Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Bread Pudding

This recipe comes to you courtesy of the "bug" that my mother-in-law put in my ear.

That, and the container of fresh, homemade ricotta cheese that sat in my refrigerator that I couldn't seem to use fast enough.  It was literally waiting for a burst of inspiration to hit me.

When she mentioned to me that she had the best blueberry bread pudding recently, the inspiration hit me like a crashing wave.  It seemed like a good idea to marry the two.  Soft bread, fresh ricotta, a splash of lemon, bursting blueberries, sugar.

Sounded good to me!  I could barely wait until the next day to whip this up!

This bread pudding is soft and sweet, moist and warm.  Delicious!

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Bread Pudding
Adapted from:  Food for My Family

1 loaf french or vienna bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 2-1/2 quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a large bowl beat the eggs. Mix in sugar and ricotta cheese. Add the lemon zest and juice, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and beat until evenly combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Add the bread cubes to the milk and egg mixture and stir until all pieces of bread are completely covered. Let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in blueberries and pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let rest 15-20 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mocha Scones

Sometimes, you must keep trying after a fail.

The end result, which tantalizes your taste buds and promises to be amazing, keeps you going.

Such was the case for me with these scones.

I knew that they would be amazing.

I knew that my intended audience would think them amazing.

I learned that following the recipe's instructions as written and not going off on a culinary adventure of my own making often holds a significant amount of value.  {Who knew??!}

So, I scrapped my first batch.  It was just too ooey-gooey to bake.

But, I was set on these and highly motivated by the promise of their deliciousness.

"If at first you fail, try again."  That's a good motto where coffee-infused baked goods are concerned.

I did a bit better the second time around on following the directions.

And, as expected, these were wonderful.  I knew they would be.

Mocha Scones
Source:  My Baking Addiction

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup strong coffee, room temperature or cooler
1 large egg

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in chocolate chips.

Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until the dough comes together.  Then use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. The dough will be sticky, but it will come together.

Place on a lightly floured work surface.  Either pat the dough into an 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick and use a sharp knife to cut it into 8 triangles. Or pat it into a rectangle, then use a sharp knife to cut 10 even squares. Then cut 10 even squares in half to create 20 smaller triangles.

Place scones on prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 for smaller triangles and 18-22 minutes for larger triangles.

Cool on wire rack. Once scones are cool, prepare the glaze.

Mocha Glaze

1/4 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

In a small bowl, combine coffee and confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. In a glass, heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering hot water, melt chocolate until liquid.  Whisk melted chocolate into the powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.

Lay a large piece of parchment paper on your work surface, place a wire rack over the parchment paper. Place scones on wire rack. Place chocolate glaze in a small zip top bag, use scissors to snip a small piece of the bag off the corner of the bag.

Drizzle chocolate glaze over the scones. Allow glaze to set for about an hour.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce

Meatballs and sauce and pasta are classic comfort food.

Looks fancy, looks hard, but in the end, you have a belly full of happiness and the conclusion that making homemade meatballs wasn't as hard as you thought it was going to be.

I have made these meatballs a couple of times now, and I can confidently assure you that these are the best meatballs ever.  Ever.

This time around, I decided to make a double batch (the recipe below reflects a single recipe served over pasta) and get at least a couple meals out of them.  I also opted to not serve them over pasta right away (I will share with you what I did do with them soon!)  The remaining meatballs went partially-cooked into the freezer for a quick and easy future meal!

You're gonna wanna make these....soon.  You will be glad you did.

*I don't usually take step-by-step photos...something about messy hands and expensive camera that just doesn't enhance the cooking process for me, but I was feeling a bit adventurous on this particular day....so here ya go!  And of course, my finished photo isn't exactly staged in a beautiful way...but sometimes the yumminess trumps the presentation...so, boom.

Assemble your ingredients.  And totally make these meatballs in your mixer if you have one.  Just don't overmix, or you will end up with weird-looking mush.  Trust me on this one.  It has happened.  And it's not pretty.

Cute little meatballs....I love the fresh parsley in them!

Getting all browned up in the olive oil....seriously love olive oil.

Mostly cooked, draining slightly on a soft bed of paper towels, awaiting the final submersion in the glorious, garlicky tomato sauce, where they will finish cooking though as they simmer.  A perfect blend of wonderful flavors.....

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

3/4 pounds ground beef
3/4 pounds Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 whole eggs
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
splash of milk
1/2 cup olive oil

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white or red wine (optional, but totally worth it!)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
8 whole fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style
2 pounds spaghetti, cooked to al dente

To make the meatballs, combine meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl.  Mix together well with hands.  Using a tablespoon, roll into 25 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

To brown the meatballs, heat olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.

In the same pot, add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes, or until translucent. Pour in diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and wine, if using. Add salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

Add meatballs to pot of sauce and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add a generous amount of salt right before adding the dry pasta.  Cook according to package directions, 9-11 minutes, until al dente.  Drain in a large colander and return to pot.

Just before serving, stir in basil into the tomato sauce.

Serve over cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

The cupcake lovin' continues over here at The Culinary Enthusiast.

As my husband says, "Since you're into cupcakes now." Because, there was a time when I wasn't.  Really.

I rarely hear him complain though, as he delights in one.


But seriously.  Once you get in a cupcake groove, it's hard to get out.  They're just so stinkin' cute, and they're so versatile, and they're so easy to whip together!  The only way to deal with the addiction is to feed it.  Usually bad advice to offer to addicts, except in the case of cupcakes.

The weather turned cool this past weekend; a perfect Labor Day weekend, in my humble opinion.  You know how I feel about fall.  The "summer is just the gateway to fall" kind of feeling.  As I sat at my kitchen table, door open and crisp breeze blowing in, I suddenly needed to pair that with the smell of cinnamon.

And since I have had these cupcakes pinned for a while now, it was the perfect opportunity in the perfect setting to bake them.  I already love chai in hot beverage form, so this variety was just begging me to bake it.

Hubs was impressed with how fast I got them in the oven.

I'll do just about anything for the smell of cinnamon.  Just sayin'.  And, just for the record, the taste didn't disappoint either.

{These are too yummy not to share!  Linking up to Sweets for a Saturday and A Well Seasoned Life.}

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Chai Spice Mix
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Cupcake Batter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
2 eggs
2 tsp. chai spice mix
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
2 cups powdered sugar
remainder of the chai spice mix
1 Tbsp. cold milk, if needed to thin out the buttercream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a cupcake pan with liners.  This made about 16-18 cupcakes for me.

In a small bowl or plastic bag, combine the chai spice mix ingredients. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat in one egg at a time. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chai spice mix. Fold in the flour and buttermilk alternately and stir until combined. Mix together the baking soda and vinegar in a separate bowl, then add it to the batter and mix until combined.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins until 3/4 full and bake 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream Directions:
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy. On low, mix in the vanilla bean paste and the rest of the chai spice mix. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time. If the buttercream is too thick add 1-2 tbs of cold milk until the desired consistency is reached. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes with your favorite frosting tip (I used the closed star tip).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

I remember going blueberry picking as a kid with my mom, sister, and brother.  I remember the 5-gallon buckets full of berries that we brought home.  I remember gorging eating fresh blueberries to our little kids' heart's content.

Good memory.

A couple of years ago, I took my munchkins berry picking at the same local farm.  Only this time, I was the mom, and the drive seemed a lot farther away than it did in my childhood memory.  My kids were 6, 2, and baby.  

The 6-year-old did surprising well.  The 2-year-old, well, she was two.  The baby slept in the stroller.

I worked hard at having an upbeat, "this is so much fun" attitude.  

However, even as an adult, it wasn't over-the-top fun.  It was hot (even in the morning) and it was prickly.  

But the berries were wonderful.

All this said, this year, I chose the lazy mom way and ordered blueberries.  Fresh and local, but already picked and boxed nicely in 10-pound boxes.  I successfully avoided certain whining and fighting (as well as the experience for my kids, granted).  Sometimes momma sanity comes at a price.

Of course, they came the night before we left on vacation.  

So, into the freezer they went.  No gorging on fresh berries for days on end.

But, you know, when you bake those cute little blueberries in a crisp, it doesn't really matter if they were frozen.  Crisp is simple and wonderful and with just blueberries in this one, they get the chance to really shine.  Best of all, frozen berries lets you enjoy this deliciousness any time of the year!


{Because this is so yummy and sharing is nice, I am sharing this over at It's a Keeper Thursday--come on over!}

Blueberry Crisp
Adapted from The Love of Cooking

6 cups blueberries, rinsed and lightly dried (frozen blueberries can also be used--skip the rinse)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt

Topping Mixture:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4 tbl. unsalted butter, melted

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 tbl. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, oats, both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans in a bowl. Add butter and mix together.

In a mixing bowl, toss blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and pinch of salt together.  Transfer the blueberries into a 2-quart baking dish. Top evenly with the crumb mixture. 

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. 

For whipped cream, whisk together the heavy cream, vanilla bean paste or extract, and sugar on high until stiff peaks form.  Serve immediately on top of crisp.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ricotta Frittata

Let's face it:  leftovers are just, well....leftover.

Not really my favorite. 

My mind goes blank when I look in my fridge and find them.  I am uninspired by them.

In all reality, my creative self should jump for joy at the prospect of repurposing food.  After all, that part of my brain kicks into gear when I garage sale or when I am in my spacious basement craft/creativity studio.  

I need to purpose to think creatively about leftovers.

This is my purposeful attempt.  

In my fridge, I had a fresh batch of ricotta cheese made from a gallon of milk that had frozen (not on purpose!), some leftover nakey spaghetti noodles, and some homemade basil pesto.

Enter:  Google.  :)  Please, please, tell me I'm not the only one who cooks with her laptop open next to her?  Please.

{Oh, and by the way, have you used the Google Food Blog search that is on the right side of this post?  I'm telling ya, it is wonderful.  Just type in any sort of recipe or ingredient that you are looking for, and Google will search only food blogs and generate for you a phenomenal list of inspiration!  I use it all.the.time.  Good stuff, that Google!}

Result?  A wonderful frittata, full of simple freshness.  Quick and easy and extremely satisfying.  All in about 10 minutes of prep time, and 15 minutes of bake time.  Score.

{Oh, I'm taking this over to the party at Jam Hands and This Chick Cooks!--come join the fun!}

Ricotta Frittata
Adapted from Sunday-Suppers

6 large eggs
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. basil pesto
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 cups leftover pasta, any shape, cooked (from 7 ounces dry)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
a small handful fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Whisk together eggs, milk, ricotta, Parmesan, basil pesto, salt, and pepper. Stir in cooked pasta.
Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet. Pour in egg mixture, and cook until edges are just beginning to set, about 2 minutes. 

Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until eggs are completely set, 10 to 12 minutes. 

Invert onto a plate, and re-invert onto a serving dish. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Garnish with basil.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lattice Crust Peach Pie

We are a mixed family.

Mixed, meaning, El Hub likes chocolate desserts.  And I like fruit desserts.

Mixed, meaning I cook, and El Hub eats.

Mixed, meaning, I cook what I like and "force" him to like what I cook.

Mixed, meaning, I expect him to be flexible and me to be happy.

Ok, I'm kidding about that last part.


I can be flexible too....I sort of like chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

Anway, all that to say that one bite into his piece of peach pie, El Hub declared this pie the "best pie he's ever had."

My simple fruit dessert topped his decadent chocolate dessert concoctions that he always orders out.  ('Cause I don't make those types of desserts!)


I will admit to this being my first attempt at a lattice crust.  It was way simpler than I thought it would be.  It was fun.

It is seriously hard to go wrong with fresh, juicy, perfectly ripe peaches.  This pie showcases them and lets them soar!  The filling is simple, the spices are scantly used, only to enhance the flavor of the peaches.

In a word, it is perfect.

Even my chocolate-loving husband thought so.

Lattice Crust Peach Pie
Adapted from The New Best Recipe, by America's Test Kitchen

Pie Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. sugar
17 Tbl. unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
10 Tbl. ice water

Pie Filling
6-7 medium, ripe peaches (about 7 cups sliced)
1 Tbl. lemon juice
1 cup sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg (use the best quality possible)
pinch of salt
3-5 Tbl. of Minute tapioca, ground fine in a food processor
1 Tbl. water
1 Tbl. sugar

To make the pie dough, process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined.  Add the butter and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse crumbs.  Slowly drizzle the ice water into the food processor while processing, until the dough comes together.  Remove from bowl and divide into 2 balls, one larger than the other.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Adjust oven racks to the lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack.

Remove the dough from refrigerator.  On a floured work surface, roll the larger piece of dough to a 15x11 inch rectangle about 1/8-inch thick.  Transfer dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  With a pizza wheel or fluted pastry wheel (or a paring knife), trim the long sides of the rectangle to make them straight, then cut the rectangle lengthwise into 8 strips, 15 inches long by 1 1/4 inches wide. Freeze the strips on the baking sheet until firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove the strips of dough from the freezer; if they are too stiff to be workable, let them stand at room temperature until malleable and softened but still very cold.  To make the lattice, lay out 4 strips of dough parallel on parchment paper.  Fold the first and third strips back, then place a long strip of dough perpendicular slightly to the right side of the center.  Unfold the first and third strips over the perpendicular strip, and fold back the second and fourth parallel strips.  Add a second perpendicular strip.  Now unfold the second and fourth strips.  Repeat this process with 2 more perpendicular strips (you will have a total of 8 strips of dough, 4 running in each direction).  Freeze the finished lattice until very firm, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll the smaller piece of dough on floured work surface to a 12-inch circle.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch glass pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan.  Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan "corners" by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing it into the pan bottom with the other hand.  Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie place in place; refrigerate the dough-lined plate while you prepare the peach filling.

Peel the peaches, removing only the skin.  Slice each peach off the pit.  Toss the peach slices, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and tapioca in a large bowl.

Remove the pie plate from the refrigerator and turn the peach filling into the dough-lined pie plate.  Remove the lattice from the freezer and slide it over the top of the pie.  Trim the lattice strips and crimp the pie edges.  Lightly brush the pie crust with water and sprinkle with sugar.

To bake, lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Place the glass pie plate on the hot baking sheet and bake until the crust is set and begins to brown, 20-25 minutes.  Rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until the crust is a deep golden brown and the juices bubble, about 25-30 minutes longer.  Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.  Any runny filling will set up during this cooling time.

For the most enjoyable dessert experience, top each slice of pie with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Homemade Pizza Sauce

My fall schedule is in full gear now.  Soccer practices, soccer games, leading and participating in Bible studies several times a week, and dance class.....just to name the highlights.  That doesn't count laundry, dishes, keeping my newly redecorated house spic-n-span, managing kids and homework.....but you get the idea.  I'm busy.

I know that you're busy, too.  I mean, seriously, who has loads of time just waiting to be spent?

I've known all summer long that my fall schedule was going to be packed.

And all summer long, the question of what I was going to do about dinnertime was rolling around in my head.  Crock pot meals, freezer meals, PB&J are all viable options.

I should have set about putting together a definitive plan and system.

But I didn't.

Until the other day when I decided that I would make a large pot of pizza sauce and portion it in 1/2 pint freezer containers.  Of course, along with that I made a double batch of pizza dough to put next to the sauce in the freezer.

Theoretically, homemade pizza is much faster to put together than waiting on the delivery person to bring one to the door.  Especially if the dough and the sauce are already made!  Toss some pepperoni, sprinkle some cheese, and voila!  A quick, weeknight meal!

That's the plan.  It's the only one I've got.  So, we're rolling with it.  Good thing my kiddos like pizza, I guess!

*My pictures are less-than-artistic looking, but I wanted to give you a visual idea of what you will end up with!  I ended up with 7 pints of sauce.

I'm sharing this recipe with the nice girls over at It's A Keeper Thursdays--come see what everyone else brought!

Homemade Pizza Sauce
A Karla Original

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 cans (28 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, diced small
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, diced small
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 Tbl. sugar, optional, if sauce is overly tomato-y

In a large Dutch oven, drizzle olive oil to cover the bottom of pan.  Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened and transparent, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and quickly stir to incorporate into the onions.  Cook for about 1 minute, then quickly add both cans of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Stir.

Simmer over medium heat until fragrant and slightly thickened.  Whisk in the tomato paste and cook for a couple minutes longer.  Add basil and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir.  Do a quick taste test and add sugar if necessary.

Off heat and remove pan to a cooling rack.  Allow sauce to cool significantly before transferring it to  freezer containers.  I recommend using 1/2 pint or pint size containers.  Label containers with "pizza sauce" and the date and freeze until ready to use.

When ready to use, thaw to room temperature, then prepare pizza as normal!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

I must have you know that this is the recipe that inspired me to buy a food processor.

I saw my desperate need (!) for one after I drove over to my parents' house to borrow theirs in order to make bread crumbs.

I figured that if I were going to make eggplant Parmesan on a semi-regular basis, a 3-mile drive each time around just wasn't going to cut it.

It took me a couple months to work up the courage to ask El Hub if I could spend the money on one.  When I finally posed the question, his answer was a quick, "Sure."

I had gathered courage for nothing.

No matter.  Purchasing a food processor was one of the best cooking decisions I've ever made.

And eggplant Parmesan is one of the best ways to eat eggplant.

Seriously.  The crispy coating.  The garlic.  The basil.  The sauce.  Melty cheese.

If you don't like eggplant, you barely know that you're even eating it.  Sidenote:  this recipe takes a bit of time to prepare, so cue up your favorite album on your iPod and have fun with it!

For El Hub, he declared this was about the only way he can eat it.  Drama.

I am sharing this recipe over at Jam Hands--and you're invited to the party as well!  

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from Annie's Eats

For the eggplant:
1 lb. globe eggplant, cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick rounds
1½ tsp. kosher salt
a loaf of French bread bread, torn into chunks (the staler the bread, the better)
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the tomato sauce:
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup)
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425˚ F. 

To prepare the eggplant, toss the eggplant slices with the kosher salt in a large bowl until combined. Transfer the salted eggplant to a colander and set the colander over the now empty bowl. Let stand until the eggplant releases at least 1 tablespoon liquid, 30-45 minutes. Spread the eggplant slices on a triple thickness of paper towels (or layers of clean kitchen towels); cover with another triple thickness of paper towels. Press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible. Wipe off any excess salt.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to fine crumbs (about 15 1-second pulses), making about 3 cups. Transfer the crumbs to a pie plate and mix in the flour, cheese, salt, and pepper; set aside. Wipe out the bowl of the food processor.

Beat the eggs in a second pie plate.  Dip eggplant slices in the eggs, letting the excess run off.  Coat evenly with the bread crumb mixture. Set the breaded slices on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining eggplant until all the slices are breaded.

Remove the preheated baking sheet from the oven. Add the vegetable oil to the sheet and tilt to coat evenly. Place the breaded eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes and flipping the slices after 20 minutes. Do not turn off the oven after the slices are baked.

While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Process about half of the diced tomatoes in the food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Heat the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the processed tomatoes and the remaining diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened at reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the dish, spread ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Layer in half of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit. Spread with another ½ cup of the sauce. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Layer in the remaining eggplant and dot with the remaining sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and the cheese is browned, 13-15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter the basil over the top, and serve.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Apple Butter

We made it!

Through the hot and torturous summer, that is.

Seriously, I endure summer just to get to fall.

Fall sings to my soul in a way no other song resonates.

The crisp air.  The bright, vibrant colors.  The smell of burning leaves.  The cooling breeze.  Being able to wear jeans (l.o.v.e. jeans....can't believe I had a season in life where I never wore them.  What was I thinking??!) and boots.  Lower humidity means I have more frequent "better hair" days.

Of course, the aroma of cinnamon-y apples is a definite bonus.

There is something about fall that makes me feel....happy.  Content.

And I just love apples.

This recipe for me goes back to 2005 when I was hugely pregnant with my second baby and my BFF and I decided that we would buy 4 bushes of apples and make apple butter and applesauce.  As if that wasn't enough, we planned on canning it.  Our maiden voyage of canning.

It was a long day.

But I cherish those memories with her, canning the apple butter that had cooked overnight in several crockpots around my kitchen.  Peeling, cooking, milling, canning millions of apples.  Eating delivery pizza together as families.  Seeing the multitude of quarts of applesauce and pints of apple butter.  Absolutely satisfying.

So, 3 cheers to fall....in an apple butter style celebration!!

Apple Butter
Adapted from Allrecipes, from Terri

5 1/2 pounds of apples, peeled and cored (Macintosh apples make the best apple butter; this time around I used Paula Red)
3-4 cups sugar, depending on tartness and desired sweetness
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

*makes about 4 pints  (I have found that every pound makes approximately 1 pint)

Place prepared apples in a slow cooker (crock pot).  Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.

Cover and cook on high 1 hour.    Reduce heat to low and cook 8 hours, until mixture is thickened and browned.  Stir occasionally.  If you want your apple butter to have a very smooth consistency, process in a food processor to remove any chunks of apple.  In my photo above, I skipped this step.

To can apple butter:  sterilize canning jars in a hot dishwasher (I often will run a rinse cycle and dry...the jars need to be hot).

Fill a large stock pot with hot water, and heat over high heat.  In an additional saucepan, heat clean lids inside metal rims to boiling.

Fill hot jars with hot apple butter and wipe the rim of the jar with a dry washcloth.  Using tongs, remove a lid and rim from the saucepan of boiling water and fit it securely on jar.  Repeat with remaining apple butter.

Place all the jars (as many as will fit at a time) in the stock pot with hot water.  Water needs to be about an inch over the tops of the jars.  Bring water to a boil for 20 minutes.  Using rubber coated canning tongs, remove the jars from the water bath to a cooling rack.  The metal lids should start "pinging," letting you know that the lids have sealed.

Cool jars completely before storing in the pantry.

For more on canning procedures, Google your county's Extension Office.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Banana Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Streusel

I had a dilemma.

The fruit flies were having a field day with my ripe bananas sitting on the counter.

{totally disgusting--can't stand those little suckers}.

I've tried all the tricks, but they just weren't having the various cups of vinegar I had set out especially for them.

Enter the solution:  bake the bananas.  In something.

Text El Hub and present him with a couple choices.

One choice is a Karla-choice.  The other has chocolate.

El Hub chooses the chocolate choice.

Typical.  Predictable.  Lovable?  Hmmm....

The Karla-twist on this is to add enough cinnamon to the streusel to mask those chocolate chips, while still letting them sing in El Hub's mouth.

It's a tricky balance, but someone has to do it, I suppose.

The result:  one of the best, most flavorful, and moist coffee cakes I've ever had.  Ever.

Simply delicious!

Banana Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Streusel
Adapted from Buns in my Oven

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish.

Stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, cinnamon, and oats in small bowl until well blended; set streusel aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. 

Beat sugar, butter, and egg in a large bowl until fluffy.  Mix in mashed bananas and yogurt.  Add flour mixture and blend well.

Spread half of batter in prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle with half of streusel.  Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.  Bake coffee cake until toothipick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Cool for about 10 minutes and serve.