Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

I’ve written about my favorite Italian restaurant in Bozeman, Fresco Cafe, as the inspiration for one of my grilled cheese concoctions from April. This is probably the place I go to with the most regularity, both for team lunches with work and with out-of-town visitors. It has delicious pastas and paninis, several delightful salads, and the specials are always on point. Although a semi-expensive place to dine, it is worth every single dollar to have amazing food and service every time. (As an aside, it’s also one of the few places that serves plain water rather than ice water, which is always worth a lot of points in my book.)

A couple of weeks ago during team lunch, the special salad was basically the combination of all my favorite things: bacon, bell peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Served atop a bed of mixed spinach and arugula, it was one of the best salads I’ve ever had, in addition to being the perfect size for lunch. I expressed my ecstatic review, as well as requested they put it on the regular menu, which is something I’ve never actually bothered to do at a restaurant before. Since they haven’t heeded my advice yet, I set out to recreate a similar experience in my own kitchen.

It might sound plain and possibly too light, but with a slice of bread and a latte (I always get a latte at Fresco) it was properly filling without leaving me feeling overstuffed and heavy for the rest of the afternoon. Roasted red peppers are something I could eat with every meal, and you’ve probably already noticed I have a slight obsession with goat cheese (blame Costco.) Bacon and walnuts bring a little salt and a lot of protein to the dish, and a bed of leafy greens rounds out the meal nicely.

The original uses their house-made balsamic vinaigrette, but I opted to dress mine with plain balsamic vinegar from my local oil and vinegar spot. This was mostly out of laziness but also because it’s one of my favorite ways to top any savory salad. In any case, you can substitute your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or reduction in its place for a more traditional pairing.

I served mine with the bacon and peppers still warm (which will be extra great in the winter), but you could absolutely let them cool to room temperature during these excessive heatwaves everyone is having. I made myself all four servings and then each day assembled the leftovers for lunches this week. If you do the same, you could either serve it all cold or briefly reheat the bacon and peppers in the microwave before stirring it all together, as I’ve done for the past three days. Goes perfectly with a side of focaccia fresh from the Co-op.

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

Inspired by Fresco Cafe
Serves 4


8 slices bacon
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced

1 cup walnuts, halved

~8 cups fresh spinach & arugula (10-12 oz)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or your favorite vinaigrette or reduction)

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed cookie sheet (or two quarter sheets, if you have them) with foil. If you’re using one sheet, create an edge of foil in the middle of the pan.
  2. Arrange bacon in one half of the pan; lightly coat the other half with olive oil and arrange the peppers on top.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside bell peppers.
  4. Spread walnuts on the bare pan and return to the oven to toast for 3-5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, gently toss greens and balsamic vinegar (or dressing.)
  6. Divide greens into four bowls or plates – don’t scrape the mixing bowl.
  7. Gently toss bell peppers in the large bowl with leftover vinegar/dressing, then arrange on top of the greens.
  8. Slice bacon on an angle into bite-size pieces and arrange in the bowls.
  9. Top each with walnuts, goat cheese, and freshly ground pepper.
  10. Enjoy immediately, optionally garnished with a slice of bread.

Huckle-Bacon Brie Grilled Cheese

I’ve saved my favorite for the last week of National Grilled Cheese Month. An unusual but amazing blend of flavors I hope you all love.

One of my favorite cheeses, Brie is often served in both sweet and savory experiences. Baked in puff pastry dough, topped with jam, and served with apple slices, melted into gooey crepes, or enjoyed plain on a cheese board, there’s really no wrong direction to go. Since lately I’ve been loving the sweet and salty combination, I went that route here.

Huckle-Bacon Brie Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Gooey Brie sandwiched with crisp bacon and tart huckleberry jam, this sandwich tastes almost like breakfast (and in fact, I think would also be awesome cooked French toast style) but works equally well for lunch or dinner. With the sweetness of the jam I recommend serving with a decidedly savory side dish, like roasted veggies or a green salad.

I chose sourdough bread for its wonderful crispy texture and neutral but tangy flavor, but any white-ish bread will be great. I would personally avoid a hearty wheat or multi-grain because I think the bread would overpower the filling, but obviously that’s completely up to you.

Huckle-Bacon Brie Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Be careful not to go overboard with the jam as a little goes a long way, but if you want to add an extra slice or two of bacon I won’t judge. I kept mine a bit lighter with three ounces of Brie and two slices of bacon, but if you’re looking for an extravagant and indulgent experience, definitely increase those portions. Or if your bread slices are on the smaller side, stick to two ounces of cheese. Brie is quite rich so a bit less can be plenty.

Huckle-Bacon Brie Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I will say this sandwich is best served immediately so if you’re serving more than a couple of people, plan to eat in stages or use a large griddle. (You could possibly keep them warm in the oven as well, but I’ve not personally tried this since I’m rarely cooking for more than two people anyway.)

Round out your month with a classy grilled cheese (can grilled cheese be classy? I’m going with yes) and a fantastic flavor profile. I hope you enjoyed the series and maybe even found a new sandwich to try.

Huckle-Bacon Brie Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 sandwich


2 slices bacon, cooked and drained

2-4 oz Brie cheese, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp huckleberry jam

2 slices bread
butter or oil


  1. If you haven’t already, cook the bacon. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.
  2. In a medium pan (big enough to fit both slices side by side), heat a little butter or oil over medium-low.
  3. Meanwhile, spread one slice of bread with huckleberry jam, and top with bacon.
  4. Arrange brie in a single layer on the other.
  5. Place a lid (or a plate, or whatever you have around) over the pan and continue to cook low and slow until the Brie is melty and the jam is warmed through.
  6. Gently transfer the Brie slice on top of the other, and cook an additional 30-60 seconds so the flavors meld.
  7. Remove from pan, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.


I like this method of grilled cheese preparation because it doesn’t require flipping the whole sandwich, and I think the cheese melts faster, but feel free to use your own preferred method!

If you don’t have huckleberry, any reasonably tart jam would work great; try raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, marionberry, etc.

[Slow Cooker] Bacon Bean Soup

There’s something about bean soup that just feels cozy: nice and filling, warms you up on a cold day, and requires fairly minimal effort on the cooking front. I made this soup last year and then the springtime weather promptly returned with no time for me to post another wintery item.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

With a recent cold snap here, I decided to resurrect this recipe and share it with all of you. Full of veggies, easily made vegan, and quick to throw in the slow cooker, this is a great meal for a busy week. Ditch the bacon (or use pre-cooked crumbles) and there’s almost no hands-on time other than chopping some veggies. I like to prep the veggies the night before, dump everything in the crock pot in the morning, and come home to delicious aromas and a hot meal. A quick puree with the stick blender and a side of bread and/or a vegetable and you’re good to go.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This soup is one I like to describe as comfortable. Nothing too snazzy with the flavors but it tastes great, fills you up, and is a healthy way to end the day. It keeps for at least a week and reheats well in the microwave, so don’t be afraid of a large batch even if you’re on your own to finish it off.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I personally nixed the celery in favor of zucchini, but if you have celery on hand throw it in there too. With it all pureed together at the end the flavors meld into one instead of a more traditional and chunky vegetable soup. It turned out fairly thick, great for topping with extra bacon, cheese, chives, or whatever else you like to throw on there.

Warm yourself from the inside out with a healthy and filling dinner, then maybe splurge on dessert.

Bacon Bean Soup

Adapted from Emily Bites
Makes about 2 quarts


8 slices bacon1

3 (15oz cans) Great Northern beans, rinsed
1 can butter beans, rinsed
6-8 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
4 stalks celery, diced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp parsley (fresh or dried)
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Fry bacon or bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow to drain, then crumble into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add half the bacon and all remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) to a slow cooker and stir gently. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 4 hours.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree at least half the soup (I did all of it, but you can stop whenever you like the texture) in the crock pot, or carefully remove 3-4 cups of soup to a blender and puree, then stir back into the crock pot.
  4. Taste soup and add salt and pepper if necessary. Top with remaining bacon and serve hot. Also delicious with a little grated cheese!


It would also be great with cubed ham. Great way to use those leftovers! Or nix the meat entirely for a vegan/vegetarian option, it’s delicious that way too.

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

Sometimes during my questionably numerous hours on the internet, I come across “healthified” recipes that look pretty good, but still make me wonder why you wouldn’t just make the original.

This is one of those recipes.

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole {{Baking Bytes}}

I’ll admit, I made it mostly out of curiosity. Unlike many modern Americans, I am not afraid of potatoes. In fact, potatoes themselves are quite healthy for you, and can be an excellent source of nutrients. Sure, they are pretty high carb, but I’ve never paid much attention to carbs so it doesn’t concern me. Potatoes get a bad rap but it’s not the vegetable that is the problem, it’s how we prepare it: French fries are clearly unhealthy, but then of course we like to pile on loads of salt, cheese, chili, et cetera, just to really make sure we’re not benefiting at all. Mashed potatoes are typically made with loads of butter and cream and various other dairy products that add tons of fat and unnecessary calories, along with their delicious, wonderful flavors. Baked potatoes, we say, those are healthy! And yes they are…until we add the toppings.


Loaded Cauliflower Casserole {{Baking Bytes}}

This particular recipe kinda makes me giggle because the things that make potatoes unhealthy are still quite present in here, whereas the potatoes themselves have been substituted with cauliflower. I vastly cut down the additions from the original, and even made it a second time to cut them down some more, but I’m still not sure I’d consider it a truly healthy side dish.

In any case, it is quite delicious, and if you’re into the low-carb situation, maybe it’ll be great for you. It probably won’t become a staple around here, but it’s a great way to spice up an otherwise familiar palate. Or sneak some cauliflower into picky eaters.Loaded Cauliflower Casserole {{Baking Bytes}}

Creamy and cheesy and optionally topped with bacon, it has a texture like slightly lighter mashed potatoes and all the fun flavors that go with them. It makes for a great side dish and could easily be made vegetarian simply by nixing the bacon. The second time I made it without bacon and it was excellent as well.

Although I likely won’t be making it weekly, or even monthly, I did really enjoy the final product and it was a fun way to eat cauliflower. It also reheated nicely which is always a pleasant surprise. Hope you enjoy it!

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole {{Baking Bytes}}

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

Adapted from Calamity Jayne
Makes one 8×8 dish (6-8 servings)


2 lbs cauliflower, diced

1/3 cup sour cream (full fat preferred)
2 cups grated cheese, divided (I used cheddar)
salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/2 and 1 tsp, respectively)

optional toppings: 3-4 slices crumbled bacon, 2 Tbsp minced chives


  1. In a large pot, boil cauliflower until softened, about ten minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8×8″ baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  3. Drain completely and return to pot. Mash or puree into desired texture. I used an immersion blender to puree mine completely in order to mimic mashed potatoes.
  4. Return pot to stove over medium heat, and cook at least 5 minutes longer (stirring constantly) to evaporate excess water. Remove from heat.
  5. Add sour cream and 1 cup of cheese, and stir until completely combined. Salt and pepper to taste, making sure it’s well mixed.
  6. Spread cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish, and top with remaining cheese (and bacon, if using.)
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and cauliflower is bubbling. It might look kind of watery, but don’t worry, that’s normal.
  8. Let cool on the counter for about 5 minutes before serving, then top with chives (optional) and enjoy.


In my opinion this step is paramount. Nothing is worse than watery mashed potatoes and this casserole is no different. I recommend tasting a couple of times, and keep going until the cauliflower doesn’t just taste of water, especially if you pureed it.

Bacon Baked Beans

Okay everyone, don’t panic, but I didn’t make dessert this week. I know, I know. *GASP* But don’t worry, I’m sure next time we’ll return to our regular scheduled programming.

This week, however, I stepped slightly outside my forte into the world of real food and made baked beans. Granted, I still used the oven, and there was bacon involved, so I guess it wasn’t that far outside my comfort zone after all.

I’m still counting it.

This recipe comes from my mom, who got it from her mom, who got it from a friend of hers. It’s the family favorite for taking to potlucks and barbecues and my mom is asked for the recipe every time. A plethora of beans and bacon with the taste of brown sugar results in a fabulous and filling side dish sure to complement any barbecue.

Baked Beans

Admittedly, I did not like this dish as a kid. It wasn’t till a few years ago that I had another taste and suddenly understood why family friends always raved about my mom’s baked beans. This past weekend I took a pan to a pig roast and didn’t bring any home. In the words of my mom, this recipe is “too delicious not to share.” I’m definitely inclined to agree.

But don’t take our word for it. Make it yourself and let me know what you think. Your family will thank me.

Baked BeansBaked Beans

Makes a shallow 9″x13″ pan


1 can (15 oz) lima beans
1 can (15 oz) butter beans
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
1 can (28 oz) pork ‘n’ beans

1/2 lb bacon
1 medium-large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drain lima, butter and kidney beans.
  3. Slice the bacon into roughly 1″ pieces.
  4. In a large bowl (at least 3 quarts), combine drained beans, pork ‘n’ beans, bacon, onion and garlic.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, vinegar and mustard.
  6. Pour sauce into beans and mix gently, but thoroughly.
  7. Pour beans into a 9×13 baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for two hours.
  8. Remove the foil, stir gently, and bake for another hour or so, stirring every
    15-20 minutes. Beans should be nicely browned and not too runny when done.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before digging in.

Baked Beans


  • This is a very forgiving recipe. Likely it will look pretty runny when you remove the foil, but it will thicken up during the uncovered baking time. If it looks too thick, you can always stir in a little water.
  • If you double the recipe use a deep dish lasagna pan OR one 9×13 pan and one 8×8 pan. Bake them at the same time but switch sides of the oven after you remove the foil.
  • In a little bit of a hurry? Raise the temp up to 375 and cut the covered baking time to 90 minutes. Uncovered time will likely be closer to 45 minutes but keep an eye on them.
  • Taking them to a potluck? Use a slow cooker to keep them warm for serving.
  • If needed, you can use regular white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar is best.
  • I love bacon, so I used the thick cut variety.
  • You can easily make this vegetarian by getting the “vegetarian” labeled pork ‘n’ beans, and leaving out the bacon.