Thursday, June 30, 2011

Caprese Crostini

What is it about appetizers that makes you want to gorge yourself with them before you sit down to the main course, only to find yourself way too stuffed to eat another bite?  This is precisely the reason why I rarely serve appetizers in my kitchen, aside from a major holiday meal.  These crostini are certainly no exception.  I had pure motives behind making them (i.e. give the kids a quick munch while I continued to make multiple dishes for dinner that I had never made before--yep, I'm a dork like that).  Of course, the kids didn't even eat any of these, which left them available and vulnerable to me....munching while cooking is the perfect pastime!  I loved the freshness of the tomatoes and basil (the basil came from my very own deck potted herb garden!!  Woo-hoo!) and of course, summer is when tomatoes are at their finest.  I'm pretty sure that this crostini recipe will be making at least a couple more appearances this summer.

Caprese Crostini
A Karla original  

1 loaf crusty French bread
olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1-2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
a handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of olive oil

Heat oven to low broil.

Slice bread on the bias, about 1/4 inch thick.  Pour some olive oil into a small bowl and brush onto bread slices with pastry brush and arrange on a baking sheet, oiled side down.  Brush tops of slices with additional oil.  Toast in oven approximately 5 minutes, until bread is lightly golden.  Remove from oven.

Using the side of a knife blade, smash the garlic cloves, opening them up out of the skins.  Rub the garlic cloves on one side of the toasted bread.  Top with mozzarella cheese and place back in oven until cheese is melted, 2-3 minutes.  Remove to serving platter.

To slice basil leaves chiffonade-style, lay the leaves flat on top of each other.  Roll the leaves length-wise and, starting at one end, slice your knife across the roll to the other end.  Lightly loosen the ribbons.

Place tomato slices on each crostini and scatter the basil over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired to taste.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Some of you who read my status updates on Facebook think that I spend all my time in my kitchen, baking and cooking.  Some days, that is true.  :)  I am an "all or nothin'" kind of gal....I either bake everything I can think of all in the same day, or I don't lift a single spoon all day long.

These cookies are my attempt at a healthy balance.

You see, as  I was perusing my Google reader and the newest posts from the blogs on the sidebar of this blog, I came across not one, but two!, cookie recipes that were screaming to me, "Make me first!" "Make me now!"  And since it was a stormy, rainy morning, I gave in.  Caved to the sugar urge.  But, caved in moderation.  I only made one recipe.  However, I will make the other one soon.  Just not today.

I kinda think that deserves congratulations.  Or at least a couple of cookies before lunch.  I'm good with either.  This morning's baking escapade proves that I can indeed bake in moderation.

As a sidenote, I love how my little Delancey brought her mixer to the kitchen to help me bake these cookies.  Unfortunately, even after a fresh set of batteries, her mixer wouldn't work.  I'm referring her on to the KitchenAid store.....  But she was such a nice helper, and actually helpful!  She's such a her to pieces!

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies
Source:  Pennies on a Platter

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix until blended.  Stir in the oats and butterscotch chips.  Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

What is your favorite summer fruit?  For me, it is red raspberries.  Growing up, we had a ton of raspberry bushes that ran the width of our garage.  I hated going out each summer evening to help pick them, and didn't realize until I was an adult how absolutely lucky I had been as a kid to have such a wealth of berries at my disposal.  I just can't bring myself to buy them in the grocery store for the outrageous amount at which they are priced when I know that once upon a time, I had them for free.

However, I digress.  We need to talk about strawberries.

Summer strawberries run a very close second to raspberries for me.  It seems like early on in the summer, I can't get enough of them!  I get so excited when at last, I finally see them for 99 cents a pound at the grocery!  I stock up, and dream in strawberries.  For the past couple of years, I have made strawberry jam that is cooked, and then use a hot water bath to can the jam.  In a burst of genius inspiration, I decided this year to cut my workload by about 75% and make freezer jam.  This is a no-cook method yielding an entirely different tasting jam, but it is delicious nonetheless!  The strawberry flavor remains fresh and the color is bright and cheery!

I used my Cuisinart food processor and KitchenAid stand mixer with the paddle attachment to make this jam.  You can absolutely make this by hand; you will need a potato masher and a wooden spoon.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

4 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups sugar
2 packages of no-cook freezer jam pectin (dry)

Rinse the strawberries in a large colander and drain.  Hull the stems off the berries and slice in half.  Place berries in a large bowl or in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the cutting blade (or mash them with a potato masher until the consistency is smooth).  Pulse berries until it is a smooth puree.  Transfer to the work bowl of a stand mixer (or another large bowl).

Add the sugar and the dry pectin and stir for 3 minutes.  Transfer jam to plastic freezer containers using a ladle.  Place lids on containers and let sit in containers for 30 minutes to thicken, then store in the freezer.  Jam will keep well up to a year (though I have had success with mine keeping a bit longer than a year) and in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

For me, 4 pounds of strawberries made 6 pints of jam.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberry Orange Scones

My sister asked me the other day if I wanted to go sugar-free with her this summer.  I promptly answered, "No!"  In my mind, I had already baked these scones and the thought of having to purposely miss out on them grieved my tastebuds.  Scones are such a simple breakfast treat and I really love that they typically have less sugar than their muffin cousins.  To me, that's a win.  These scones are just sweet enough and light and airy enough to make you wish that you had made a double batch.  Which I did.  I have no guilt.  Actually, I froze the second batch--scones are perfect to make ahead and bake straight from the freezer.  When that lovely friend comes over or you find yourself suddenly craving a warm, tender scone, you will be well-prepared!

Strawberry Orange Scones
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 large egg
¼ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
½ cup heavy cream (or milk)
zest of 1 orange
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 heaping cup diced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and citrus zest until blended; set aside.

Clean and chop strawberries; let dry on a tri-fold stack of paper towels.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Pulse briefly to blend. Add the butter pieces to the bowl with the dry ingredients and pulse several times to cut the butter into the flour.  Slowing pour in the yogurt mixture and pulse until dough comes together.  Transfer dough to a well-floured dry surface.  (Of course, you can do this without a food processor--just use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and a wooden spoon to incorporate the yogurt mixture).

Divide the dough into rough thirds.  Press a third of the chopped strawberries onto one section of dough.  Top with another third of dough; press another third of berries into it.  Repeat with remaining dough and berries.  Gently form the stack of dough into a ball, folding the dough over itself a couple of times to incorporate the strawberries into the dough.  Press the dough into a flat round, about 1-inch thick.  Press in any crumbs around the perimeter.  Using a sharp knife, a pizza cutter, or a pastry cutter (which is what I used), cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Transfer scone wedges to parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with additional sugar and bake for 15-17 minutes, until tops of the scones are lightly golden in color.  Serve immediately while warm.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stuffed Focaccia with Caramelized Onions and Italian Sausage

I am so excited to be sharing this recipe with you.  Hopefully, by this time, you've made a round of focaccia for yourself and have fallen deeply and madly in love with it.  If not, maybe this stuffed version will be the last bit of inspiration you need to grab your bag of flour and jar of yeast!  You're going to love this!  The aroma of freshly rising yeast dough and the soft, supple texture of the finished dough is like a little retreat....a retreat, you know, from the screaming kids in the background that are fighting over the the millions of pieces of Polly Pockets (as if there aren't enough of those little shoes to go around!), or from the little baby-man who is getting into all sorts of mischief....but I digress.  If I didn't know how amazing the baked result would be, I would totally be tempted to just eat the dough.  But, exercising some self-control and patience to wait for this to bake will be totally worth it with the first bite. 

Stuffed Focaccia with Caramelized Onions and Italian Sausage
Inspired by The Italian Dish but this recipe is my own creation

*You will need 2 springform pans

1 recipe of focaccia
olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
3 large onions, peeled and sliced into rings, then halved
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup white wine (to deglaze the pan)
a large handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tbl. water
kosher salt for sprinkling

Prepare focaccia according to the directions, up to the end of the first rise.  Spray the bottoms and sides of the springform pans with nonstick spray.

In a large skillet, drizzle some olive oil over the bottom and add the Italian sausage and brown over medium heat.  Crumble and cook until no longer pink.  Add the chopped parsley.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Move to the refrigerator until the focaccia is ready to assemble.

While sausage is cooking, peel 3 onions and sliced into thin rounds.  In the same skillet, add more olive oil and add the onions.  Over medium heat, gently toss the onions and cook until they are softened and caramel-colored.  Stir onions frequently to prevent them from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.  If the pan gets too dry, add a small splash of water.  Onions will caramelize best when cooked slowly.  Add the garlic to the onions and cook until garlic is softened.  Add the wine to the pan to deglaze it.  Scrape up any remaining brown bits from the sausage and incorporate them into the onions (amazing flavor!).  Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated.  Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. 

When focaccia has finished its first rise, punch down the dough to release trapped gases and remove from the bowl.  Gently shape into a large round, adding a bit of flour to remove any stickiness.  Cut the round of dough into 4 equal pieces.  One at a time, shape each piece of dough into a flat disc.  Place one disc into each springform pan on the bottm, making sure the disc is large enough to cover the bottom of pan.

To assemble the stuffed focaccia, add half of the Italian sausage to the bottom disc of dough.  Add half of the caramelized onions on top of sausage.

To slice basil leaves into ribbons, lay the leaves flat on top of each other, and roll lengthwise.  Starting at one end of the roll, slice through the leaves, making ribbons.

Add the basil ribbons to the top of the onions.  Sprinkle each pan with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Top with the remaining discs of focaccia dough, taking care to cover the stuffing.  Cover with a thin, lintless towel and place back into warm oven for the second rise.

After the dough has completed the second rise (about 45 minutes), remove pans from warm oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and water until emulsified.  Using your fingertips, dimple the top of the dough, making small wells.  Brush the emulsified oil mixture over the top of the dough, filling the wells.  Sprinkle generously with kosher salt.

Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are slightly golden.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pans and slice into wedges.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cherry Almond Granola Bars

Since I have mastered the fine art of making delicious granola, my next objective was to make granola bars.  You know, the kind that aren't loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and aren't so hard that they will break a tooth.  That kind.  The good kind.  

These are close to what I am going for.  I personally think I gave them a couple minutes too long in the oven, so next time I will watch the baking time a bit closer.  However, I think that they will make the perfect snack for at the pool (yippee!  It is pool season again!!)

Cherry Almond Granola Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.

While oat mixture is toasting in the oven,  place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute.  Off heat.

When oats are done toasting, transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.  Pour sauce over oats and stir to combine.  Add the cherries and raisins and stir to combine.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place parchment paper back on rimmed baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for 1-2 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Strawberries and Cream Risotto

I've made risotto before, and I love it.  I love its creaminess and it doesn't bother me in the least to have to constantly stir it for thirty minutes.  The end result is delightful!  I was completely sold on this recipe the first time I saw it--I guess the daring part of me was completely open to a somewhat sweet, somewhat savory version of risotto.  Now, to be clear, this isn't really dessert.  It is more savory than sweet.  I served it as a side to caramelized onion and Italian sausage stuffed focaccia, and the balance of the sweet and creamy to the garlicky and salty was perfectly fantastic!  I seriously can't wait until I make this again!

Strawberries and Cream Risotto
Source:  Sugarcrafter

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup white cooking wine
1 cup chicken broth (I always make my broth from a boullion cube.  1 cube to 1 cup of water.)
2 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Additional chopped strawberries, for garnish

In a small glass measuring cup, microwave the boullion cube in 1 cup of water for 3 minutes.  Stir to completely dissolve boullion.  Add broth to a larger mixing cup and add the 2 cups of water.

In a Dutch oven (I used my enamel covered cast iron one), melt the butter over medium heat, and then add in the onion. Cook until softened.

Add in the strawberries, and cook until they soften as well, a couple minutes.  Stir frequently so they don't stick to the bottom.

Add the rice, and then cook 1-2 minutes. Pour in the wine.  Again, stir frequently so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.  Once the wine is absorbed, begin adding the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly.  Once the broth has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup, stir frequently until liquid is absorbed.  Continue this process until all the broth has been used.  This should take no less than 30 minutes. 

Once broth is gone, and the risotto is creamy, off the heat and stir in the cream.  Incorporate well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with additional chopped strawberries.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I know, right?  The title alone is enough to make you want to drop whatever you are doing and make these, pronto.  And you should.  Trust me when I tell you that these are amazing!  Pair one of these with a tall glass of cold milk (or in my case, a cup of hot coffee!) and you are good to go!  Not only are they amazingly delicious, but they are quick and easy to make!  If you're more into the cheesecake part of these bars than the cookie dough part, just double the cheesecake mixture--that's what I'm doing next time!!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Source:  My Baking Addiction

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips
For the Cheesecake Filling:
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil allowing a little overhang and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Remove pan to a cooling rack. Leave your oven on.

While the crust is cooling, prepare the chocolate chip cookie dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined. Mix in the flour on low speed, until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated.

Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared crust.  Distribute the cookie dough onto the top of the cheesecake batter in teaspoon-sized clumps, using all the dough and covering the cheesecake filling.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top feels dry and firm (the cookie dough) and the entire pan looks set if given a gentle shake. Move bars to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Lift the bars out by the overhang; slice into desired size and store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Some of you will remember the early days of this blog....exclusive Italian cooking, as I attempted to cook my way through an 600+ page Italian cookbook.  (You might think I was doomed from the start!)  Anyway....I hung in there for several months until I decided that I was missing enchiladas and hamburgers.  However, when I want to make something authentically Italian, I still turn to Marcella Hazan's cookbook.  One of my absolute favorite, most requested-by-my-family, turns-out-perfect-every-time recipes in the book is focaccia.  Focaccia is a yeasted Italian flat bread, full to the brim with the flavors of olive oil and salt.  It is absolutely delicious all by itself, but in the past I have topped it with caramelized onions and fresh thyme.  Next time I make it, I'm planning on "stuffing" it, with onions and spicy sausage.  Yummmm.....

(This does take a bit of time to make, but I promise you it is well-worth the time!  That fresh-baked, yeasty aroma is heavenly!)

Source:  Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

2 tsp. active dry yeast (I always use instant yeast)
2 cups lukewarm water, 110-115 degrees, divided
6 1/2 cups flour, divided
2 tbl. olive oil
1 tbl. kosher salt
a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tbl. water; 1 tsp. kosher salt (for the topping)

(I do all the work of this bread in my Kitchenaid stand mixer).

Dissolve the yeast by stirring it into 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water; let it stand about 10 minutes until slightly foamy.

Combine the yeast water and 1 cup of the flour in a bowl, using the dough hook, mixing it thoroughly.  Add the 2 tbl. of olive oil, 1 tbl. of salt, 3/4 cup of lukewarm water, and 2 3/4 cup of the remaining flour.  Mix thoroughly until dough feels soft and compact, no longer sticky.  Add the remaining 2 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup water and mix thoroughly.  If dough seems too wet, add a slight amount of flour; if it seems too dry and crumbly, add a slight amount of water, just enough to help it come together.  (The specific humidity of your kitchen will affect this).  Continue using the dough hook to knead the dough for 10 minutes on the lowest speed.  Dough should then be smooth and supple.  Remove from bowl and shape it gently into a round shape.

Spray a large bowl lightly with cooking spray or spread it with olive oil.  Transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling the dough lightly in the oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise, approximately for 1 1/2 hours.  (I use my oven for this; preheat to 170 degrees, then off the heat and place the bowl in the oven).

After the time has elapsed, punch down the dough and spread it out on a round baking stone or a rectangular baking sheet.  Cover the entire stone or pan with the dough to a depth of 1/4-inch.  Cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

After the second rise is done, dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips, making small, shallow wells.  Beat the mixture of olive oil, water, and salt until it is emulsified and not separating.  Quickly, using a soft pastry brush, spread it over the dimpled dough all the way to the edges.  (The oil will pool in the wells).  Sprinkle additional kosher salt over the oiled dough.

Place stone or pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven.  Check after 15 minutes.  Rotate stone or pan if necessary.  Continue baking an additional 7-8 minutes.  Remove and transfer to a cooling rack.

Serve focaccia warm or at room temperature; best if served the same day.  Cut into strips or wedges using a sharp knife or pizza cutter.  Reheat any leftovers in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes the following day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Caramel Apple French Toast Casserole

As a disclaimer before I begin writing this headnote, let me be clear:  this is not health food.  Just because its name suggests breakfast food, I am in no way advocating that you feed your kiddos this very sweet "breakfast" food before you send them off to school.  :)  I'm not even going to suggest that it would make a healthy dinner.  Sometimes it is fun to change up the normal breakfast or dinner routine just a bit.  Make it a bit special.  Kids work hard at being kids (sometimes too hard, if you know what I mean!) and they deserve a fun, homemade treat once in awhile. 

However, I will suggest to you that it is delicious.  Caramel sauce and apples added to already delicious French Toast?  Um, yes, please!  So, my encouragement to you is to just savor the moment.  Enjoy this.  You can go back to healthy granola-topped yogurt tomorrow morning. 

Caramel Apple French Toast Casserole
A Karla Original

1 loaf of bread (I used this whole wheat bread), torn or cut into 1-inch cubes)
4 apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
For Caramel Sauce:
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 cup butter
1 tbl. cornstarch
1 tbl. cold water
10 eggs
1 cup milk

Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add brown sugar, water, heavy cream, cinnamon, ground cloves, and butter.  Whisk to combine and bring to a low boil.  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water in a separate bowl, stirring with a spoon until smooth.  Slowly add the cornstarch slurry to caramel sauce, and whisk until sauce is slightly thickened.  Set aside.

In a large bowl (I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer), whisk together the 10 eggs and the cup of milk.  Set aside.

Add 1/2 of the cubed bread to the prepared baking dish.  Add the chopped apples.  Pour a bit of the caramel sauce over the apples.  Top with the remaining cubed bread.  Pour egg mixture over the entire dish and top with a bit more caramel sauce (reserve some sauce for serving).  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, put the baking dish into the oven while the oven preheats to 375-degrees.  (Don't put a cold dish directly into the heated oven--your glass or stoneware will crack).  Or you can remove the baking dish from the refrigerator about an hour before you preheat your oven and let it come to room temperature before baking.

Bake for 45 minutes, until egg is set and the top is slightly golden.  Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes, until top is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.  Drizzle remaining caramel sauce over the top.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oven Baked Pork Fried Rice

You're intrigued by the title of this recipe, aren't you?  I can tell.  This is a love child born out of a craving and one lone leftover pork chop (anyone else out there who can't stand re-heated meat?!)  So, instead, I put two and two together, and voila!  Oven baked pork fried rice.  You will love me for this recipe.  This is a perfect accompaniment to egg rolls....oooh, I wish I had the ingredients on hand to make those.  (Homemade egg rolls are da-bomb!)  I will work on that and get back to you....  :)

Oven Baked Pork Fried Rice
Inspiration and Sources:  Here and hugely adapted from here

For the rice:
2 tbl. butter
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups water

For the pork fried part:
1/2 tbl. sesame oil
1/2 tbl. olive oil
1 boneless pork chop (use leftover if possible), sliced thin
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 small carrots, peeled, diced, and parcooked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 1/2 tbl. soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
a pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat; add the rice and toast lightly, until rice is opaque in color.  Add the 1 cup of water; bring to a boil and transfer to a 2-quart glass casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes.

Peel and dice carrots; add to a microwave-safe bowl, add some water to cover, and cook for 4 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In a small colander, add frozen peas and rinse under cold water until thawed.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat both oils over medium heat.  If using an uncooked pork chop, see above link for cooking directions.  If using leftover pork chop, continue with the following directions.  Add the onion, garlic, and ground ginger to skillet and saute until onion is tender.  Add sliced pork chop and saute for a couple minutes.  Add the soy sauce, carrots, and peas.  Stir to combine.

With a wooden spoon, push aside pork and vegetable mixture in the skillet.  Add the beaten egg and scramble, seasoning the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Once egg is scrambled, incorporate it with the pork and vegetables.

By now, your oven time should be going off.  Add the remaining water to the rice, and then add the pork fried mixture.  Re-cover, and continue baking 30 more minutes.  When finished, fluff rice and pork fried mixture to combine.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


If you follow this blog on Facebook (which you totally should!), you will remember my multiple status updates on my tiramisu adventure.  Well, today, I excitedly share the recipe to you!

In my search for an authentic tiramisu recipe, I kept finding tiramisu-flavored recipes.  Now, I am totally excited to make tiramisu cupcakes, but I knew that I needed to experience the original tiramisu before I played around with knock-off recipes.  Let me just say, that even though it took me a couple of days to make all the components of this dessert, I am so glad that I did!!  This dessert has several different steps that are made to make the whipped cream layer.  Don't let that intimidate you; each step is easy.

And as for why I have never had this amazing dessert, I can honestly say I have no idea.  But on the same token, I am fairly certain that no popular chain restaurant version of this holds a candle to the homemade version!  I mean, seriously, what's not to love?  Coffee, pastry cream, whipped cream, soft and tender cookies?  This is totally my kind of dessert!  I can't wait to make this again!

In the recipe, I will list for you the components and ingredients and then in the directions, I will walk you though the process for each component.  Follow the links for the mascarpone cheese and the ladyfingers {savoiardi cookies}.  I found that this project was less overwhelming when I broke it down into a couple days:  one day, make the mascarpone cheese.  Another day, make the zabaglione and the pastry cream.  (All three of these components need adequate chill time).  Finally, on yet another day, make the cookies and assemble the tiramisu.  Let chill overnight and serve up to 3 days later.  

Adapted from:  Sugarcrafter

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36-39 ladyfingers {savoiardi cookies}
2 egg yolks
3 tbl. sugar
1/4 cup coffee (leftover from the morning is perfect!)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
vanilla pastry cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbl. flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Coffee Mixture
2 cups brewed coffee, cooled (leftover is perfect)
1 tsp. rum

Make the mascarpone cheese according to directions and let chill overnight.

For the Zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler.  Mix together the egg yolks, sugar, coffee, and vanilla extract in a glass, heatproof bowl.  Place the bowl over the saucepan with water in the bottom and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens to the consistency of a custard.  Let cool to room temp then transfer to an airtight container and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan.  Add in the egg yolk and half the milk and whisk together until smooth.  Add the remaining milk gradually and whisk until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Pour the pastry cream over a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to remove any lumps.  Transfer pastry cream to an airtight container and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Prepare cookies and let cool.

For the Whipped Cream:
Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form and hold.

To Assemble:
In a glass mixing cup, stir together 2 cups of coffee and 1 tsp. rum.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to remove lumps and make creamy.  Stir in the chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined.  Fold this mixture into the whipped cream.

Divide the cookies into groups of three.  Quickly, dip the cookies into the coffee mixture.  Lay soaked cookies (about 13) on the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish, placing them side-by-side in a single row.  Spread a third of the whipped cream mixture over the cookies.  Repeat layers 2 more times, ending with the whipped cream.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

About 30-45 minutes before serving, place dish in the freezer to firm up the dessert, making it easier to cut and dish.  Garnish with shredded chocolate, cocoa powder, or cute little chocolate curls.

Serve within 3 days or freeze until ready to serve.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ladyfingers {Savoiardi Cookies}

After making homemade mascarpone cheese in my tiramisu endeavor, the next homemade step was to make the ladyfinger cookies.  I wish I could pronounce the Italian name for these cookies {savoiardi} because I much prefer that word to "ladyfingers."  "Ladyfingers" is just a bit creepy to me....but, anyway.  They are essential to the final dessert of tiramisu, I must make them in spite of their English name!

*Now, for the winner of the America's Test Kitchen cookbook giveaway....Thanks to all of you who left a comment the other day!  Ok, drumroll, please....

#9!!!!  (Thanks to for generating the number!)
Jennifer Bailey said,  My sister in law sent me the link to your ricotta cheese, but I think I will probably make the peanut butter granola first!""

Congratulations!  Jennifer, email me at: theculinaryenthusiast (at) hotmail (dot) com so I can mail your new cookbook to you! 
Hugs, Karla :)

Ladyfingers {Savoiardi Cookies}
Source:  Sugarcrafter

*You will need a pastry bag and a open circle tip to pipe the cookies

3 eggs, separated
6 tbl. sugar
3/4 cup cake flour (to make cake flour:  1 cup of all-purpose flour - 2 tbl. of flour + 2 tbl. cornstarch.  whisk together to aerate.  Remove 1/4 cup for the specified amount.)
6 tbl. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff again.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks together and fold them into the egg white mixture with a spatula.  Pour the prepared cake flour over the mixture and fold it in gently.  Transfer batter to the pastry bag.

Pipe the batter onto parchment paper, making cookies 5 inches long.  Leave about one inch between cookies.  Sprinkle about half the powdered sugar onto the cookies; wait 5 minutes then sprinkle the remaining 3 tbl. on them.

Bake 10-15 minutes, until edges are lightly golden.  Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 39 cookies.  (This is the perfect amount for the tiramisu recipe).