Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spinach Dip

I shared this recipe not too long ago but wanted to re-share it with better pictures and more precise measurements.

Not to mention this would be a great appetizer at your New Year's Bash!

This is always eaten up first whenever I make it!  I usually double the recipe for a larger group-you will need to increase the baking time if you double it.

Also, if your grocer is out of chopped spinach you can buy frozen leaf spinach and chop it in a food processor.


Spinach Dip
The Apron Gal

Serves 6-8 


1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach 
1 8 oz package cream cheese [softened]
1 16 oz container sour cream
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper [more if additional heat desired]

Mix together all ingredients in oven safe container. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly throughout. 

Serve with tortilla chips or french bread.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your families!

Thanks for being so great!

Did I mention that my hubby got me a creme brulee torch for Christmas? 
I can't wait to torch stuff! :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

This recipe would be great for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning! Especially since you can make it ahead of time and bake it the next morning when you want it fresh.

I made this for my husband's work "breakfast club" and everyone loved it. It could definitely serve a dozen people when accompanied by muffins and fruit in a breakfast buffet. 

Merry Christmas to all my readers! I hope you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends! I will be back after Christmas!

Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole
adapted from

Serves 8-10

1 pound pork sausage [I prefer Jimmy Dean hot sausage for a little kick!]
1 onion, chopped
1 package frozen hash browns [1 lb 14 ounces or 2 lb package]
7 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese [around 12 ounces]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish. 

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Coat with butter or cooking spray and cook hash browns until browned and crispy [I cooked mine in 2 batches so all of the hash browns could get good and crispy!]

Cook pork sausage and onion in skillet until browned and crumbly and no longer pink, drain any excess grease. 

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and onion powder. 

Place potatoes in baking dish and then pour egg mixtures over potatoes. Alternate layering the sausage with cheese and add a final cheese layer on top of casserole. 

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour before removing foil and baking for additional 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Muddy Buddies / Puppy Chow

This is one of my favorite holiday treats...its so addicting that I only let myself make these during the holidays!

This is the regular recipe with just one little secret...more powdered sugar!

Muddy Buddies
recipe adapted from


9cups Rice Chex®, Corn Chex® or Wheat Chex® cereal (or combination)
1cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2cup peanut butter
1/4cup butter or margarine
1teaspoon vanilla
2cups powdered sugar


Measure 9 cups of cereal in large bowl. [I do 3.5 cups corn, 3.5 cups rice and 2 cups wheat] 

Melt peanut butter, chocolate and butter in microwave until smooth and easy to drizzle. Add vanilla. Pour over cereal until coated. 

Place cereal in ziploc bag with powdered sugar and shake until evenly coated.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dinner Party Place Setting Tips

It seems that around the holidays there are not only a lot of parties but also a lot of dinners: Thanksgiving, Christmas, family dinners, long-time-no- see dinners, etc. 

I recently have had to host and or decorate for said parties. Although I love to entertain and do own a lot of kitchen things, I own a lot less full place settings or really a lot of the same thing of anything. Sure I have 25 random plates for food blogging but that makes setting a table for a mere 8 people difficult. 

I do however have several sets of things in 4 and I thought I would show you a few examples of how I made things work in case you are struggling with these issues in your life. 

Tip #1

Whenever you do purchase items like napkin rings, placements, chargers, glasses etc. try to buy at least 3 or 4 of the same one. This way you have enough to alternate with another set for 6 or 8 or 2 sets for 12 or any combination thereof. My table only sits 4 so I have only been getting sets with 4 for to build with. 

Here are some basics I own in case you are looking for some for yourself or a holiday gift. I think these are a great affordable place to start for anyone looking to entertain more :

  • Set of 6 silver beaded chargers: Bed Bath and Beyond for $9.99 HOWEVER during the holidays you can find chargers for $1.00 at Wal-Mart or $2.00 at Michael's [and they go half off a lot so then they are $1.00] 

  • Red, Blue and Brown place mats [but available in pretty much any color]: $2.99 each from Bed Bath and Beyond. I love these because they look clean but also have some pattern and great colors. 

  • Cream and red napkins that match place mats: $1.99 each from Bed Bath and Beyond. It is nice to be able to just pick up any color and any amount of these since they are sold separately. 

  • Silver/Gold napkin rings: I got mine on sale for $1.00 each at Bed Bath and Beyond but they don't exist online anymore. I like these but I wouldn't pay $3.00 each. I cap napkin rings at $1.50 each max but can usually find some good ones for $1.00 each or less. In store a lot of them are this cheap but not usually on the website. 

  • Gold tablecloth: I have one similar to this one from Bed Bath and Beyond that is a medium sized rectangle, it probably cost me $20 but has been a lifesaver for many showers and parties. See below for cheaper options too!

So those are my staples for dinner parties.  They may seem "plain" but the idea here is that you can build from these. I don't have anything specifically Christmas because I know I could use the red place mats, or specifically Fall or Summer since I have brown and light blue. I could add any fun colors or accessories from these bases of charger colors and place mat colors; but at least this way I know I always have something that works, no matter what! 

Most of my basics are from Bed Bath and Beyond since that is where I registered when I got married. By no means do you need these exact things I am just showing you an idea of what basics can help you have lots of possibilities. And of course, your colors will differ based on your dishes colors. [White or clear dishes are a great investment for this reason-then you can do anything with them!]

Here is where I shop for dinner parties/table settings stuff today:
  • Ross, TJMaxx and Marshall's-duh they are the cheapest for this stuff and have lots of nice things too
  • Bed Bath and Beyond-when I go there I always check this department and the sale one for cute place mats and napkin rings etc. 
  • Pier 1-They actually have a lot of cute napkin rings and place mats and they often go on sale.
  • Big Lots-Again, they have a pretty decent kitchen/dining area so I always check out their stuff. 
  • Macy's/Dillard's/Kohl's-Regular prices are too high but sales and off season colors/patterns/styles will often get you 75% cute yellow place mats in the winter. Keep your eyes open. 
  • Thrift stores-Again, keep your eyes open. Look for sets of napkin rings especially since you wouldn't have to wash those like napkins/placemats. 

Tip #2

Don't be afraid to mix and match. For my "mini Thanksgiving", I needed 6 place settings but didn't have anything in 6, so using my above tip, I mixed and matched. Additionally, I not only mixed and matched with alternating place mats, I did it with chargers, plates, napkin rings and napkins. The possibilities I tried were really fun actually because they all looked good and didn't require me to buy any more than I had! 

Here are just a few combinations of what I had. 

1. Charger with a real plate
2. Charger with a real plate and paper plate [less dishes but more color and sturdier eating]
3. Charger with only paper plate

Here is how I alternated placemat colors, charger colors, napkin colors and napkin rings for 6 place settings [at my little table for] I love the changing colors and textures, I think it makes it more interesting! 

I had another event recently and I put my square plates on my round chargers, but I thought it looked fun! 

Don't be afraid to mix it up! 

Notice in the background that I still alternated my chargers and my place mats but I also used different dishes and different glasses. This time I placed napkins in the glasses since the bowls made placing the napkins on the plates more difficult. But I was still using what I had!!!

Tip #3

Get creative! Don't have place mats? Use construction paper, paper doilies, newspaper or whatever you think could look cool with your dishes. Use a tablecloth and no place mats, or whatever! 

I only had 4 napkin rings, so I went to my bracelet drawer and pulled out a few favorites. I liked my "jewelry rings" better than my napkin rings!

The left one is my real napkin ring and the other three are bracelets! Now look back at the previous picture. Would you have noticed?? It wasn't so obvious when they were alternated with regular napkin rings. 

Another place to get creative is with place cards. Most dinner parties don't need them but are just something extra you could do for fun. Glitter a pumpkin in the fall, use a flower pot in the spring, or use note cards, gift tags whatever you can think of to identify places. 

Tip #4

Another option is to use completely different everything. A different cup, plate, bowl for each person. I love this idea and think it would be so fun, especially when you have lots of different colors and shapes, etc. When I do it I will be sure to add some pictures for you! 

Here is a picture I found online of that idea that you have probably seen with different chairs too!

Image from Brandon Kidd Photography here
I hope these tips help! 

I just want to inspire you to party more and entertain with friends and family more without being intimidated! I mean...did you see my paper turkey plates? I don't think it gets any less intimidating than that! 

What are you secrets to dinner party place settings? Where have you found awesome stuff? What have you done that is unique?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pecan Pie Bites

Is it just me or does anything in mini form automatically make it 1. cuter 2. taste better? 

That is definitely the case with these mini pecan pie bites. They are little bites of heaven and literally were gobbled up in minutes at our recent Christmas party. 

Of course, I used pre-made pie crust to make these even easier! 

Pecan Pie Bites
recipe from Tasty Bites Cookbook

makes about 3-3.5 dozen

1 pie crust
2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325. 

Using a round cookie cutter or bottom of a glass, cut circles large enough to cover sides of mini muffin tin. Press the circles into the pan to form shells. 

Combine filling ingredients in a mixing bowl; mix well. 

Spoon about 1 heaping teaspoon into each shell. [This is important! Do not overfill! I thought some of mine looked "empty" so I added more but then they overflowed and got stuck]

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and filling is set. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giveaway Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Andrea, entry #28 of 50 who won the Christmas giveaway!

I am headed to Utah for the holidays today but I will be back tomorrow with another great recipe!

Thanks to all who entered and for spreading the word! I love all my readers and want to say Welcome to all my new readers!

Thanks for stopping by!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Meringue Tarts

Have you entered my Christmas giveaway yet? It ends Monday at midnight so get cracking! Even if you don't want all that cute stuff, I bet you know someone who does...a great FREE Christmas gift!

Ok, is anyone still reading? I hope the title of this post didn't scare you off. Sometimes when I read other people's food blogs I read these long complicated titles and I think, what is all that stuff? Give me a chocolate chip cookie recipe!

But I try to keep an open mind for my favorite blogs and for ingredients that I have been wanting to try in different ways. So give this one a chance, you won't regret it! 

Although this is a dessert - it isn't super sweet so its perfect when you are on a sugar overload during the holidays. It is also a great way to use up extra sweet potatoes or sweet potato puree you have from Thanksgiving or Christmas. 

But most of all, they are cute because they are mini and colorful. hehe

So start by peeling and cutting up your sweet potatoes. They don't need to be pretty, you are going to boil them and mash them anyways. 

Boil the sweet potatoes until tender when pricked with a fork. Drain. 

While your sweet potatoes are cooking, work on your crust. 

Like always, I used store bought but you could make your own too. Roll it out thin and then use a cookie cutter or cup to find the perfect size to fit your mini muffin pan. I tried a couple of different sizes and pressed them into the pan until the size was big enough to fill up the sides of the muffin cup. 

I didn't worry about making them pretty, I think it gave them character :)

Prick the bottoms of the mini cups and then bake for 5 minutes at 350.

Meanwhile mash your sweet potatoes with the coconut milk, cinnamon and brown sugar. 

Finally, you want to make your meringue by whipping egg whites with sugar and a dash of cream of tartar. My picture of the stiff peaks didn't turn out but here is a good link for pictures of the stiff peaks and the consistency you want before its ready to bake.
Once your crust is baked, fill the shells with about a teaspoon of sweet potato and then adding the meringue, coconut and marshamllows on top. I don't have specific measurements, just eyeball it. The more meringue, the more impressive they look. I just dropped coconut over all of them and put a few marshmallows on each tart.  But they all turn out cute and there isn't a specific ratio that is essential. 

Bake for ten minutes or until lightly browned and that's it! I recommend letting them cool at least an hour or I popped mine in the fridge for about 20 minutes to bring them down to room temperature and that seemed to be perfect.

Sweet Potato Meringue Tarts

Makes 24 mini tarts

1 lb sweet potatoes
1 pie crust 
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar 

Meringue Ingredients
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar [optional]
5 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 350. 

Peel sweet potatoes and chop into chunks. Boil until tender when pricked with a fork. Drain. 

Roll out pie crust until thin. Using a circle cookie cutter or bottom of a cup, make 24 circles for shells to go in mini muffin pan. Press pie crust circles into muffin pan until a shell forms. Prick bottoms with fork.

Bake shells for  5 minutes and remove from oven. 

Mash sweet potatoes with coconut milk, cinnamon and brown sugar. [This mixture will not be very sweet but if desired add additional sugar or milk] Place 1 teaspoon of mixture into prebaked shells. 

For the meringue: beat 3 eggs for 1 minute then add 2 tablespoons sugar, then beat for additional 1 minute, then add 3 tablespoons sugar, then continue beating until stiff peaks form and meringue stands up on beater. 

Spoon merinuge over sweet potato filled tarts to desired height. Sprinkle with coconut and 1-3 marshmallows per tart. 

[You may have some extra meringue and or sweet potato mixture leftover depending on how full your shells are]

Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Let cool for 1 hour or place in fridge for 20 minutes to bring to room temperature before serving. 


Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Giveaway!

Hello lovelies!

Just for fun and to say thanks to all my loyal readers out there, here is a little
Christmas giveaway!

Here is what you will be winning:

Sorry this isn't the greatest picture ever, aprons are so hard to photograph!
  •  Christmas apron [hehe]
  • Sugar cookie mix
  • Mini whisk 
  • Star cookie cutter 
  • Holiday muffin liners
Here are the rules:
This giveaway opens today, December 5th, and ends next Monday, December 12th at midnight, Central time. I will announce the winner on Tuesday December 13 and mail the items that day too, so you should receive them by Dec 17. 
Giveaway is open to residents in the contiguous US states only. Sorry!

To enter please leave a separate comment for each entry:

Mandatory entry:
  • Like The Apron Gal on Facebook & tell me your favorite holiday dessert!
Additional entries:
  • Become a public follower using the follow button on the sidebar
  • Subscribe toThe Apron Gal's feed 
  • Follow The Apron Gal by email using the link on the sidebar
  • Follow The Apron Gal on Twitter
  • Follow The Apron Gal on Pinterest
  • Blog, tweet, facebook, or anything else about this giveawy. One additional entry per shout out. 
Happy Holidays to All!

I love y'all!  Thanks for supporting me!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chocolate Mascarpone Toffee Bars

Before I share a yum diddly ummy recipe with you loyal followers, let me say these 3 things that may slightly make up for my recent absence from blogging. 

1. I am currently looking for a full time paying job, its kind of a big deal, I know. Thankfully, I have been having a few interviews lately which is great, but has also taken my time away from blogging. Excuse #1

2. Do you ever get tired  of food? Like when you are on a road trip and eat lots of junk and you never want to look at food again? Or after Thanksgiving when you have eaten 2 months of food in a 72 hour time frame? Or when your kitchen gets dirty so often that once you finally clean it you can't bear the thought of dirtying it with that obnoxious meal called dinner?  I have been suffering from the above lately but I am slowly trying to come around to food again. Excuse#2

3. I don't have a third excuse but I am going to repent with a little Christmas giveaway being announced on Monday! Nothing huge [did I mention I don't have a job? lol] but just some cute fun Christmas stuff. 

Anyways, I truly love blogging and hearing from all of my readers so please stick with me! I promise to do better and I think I may share all dessert recipes in the coming weeks, you can't blame me right? Christmas = sweets  in my mind.


Ok, so I will definitely share some more traditional Christmas treats later, but I think this is a really unique recipe that will knock guests' socks off at any holiday party.

Whenever I go to the grocery store I try to look for new ingredients to inspire me, I have heard of mascarpone before [particularly on Chopped in the dessert round....any Chopped people out there?] but never actually tasted it. Once I bought it, I had no idea what to make with it. 

Mascarpone is a "sweet Italian cream cheese" so you can use it in savory dishes but most of the recipes I saw used it as a sweeter cream cheese for things like pancakes, muffins, cakes etc. It doesn't have a strong flavor on its own, just like regular cream cheese but adds a richness to anything you add it to.

Look for this container, or similar one, in the fine cheeses section, although it might  be near the ricotta near the regular cheese too, just depends on your store. It will cost about $3.00 for a small tub so it's not an everyday ingredient but it is fun to splurge on every once in awhile!

Start by mixing pre-made sugar cookie dough with half of your toffee and some vanilla. I recommend leaving the dough on your counter for about 20-30 minutes so it is soft enough to stir together easily. Using a mixer also makes it easier to stir in the toffee bits. You can use these baking bits [easy!] or crush up 2 Skor or Heath bars. I like the bag because I can add more on the top of the finished product if I want to.

Then press this cookie dough into your pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. 
You will bake this crust first before adding the topping. I baked my cookie crust for 20 minutes in a 10 by 7 pan, but if you use an 8 by 8 it would probably take more like 25 minutes.

While the cookie crust is baking, melt your chocolate with some vegetable oil in a double boiler on the stove. To make a "double boiler", simmer a pot of water and then add a glass bowl with your chocolate chips, gradually stirring until they are melted beautifully. 

Of course, you can microwave too, but I have burned so many batches of chocolate in the microwave that I recommend proceeding with caution to avoid using profanities...

Once the chocolate is melted, let it cool for 10 minutes before whisking in the mascarpone cheese until smooth. 

You also need to toast some sliced almonds to go on top of these bars. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch them carefully as you do not want them too toasted. I forgot to take a picture of them toasted but notice their beautiful toasted color in the final photos. 

Finally, spread the mascarpone chocolate mixture on top of the cooled cookie crust. Then sprinkle toasted almonds and chocolate toffee bits on top. 

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before cutting into bars and serving! 

Chocolate Toffee Mascarpone Bars
recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis

1 pound refrigerated sugar cookie dough [like Pillsbury]
1/3 cup or 2 Skor/Heath bars at 1.4 ounces each
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup [8 ounces] mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds


Preheat oven to 350. 

Spray a 7 by 10 or 8 by 8-inch nonstick baking pan with cooking spray.Line the pan with parchment so it overhangs the sides. Spray the parchment paper lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie dough, 1/2 of the chopped chocolate-toffee candy pieces and vanilla extract. Using damp fingers, gently press the dough into the prepared pan. Using the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 15-20 minutes for 7 by 10 pan or 20-25 minutes for an 8 by 8 pan or until the crust is lightly browned. Cool for 15 minutes.

Layer sliced almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted. 

Place the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted. Cool the chocolate mixture for 10 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese until the mixture is smooth. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate mixture over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate-toffee candy pieces and sliced almonds over the chocolate mixture. 

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the chocolate layer is firm.

Peel off the parchment paper and cut into 1 1/2 by 2-inch bars. Serve at room temperature.


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