It's no secret that America loves its bacon. For proof, just look at the crazy success of the Perfect Bacon Bowl, As Seen on TV's newest sensation.
The Perfect Bacon Bowl resembles an upside-down plastic bowl. Wrap three strips of bacon around it, pop it in the oven, microwave or toaster oven and the bacon cooks in the shape of the container - a "bacon bowl." Then you fill it with whatever you want - scrambled eggs, dip, mac 'n cheese.
The Perfect Bacon Bowl debuted in November 2013 on As Seen on TV and almost immediately became a hit. Since then, more than two million boxes have been sold (they come two to a box and retail for $10.99).
Doug Quint should have been working on his dissertation in June 2009 when he decided he wanted a "fun summer job."
"I thought about being a butcher or an exterminator - just something crazy," he said. Then he saw a posting for an available ice cream truck, and New York's Big Gay Ice Cream Truck was born. He and his partner, Bryan Petroff, spent the summer turning out a more colorful version of Mister Softee - with far better ingredients. One summer turned into another and five years later, the pair - who left their other jobs two years into the venture - have launched a Big Gay empire (two storefronts in New York and one opening in LA this spring).
"Community-supported beer" doesn't just mean buying a pint at your local watering hole. For a growing number of upstart breweries, it's how they're getting their operations off the ground.
Queens' Big Alice Brewing - located in an old Bible warehouse near the water - opened its doors in June and is selling beer shares as a way to finance the brewery. Inspired by the concept of community-supported agriculture, in which people buy directly from farmers, CSB subscribers pay $200 and receive two large bottles of beer each month for six months.
Editor's note: This story is part of CNN's American Journey series, showing how people have turned hobbies into jobs. Have you transformed your passion into profits? Share your story with CNN iReport, and you could be featured in a CNN story.
Helping families build homes was a job that Jessica Vu excelled at. As a sales consultant in Bellbrook, Ohio, she walked people through buying homes, selecting floor plans and customizing everything from doors and windows to counters.
Then the housing market crashed in 2008, and she was laid off while she was eight weeks pregnant with her first child. Like many Americans who lost their income sources when employers cut more than 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of 2008, she struggled to find her footing.
As the ripple effects of the recession continue, with monthly unemployment claims up in July, people like Vu are seeking alternatives to traditional office jobs and gambling on their passions.
More on food deserts:
"Making groceries" in a New Orleans food desert
On a cold, rainy day, people lined up around the block for supplies from a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Far Rockaway, Queens, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
More than 100 days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, leaving power lines, houses, family heirlooms and human lives decimated in its wake, it's a clear sign residents are still figuring out how to cope.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the recent storm would cost New York State alone nearly $42 billion. Despite the odds, the recent reopening of small businesses, like a tiny, neighborhood bagel shop, indicates a new day is dawning.
From midtown Manhattan, the trip to Far Rockaway takes a little more than two hours. That’s because there is still no subway service past John F. Kennedy Airport. To access the Rockaways, riders have to transfer to a shuttle bus, then back onto a fare free shuttle train, which only started service in late November. It’s a couple more transfers than residents are used to, but it’s better than the lack of transportation they were saddled with for quite some time.
Several times a year, the distinctive aroma of fondant, frosting and fudge waft through the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta.
During the holiday season, it is for the Patty Cakes Holiday Cake Affair. Philadelphia native Patty Green organizes the event every year in hopes of discovering and training novice bakers with a hidden talent for culinary confections.
“My dream is not only to have the cake competitions build growth and exposure for our cake bakers, but to be able to raise money for them to build their business - to own bakeries, to be business owners," she said. "Also, for myself, to be exposed to helping those with astronomical needs.”
A recipient of Green's generosity, Amanda Earl, has already begun making a name for herself in the baking community.
I hate the word “artisan." Its use is so prolific that it means little anymore. Now, it is often used to judge the authenticity of food and, admittedly, I spoke this word quite frequently in the early days of Emily G’s. I felt like an "artisan” as I struggled to produce, market, deliver and manage our budding jam company. I was true to my craft as I picked the berries I canned, labeled jars late into the night and, consequently, missed entire soccer seasons. It was brutal but fulfilling at the same time.
This was unsustainable. It became apparent that I could either make the products or manage the company, but not both. However, I was convinced that the authenticity of our food depended on my hands making the jams. Isn’t that what makes me an “artisan” and our jams “authentic”? The reality was that we could not produce enough fast enough to keep up with sales. We were working hard enough to kill ourselves, but making little money. We weren’t returning phone calls. We hadn’t seen our children. We were a company on the edge of implosion.
Step aside, Willy Wonka. According to its creator, Vosges chocolate is not just chocolate, it's "an experiential chocolate story-telling vehicle that's meant to be indulgent and sensual and opening to the mind."
More than that, 38-year-old company founder Katrina Markoff intends to "break down stereotypes through chocolate."
Having traveled around the world, Markoff's goal is to get people to try the exotic flavors she discovered, something that's more achievable if those flavors are enrobed in chocolate.