Bacon! Avocado, & Tomato Pasta Salad

It's the season where it's time to start thinking about what we're bringing to the BBQ.  And anytime I bring something other than desserts, I get the "Wha-What?!"  Boo.  Hiss.  Maybe what you're throwing at me now...WHERE'S THE COOKIES?!

But just so all ya' all know, I do make things other than dessert.  Rarely.  But, I do.  So when I find savory recipes that I enjoy, I vow to share them with you.  Expand my horizons a little, shall we say?

Now, if you weren't aware, I'm a huge fan of Pinterest.  Yeah, I was a fan before it became cool, I'm trendy like that.  Or maybe not, but I was definitely there before you had to worry about what pin you clicked on for fear of spam.  I'm hating on you, spammers!

Anyway, if you follow me (which you should) then you may know I'm a HUGE fan of anything with avocado, and anything with bacon.  And I'm most definitely giddy if the two are together, which they happen to be in this pasta salad I'm sharing with you today.

This pasta salad has a beautiful balance of flavors.  Mostly though, it has the balance between the healthy fat of avocados, and the maybe-not-so-healthy fat of bacon.  The healthy and the unhealthy just cancel each other out, so don't worry about it and just enjoy some yummy pasta salad!

Bacon! Avocado & Tomato Pasta Salad
adapted from Life's Ambrosia
p.s.  Double this recipe, at least, if you want to take it to a larger gathering

- 6 slices bacon*, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 lb. dried rotini pasta
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper*
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro*
- 1 c. halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 avocado, cut up

Cook your bacon, drain and dab of excess fat with paper towels.  Set aside to cool down.

Cook your pasta according to the box instructions.  I usually cook a couple minutes longer because I don't like any of my pasta to be "harder".  Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is noticeably cooler.  Place cooled pasta in a large bowl.

Chop your tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and cooled bacon.  Toss on top of pasta.

In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper.  Pour dressing over pasta, and stir gently to coat evenly.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Cookie Mama's notes:

* I love to bake my bacon if I ever need more than a couple slices.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place strips of bacon on foil and place in oven.  Set temperature to 400 degrees, the oven does NOT need to preheat.  Bake for 18-23 minutes depending on how well you like your bacon cooked (watch it)- I like it crispier and prefer that texture in a pasta salad.  

Baking bacon is the best!  No splatter!  No mess-just throw foil liner away!

* I have white pepper, but only because my husband and mother-in-law use it for some of their delicious Asian dishes they whip up.  I can handle it in small amounts, but it definitely has a unique flavor unlike black pepper.  Sub the black pepper for white, or use another spice you think would work well.

* Mmmm, cilantro.  I love it and I think it pairs nicely with avocado and tomato.  The original recipe calls for dill.  I also thought of using chives.  Again, use what you have on hand or like!

Killer Chocolate Cookies

These are not for the faint of heart.

If you are not absolutely, 100%, in love with chocolate, and I mean dark chocolate, then turn away.

And before you even think of taking a bite, pour yourself a tall glass of ice cold milk.  I'm not even joking.

I love chocolate.  And these cookies are like, "POW!  In your FACE!" chocolatey.  Almost, eh, too chocolatey?  Is that possible?  Nah.  Never.  Just take a sip of milk.  Have another bite.  Repeat.

Just what makes these cookies almost over-the-top chocolatey?  Perhaps it's the dark chocolate melted into brown butter? And this was an, I hear angels singing, kind of moment.  It could also be the espresso powder.  Maybe the shot of dark rum?  Or how about the bittersweet chocolate chips?

Name it, and all these things collided to make one killer rich, dense, chewy dark chocolate cookie.

Killer Chocolate Cookies
adapted from food52

- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 c. cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 2 large eggs, room temp.
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1 Tbsp. espresso powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 1 Tbsp. dark rum (optional)
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

Cookie Mama's notes:
*  Substitute ingredients you have on hand, example:
- Kosher salt or table salt for sea salt
- Light brown sugar for dark brown
- Vanilla extract for vanilla bean paste
- Semisweet or milk chocolate chips for bittersweet
* To bring eggs to room temperature more quickly, place them in a bowl with warm water for at least 10 minutes.
* If you follow my blog, I'd recommend investing in some espresso powder.  I use it frequently and love to put it in most all of my chocolate dishes.  It really intensifies the chocolate flavor.  Locally I've seen it at Dorothy Lane and Earth Fare, but Amazon is a great source too!

In a pan, brown 1/2 c. butter over medium heat.  At first your butter will melt.  Then it will start to develop the white bits.  As it heats it will sizzle, stir it around.  The butter will foam, and when it does this, stir continuously to prevent butter bits from burning.  It will start to give off a nutty aroma.  Remove from heat when butter bits are a rich brown color.  Stir in semisweet chocolate and whisk until all chocolate is melted.  Pour chocolate butter mix in a bowl, and place in the fridge while you work.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed beat sugars, eggs, espresso powder, vanilla bean paste and rum until combined thoroughly.  On low speed, slowly add slightly cooled chocolate butter mixture, increase speed and beat until chocolate is fully incorporated.  Scrape down bowl.

On low speed, slowly add flour cocoa mix, then chocolate chips, stir until just incorporated-being careful to not over mix.  Dough will be shiny and thick.  Scoop dough (golf ball size or larger) onto prepared sheets, press down slightly.  Bake for 9-12 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.  Enjoy them warm, and you'll be a chocolately mess.  And they're like a fudgy brownie in the shape of a cookie.  Mmmmm...

Chocolate & Bourbon Croissant Bread Pudding

I hate throwing food out. So much so that I'm starting to think it'd be a good idea to buy a bunny or guinea pig to help out with leftover produce.  And the ducks?  With all that stale bread I'd say they're already ready for winter!

But you're going hungry today, wildlife!

I had some bakery croissants leftover once the chicken salad was depleted, and was I about to let once fresh, buttery croissants go to waste?  Not in this house, buddy!  So how about some deliciously warm, comforting bread pudding?

But why stop at just plain bread pudding?  Let's spike it with a creamy bourbon drizzle and dot it with chocolate chips!  Hello HEAVEN!  Now that's comfort that warms you from head to toe.

 Chocolate & Bourbon Croissant Bread Pudding
adapted from Noble Pig

- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
- 8 oz. stale croissants (approx. 6-8 small croissants)
- 1/3 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Tear croissants into about 1-2 inch size pieces.

In a bowl whisk together yolks, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg.  Toss in croissant pieces and chocolate chips.  Fold into the cream mixture until croissant pieces are coated.  Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Creamy Bourbon Sauce
adapted from my recipes

- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. cold water
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small bowl whisk cold water into cornstarch.

In a small saucepan bring cream and sugar to a boil.  Turn on low and whisk in cornstarch mix.  Whisk until cream thickens.  Take off heat and stir in bourbon and vanilla.

Serve bread pudding warm and drizzle with warm bourbon sauce.

Strawberry Nutella Mug Cake

So have you ever found yourself desperately searching for something sweet to eat at say...9 o'clock at night?  And maybe you get sooo desperate that you'll eat some of your kids Halloween candy you found stashed in the back of the cabinet.

No?  Um...Yeah, me neither.  But in case you ever think you are on the verge of doing something desperate, like even thinking a Twinkie sounds good, then maybe you should try this beautiful dessert I just came across.


It's brilliant!  Throw your ingredients into a large mug, whisk, microwave, and BAM!  A personal, hot gooey cake, all for you.  I mean, I guess you could share, but really, why?!  

Get into your comfy pants, make your very own mug cake, curl up on the couch, and RELAX.  You deserve it.

Strawberry Nutella Mug Cake
adapted from The Family Kitchen on

- 4 Tbsp. self-rising flour
- 4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1/2 Tbsp. espresso powder (optional)
- 3 Tbsp. Nutella
- 1 Tbsp. strawberry preserves (sub your favorite or omit)
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp. milk
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

*Whisk all the ingredients in a large mug.  Place mug on a plate in case it spills over.  Microwave for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes; go with less time if you have a high wattage microwave.  Top with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and fresh strawberries if you have them.

I had leftover whipped frosting and chocolate sauce from these cupcakes I made from my son's 5th birthday yesterday.  And if you want a stronger Nutella flavor, spread some over the top of the warm cake before adding the whipped cream.  Serious Mmmmmm.

* I have a baby whisk, so if you don't have one, just use a fork.

Om, nom, nom
I'm sharing this week at Inside BruCrew, Chef in Training, Crazy for Crust, Something Swanky, and Six Sisters Stuff.  Make sure you go to their sites to check out all the goodies too!