Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Fondue Party

A few weeks ago for my girls' youth group activity we had a fondue night.

As you may have imagined, the girls swooned over all the treats to dip in melted chocolate. But who am I kidding, the adults swooned too!

I love thinking of fun things to dip in fondue, the possibilities are seriously endless! Plus, my friends made two different kinds of fondue and I loved them both so the recipes are below. Although I think the marshmallow one was my favorite! You can choose which one you want to try or have both like we did!

Here are the goodies we dipped:

Strawberries, of course!

Bananas, they cancel out the calories in the chocolate, right?

Homemade pound cake

Green Apples and Pink Lady Apple Slices

Graham crackers, pretzels, marshmallows

Brownies, why wouldn't you dip chocolate in chocolate?

  Use a fondue pot or if you don't have one use a crock pot, regular sized or mini!

Using condiment sized cups was perfect portion control. Plus, by leaving the majority of the chocolate in the crock pot or fondue pot, it stays warm. You could use small bowls too. Or you could all stand around the fondue pot eating chocolate dipped goodies for hours.
 Just saying.

My loot!

Chocolate Fondue Party
The Apron Gal
Simple Chocolate Fondue
from Eagle Brand  

Ingredients
1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, or dark)
2 tablespoons butter
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Place chocolate chips, butter, condensed milk and water in heavy saucepan.  Melt mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove pan from stove and stir in vanilla.

------------------------

Chocolate Marshmallow Fluff Fondue
from Stephanie O'Dea

Ingredients
7 oz milk chocolate
3 oz white chocolate
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T almond extract (or vanilla if you don't have almond)

Directions

Break up the chocolate bars into a small crock pot or on the stove .

Add the almond extract  and the whipping cream. Scoop out a cup of marshmallow fluff from the jar.

Cover, and plug in the crock pot. Cook for about 90 minutes, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Or stir in a pot on the stove until chocolate is all melted and gooey and delicious.

Keep hot in a fondue pot or in a crock pot.

Serve with:
  • Fruit: strawberries, bananas, pineapple
  • Brownies
  • Pound cake
  • Marshmallows
  • Pretzels
  • Graham Crackers
  • Nuts
  • Anything else fun you can think of! 

Now invite all your girlfriends over and eat pounds of chocolate while watching a chick flick and gossiping. Then, remember life is good!

Happy Fondue-ing!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Best Sauce Ever

I made this sauce to drizzle over grilled pork tenderloin and it was awesome. But now I am convinced it should be drizzled over chicken, pork chops, even steak.

It only has a few ingredients and comes together quickly.

So you should make it. 
And drizzle it over some meat. 
Any meat really. 
Sauce = good. 
Meat = good. 
Life =good.


Best Sauce Ever aka
Balsamic Brown Sugar Glaze
recipe courtesy Let's Dish Recipes

Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

Combine ingredients for glaze in small sauce pan. Heat and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens. Serve over grilled chicken or pork.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Steamed Asparagus on the Grill

Have I mentioned how much I love summer and the fact that you can throw just about anything on the grill?

If you are intimidated by cooking anything other than hot dogs on the grill, don't be! Just remember that since you already have a hot grill going for meat, you can also cook vegetables on the grill. This saves you time, dishes, and even energy :)

Some vegetables, like peppers and even potatoes can easily be grilled directly on the grill for a smoky flavor and great grill marks.

For more delicate veggies like tomatoes, asparagus, or zucchini  just wrap them up in a foil packet with some butter, salt, pepper and water and you can steam your veggies to perfection!

For this asparagus, we were already cooking up a pork tenderloin straight on the grill over a high flame. If you have a basket on your grill over the heat, place your foil packet of asparagus there so it's getting steamed and not direct heat. If you don't have a hanging grill basket, simply turn down your grill and cook over a medium low heat, perhaps while you are waiting for your grill to heat up.




Steamed Asparagus on the Grill
The Apron Gal

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper

Directions

Start by washing your asparagus and cutting approximately 1/4 of the stems off the asparagus. Note: Use your judgment here, if they look particularly woody/stocky don't be afraid to cut off as much as half of the asparagus stem. Better to have less asparagus that is edible than more asparagus that is hard and inedible.

Using a medium sized piece of foil, create a packet to hold your asparagus. Spray the packet with olive oil spray before adding your asparagus. Then add butter, salt, pepper and water to packet, sealing ends closed tightly.

Place over indirect heat on the grill for around 15 minutes.  Some of my asparagus on the bottom burned slightly but the majority were perfect. Try checking half way through and stirring if necessary to prevent sticking and any stems from burning.

Serve with your favorite grilled meat like salmon, chicken, or pork tenderloin.

Enjoy!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini Napoleons

Somehow I forgot to blog these back when I blogged all the food from my "Paninis and Pop" Party. I don't know how I forgot them because honestly they were de-lic-ious. The custard/whipped cream filling was so sweet, I loved it. I had to fight my friends to even get one piece of these!

They are a little bit more intensive than some of the other desserts I have posted recently but definitely still reasonable. Plus, you will most certainly impress your friends when you say you made Napoleons-how very French of you!

The best time to make this is the morning of if you want these for dessert that evening. The custard needs a few hours to once assembled the napoleons need a few hours to set, so plan accordingly!!


Start by making your custard. Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add milk and stir until smooth. Add a spoonful of hot custard mix into small bowl of egg yolk and stir. This will temper the egg (heat it up gradually so it doesn't scramble).  Add the egg yolk into the main custard mixture. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly and cooking 2 more minutes.


Once thickened, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla. Pour into a small bowl and press wax paper tightly over custard (to prevent a yucky film from forming on top). Refrigerate 2-3 hours or until chilled.

 After thawing the puff pastry sheets, bake according to package instructions. Let cool on wire rack.

Once cooled, use a fork to gently peel the pastry sheets in half. Then spread filling over the bottom  half, replace the top half and freeze for 4 hours or until firm. I froze mine for less than 4 hours and the filling was softer but I loved it. The fully frozen hard filling is truer to Napoleon form but do whichever works for you!

Remove from freezer and cut into small rectangles, then drizzle with chocolate. Make sure you drizzle with chocolate after cutting because I did it before and then all the chocolate broke off when I cut them, as you can see below! Freeze until ready to serve.




Mini Napoleons
recipe from Taste of Home Appetizers Cookbook

Makes 18 mini napoleons

Ingredients 

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (2% recommended)
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped


Directions

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add milk; stir until smooth.
Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Stir a small amount into egg yolk before returning all to the pan. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes longer (mixture should be thick).

Remove mixture from the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla. Pour into a small bowl and cover surface of custard with wax paper or saran wrap. Refrigerate (without stirring) for 2-3 hours or until chilled and set.

Unfold puff pastry; place on an ungreased baking sheet. Prick dough thoroughly with a fork. Bake according  to package instructions. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

In a small bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into custard.

Use a fork to gently split the puff pastry in half horizontally (see pictures). Spread custard filling over the bottom half and replace top.

Cover and freeze for 4 hours or until firm.

Cut into small rectangles. Melt chocolate and butter (if needed) and stir until smooth. Drizzle over pastries. Freeze until 10-15 minutes before serving. 

*These are best eaten day of so the puff pastry doesn't get soggy/stale afterwards.

 Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rudy's Creamed Corn

If you have never had real Texas barbeque then you are missing out! One of our favorite Texas BBQ places is Rudy's. It is a no frills kinda place (they are all attached to gas stations) where they serve only brisket with 5 simple sides: potato salad, Cole slaw, red potatoes, beans and creamed corn. The first time I had their creamed corn I didn't fully appreciate it. Then the next time, with a little salt I saw the beauty that it is. Rich and creamy, sweet and slightly salty it was the perfect accompaniment to a delicious barbeque meal.


Recently, I tried creamed corn in a can, hoping to find this same delicious taste. WRONG. Creamed corn from a can is weird and not at all similar to Rudy's so I decided I had to make it on my own.

Luckily, a few other bloggers have done the work for me and I was just able to bask in their talent.

This creamed corn is made in the crock pot by cooking on low for 4 hours. If you are in a hurry, like I was and can't wait 4 full hours, you can cook it on the stove part of the time or the entire time for about an hour. But let me warn you that you will lose that deeper richer taste that comes from letting the flavors meld properly in the crock pot.

Serve this alongside some beef brisket or just with your favorite burgers on the grill, it is delicious. Even my 2 year old niece when given the choice between a plate full of delicious foods, kept asking for more of this yummy corn....of course I can't imagine what would make it taste so good! [Definitely not the cream cheese, whipping cream, butter, or sugar :)]

Go ahead and splurge a few calories and try this, you won't be sorry!




Rudy's Creamed Corn
recipe slightly adapted from Bluebonnets and Brownies

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients
2 pounds frozen sweet corn
1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, cut into small squares
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) salted butter (if you use unsalted, simply add more salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
(additional water or milk)

Directions

Combine ingredients in the crock pot. Cook on low for 4 hours. Don't add any more salt than called for as you don't want it to be over salty.


If you don't have four hours to wait, combine ingredients in a saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer at least 30 minutes, adding more water or milk if necessary to keep some of the "sauciness." (Just be warned this version won't be nearly as authentic or rich in flavor but it will work in a bind!)


Enjoy!

Have you had the creamed corn at Rudy's? Do you like creamed corn?
 I want to know if I was the only creamed corn virgin before going to Rudy's??

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Dearest readers,

Please take note, I am posting actual food recipes-not desserts. It is a miracle!

I am still visiting my husband's family in Idaho and I got to cook a delicious dinner for eight last night.

It was wonderful for many reasons:

I love being in a house and cooking, there is just something so much cozier about it. Don't get me wrong I love my apartment and I am lucky to have a great food blogging kitchen in general, but there is something just different about a house and a family home that I don't think my husband and I have developed. I feel like you earn a home with that feeling over time, as it is filled with memories of family dinners, kitchen mishaps and late night snacks. I am not complaining, merely looking forward to the days when we have a home and stay long enough in one place to work on those memories.

It was so fun to have the time to be able to make a full meal for the family and to have the time to do it. I love my job, my church, my husband, my friends and everything else in my life but most days lately I don't have time to make a gorgeous four course meal. So it was such a treat to have the time to plan and execute a meal...not to mention a willing audience.

Finally, I love grilling. My dad is a master griller and I would give anything to have a nice big gas grill of our own. Unfortunately, living in apartments for the past 6 years of my life has precluded me from legally possessing my own grill. In the summer I love throwing as much food as possible on the grill. Jason and I agree, our first major purchase to accompany a home purchase will be a big beautiful grill. Just one more thing to look forward to :) In the meantime we make do with our grill pan and trips to parents' houses. (p.s. this recipe isn't on the grill but the other upcoming recipes are)

-----

So now you know why I loved making this meal but you are here for the recipes, right?

These were the best sweet potatoes I have ever made by far! I hope it wasn't a fluke. They melt in your mouth because they are soft and slightly sweet. These do have brown sugar but aren't drowning in it and the chile powder adds a nice little hint of spice. I was eating these like candy at dinner and I will definitely be making them again!

 



Roasted Sweet Potatoes
The Apron Gal

Serves 4 
 
Ingredients
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil cooking spray.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into small chunks. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, brown sugar and spices. Spread on foil lined baking sheet in a single layer. (If doubling the recipe,  be sure to use 2 pans so all potatoes are in a single layer.)

Bake for 1 hour, tossing half way through. Broil for 3-5 minutes at the end to get a slight crisp.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mini Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

I'm on vacation visiting my husband's family in Idaho right now. I love visiting here because we mainly lounge around and all our activities revolve around eating. Get up in the morning, breakfast, lounge, lunch, nap, snack, lounge, dinner, lounge, dessert....rinse and repeat. I love not having much to do and I particularly love that there is always food to look forward to around the corner.

Another fun thing is that I have 3 nieces and 1 nephew that I adore. The oldest, Carly, is 2 1/2 and is quite hilarious. I love quizzing her and hearing her funny answers.

I brought her an apron yesterday (it was only appropriate) and she thought it was awesome. So of course we had to bake something. And what do you think I always choose first? Cookies of course. But I thought it would be fun to make them into little whoopie pies with frosting in the middle. [Even though most of the family ate the cookies before I could assemble the pies!]

You can use this recipe for making just the cookies or for filling with frosting and making the cute whoopie pies. The nice thing about these "whoopie pies" is that they are just regular chocolate chip cookies with frosting in the middle, no special pans or instructions needed!


 She is a very good helper!
Did I mention she is quite the character?? 
We had so much fun making these, we hope you do too!




Or if you just want the cookies all by themselves.


The Apron Gal's
TOP 3 TIPS FOR MAKING GOOD COOKIES:
 1. Actually mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet. I know it is a pain to dirty two bowls but it will help distribute your leavening agent and the salt (so you don't get one big bite, yuck).

2. Make sure your butter is the right consistency. Pay attention if the recipe calls for melted, softened, or cold butter. Most cookie recipes call for softened. I leave my butter on the counter for an hour or so if I plan ahead. If not, I put it in a small dish or bowl and defrost for 5 seconds at a time to prevent it melting. The consistency of the butter is one of the most important determinants of whether the cookie consistency will be correct.

3. Bake a test batch of cookies. For these I made one batch (or 6 cookies or even 1 cookie) and decided I did in fact want the entire bag of chocolate chips in the batter and they were a little too thin, so I added more flour. Use this batch to test how long to bake the cookies,
 if it needs more flour, extra chocolate chips etc.

Mini Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies
cookie recipe courtesy Tollhouse

Makes 6 dozen small cookies or 3 dozen whoopie pies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) mini chocolate chips
1 container white frosting

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoon (or the smallest size cookie scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown (7 for mini size was perfect, 8 for small size was perfect for me), err on the side of underdone as they will cook more on the cookie sheet. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
[If your cookies spread too thin for your liking, add 2-3 more tablespoons of flour at a time until your batter reaches the desired consistency]

Spread frosting between 2 cookies.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Insta-Yum May

I keep tweaking exactly how I do this but every month I am going to share all the pictures of food that I ate that I [mostly] didn't make aka food from restaurants, food trucks, friends or wherever else I encounter food that goes into my mouth. The end.

I hope you find it fun! I love looking at all the yummy food I have eaten. And yes, there is a lot of fried food, what can I say, I live in and love the South.

 My welcome lunch at work! So good! This is at a food trailer park in Austin nearby the Animal Shelter where I work. This was a philly cheesesteak sandwich. So fun!

Why are some Cokes just okay and others amazing? This one hit the spot after a lot of shopping with Mom and brother for Mother's Day weekend. It was from Chili's. Don't eat their food though-ha. 

Fried corn fritters from The Cheesecake Factory. I was so intrigued, and I wasn't disappointed. Definitely share these but they were sweet and crunchy and that sauce was divine.
 I recommend these for sure!

Shrimp Po' Boy from Casey's in Galveston, Texas. It was good and exactly what I wanted from a Po' Boy. It paled in comparison to the next place though:

Benno's on the Beach in Galveston, Texas. This amazing Cajun shrimp had awesome flavor, not to mention the spicy melt in your mouth potatoes and garlic bread. I don't do regular cole slaw though so I skipped those calories :) My husband and all the other guys on our trip got the Cajun platter and could NOT stop raving about it. Go here if you are ever in Galveston!

Pitas from Pita Fusion in Round Rock. I got the Chicken Caesar and it was good, not great. Jason got the gyro and really liked it. We will definitely be going back to see what else is good, my friends swear by the Veggie and the Philly.

I made this Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce from Smitten Kitchen for our first Cooking Club gathering this month.  For May we all brought a Smitten Kitchen recipe we liked (after trying a bunch). I am hosting next time and it is a "mini" theme and I am hosting at my place (exciting!!). 
I'll be sure to share pictures!

Homemade onion rings from The Highball in Austin. Good although I would have loved an accompanying sauce. If you haven't been to the Highball it's a swanky bowling alley, bar, restaurant, karaoke room, 50's themed (the cool stuff not the poodle skirts) place. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

I love these crackers for two reasons:
 1. Anything cheese and jalapeno flavored in my book is good
2. How amazing that all the little crackers are shaped like Texas?
Yes, please!
Fried pickles with housemade buttermilk ranch. A first for my husband (who hates pickles of all kinds) and he was converted. Just another testament to the fact that you can fry just about anything and make it taste good. From Frilly's in Denton, Texas where everything on the menu is awesome.

Blackened tilapia and dirty rice also from Frilly's. That fish was so light and flaky (did you notice I didn't get it fried? Point for Kasee)

Homemade burgers with the family. Yum!
Fried pies off the highway between Dallas and Austin. These are handmade individual (but big!) fried pies in flavors like chocolate, pecan, apple, cherry, lemon etc. 
Chocolate was not so good, pecan was good, and Apple was great.
A graduation party for a family friend. The theme was a little ice cream shop with 14 Blue Bell flavors. I tried Coconut Fudge for the first time and I am now a believer. Also, how cute is that blackboard? I am totally stealing that idea for a future party!

Have you eaten anything awesome lately? Have a new favorite restaurant?
Recommendations in Austin or Dallas?
 

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