It’s been a good year, football wise, for our family. Not so much for my team (the Redskins), but for my husband’s 49ers. It’s also been a good year for football snacks in our home, mainly in the form of these fried pickles. I’ve always loved pickles, and at first I was hesitant about the concept of deep frying them. I first tried them at one of my favorite places, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (if you’re ever in Rehoboth, DE – go! Delicious local fare and craft beer await). After that, I was hooked. I tried a few recipes that were good – but diddn’t make my heart sing. Finally threw in the towel and just tried the battering method that I use for my fish tacos, and it worked like a charm! I’ve made them every Sunday afternoon for the past month, and we’re still not tired of them.

They’re a breeze to make, as I usually have everything on hand for beer batter. They’re also a super-cheap appetizer. While I’m sure they are wonderful with a premium cold-chilled pickle, I really like them with my store’s generic brand. They’re a thick cut pickle chip, and they have the ridges in them – which I think helps the batter adhere to the pickle. They also stay nice and crispy for a good while after serving, not that they’ll actually last that long!

With playoff parties and the Super Bowl upon us, definitely add these babies to your lineup. You won’t be sorry!

In the past, I haven’t been a huge fan of Swedish meatballs. The only rendition I’d had of them was from a frozen microwavable meal, and certainly left something to be desired. A couple of years ago, while we were on travel with my husband in DC, Andrew and I were looking for something to do. We’d been to the museums, the National Zoo, and all the upscale grocery stores in the “big city” to stock up on provisions to take home with us. I’d noticed that there was an Ikea about 5 minutes from the hotel, and thought that could be a fun activity to spend some time waiting for “Dad” to get out of work.

Andrew was confined to the stroller at the time, but was a trooper as I investigated ever nook and cranny of the store. I loved the bright colors and patterns of all the textiles, the organization options- a place for everything, the clean simple lines of the furniture. Oh yeah, and the Swedish Meatballs! Halfway through our journey Andrew and I stopped at the cafeteria for a bite to eat. We shared an order of the meatballs, with a side of mashed red potatoes and lingonberry jelly. A far, far cry from the dreaded microwave meals! I knew this dish had to be even better made at home as well. Their meatballs are okay, but they’re still frozen, mass-produced, and chock full of fillers.

I Googled recipes and bookmarked a few, but finally decided on Elise’s version after a recommendation from my best friend. They were absolutely delicious. The rich, beefy, creamy sauce en robes the tender bites of the beef/pork mixture. I was always of the school of the beef meatball, but I think this recipe has made me a convert. They literally melt in your mouth, a different texture completely from a beef meatball.  The recipe makes a lot of meatballs. I think they’d be delightful for a party as an appetizer instead of the traditional red sauce meatballs. The meatballs and sauce would be fine in a Crock-Pot on low for a few hours. I did change the spice combination in them, as I diddn’t have cardamom, and had no problems. I stock up on Lingonberry jelly (and the drink concentrate too!) when I’m at Ikea, but if you can’t find it then I think boysenberry jam or cranberry jelly would be a good alternative.

This great little BBQ joint opened on Chincoteague a couple of years ago. They have numerous  wonderful specialty sandwiches, but if I was hard pressed I would have to say my favorite was “The Clipper”. It’s pulled pork, with a fresh fried boneless chicken breast on top, smothered in (get this), bacon jam. It was love at first bite. The sandwich is so large, it feeds you for about 3 days. Sadly, the place is seasonal, so you aren’t able to get this wonderous sandwich in the fall and winter months. I’d been thinking about recreating the bacon jam at home for over a year now. Well last week I finally broke down and took a swing at it, and it turned out wonderfully!

Seemed like the general consensus of the internet pointed to Not Quite Nigella’s recipe. It seemed like a winner to me. I knew the version I had at Woody’s contained bacon, brown sugar, and lots of caramelized onions. The coffee seemed like an interesting addition. Coffee is one of the main ingredients in Red Eye Gravy, which I love. Just like with chocolate, adding coffee doesn’t make it taste like coffee. It just  melds with and intensifies the porkiness. I was a little skeptical of the addition of  maple syrup, but went ahead and went with it anyways.

It is kind of time consuming. It took around 2 hours to cook down to the consistency I wanted. But, once I tasted it, I knew it was well worth the effort. The finished product is not greasy at all. I had expected a ton of fat to settle at the top when I had refrigerated it, but in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find there was none! Draining most of the bacon grease before cooking the onions takes care of that issue. Since it’s cooked down so much, then pulsed in the food processor, it spreads on toast like a dream. With an over easy or poached egg, and a glass of orange juice it’s an ideal breakfast for the bacon lover without all the mess of frying bacon. It’s also wonderful spread on a crostinis for a quick appetizer.

Isn’t it amazing that salsa is the #1 condiment in the United States? We love salsa in our house. Whether it’s a chunky pico de gallo, or a smoky salsa verde – we have yet to meet one we diddn’t like. This recipe is no exception. When I came across it on my friend Josie’s site, I knew it was going to be a winner. First of all, it’s Rick Bayless. The man moved to Mexico for 6 years to better learn the cuisine. He knows his salsa, folks.

I also loved the addition of fire-roasted tomatoes as the base. I like using good quality canned tomatoes for the restaurant style salsas that I’ve made in the past, so I knew the flavor could only be amplified by using the fire-roasted variety. The store only had fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic on shopping day, so I adjusted my recipe by reducing the amount of fresh garlic in the recipe by a couple of cloves. My changes are reflected below. The tomatoes lended a smokey sweetness, and the cilantro and lime juice just made it so bright and fresh. Made a nice sized batch that stored in the refrigerator wonderfully for a few days!