Monday, May 28, 2012

Mac 'N Cheese, Please!

To all my readers, I have been absent from my writing for over a month, and to apologize I have one of the simplest, yummiest, All-American foods for you! Today, being Memorial Day, many of us gather together to celebrate and remember the men and women who risked their lives for The United States of America. We celebrate the holiday with parades dedicated to our troops, moments of silence, The National Anthem and then many of us come together for an All-American feast of hot dogs and hamburgers smothered in Heinz Ketchup, pasta and fruit salads, apple pies, and so much more.

Almost every year, at any U.S. holiday, whether it be Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day, someone always brings Mac 'N Cheese. A childhood favorite for most, it has become a posh and high end side dish at many famous restaurants, especially when made with gourmet cheeses. Restaurants in New York City such as Blue Smoke ($8), DuMont ($15), and in Chicago, Rockit Bar and Grill ($15), Wilde ($14), just to name a few, have top-rated Mac 'N Cheese! So here's a simple, basic recipe to get you started on creating your own 5 Star Mac 'N Cheese.

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Burger with Quinoa and Asparagus

With my time in Chicago coming quickly to an end, and spring just around the corner (weather wise, at least), it was time to clean out the freezer and add some color to my plate. When I buy meat, whether it be beef, turkey, chicken or pork, I usually buy more than I'll eat so I can freeze it and have some at my fingertips for a quick meal.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Open Faced Avocado Tomato Bagel

The Bagel has some of the most delicious New York Style bagels I have ever had. It was my last week at work, before making my big move home, so I decided to treat myself and bought 3 bagels! They don't last long so I had use the quickly and cleverly.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Low Calorie)

Happy 24th Birthday to Me! Here's a low calorie Carrot Cake Cupcake I made using a recipe from Cooking Light. I switched out the sugar for No Calorie Splenda. Can't even taste the difference! I added Lite Cool Whip with a shake or two of cinnamon for icing instead of using creme cheese. You could also use light creme cheese if you wish! To all my readers, Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mashed Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower is a great substitute for mashed potatoes. It has a similar flavor, if you can believe that, and texture! Fewer calories, by about half! The only difference is that the cauliflower has more liquid than a potato, but they're still fairly good. I've read a few recipes that steam the cauliflower then smash them with a bit of milk, but I wanted to give it a bit more flavor so I roasted the cauliflower with garlic and olive oil, then mashed them in a MagicBullet with some low fat butter milk and a dash of salt.

1/2 head of cauliflower, or about 2 cups
dash of EVOO (olive oil)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 cup buttermilk
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400˙. Mix the cauliflower with olive oil and garlic, put into a casserole dish and roast for about 30 minutes, turning them once or twice so they brown evenly. Then using a food processor or MagicBullet, mash the potatoes with a pinch of salt and about 1/8 c of low fat buttermilk or 1% milk. If you want them smoother, add more milk until it's at the consistency you'd like. Serve immediately! Happy Cooking, and Enjoy!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Sunday Brunch

Easter Sunday was always a time when the family would get together, dress in our 'Sunday Best', attend church and come home for a delicious home-cooked brunch. Filled with potatoes, veggies, and of course an Easter ham, we gathered around the table for a hour of stories, laughs and sometimes a few tears. This year, being in Chicago, I was unable to be with family, so my surrogate family welcomed me with open arms to join them from Sunday Easter brunch.

Others' family traditions are always fun to learn about and experience, and this one, although different from my own, resembled much of how my family comes together to celebrate this holiday. It was the next best thing to being home. Here is a sampling of the food we had.

Fresh Fruit Salad, 
I helped chop up the apples and cantaloupe, my friend added the grapes, blackberries and mango!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

May The Tasting Be Ever In Your Flavor

Thank you to all my readers! I have reached 2,000 views on my blog. If you haven't already, click on the links to the left to follow my page on Facebook, like my posts AND follow my blog! Thanks again to everyone for letting me share my love of food! Happy Eating, and may the tasting be ever in your flavor! (Shout out to all those The Hunger Games fans.)

Photo from Google Images

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Poached Egg Salad with Avocado, Cucumber Sauce

I saw a picture of an Avocado Eggs Benedict this morning on Pinterest, and since I'm not the biggest fan of Hollandaise sauce, I decided to create my own Avocado, Cucumber Sauce to have with a poached egg salad. It's very simple and can be used with an assortment of dishes. Can't make poached eggs, try it on scrambled!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blue Cheese Burger

Everyone loves a good burger, whether it's beef, chicken, turkey or veggie. Over the past year I have tried to limit the amount of beef I eat, and go for more lean meets like turkey and chicken. However, when I was at the store yesterday I saw this beautiful 95% lean ground beef on sale and just couldn't resist. I had been craving a good burger for days and decided that if I wanted to save the pennies in the piggy bank, the fat from landing on my thighs (had I gone out to get a burger) and still get what I want, this was the way to go. I also found sesame buns that were freshly made (still warm!) and some amish blue cheese that was way cheaper than any other blue cheese in the store. I got home and threw together a basic yet delicious burger, and with the right toppings had a great lunch.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grilled Avocado, Cheese, and Tomato

I love grilled cheese. It is so simple, yet so good. However, it is not always the healthiest choice for a Saturday lunch. With an avocado on hand, getting a bit too ripe, and a tomato almost past its 'good' stage, I decided to kick up the grilled cheese sandwich. I have posted my grilled cheese recipe, along with it's nutritional information (from CalorieCount). Don't be fooled by the extremely high numbers. Some of those are very good, like the fiber. And the fat from the avocado is much better for you than fat from butter or whole fat cheese. So don't be alarmed. Then, to give you a good comparison, I also have the nutritional facts for a simple white-bread-american-cheese-cooked-with-butter grilled cheese. You'll be amazed!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 23, 2012

Perfectly Poached

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, ordered poached eggs, and out comes the most beautiful, soft, pillow-like egg, dainty yet solid, and just so perfect? Then thought, 'Why can't I do that?'. You're not alone...

(Yes! This picture was taken by me!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tortilla Chili

Sixty degree weather doesn't usually call for chili, but today I was in the mood for comfort food. My mother had posted a chili recipe on my Facebook page the other day (yes, my mom has Facebook and we are friends!) and it looked like a great recipe to try. A One-Pot One-der, all you need is a crock-pot (and some time)! Prep for this is super easy and quick, and the outcome will make your company think you spent hours in the kitchen! I added a few extra ingredients, but use what you have.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mini S'mores

I was craving something sweet tonight, so into the cupboard I went. I couldn't find anything to easily grab. Then had a thought: "Marshmallows!" I had stocked up on marshmallows during the holiday season and had yet to use them up. With some extra melting chocolates from a Pretzel Chocolate kit I bought, and some older (almost stale but not yet) crackers, I pulled out a fork, started up the gas stove and created a Mini S'more.

For those of you without a gas stove, my deepest apologies. However you could recreate this using a candle (one that has no scent), the broiler (be careful!!!) or a microwave and just nuke it.

This was the perfect little snack and I'm sure it came in under 100 calories, since one marshmallow is about 25 calories, and the crackers are about the same (or lower) and the chocolate, well it's chocolate! Happy Recreating and Enjoy!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Banana Protein Muffins

In my battle to drop the fat, gain the muscle and get into better shape, I have been reading a lot of Once-Was-Fat-Now-Am-Skinny blogs. Real people, real stories. I started picking up on common denominators that helped these people lose their weight. It all has to do with Diet and Exercise, not like you haven't heard that a billion times already. But here are some specifics about just how your diet and exercise should be. You want (a) high protein, (b) little to no sugar, white sugar especially, (c) heavy on the vegetables (d) 5-6 small meals a day (e) a budget that allows for purchasing the healthier food (f) exercising 30-120 minutes a day. I struggle with (a) and (e), and a tad of (f), which I know many of you might. But, it takes baby steps, each and every day to completely battle the urges to down a bag of potato chips, or eat a whole pint of homemade ice cream from the family run ice cream parlor at the corner of the street... (Guilty!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes

Baby, you hardly even notice
When I try to show you this
Song is meant to keep ya
From doing what your supposed to
Waking up too early
Maybe we can sleep in
I'll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it's the weekend now
~Jack Johnson

And so my Sunday morning began with his song! An inspiration from Pinterest and the craving for pancakes from the past two weeks, I jumped into the kitchen. These are easy, wonderful pancakes. Who would have thunk? Bananas IN the pancake mix!?!?! Yep! And it's delicious! I adapted the original recipe because I like my pancakes fluffier. Bother recipes are listed below.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Artichoke Spinach Dip

A favorite late night snack in my family is Artichoke dip. Fairly simple and extremely tasty, the only down side is the time it takes to cook. But, fear not! I have a short cut, thanks to my Mom, that I will share.  This recipe is adapted from the original one to reduce the number of calories, fat and salt typically found in Artichoke Dip.

For a basic recipe you only need 4-5 items. I usually don't use spinach in my artichoke dip (a) because I'm not the biggest fan of its cooked taste and (b) the recipe can sometimes make the dip into a Spinach-Artichoke, heavy with spinach, very little artichoke, all smothered in cheese. Sounds delicious (yes), but there's a smart way to make this. But I was wanting to umph this recipe up. So I added just a bit. The first recipe is the original recipe. The second in my healthier recipe!

(1) Original (makes 15 servings at 144 calories per serving)
1 cup mayo
1 cup parmesan
1 can of Artichoke Hearts
1 can diced green chiles

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Party Favorites

These have been all over the internet, and I thought it was about time to share the idea! I love them and can't wait to pick up some odd-ball glasses at a flea market or second-hand store, grab a can of black chalkboard paint and give this a try!

Pictures credit of Always Order Dessert

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Measurement Conversion

While attempting to interpret a recipe written in Norwegian, I was also trying to convert the metric system to the U.S. system. It would be easier if I had a scale, but alas, I am not privy to one. But, my lack of equipment allowed me to run into this great site that provides a wonderful conversion of Metric to U.S. I took some screen shots, along with linking the site to each picture (if you click on it) in case you cannot read the tiny writing. Hope this helps for any of you trying hard to convert those darn grams into teaspoons and cups! Or should I say those grams into darn teaspoons and cups?! Happy Baking!

Liquids (and Herbs and Spices)

Other Non-Liquids

Sunday, January 22, 2012

To My Readers, Changes Are Coming!

As the new year is settling in, I am working hard to make my recipes more accessible. I've taken into consideration what I'm striving to do, how I want to present it and who I want reading it (everyone!). Some great changes are around the corner.

First, I have started an Apron Strings to Diamond Rings Tumblr, which will house all the same recipes as this blog, with maybe a few extra things (we'll see)! I want people who use Tumblr, but maybe not blogger, to be able to access what I have as well. That's not to say I'm getting rid of the blog! Apron Strings to Diamond Rings blog, via blogger, will be staying put. I am working on changing the presentation of the site, but it will still be up and running. I also started a Facebook page, Apron Strings to Diamond Rings, so 'Like' it when you have the chance!

The second piece of news is that I will be featuring Guest Posts! People who inspire me, friends and family, will be asked to post a favorite recipe along with their story (if they so choose) to share with the readers. I believe it is essential to learn from everyone around us, so that we are able to become better people, not only in the kitchen, but out of it as well.

Third, I am going to start adding a few posts that don't deal with recipes directly, but have influenced me, whether it be quotes from famous chefs or the latest video clip of Paula Dean's health. I think that these posts will express my extensive interest not only in cooking but the world of food and health.

I hope you enjoy these changes! Please let me know if you have any suggestions and I will do my best to incorporate what I can. Happy Eating!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blueberry Apple Egg Rolls

Crazy, right?! Mixing Chinese with American cuisine. Trust me, you'll love it. I've been craving sweets (as many people who try to go on any kind of diet do, even if it's just lessening your intake of sugar, salt, etc.), but every recipe I want to make is proportioned for 4-8 people! I have will power, but not that much to keep from eating an entire pie or 2 dozen cookies in 2 days. So, while at the store today I had this thought, Egg Rolls! They're easy, cheap and anything can be put into them. I took a look at the seal and 3 wraps (1 serving) is 170 calories (56.66 per wrap), not bad, and the price $1.50 for 20 wraps, can't beat that! These egg roll wrappers could be used instead of heavy dough or bread to create smaller meals/snacks, sort of like making my Breakfast Turnovers. I made regular egg rolls using chicken, carrots and cucumbers (recipe coming) for dinner but I also attempted making a Blueberry Apple Pie On-The-Go with the wraps, and let me tell you, it was amazing! The prep takes approximately 2 minutes, and cooking takes 10 (if the oven has already been warmed up). A regular piece of pie could put you back anywhere between 250-500 calories, per slice, but this little guy will please your taste buds and only eat up 100-150 calories, plus it's got those extremely healthy blueberries! Here's how I did it.

The picture isn't the most appetizing, but cooked blueberries don't photograph too well. They're still extremely tasty, though!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homemade Granola Mix

Hi all! Months ago I saw Clinton Kelly on The Chew share his favorite Granola Mix. It looked so delicious and easy I had to try it. It was all that he said it would be! Granola can be so very expensive at the store, and if you purchase all your ingredients separately (in bulk-ish) and make it yourself, overall you'll be spending much less. This made about 2-3lbs (filled a little more than 1/2 a gallon ziplock bag) and cost a total of $4.13 (approximately). In a store you'd pay about $4.99 for 1lb, and it wouldn't be filled with all of these healthy goodies, and would probably have much more fat and sugar!

For me, I already had Old Fashion Oats in my pantry (a staple for those wondering), and I  recently bought a bag of almonds (which can be expensive, but go a long way) and a bag of dried cranberries for snacking. With honey/agave nectar, dried banana and oil already in my pantry, I was able to quickly whip this recipe up. I do a lot of eye-balling when it comes to this recipe, so feel free to do what feels, looks and tastes right!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sicilian Chicken and Pasta

Today while talking to a friend about her 'typical' dinners, she mentioned how she eats a lot of simple pasta dishes. I know how easy it is to do that, but I have a great recipe to amp up that pasta dish! It only calls for a few more ingredients and no more time (maybe 1 minute). It can be done in two pots (or one if you have left over pasta) and not only is it delicious the first day, but it's great reheated for lunch, or dinner days later! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Breakfast Turnover On-The-Go

I recently saw a recipe for mini breakfast bites and thought that the recipe could be made on a larger scale for a to-go style breakfast. It's very simple and can be made, refrigerated and warmed up in the morning! You need 4 ingredients, one bowl and a baking sheet. Pretty simple and easy clean-up! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

1 Pastry Puff Sheet, cut diagonally or straight down
1/4 lb ground turkey (handful)
1 handful of grated cheese (cheddar, swiss)
1 egg

In a bowl mix together the turkey, cheese and egg, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the cut Pastry Puff on a greased baking sheet. Put half of the mix on each pastry puff and fold, either diagonally or straight across, depending on how you cut the pastry, and seal with a bit of water, pressing the edges closed with your fingers or a fork.* It should look like a turnover or a pocket. Bake at 350˙ for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. You can make them smaller if you wish (the recipe and cook time should all be about the same). If you make more than 4 from a sheet of pastry puff, you might only need to bake them 10-15 minutes. Just keep an eye on them! If you decide to make these ahead of time, when you get up in the morning, turn the oven to about 200˙ and place the turnover in oven for about 8-10 minutes. Wrap it in a paper towel and head out the door with an easy and healthy breakfast. Happy Eating and Enjoy!

*See my Blackberry Trucker Pie recipe for details on sealing the pastry puff.

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes

I was reading the most recent Food Network Magazine and was inspired to make Scalloped Potatoes. It was always one of my favorite dishes growing up, but I have yet to make it myself. I did a bit of research using the CookingLight, Joy of Cooking and AllRecipes to find exactly how I was going to tackle this. If you take a look around you'll find some recipes that take 30 minutes to cook and others that take an hour and a half. It all depends on how you want to do your prep work and how much you're making. If you cook the potato(es) first, then it doesn't take as long in the oven, but the prep time will be a bit longer, and there will be a dash more clean up (not much though). If you don't precook the potato(es) it will take longer in the oven. Here's what I cooked up for dinner:

Pasta Salad with Cilantro Dressing

This week Trader Joe's had avocados on sale, which meant, most of my meals were going to be filled with avocados! YAY! I love them. They're a super food (I believe) filled with good fats, great texture, and wonderful vitamins. I was on Pinterest today when I saw a corn, avocado, tomato, cilantro salad and figured I could tweak it so I could use what I had in my refrigerator. With leftover pasta from the other night, fresh tomatoes and avocados, and a bunch of cilantro on it's way out (it doesn't last long), I put together a cold pasta salad. Here's what I did!

Makes 1 serving:
Pasta (cooked and chilled), 1/2 cup
tomato, chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped

a small handful of cilantro, minced
1/8-1/4 cup of EVOO
pinch of salt
1 t of agave nectar (or honey), just a small amount*
lime juice (half a lime)
*If you wanted to do a more traditional dressing you can switch out the Agave nectar for vinegar.

Mix the dressing ingredients together either by whisking in a bowl or shaping in a container. Taste and adjust if needed. You want a hint of lime, with a bit of sweet and tart. It's oddly wonderful!

Drizzle the dressing over the pasta, avocado and tomato. Happy eating!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Black Bean, Corn Salsa (Southwest Salsa)

Happy 2012! To bring in the New Year, my friend Cheryl and her husband hosted a fun little get together. I helped in providing food to munch on while we played Wii Just Dance, Apples to Apples and watching the Time Square events take place. Among the many delicious finger foods we put together, I quickly threw together this super easy, super delicious salsa that will please almost everyone!

Mix together:
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 can of corn (or the equivalent frozen/fresh), drained
3-4 tomatoes, diced small (you can you canned, but I like the taste of fresh tomatoes so much more)
1/4 white or red onion
1 avocado, diced
Cilantro, handful or so chopped
Lime juice from 1 lime (fresh is best, but from the container is fine, just use less)
3 Tablespoons of EVOO (but not needed)
salt and pepper to taste (however, I leave them out because the chips usually contain enough)

Have a blessed and happy new year! Happy Eating!

*©ApronStringstoDiamondRings All Rights Reserved