Friday, March 30, 2012

Goat Cheese Pesto Crostini

When I mentioned throwing my Paninis and Pop Party, my friend Andrea offered to bring something. She raved about these special crostini she makes and I consented to allow her to bring them.

She showed up with these Goat Cheese Pesto Crostini and within minutes they were half gone and I was lucky to grab even one!

 These are the perfect appetizer: crunchy bread, creamy goat cheese, with a slight saltiness from the almonds and the freshness from the pesto.

They melt in your mouth.

And because my friend Andrea is awesome and gave me the recipe, and because I am awesome, I  giving YOU the recipe!!

These take a little while to assemble, since they are have a few toppings, but they are SO worth the wait! 

You could toast the bread, mix the cheese, and cut up almonds beforehand. I wouldn't recommend spreading with the cheese and pesto until just before serving, so the bread doesn't get soggy. 

You can use goat cheese in log form or in crumbled form or you could also use feta cheese. I used all of the above and they were all great! I preferred the slightly stronger taste of the goat cheese overall. 

I recommend buying a big bottle of pesto from Costco to have on hand for recipes like these! You can also buy goat cheese in bulk from there, which a friend of mine swears by!

Goat Cheese Pesto Crostini
source unknown

Makes about 24 crostini 

around 24 slices of french bread of loaf (cut 1/4 inch thick)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 package (4oz) cream cheese softened
1 package (4oz) goat cheese or feta cheese softened
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning herbs
1 teaspoon garlic or 1 garlic clove, chopped

Pesto-Almond Topping
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 container (7 oz/ 1 cup) refrigerated basil pesto
2 tablespoons ranch dressing


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place bread slices on baking sheet. Using an olive oil spritzer or a brush lightly spray each piece of bread with olive oil. Bake 10-12 min or until light golden brown.

In stand mixer or using hand mixer, combine cream cheese, goat cheese seasoning mix and garlic.

Toast almonds for 3-5 minutes on a baking sheet in oven. Let cool before chopping.

Spread goat cheese mixture over crostini, then add pesto, then sprinkle with toasted almonds.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Life in Food: Lately

Not only do I love to cook, bake and entertain....I love to EAT!

I feel like it wouldn't be fair to NOT share with you all the delicious food that I EAT!

Here are some of my favorites from lately. 
 I have included a link to the restaurants if you live in the Austin area as well! 
If not, you should come visit and grab some Ah-mazing food while you are here! 

Amazing Grilled Cheeses from Chedd's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Left: Old World Asiago, Fontina, Havarti on Pumpernickel
Right: Ain't Pizza mozzarella, pepperoni, green pepper, pizza sauce on foccaccia

 Tuna Tataki from Sushi Nini in Round Rock
Seared pepper tuna with ponzu sauce and scallions

Crunchy, Blue Moonlight and Spicy Tuna roll from Sushi Nini

 Lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs

Chicken, mac & cheese, and mashed potatoes with cornbread from Boston Market

Club sandwich with cheesy vegetable soup from Recession Cafe in Downtown Round Rock

Sweetberry Cupcake from Hey Cupcake!
My favorite is Double Dose though!

 Trailer Park taco from Torchy's Tacos
fried chicken, green chilies, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cheese.

 CrossRoads taco from Torchy's Tacos
smoked beef brisket, grilled onions, cilantro, avocado, jalapeno, cheese

Baja shrimp taco from Torchy's Tacos
hand battered fried shrimp, cooked cabbage slaw, cilantro, queso fresco, pickled jalapenos and lime

Hope you enjoyed a little look into my favorite eats!

Where are your favorite places? Any recommendations for where I need to go in Austin?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mini Caramel Apple Pizzas

I'm not sure if these really went with my Paninis and Pop Party, although they do contain the letter P several times: Caramel Apple Pizzas....but they just sounded really good!

The original recipe is for one large pizza but the dough stuck to the bottom of the pan and I only managed to salvage parts of the large cookie so I opted for using my favorite cookie cutters and turning these into "Mini Caramel Apple Pizzas." (nice save, right?)

As you may or may not have heard me mention several dozen times, I love anything MINI more than regular sized so it all worked out!

When you make these, you can bake the sugar cookie crust in a 14 inch pizza pan or make them into sugar cookie sized circles for "mini" pizzas. 

My biggest advice is although the sugar cookies and frosting can be made ahead of time, the apples are best sliced right before serving to prevent browning. Then drizzled with caramel and nuts. Additionally, only assemble the pizza/cookies right before serving, otherwise the cookie can get soggy.

If you make the minis, allow at least 10 to 15 minutes to assemble all the mini pizzas, since there are so many parts. I also used a mandolin to easily slice the apples but you could cut them up with a knife easily too. I just put the apples on the cookies however I thought they looked nice, you can see each one is slightly different. But they will all be gobbled up, I promise!

Mini Caramel Apple Pizzas

  The Apron Gal

Makes one large pizza or 2 dozen mini pizzas

1 package (1 pound) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
2 large Granny Smith apples
caramel topping
1/4 cup chopped peanuts


Bake sugar cookies according to package directions in one large 14 in pizza pan or roll into balls and make regular sized sugar cookies. Allow to cool. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth. 

Slice apples thinly using a knife or by gliding over a mandolin slicer. 

Assemble pizza or mini pizzas by spreading cream cheese mixture over each  sugar cookie. Then layering with apple slices before drizzling caramel and crushed peanuts over top. 

Enjoy immediately! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Paninis and Pop Party!

Ever since I inherited a panini press from my parents 
I have been wanting to throw a Panini Party! 

I decided to do a panini bar and Italian soda bar,
hence the "Paninis and Pop" party theme.

You might notice the "P" theme in a few of the other foods as well!

The aPPetizers / antiPasto:

 Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Pitas and Vegetables for Dipping

The "Pop" lineup:

 Raspberry, Peach and Cherry/Pomegranate Syrups for mixing (recipe soon!)

Club Soda and Half &Half
Oranges, lemons and limes for garnish

Side dishes:

 All different flavors of Kettle chips, our favorites!

Mini apples

And the main event-The Panini Bar:

 What panini would be complete without bacon?

Grilled Chicken

 Turkey and Ham 
(notice I couldn't fit those words on the chalkboard clip!)

 Sourdough, Multi grain, and Jalapeno Cheddar breads 
(Jalapeno Cheddar was by far the group favorite!)

(and cheese, since I forgot to take a picture of just the cheeses!)

 Various sauces for spreading including Chipotle Mayo & Cilantro Mayo, spicy mustard, Caesar dressing, honey mustard dressing, Jalapeno Peach Jam, Cranberry Habenero Cinnamon Jelly, Pesto etc. the possibilities are endless!

 One of my guest's paninis grilling up!

 My perfect panini: Jalapeno cheese bread, turkey, bacon, Peach Jalapeno jam


 Mini Napoleons (recipe coming soon!)

 Paninis & Pop Party Menu
The Apron Gal


Italian Sodas aka "Pop"
Full recipe here!
Syrup flavorings of your choice
Club soda or flavored sparkling waters
Half and half
sliced lemons, limes and oranges for garnish

Side dishes
Kettle chips

Panini Bar
Breads of your choice (sourdough, multi grain, Jalapeno/Cheddar)
Meats of your choice (bacon, grilled chicken, ham, turkey)
Cheese of your choice (Swiss, Pepper Jack)
Other vegetables of your choice (artichokes, mushrooms etc.)
Sauces of your choice (Chipotle Mayo, Cilantro Mayo,  spicy mustard, honey mustard, Caesar dressing, pesto, Peach Jalapeno jam, Cranberry cinnamon habenero jam)
butter for coating bread 

Mini Napoleons (recipe coming soon!)

I played bartender for the Italian Sodas but let people assemble their own paninis! This was seriously one of my favorite parties I have ever done, so I think you should do it too!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Chipotle Mayo & Cilantro Mayo

I know I have been talking about the Panini Party I threw for awhile now so I promise my next post will show you how all these recipes came together for one super duper party!

These flavored mayos were something I whipped up just to provide some more options as sauces for paninis. They were a fun extra and people gobbled up the chipotle mayo on their paninis.

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I added sour cream to both of these mayos to mellow the mayonnaise taste slightly and to smooth the consistency. If you don't have sour cream or don't want to add it, you could just as easily leave it out. 

For the chipotle mayonnaise, I had previously opened a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to make my Raspberry Chipotle Sauce but didn't use the whole can. I had previously lined an ice cube tray with  wax paper and dropped the peppers and sauce in by teaspoonful and frozen them for later use. (To learn more about chipotles and I how I knew to do this, read all about it here!) So the day I made this chipotle mayo, I simply thawed one cube and mixed it up with the mayo and sour cream and ta-da!

These are great for using on sandwiches or paninis.
Chipotle Mayonnaise
The Apron Gal

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper or 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons sour cream


Mix ingredients together in a food processor or blender or using an immersion blender if using whole chipotle pepper.  If using only adobo sauce from chipotle can, whisk until smooth in a small bowl. 

Cilantro Mayonnaise
The Apron Gal
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons sour cream


Whisk together ingredients.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

If you like red peppers you will like this dip, if you don't...well try it anyways!
Pretty straightforward, right? 
It has a clean roasted red pepper taste with just a hint of cayenne.
 It's a nice change from heavier dips you normally have as appetizers.

I made this for my Panini Party and served it with pitas and vegetables.

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So let's get started. 

Wash your red peppers (one batch calls for 2 peppers, but I doubled the batch for a party, so my pictures show 4 red peppers). Then cut peppers in half. Remove the insides and seeds. Then place skin side up/cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. 

Then, broil the red peppers until their skin is black about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately place in a Ziploc bag and seal it. Leave them in the bag for 10 minutes before removing bell peppers to a cutting board and peeling the blackened skin off. Try to get as much as you can, but if a little bit is stuck, it will be okay :)

Puree the skinless red peppers with olive, cayenne, balsamic vinegar, garlic, tomato paste, salt and pepper.


You can serve this room temperature (immediately after making) or cooled if you make it before hand.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip
recipe adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

Serves 4

2 large red bell peppers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons tomato paste or sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne + dash
pinch of pepper


Line baking sheet or broiler pan with foil. Preheat broiler.

Wash bell peppers and then cut in half, removing all membranes and seeds. Place peppers, cut side down on baking sheet.

Broil peppers 5 inches from heat until skin is blackened, about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and place peppers in Ziploc bag and seal. Let steam for 10 minutes.

Once cool enough to touch, remove peppers from bag and peel off blackened skin.

Place peppers in food processor with remaining ingredients. Taste dip and add additional cayenne if desired (I did!) and salt/pepper if desired.

Serve with pita, pita chips or vegetables!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorite "go-to" recipes whenever I need a side for a party or potluck that feeds a lot of people! It is a guaranteed crowd pleaser 
and I always have the ingredients (more or less) on hand. 

What's great about this recipe too, is it is a total 
throw in whatever you have in the fridge kind of salad.
 Definitely my favorite kind. 
The only requirements to have for sure, are pasta and Italian dressing. 

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And now that it is getting warmer outside (at least here in Austin) this is such a great side by the pool with burgers or for a spring time picnic. 

I always use different pastas every time I make this just for fun.  I particularly loved the colored versions since it gives it just a little more oomph. 

Perfect Pasta Salad
The Apron Gal

Serves 12 (recipe can easily be halved) 

1 pound preferred pasta (shown above is Conchiglie) penne, bow-tie, spiral, etc.
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium head broccoli, torn into small "trees"
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup cheese, cut into small chunks (mozzarella, Colby, cheddar, whatever you want!)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
5 large pieces pepperoni (cut into fourths) optional
2 bottles Italian dressing or a batch of your favorite Italian salad dressing recipe (most likely you will only need 1 bottle but I usually add some additional dressing right before serving so its adequately dressed.)

Feel free to substitute or omit any of the above vegetables, these are just my favorite combination. You could also include olives, artichokes, roma tomatoes, etc.


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. 

Cut up all vegetables and cheese and then toss with cooled pasta in large bowl. 

Add Parmesan cheese and 1 bottle of Italian dressing. 

Let marinate at least 4 hours, or even better, overnight.

Re-stir before serving as pasta will stick together some and dressing will sink to bottom. Taste to see if some additional dressing from 2nd bottle is necessary (this depends on how much dressing you like!).


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