Status

Maple Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

I wanted to make a snack that would be the perfect little bite. Something that could go before a meal or be a nice treat after. I had some dates and decided to stuff those with creamy earthy goat cheese then wrap them in savory smokey bacon.  These turned out better than I could have hoped and paired so well with the 2013 Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon that Cultivar Wine recently sent me.

Cultivar Wine with Stuffed Dates

 

My husband is a HUGE fan of these little dates.  He basically wants them available at all times so he can enjoy a date or two in the evenings. This is very high praise, he doesn’t usually request things to have on hand.

They are super simple to make but give the illusion of being very fancy. Their decadent taste certainly helps support the hype. Perfect for get-togethers and special occasions.  Or just because it’s Tuesday, your choice. No judging from me.

Andrea’s Maple Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

  • 12 Dates, split and pitted (**See Note)
  • 6 Slices of Bacon, cut in half
  • 4 oz Goat Cheese
  • 1 TBSP Maple Syrup
  • 2 tsp Light Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 and line a small baking sheet with foil, brush the olive oil all over the foil. Make sure the dates are not cut in half but just split down the middle lengthwise.  Fill each date with some goat cheese (about 1/2 tsp each) and then wrap in bacon. Make sure the seam side is down when you place the dates on the baking sheet.  Continue until all dates are stuffed and wrapped.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Watch to be sure the bacon doesn’t burn. Right before removing the dates from the oven, brush each date with maple syrup.  Continue to bake for another two minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Serve immediately or can be stored in the fridge in an air tight container.

**I used regular dates but you can use medjool dates if preferred. Those are larger so you may need more goat cheese for the filling.

You can get even fancier and used bourbon barrel aged maple syrup if you like.

I highly recommend making a big batch of these if you will be having them at a gathering because they will go quickly! One batch is perfect for date night but you’ll need more for a bigger crowd.

Since these guys are on the sweeter side I decided to pair them with Cultivar Wine’s 2013 Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon which worked beautifully.  The black pepper and tobacco notes brought out the smokiness of the bacon and maple syrup while the dryer finish helped balance out the sweetness.  The wine also accentuated the creaminess of the goat cheese and complimented its earthy flavor.

You can also make these dates ahead of time and then gently reheat them at 350 for about 5 minutes before serving.

If you’d like to try Cultivar Wine , they are offering a special promotion to my readers. Use the code CultivarWineFoodEmbrace when you order and you’ll receive 10 percent off your purchase.

Disclosure: I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site, Food Embrace, and Cultivar Wine. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of product. All opinions presented are my own. I receive wine from Cultivar Wine as a member of the Cultivar Wine Bloggers group. 

 

Status

My Whole 30 Experience

Mini Squash

Going into the Whole 30, I wasn’t really expecting to learn much of anything.  In fact, I wasn’t expecting anything about myself to change at all regarding food.  We eat really well and already eat a mostly primal diet with a few treats here and there.  I thought I knew everything about myself and the Whole 30 showed me that I was wrong.

I went into this challenge to start the year off by eating super clean and to work on losing the bloat and the few pounds I gained over the last few months. (A beer job means you have to drink beer which means that needs to be balanced out somehow. Lesson learned.)

Spoiler Alert: It worked.  Really well.

But during these 30 days I learned a lot about myself and how food affects so many different things aside from my waistline.  I’m already pretty intuitive when it comes to food and how it makes me feel.  The Whole 30 multiplied that by 100.  I’m in awe and completely inspired.  Here are just a few things that I’m coming away with from doing this challenge:

Take It Black

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I’m now drinking my coffee black, this is still the case. I have no desire for any sweetened almond milk added to my coffee.  The craziest I get is adding a little ground spice to the ground beans and brewing for a little extra flavor.

Added Sugar Is Everywhere

It was hard to find things like deli meats and sausages that did not have some form of added sugar to them.  While the amount is small, it is not allowed during the challenge.  This was my biggest frustration because we love sausages and eat them often.  I did find some compliant ones and they were alright.  I don’t want to see another chicken and apple sausage for a very long time though.

Cheese? What Is Cheese?

I was talking with another challenger about missing bacon and she mentioned that she missed cheese. This stopped me dead in my tracks because up until that point I hadn’t even given cheese a second thought. I did not miss it or even thought about it once during this challenge.  WHOA  I had considered myself a lover of cheese yet I completely forgot about it. I’ve had a nibble since the end of the challenge and it was – OK.  Just OK.  I’m currently questioning who I am and the meaning of life at this point.

Yogurt Is In

Yogurt I can handle in small amounts and I’m OK with that.  I do love yogurt and it’s also one of the things I missed during this challenge.  I’m happy to have it back in my life.

Sleep Is Amazing

My sleep, which had been spotty for a while now (and by while, I mean years), has returned to normal. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily fall back asleep.  I’m not restless and I don’t have night sweats (which I get from wheat and alcohol).

Energy

I had plenty of energy and was able to handle working out just fine.  I felt a little tired towards the end of the day but in a natural, I’m-Ready-For-Bed way and not from feeling run down.

Empty Food Is Empty

I’ve had a few snack items, like some chips and they were completely unsatisfying. They didn’t even taste as good as they used to.  It’s completely true that in 1 month you can change your approach, taste, and relationship with food.  I don’t want to reach for junk because it does not satisfy and does not provide my body with anything good.  I’d much rather have real food.

Meal planning and prepping has also become a part of my regular routine.  This has helped so much during the busy work week that I don’t know why I didn’t start this sooner.

Even my husband’s tastes and attitude towards food has changed and for the better.  Aside from a few items added back in we’ll be sticking with a mostly paleo/primal diet.  There were times I got really annoyed and frustrated with this challenge but in the end I’m so glad that we did it.  I walked away learning that much more about food, nutrition, and my own body.

Status

Whole 30 Week 2 and 3 Recap

Tuna salad in a collard wrap with side salad.

 

I just wrapped up Week 3 of the Whole 30 Challenge.  So far things have been going really well.  The diet isn’t that hard to maintain and while it seems restrictive, the reality is that this challenge is not that hard. Fill your plate with veggies and some protein, that’s the basic concept.  That’s pretty easy when you can simplify it like that.

Things that I’ve learned so far during Week 2 and Week 3:

Prepping Protein Is Important

With my work schedule and busy off days, having protein ready to go for lunch is an important meal prepping step. There were a few times where I didn’t have any ready so carving out time to make some put me behind schedule.  Lesson learned, I need to have lots of protein prepped and in the fridge.

Re-heatable Breakfasts Is Key

Making a large fritatta to have ready for the week is also an important step for my schedule.  I did not make one this week and on the days I worked, having to make breakfast for myself and Scott put me a little behind schedule as well.

Prep Dinner The Night Before

On the days I work, I have to take dinner with me.  Leftovers are the easiest thing for me to pack up and take to work. I need to make sure that the night before I pack up my dinner so that it’s ready to go the next day. If I have to spend time packing it up before I leave for work that cuts into my schedule when I could be doing something else.

The biggest lesson these past two weeks has been to make sure that I meal plan and prep for the coming week.  Otherwise I’m scrambling to get stuff made for meals and that takes away from time I could be spending on other things that need my attention.  For this last week, I fully plan on prepping and planning a great deal this weekend so that the 4th week is successful.

I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’ll be sharing all about that when the challenge is completed.

Status

Whole 30 Week 1 Recap

Mahi Mahi, green beans, sweet potato

I started doing the #JanuaryWhole30 because I wanted to kickstart my healthy lifestyle right from the beginning this year.  2016 is ALL ABOUT ME.  Last year was supposed to be that way but I got derailed and let things slide. I didn’t really fall off the wagon but I wasn’t being as proactive as I should have been.

This year is going to be different.  I’ve started Crossfit, which I adore.  And along with that it was time to really dial in my nutrition and get on the right track for all the performance goals I have this year.  We eat pretty well but it could be better.  Whole 30 was a way to put the goal into motion.

I’ve been doing strict Whole 30 for a little over a week now.  This is my first official Whole 30 so I’m following the rules to a T. There are things I thought would be challenging and things that I thought would be easy.  So far, my perceptions were way off.

Black Coffee

Normally I take my coffee with a splash of vanilla almond milk.  I thought that switching to black coffee with a little coconut oil would be difficult.  I even thought that I might have to give up coffee for a month.  This was a breeze. I probably won’t even go back to creamer in my coffee after this.  After a week of having coconut oil blended with my coffee, I can now just have my coffee straight up black.  This is HUGE for me.

No Added Sugar

This is HARD. I’m not a sugar junkie and don’t have issues with sugar in items. I don’t even have a sweet tooth. However sugar is in everything! Finding compliant items like sausages is very challenging. Even breakfast sausage has added sugar.  And you can’t add natural sugars to items so no honey in salad dressings.  This would be the part that I find more frustrating. I really miss breakfast sausage. Boo.

Energy and Sleep

Right now I feel amazing. I don’t know if I would consider this the Tiger Blood mode because I’m still pretty tired and worn out come 4pm.  However, I think that’s because of Crossfit and not diet.  Crossfit just wears me out but in a good way.  I’m tired from working hard not because of diet.

Sleep has been amazing! Night time anxiety has gone way down and I’m able to fall asleep a lot easier when I wake up during the night.

Doing the Whole 30 has finally got me into meal planning and prepping habit.  I’ve tried to do a little before but never really embraced it.  Now, on Sundays I prep a bunch of foods for the week and have my meals planned out. This makes life so much easier, and saves so much time during the week.  Especially in the mornings when I can just reheat stuff for breakfast.

I’m not doing this for weightloss but if that is one of the results, I’m not going to complain.  I have already lost a lot of bloat and a few inches which I’m basing on the way I feel and how my clothes fit, not because I weighted or measured myself.  Saving that for the end of the challenge!

So far I’m happy to have started this challenge and am looking forward to seeing how I feel at the end.

Status

Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

This smoked salmon and blue cheese ball is full of bold flavors and pairs perfectly with the 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll Chardonnay that I received as part of their Cultivar Wine Bloggers.

Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

 

During the holidays when I was a kid, one of the things that I looked forward to the most was the cheese ball and salmon ball that my mom made as part of the holiday table.  We only had it once a year and it was glorious.  I liked the cheese ball a lot but the salmon ball was my jam.  It was the only time I enjoyed eating salmon (I’m a grown adult now so things have clearly changed) and I lived for that salmon ball.

My mom was a proper 1960s-70s housewife so of course we had cheese ball when entertaining.  Sometimes jello molds as well but we don’t talk about those.

The cheese ball has died away and I’m not sure why.  Oh sure you may see some store bought concoction with it’s bright orange color and dotted with almonds sitting all alone on a table at a random gathering, but a cheese ball that someone made that’s actually delicious is no where to be found.

I decided to change that this year and created a dressed up version of the salmon ball my mom used to make.  This makes a lot which is perfect if you’re hosting a party or bringing a dish to one.  You can easily cut this recipe in half to create a smaller ball for smaller gatherings.

I used smoked salmon and blue cheese and paired this with 2013 Cultivar Wine Oak Knoll Chardonnay.  The butteriness of this wine balances out the sharp smoke of the salmon and brings out it’s briny bite.  The crisp citrus notes help tone down the blue cheese and helps cut through the creaminess of the spread.

This dish is great for entertaining or just to have as a snack while you binge some Netflix. No judgment here.

Andrea’s Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 C Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 6 oz Smoked Salmon* (see note at bottom)
  • 2 Green Onions, chopped, both white and green parts
  • 1 TBSP Prepared Horseradish
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 TBSP Dried Dill
  • Sliced almonds for garnish
  • Dried cranberries for garnish

Add all ingredients except salmon and green onions, to a food processor and process until smooth.  Remove mixture from processor and add to a bowl.  Add in the salmon and green onion, mix till everything is combined.

Place mixture on some plastic wrap and shape into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge.  Allow to set up for at least 4 hours before serving.  Best if made the day before.

Carefully remove from wrap and place on a plate.  Stud with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.  Serve with crackers and veggies.  Keeps for 4 days.

*The smoked salmon I used is from the Honey Smoked Fish Company so it’s not the typical thinly sliced looks almost raw smoked salmon that you’re probably used to seeing.  I personally love this kind of smoked salmon and eat it all the time.  If you can’t find this style of smoked salmon you can certainly try using the other version.  You’ll want to chop that up before adding it to the mixture.  I can’t guarantee the outcome though since I haven’t tested that out.

Dried cranberries are a great addition to this recipe so I recommended being generous when adding them at the end.  That punch of sweetness is a lovely pairing with the blue cheese.

If you’re interested in trying out Cultivar Wine, as a reader of Food Embrace, you will be given 10% off your order.  Use the code, FoodEmbrace at checkout.

Disclaimer: I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site, Food Embrace, and Cultivar Wine. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of product or experience. All opinions and recipes presented are my own.