Friday, July 29, 2011

Foodie Friday: Tomatillos & Tomatillo Salsa

The Tomatillo

New Food: Tomatillo literally "little tomato" but also called "Chinese Lantern Plants"


Category: Fruit technically but more commonly considered in the vegetable category


Ideal season to purchase: Available year round as primarily imported from Mexico. 


How to select: Look for firm and bright green tomatillos.  Avoid any with soft spots or discoloration. 


Where to buy: Regular grocery store or farmer's market. Mexican supermarkets are also a good bet!


Fun Facts: 
  • Whenever you have a green salsa at a Mexican restaurant, you are probably eating tomatillo salsa and didn't know it!
  • Member of the nightshade family
  • Also called the "Spanish tomato," "husk tomato," and "Mexican husk tomato" 

Flavor: A tomatillo is a sister to the tomato but doesn't taste anything like a tomato! The best description is as a cross between a an apple and a lime. It has a sharp acidic taste but is very refreshing. You can actually cut them up and eat them like apple slices which are great! You just probably would only be able to eat a few slices since they are very tart. 


How to Prepare: Peel back the outer layer called the "paper calyx" and wash as the fruit will be sticky from the outer layer. 


Storage: Store for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. 


Recipe Suggestion:


The most common recipe with tomatillos is a green salsa. Below is a tart, fresh, and slightly spicy Tomatillo salsa, inspired by my dad's much spicier version!


First, remove the husks and wash your tomatillos. Slice into quarters. Slice the serrano peppers and remove desired amounts of seeds. 




Chop Serrano peppers first in food processor so that they have the most time to get chopped into smaller pieces. [Nobody wants a big spicy chunk of pepper in their bite!] I used 1.5 deseeded Serranos and wish I had added a little more for kick. Test yours to see how much heat you want.  In order to help chop the peppers first, place a few tomatillo pieces to add moisture. 


After chopping the peppers, add onions and cilantro. 


Pulse until desired consistency by try to not let it get too liquid-ey. I think chunkier salsa is better! Finally, add the tomatillos with garlic salt and white pepper. This will keep the tomatillos from turning to mush while pureeing the other ingredients. 




Test to see if desired spiciness and salt/pepper level are achieved and adjust as necessary. Serve with tortilla chips or over pork tenderloin, tacos, or tamales! 




Look at that rich green color, enjoy!


Tomatillo Salsa
The Apron Gal


Ingredients

  • 8-10 tomatillos 
  • 1/2 sweet onion 
  • 1-2 serrano peppers or 1-2 jalapenos 
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic salt [more to taste]
  • 1/2 tsp White pepper 
Directions

Remove husks and wash tomatillos, cut into quarters. De-seed to desired spiciness level Serrano or jalapeno peppers. Puree peppers first in food processor with a few tomatillo halves to adequately chop peppers. 

Add 1/2 onion with cilantro to food processor and chop. Add remaining tomatillos with garlic salt and pepper and pulse until desired consistency. 

Use within 2-3 days for ultimate freshness or if making a larger batch and desiring to keep longer, bring completed salsa just to a boil on stovetop and then remove from heat before storing in fridge. 



You still have 3 days left to enter my giveaway! You won't regret it! 




Monday, July 25, 2011

Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Summer is such a great time for fresh seafood. Is seafood really better in the summer? Do fish taste different during one season or another? I have no idea. But to me, being at the beach in the summer and picking up fresh seafood just screams summer


For the 4th of July, My Guy and I went to Rockport, Texas with my family. Rockport is right along the water so we had seafood literally every day during our 5 day stay there. Here's just some of what we ate:



Most of the above are from restaurants but I was just dying to cook some seafood on my own for the blog! So mid-morning we drove to the shrimp lady. Every day around 11 or 12 the fresh shrimp catch of the day comes in. It doesn't get any fresher than seeing the shrimp boat next to the bait stand. If you can't get shrimp this fresh, remember to look for fresh wild shrimp from the butcher counter. Fresh and wild are always better than farmed and frozen. But if the frozen is on sale that will work too!



We bought about 2 pounds of the large shrimp [not jumbo]. Remember that shrimp will be peeled and shrink up when cooked so make sure to account for that depending on how many you are serving.

First, wash your shrimp in cold water. Then peel your shrimp. I threw my shells away because I was on vacation, but I read if you were really ambitious that you could keep your shells to make a seafood broth later. I might not be that industrious but if you are more power to you!


I hope that makes sense. I think peeling is less hard than knowing how to de-vein. Don't worry if you mess up the first few shrimp you are peeling, no one will notice in a batch of dozens. 


On to de-veining.  I think de-veining [I don't think that is a word but I am using it anyways] is a mystery to some people. De-vein is a nice way of saying to de-poop the shrimp. Yes, that noticeable black trail on the top side really is remnants from the digestive tract. De-vein is just a nice word. The black vein underneath really is a vein, I think. 


The rule for de-veining is that if its black it needs to go but if it's thin and white it can stay. Additionally, de-veining is only necessary for larger shrimp as it would be practically impossible for the smaller ones. 




Sorry that had to be so graphic but I wanted it to be clear. I couldn't not do a step-by-step for my readers, it just wouldn't be fair! 


Now on to the good looking stuff. 


Heat some olive oil over high heat in a skillet. Throw in your shrimp with the lemons, garlic, garlic salt, parsley, red pepper flakes and white wine/water. 





As always, if you don't want the spiciness you can omit the red pepper but I think it gives a nice flavor. 




Stir this up and let it smell wonderful before you remove the shrimp from the heat, about 3-5 minutes. They will turn pink and become substantially smaller. Add additional wine/water if you want more of a sauce at the end. 




You can then serve them as they are with rice or keep them in the skillet and toss the sauce and shrimp with some angel hair pasta which would be delicious. Squeeze some fresh lemon on them to finish them off and enjoy! 






Lemon Garlic Shrimp
The Apron Gal


Ingredients
2 pounds peeled and de-veined large shrimp
1 large lemon or 2 small
2 cloves garlic in large slices
1/2 cup [ish] roughly chopped parsley
1/2 cup white wine/ white cooking wine [or water if you don't have either]
2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
dash of garlic salt.

Directions
Wash, peel and de-vein shrimp. Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil over high heat. Add shrimp, lemon, white wine, garlic salt, parsley and garlic.

Cook 3-5 minutes while stirring over medium high heat, until shrimp are pink and no longer translucent. Toss with pasta if desired or serve with rice. Finish with sprigs of parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Don't forget to enter my giveaway here! It's the last week!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foodie Friday: Yellow Watermelon

Welcome to the very first "Foodie Friday!"


Every Friday I am going to tell you about a new fruit, vegetable, food product or food craze. These aren't necessarily new to everyone but I think everyone will be able to learn something!  


The point of this is for ME and YOU to learn new things about food and expand our horizons!


Let's being honest, how many of us have ever eaten a rutabaga? I know I haven't! 


Every Foodie Friday I'll explore a new food and hopefully find some awesome new recipes, or at the very least be able to say, "Why, yes I have eaten a rutabaga!"


For my first Foodie Friday, I am keeping things simple by telling you about:

Yellow Watermelon!

New Food: Yellow Watermelon aka "Yellow Crimson"

Category: Fruit 

Ideal season to purchase: Summer [particularly June, July & August] 

How to select the perfect watermelon: The general rule for selecting watermelons is to look for a firm, unbruised, symmetrical watermelon. You also want it to be heavy. And of course there is the "thumping" process: thump the watermelon and listen for the hollow sound. Or ask the people at the farmer's market, they are the experts after all!

Where to buy: Your best bet is your local farmer's market [and some grocery stores] during the summer. Remember that the outside looks the same as a red watermelon so ask around! I can't guarantee your area will have them but definitely look!  


Fun Facts:
  • The largest recorded watermelon was 262 lbs!
  • Watermelon is 92% water. 
  • The watermelon is cousin to squash, pumpkin & cucumber.
       Many people have never seen yellow watermelon so its definitely a conversation starter!
    My yellow watermelon slices look more orange here but they are yellow!

    Flavor: The yellow watermelon is sweeter than the red watermelon and is described as having a honey like taste. The one I ate for this post was seriously so sweet it melted in my mouth. 


    How to prepare: Little known fact: you should wash watermelon before you eat it. Even with a rind you don't want dirt getting into your slices or when you are cutting it up. 


    Recipe suggestions: Normally I would try to have something of my own here but today I am just linking to a couple fun recipes!


    Yellow Watermelon Sorbet on Sugarlaws

    There really aren't a lot of recipes using yellow watermelon out there but you could easily substitute yellow watermelon in any of those beautiful red watermelon salad recipes like this one:

    Watermelon & Feta Salad over at Girlfriend Guide to Zurich


    Red & Yellow Watermelon Salsa with Jicama from Chef Stuart O'Keeffe

    Overall Rating: 5/5

    Come back next week for another Foodie Friday!

    If you still haven't entered my cute apron giveaway do it here! Are you a follower? Liked me on Facebook? Twitter? Each is an entry! Thanks!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Pina Colada

    Since I live in Texas and the current average is above 100 each day, I love making cool drinks & treats. I whipped these up for the family when some fresh pineapples were going soft. 






    The recipe is approximate, so please tailor based on your desired fruit to ice ratio to sweet ratio, you can't ruin a drink made up of pineapple, ice, and cream of coconut. Just have fun with it! 


    But this is about the recipe I used to make a pitcher full:


    Piña Coladas
    The Apron Gal


    Ingredients

    5 cups ice

    5 cups fresh pineapple

    1/4 cup cream of coconut [this comes in a can or in a squeezable container you would find in the drink mixer section along with Margarita mix etc.]

    1/2 cup pineapple juice [could probably be omitted if you didn't have it/want it]

    2 1/2 TBS sugar [again, you might need more sugar or more of the sweeter ingredients if your pineapple isn't as sweet]

    Directions


    Blend all ingredients and serve immediately! If mixture begins to melt, freeze temporarily for up to 2 hours [after that it will turn to a block of ice and you will have to wait for it to re-thaw.]

    Serve with a slice of pineapple on the glass & a cherry if you have them!


    Relax & Enjoy!

    p.s don't forget to enter my giveaway here!






    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Baked Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

    Have you entered my giveaway for  that really cute coral apron? Have you liked me on Facebook? Followed me on twitter? Spread the word to friends and family please!

    I have tried making my own macaroni and cheese a few times and its always turned out just okay. So I have been on the lookout for a delicious but also not super fattening recipe for some time. 


    I love the fact that this has broccoli in it since I love anything with broccoli. Of course, if you despise broccoli you could leave it out but I am not recommending it-as my mother says, you need green with every meal!


    Let's get started:


    Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook your pasta according to package instructions. You will be baking it afterwards so try to keep it just under al dente. 




    You can add your broccoli to the pasta 3 minutes before its done or you can cook the broccoli on its own. I steamed mine for about 3 minutes in the microwave.


    Melt butter in skillet on medium high and then add bread crumbs. 


    Cook bread crumbs, stirring often for 2 minutes or until lightly browned. 




    Remove from heat and combine with 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese. 




    Whisk together milk and flour in deep skillet. [this is pre mixing just to clarify!]




    Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. 




    Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. It should be thick enough to stay on a spoon, kind of like a gravy. 




    Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, mustard, salt and pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Don't be shy with any of these ingredients, I definitely added more salt. I think I added more cheese too just because I had grated too much. Taste the sauce to know what extra it needs. 




    yum....


    Pour sauce over cooked and drained pasta and broccoli. Toss to coat. 


    Place pasta in baking dish and sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top. 




    Bake at 375 for 20-25 or until bubbly. 




    Dish it up & dig in!




    Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
    slightly adapted weightwatchers.com recipe

    Ingredients



    12 oz uncooked pasta, gemelli or other twisted pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)   
    1/8 tsp table salt, for pasta cooking water   

    10 oz broccoli, small florets (about 2 1/2 cups)   
    1 tsp butter   
    1/3 cup(s) fresh bread crumbs   
    3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided   

    2 1/2 cup(s) fat-free skim milk   
    1/3 cup(s) all-purpose flour   
    1/4 cup chopped onion if desired [I omitted]
    1 cup(s) low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, sharp-variety   
    1 tsp Dijon mustard [or dry mustard]
    1 1/2 tsp table salt   
    1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground   

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

    • Cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water according to package directions, adding broccoli to water 3 minutes before pasta will be done [or cook broccoli separately and add in]; drain pasta and broccoli and return to pot.

    • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer crumbs to a small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and set aside.

    • In same saucepan (wipe clean if necessary), whisk together milk and flour until blended; add onion. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.

    • Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar cheese, mustard, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Pour over cooked, drained pasta and broccoli; toss to mix and coat.

    • Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle top evenly with bread crumbs. Bake until bubbly at edges, about 20 to 25 minutes. Divide into 8 pieces and serve. Yields 1 piece per serving.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Chocolate Pie

    I thought to start things off right I would post a cool chocolate dessert. What's not to like right?


    This pie is pretty easy too since it only has three ingredients!




    My MeMaw [that's Texan for grandma in case you didn't know] used to make this for me and ever since she gave me the recipe I have used it many times to create a dessert that is fast and delicious. 


    Start with your choice of large chocolate bar. I like to use the symphony bar with the almonds and toffee. Save a few squares to be crushed up for sprinkling over the finished pie. Heat the remaining chocolate in the microwave until melted. 



    Then mix your melted chocolate with a tub of cool whip. I used light since it was going to be mixed with melted chocolate and placed in a chocolate crust. Save a few calories where you can right? 




     Then pour the chocolate cool whip mixture into your chocolate graham cracker crust [you could use regular graham cracker crust too, homemade or store bought]. Top with remaining chocolate pieces. 




    Now if you want to serve the pie where the mixture is soft or you don't have a lot of time, refrigerate until ready to serve. 


    The real way is to freeze for a few hours until hard.


    I have done both and either way this pie is delicious!


    Slice up a piece and enjoy!

    Chocolate Pie
    The Apron Gal

    Ingredients
    1 container Cool Whip or whipped topping
    1 Symphony bar
    1 chocolate graham cracker crust

    Directions

    Reserve 2-3 pieces of chocolate from Symphony bar. Heat remaining chocolate in microwave until melted. Mix melted chocolate with cool whip. Pour chocolate cool whip mixture into pie crust. Crush remaining chocolate pieces and sprinkle over top.  Freeze for 2-3 hours or until hardened. 

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Welcome Back, New Design & A Giveaway!

    Hello All!


    I am so excited to be reentering the blog world with my new design as The Apron Gal! I feel all new and pretty! 


    I will be posting new delicious recipes a few times a week and I hope to build this blog with new friends and fellow bloggers! I will also be having some guest bloggers as well as future giveaways and "Foodie Fridays." I hope you come back again and again to see all these great new things!


    To kick off a new design and a new start I am doing a giveaway!

    I am giving away the adorable coral apron as seen in the first picture on my header. It was so cute when I bought it that I got one for me and one for YOU! 






    Here is how you can enter:


    Required for entry: 

    • Become a public follower of The Apron Gal & tell me something you would like a good recipe for! 
    For each additional entry:
    • "Like" The Apron Gal on Facebook
    • Follow @TheApronGal on Twitter
    • Blog about The Apron Gal and/or this giveaway specifically
    • Add my button to your blog {grab it from the top right}
    Please leave a different comment for each entry. 

    This giveaway is open until Monday August 1st at Midnight! Winner will be announced on Tuesday August 2nd! {Giveaway open to residents of the United States only, sorry!}


    Stay tuned for some great new recipes!


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