Bacon-Boosted Brussels Sprouts {GF, DF}

You know you’re finally, officially an adult when Brussels Sprouts are what you REALLY, REALLY want to eat.

I’m so adult, I’ve been known to order just a side of Brussels Sprouts for dinner.  This is not a dieting thing, I just love them that much.  (Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, California makes heavenly sprouts.  Everything else there is good too!)

It’s true, I’ve kind of grown up.   But it’s also true that Brussels Sprouts have come a long, long way in the last few years, evolving from yesteryear’s tough little balls of undercooked cabbage-y yuckiness; to the roasty, savory morsels of yumminess our whole family currently craves regularly!

After much trial, error, and tasting, here’s my favorite (super-simple) way to cook Brussels Sprouts here at home:

Bacon-Boosted Brussels Sprouts

15-20 Brussels sprouts (depending on size), roughly sliced into slivers and shards

5 tsp.-sized dollops of rendered pork drippings (for the whys and how-to’s, see below)

1 tsp. garlic, finely minced

1 tbsp. Mediterranean capers (optional)

splash (1 tsp.) sherry vinegar (optional)

kosher salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.  Cover a rimmed baking tray with a Silpat liner (or you can skip this step).  Scatter slivered sprouts on baking tray. Place dollops of rendered pork fat on sprouts (fat will melt and spread and cover sprouts as they begin to cook). Toss on garlic. Place sprouts in oven to begin roasting.

After 15 mins., use kitchen tongs to stir the Brussels sprouts, pushing the browner outside bits to the inside so that all may cook evenly.  Add the capers and just a splash of sherry vinegar, if using. Roast another 10 minutes, stirring again.  At this point, depending on how well-done you like your Brussels sprouts, check them every few minutes, removing from the oven at the moment they have the right color for you. (We like ours verging into dark brown — crispy!)

Ideal done-ness: a mix of crispy brown and tender green.

Sprinkle cooling sprouts with kosher salt — they will benefit from a mildly generous sprinkling — and let them cool for a few minutes; this will also help them crisp up.  Serve immediately.

Rendered pork fat, you say?  Yes, I say — just like your (great-?) grandma probably used, before the sugar-cereal lobby told us bacon was bad for us and we should be eating sugar-cereal instead.  When cooking bacon (ideally no nitrates/nitrites added, organically and humanely raised — just like great-grandma would have eaten), I save the panful of rendered grease by carefully pouring it into a glass jar.  It keeps in the fridge for a long time, and is indispensable for cooking up crispy, bacon-boosted (but not bacon-overpowered) Brussels sprouts.  My little jars of rendered bacon grease have been passed all around the neighborhood, and we’re a pretty healthy bunch.  Bacon-boosted, in fact.  But if you must, or even if you like, by all means substitute olive oil for the bacon fat!

Here’s my crisp-tender, super-flavorful, nutrient-packed lunch:

Sprouts: they’re what’s for lunch!

For more on Brussels Sprouts, and how we grow them in our garden (hint — effortlessly), check out my article on

Thanks, and happy sprouting —


Going back for thirds!

Lemonade “With Benefits”: Mint, Kale and Spinach

We just got back from a HOT weekend in the desert — easily 110 degrees in the shade.  Such weather calls for lemonade, and lots of it!  I’m calling this twist on a hot-weather classic “Lemonade With Benefits” because it brings a healthy dose of garden-fresh greens to a classic summer treat.  No one has to know this lemonade is spiked with kale, spinach, etc. — they’ll see the bright and beautiful green color, but all they’ll taste is lemon, bright sugar, and a hint of mint!  Here’s how it’s (quickly and easily) done:

Lemonade “With Benefits”

Toss into high speed blender (i.e. Vitamix):

6 tbsp. lemon juice (approximately 1/3 cup)

1/2 cup young, tender leaves of kale, spinach, or chard

1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Handful of mint leaves

Fill blender to 4 cups line with ice.  Add water until level reaches 5 cups.

Blend on high speed until all ingredients are thoroughly blended, and enjoy.  Makes 5 cups of ice cold, sweet/tart, green lemonade!

A few notes.  The ice is crucial in this recipe.  It provides grit to help break down the greenery into drinkable, not-the-least-bit noticeable bits.  Also, a powerful blender (I use a Vitamix) is key.  It breaks the sugar down so thoroughly, there’s no need to make a simple syrup, as would be required in a standard lemonade recipe.  Finally, don’t skip the mint, unless you want to taste the vegetables in your lemonade.  Which would be pretty hard-core.

You can try other sweeteners in place of the sugar.  For me, the clean, bright, old-fashioned flavor of sugar is unbeatable.  Stevia would be an interesting substitute (homegrown stevia would be a dream!)  Also, feel free to reduce or increase the amount of sugar to suit your taste.

Lemonade with benefits!  Enjoy!  (Oh and enjoying watching even vegetable-averse kids drink up kale, spinach and chard with green-tinged smiles on their face — I know I do!)

— Jen.