Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pad Thai

This was one of my first recipes I discovered when I started my food blog. That was over 2 years ago now! I can't believe it! 

This recipe is fun for so many reasons. It forced me to learn more about cooking because of all the different ingredients, flavors and textures involved. Don't let that intimidate you! I have made this over a dozen times since my first time, and it always turns out a little different but that is one of the things I love about it

It is also one of my husband's favorite dishes and we have made it for guests several times and it is always a hit. 

I love the sweetness of the peanuts against the freshness of the cilantro and the tartness of the lime. It really does have a great flavor combination.

 First, if you are unfamiliar with Asian cooking, you might want to take a look at my post about How To Start Cooking Asian Food. It shows you the basics to keep on hand and explains a little more about them.

The hardest thing to find for this recipe are the rice noodles. They are also called Vietnamese banh-po or Thai sen-mee. I have been able to find them at most grocery stores in the Asian food section. They usually look similar in package and shape to these:

To make the rice noodles, bring a pot of water to almost a boil on the stove. Once it's getting close to boiling, remove it from the heat and place the noodles inside for about 10 minutes. (So you want to do this about half way through preparing your other ingredients so they don't sit too long). After 10 minutes, try eating a noodle, you want it to be pliable but not too soft. Remember, we will be cooking these briefly in the skillet with the other ingredients later. But make sure they aren't too chewy, one time they were too chewy and it ruined the whole dish :(

 (don't let these pictures deceive you, the burner is off!)

Next you want to prepare all your toppings so that when your main noodles are ready you don't have to let them get cold to prepare your peanuts, lime, cilantro and green onions. 

Using a micrograter or small grater grate about a teaspoon of lime peel. You will combine this with some peanuts. 

Chop up your green onions, cilantro and peanuts. And pretend there are pictures of peanuts, whoops!

Next you want to cut your chicken into bite sized pieces. I recommend using chicken tenders or breasts. Meanwhile, heat up a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of cooking oil and a teaspoon or so of garlic. Add your chicken and cook until chicken is cooked through, around 5 minutes.

Now, remove the chicken from the skillet but while the skillet is still hot, add an egg that you have beaten in a small bowl. Cook the egg until set, around 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and chop the egg up, or be lazy like me and chop it while it's still in the skillet.

Finally, mix together your sauce ingredients. Then add them to the skillet with the noodles and bean sprouts. Don't be afraid of bean sprouts, they are usually pretty inexpensive and can be found in the refrigerated produce section. Add your cooked chicken too, and stir fry for about 2 minutes to get all the flavors together.

Finally, plate noodles and then top with green onion, peanuts, cilantro, lime peel and egg. 

I would also like to mention that this recipe, just like any other can be tweaked, if you don't have green onions or bean sprouts, don't fret, it will still be good! Do the best you can :)

Pad Thai
adapted from Better Homes and Garden
Serves 4 smaller portions or 2 generous portions

8 ounces rice noodles (also called Thai Banh Pho)

4 Tablespoons soy or fish sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 1/2 Teaspoons rice vinegar
1 1/4 Tablespoon Asian chile sauce or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup peanuts (I prefer half crushed and half whole)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup sliced green onion

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into strips or chunks
1 egg slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts


Place a pot of water on the stove and bring almost to a boil. Before boiling, remove from heat and add noodles. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Then test to see if noodles are pliable but not soft. Drain well in a colander. 

 Meanwhile, for peanut topping, combine peanuts and grated lime peel; set aside. Also, chop up cilantro and green onions. Set all aside for topping at end.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook and stir for 6 minutes until chicken is tender and no pink remains. Transfer chicken to a bowl.

Add egg to the hot skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Turn egg with spatula and cook for 30 to 60 seconds more, just until set. Remove and chop egg; set aside.

In a small bowl combine fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and chile sauce; stir until smooth. Set aside.

In same skillet heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat for 30 seconds. Add drained noodles and sprouts; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add sauce mixture and chicken; cook 1 to 2 minutes more until heated through. 

Divide noodle mixture among four plates or bowls.

Sprinkle each serving with egg and peanut topping. Garnish with green onion and cilantro. 


Friday, February 24, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

I am excited about this post for a few reasons....

This is one of my favorite desserts EVER, and it's also my very first cooking video!

About the recipe:

It has literally 5 ingredients and it's very simple. It's 6 ingredients if you dip them in chocolate, which of course, I did.

I love these as a dessert because they are so different from your normal desserts like cookies, brownies or cakes. 

They satisfy a sweet tooth craving but don't leave you in a sugar coma like some desserts...like perhaps my baked s'mores

I also feel like these are a little fancier than your average dessert too. 

Have I convinced you to make them yet?

Well if my ramblings haven't, perhaps my video of me baking them will! (she said sarcastically) Here are a few still photos from the video shoot:

My Hollywood brother...no really, he lives in LA!

1. This is my first video. I don't think I am very cool in it. I don't like watching myself on camera or hearing my own voice. Typical.

2. I DO like, however, that my awesome brother filmed me, directed me, edited the video and made it what it is today. He is awesome and I love him.

3. I don't provide really any measurements in the video (see disclaimer #1) for whatever reason so be sure to have the recipe provided below and your ingredients all out before baking (if you intend to watch the video while making the recipe).

4. It is 8 minutes long. I will be impressed if even my own mother makes it past minute 2. I won't be offended if none of you do.

5. I think that is plenty of disclaimers for one lil' ol' video, don't you?

And without further ado....

The Apron Gal - Coconut Macaroons from The Apron Gal on Vimeo.
Coconut Macaroons
recipe from Jill Zarin via People Magazine 

2, 14oz bags of sweetened flaked coconut
1, 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 Tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 lb bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate


Preheat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl mix together coconut, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla extract. It won't be very moist so be sure to keep mixing it until all the coconut has been coated enough that is will stick together.

Using a medium cookie scoop or your hands, place scoops of coconut mixture onto a baking sheet. Try to squish them together some since they will look exactly like the same after baking as before.

Bake for 15 minutes and then check for golden brown edges and bottom. Bake for an additional 5 minutes if needed.

Let cool.

If you want to dip them in chocolate, melt some chocolate with a small scoop of butter (to prevent burning) in a small bowl that will easily cover the macaroon.

Dip the macaroons in the melted chocolate as far as you prefer and then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and then place on a tray lined with wax paper before serving.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pasta Amatriciana

This summer my husband and I went on a European vacation. A last "hurrah" if you will after graduating college and before starting "real" life and real jobs (notice that life may not be "real" but jobs certainly are!). 

Part of our vacation was a sort of culinary journey. We tried new foods and flavors and I brought home a few spices, pasta, and culinary gadgets to help me recreate some of our favorite European meals. 

We spent the longest part of our trip in Italy, around 11 days and we loved it. We liked the food but didn't always love it. Part of this was since we were on a longer trip we had to skimp on some meals, eating at what we call more of the European "fast food" places like Kebab shops and pizzerias. Don't get me wrong we LOVE both pizza and kebabs, but we didn't get to try as many amazing sit down meals as we would have liked due to our budgetary restrictions. [Don't worry I am already scheming up some sort of trip that focuses all around food!]

Here are some pictures from our trip to the Campo di Fiori, a famous outdoor market, mainly for tourists with spices, pasta, olive oils and fresh fruits and vegetables.

 Every kind of sundried tomato possible!

 Pink garlic

 Hunk of love.
 Spice mixes
 Bringing spice mixes home!
 Pasta Pasta Pasta

Anyways, one of my favorite foods in Italy was this pasta dish. It was very simple but it hit the spot. Now granted, it was served to me after a long day of trekking around Rome. In one day we went to the Campo D'Fiori market above, then to the Vatican museums, St. Peter's basilica, Castel San Angelo, and then tried to visit the Roman forum. Needless to say the main requirement for any meal that night was somewhere to sit.

We stumbled on the perfect little restaurant. It was empty, cheap and the restaurant owners were gracious and kind. They gave us free chocolates and helped navigate us to our next stop after dinner. It was definitely one of my favorite meals in Rome: good company, good food, kind strangers, and a reasonably comfortable chair. (I have never walked more in my life than I did in Rome.)

I refuse to share the picture of said pasta dish since it doesn't do it justice and I don't want you to judge my meal unfairly. So just trust me, it was good :)

This recipe is definitely less than 100% authentic but the general flavors still shine true. 
Traditional Amatriciana sauce has 5 prevalent flavors/ingredients:

1. Tomato
So maybe I am not a good cook, but no matter what pasta sauce I make, it never turns out as good as the jarred stuff. So I like to use jarred sauce as a base for all of my sauces. Call me a cheater, I like it that way. You can use your "go to" homemade sauce for this and then add the other ingredients or just use some diced tomatoes and canned tomato sauce. Whatever floats your boat. 
2. Heat
 I used red pepper flakes because they are the easiest to regulate. You could also use a red chili pepper. Don't skimp on the heat as it adds a unique element. Feel free to add more as desired. 
3.  Bacon/pancetta/guanciale
Traditional amatriciana sauce has guanciale, a type of salt cured pork similar to pancetta. Guanciale is easy to find in Italy, but less so in the United States. Pancetta, a similar type of fatty bacon, is easier to find than guanciale but still not nearly as prevalent as bacon. Look near the fine cheeses and meats or ask your butcher. The first time I made this I used pancetta, and the second time I used bacon. Both provide the necessary salt and meat element so use whichever you can find. Pancetta is definitely the more authentic but again, bacon works too :)

  4. Bucatini or Spaghetti pasta
 Bucatini (a type of noodle rounder and fatter than spaghetti) or Spaghetti are traditional, but as you can see from my pictures I just used whatever pasta I had on hand (shame on me). 

 5. Pecorino Romano cheese
The finishing touch. Parmesan works too.

Pasta Amatriciana
The Apron Gal

4-5 pieces guincale, pancetta or bacon, diced
2 cloves/teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 jar pasta sauce of your choice
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt (test before adding)
1/3 cup water


Cook down the bacon until it is crispy and brown and all the grease is left in the pan. Remove bacon to paper towel lined plate. Pour bacon grease into an old can or mop up with paper towels. Leave a teaspoon or two behind for the garlic and onions as it will add more flavor. 

Cook garlic and onion in remaining bacon fat for a few minutes or until slighty softened. 

Add jar of tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, water and bacon. 

Simmer on low for 10 minutes or until flavors have adequately melded. Add more water if a thinner sauce is desired. Taste to see if additional red pepper flakes and/or salt is desired. 

Serve over pasta.

Grate fresh Pecorino Romano over pasta and sauce. 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to Make Croutons

One of my favorite things to buy is fresh bread from the bakery. I LOVE LOVE LOVE bread. Sourdough, rye, white, wheat, nutty, jalapeno cheese,  smothered in butter, smothered in peanut butter....you get the idea, right?

Little known fact about me:
If I was trapped on a desert island and could only eat three things, they would be:
 ( In no particular order)
1. bread
2. cookies
3. fruit

Anywhoo back to the point, I love bread and I buy a lot of it fresh from the bakery. Two problems with this: Husband and I mainly eat bread as a snack or as a side with meals (it's rare we make an official sandwich with bread) so we often find ourselves with bread that is just a little too crusty, moldy or hard. Bread is one thing I definitely hate wasting so I often refuse to throw it away even though it's just beyond that perfect when toasted and smothered in butter phase.


Homemade croutons!

Pin It
Again, the recipe isn't rocket science. You cut or tear up your bread into bite size pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake them. Voila!

These are so great because they totally look rustic, aka you can cut or tear them up into whatever shapes/sizes you want and it looks like you did that on purpose. Anything I can make and not worry about how they look is good in my book!

You can also cut the bread into long thin slices and bake it to make those crunchy bread things you get at Italian restaurants to scoop up your pasta, you know what I'm talking about right?

And finally, if you aren't convinced to make these already... if you dread those yucky croutons out of the bag but still like that crunch on your salad- these are the perfect solution!

Homemade Croutons
The Apron Gal

3 cups stale bread (any kind will do no matter the texture)
3 teaspoons olive oil


Preheat oven to 350.

Tear or cut up bread into bite sized pieces. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.

Pour oil coated croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, toss and bake for up to an additional 5 minutes or until that perfect golden and "toasty" look is achieved.

Let cool for at least 5-10 minutes before tossing in a salad or storing in an airtight container.


Have you ever made homemade croutons? Are you going to try them now?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Peanut Butter M&M Bars

I don't have any awesome stories about this recipe today, just that is yummy and only 5 ingredients. And you should make it. Right now.

The End. 

Have a fabulous week!

                                                                              Pin It

Peanut Butter M&M Bars
recipe courtesy Not Rachael Ray

3/4 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups all purpose baking mix (like Bisquick)
1 bag of M & M's (12.6 ounces, but I only used about 3/4 of the bag)


Preheat oven to 325. Grease bottom of an 8 by 8 pan.

Mix together eggs and peanut butter until smooth. 

Add in brown sugar until combined. 

Add in baking mix and stir until combined, a thicker dough should be forming now. I did use my hands to really get it all mixed up! (Since I used heart healthy Bisquick my dough seems to be a thicker consistency than with regular Bisquick, it also results in a drier final product but I still thought they were delish!) 

Add in as many M & M's as desired and mush them up into the dough. They might not stick very well so feel free to press some of the dough into the pan and then press more M&M's into the dough. Remember, the more M&M's the better!
Spread the dough in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Try not to overbake it since you don't want it to get dry. 

Cut into bars & enjoy with a big glass of milk!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Dip

This dip has been on my "to make" list since before I left home for college. As I prepared for college, I went through my parents' cookbooks searching for all my favorite recipes and finding a few new ones. This was one that was new but looked delicious. 

I have honestly tried to make it a dozen times since then but randomly wouldn't have sour cream or chicken or a jalapeno....and the list goes on. So finally, this Super Bowl Sunday, I finally conquered it and I am glad I did!

My friends literally swarmed this stuff and it was gone in a matter of minutes. Although I think anything that is cheesy and can be eaten with a chip is usually a crowd pleaser. 

As always, this is one of those great recipes where you can fiddle with it-if that's your thing [like me] or go straight from the recipe and I promise it will taste good!

This is also a great time to use my Crock Pot Shredded Chicken that I mentioned. It was so nice to already have the chicken made so I basically just threw the ingredients together on the stove and it was fast! In particular, if you made a Mexican seasoned [add some cumin, chile powder, salsa] batch, it would be even more perfect for this dip!

Chicken Enchilada Dip
The Apron Gal
Serves 6 as an appetizer

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (or canned) about 1 large chicken breast or 2 smaller cooked
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cream
3/4 cup (3 ounces) cream cheese
1/4 cup salsa
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (seeded for less heat-leave seeds for greater heat)
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Cholula) optional for additional heat! 
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese


Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeno and saute about 4 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Add the chicken and saute until heated through. Stir in sour cream, cream cheese, salsa, green chiles, garlic salt and crushed tortilla chips.

Simmer until heated through and blended nicely. Taste to see if additional salt and/or hot sauce is desired.  Spoon into an oven safe baking pan and then sprinkle with the shredded Cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 to get dip hot and bubbly. Or you can cook it in the microwave for 4 to 5 to melt the cheese and get the dip bubbly. 

If you made this ahead of time and put the uncooked dip in the fridge, reheat for 20-30 minutes or until dip is hot and bubbly and the center is hot. 

Serve with tortilla chips or even spoon into a tortilla....yum


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

I have a long list of vegetables that I want to try, so when the opportunity arose to try parsnips over Christmas I was thrilled! Everyone loved these sweet vegetables and were asking for seconds!

Parsnips are similar to carrots in shape and texture, but are slightly sweeter. You want to choose parsnips like you would a carrot, making sure they are smooth and blemish free.

And, you're in luck! Winter parsnips are sweeter than fall parsnips so hurry and get some now! 

Prepare parsnips just like carrots by washing and peeling first. However, larger parsnips can have a very woody core (you can see it when you cut it lengthwise) and its best to remove it so it's not too tough.

I served these with my roasted fingerling potatoes and ribs for a family dinner, and it was delicious! 

Parsnips might seem expensive, but for example in this recipe, you only need a 1/2 pound so it would just be $1.00, at least at my grocery store. :)

Just to show you what they look like in comparison to one another.

Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and rosemary and roast for 45 minutes to an hour.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
The Apron Gal
Serves 4

1 pound carrots
1/2 pound parsnips
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and peel carrots and parsnips. Remove the woody core from the larger parsnips after cutting them lengthwise to expose it. Then slice into smaller pieces as desired [I halve them lengthwise and then cut them diagonally into about 4ths].

Toss cut carrots and parsnips in a bowl with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. 

Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet. 

Roast at 400 for 45 minutes-1 hour or until both vegetables are soft when pricked with a fork. 

*Note, typically you do not serve food with cooked rosemary sprigs as you see in my pictures, I merely forget to remove them! Keep fresh rosemary in sprigs so it's easy to remove after cooking. Rosemary needles are not very pleasant to eat, so remember to remove them!!


Do you have other favorite recipes you make with parsnips??

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feta Artichoke Crostini

Last time I had a party I made these crostini and they literally flew off the plates and people kept asking for more. They are a fresh and flavorful combination of tomatoes, artichokes and feta. 

I would consider these a slightly fancier appetizer since artichokes in the jar are expensive and feta is a little pricier too [then say, a can of Rotel and some Velveeta?].

But when you are looking for a little nicer and more grown up appetizer these are perfect. 

My only major recommendation is to make sure the mixture is adequately salted to bring out the flavors AND to buy a sourdough baguette and not french bread or a regular baguette. You want the bread to be slightly chewy but still crisp and its so hard with regular baguettes! (You may notice in my pictures that all my grocery stores had was a regular, but I know it would have been better with sourdough!)

Feta Artichoke Crostini
slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Appetizer Cookbook

Serves 12 as appetizers (makes about 20 crostini) 
1 jar (7.5 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup diced seeded tomatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
salt to taste

1 loaf sourdough bread (about 20 inches long)


Drain artichokes but save 2 tablespoons of the marinade. Chop artichokes (by hand or in food processor) and then add tomatoes, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, green onions. salt and reserved marinade.

If possible, cover and refrigerate 1 hour. 

Cut baguette into half inch slices. **Place on baking sheet and broil for 1 minute on each side. Then add artichoke mixture and broil for 2-4 minutes or until edges of bread are browned, the artichoke mixture doesn't need to cook or be hot, just the bread.

Serve immediately.


**Cook's note: I like to broil my bread first, so it doesn't get soggy from adding the food mixture. Plus you don't necessarily want the mixture hot although warm would be okay. You could even broil/toast the bread completely before and then just add the cool artichoke mixture. When in doubt, make one to try and then if don't like it adjust accordingly (i.e. broil bread first, don't broil bread first, bread fresh, mixture warmer vs. cooler)

in content ad


Related Posts with Thumbnails