Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sweet Meatballs

The first time I made these meatballs was for a party for all my new Austin friends. I was scurrying around like a mad woman, making sure all the food was perfect. I quickly pulled these meatballs out of the oven, set them on the counter and I hurried off for only minutes to tend to something else. When I returned all but three meatballs were gone and I was lucky to even snag one of those. The group of boys surrounding these meatballs had eaten them all within minutes. I was disappointed to only get to eat one but of course, then I knew they were good since everyone was fighting over them!

I made these again for Cooking Club and I even tried to make them even more "mini" than normal. Some were truly "mini" but most turned out regular meatball sized.

I loved these meatballs because they held their shape well and they could be made ahead of time and then reheated.  I also love the sauce for these meatballs, made with cocktail sauce, brown sugar and canned cranberry sauce-hence the sweetness that I love!

Meatball step by step: Top to bottom, left to right.
1. Mixing ingredients 2. forming small balls with a small cookie scoop 3. Freezing the  meatballs before frying
4. Dredging meatballs in flour 5. Flour coated meatballs waiting for the oil to heat 6. Browning the sides of the meatballs
7. Nice and crispy meatball sides 8. Resting on a paper towel 9. Ready to be sauced and baked 

Sweet Meatballs
recipe slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Makes around 30 regular sized meatballs or 60 mini meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup quick oats
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (for coating meatballs)
around 1/3 cup canola oil (for frying meatballs)

Sauce:
12 oz. jar of cocktail sauce
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water

Directions

For the meatballs: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the meatball ingredients (except the oil and flour). Roll into medium-small balls, around the size of a ping pong ball (I recommend using a small cookie scoop) and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in the freezer for five minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour. Heat 1/3 cup canola oil in a large skillet for larger batches. [I would add just a few tablespoons and cook about 10 at at time, then remove all residue before adding fresh oil and another batch of meatballs. This helped me to keep an eye on the meatballs and for the oil to not get as dirty.] When oil is hot, add meatballs and brown on all sides (but don’t cook all the way through). Place the meatballs in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and make the sauce.

For the sauce: combine the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through to coat the meatballs in the sauce. Serve with toothpicks.

*Alternately, you can make the meatballs the day beforehand (including cooking them by themselves in the 9X13-inch pan) and then the next day, place the meatballs and heated sauce in the crockpot and cook on high for 2-3 hours to heat through. Or you can make the meatballs ahead of time and refrigerate. When ready to eat pour the hot sauce over the meatballs before heating in oven around 1 hour or until heated through and sauce is bubbly.
 
Enjoy!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cooking Club: July

My husband and I live in an apartment complex with about 9 other couples who are the same age, go to the same church, and generally hang out as much as possible. We do pool trips, girls' nights, "man" nights, and celebrate just about anything that gives us an excuse to party.

We have tons of girls' nights and as much as we love just hanging out or doing dinner, we have really loved craft nights and anything with food. My friend Allison had the brilliant idea to start a cooking club and with a little brainstorming, between the two of us we finally got it off the ground!

We invite about 20 ladies and we meet every other month. We rotate between houses and the host gets to pick a theme for the food that we all bring that night. We usually send an Evite out about 6 weeks before the next one and as it gets closer, people write in the comments what they are bringing so we don't overlap too much. I strongly suggest you start one with your friends!

Allison kicked us off with everyone trying and bringing recipes from the blog, Smitten Kitchen. I made this Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce. We enjoyed eating yummy food and having girl time, of course.

July was my month to host and I chose a "mini" theme. Everyone was invited to bring a "mini" appetizer or dessert. Can I tell you a secret? I have dreamed of having a "mini" themed party for a long time. I think mini quiches, sliders, or tarts are just about the cutest foods. In fact, anything in mini form looks and tastes cuter to me! The problem with mini foods? They almost always take a lot longer to make since they are usually individually made. So it was the perfect way to try lots of cute mini foods without me having to do all the work!

On to the delicious spread....



By cutting the straws in half, I made them "mini."


 Mango Cream Cheese Shortbread Tarts


 Mini pizza bites with marinara dipping sauce

 Mini rhubarb pies
Curry Almonde Chicken Fingerlings with Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce

 Mini BLT's (so creative!)
 Stuffed Mushrooms
 Cinnamon Sugar Popovers


 Mini dessert cups with my homemade angel food cake
topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. 



 The Savory Table
The Sweets Buffet

Such a fun time to hang with the girls and so much good food!
 Next Cooking Club's theme is luau and I can't wait!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

I always see barbeque chicken pizza recipes floating around the internet and I guess I always assumed I didn't like barbeque chicken pizza that well or that it was too many ingredients for me to bother with.

Both of those statements are completely false. The other day I realized I had chicken and pizza crust so I thought perhaps I could make it. It turns out there are only 5 ingredients to make it! It came together really fast and was delicious! So as of now, I am officially converted! I hope you are too!



 Barbeque Chicken Pizza
The Apron Gal

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 can thin crust pizza dough or your favorite pizza crust recipe
*1 large chicken breast or 2 smaller chicken breasts, cooked and sliced or shredded
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup barbeque sauce plus a couple tablespoons more (Remember this is your only sauce so the sweeter it is, the sweeter your pizza will be, so choose a sauce based on how sweet you want it to be!)
2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese or 2 cups mozzarella and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or another cheese just to add some extra oomph!)
Fresh chopped cilantro 

Directions

Preheat your oven to the temperature listed on your dough tube or from your own pizza dough recipe. Mine was 400 degrees. Press into a large greased 10 by 15 cookie sheet and pre-bake for around 6 minutes. Remove from the oven.

While your crust is pre-baking, slice the red onion into thin strips and grate your cheese if necessary.

Once crust has been pre-baked, spread barbeque sauce over warm crust. Add more if doesn't look saucy enough but add slowly since you don't want to oversauce and make it soggy. Top with chicken, red onions and finally, cheese.

Bake for around 10 minutes (keep an eye on it) or until all cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. (I always check the bottom of the crust to make sure it isn't still raw.)

Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

Slice it up and enjoy!

*This is a great use of shredded chicken or plain grilled chicken breasts (I recommend always having some cooked chicken around for whatever you want to add it to). I had chicken thawed so I just grilled some up with garlic salt and it was the perfect amount of flavor but it still let the barbeque flavor shine. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Angel Food Cake

One of my favorite summertime desserts is Strawberry Shortcake. I love the fresh sweet strawberries, homemade whipped cream and that light fluffy angel food cake.

I'm ashamed to admit, this was the first time I even considered making an angel food cake homemade. I am just used to buying it in a package...but I think it will be hard to go back now! Especially since this is made from mainly pantry staples....assuming you have 9 eggs on hand, ha. Or if you mess up and leave the cup of sugar out the first time you make it and then have to have 18 eggs on hand when you realize that your "angel food cake" tastes more like a sponge than angel food cake. Just sayin', not that I did that or anything....

Needless to say, I recommend making this and then I recommend dicing up some strawberries and whipping up some fresh sweetened whipped cream and throwing it all together for some strawberry shortcake delights.

 I don't think this is a "put on display" cake but it tastes great and looks just nice when sliced or put into little bowls for serving.

I tore mine up and served it in mini bowls for a party I hosted recently.

Here is how they looked:


Angel Food Cake
recipe from Allrecipes.com

Makes 15-20 slices

Ingredients
9-12 eggs, depending on size
1 1/4 cups powdered/confectioners' sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

Directions
  
Separate eggs; discard yolks or refrigerate for another use (like ice cream or custard!). Measure egg whites, adding or removing whites as needed to equal 1-1/2 cups. Place in a mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, sift confectioners' sugar and flour together three times; set aside. 

Add cream of tartar, extracts and salt to egg whites; beat on high speed. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar, beating until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Fold in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan (on some kind of bottle like vinegar or wine); cool completely before removing cake from pan. 

Serve with strawberries and whipped cream or anything else your heart desires!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

Pasta is one of my favorite things to make for dinner (probably with at least 100 million other Americans!). I love the fact that I can just start throwing things in and come up with something I would love to make again!

This is one of those creations born out of the fact that I wanted to use some grape tomatoes with some angel hair. It started with some white wine, then some cream cheese, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

As always feel free to make it your own! Also, add more or less pasta depending on how saucy you like it.



Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
The Apron Gal

Ingredients
2 teaspoons garlic
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup diced tomatoes
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grape tomatoes

Angel hair Pasta (I used about a 1/3 of a 16 ounce box but just eyeball it) 

Grilled chicken breast

Fresh basil

Directions

Simmer all ingredients except the grape tomatoes for 8-10 minutes. Boil large pot of salted water for angel hair pasta.

Add the grape tomatoes and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.  During the last five minutes of the sauce simmering, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce.

Top with fresh basil and additional Parmesan if desired.

Serve immediately. Add grilled chicken if desired.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Peach and Toasted Pecan Ice Cream

One of my favorite things about summer is ice cream. I love it in every form. 
Late night runs to Sonic for half price shakes. 
Frozen yogurt with every topping imaginable. 
A huge custard cone that is so so creamy. 
Snow cones at the fair. 
And ever since I got my ice cream maker last summer, I LOVE making my own ice cream.

You know how lots of food bloggers love to hate specialized kitchen gadgets and appliances? Well I, dear readers, am usually not one of them. And right now I am NOT one of them. I want to use an ice cream maker to make ice cream, so shoot me. It's summer, it's fun and it makes me feel like I conquered the world when I see a whole tub of MY homemade ice cream. I strongly recommend you obtain these feelings as well by investing in a $50-$60 ice cream maker that will last you the next 20 years. You will be thankful you took my advice every time summer rolls around!

Okay, off my soapbox.

So if you don't have an ice cream maker (or the ice cream maker attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer) I am sorry. Life will go on. But I don't have an adaptation of this recipe so you can make it when you come to visit! Meanwhile go to Sonic or the fair and satisfy your craving for some ice cold goodness.

But if at all possible, make this ice cream. It is smooth and sweet but also has crunchy salty nuts in it. I also love that the peach flavor comes directly from peaches and you get bits of real peach as you go. Also, something about this recipe is so Southern and comforting, I love it.

The only drawback to all homemade ice creams is they take time! So you can't plan on having them right after you make them. This recipe has several easy steps but there is cooling between each step, so you need to be planning to have this about 2 days from when you start (frustrating, I know!). But I just started making mine one Thursday night so I knew it would be ready for the weekend.


 Whisk together your cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add in milk and whipping cream. Let thicken for 10-12 minutes and then remove from heat. Then add some of the hot cream mixture to a whisked egg yolk, before adding the yolk cream mixture back into the main cream mixture.

 Next, while that cools, peel your peaches and then chop them up into small pieces. Cook them with the corn syrup over medium heat for a few minutes. Mash them up a bit and then let cool before adding to the cream mixture. Place peach cream mixture in the fridge for up to 1 day.

 Chop up your pecans into little pieces before adding to a small skillet with some butter. Toast, stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant and color has darkened. Sprinkle with salt once removed.
 Once your ice cream mixture is sufficiently chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker and leave it for up to 30 minutes, or until thickened as in the bottom picture. Remove from the ice cream maker and gently stir in the toasted pecans. You could eat it now but it will be more of a frozen yogurt consistency than an ice cream consistency. For the true ice cream consistency, refreeze until hardened, usually 8 hours or overnight.

THEN, you get to eat it!!



Peach and Toasted Pecan Ice Cream
recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped ripe peaches (around 3 peaches)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Before you start: Make sure your ice cream bowl is frozen if your machine requires that!

Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk and whipping cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 10 to 12 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolk until slightly thickened. Gradually whisk about 1 cup hot cream mixture into yolk (we are trying to prevent scrambling the egg, yuck!). Add yolk mixture to remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in vanilla. Cool 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

 Meanwhile, cook peaches and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Coarsely mash, and let cool 30 minutes. Stir peach mixture into cooled cream mixture.
 Place plastic wrap directly on cream mixture (to prevent a film from forming), and chill 8 to 24 hours.

 Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; add pecans, and cook, stirring constantly, 8 to 9 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Pour chilled cream mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. For mine, I just add the mixture and just leave it until it hardens, around 15-20 minutes. Before transferring ice cream to an airtight container for further freezing, stir in pecan mixture.


 Enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Salad with Mandarin, Nuts and Cranberries

My father in law made this delicious salad and I can't stop thinking about it. A friend of mine also makes a variation of this [bacon and pear instead of cashews and oranges]  and I love both versions.

This is the perfect summer salad, light and fresh. I don't have many measurements because it is really just a handful of this and a handful of that. . . so feel free to tweak to your liking!

Serve this with some French bread and some roasted squash for a perfect light summer meal.


Summer Salad
The Apron Gal

Serves 8

Ingredients
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 small can of  mandarin oranges
around 1/2 cup cranberries
around 1/2 cup cashews

Poppyseed dressing


Directions

Wash and tear lettuce. Toss with cranberries, cashews, and oranges. Toss with poppyseed dressing.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Insta-Yum June

It's my favorite time of the month...where I look back on all the delicious things I ate and wish I could eat them again. Hopefully they make your mouth water too!

Enjoy!

 Only the best salad in the world. Sweet pork barbacoa salad from Cafe Rio.

 Taquitos from El Herradero in my husband's hometown, Pocatello, Idaho.

 Pesto Cavatappi from Corner Bakery: All-natural roasted chicken and steaming cavatappi pasta tossed in a rich pesto cream sauce and sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs. With a Caesar side salad. Yum!
 Meaty and veggie pizza from Mel's Bowling Alley in Georgetown, TX.
 A fun adult bowling alley and good pizza!
 Puffy tacos from Tio Dan's Puffy Tacos in Round Rock, Texas. These were seriously amazing and only $1.99! If you ever see puffy tacos on a Mexican restaurant menu, try them, they are fabulous!

 
 Jalapeno and Dragon roll from Beluga Sushi. The jalapeno roll was awesome and so different from other rolls. That was also my first time trying caviar and it was an interesting experience! Like little exploding balls of liquid fish tasting stuff...definitely an experience!

 
 Freddy's Frozen Custard... chocolate and vanilla in a waffle cone. 
Probably 700000 calories but so rich and creamy.

Homemade kettle corn from Our Best Bites. Honestly, I recommend never making this because you will become addicted and wanted to make it all the time.

 A trip to Juan in a Million for the famous Don Juan tacos! Only $3.99 and I could barely eat 1/3 of that plate. It's on the list of must do's in Austin. It's also been featured on Man vs. Food. 
Stop by one Saturday morning, it's fun :)

 Fried oreos at the Austin Country Flea Market
 Fried chocolate cake
Fried Snickers.

Now you may not believe this but honestly, I didn't like any of these fried items! Worth trying once? Probably. Tasty? Eh. $5.00 for Oreo's? Overpriced. Fried desserts in 106 degree weather? I wished my calories were spent on funnel cakes instead, those are always a winner! But what can I say, I had to try them (and don't worry I just had a little bite of each, 6 of us shared all 3 of the above!)

Hope you enjoyed my latest culinary adventure!
 I feel like we are making good progress around Round Rock, so soon we will have to exclusively try new restaurants in Austin. Any must eats?

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