12 Food Matches Made in Heaven

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Everyone’s definition of heaven is different. Not everyone thinks it exists. All I know is that, if there is a heaven, then there has got to be good food there. And if there isn’t one, then we can make our own right here, right now with the foods that make every day amazing.

One thing The Smart Cookie Cook does well is construct incredible food hybrids. I know what foods work together, and I guess you could call me a culinary mad scientist of sorts. The fusions I fashion are not always expected. Sometimes, you just need your eyes opened to a beautiful pairing. Other times, of course, a duo that has stood the test of time reminds us of its perfection.

Today, I’ve compiled my favorite food matches made in heaven so we can all have a little divinity to our days.

  1. Loaded Cheese Fries Grilled Cheese – The two greatest cheese-covered foods are a couple now, and they’re hot.
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  2. Brownie-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cups – What a beautiful chocolate-peanut butter union.
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  3. Eggplant Parmesan Grilled Cheese – I love eggplant parm (who doesn’t?), but I haven’t the patience to build a whole casserole, bake it, and tangle with cutting it to eat it. Why not make it in 30 minutes and eat it with your hands instead?
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  4. Vodka Blush Pizza – Blush sauce on pizza? Just when you thought pizza couldn’t get any better!
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  5. Mac & Cheese Garlic Bread – You already love a crusty, garlicky breadcrumb topping on mac and cheese, so why not reverse it?
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  6. French Toasted Donuts – Two breakfast powerhouses working together in an unbeatable treat.

    Made this French Toasted Donut at 11pm

  7. Tater Tot Tacos with Queso Sauce – Does your favorite crunchy side dish belong atop your favorite weeknight meal? Yes, sir.
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  8. Pumpkin Alfredo Tortellini – Pumpkin and alfredo should have found each other sooner.
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  9. Hello Dolly Ice Cream – everyone’s favorite cookie bar and cool ice cream come together.
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  10. Garlic Bread Pizzas – It just makes sense.
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  11. Skillet Pizza Monkey Bread – Monkey bread just met it’s cheesy soulmate.
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  12. Waffle Brownies – The best way to eat a hot, fresh brownie buried in ice cream.

    img_1984What food couples do YOU consider a match made in heaven?

Smart Cookie Health Update

I’ve got some bad news: I’m still sick. Naturally, doctors are taking their merry time to tell me what exactly is wrong, but in the meantime, I’m trying to rest and stay nourished. I want to warn you guys that I don’t know how consistent posting will be this week because I am so weighed down by this, and nobody wants to eat what you make when you’re sick anyway, so I’ve got no one to give my food too. Let’s hope for a quick turn-around so I can keep churning out new things for you.

Please bear with me. Hopefully I’ll have something for you tommorrow.

Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cookies

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I’m persistent in the kitchen when it comes to baking blunders, but even I have to know when it’s time to throw in the towel. You see, I’d been sick all weekend, and all I wanted yesterday were some gosh darn pancakes, so I stupidly thought it’d be easy to throw them together from scratch without referencing a recipe. I went through two batches, and although the second batch was at least an improvement, neither were passable as p-cakes. So, I went and ate away my distress with appetizers from Applebee’s, then came back and regrouped.

Thank goodness my second attempt in the kitchen went better than the first, or we wouldn’t have these Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies to chat about. Everyone goes crazy for their hot pumpkin-flavored beverages this time of year like pumpkin spice coffees from Dunkin Donuts or pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, so I thought it’d be even more fun to fuse those flavors into a handheld treat.

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The original pumpkin cookie recipe that I adapted here is one of my favorite recipes of all time because it yields cookies that are so soft, they melt away on your tongue, and the pumpkin flavor is just right. They’re so tasty, you’d think they should be illegal. Plus, you can enjoy ‘em plain or with a multitude of frostings and glazes.

Today, we will be covering our little pumpkin clouds with a dollop of fluffy whipped cream, the ideal not-too-sweet topping for a latte. This is a “me time” kind of cookie, one you’ll want to enjoy in solitude so you can close your eyes and let the cookie’s comforting spices take you away to your favorite coffee shop.

Why don’t we give those java joints a run for their money this season? Their drinks just can’t compare to my Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you want to keep things simple, the topping is optional.
  2. Never skip chilling time. It lets the flavors come together and ensures a puffier cookie.
  3. Mini chocolate chips might be lovely in here as well.
  4. Never overbake! That’s the key to a super soft cookie.
  5. I always recommend working with parchment paper. It ensure a clean break for the cookies every time.
  6. If you want something else to do with that espresso powder, try my Mocha Brownie Fudge.
For the cookies

For the cookies

For the whipped cream

For the whipped cream

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies

Yield: about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies
Cookies adapted from Food.com

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the whipped cream
Glaze by The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, espresso powder and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour mixture on low-speed a little bit at a time. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before continuing.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes until puffed and set.
  5. Let cool on trays for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks. Let cool completely.
  6. Make the whipped cream: place cream, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with a hand mixer until it starts to thicken up. Add the cornstarch and continue to beat until stiff peaks have formed. Spread a scant tablespoon on each cookie.
  7. Store cookies in fridge in an air-tight container.

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The Weekender: Weddings, Illness, & Cuteness

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This week was rough because I got hit with the weirdest flu, and it knocked me down hard. I even lost my appetite, and we all know how rare of an occasion that is. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m feeling much better. Every time I show improvement, I crash again.

You know what will cheer me up though? Talking about food. We’ve got a whole week’s worth of recipes to help up.

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Pumpkin Brownie Milkshake
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  2. Mocha Brownie Fudge
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  3. Fresh Mozzarella, Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Skillet
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  4. Smart Cookie Shopping 36SCS 36

When you’re feeling sick, it’s nice to know you’re cared about. I wouldn’t know how that feels though because Mother Cookie says stuff like this to me:

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It’s okay; she was just kidding. I think.

Most of the time, it feels like she loves my babies more than me, but I really can’t blame her for that. I mean, just look at that face! Y’all went crazy for this one on my Instagram. If you’re not following me yet, it’s a great way to go behind the scenes and see recipes before they make it on the site. Plus, you get to see daily cuteness like this.

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On another note, Sister Cookie gets married in less than two weeks, and I think everyone in the Cookie family is going nuts in preparation. Weddings sure are a lot of work! Plus, being the Maid of Honor comes with a ton of pressure. I hope I don’t crumble like a cookie beneath it.

Wish us luck!

DSC08112That’s it for this week’s edition of The Weekender. See you on Monday!

 

 

 

Smart Cookie Shopping 36: Halloween Treats, Cream of Wheat, & More

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Every time I’m out at the grocery store, I’m thinking about you guys. I try to scope out products beyond my own grocery list that are new to the market so that I can snag them and review them for you. I typically collect the products in the week between our bi-weekly Smart Cookie Shopping posts, and it’s hard sometimes to wait to share things I’m excited about.

This week, I was elated to see my grocery store broke out the Halloween candy, so I have a few seasonal sweets to share with you, among other things. Are you ready to shop?

1. Kellogg’s Jiff Cerealavailable in the cereal aisle

Yes, folks, Jiff had to make a cereal, much like every big brand eventually winds up doing (Ore-O’s, anyone?). I have to say, this wasn’t bad. The texture is crunchy without being so tough that it tears up your mouth, and there’s a good amount of PB flavor. The stats weren’t bad either: 110 cal per serving.

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2. Russell Stover’s Pecan Pie Big Bite available in the Halloween/holiday aisle of some grocery stores and pharmacies

This is essentially chocolate-covered brown sugar poorly stuck to a graham cracker. You look at the graham cracker the wrong way, and it falls off. This was much too sweet. Perhaps a dark chocolate coating would’ve helped, and more nuts.

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3. Nature Valley Protein Bars in Peanut, Almond, & Dark Chocolateavailable in the cereal aisle

I’m a big fan of these bars because they’ve got 10g of protein, and they’re tasty to-boot. I do, however, prefer the peanut butter kind.

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4. Nature Valley Protein Bars in Salted Caramel Nutavailable in the cereal aisle

This one wasn’t very “salted caramel-y.” I think I’ll stick with the flavor above or the PB.

5. Russell Stover’s Pumpkin Pie Big Biteavailable with the Halloween candy in grocery stores & pharmacies

This was slightly better than the Pecan Pie, but still way too sweet. I am, however, curious to try making a better version myself now.

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Photo from Russell Stovers

6. Russell Stover’s Candy Appleavailable with the Halloween candy in grocery stores & pharmacies

This really confused me because, at first, I thought I tasted apple flavor, but then I wasn’t sure. You’re better off sticking to real candy apples.

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Photo from Russell Stover

7. Smuckers Milk Chocolate Fudge Sauceavailable near the ice cream toppings

I liked the flavor, chocolatiness, and viscosity of this hot fudge, but it had a very off-putting graininess to its texture.

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8. Bananas & Cream Cream of Wheatavailable in the cereal aisle

Cream of Wheat is a love-it-or-hate-it food, but I never had a problem with it. I found the banana flavor to be mild, but tasty. I don’t, however, think I’ll be able to finish off this whole box without getting sick of it first.

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9. Assorted Trick-or-Treat Bagsavailable at Hannaford near the Halloween candy

This bag was so darn cute, and it was only a few bucks, so I couldn’t resist snagging one. It is shiny, festive, and the perfect size for trick-or-treating.

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That’s it for this week’s shopping trip! Have you tried any of these products?

 

Fresh Mozzarella, Eggplant, & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Skillet

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Is it pastable to get sick of pasta?

See what I did there?

That was a hypothetical question anyway. There are so many different ways to do pasta, that it’d be impossible to tire of it. Just when I think I’ve discovered every single way to enjoy it, I encounter a new combination of flavors and ingredients to try.

As a big fan of cream-based sauces, I am constantly trying to push myself out of my comfort zone with pastas that instead utilized red sauces or light sauces.

Okay, that’s a big fat lie. I’m a creature of habit, and if I can gravitate towards a cream-based, cheesy sauce, then I will. However, I really did step out of my comfort zone tonight with this Fresh Mozzarella, Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Skillet.

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This is a simple 30-minute meal that’s overflowing with flavor. I cooked the eggplant to tender perfection with shallots and garlic so that it literally melts right in your mouth. Roasted red peppers add sweetness and zest, plus we kick up the heat even more with red pepper flakes. There certainly is some kick in every bite, but if I can handle the heat, anyone can.

Of course, my favorite part is the sweet and mild fresh mozzarella that melts beautifully over top. It’s like a blanket, a delicious and gooey blanket. Does anyone know where I can get myself a mozzarella blanket to snuggle up under tonight?

If not, cuddling up to a bowl of this pasta will do. It’s deceptively filling, and it’s got flavor for days. Plus it looks like something straight out of a fancy Italian restaurant. That means when your significant other comes home to this skillet of heaven on the table, you can act like you slaved all night over it, and they’ll be so impressed.

I know, I’m evil.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I love the herb paste because it lasts much longer than fresh herbs, but still has the flavor. Find them in the produce section near the regular herbs.
  2. You can swap out the rigatoni for whatever pasta shape you like.
  3. Don’t have a shallot on hand? Half a regular onion will get the job done.
  4. If this starts to dry out, just add more oil or more pepper juice.
  5. I think some chopped artichokes would go great in here too.

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Fresh Mozzarella, Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Skillet
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. rigatoni, cooked
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup juices from the red pepper jar
  • 1 packed cup roasted red peppers & their juices, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Italian herb paste
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 tbsp. of the olive oil to medium heat. Add shallots and saute for two minutes.
  2. Add garlic, eggplant and salt and let cook until completely tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. As it starts to dry up, sprinkle in more oil, a little at a time. Feel free to add more than listed if you see fit.
  3. Fold in peppers, herbs and pepper flakes. Let cook for 5 minutes more then fold in the pasta until evenly coated. Add a smidgen more oil or red pepper juice. Turn heat down to low and lay cheese out on top of pasta then cover and let melt, about 5 minutes. Enjoy.

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Dark Mocha Brownie Fudge

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You can probably guess why this fudge came into existence. I made that Pumpkin & Brownie Fudge Milkshake yesterday, and I had a bunch of delectable little brownie chunks leftover. Why did I decide to fold bits of brownie into already rich fudge? Because I can.

Make no mistake, this Dark Mocha Brownie Fudge is quite rich, but it’s not too rich. It’s indulgent, sinful, and it’ll make you feel like a very bad girl or boy for eating it, but you’ll love every second. The texture is creamy and smooth, and the cooking method couldn’t be simpler. There’s no candy thermometer involved.

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There is one awful, evil thing about this fudge though – you’ve got to wait at least six hours for it to set before you can eat it. Difficult as that may be, it’s worth it. There is nothing as satisfying as sinking your teeth into that first thick and chocolaty bite.

This is some dark stuff, my friends. You’re used to fudge being sickeningly sweet, but we opt for a less sugary mix of chocolate so that the sweetness isn’t overbearing. The brownie chunks studded throughout seem to melt right in, so they aren’t intrusive on your fudge-eating experience like crunchy nuts or other mix-ins might be.

Little mom and pop shops and farmers markets like to make you think that fudge is this special treat you’ve got to pay them an arm and a leg for, but you can make it at home with little effort. If you can spare 20 minutes at the stove, then you can have yourself some fudge.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. As long as you cook the fudge at a low heat and stir constantly, you don’t have to worry about the chocolate burning.
  2. Melted chocolate is temperamental. Never let water in melted chocolate because it will seize up. Make sure your pots and spoons are completely dry before using.
  3. Absolutely do not skip lining the pan with parchment paper, or you will never get the fudge out of the pan.
  4. It takes quite a bit of espresso to get the flavor to stand out because coffee and chocolate are so complimentary.

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Dark Mocha Brownie Fudge
Adapted from Chow.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups brownie chunks (I just baked up a Pillsbury box mix)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with an 8-inch wide piece of parchment paper so that the excess hangs over the sides. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate, condensed milk and espresso in a large pot over low heat. Stir until completely melted. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla and 2 cups brownie chunks.
  3. Immediately transfer to prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Top with remaining brownie crumbles and press down lightly. Let cool to room temperature then transfer to fridge to set completely, at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and use the excess parchment paper as handles to work the fudge out of the pan. Cut into squares. Store in fridge in an air-tight container.

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Pumpkin & Brownie Fudge Milkshake

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Milkshakes are something I’ve got to be in the right mood for. All I ever drink is water, but when I am willing to shy away from it, the one thing I’ll splurge on is a milkshake. It’s drinkable ice cream; obviously, I enjoy it.

The last time I had a shake was over the summer at Steak n’ Shake in WV where I got an indulgent fudge brownie concoction. I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind since (HA!), so  I decided to put a fall-inspired twist on it with my Pumpkin & Brownie Fudge Milkshake.

I took creamy vanilla ice cream, real pumpkin, warm spices, rich brownie chunks, and hot fudge and blended it all up into a thick and dreamy drink that combines multiple desserts in one. It’s even more scrumptious than it looks, folks. And it’s so thick, the straw could barely handle it.

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Chocolate and pumpkin are a beautiful couple, so you can imagine this is a glorious shake. Not to mention, milkshakes are some of the easiest, quickest desserts to make. They’re not an exact science, and they’re all about making a mess of things, which is music to my ears considering I’m known as the Kitchen Tornado.

You know what the greatest thing about the shake was? I had it all to myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was making it until after it was gone. Treating myself to a tall, frosty glass of creamy pumpkin and fudge was sinful but so satisfying. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Let’s raise our glasses to pumpkin season!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. What you see in the picture is the entire recipe in one glass, but it’s a big glass. You can easily split this with someone.
  2. I made this in a food processor, but a blender works just as well.
  3. Freezing the glass beforehand isn’t detrimental, but it lets the fudge hug the sides of the glass.
  4. Feel free to get some cute Halloween straws for these.

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Pumpkin & Brownie Fudge Milkshake
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brownie chunks
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream
  • Fudge sauce (preferably in a squeezable bottle)
  • Optional: whipped cream & sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Place the glass you want to serve the shake in into the freezer and let chill for 20 minutes. Place brownie chunks in a food processor or blender and pulse until they break up into crumb size.
  2. Add pumpkin, spice, vanilla, and ice cream and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.
  3. Drizzle fudge sauce onto the inside of the chilled glass. Pour mixture into glass and top with whipped cream, sprinkles, and more brownie chunks.

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The Weekender: Feeling Like Fall

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It finally decided to get hot here in CNY…as soon as I had to go back to school. And what’s better yet is that school chose this week to work on the air conditioning, so we were all melting to death. Where has the beautiful weather been all summer?

However, it does seem short-lived. The rain has returned, and I believe summer is on its way out. Sad as this is, y’all know I am eager to embrace the flavors and décor of fall. I am all ready to whip out the Halloween paraphernalia, but I will try to wait another couple of weeks.

The key word is “try.”

But just because I’m waiting on decorating for fall does not mean I’m waiting on cooking for it. Don’t believe me? Just take a look back at the seasonal recipes that popped up this week.

  1. Bacon & Brown Rice in Pumpkin Cream Sauce
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  2. No-Bake Double Pumpkin Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
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  3. Rosie’s Trattoria – Randolph, NJ
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  4. Loaded Cheese Fries Grilled Cheese
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I’m so in the fall spirit that I couldn’t resist grabbing this cute little Halloween bag from my local grocery store. I guess this means I’m going trick-or-treating. You’re never too old!

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I also crafted these simple but pretty fall-inspired nails featuring a dark crimson red and copper accent nail. They were quick to do, but had a striking effect.

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Speaking of striking, look at my beautiful Mr. Poe’s eyes. He should be a model, don’t you think?

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If drooling over that good-looking guy isn’t your style, then perhaps you’d prefer to drool over this Pumpkin Brownie Milkshake instead? This decadent tower of deliciousness is coming your way this week!

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You can catch even more photos of milkshakes, my cats, and other food fun on my new Instagram account.

Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

How was your week? Are you welcoming fall, or do you wish it would wait a bit longer?

Bacon Brown Rice in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

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We’ve had two meat recipes in two weeks on here. No, you’re not imagining things. In all honestly, I had bacon leftover from those Loaded Cheese Fries Grilled Cheeses, and pumpkin leftover from the Double Pumpkin Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls; So I’m just being the savvy Smart Cookie I am and repurposing it all by making this Bacon Brown Rice in Pumpkin Cream Sauce.

See that green stuff? That’s my favorite herb of all time: sage. I love cooking with it in the fall, especially if it’s paired with squash. Its warm flavor makes this such a comforting dish between that and the bacon. Putting these delicious ingredients together is a bit unexpected, but so good.

Bacon and pumpkin together = a comfort food match made in heaven.

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Would you believe the guy behind me at the checkout as I was buying my pumpkin had the nerve to say, “It’s too early for pumpkin”? I looked back at him coldly, and I emotionlessly replied, “It’s never too early.” The good news is, if you agree with that man, you can bookmark this recipe until you’re ready for it.

I love the creaminess of this sauce, and the fact that its velvet-like texture is due to the pumpkin, and not just cream. The parmesan, of course, is optional, but I don’t know why you’d ever turn down a bit of cheese.

This is a quick and easy dinner for a fall night, one that I bet you could even get your picky kids to eat pumpkin with. It’s savory, rich, and it basically gives your soul a big warm hug.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. This dish can be done with butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Use the pureed frozen kind, and probably a bit less cream.
  2. Are you vegetarian like me? Skip the bacon altogether, or substitute with kidney beans.
  3. Serve over multigrain pasta instead of rice, if you prefer.
  4. I advise stocking up on pumpkin now before the holidays loom closer and the shelves start to empty.
  5. This makes a great alternative Thanksgiving dish for people who don’t like turkey.
  6. Please use fresh sage. Dried just will not give this dish what it deserves.

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Bacon & Brown Rice with Pumpkin Cream Sauce
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to box directions
  • 8 strips bacon
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, plus more for topping
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large skillet to medium heat. Add bacon and cook to desired doneness. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and reserve oil in pan.
  2. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add garlic to bacon oil and let cook for 1 minute. Whisk in pumpkin, sage, and cream until evenly combined. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.
  3. Whisk in parmesan and salt until cheese is completely melted. Turn off heat and fold in the rice and bacon. Sprinkle with more sage, if desired, and serve immediately.

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