birthday parties & spiced maple roasted bacon

When I was a kid, I only remember being a guest at a handful of birthday parties. And, though my memories have faded, I only recall a few parties for my own birthdays. There was that one when I was in kindergarten or first grade – but I think I only remember the snapshot moment when a photo was taken, with me and my other 6 year old friends dressed in our 70s-era polyester. I can recall a birthday party at Burger King, either for me or my brother. Parties at the BK were in high demand. I mean, where else can you be crowned royalty for an hour?

Parties just were not something we did routinely. Money – or rather, the lack thereof – probably had a lot to do with the scarcity of parties, but it also just wasn’t the Thing To Do as it is now. This weekend it seemed the party circuit jumped into full swing here. Each of my children had a party to attend over the course of the two days, which means they both came home completely exhausted, crashing from their sugar-high.

The trend here is to have birthday parties at one of the gymnastics and sports centers in town. You know the kind of place – they have big gymnastics mats and equipment in one room, a rockwall in the back, a three-story jungle gym in one corner, a bouncy house room, and a series of rooms along the sides for the two dozen or so parties held each weekend day. Our center has even added a pool for pool parties and swim lessons.

I must confess, I don’t like going to these birthday parties. I try to send my husband whenever possible. While the children have a fantastic time with their school friends, the parents often stand around awkwardly, smiling politely at each other. The moms who know each other huddle in a corner, talking about people none of the rest of us know. Occasionally a dad will be there, but the dads stick with each other and don’t branch out too much. We hover around our children as they play in the jungle gym, holding their stray socks and hair bands, listening out for cries of pain from a fall or an accidental elbow to the nose.

The whole experience would be a lot better if the punch were spiked. Just a thought.

So, Saturday I sent my husband and Oliver to a 4-year old’s birthday party while I stayed home with Madeline. We only had an hour and a half to spend without the boys, so what did we do? We cooked. Well, we made bacon.

Pretty darn good bacon, I might add.

Yield: 4 servings

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Spiced Maple Roasted Bacon

If you like a bit of heat, use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. If you want to tone it a little, decrease the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon.


8 slices center cut bacon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place oven rack in center.

Lay the strips of bacon on a cooking rack placed inside a sheet pan. Roast for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix together in a small bowl the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon.

When the bacon has completed cooking, baste the slices with the maple syrup mixture. Roast for another 4 minutes.

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24 Responses to “on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits”

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 6, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    I’m so glad things went well with your father. He sounds like an amazing guy.

    This grits looks phenomenal. We don’t see it very often up here in New England… but I have a lot of family in the South and they love making it for me when I visit.

  2. Jason PHelps — February 6, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

    Certainly positive news indeed. I spent more time than I wanted at the hospital before and after my dad’s bypass surgery in November 2010. He is on the mend now and everyone’s support was a bright light for me too.


  3. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — February 6, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    MJ I am so glad that your dad (and your family) is on the path to healing. I bet that spending some time in the kitchen has helped calm your mind. I love that Mitzi loved the grits too 🙂 Still sending and thinking postitive healing thoughts your way xoxo

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  5. Macaroni Mama — February 6, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    Bravo! Today I vacuumed and it was very theraputic.

  6. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 6, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    Love that you used Manchego in these. I hope your dad continues to get better.

  7. Jersey Girl Cooks — February 6, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    Glad things went well with your dad’s surgery. Prayers going his way that he recovers and heals quickly.

  8. Gail — February 6, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    Know so well what you’re going through.
    Gruyere cheese and polenta is a viable alternative, too.

  9. Mac — February 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    Hear, hear! Glad to know your dad, you and your family are all on the path to recovery!
    Adore grits! So happy you got back into the kitchen this weekend.
    Continued prayers for you all. Take care!

  10. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — February 7, 2011 @ 6:38 am

    I so glad that although exhausting, your family is on the mend. Comfort food is perfect for a time like this and your Manchego cheese grits seems to have struck a great balance between familiar and moving forward into new territory.

  11. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — February 7, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    It is good to hear your news; the worry of your Dad getting through the surgery and now being with him while he is recuperating is undoubtedly exhausting and I remember so well how simple and soul satisfying grits can be.

    Continued prayers for his recovery and your strength through it…and thanks for a lovely reminder of those special years when I lived in the south.

  12. Evil Shenanigans — February 7, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    So glad that your dad is on the road to recovery. I will continue to keep him in my thoughts. Also pleased to see another recipe for grits. I think they are my favorite food at the moment. Manchego cheese has such a robust flavor, I bet it is GREAT with grits!!

  13. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — February 7, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad is recovering! I’ve been thinking about you and your entire family lots, and I’ll continue to keep you in my prayers!

    These grits look delicious… I rarely get to have grits (not real popular here in PA), but I might have to give these a try. Now I just have to see if I can buy them online 🙂

  14. Liz the Chef — February 7, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Pass the grits…It’s been a long week for me too at hospice. I seem to crave spicy Thai. Best wishes to you, dear one

  15. Joy, The Herbed Kitchen — February 7, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    That is absolutely wonderful news about your father. He sounds tenacious which will certainly help him through the rehab.

    I’d have to agree with Mitzi. You have a smart kitty there.

  16. Prerna@IndianSimmer — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad’s doing better! Its these tough times that shake you up and tell you what’s actually important in life. Sending good vibes your way and hoping for your life to be back to normal soon, very soon!
    I’m sure these grits would have helped bring back that comfort a little bit! Lovely post!

  17. SMITH BITES — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    am so, so happy that surgery went well for your dad and that he will recover; i’m also glad that you can escape to your kitchen for something comforting – something you can make for yourself, to take care of yourself, to nourish yourself – it’s all good. and grits? about as comforting as it gets. (((hugs)))

  18. Wenderly — February 7, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    Sounds like you and your family have been through so much! But it also sounds like you are all marching forward! Good for you! And so glad to hear of your dad’s progress!
    These grits look divine.
    Keep up the food therapy. I’ve always believed in the concept of *food for the soul* both literally and figuratively. I’ll be praying for you!

  19. Maria at Fresh Eats — February 8, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    So happy to hear he’s on the mend, and hope he continues to heal quickly and completely. Glad to hear you found some peace and comfort in the kitchen, too.

  20. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — February 16, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    What a scary ordeal!! Especially since a day that was planned for family fun turned into such stress and uncertainty. I’m glad to hear that your dad is recovering! Hope you get to Disney soon for that much needed break & down time. We have passes too that are expiring mid-March, and just took our final trip last week. Such an incredible way to spend time with each other. Our family are huge Disney freaks!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

      We adore Disney! I’m really missing that place, but we’re planning to go next month, so I’ll get my fix. 🙂

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