Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

Everyone will like this sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving since it's topped with coconut, brown sugar, nuts, pineapple and marshmallows. What's not to like?

Sweet Potato Casserole
The Apron Gal

Serves 8-10
 4 medium sweet potatoes about [4-6 pounds]
2/3 cup crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup coconut


Preheat oven to 350 and bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Wash, peel and dice sweet potatoes into cubes. Boil sweet potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, you want to be able to mash them easily.

Drain sweet potatoes and return to pot or large bowl. Using a hand mixer, immersion blender or stand mixer, mash sweet potatoes with butter and pineapple until relatively smooth, some chunks are fine. 

Spread sweet potatoes in 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, then pecans, coconut and finally, marshmallows. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly browned and melted.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Well yesterday we had a hint of cool weather so I guess I can post this soup recipe, right? Plus, I know everyone who doesn't live in the South has cooler weather and would enjoy  a warm meal like this one!

Although I am not complaining too much about the 72 degrees it is here in Austin.

I intended to take step by step photos for y'all but my camera died the day I made this and I had to wait for a new charger to come in the mail so I only have a picture of the finished product. Hopefully, that is enough to entice you to make it. 

This isn't a super rich version which I think equates to a healthier version. If you want it to be creamier and richer, just keep adding more cheese and you could also use heavy cream instead of half and half.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine

Serves 4 generously

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups low sodium-chicken broth
2 cups half and half
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese [about 1/2 pound]
additional cheese and croutons/crackers if desired for topping

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, half and half, both potatoes, bay leaf 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are tender about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, microwave broccoli with 3 TBS water and salt until crisp tender about 4 minutes, drain water. 

When potatoes are tender, remove bay leaf and using an immersion blender [or transfer to blender], puree until smooth. Return soup to pot and thin with water, if desired. 

Return to simmer over medium low heat, stir in broccoli and season with salt and pepper. 

Add cheese and stir until melted. 

Top with additional cheese and croutons or crackers if desired.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I will try to come up with some real food for Thanksgiving but I make no promises if all I post is desserts. 

I like these cookies because they don't taste like just pumpkin and I like the added texture from the oats.
These are pretty straightforward so no step by step photos.

My only advice is to use a cookie scoop and to make sure they are uniform and have cleaner edges since the way they look on the cookie sheet is very similar to the way they will look after baking. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies 
adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 4 dozen medium cookies

1 cup butter, softened 
3/4 cup sugar 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup quick-cooking oats 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup canned pumpkin 
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet or use parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Then gradually add dry mixture into creamed mixture alternating with pumpkin. 

Fold in chocolate chips. 

Bake larger cookies for 13-15 minutes and smaller cookies for 12-14 or until lightly browned and able to stay together.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Baked Apple Chips

This is a totally different recipe than what I normally make. It was fun and turned out great! Also, they make your house smell fantastic- so fall! 

As I may or may not have mentioned before, I work with the 12-18 year old girls at church. Every Wednesday we have an activity for them usually crafts, sports, service project or the like. This week we had a lesson on nutrition from a friend of mine who is a certified dietitian. 

So obviously, I couldn't bring baked s'mores or pumpkin chocolate chips bars. This friend happened to have "pinned" this baked apple chips recipe on pinterest and I was intrigued. That sounded different and healthy and something fun for my readers so I gave it a go. 

It is beyond easy since it only has ONE ingredient: APPLES! 

So you start with 4 medium sized apples for one batch of apple chips. The biggest decision you have to make for these is what kind of apples to use.

I used Gala because that is what I already had on hand but they were very sweet. So if you prefer more of a tart apple choose Pink Lady or Granny Smith. 

Wash your apples and then remove the core. The easiest way is probably with an apple corer like this one. The way I did it is with what I already had in my kitchen: a knife and a jalapeno corer....don't think I am crazy just look:
The reason I used these tools was to keep as much of the apple as possible. If you try to just use a knife you will end up losing half of your good apple. See how little I actually took out? But I was apple to remove all the inedible parts. This is the jalapeno corer I used and have mentioned before. 

So no matter how you do it, remove the core and leave as much apple as possible. 

Next you want to thinly slice your apples for the chips. Again, a mandoline slicer would make this process much faster and easier but you could do it by hand too. Just make sure your chips are thin enough and all the same size so they bake evenly and quickly. 

Run the apple over the mandoline be careful of your fingers!! Just try it a few times to see the thickness level. 

 These were the first few I did and they are too thick. 

 Next thinnest level- much better! 

Can you see the difference? You want the thinner ones on the left. 

Slice the first 2 apples and then place them on your parchment lined baking sheet. 
Only do 2 at first so you can see how many you can fit on your baking sheet.

I think I was able to fit about 3 1/2 apples on one large baking sheet and 2 small jellyroll pans.

Now you can dust these with cinnamon if you want. Everyone loved the ones with cinnamon and the ones without. Honestly, I liked the plain better but perhaps cinnamon would pair better with one of the more tart apples. 

Bake in the oven at 275 for 45 minutes and then flip chips over and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
These are halfway, starting to curl but not crunchy yet. 

After 1.5 hours mine were starting to be very brown so I took them out and let them cool a few minutes before breaking one in half to make sure they were crunchy and not chewy. Mine were done at that point. Yours might need longer if they are thicker or your oven isn't as hot as mine. Make sure they cool a few minutes before testing for crunchiness level though-mine still felt pliable when they first came out but after a few minutes they were adequately crunchy. 

That's it! These are a great healthy snack for kids and adults alike! 

Baked Apple Chips
recipe via pinterest from Delighted Momma

Makes about 50 chips

4 medium apples of your choice 
cinnamon, if desired


Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Wash apples. Remove apple core using apple corer or knife, carefully. Slice thinly and evenly using a mandoline slicer or by hand. 

Place sliced apples in a single layer on 2 large  parchment lined baking sheets and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. 

Bake for 45 minutes before removing and flipping apples over (also switch baking sheets on racks for good measure). 

Bake for another 45 minutes.

Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes before testing to make sure chips are crispy and not pliable. If still chewy/pliable bake additional 15-30 minutes. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwich in Crock Pot

This is an oldie but a goodie from my first months of blogging. This is my number 1 requested recipe and probably the easiest too!

It only takes 3 ingredients and a crock pot to make this finger lickin' favorite!

First you want to purchase a 3-4 pound pork roast. The best cuts for "pulling" are pork butt or pork shoulder. These turn into very tender meat after braising [cooking a long time].

Here is a look at my cut for this batch it is a 3.5 pound pork butt roast.

* A note on fat in meats. For most beef cuts, large slices of fat are easily visible and able to be cut off before cooking. In these pork roasts you will find more of a marbled fat content. This gives flavor, but you can remove most of it after it is cooked.

Place your meat in the crock pot after rinsing under cool water. 

Then pour in 2.5 cups of root beer. Root beer you say?! The root beer acts as a tenderizing agent. You aren't really getting the taste of the root beer. On that same note, 2.5 cups is a 20 oz bottle of root beer or if you are cheap like me, you can buy a 2 liter knock off brand for $.99 and use it for several batches. The carbonation is not important, merely the sweet soda. 

If you buy a larger roast, add more root beer.
You want your roast to be about half covered in the liquid. 
Too much won't hurt it but too little will make it dry out. 
Err on the side of too much.

Cover the roast and let it cook on low at least 6 hours. It could go up to 8 but keep an eye on it. If you are home, every few hours pour some of the liquid on the meat. If you aren't don't worry about it-it will be fine!

To show you the desired color/flavor of the meat here is mine before cooking, part way and when I took it out the first time after 7 hours. You want that pretty caramelization and a slighty crunch around the edges to the meat.

Remove the meat from the crock pot and discard the root beer. I then place my meat back in the crock pot and begin tearing large chunks off. Be sure to use tongs and knife or fork as the meat will be very hot.

I use a cutting board and 2 bowls: one for the good meat and one for the fat to be discarded. 

 First of all, look at the gorgeous color on that meat! Can you tell how tender it is from the picture? If you eat a piece now it will be tender and juicy but not have much flavor.

Inspect major chunks for fat pieces and you also want to be "pulling" the meat apart into manageable pieces for eating.
 Can you tell the difference between the larger harder pieces of good meat and the soft fatty meat?

I usually get a big bowl of meat and a half smaller bowl of fat. Depends on how picky you are about getting the fat out. If my husband does it he would take out even less fat because he is lazy!

Finally throw all the good meat back in the crock pot with 3/4 jar/bottle of barbeque sauce. I love Sweet Baby Ray's Original  [available at grocery stores and Costco] but whatever your favorite is will work!! Sweet Baby Ray's 28 oz won't make me worry that I will run out of sauce or having 2 bottles of the 18 oz.

**Note: I recommend having a full unopened bottle on hand for this meal. If you have a half bottle hanging out in your fridge it won't be enough liquid for it to be moist. Make sure you have a full bottle! 

Mix up the meat with the sauce and then put it back on low for an additional hour. This hour will make the meat hot and bubbly with the sauce on it. 


Save the 1/4 bottle for right before serving if the meat isn't moist enough and I still usually add more to my individual sandwich. 

So if you put your meat on in the morning before work, came home after dinner and pulled the meat  you could then prepare the rest of your meal while the meat is simmering with the BBQ sauce. 

So that's it! I did lots of details and pictures so there is no confusion but this is honestly super easy and everyone loves it!

I serve mine on kaiser rolls but you could do dinner rolls or even just on its own. This is great for anytime of year! Serve with corn on the cob or potato/pasta or a green salad. 

And yes, you can make this for a big group with a bigger roast or even 2 of the smaller-just cut them up in smaller chunks so they fit in the crock pot and add more Root Beer.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with BBQ Sauce
The Apron Gal

Serves 4

3-4 lb pork shoulder/butt/chuck roast
2 liter root beer
full bottle of barbeque sauce: recommended :28 oz Sweet Baby Ray's Original


Wash meat in cold water. Place in crock pot with 2.5 cups root beer or until meat is half way covered. Cook on low 6-7 hours or until meat is brown and caramelized [see photos]. 

Remove meat from crock pot and discard root beer. Pull apart meat with tongs and knive or hands if meat has cooled. Remove fat from meat. 

Place pulled meat back in crock pot with 3/4 bottle of barbeque sauce and simmer on low for 1 additional hour. Add additional barbeque sauce if desired. 

Serve on kaiser rolls. 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Baked S'mores

I know, I have done 4 whole posts without dessert. 
I am making it up to you with this one, o man. 

Another awesome birthday present I got was this gorgeous thing:

This is the Aqua color in case you want to know :)
So of course I have been baking up a storm!! Now let me tell you, you BY NO MEANS, ever have to have a mixer to bake-I have done everything for years by hand or with a hand mixer. But it is pretty darn cute and it does make things easier and faster. 

Ok. Have I ever mentioned that I am obsessed with all things S'mores? So when I needed to bring something to a church Halloween party I thought these were perfect so I could try them without having to have the whole pan sitting around at my house. 

These were a hit! Everyone loved them and sadly, I had no leftovers to bring home. 


Start by making your crust by creaming butter, sugar, then adding vanilla and egg. Finally add the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt. 

Once the dough is made, divide it in half and press one half into the bottom of the pan for the bottom crust. 

**Note the main recipe calls for an 8 by 8 but I stretched mine to a 12 by 8 pan with one extra chocolate bar just fine! So pictures are with a 12 by 8 not 8 by 8. 

Add the large Hershey's bar, 2 or 3 depending on your pan size. I even threw some chocolate chips around the edges just to make sure every bite was perfectly chocolatey.

Next spread a jar of this good stuff on top of the chocolate. Just try to not get sticky. It's impossible! 

Now comes the trickiest part but it's still easy. 

Put the remaining dough in a gallon size Ziploc bag and spread it to the size of your pan. Then you will cut the bag open like a book and drop the top dough crust on top [you can't spread it out because of the sticky marshmallow creme] 

That's it! Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into squares. Using an 11 by 7 will give thinner bars, 8 by 8 will be fatter bars. The recipe says to let cool all the way but let me tell you they were divine like this:  cooled for 30-45 minutes but still melty. 

Try to eat just one. Or to NOT lick your fingers.

Because of the huge response to this recipe, I have made these several times in several different ways and here are my notes:

What size pan should I use?

I have made this recipe in an 8 by 8, 11 by 7, 12 by 8 and 13 by 9. ALL of them worked! That being said, I definitely prefer the thinner bars, as pictured above. The best way to get that result is with the 12 by 8 or 11 by 7. The 8 by 8 was still a hit with friends but has much thicker layers and not everyone likes that. The crust does dry out faster in the 8 by 8 version because it's so much thicker. (And its quite a stretch to fit it in a 13 by 9, the top crust layer barely covered it and they weren't as pretty, but it was possible!)

Can I use marshmallows instead of marshmallow fluff?

Some readers have said this worked for them but others have said they disappeared so to be safe, stick with the marshmallow fluff. Bon Appetit has a homemade version and all you need is sugar and egg whites if you don't have fluff on hand!

That marshmallow stuff is so hard to deal with, any suggestions?

Several readers recommended microwaving the fluff to make it easier to smooth out. Another reader also suggested using a spoon that had been dipped in hot water. You are going to get sticky no matter what! It's inevitable! But if you are following the recipe and placing the fluff on top of the bottom crust, it shouldn't matter if it is a little hard to spread, it will be fine :) 

There isn't marshmallow fluff where I live, what should I do?

You can make it from scratch! Here is a recipe from Bon Appetit: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/08/homemade-marshmallow-creme 

Can I use chocolate chips instead of Hershey's bars?

Yes, but again, I like the authenticity of the Hershey's bars but semi sweet or milk chocolate chips will work too! 

Do I have to roll out the crust for the top layer?

In a nutshell, yes! In order to be able to easily spread the top layer on, this is the easiest way. Seriously, roll it out to the right size and then open up your Ziploc bag and plop it on top, then smooth out any wrinkles and seal up the edges. It really isn't that hard, I promise!

I don't have Ziploc bags or I don't like using them because they are expensive, is there anything else I can do?

You can also use 2 pieces of clear saran wrap or wax paper to roll out your crust and then drop it on top. 

Can I put the marshmallow fluff down first and then the Hershey's bars so I don't have to roll out the crust?

You can definitely put the Hershey's first or the fluff first, it is up to you! Again, rolling the crust will be easiest, but if you still don't want to roll it out, definitely put the fluff first and then the Hershey's as this will make it easier if you want to push the crust around instead of "plopping" it on top. 

Can these be made ahead of time? How well do they store? Can they be frozen?

The BEST way to eat these, without a doubt is within an hour after baking, when the chocolate is still melted and they are the most authentic! 

That being said, you can make them the day of or the day before and they are still delicious but don't have that melted goodness. People can zap individual bars in the microwave for a few seconds if they want to obtain that melted factor though! 

I wouldn't go much beyond making them a day in advance so they don't get stale or soggy. Several readers have frozen them before baking and said it worked great!

I hope that helps clear up any questions about the recipe! Please feel free to still email me or leave comments below!

Baked S'mores
recipe courtesy Baked Perfection

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla 
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (approximately 5 full graham crackers)
1 tsp baking powder
2 or 3 super-sized (5 oz.) chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (or mini marshmallows if you must!)


Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom of  pan.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.
Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined. 

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. Two 5 oz. Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly [for 8 by 8] side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer. [use 3 Hershey's for 12 by 8 pan]

Spread marshmallow fluff evenly over the chocolate layer.

Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the creme. This is most easily done by putting the second half of the dough in a gallon size freezer bag. Use your palms or rolling pin to flatten it out, and then use scissors to cut down both long sides of the bag, so it will open up book-style. Open it up carefully, and the dough will stick on one side of the bag. Then place the bag, dough side down, on the other three layers. From there peel the bag up and carefully spread the dough where it is uneven.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely or almost completely for the melty factor before cutting into bars. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Corn Chili aka White Chicken Chili

Whenever I saw recipes for white chicken chili on other blogs I always thought that sounded weird. 

I am from Texas. The home of amazing and authentic chili. 

And as my father would say, "Real chili is only meat and nothing else, especially not beans." 

Most people consider chili made with ground beef or my dad does a special mix of ground chuck and ground pork.

I digress.

So although you can call this is a chili I think of it more as a thick soup.

Last week I went to Costco and I bought one of the rotisserie chickens with the  specific intention of using leftover chicken for something delicious. 

I found this recipe in last month's Food Network Magazine, which I am slightly obsessed with as of late. They had a ton of great soups that I will be sharing for this lovely Fall season. Did I mention I was also motivated by my recent birthday present?

I finally have a dutch oven, perfect for soups! 
You can buy a similar one here, although mine is a knock off from HEB. 

Back to the soup, 

Here are your ingredients. Please excuse my one wrinkly and sad jalapeño. Also I forgot the cilantro. darn. And the chicken broth. For the full list of the ingredients see the bottom recipe, It's hard to get all that stuff in one photo. lol

Frozen corn, onion, 2 cans white beans, garlic, jalapeno, diced green chilis, shredded rotisserie chicken [not pictured: cilantro, chicken broth, and seasonings]

Start by pre-chopping all of your ingredients: onions, cilantro, jalapeno and shred your chicken. Then heat olive oil and then add chopped jalapeno, onion, garlic and green chilis and cumin. Then add chicken broth, chicken and beans and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes so it can thicken. Mash up the chili a little before adding the corn, cilantro and cheese. 

That's it! So easy and a really really yummy fall soup in under 30 minutes. 

Chicken Corn Chili
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine

Serves 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeno pepper, chopped [remove seeds for less heat]
1 4 oz can diced green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 15 oz cans large white beans or pinto [1 can drained and rinsed, 1 can undrained]
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese

sour cream, crushed tortilla chips or cornbread, if desired for serving


Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add chopped jalapeño, garlic and green chiles  and cumin and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, chicken and beans along with liquid from one of the cans. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes. 

Using a potato masher or fork, mash the chili until about half of the beans are broken up. Stir in corn, cilantro and 1/2 cup cheese.

Top with remaining cheese and sour cream if desired. 


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