Friday, June 7, 2013

Overdue Update

Well, hello, all of you who are still hanging around this joint!

Remember me?

I has been forever--over a year--since I last posted.

Many a change has come my way in the past year.

First, last spring, we went gluten-free.

Talk about knocking the wind outta a girl's baking sails.

Nothing says "no baking" like eliminating flour and ushering in super-expensive let's-hope-this-works gluten free flours.

I've figured out some staples, like bread and chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles, but a delicious flaky buttery pie crust is still elusive.  I can hardly handle it.

Secondly, last July, we put our house on the market and we have since spent all our free time cleaning it and keeping it clean for the plethora of first showings that we have had.  We are rapidly approaching our year-expiration date on our listing, and if the house doesn't sell, we are taking it off the market and moving on to more exciting things, like repainting and doing a bit of remodeling.  Keeping it showing-ready with three kids and a second shift husband is for the birds.

And lastly, but certainly not the most important excuse is that life just happens.  In order to do a few things well, a few other things have to give a bit.  I'm not sure what the future is for The Culinary Enthusiast....I know for me on a personal level, it remains a personal source of collected recipes that I frequent often in my kitchen.

We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baked Oatmeal in Muffin Tins

Around our house, breakfast is a sacred affair.

One which I avoid, at all costs.

You see, it doesn't matter if the kids wake up at 6:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., they wake up famished.  And their go-to person is their dad.  Hands-down.  Their momma just doesn't do breakfast to their liking; their dad is their breakfast hero.

Which is fine by me.

When I do breakfast for myself, it is simply to get out the door without my stomach grumbling after me.

With my husband, breakfast is a ritual.  A ritual to be practiced one slow step at a time, methodically and purposefully (and did I mention slowly?).  And since my kids choose him to help them with their breakfast, they have become fanatically ritualistic about their breakfast routines as well.

And that drives me nuts. The whole concept of "just sit down and eat and move on to the next thing" doesn't compute with them.

They need their cereal, with just the right amount of milk splashed over it.  For each of the kids, only 1 spoon will suffice (and of course, you know they fight over that one spoon!)  Then 2 minutes later, they need a drink.  Then exactly 2 minutes and 34 seconds after that, they ask for a cup of coffee, with the perfect amount of creamer in it.  Anything less than exact or faster than they are used to throws them into a tizzy.  And the days when their dad isn't here for breakfast....oh, my!  Might as well go back to bed and try again tomorrow!

(You think I'm joking, exaggerating, or making this stuff up, don't you??)

This recipe is my attempt at interfering in this particular meal, and an attempt to offer a gluten-free option to the boxed cold cereal which is dearly beloved in our pantry.

I personally loved these baked oatmeal "muffins" and loved the versatility of the add-ins (I'm a sucker for all things raspberry, anyhow!).  This recipe makes a lot, and any of the extras could easily be frozen for future "holy days" (you know, next week's breakfast!).

Baked Oatmeal in Muffin Tins
Adapted from Sugar Free Mom
Makes 24-30 "muffins"

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups applesauce, unsweetened
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup honey
5 cups rolled oats (I used old-fashioned oats)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups milk
Toppings: blueberries, raspberries, raisins, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, almonds, drizzled honey, or any other combination

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray 2 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray or use cupcake liners.

Mix eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana and honey together in a bowl.
Add in oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and mix well with wet ingredients.  Add milk and stir to combine.

Spoon batter evenly into each muffin liner (I used a soup spoon). Batter is pretty wet and sloppy.

Top each muffin cup with desired toppings.

Bake 30 minutes; test with a toothpick to make sure it is dry in the middle.   Serve warm or slightly cooled.  Drizzle each muffin with honey when serving if desired.  Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is a very new ingredient to me in my kitchen.  In an attempt to eliminate some chronic tummy troubles in myself and my oldest son, I decided several weeks ago to go gluten-free. So far, so good!  Though this blog will not likely become a gluten-free blog, I will be posting some of the things I've made and loved that don't contain wheat flour (although, wheat flour is a truly amazing thing and such yumminess is made with it!  Like cupcakes...I miss cupcakes....).

These quinoa "burgers" were amazing!!  Most surprising was that they were even better leftover (and I usually can't stand leftovers!).  Quinoa is very easy to make and the batter for these was very simple.

If quinoa is something that you already love or something that you are intrigued to try, give this recipe a whirl!  Yummy!

Quinoa Burgers
Adapted from Eating Well Living Thin

To cook quinoa:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan bring the 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil over high heat. Add quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes. {Makes 2 cups cooked}

To make the burgers:
2 rounded cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded jack cheese
2 medium carrots, finely grated
3 eggs
3 tablespoons all purpose flour (I used oat flour for GF)
2 green onions, including white parts
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Olive oil for frying

In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, carrots, eggs,  oat flour, green onions, pepper, cumin, salt, and garlic powder.

Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat (I used my handy dandy cast iron skillet).   Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Makes approx. 10 burgers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roasted Banana Bundt Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

In the recent month, I have adopted the phrase "Get Gazelle-Intense!" and have begun applying it to several aspects of my life.  The phrase originally comes from Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guy, and my husband and I have latched onto it as we have been going through his Financial Peace University.  (You can listen to the story here and here you can watch the gazelle chase the cheetah--yeah!).

If you just listened to the story, you will understand the purposeful intensity with which I face each day.  This includes, but is not limited to, our budget, but also the kitchen, and has spilled over into the deep purging of closets, cabinets, storage spaces, my cosmetics bin, the kids' toy room....basically, if it is just sitting around my house taking up space and collecting dust, it is outta here!   Just yesterday, I took my gazelle intensity outside, and single-handedly weeded the three huge flower beds around my house, trimmed trees, planted flowers and transplanted lilies, and evened out dirt mounds....all in about 3 hours!  (Of course, this translates to sore arms and shoulders today, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?!)

So, of course, when I came into the kitchen, I cooked not one, but two different dinners (I took one to a friend and her family) and then set about making this cake after the kids were in bed.

Gazelle intensity, baby.

This cake....not just banana cake.  Roasted banana cake.  Ever roasted bananas?  Me either....until now.  Talk about intense.  Brown sugar.  Butter.  Bananas.  All roasted and gooey with amazingness.

And the frosting....not just ordinary buttercream.  Browned butter.  Nutty and more complex than just melted butter.  Whoa.

The next time that bowl of brown and mushy bananas in your refrigerator look at you with their pathetic puppy dog eyes, get gazelle-intense and whip up this cake.  Both the bananas and yourself will thank you for it!

Roasted Banana Bundt Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
Cake slightly adapted from SugarHero and Frosting from MyRecipes

3 cups sliced bananas, very ripe (about 4-5 small bananas)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tbl. cold butter, cut into small pieces
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup + 2 tbl. milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 10- to 12-cup bundt pan with baking spray or nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Toss together the sliced bananas, packed brown sugar, and cold cubed butter in an 8×8 dish and roast the bananas for about 30-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes, and roast the bananas until they are bubbling and have golden brown spots. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and set the bananas aside to cool slightly until warm but not hot to the touch.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, roasted banana pieces, and vanilla extract. The banana pieces will be very soft and might start disintegrating a little, but some pieces should still hold their shape.

In the bowl of a large mixer, combine the softened butter and the granulated sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until well-incorporated and smooth. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.

With the mixer running on low, add a third of the flour mixture, and mix until it is almost incorporated. Add half of the milk, again mixing until it’s mostly mixed in. Repeat, ending with the flour. Add the chocolate chips and gently mix to incorporate.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake the bundt cake for 50-55 minutes, until the edges pull away and the center springs back when lightly pressed. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes at room temperature before carefully inverting it on a cooling rack and letting it cool completely.


  • 1 cup butter
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Cook butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown. Remove pan from heat immediately, and pour butter into a small bowl. Cover and chill 1 hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify.

  • Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar. Beat mixture at low speed until well blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Optional:  Top frosted cake with additional mini chocolate chips.
Note:  Making this cake the day before serving optimizes the integration of flavors. (It will taste better the day after you make it!)  :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coffee-Infused Beef and Hominy Stew

Certainly I am not the only mom or home cook that has more recipes "bookmarked" to try than I have storage systems or days of the week to cook it all.  Right?  I could swear that I knew exactly where the recipe was for this particular slow-cooker meal.  After all, I had made a special trip to the store to buy hominy, so of course, the recipe was right where it was supposed to be, awaiting my readiness to follow it's directions.  Wrong.  Major storage/organizational system fail.

Several Google searches turned up nothing; my memory was worse.  Even Pinterest was no help.  Could not find it.  I knew that I had seen it in a magazine, but which one I was drawing a blank.  But the meat was thawed, and the hominy was purchased.  So I was committed.

I had to talk myself into this recipe, saying aloud, "Think, are you going to do this?"  And this is what was born.

Oh, about amazing!  This aroma is unlike anything I have ever experienced!  The pungency of the wine, the complexity of the coffee, the deep flavoring of the cloves....I could smell this smell all the time!

And of course, I am always game for a yummy slow cooker (definitely the most underutilized appliance in my kitchen!) meal.

Coffee-Infused Beef and Hominy Stew {Slow-Cooker Meal}
A Karla Original

olive oil
1 package of beef stew meat (about 1-1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper
1 cup brewed espresso (or strong coffee)
9 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 stalks of celery, sliced
2 onions, peeled and quartered
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 pint of tomato sauce (or 1 can crushed tomatoes)
2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans white hominy, drained and rinsed

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add beef chunks.  Lightly sear on both sides, season with salt and pepper.  Add red wine and reduce slightly.  Transfer to slow cooker.

In slow cooker, add the brewed espresso (or coffee), carrots, celery, onions, and garlic.  Season with rosemary and ground cloves and gently stir to combine the spices into the meat and vegetables.  Place lid on top and cook on low 4 hours.  Add tomato sauce.  Continue cooking another 3 hours.  Add both cans of rinsed hominy and stir gently to incorporate.  Cook another hour, until beef is fork tender.

Serve over rice, small cooked pasta, or prepared soft polenta.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock

For some of you out there, making your own stock is the most normal thing in the world.  For me, I had to consciously decide to buy the chicken and set about to make stock.

Hi, my name is Karla and I have converted from bouillon cubes to homemade stock.

It is just that good!  I loved the faint scent that permeated my kitchen, and I loved being the one in control of the salt--boullion is almost ALL sodium (not cool!).

And really, so easy.  It literally makes itself as it simmers quietly and gently on the back burner.  In this season of life of mothering 3 munchkins, whatever can be set on autopilot is a win for me!

My biggest issue was finding enough storage containers to put that beautiful golden stock in.....a friend suggested mason jars, which I ended up using.  However, the second time I made stock, several of my jars cracked in the freezer (again, way not cool!).  So, I think that the next time I am at Wal-mart, I will pick up some plastic Ball pint-sized freezer containers.  If you plan on doing that as well, buy about 15!  Homemade stock will yield about 15 pints.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Inspired by Deliciously Organic

1 4-pound whole chicken, innards removed
1-2 carrots, peeled and ends removed
2 stalks celery, leaves included
2 cloves of garlic, slightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
2 twigs of fresh thyme
           {fresh herbs are preferable, but dried work as well, about 1-2 tsp. each}
1 tsp. salt (I used kosher)
1 tbl. white vinegar

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot (the largest you have) and cover with water.  Simmer over medium-low heat 6-8 hours with the lid ajar (keeps your water from evaporating).

When the meat falls off the bone and the broth is a deep golden color, strain the cooked vegetables out and discard.

Remove the chicken and bones; clean the chicken and keep for another use.

Line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth; strain broth.  Transfer strained broth to appropriate freezer containers and let cool at room temperature before placing in freezer.

{1 pint = 2 cups}

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homemade Vanilla {Latte} Syrup

I'm a little embarrassed.

I have neglected this little blog for a month and a half.

Biggest apologies.

This year so far has been a bit of a is just busy and my priorities had to get shifted a bit.  All is well, so no worries.

I've been cooking....but just nothing exciting enough to write home about.  In the midst of basketball practices and soccer games, Bible study and lots of prep time, and just life on-the-go, we've been eating simply and easy (read: lots of PB&J!).

So, with that being said, let me say "thank you" to those of you who are still hanging out with me, awaiting a new and long overdue recipe.  Thank you!

Let's enjoy a coffee break together, shall we?  My favorite thing in the whole world is a nice hot vanilla latte--it's what I always order and my homemade ones are even better now with homemade vanilla syrup. What is your favorite coffee treat?

Homemade Vanilla {Latte} Syrup
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

Heat water, sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean with seeds scraped out in a small saucepan over medium heat.  For extra measure of vanilla-y goodness, toss the pod in the pot as well.Simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens.  Off heat and let cool in the pot.  Once cooled, transfer syrup to a jar or empty bottle and top with the lid.  Store in the refrigerator up to 3 months (however, mine will never last that long!!)