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Food

Phyllo cup appetizer: the perfect NYE dish

December 31, 2016

I don’t know about y’all, but I struggle with appetizers! I’m constantly on the hunt for an appetizer that looks pretty, but is also easy — and this Central Market phyllo cup appetizer meets both of those requirements!

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This recipe came to me from our neighbor, Aaron. And I know I’ve said this before, but we really hit the jackpot when it comes to neighbors. Not only do we have two neighbors who are amazing chefs (and graciously share their recipes), but they are all genuinely good people. They’ve never led us astray, and this recipe is no exception!

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My mom and I made this appetizer for Christmas, but it’s a great one for any time of year.

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Does anyone have any other easy-but-pretty appetizers?! I’m all ears!

Ingredients:
phyllo cups
caramelized shallots
peppered goat cheese
fig jam
diced prosciutto

Instructions:
After caramelizing your shallots, add a few to the bottom of every phyllo cup. Pipe the peppered goat cheese in on top of the shallots, then add a dollop of fig jam and top with a piece of prosciutto. Place in the oven and broil for a few minutes, just until the cheese begins to melt, but careful not to burn your cups. Enjoy!

Food Lifestyle

The perfect fall treat

September 26, 2016

There’s no better day than Johnny Appleseed Day to share my favorite applesauce recipe! Until I started making my own, I had always just assumed making applesauce would be labor-intensive, but I’m here to tell you it SO isn’t. The worst part is peeling the apples, but with the right tools, even that isn’t bad. This is a great recipe for the kiddos to help with, too!

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I like to make applesauce in the fall as a little “fall treat” for our neighbors. We’re lucky to have some of the best neighbors ever, and while a little jar of applesauce doesn’t even come close to showing our appreciation for them, I like to think it’s at least a step in the right direction! 😉

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I follow The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for applesauce, but I roughly double the batch. That gives us a good 8-10 jars, and by the time we give some away and eat some ourselves, it goes pretty quickly! If you’re just making it for your own family though, you probably don’t need to double it.

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The Pioneer Woman told me after I made a batch, I would wonder why I ever bought store-bought applesauce in the first place. Well let me tell you, truer words have never been spoken, PW!

If you’re gifting the jars, just tie a little ribbon and gift tag on them and you’re all set! (Or you can totally skip that step altogether and your friends will still love it!)

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Does anyone else have go-to fall treats for sharing?! I’d love to hear!

Applesauce, via The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
6 pounds Apples, Peeled, Cored, And Cut Into 8 Slices
1 cup Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
Juice Of 1 Lemon
1/2 cup Brown Sugar, Packed
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, More Or Less To Taste
Optional Ingredients: Nutmeg, Maple Syrup, Allspice, Butter

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
Carefully puree in a food processor or blender (don’t fill too full; split into two portions if needed) until smooth.
Store in the fridge.

Food

A sweet treat to beat the heat

August 11, 2016

Back in June, a few girls and I hosted a baby sprinkle for my sister-in-law, and one of the girls brought some AMAZING sugar cookies from a store in Oklahoma. Anyone who spent any time at all with me in the weeks following that shower will tell you that I couldn’t quit talking about these cookies! Since I couldn’t get my hands on the real-deal here in Texas, I decided to test out a few recipes in hopes of nailing the right consistency of these life-changing cookies that were equal parts soft, buttery and the perfect amount of sweet.

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I’m sorry to report that my test cookies tasted nothing like the originals, but if you like Lofthouse sugar cookies, you need to try these! Lofthouse cookies are the super soft sugar cookies sold in the bakery of most grocery stores. If you aren’t sure whether or not you like them, you might try making a smaller batch to begin with. People tend to have polarized opinions on these– they either love ’em or they hate ’em. Mr AG, who loves everything, admitted that these aren’t his favorites– but he still powered through and ate a decent amount. (I’m really not selling these very well, huh?!)

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I love that these cookies were small, because it makes them feel a *little* bit lighter for summer. If you like a bigger cookie though, you just make your balls of dough a little larger and adjust your baking time slightly.

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I made these for the 4th of July (hence the red, white and blue sprinkles), but just switch up the sprinkle colors and they become appropriate for any occasion.

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I also love that the icing hardens up a little, because you can more easily stack the cookies without making a huge mess.

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While these weren’t exactly the Oklahoma-grocery-store-sugar-cookie I was going for, they didn’t disappoint and will certainly do in a pinch! That being said, if you have a sugar cookie recipe you think I need to try, you know where to find me! (…in my kitchen, licking the bowl of my stand mixer!) 😉

Ingredients for the cookies (via Back to Her Roots)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
6 cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)

Ingredients for the frosting (via The Other Side of Fifty):
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp clear vanilla
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximate 1 lb)
3 Tbsp meringue powder
2 Tbsp milk

To make the cookies:
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper, set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a scraper/paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sour cream until smooth and light in color.
Add in the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix until just combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if using). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions—mixing well after each.
To form drop cookies: using damp hands, roll dough into 2″ balls and place 2″ apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Using a flat-bottomed glass dipped in water, press the cookie balls flat. (I used a plastic spoon because the glass kept sticking to my dough.)
To form rolled cookies: cover the dough and chill for 20-30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until ¼” thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut cookies and place 2″ apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake cookies in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes (and watch them like a hawk!), until the cookies just begin to set up and the bottoms are lightly brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and let cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:
Sift together confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder.

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape down beater and sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been beaten in icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered while decorating as it dries out quickly.

Food Lifestyle

A season of salads: summer greek salad

July 15, 2016

It has been a really long time since I blogged last, and I wish I could share something more interesting about my time off from blogging — but the truth is, I’ve got nothin’! Like many others, we’ve spent the first half of our summer doing a little hosting, some traveling and lots of yard work. And after several excuses to eat lots of yummy (and not-so-healthy) food, nothing sounds better to me than a fresh summer salad!

I get most of my crowd-pleasing recipes from my mom, and today’s salad is no exception! She’s been making this one since I was little. When I asked for the recipe, she sent me a picture of her recipe card, which was covered in food stains and ink smears. I studied the picture, wondering what she paired with this salad to contribute to all of the stains. I’m sure it was something delicious, as my mom always prepares the best meals! She also sent a picture of the back of the card, which included a note from me (in my first grade handwriting), asking if my friend, Hillary, could come over to play. I offered up “yes” or “no” as options, and instructed her to “cericle” one only. Being the funny gal she is, my mom drew a one and circled that. I guess we can assume I didn’t secure the play date, but I’m certain I got a big helping of Summer Greek Salad that night!IMG_2556

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Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Salad:
4 medium tomatoes (I use an assortment of cherry tomatoes)
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cucumber
1/2 red onion
1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons fresh basil
feta cheese (we use the block and cube it)

Directions:
Mix up salad dressing and toss over veggies. Can be kept in fridge for a couple of days afterward.

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As you may have noticed from my pictures, I totally forgot about the red onion until I had already chopped everything up. Luckily, Mr. AG was out and picked one up for me on his way home. (Phew!)

Do me a favor and try this salad soon! You could even toss a little grilled chicken in and make an entree out of it.

Does anyone have any other go-to summer salads?! I’d love to hear!

Food

3 ways to bake a chocolate chip cookie

May 15, 2016

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day! I’d be hard-pressed to find a treat that isn’t made better with a handful of chocolate chips, but I have to say, my favorite way to eat a chocolate chip is in a cookie!

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The chocolate chip cookie was actually created on accident when a baker set out to make chocolate cookies, but realized she was out of baker’s chocolate. Out of necessity, she substituted the baker’s chocolate with a chopped up semi-sweet chocolate bar, expecting it to melt similarly. When the chips of chocolate didn’t melt and instead only softened, the chocolate chip cookie was born!

Most chocolate chip cookie recipes call for the same general ingredients, but playing around with the amounts and combinations can give you slightly different versions of the traditional treat. Adding more flour can up the gooey factor. Increasing the amount of baking soda can give you a more cake-like texture. Chilling the dough can bring out some of the flavors.

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If you’re less risky and don’t want to play around with the variables yourself, here are a few of my go-to sources!

When I’m in the mood for a chewy cookie, this recipe by Pinch of Yum is deliciously soft. When I’m looking for a salty spin on the cookie, I like Hot Chocolate Hit’s recipe for a salted chocolate chip cookie. And of course, you can’t go wrong with the traditional Nestle Toll House recipe.

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Do me a favor and celebrate today with a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. You deserve it!

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Does anyone have any tricks for making the perfect chocolate chip cookie?! I’d love to hear!

Food Lifestyle

The perfect baked good for any occasion

May 4, 2016

I love to bake — and I love gifting baked goods to friends and family — but I often struggle with what to bake for small occasions like “thinking of you” or “thanks for hosting us” or “welcome to the neighborhood.” Cakes are my favorite, but they’re big and *sometimes* not that practical for an individual or small family. (In our home, they’re always appropriate!) Cookies or bars are great options, but can be difficult to dress up. And I always worry that anything too involved might give off the impression that I’m trying too hard. (Which, I am. Almost always.)

After years of hunting for the perfect go-to baked good, I’m happy to report that I’ve landed on coffee cake. It’s easy, can be eaten any time of the day, and calls for ingredients you probably already have! And it’s pretty safe, so I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes but my current favorite is The Pioneer Woman’s.

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To dress it up, I use the Multi Dots loaf pans from The Container Store. They are smaller than my normal loaf pan, which means I get five (maybe even six) loafs out of every batch. Since the original recipe calls for a 9×13, the bake time has to be adjusted a little. For a standard loaf pan, add 12 minutes to the baking time. For smaller loaf pans (like the ones shown here), baking time varies, but start checking it around 30-35 minutes. For my oven, 40 minutes does the trick. I just do the toothpick test and when it comes out clean, I take it out.

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Once they’re baked and cooled, I wrap them up tightly in cling wrap, then with cellophane. I tie on a little tag so people know what they’re getting themselves into, tie a bow, and then just trim the top!

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So there you have it! Easy and delicious!

Does anyone else have go-to baked goods for gifting? You know I need to hear all about them!

The Best Coffee Cake. Ever. (By The Pioneer Woman)

For the cake:
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups (scant) sugar
3 cups flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 whole egg whites, beaten until stiff

For the topping:
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (I leave these out)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk alternately until combined. Don’t overbeat. Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula. Spread in a well-greased 9 x 13 (or LARGER!) baking pan. (Or loaf pans.)

In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle all over the top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until no longer jiggly. (Baking time varies depending on pan.) Serve warm.

Food Lifestyle

A season of salads: summer chopped salad

April 11, 2016

As part two in my “season of salads” series, I’m sharing a yummy salad from my sweet sister-in-law, Madison.

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Madison is the kind of sister-in-law you dream of getting! She’s as thoughtful and kind as she is fun. My husband jokes that the main reason I agreed to marrying him was because it meant I would inherit Madison as a sister-in-law. Ha! While that isn’t *entirely* true, gaining Madison as a sister was a pretty sweet deal, too! 😉 And truth be told, I really don’t know what I would do without her!

This non-traditional salad is one Madison and my brother-in-law whip up often, as a side with their dinners. She shared the recipe with me a few months ago, and I finally picked up the ingredients to try it last week — and I’m so glad I did! It’s colorful, crisp and tangy… The perfect combination for a summery salad! And with no lettuce or traditional dressing, it feels extra light and fresh!

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Ingredients:
2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped (I didn’t follow directions well and only got one cucumber — but it still turned out well!)
1 avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
juice of 1 lime (if your lime isn’t very juicy, you could use two)
salt and pepper to taste
(dash of olive oil is optional)

Directions:
Chop up all of your veggies, dress with lime juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you like a bit more dressing on your salads, you could add a little EVOO — but that’s entirely optional. Makes four small servings.

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Do me a favor and try this one soon. You’ll be so glad you did!