier Eating

It’s my second week of waking up early for a pre-teaching workout, and today I feel so much more energized and ready to go! I read a wonderful article in the January issue of Real Simple Magazine concerning eating well. To sum it up, rather than focusing on a fad diet, the key is portion control and being aware of what and how often you are putting various foods into your body. It’s a much simpler and more natural way of eating healthy, and it keeps my husband and myself adequately satiated after meals! So I wanted to share with you some of the things that we mix in with our ultra healthy options (check back a few posts to see yummy things like green smoothies and my Mediterranean chicken bowl!).

chicken fried rice1. We love takeout, which is not always the best for you. This chicken fried rice recipe uses soy sauce (I opt for the low-sodium variety) and a little sesame oil, but aside from that, it’s veggies, chicken, egg, and rice. I added broccoli to this recipe because I simply LOVE the taste and texture of stir-fried broccoli. I also found that it’s better to prepare your scrambled egg in a separate pan rather than just stirring it into the veggies. I did this the first time and didn’t end up getting those lovely egg clumps I enjoy – it just made all the rice have essence of egg. Great recipe and super simple!

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2. Brandon told me that this recipe was required to be in this post, and I heartily agree! These chicken spinach quesadillas with avocado sour cream are legit! The recipe calls for both goat cheese and shredded monterey jack, but I just used a shredded Mexican cheese blend. And this dipping sauce – oh my it’s divine! Avocado, lime, sour cream, a hint of mayo, onion powder, and salt and pepper (I actually didn’t use the salt – we try and cut that out of our diet as much as possible). So good! Brandon even used the dipping sauce with a ham and cheese sandwich the next day.

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3. I always need a sweet incentive to keep me sticking with my healthy eating, and I love this one! Since we’ve moved from milk to almond milk, I wanted to try to make an almond milk ice cream/ frozen yogurt. I found this delicious chocolate banana ice cream recipe that I’m going bananas for! (I know, cheesy, but I had to go for the pun!) It’s just almond milk, 2 smooshed bananas, and a little bit of cocoa powder and sugar. The consistency is a little more wet, probably because it doesn’t have as many things to thicken it up, but I love it! (I also threw in a handful of caramel corn on top the other night, which made my day!)

Hope everyone is doing well with their resolutions! Happy eating!

 

Mediterranean Chicken Bowl

What a chilly week has been! I know that a cold week in Georgia is much balmier than other places, but I definitely have had my share of layers upon layers of blankets and warm drinks in my hands! Despite the chilly weather, I have been able to make us some terrific tasty and healthy meals in my resolution to eat better and get fit. I’ve even added a workout regimen that requires me to get up an hour earlier than usual on workdays. And as my husband can attest, I am NOT a morning person, so this is a huge accomplishment!

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You may have remembered from last week’s post that I have finally tried quinoa and really enjoy it. So I had been wanting to incorporate it more into our meals. I also had been craving a Mediterranean salad after having the quinoa mixed with dill, cucumbers, and feta. Out of these two lovely things came a meal that I think I could have multiple times a week. It’s filling and light at the same time, and I’m obsessed with the briny and fresh elements of it all!

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Mediterranean Chicken Bowl

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 chicken tenderloins, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
15 pitted kalamata olives, plus 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the jar
10 green manzanilla olives
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions:
Prepare 1/2 cup of quinoa in boiling water as directed on package. (Note: Most packages will instruct you to rinse the quinoa before cooking.)

After cubing the chicken tenderloin, sprinkle black pepper over cubes. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, and stir around for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken cubes and chopped onion. Add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and stir around the skillet, cooking until the chicken is done and the onions begin to appear more translucent (10-15 minutes). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine cucumber, tomatoes, and both types of olives with the tablespoon of liquid from the kalamata olive jar. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, stirring to mix oil and vinegar evenly throughout. Stir in feta cheese.

Split the quinoa evenly between two bowls, followed by the chicken and onions. Top the bowls with the Mediterranean salad mixture and enjoy!

Serves 2

Wrapping up 2013: gifts given, food consumed, and a hearty thank you!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for seven months now. Sometimes it seems like I started yesterday. A lot of times it seems as if this has been something I’ve been doing all along. But through it all I am so thankful for all of my lovely followers and those who stop and pay this little blog a visit! 

ImageI didn’t want to spoil any surprises before Christmas, but my gifts were homemade this year. After I submitted grades during the last week of school, I was able to whip up some homemade gift tags during nap time, of which I’m very proud of! If you’re in need of a crafty gift or two, some of the gifts I made included: marshmallows, chocolate stirring spoons, and hot cocoa mix; barbecue sauce and brown sugar rub; candied citrus peel, homemade soap; and a felted Adventure Time iPod case!

The Mr. and I decided to get a head start on our New Year’s resolutions this year. At the top of our list is more exercise and healthy eating. So for my delayed post on what I’ve been eating this week, it’s got a more good-for-you theme to jump start your new year! 

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1. Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumber: This dish looks much more elegant on Martha’s page, but after I had made the tilapia, I wanted to mix it in with the quinoa. This is our first experience with quinoa, and Brandon and I both really enjoyed it! I love the combination of flavors created when you mix feta, cucumber, dill, and lemon juice. Delicious!

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2. Green Smoothie: I’ve been wanting to make one of these for a while, and I’m glad I finally did! I based this recipe off of a green smoothie recipe from Lauren Conrad. My version includes: 1 cup almond milk. 1 cup raw spinach, a little over 1 cup frozen peaches, 1 ripe banana, 1 teaspoon flax seed, and 1 tablespoon honey. This stuff is really good! My goal is to pick up some kale and use it next week. True confessions: kale has always been a bit intimidating to me so I’ll be going out on a limb for sure!

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3. These omelet muffins are from the same post of Lauren Conrad’s. They are great little bite-sized eggs that are great for being on the go and can be baked and reheated throughout the week. I used sliced ham, spinach, and cheddar cheese in mine. One word of caution: really grease your muffin tins well – eggs stick to these very easily. 

 

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4. Banana Crepes: For two people who both have a pretty big sweet tooth, I knew I needed to find something to appease our palettes during our push for healthier eating. I was delightfully surprised by these banana crepes. It’s just a mixture of banana, egg, water, flax seed, cinnamon, baking powder, and vanilla. I added a little dollop of peanut butter in ours to make it a bit more filling. We each had two crepes with Cool Whip in the middle and some honey on top. Yummo! 

 

Finally, before I get too rambly, I wanted to thank you all again for your support. I’m so glad I was encouraged by my husband and friends to start this blog because it has been so much fun sharing it all with you! In the past seven months we have had over 2,000 views from all over the world! My heart is so full to think that we’ve been able to share kitchen adventures together. Here’s a look at the top five recipes from Captivated by Cooking in 2013:

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1. Spinach, Ham, & Cheese Quiche: You guys like your quiche, and I have to wholeheartedly support you there. They’re just so good!

2. Sweet Bruschetta Chicken: A delightful combo of grilled chicken, chopped caprese salad, and a sweet balsamic marinade. 

3. Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bars: Pretty much what it sounds like – brownie batter topped with cookie dough and baked together – yum! 

4. Butternut Squash Ravioli: This is a time consuming recipe, but so much fun! I was able to roll this pasta by hand, but you can use a pasta machine if you have one. And the butternut squash filling is so sweet, it’s almost like having dessert for dinner!

5. Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche: Again, you can’t go wrong with quiche. And when you are talking about bacon and apples together, you know it’s bound to be something incredibly savory!