Saturday, April 28, 2012

Insta-Yum

I decided every month I will show you what I eat when I am not cooking
 (which if you haven't guessed already, is a lot lately!)

Here are some recent favorites!

If you want to find me on Instagram my username is theaprongal


 Baja tacos from Chuy's: one fish and one shrimp, the shrimp was my favorite! Make sure you drizzle their famous Creamy Jalapeno over it.

 Amy's ice cream: a local favorite in Austin, 
this is Dark Chocolate but Mexican Vanilla was also amazing!

 The Cajun platter at Razzoo's, a fun place for Cajun food!

 Thai Peanut Noodles and the famous Mac & Cheese at Noodles & Co that just arrived in Austin

 Amazing onion rings from Dan's Hamburgers, another famous Austin Hamburger joint. We went to the one in Buda, Texas (pronounced Buddha-hehe).

 My good looking date at Dan's. Just had to include him :)

Ok, I haven't tried this but it looked so awesome at Whole Foods.

 Cheesy bacony potatoes appetizer from Saltgrass Steakhouse.
 Their slogan is "Texas to the bone." Love it.

 Chicken pita from Tino's Greek Cafe. Yum! 
Reminds me of all the great kebabs we had in France and Turkey.

 Vietnamese noodles and roast chicken from a tiny Vietnamese restaurant near my work.

Fish tacos and beef tacos from TacoDeli. Good but not as good as Torchy's (I thought!)

Hope you enjoyed my little culinary adventure! 
Have you eaten at any good restaurants lately?



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

White Chocolate Snack Mix

There was no good title for this mix other than "White chocolate covered Golden Grahams and Cocoa Puffs with Powdered Sugar," and sorry but nothing bothers me more than recipe titles that contain 11 words like the above, ha.

All you really need to know is that this is crunchy, sweet, salty and delish. It's one of those fun things to throw together for a movie night or friends coming over for games. And it it's totally flexible to use M&M's or Reese's Pieces or leave out the peanuts or use almonds etc. etc.

I hope you eat this with friends on the couch or watching a movie with your beau.




White Chocolate Snack Mix
recipe from BettyCrocker.com

Ingredients

4 cups Golden Grahams® cereal
2
  cups Cocoa Puffs® cereal
2
  cups thin pretzel sticks
1
  cup M&M's or Reese's Pieces
1
 peanuts or nuts of your choice 
10
oz white chocolate baking bars or squares, chopped
2
  tablespoons butter or margarine (depending on your white chocolate's instructions)
1/2 
cup powdered sugar
Directions 
In large bowl, mix cereals, pretzels, peanut butter candies and peanuts.
In a separate microwavable bowl, microwave white chocolate (and butter, if needed-Almond bark should not need butter) uncovered on high about 1 minute, stirring once, until melted and chocolate can be stirred smooth. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

In large Ziploc bag, toss half of the cereal mixture with 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar until evenly coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Repeat with remaining cereal mixture and remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Waldorf Chicken Salad

This is most definitely my favorite salad. 

I love the combination of crunchy, salty,  and sweet.

The measurements are very approximate, I just add the chicken, feta, apples, grapes, and nuts until it looks like the perfect amount and you should do the same!



You could also toss this with a balsamic dressing but my favorite
 is the Raspberry Vinaigrette.

I hope you make it and love it as much as I do!

Waldorf Chicken Salad
The Apron Gal

Ingredients
1 head romaine lettuce
1 gala or Fuji apple, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup candied walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded chicken or 2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced.
25 grapes, halved
Raspberry Vinaigrette 

Directions

Wash romaine, pat dry with towels and tear into small pieces.

Cut up apple, nuts, and chicken into bite sized pieces and cut grapes in half.

Toss lettuce with remaining ingredients and add dressing. 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Breakfast Tacos


After an early morning breakfast event at a recent church gathering, I inherited some extra homemade breakfast tacos. They were individually wrapped in foil so they were easy to freeze. Lately, I have been grabbing them on my way to work and they were my morning lifesaver!

Then a sad day came.

The bag of magical breakfast tacos disappeared and I had no breakfast!

So I decided to make my own and to try to replicate the previous breakfast tacos. And I have to say, I think I succeeded!



These are easy and they are perfect for making ahead of time and freezing!

This recipe makes 10 breakfast tacos but could easily be doubled, tripled, etc. You could also add potatoes or even additional vegetables if desired- I love that these are so flexible. 

Make sure to add heat, either with the jalapeno, "hot" sausage or with spicy salsa on top. 
It really makes the difference between a good taco and a great taco!


Breakfast Tacos
The Apron Gal

Makes 10 regular or 15 small breakfast tacos

Ingredients
12 ounces pork sausage, regular or hot (usually 1 tube)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
7 eggs
1/3 cup grated cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons salsa
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

10 small/fajita sized flour or corn tortillas or 15 mini tortillas

optional toppings:
fresh cilantro, sour cream, additional cheese, or salsa

Directions
In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage with chopped onion and jalapeno, trying to keep sausage in larger chunks so it is easier to spoon into tacos. Cook until no longer pink, then remove to a paper towel lined plate.

In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients: eggs, cheese, salsa, salt and pepper. Cook egg mixture over medium heat in same skillet as sausage, stirring constantly for 3-4  minutes or until eggs are scrambled to your liking (don't let them get too dry!).

Assemble tacos by layering sausage and eggs in tortillas and then adding additional toppings as desired. Crumbled queso fresco, cilantro and salsa really make the perfect taco.

If freezing, wrap each individual taco tightly in foil, when ready to eat, remove foil and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave for around 1 minute until warmed.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best Carrot Cake

I know Easter is over, but I still think Carrot Cake is the perfect Springtime dessert. 
And I must say, this is the BEST CARROT CAKE &
 that's coming from a connoisseur of Carrot Cakes!



It is decadent and melts in your mouth.
 Honestly, it is amazing, no disclaimers whatsoever. 
Make it exactly as the recipe says, and it's perfect. 




Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
from a Texas cookbook, name unknown

Serves 12

Ingredients
Cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 cups grated carrots
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts


Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese (1 brick), softened
4 cups powdered sugar (1 pound)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
milk (optional)

additional chopped walnuts for topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grate the carrots if you have not done so.

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in one bowl.
In a separate bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil and eggs in a bowl and beat until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and mix well. Fold in the carrots and vanilla.

Spoon the batter into 3 greased and floured 8 inch cake pans, or two 9 inch cake pans (as pictured) or cupcake or mini cupcake pans.

Bake cake pans for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Bake cupcakes for around 30-35 minutes and mini cupcakes 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely in the pans until  before removing to wire racks. 

For the frosting:

Combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy. (Add milk if desired for consistency, but I almost never need it)

Spread between layers of the cake and on top.

Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Enjoy!

*If you want to ask if there is a lighter version of this, I say no. But really, you could substitute applesauce for half the oil and it does work, but the texture is so much more fabulous with just the oil, fat and all. The great thing is that you will only eat one slice since this is so rich! :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Italian Sodas

Did you think I had forgotten to tell you how to make the perfect Italian soda?

Well I didn't!

These are such a fun thing to make. I think you could have a party with just these and appetizers or you could do it as part of a party like my Paninis and Pop Party!

These tend to be very sweet so most people can usually only drink 1-2 drinks.

The hardest part of making Italian sodas is simply finding the syrups. I recommend Torani syrups that you can find at some grocery stores and some flavors at World Market or  all flavors directly from their website. There are also sugar free options online and in most stores as well.

You can also find other brands and similar syrups (and a lot more variety) at a lot of liquor stores (like Spec's). The drink mixers section (usually near the alcohol or the coffee section) at the grocery store might also carry a limited few flavors. 



Italian Sodas
The Apron Gal

Ingredients
Ice
Bottles of flavored syrup like Torani syrups. Flavors of your choice:
Raspberry, Peach, Pomegranate, Lime, Strawberry, Pineapple, Coconut, etc.
Club Soda or sparkling water (flavors optional)
Half & Half


Directions

Fill small glass 1/2 full of ice. Add 1/2 cup club soda or sparkling water. Add 1.5-2 tablespoons syrup flavors of your choice (test ratios to your liking before serving a large group). Add 1/2 tablespoon half and half and stir well. Garnish with straw and lemon/lime or orange slices.

For larger glasses (as pictured on the right above) double the recipe. 

Contents may settle so prepare a la minute!

My Favorite Flavor Combinations:
-Pia Colada (75% Pineapple and 25% Coconut syrup)
-Raspberry Lime (Raspberry Syrup with Lime flavored sparkling water or Lime Syrup)
-Raspberry Peach (50% Raspberry and 50% Peach syrup)
other great combinations listed here

The possibilities are endless! What is your favorite Italian soda flavor combination?

Enjoy!
 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spinach and Ham Quiche


Some friends recently threw a Saturday morning "Ultimate Frisbee and Breakfast" gathering. I signed up to bring muffins but then figured 20 other people would bring muffins too and there is always a lack of sustenance at those events. When I saw someone else sign up for sausage (and I sighed a big sigh of relief/hunger) I decided to bring something heartier too.

The problem was I decided this the night before around 10pm for the breakfast that started at 8 am the next morning.

Enter my brilliant idea for quiche! I keep frozen pie crusts on hand as well as frozen spinach, fresh cheese, sliced ham, onions and milk. I did luck out that I already had some heavy cream and sour cream on hand so voila, the ingredients for a yummy quiche.





Quiche is another great meal where I feel like you could totally change ingredients around, like using a stronger cheese like Gruyere or using ham instead of bacon or both! Or leave out the meat if you prefer (just make sure to supplement the salt if you do that). Don't like spinach? Leave it out.

But if I do say myself, this had just the right amount of all the above ingredients (and I would definitely try it with bacon next time!)

This would be a great meal for Easter brunch served with fruit and muffins or french toast!

Spinach and Ham Quiche
The Apron Gal

inspired by Better Homes and Gardens Spinach and Bacon Quiche

Makes 8 slices


Ingredients
1 pie crust, thawed

3/4 cup chopped ham or bacon
1/4 cup chopped onion
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups Colby jack or cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup Swiss cheese (or another stronger flavor like Gruyere or just use more Colby if you don't have any)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped spinach (I used 1/4 cup and it was perfect for my low spinach tolerance)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450.

Line a 9 inch pie pan with the pie crust but then cover with 2 layers of foil. This will help keep the crust light and flaky. I also used a pie shield to cover the edges or use more foil to prevent burning.

Bake the crust for 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove the double lining of foil and bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until crust is dry. Remove from oven.

Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees.

While crust is baking, cook onion and ham or bacon in a skillet. I just wanted my ham to get a slight crisp but you will definitely want bacon crispy and the onions tender.

In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, sour cream, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Add in ham and onion mixture along with spinach and cheeses.

Pour egg mixture into hot crust. Cover edges of crust with foil or pie shield and remove 10 to 15 minutes before quiche is done. Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour or until knife comes out clean.

Serve hot or warm for best taste.

Enjoy!!



 




Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Since it was 85 degrees yesterday, I feel like I need to squeeze this last soup recipe in while it is still socially acceptable!!

I needed a soup recipe and I didn't have a lot of hand, so this recipe was perfect! It only requires a few pantry staples and still has great flavor. It might also remind you of the Tuscan soup at Olive Garden that so many people love!

 I am not a big fan of spinach, but I didn't mind it in this soup! If you really hate it, you could omit it but I say you need your daily greens so leave them! I just used some frozen chopped spinach (that I thawed some before adding to the soup) I had on hand but you could also use fresh. 




Tuscan White Bean Soup
slightly adapted from The Taste of Home Cookbook 

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 medium carrot, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cans or around 3.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth 
1 cup water

1 (15 ounce) can white kidney or great northern/cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
2/3 cup uncooked pasta (spiral or other small shape)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup spinach, fresh or thawed if frozen or escarole
Parmesan cheese (optional)

 Directions

After chopping onion and slicing carrot, saute onion and carrot in oil over medium heat until onion is tender.  Add broth, water, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in beans and pasta, return to a boil.

Reduce heat and cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and heat through, add additional salt if needed.

Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serve with rolls or French bread!

Enjoy!

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