The joys of bacon

By Susan McClanahan

Everything is better wrapped in bacon. The possibilities of food items that you can wrap in bacon would be immense, but I chose just a few to share with you today. From meat, to seafood, to vegetables and fruit, I've tried to include a variety of different choices. You can be creative and think up your own version to try.

Scallops Wrapped in Bacon

Delicious, sweet, juicy goodness wrapped in love.

* 4 large sea scallops

* 4 slices bacon

* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

* 1 teaspoon brown sugar

* Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start the bacon in the oven, about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium heat.

Rinse the scallops and pat dry. Season edges with cayenne and brown sugar. Wrap each scallop with a piece of bacon and add to a metal skewer. Season tops and bottoms of scallops with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium heat (oil grill grates to avoid sticking) for about 2-3 minutes per side.

Spicy-Sweet Bacon- Wrapped Brat Bites

* 3 beers

* 1 onion, roughly chopped

* 3 bratwursts

* 6 pieces of uncured bacon, cut in half

* 12 toothpicks

* 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or raw honey

* 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or preferred hot sauce)...another tablespoon if you like it hot!

* 1/4 cup parsley (optional garnish)

Bring 3 beers, onions, and brats to a boil in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Cut brats in quarters.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap each brat section with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

Whisk together maple syrup and hot sauce. Brush onto the wrapped brat sections.

Place on a broiler or raised rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the bacon drippings).

Cook for 35 minutes until bacon is crisp. Garnish with optional chopped parsley.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites

Sweet and sour bacon wrapped pineapple is a spin on the classic bacon wrapped water chestnuts with a twist. Healthy, easy and delicious!

For the bites:

* 24 strips bacon

* 1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks drained (about 48 chunks)

For the sauce:

* 3/4 cup 100% grape juice (not from concentrate)

* 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce

* 1/4 cup dates (very lightly packed)

* 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

* 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

* 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

* 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

* 1/8 teaspoon pepper

* Pinch ground allspice

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and place a cooling rack on top of it.

Stir together all of the sauce ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the sauce has boiled for 1 1/2 minutes, turn the heat down to medium and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken and reduce, about 9-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Once reduced, pour the sauce into a high powered blender, or small food processor, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a measuring cup (you should have about 6 ounces.)

Pour the drained pineapple onto a layer of paper towel. Use another paper towel to gently press out excess moisture.

Cut all the bacon slices in half vertically. Then wrap half a slice around each pineapple -- you can hold in some slices of bacon if they are super thick, but they shrink A LOT once cooking. Place the wrapped pineapple onto the cooling rack, wrapped side down, on top of the cookie sheet. You'll need to pack them together tightly to fit them all on.

Bake until the bacon is nice and crispy and golden brown, about 37-40 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees.

Rub all of the sauce over top of the bites, making sure you spread it on nice and thick.

Bake until the sauce is thick and cooked, but still a little bit "goopy," about 15 minutes.

Bacon Wrapped Pickles

This recipe uses a brand name pickle that they named "Dirty Dill" pickles. It is a good dill pickle with added chili peppers and plenty of garlic. You can look for a similar type at your local markets.

* 12 Dirty Dill Spears

* 12 strips of bacon

* 1/4 cup ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap each Dirty Dill Spear in bacon. Place the bacon-wrapped pickles on a baking sheet, seam side down. Bake until the bacon is cooked through and crispy, 12 to 15 minutes, turning halfway if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature with ranch, if desired.

Bacon Wrapped Avocados

This bacon wrapped avocados recipe is sure to win over everyone you know. Crispy brown sugar bacon wrapped around a creamy avocado, it's that easy!

* 4-6 strips of bacon

* 1 avocado

* 1/3 cup brown sugar

* 1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and chili powder. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.

Cut open the avocado and remove the pit. Slice about 3/4-inch slices lengthwise through the avocado, and then cut through the middle to cut all of the slices in half so that you have thick chunks of avocado.

Cut each slice of bacon in 3-5 pieces and wrap each piece around the avocado. Roll in the brown sugar mixture and place on the baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven to a platter and stick a tooth pick in each for serving.

Depending on the size of your avocado pieces and length of your bacon you may get a different number of chunks of bacon. You can wrap an end around the first piece of avocado just to measure and then cut all of the bacon together accordingly.

Bacon Wrapped Dates and Almonds

You can be creative by adding goat cheese or change the almond to pecans or whatever you can dream up.

* 35 to 40 pitted dates

* 70 to 80 salted roasted almonds

* 2 pounds thin bacon, cut in half

* Special equipment: 35 to 40 toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Stuff each date with 1 to 2 almonds. Wrap each date with half a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Bake, turning the dates halfway through so the bacon is evenly cooked, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bacon-Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin

* 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)

* 3 tablespoons brown sugar

* 2 teaspoons kosher salt

* 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular can be substituted)

* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

* 4 to 6 slices good-quality bacon

* 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral high-heat oil)

* 1/4 cup Major Grey's Chutney (see recipe note)

* 2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) from the pork tenderloin with a sharp knife if needed. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.

Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear -- do not disturb it while it's searing -- until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.

Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a probe thermometer reads 140 degrees, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.

Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.

Notes: You can find Major Grey's Chutney at most grocery stores, or purchase it online. You can also substitute another favorite chutney or jam.

Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

* 1/4 cup sugar

* 1/4 cup lemon juice

* 2 tablespoons olive oil

* 4 teaspoons paprika

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon pepper

* 1 teaspoon curry powder

* 1 teaspoon ground cumin

* 1 teaspoon ground coriander

* 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

* 18 uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

* 9 bacon strips, halved lengthwise

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, lemon juice, oil and seasonings. Pour 1/4 cup marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add shrimp. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade for basting.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crisp. Drain on paper towels. Remove shrimp from marinade; discard marinade. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Grill bacon-wrapped shrimp, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 5-10 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, turning and basting with reserved marinade. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.

Bacon-Wrapped Apricot Bites

These sweet and slightly smoky snacks are easy to eat, so be prepared with an extra batch. For a change, sprinkle them with a bit of blue cheese or toasted almonds.

* 8 maple-flavored bacon strips

* 1 package (6 ounces) dried apricots

* 1/2 cup honey barbecue sauce

* 1 tablespoon honey

* 1-1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Cut bacon strips widthwise into thirds. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until partially cooked but not crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Wrap a bacon piece around each apricot; secure with a toothpick. Place in an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, honey and mustard. Serve with warm apricot bites. Yield: about 2 dozen (2/3 cup sauce).

Sweet and Spicy Bacon Chicken Bites

* 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes

* 12 slices bacon, cut into thirds

* Salt and pepper

* Garlic powder

* Chili powder, if desired

* 2/3 cup brown sugar

* Toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder (if using).

Wrap each piece of chicken with a strip of bacon and secure bacon with toothpick. Place the brown sugar on a plate then roll each chicken piece in the brown sugar. Place the chicken pieces on the greased cookie sheet.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is brown and crispy.

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Livers with Water Chestnuts

* 4 slices bacon, halved

* 8 canned water chestnuts, drained

* 4 chicken livers, cut in half

* Soy sauce

* 1 teaspoon grated, peeled fresh ginger

* 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay bacon on a cookie sheet and bake until cooked but not crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and drain off any fat, then blot bacon and pan with paper towels.

Place 1 water chestnut in the middle of each piece of bacon, then top each with half a chicken liver. Place a drop of soy sauce, a pinch of ginger, and a sprinkle of brown sugar on top of each liver. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts and livers and secure with a skewer. Return pan to oven and bake until bacon is crisp and golden.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

* 9 jalapeno peppers

* 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

* 1/4 cup salsa verde

* 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

* 9 slices bacon cut in half

Carefully, cut the jalapenos in half and remove all of the seeds.

Combine the cream cheese, salsa verde and shredded cheddar in a small bowl. Once combined, add to a pastry bag or a sturdy 1 quart ziplock bag and cut off one corner so you can squeeze the cheese out of the hole and into the peppers. Fill the peppers with cheese mixture.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in the microwave or saute pan for a few minutes until it's starting to brown a little but is still soft and pliable.

Cool and then wrap each jalapeno half in one piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet (with sides) and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and cook for 2-3 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they don't burn. This gives the peppers a nice roasted flavor and ensures that your bacon will be crisp.

Remove the jalapeno poppers from the oven and cool slightly before eating.

Butterfly Shrimp with Bacon

* 1 pound large shrimp

* 4 slices bacon

* 1 large onion

* 1 clove garlic

* 2 eggs

* 4 tablespoons flour

* 1/4 cup ketchup

* 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

* 3 teaspoons sugar

* 1 dash pepper

* 1/2 cup water

* 2 teaspoons cornstarch

* 2 tablespoons water

* 3 tablespoons oil

* 1 tablespoon oil

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

Shell, devein and butterfly shrimp, leaving the tail segments intact.

Cut bacon strips in 1/2-inch sections. Slice onion thin. Crush garlic. Beat eggs, then add flour and beat with a wire whisk until batter thickens. (It should not be runny: if it is, add more flour.)

Dip bacon in batter, 1 section at a time, and place on the flattened surface of each shrimp.

In one cup, combine ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, pepper and water.

In another cup, blend cornstarch and remaining cold water to a paste. Heat oil. Add shrimp, bacon-side down, and pan-fry 2 minutes over medium heat. Cover and cook another 1/2 minute. Turn shrimp over and pan-fry 2 minutes more. Remove and drain shrimp on paper toweling.

Add onion slices and stir-fry until softened and translucent; then drain.

Arrange on a serving dish with shrimp on top. Keep warm.

Heat remaining oil. Add salt and crushed garlic; stir-fry to brown lightly.

Add catsup mixture and bring to a boil, stirring.

Then stir in cornstarch paste to thicken.

Spoon sauce over shrimp and serve at once.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy cooking.

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