Apple, Bacon, and Leek Bread Pudding

This year I have finally been trying to whittle down my recipe collection. I have quite a few cookbooks and magazines recipes that I have saved that had yet to get tested to see if they are a family favorite.  So far we have found quite a few new go-to recipes.  One that I tried the other week I tinkered with quite a bit, changing ingredient proportions, swapping out cheese kinds, and omitting an ingredient I thought wouldn’t compliment the dish.  The end result was an Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding that is sure to be a part of our Thanksgiving gathering this year.

When you try this recipe (or the original found here on don’t forget to read all the instructions ahead of time, as it does require a rest step in the refrigerator to let the bread soak up the pudding base.

If you have any other favorite stuffing or bread pudding that can rival this Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding in terms of best holiday side dish I would love to hear about it!

Apple, Bacon, Leek Bread Pudding

  • 12 oz crusty country bread (or Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread if gluten free), ripped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces of bacon
  • 2 large leeks, white and tender green parts cut into half moon slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 granny smith apples, cored and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Place bread on a full baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minute or until crisp, stirring once. Set aside.  At the same time, place the bacon on a full backing sheet and bake until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the baking sheet and drain on a paper towel, reserve 3 tablespoons of the drippings. Crumble the bacon and add to a large bowl.

Add the reserved drippings to a large skillet. Heat the large skillet over medium-high heat and add the leeks.  Cook until just tender and then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.  Add the apples and cook for another 2 minutes or until the apples begin to soften.  Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the bacon and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together the eggs, whipping cream, water, salt, and pepper until well mixed.  Add the bread chunks and the cheese to the leek mixture, then pour the liquid over the bread-leek mixture and stir to coat.  Pour into a greased 13 inch X 9 inch casserole dish.  Cover and chill for 2 1/2 hours to overnight. 

Remove from the refrigerator and let stand while the oven preheats to 400ºF.  Bake, covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 170ºF.  Serve.


Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

Who doesn’t love bacon? Right? Now combine bacon with one of my favorite blogger contests – the Saucy Mama Blogger Contest – and I couldn’t wait to get started.  First comes the hard part of choosing products to sample since they all sound so good.  From the variety of mustards, sauces, and marinades I finally narrowed it down to the Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce and Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade to work into my dish.

My entry for this year’s contest is a blend of one of my favorite appetizers (bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates) and Turkish apricots to create Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots.

I mixed the Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade (and a bit of green onions and bacon) into some ricotta cheese for a well spiced, creamy stuffing. Once stuffed and wrapped with bacon, the apricots got a coating of Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce for a sweet kick.  The Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots are baked until the bacon is crisp, and the wing sauce has caramelized.

My family loved them so much I don’t know if I could make enough for a party since they fly off the plate so fast.  Give them a try and see what I mean!

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

You can find other Saucy Mama recipes and products on their facebook and pinterest pages

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

14 slices (1 ½ pounds) applewood smoked bacon, divided
4 ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons minced green onions
2 teaspoons Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade
24 dried apricots
24 toothpicks
¼ cup Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce


Pre-heat the oven to 375 °F.

Place 2 pieces of bacon in a 12-inch skillet.  Pan fry the bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp; cool and crumble.

Mix ricotta cheese, green onion, crumbled bacon, and Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade, stirring to combine.   Gently pull open the cavity in the dried apricots and place ~1 teaspoon of ricotta in the center of each (i.e. equally divide the ricotta mixture between the apricots). Cut the remaining bacon slices in half, wrap one around each apricot, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a large baking sheet (13 inches x 18 inches), and evenly brush the tops of the wrapped apricots with the Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve.


4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

I love the draw of the TV show Chopped – either it is the awe of the unusual ingredients the contestants have to work with, or shock of ingredients I can’t imagine having to use to craft a master recipe. Like most of us, I have wondered what it would be like to try my hand at the competition.

Recently, Food Network paired with Sargento cheese to sponsor a 3-round content with various “basket ingredients”. I entered round 3, which required contestants to use the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar, kale, bacon, and oyster crackers. While I didn’t make it to the final competition, I was a winner with my family in the recipe I created – this 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole.


I was inspired by a typical potluck dish – “funeral potatoes”. A decadent dish of hash browns and cheese, topped with a crunchy cereal crust is a often a favorite at church potlucks, family BBQs, and yes funerals. I decided to take the dish up a notch by stirring in a bit of kale and bacon, and by swapping the corn flake toping for oyster crackers. I also lightened it up, while maintaining the creaminess by using blended cottage cheese.


The resulting 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole can easily be served as a side for either breakfast or dinner. Quite honestly, I don’t know which meal is my favorite to serve this dish – let me know which you prefer!


The finalists in the cooking contest battled it out live for the judges – you can view the results at this link.

4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

¾ pound hickory smoked bacon
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup diced shallot
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
30 ounce bag frozen, shredded hash browns, partially thawed
10 ounce bag of frozen kale, thawed and well drained
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 and 7/8 cups shredded Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese (about 1 ½, 7.5oz bags), divided
1 cup oyster crackers, crushed


Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain on paper towels. Reduce the oven to 350 °F.

Place the cottage cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth; set aside.

Add the butter to a medium sized skilled and heat until melted. Add the diced shallot and cook, stirring until translucent and begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, then set aside. Chop the cooled, cooked bacon and add to a large bowl along with the hash browns, drained kale, pepper, and 1 and 7/8 cups of the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese blend (1 bag). Pour the shallot and garlic mixture over the hash browns, and add the blended cottage cheese. Stir until well mixed, then spread into a pre-greased 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish. Top the casserole with an even layer of the crushed oyster crackers.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar®. Return the casserole to the oven and continue to bake until it bubbles around the side, about 20 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into slices and serve. Makes 12 servings.