Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Praline Apple Bread

Happy fall, y'all!

Are you as excited about the season as I am?  I'm always glad when autumn rolls around, but this year I'm extra excited.  I've got a list a mile long of recipes, both new and old, to try, a couple new sweaters picked out, and a bevy of experiences I want to pack into the next few months.

Choosing this recipe to kick off my fall food frenzy was an easy choice.  First of all, it features apples.  I'm kind of in love with them (duh!) and am always looking for new recipes to feed my addiction.  The big, juicy chunks of my favorite fruit are prominent here and I just love it.  Add in some chopped pecans and a sweet praline glaze and we're at a whole new level.  This is definitely one of those fantastic quick breads that is questionably breakfast and possibly dessert--a bad decision you really don't feel that guilty about.  Even if you eat it for both breakfast and dessert one day.  Or two.  Not that I did that or anything...

praline apple bread

Praline Apple Bread
slightly adapted from Southern Living, September 2009

8 oz. sour cream or Greek yogurt (low fat is fine)
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. finely chopped, peeled firm apples
1 c. chopped toasted pecans, divided
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla on low speed until blended, about 2 minutes.    

2.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to sour cream mixture in three additions, beating on low speed until just blended.  Stir in apples and half the pecans.  

3.  Spoon batter into a prepared 9x5 loaf pan.  Bake 60-70 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If necessary, cover with foil after 50 minutes to prevent the bread from browning too much.  (I didn't need to do this.)  Cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then turn bread out and allow to cool completely on the rack.  

4.  When bread is cool, bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat.  Let boil 1 minutes, then remove from heat.  Place a silicone mat or piece of foil under wire rack and carefully spoon or pour praline icing over bread.  Sprinkle with remaining pecans.  Let cool and set completely (about 1 hour) before slicing.

***Note: The original recipe says the bread can be frozen up to 3 months wrapped in plastic wrap and foil.  Defrost at room temperature.  I have not tried this yet, but if I do, I would freeze it uniced, then add icing after bread is fully defrosted.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meatless Monday--Roasted Poblano and Potato Quiche and a Giveaway!

Do you all read Prevention RD?  If you don't, you need to wander on over to take a look.  Nicole, the force behind the blog, is a registered dietitian (hence RD) by day and a blogger, cookbook writer, and chili lover by night.  Her recipes always look mouthwatering--not the crunchy granola, spinach leaves with a splash of lemon juice as salad fare that makes people run from healthy dishes.  No, Nicole dishes up a whole lot of yum.  Plus, she knows that a once-in-a-while splurge is okay.  Gotta love that.

A few weeks ago, her publisher reached out to me about doing a giveaway for her first cookbook, Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking.  After a quick e-mail to Nicole to make sure it was legit, I e-mailed back to say I'd LOVE to do a review and giveaway.  I've made several of Nicole's recipes in the past and I just couldn't wait to introduce new readers to her talents.

After flipping through the pages, I knew this dish would be perfect for my blog.  I love my Meatless Mondays and anything with poblanos is a winner in my book.  I did make just one change to the recipe--because of a dairy sensitivity, I used goat cheese instead of a Mexican blend.  Nicole keeps things easy by calling for a pre-made pie crust, but you could certainly make your own--just remember the nutritional information will change.  

The quiche was a winner.  I will say, it wasn't as uber rich as traditional quiches tend to be, but I was okay with that.  It's that calorie-bomb richness that keep me from enjoying quiche more than once or twice a year.  With this quiche, I didn't feel so guilty taking down an entire slice.

If you'd like to be a winner, you're in luck.  Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a copy of Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking for one lucky reader.  There are a few ways to enter.  You can earn up to five entries for this giveaway by doing any of the following:

1.  Leave a comment telling me your favorite healthy recipe.  Links welcome!
2.  Follow Apple a Day on facebook and leave a comment on my facebook page letting me know.
3.  Follow Apple a Day on Instagram and leave a comment here telling me your instagram handle.
4.  Follow Apple a Day on Pinterest and come back here to tell me you've done so.
5.  Follow Prevention RD on facebook and leave a comment here letting me know.

The giveaway window closes at midnight CST on Saturday, September 28.  The winner will be chosen by random integer generator and contacted via e-mail.

Roasted Poblano and Potato Quiche
very slightly adapted from Nicole Morrissey, Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking

3 large or 4 medium poblano peppers
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. potatoes (about 4 small) diced
1/4 onion, diced
5 eggs
1/4 c. half and half
1 frozen pie crust
1/2 c. goat cheese or 2% Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper, plus more to taste

1.  Preheat oven to broil (500 degrees F) and place poblanos on a baking sheet to broil, 5-7 minutes, turn once.  Alternately, place peppers directly on the grates of a gas stove or grill.  When peppers are charred on all sides, place in a paper or plastic zip-top bag.  Seal and allow to sweat 10 minutes.  Removed charred skins, seed, slice, and set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  

3.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add potatoes and cook 7-9 minutes until beginning to brown.  Add onion and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Add chopped poblanos and heat through, 2-3 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, half and half, and salt and pepper.

5.  Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the pie crust.  Sprinkle half the cheese into the bottom.  Spread potato mixture into the crust.  Pour egg mixture over the top and allow to settle into the crevices.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

6.  Bake 20-24 minutes or until set.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Yields: 6 servings

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Garden Pasta with Bacon

I'm not a gardener, (maybe one day I'll develop a green thumb) but I know plenty of people that are.  I keep hearing all about how they've got tons of tomatoes, bushels of basil, and more zucchini than they know what to do with.  Well, today's their day here on the blog because I've got summer garden pasta.  With bacon.  Bacon, people.  One of those "makes so many things even better" ingredients, am I right?

From the day this went on the menu plan, I was looking forward to it.  It's basically a mixture of lots of my favorite things--squash, tomatoes, corn, pesto and yummy, carby pasta.  But then, then, these things get topped with salty bacon and sweet, tangy goat cheese.  And wouldn't you know it--it's unbelievably easy to throw together.  Heaven in a bowl, I tell you.

summer pasta with bacon

Summer Garden Pasta with Bacon
adapted from Gourmet, July 2008

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped into pieces
1 lb. penne, fusilli, or other short-shape pasta
1 c. corn kernels
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini or summer squash, cut into 1/2-in. thick half moons
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 c. basil pesto
4 oz. goat cheese
salt and black pepper, to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions.  Reserve 3/4 c. pasta water, then drain and return to pot.

2.  Turn heat to medium and add corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and 1/2 c. reserved pasta water to pot.  Cook, partially covered, until water is nearly evaporated and vegetables are just softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in pesto and cook until warmed.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

3.  To serve, spoon pasta into a large serving bowl or divide among 6 individual bowls.  Garnish with goat cheese and bacon.  Serve immediately.    

Yields: 6 servings

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meatless Monday--Macaroni and Cheese, Indian Style

As September rolls on and fall begins to set in, I find myself craving warmer, heartier dinners.  The days are still plenty warm here, but the evenings are beginning to cool off a touch and I'm ready to take full advantage of them.

With generous amounts of traditional Indian spices, this macaroni and cheese was made for fall and winter nights.  The garam masala, a spice blend I've completely fallen in love with over the past couple of years, really comes through and provides the perfect base for the smoky cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  Cardamom, though used sparingly, adds a peppery zing, which is the perfect compliment to all that cheese.

I never would've thought to add Indian flair to this all-American classic, but let me tell you--it really works.  After reading some of the reviews, I increased the spices and make the cheese sauce the night before so all of those glorious, exotic flavors would have time to really blossom.  Because of this, the final dish was exceptionally quick and easy to throw together.  It was highly spiced like my favorite Indian foods are and highly comforting like all good mac and cheese should be.  I'm so glad I found this so early in the season because I know I'll want to enjoy it over and over again.

indian mac and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese, Indian Style
adapted from Bal Arneson

3 TBSP salted butter, divided
salt, to season pasta water
4 c. elbow macaroni or other desired shape
2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium white onion, minced
1 TBSP garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. chili powder
1 c. quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
3 c. milk (not skim)
4 1/2 c. grated white cheddar, divided
1/4 c. unseasoned bread crumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x13 ovenproof dish with 1 TBSP of the butter.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil then generously salt.  Add macaroni or other pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, and onions and cook until onions are just golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, chili powder, and tomatoes and cook 5 minutes.  Add the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir and cook mixture 2 minutes more.

4.  While onion mixture cooks, warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat.

5.  Reduce heat on onion mixture to medium and slowly add the milk.  Whisk continually as the mixture thickens.  Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes.  Gradually add 3 1/2 c. cheese and whisk until completely melted.  (At this point, the cheese sauce can be cooled, then stored in an airtight container and refrigerated up to 24 hours.  Bring sauce back to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.)       

6.  Add cooked macaroni to the prepared baking dish, then pour cheese sauce over the top and stir to coat.  Evenly sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.  Bake until cheese is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pretzel-Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have very fond memories of my mom baking me blueberry muffins on special days--the first day of school, test or audition days, or any time she could see I needed a little pick me up.  To this day, they are one of my nostalgic favorites.

Still, that hasn't stopped me from searching out recipes for a new kind of muffin that I'll love just as much.  Simple fruit muffins are always dependable, but sometimes I want something with a little more pizzazz, like these pretzel muffins studded with semisweet chocolate chips.  I'm a huge fan of the salty/sweet combo, and the balance is just right here.  If you like things on the sweeter side, you may want to use milk chocolate chips, but I will always pick semisweet or dark chips over milk.

These pretzel muffins may not have the same sentimental value as my beloved blueberry muffins, but they are definitely going into my bag of tricks for breakfasts, brunches, and goodies to share at work.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll become the breakfast treat someone fixes for their loved ones' most special days...

Pretzel-Chocolate Chip Muffins
slightly adapted from Cuisine at Home, October 2013


For the streusel:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. roughly ground pretzels (Do not completely grind--a few small should pieces remain.)
1/4 c. broken pretzels pieces
6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the muffins:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. ground pretzels
1/2 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. canola oil
3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. pretzel salt or other coarse salt, for sprinkling

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.

2.  To make the streusel, combine flour, sugar, ground and broken pretzels, and cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter.  Cover and chill 1 hour.

3.  To make the muffin batter, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, ground pretzels, chocolate chips, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

4.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and sugar until sugar is fully dissolved.  Add eggs, oil, melted butter, and vanilla.

5.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Stir in wet mixture and let sit 2 minutes before dividing into muffin tins.

6.  Remove streusel from refrigerator and, using clean hands, squeeze into clumps approximately the size of dice.  Top muffins with streusel then sprinkle with pretzel salt.

7.  Bake muffins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 17-19 minutes.  Let cool in the pan 10 minutes, then serve immediately or turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Yields: 12 muffins

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Apricot-Basil Chicken Salad

Now that the school year's in full swing, I'm on my usual quest to find dishes that yield tasty leftovers that will give me a couple of lunches for the week.  I've got some old standbys, but there's always room for new favorites.

Chicken salad for lunch can certainly be ho hum.  But with apricots, almonds, and basil--three of my faves--added in, it's anything but boring.  This chicken salad is creamy and light with the just the right bite from the vinegar and onion and the perfect amount of crunch and sweetness.  It's great in a sandwich, on top of greens, or even all on its own.  Lunch time just got even better.

apricot basil chicken salad

Apricot-Basil Chicken Salad
from Martha Stewart

1/3 c. low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 c. low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. paprika
5 tsp. champagne or white wine vinegar
3 c. shredded cooked chicken
1/4 c. blanched slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 medium white onion, minced (about 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. diced celery (leaves included, if possible)
1/3 c. dried apricots, diced
1/3 c. packed fresh basil, chiffonade
coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, garlic, paprika, and vinegar.  Stir in chicken, almonds, onion, celery, and basil.  Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to three days.

Yields: 4-6 servings

Monday, September 9, 2013

Meatless Monday--Squash and Corn Tacos

Just like that, summer is coming to a close.  The blogosphere is busting at the seams with pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin, but I'm not quite ready to go there.  Don't get me wrong, I love pumpkin, but there's still plenty of late summer produce to savor before fall baking officially starts.  Plus, hello!  Apples need to get their time in the spotlight!

If you're with me on looking for ways to enjoy the last of summer's bounty, I really think you'll want to make these tacos.  The original recipe calls for zucchini, but I had summer squash on hand and it worked beautifully.  The mixture was a cinch to throw together and was completely packed with flavor.  I loved the mixture on tacos the first night I made it, but it was also great as part of a salad for lunch the next day.  I even loved the leftovers scooped into a bowl, reheated, sprinkled with cheese, and topped with salsa.

Apple and pumpkin are coming, friends.  But first, I'm going to make the taste of summer last just a bit longer.

squash and corn tacos

Summer Squash and Corn Tacos
slightly adapted from Jimmy Shaw via epicurious

3 TBSP vegetable oil, divided
2 c. fresh or frozen, thawed corn kernels
1 small white onion, chopped (about 1 c.)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 medium summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. finely chopped oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
8-10 warm corn tortillas
queso fresco or grated Monterey Jack, for serving
tomatillo salsa, for serving
minced cilantro, for serving

1.  In a large skillet over high heat, heat half the oil.  Toast the corn for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Season with salt, then remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  In the same skillet, heat the remaining oil then add onion and cook until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add squash and cook until tender, 10-12 minutes more.

3.  Add corn back into the pan, then add beans, oregano, and pepper.  Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

4.  Meanwhile, warm tortillas in the microwave or directly over an open flame such as a gas stove, if possible.  To serve, divide squash mixture among tortillas, then top with cheese, salsa, and cilantro, if desired.

Yields: 4 servings 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

I realize I'm sharing this way, way late into fig season.  I'm sorry.  But if there's any way at all you can still get your hands on some fresh figs, you must make this.  Seriously.

Josie shared the recipe on her blog last week and, even though I had my weekly menu done, I immediately changed it.  I just couldn't pass this up.  Josie had this recipe saved for an entire year.  Even after that year of waiting, she said it surpassed every expectation she'd set.  Having prepared and eaten the meal, I can see why.

The ingredient list is fairly short and full of things I love--figs, of course, but also rosemary, basil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary.  To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever had them all together before.  Every note from every ingredient compliments the next--sweet figs, woodsy rosemary, and creamy, tangy gorgonzola--and makes for a meal that is 100% simpatico. 

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa
seen on Pink Parsley
originally from Southern Living, August 2012


For the steak:
2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak

For the salsa:
3 c. chopped fresh figs
1 small shallot, minced
2 TBSP chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  To make the marinade, combine rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil.  Rub onto both sides of the steak, then cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

2.  Preheat the grill to 450 degrees F.

3.  Meanwhile, make the fig salsa by combining all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

4.  Place the steak on the grill and cook 3-5 minutes per side with the lid down, depending on desired doneness.  Remove, tent with foil, and let stand 5 minutes to redistribute juices. 

5.  To serve, slice steak diagonally against the grain, about 1/-in. thick.  Arrange on a serving plate and spoon half the salsa over the top.  Sprinkle with gorgonzola.  Serve remaining salsa on the side.

Yields: 6 servings