Heart Fruit Skewers and The Best Fruit Dip Ever

A Last Minute Valentine treat – Heart Fruit Skewers.Heart Fruit Skewers and Fruit Dip
Who can resist fruit cut in pretty heart shapes? Not me.

These skewers make a pretty and healthy-ish platter. And for Valentines’ Day, this dip that I made in the 80’s is a great splurge. And really, the best fruit dip ever. It is light. It is fluffy, sweet and a little tangy. Just perfect. Not healthy, but perfect tasting. I use orange juice concentrate because orange juice makes the dip too runny.

For your Valentine, this is a sweet treat that is a little something different.

Heart Fruit Skewers and Best Fruit Dip Ever

The Best Fruit Dip Ever

Makes 2 cups

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1 small jar marshmallow fluff

Whisk together the cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Fold in the marshmallow fluff. Serve at room tempaerature or chilled.

Heart Fruit Skewers and The Best Fruit Dip Ever
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
  • 1 small jar marshmallow fluff
  • .
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Fold in the marshmallow fluff. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

 

Heart Healthy Roasted Beet Salad (Whole30)

Heart Healthy Beet Salad

So why is it that on a day we celebrate things of the heart, we eat food that is so, so bad for your heart?

I say we start a revolution, a culture change! Let’s start a new tradition of eating heart-healthy foods on Valentine’s Day! Who’s with me?

First dish to make: Heart Beet Salad. (See how I did that – Heart. Beet.)

Beets are amazingly good for you. They have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits in abundance. They are full of betanins, which have been known to reduce heart disease and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. Some believe that regular consumption of beets is what causes Russia to have such a large centenarian population. Why WOULDN’T you feed your sweetheart beets on Valentine’s Day? We want our sweethearts to live long, healthy lives, don’t we?

Roasted Beet Salad

Here’s how easy this one is:

Roast whole beets on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for about an hour, until they are fork tender. Let them cool.

Slice the beets into slices that are a little thicker than 1/4 inch thick. Using heart shaped cookie cutters, cut out some hearts out of the beet slices. Place on a serving plate.

Take fresh Mozzarella (if you’re doing Whole30 eating, use slices of jicama.) and cut it into slices that are little thicker than 1/4 inch thick. Cut out smaller heart shapes. Press the Mozzarella hearts into the beet juices that are left on your cutting board, turning the slices slightly pink. Place these hearts on the beet hearts.

Cut out tiny hearts out of cucumber and scatter on top. Scatter nuts on top – I used roasted hazelnuts.

Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Heart Healthy Roasted Beet Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 large whole beets
  • 1 ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • A few slices of cucumber
  • Toasted hazelnuts for garnish
  • A few tablespoons of vinaigrette
Instructions
  1. Roast whole beets on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for about an hour, until they are fork tender. Let them cool.
  2. Slice the beets into slices that are a little thicker than ¼ inch thick. Using heart shaped cookie cutters, cut out some hearts out of the beet slices. Place on a serving plate.
  3. Take fresh Mozzarella (if you're doing Whole30 eating, use slices of jicama.) and cut it into slices that are little thicker than ¼ inch thick. Cut out smaller heart shapes. Press the Mozzarella hearts into the beet juices that are left on your cutting board, turning the slices slightly pink. Place these hearts on the beet hearts.
  4. Cut out tiny hearts out of cucumber and scatter on top. Scatter nuts on top - I used roasted hazelnuts.
  5. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Other bloggers do beet salads:

Warm Braised Beet Salad, Jeanette’s Healthy Living
Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Girl Gone Gourmet
Grapefruit Beet Salad, Sunday Suppers

Lucky Black Eyed Pea Recipes

Fried Black Eyed Peas

Have you ever wondered why Black Eyed Peas are a traditional New Year’s food in the south?

The tradition started during the Civil War. In those times, black eyed peas were grown only to feed livestock and slaves, and so the Northern army left these fields alone (no pillaging or burning). So, Southerners were “lucky” to have black eyed beans to eat even when other crops were destroyed. Thus, the humble bean became a hero.

Who doesn’t need more good luck for the New Year, I ask you?

We here at Apron Strings decided our New Year’s gift to you, our lovely readers, should be the gift of lucky food. And so here are some of our favorite black-eyed pea recipes from around the web.

First up, our very own Fried Black Eyed Peas. I watched an episode on Food Network where my culinary crush Alton Brown described eating deep fried black eyed peas. (( And, yes, in case you were wondering, I do have a poster of my crush Alton hanging in my pantry.))  He loved the “ca-woosh” of crunching down on them and the crispy salty exterior with the soft creamy interior. Who, I ask you, besides Mr. Brown, would create a word like “ca-woosh”???

I am not normally a fan of these legumes, but after I saw this I just HAD to make these for New Years’ Day.

I must say they are a hassle to make but SO worth it. The crispy crunch is delightful and the flavor is superb when these beans are tossed with salt and Old Bay. DO make these and you will forget all about luck and get lost enjoying a big ole bowl with your lucky friends and family.

If you need MORE luck, take a look at these other fabulous black-eyed creations from around the web:

STAR-Hoppin-John-Rice-Skillet-320x320

Traditional Southern Dishes:

New year’s Day Black Eyed Peas, The Kitchen is my Playground
Hoppin’ John Skillet, Diethood
Crock Pot Hoppin’ John, Tammilee Tips
Slow Cooker Black Eyed Peas, The Magical Slow Cooker

Blackeye-Pea-Dip-Collage-640x1073

Lucky New Year’s Dips:

Hot and Cheesy Black Eyed Pea Dip, Aggie’s Kitchen
Hoppin John Dip
, Frugal Foodie Mama
California Style Mississippi Caviar, Weary Chef
Vegan Hoppin’ John, Tory Avey
Jalapeño Black Eyed Pea Hummus, Kitchen Treaty
Cowboy Caviar, Valerie’s Kitchen
Black Eyed Pea Hummus with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Hezzi-D’s

rainbow-power-greens-salad-with-black-eyed-peas-4-of-1-2-707x425

Black Eyed Innovations:

Rainbow Power Greens Salad with Black Eyed Peas, Cotter Crunch
Black Eyed Pea and Kale Salad in Salumi Cups,
Farm Fresh Feasts
Black Eyed Pea and Chirashi Rice, Farm Fresh Feasts
Black Eyed Pea Hummus with Olive Oil and Sumac, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Paella Texas Style, Cotter Crunch
Black Eyed Pea Spinach and Mushroom Gratin, Cooking on the Weekends
White Bean Black Eyed Pea Avocado Crostini, Valerie’s Kitchen
Chorizo Black Eyed Peas, Magnolia Days
Vegan Sloppy Black Eyed Peas, Healthy Slow Cooking
Black Eyed Pea Paella, Hezzi-D’s

collard-black-eyed-pea-soup-1

Lucky Soups:

Lucky Black Eyed Pea Soup with Chicken Sausage and Bell Peppers, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Slow Cooker Ham and Black Eyed Pea Soup, Aggie’s Kitchen
Black Eyed Pea Soup with Collard Greens and Sausage, The Blond Cook
Black Eyed Pea and Sausage Stew, The Blond Cook

No Cook Tricolor Vegetable Pate

Tricolor vegetable pate will be a hit at your next party – surprise: it’s healthy!

Tricolor Vegetable Pate

Tircolor Vegetable Pate is the answer to the question: Can a dish be decadent and good for you at the same time?

And with New Year’s Eve coming this beautiful party spread will look so festive for your party spread.

It was truly shocking to me how great this recipe was. I mean, c’mon, its vegetables. Who would think of vegetables as a luscious party spread? But it is my favorite party spread of all time. Layers and layers of flavor. Bright and refreshing. The raw garlic adds a nice bite. So good on toasted baguette slices. I just can’t say enough good things about this amazing spread!

You could use toasted baguette slices, or use cucumber or other vegetables if you’re going grain-free. Either way, this will be the first spread to go at your party, I promise.

The list of ingredients makes this recipe look a little daunting, but all you do is dump each layer’s ingredients into your food processor and whirl it. It’s easy, really.

Happy Feasting All

Tricolor Vegetable Pate
Yields one 10 by 5 inch terrine or loaf pan

Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 x 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, invert pate onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pate. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

NOTE: Additional chopped roasted red bell peppers can be used for a final layer on top if desired, as in the photo with this recipe.

No Cook Tricolor Vegetable Pate
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 36 appetizers
Ingredients
  • White Bean Layer
  • 2 x 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.
  • Red Pepper Layer
  • 7-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.
  • Pesto Layer
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
Instructions
  1. Yields one 10 by 5 inch terrine or loaf pan, or an 8 inch spring form pan. Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.
  2. Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least four hours.
  4. To unmold, invert pate onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pate. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.
  5. NOTE: Additional chopped roasted red bell peppers can be used for a final layer on top if desired, as in the photo with this recipe.

 

Genius Chocolate Peppermint Stacks

Chocolate Peppermint Stacks

No baking. No fuss. In fact, there is no cooking required at all to make these pretty little chocolate peppermint stacks – the perfect no-fuss ending to your holiday feast! Just five minutes of prep time and you will have spectacular Chocolate Peppermint Stacks.

I have been a big fan of ice box cakes since I was a little girl and my great grandma made us an ice box cake with graham crackers. I made an updated ice box cake in her honor – a Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Box Cake made by using the shortcut of Nutella.

Ice box cakes are genius because they use thin wafers or graham crackers and a moist filling such as whipped cream and then you put them in the ice box and wait for them to soften so that the wafers or graham crackers become cake-like in texture. Genius, I tell you.

If you want to go vegan with this dessert, use Coconut Whipped Cream – a dairy-free version that is even more yummy than regular whipped cream, but a little extra work.

So, this ice box technique is perfect for a last-minute dessert that literally takes only about one minute per dessert to put together.

I love, love, LOVE using Famous Chocolate Wafers for all kinds of desserts, so naturally I used them here. They are a perfect thin, crispy cookie and work so well in ice box style cakes. Just put them together before you eat you dinner and by the time you are ready for dessert, they will have softened perfectly.

Apparently I am not the only one who adores these thin crispy cookies – they have their own facebook fan page!

Bonus: They look so pretty on a plate!

Genius Chocolate Peppermint Stacks
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • One package (9 ounces) Famous Chocolate Wafers
  • 2 cups whipped cream (or other whipped topping)
  • ¼ cup crushed peppermint candies
Instructions
  1. Place one chocolate wafer on each serving plate and then spread a thin layer of whipped cream on top. Repeat for a total of about 6 layers (more than this and your tower may topple!).
  2. Refrigerate fro about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with additional peppermint candy if desired.

Other ice box cakes that would be fabulous on a holiday table:

Raspberry Ice Box Cake, Tidy Mom
Pumpkin Mousse Ice Box Cake, Diethood
Lemon Ice Box Cake, Chew Out Loud
Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Box Cake, Apron Strings

Easy Kitchen Gift: Seasoned Salt

Home made seasoned salt

When you are maxed out on fudge and brittle and candy canes – it is a real treat to get a jar of home made seasoned salt.

No! It’s not too late to whip up little jars full of one of your kitchen go-to seasoning mixes! Just think of the seasonings you use most: some of my favorites are cumin, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Then, whip up a batch and hand it out to friends and family.

I use 3 parts salt, one part pepper (use the fresh-ground, multi-colored peppercorn good stuff here), 1/2 part garlic powder, 1/2 part onion powder – and nothing else.

I use this seasoning most every time I cook, and it is magic, I tell you. You can use it in most any savory dish – meats and vegetables alike. I like to use it on meats and let them sit for awhile at room temperature before cooking – and then saute the meat in cooking fat. The outsides of the meats turn out crispy and the insides are still moist.

Just get some pretty little jars at a local kitchen or container store and fill them up with this magical mixture. I put labels on mine that say “Kelly Family Kitchen Magic Dust.”

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Last Minute Kitchen Gift: Seasoned Salt
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 1½ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup freshly ground pepper (I like to use multicolored peppercorns)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
Instructions
  1. MIx up and bottle!

 

Making Holiday Candy? Try Our Maple Bacon Cranberry Brittle

Homemade Christmas Candy: Level Up with Bacon Brittle.
Bacon Brittle with Maple, Brown Sugar and Cranberries #ChristmasCandy #Bacon

Bacon Brittle with Maple, Brown Sugar and Cranberries

Homemade candy as a Christmas gift: one of the most delicious traditions ever. Fun in both the making AND the eating. I’ve liked making pralines in the past, and Donna’s Joy To The World Balls are always a hit, but a few years ago I leveled up to a whole new dimension: Bacon.

This was originally inspired 2010’s BlogHer Food, where I got to overdose on more bacon than I have probably eaten in the entirety of my life, thanks to Michael Ruhlman and The Bacon Experience (sounds like a prog-rock band, does it not?).  At the same unforgettable soiree, those of you who attended may also remember the incredible pistachio-cherry brittle among the desserts. Heaven! Right there and then, I decided a merger of the two had to happen. …

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Cranberry Cheddar Cheese Ball

Cranbery Cheddar Cheese Ball

I know it is Old School – but I love a good cheese ball as a party appetizer. I can’t help it – I came of age in the 70’s and these were wildly popular in the Bell Bottom Days. These days I am more adventurous than just stirring ranch dressing mix into cream cheese, and I love to mix up the sweet and salty combo.

Cheddar and cranberries go so well together, it turns out. And I love a good dash of Worcestershire sauce for rich saltiness. Cheese balls are a perfect take-along dish for a party potluck – just plop them on a plate and pile some crackers nearby and – VOILA! – instant party.

This cheeseball is pretty and festive with the Craisin coating. Be careful when you process them in the food processor – if you just whirl them  alone, they will clump up and get stuck. You have to add the walnuts and process them together so they will become tiny bits.

Cranberry Cheddar Cheese Ball

Cranberry Cheddar Cheese Ball
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: Serves 24
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces dried cranberries
  • 2 ounces toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. Mix together the cream cheese, lemon juice, cayenne pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cheddar cheese and green onions. Roll into a ball.
  2. In a food processor, process the raisins and walnuts until very fine crumbs. Spread on a plate. Roll cheese ball in the cranberry mixture.
  3. Chill for at least two hours. Serve with crackers.

Other food bloggers do cheese balls:

Pomegranate Jeweled Cheese Ball, How Sweet it Is
Snowman Cheeseball, Eating Richly
Pinecone Cheeseball, Food Wishes
Holiday Cheeseball, The Healthy Apple

Holiday Cucumber Hummus Bites

Genius healthy holiday bites in just minutes.
Cucumber Hummus Bites

Lighten up your holiday spread with these cute Cucumber Hummus Bites – ready in just minutes.

Confession time: This time of year I look for shortcuts. I mean, not to the extent of buying cookies at the bakery and running home and arranging them on a platter as if I had made them myself. NOT saying I have done this, but. = = cough = = cough = =

I like to look for shortcuts that are healthy-ish. Store bought hummus and cucumbers fit that perfectly. I love the hummus at Costco, and we always keep some on hand this time of year. Just. In. Case.

All you do for these pretty little yummy bites is slice some cucumber and spoon some hummus on top. Then, just top with festive foods – I like green and red. So, sliced green onions, sliced jalapenos, smokey paprika, diced roasted red peppers, pesto – red or green = these are all perfect toppers. And, you can have a plate ready in five minutes. NOT making that up!

Happy << easy >> holidays, all!

Cucumber Hummus Bites

Holiday Cucumber Hummus Bites
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Healthy holiday cucumber bites - ready in just minutes!
Author:
Recipe type: aPPETIZERS
Serves: 24 appetizers
Ingredients
  • One English Cucumber
  • 1 cup of hummus
  • Assorted toppings, such as sliced peppers, green onions or pesto
Instructions
  1. Slice cucumber into ¼ inch thick slices. Press slices with a paper towel to dry completely (toppings won't slide off this way!)
  2. Spoon a little hummus on top, then top with your favorite toppings.

 

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters” – Easy Homemade Gifts for All The Foodies On Your List

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters” are perfect homemade gifts for all the foodies on your list
– including the vegan ones!

Compound Coconut Oil "Butters" #Homemade gifts for all the foodies on your list - including the #vegan ones!

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters”

The time of year has come when all my people are figuring out what special homemade foodie treats we’ll be making for the foodies on our list.  This year: the basic concept of compound butter (such a great flavor enhancer for so many things), but made with coconut oil instead. Perfect for all food lovers, including the vegan, paleo, or otherwise dairy-free ones, and they last for ages on the shelf, too!

Really easy as can be. Pick one or two (or all) of the flavor combinations laid out below, and play around with other variations if you like, of course! I like the sturdiness of small mason jars, but you can use any container you desire.

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