These Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curd Bites make for a delicious appetizer…especially while watching sports! And the smoky ranch dressing? It’s tasty enough to be a dip all by itself!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge college basketball fan. Like gigantic college basketball fan. I’ve watched college basketball for pretty much as long as I can remember. In college, I went to as many games as I could. After college, I would schedule my evenings around my favorite team’s games. And I still do. Well, sorta. Curling has made it a bit difficult to catch all of the games as my curling games always seem to fall on the same night that my team is playing. Every single time. How does that keep happening?? I do peek at my phone to keep up with the score, but it’s just not the same as watching live. But come March and the college basketball tourney? Everything changes!
My first job out of college was at a local bank in Durham, North Carolina. I’m not kidding one bit when I say that we set up big screen tv’s in the bank lobby so that customers (and us employees, too) could keep up with the tournament games. After moving away, I began taking vacation days during the tournament just so I wouldn’t miss any of the action. Seriously. The first Thursday and Friday of the college basketball tourney? I’m on vacation. I’m at home getting ready to watch 12 straight hours of games…only to turn around and do it again the next day!
Do you fill out a bracket every year? I do. Back in college, it was a big deal, and we’d have a bunch of friends competing in the pool. Now I just fill out the bracket as a fun test against myself. Here’s some fun facts about the tournament:
- The odds of filling out a perfect bracket? Pretty much non-existent. 1 in 9.2 quintillion. You’d be better off buying a lottery ticket!
- A #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed. They’ve come close on a couple of occasions, but it’s never happened.
- A #5 seed has never won the whole tournament. Amazing, right? But it’s true!
- Since 1979, at least one #1 seed has reached the Final Four every year except for 3 years. Chances are pretty good that a #1 seed will be there!
- All 4 #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four only one time (2008).
- Pizza orders increase 19% during the month of March.
I say let’s put the pizza on hold and make a batch of these Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curd Bites! Bacon and cheese. Talk about the perfect flavor combo for a delicious appetizer! Have you ever had cheese curds? I’d never had ’em until we moved up here to upstate New York about 7 years ago. Cheese curds (aka “squeaky cheese”) are hugely popular as part of poutine. Poutine is a regional Canadian dish consisting of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It’s amazing! One bite, and I was hooked.
So what exactly are cheese curds? Cheese curds are a by-product of the cheese-making process. They usually have a fairly mild, cheddar-like taste. Cheese curds are considered a local delicacy in the northeast and midwest, and many restaurants offer fried cheese curds on their appetizer menus. Don’t live in this part of the country? Have no fear! Farm Rich carries Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds that are made from Wisconsin cheddar cheese, and they’re available in the freezer section of your local grocery store. (There’s also a coupon available via that link!)
While Farm Rich’s Cheddar Cheese Curds are delicious by themselves, Laura and I enjoy creating fun appetizers with curds. Take these Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curds Bites for instance. Crispy pieces of toast topped with a smoky ranch dressing, bacon and Farm Rich’s Cheddar Cheese Curds. Now this is the kind of appetizer that’s perfect for watching college basketball! In fact, if you’re looking for me anytime during the next couple of weeks, check the couch…chances are I’m watching the tournament with a plate of these Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curd Bites.
Oh, and for the record, this Smoky Ranch Dressing is tasty enough to serve as a dip all by itself! I whisked this up in about 60 seconds, and then Laura and I both dipped in a cheese curd to try it out. Woah! Mind blown. Farm Rich makes a whole assortment of snacks and appetizers, and I’m thinking their Mozzarella Sticks dipped into this smoky ranch dressing will be a winner. Or the Jalapeno Peppers. Or the Boneless Buffalo Chicken Bites. I mean ranch and buffalo sauce were just made for one another, right? Maybe that trio will be my snack while watching tomorrow’s games! Farm Rich’s products are wholesome, feel-good foods that are perfect for when you need great-tasting food in minutes!
Click here to find Farm Rich products near you. Good luck with your brackets and may the best team win! Cheers, friends!
Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curds Bites
For Smoky Ranch Dressing
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 1½ Tbsp powdered ranch seasoning mix
- ¾ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 loaf of French bread
- olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For Bacon Jam
- 16 oz. thick-cut bacon
- ¾ cup white onion diced
- 2 tsp garlic minced
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 box Farm Rich Cheddar Cheese Curds
- ¼ cup green onions
For Smoky Ranch Dressing
- Using a medium bowl, combine all ingredients (sour cream, ranch seasoning, smoked paprika) until well blended; set aside.
- Place grill pan over medium-high heat. (See note below.)
- Slice the loaf of French bread widthwise into 3 large pieces; slice each piece lengthwise into thin slices.
- Brush the tops of slices with olive oil and then sprinkle salt and pepper on top.
- Place slices in grill pan for 4-5 minutes, or until grill marks appear. Remove toasts from pan and set aside.
For Bacon Jam
- While the toasts are baking, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Drain and discard bacon fat, leaving 1 Tbsp of bacon fat in pan.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onions and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until onions have softened.
- Add remaining ingredients (garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, maple syrup and chili powder); stir and bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, add crumbled bacon, stir and reduce heat to low. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture has thickened.
- While bacon jam is simmering, bake the cheese curds according to package instructions.
- Assemble bites by spreading smoky ranch dressing on each toast. Then top with a spoonful of bacon, several cheese curds and green onions. Serve hot.
Disclosure: This Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Curd Bites post was sponsored by Farm Rich, but the recipe and opinions are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Spiced!