Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

I would love to see a show of hands of all the moms out there who have almost completely depended on mac-n-cheese to nourish their thriving little ones!  I'm in the same boat with you!  While there is something ridiculously classic about that blue box with the yellow powder that masquerades as cheese (I mean, really?!), I really would like my kids to adore a homemade {read: real} version.

This version is pretty doggone close!  I love that it is a one-skillet dish--separate pots for water, cheese sauce, and then a casserole dish to bake in is not necessary!  Just haul out your biggest skillet and go to town!  In about 15 minutes, you will have a yummy, creamy bowl of mac-n-cheese to delight even your pickiest little munchkin!

For those of you who have the luxury of indulging in a bowl of creamy, cheesy mac-n-cheese sans the impatient demands, messes, and spills of little people under the age of 5, this is the perfect comfort food for the cold winter days ahead!  


Creamy Macaroni and Cheese in a Skillet
Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3 1/2 cups water, plus extra if needed
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
12 ounces (about 3 cups) elbow macaroni
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
Ground black pepper to taste

Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the macaroni is tender and the liquid has thickened, 9 to 12 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, the cornstarch, mustard and hot sauce together in a small bowl, then stir into the skillet. Continue to simmer slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Off the heat, stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack, one handful at a time, adding water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and every year, I try to make myself like the traditional cranberry sauce.

I try really hard.

I usually don't succeed at changing my tastebuds.

That makes me a bit sad.

Cranberries are so festive and even though slightly obligatory, they hold a novelty to me.

Enter this cake.

Chock full of cranberries.  Sweetly delicious.

Surprisingly simple.

In the rush of the rest of Thanksgiving Dinner prep, this cake gracefully and easily makes a wonderful addition to any spread.

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for all of you who take the time to stop by this little site, make a recipe, and leave a comment!  Have a wonderful holiday!

~Karla :)

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter (it will be a really thick layer of butter). In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the cranberries in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake; invert onto a rimmed platter. Store any leftovers at room temperature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie

I'm about to make a grandiose statement and I am giving you fair warning so you will be prepared.

This pie is epic.

Award-winning, even.

(Seriously.  I won 2nd place in a pie baking contest.  Why not 1st place, you might wonder.  Well, let's just say that the first place prize went to a pie that contained Oreos.  I think that tastebuds are a bit misguided when they prefer chocolate over caramel, but that is just my humble opinion!)

This pie is a bit over the top, I will admit, but sometimes it is fun to do a little indulging.  It's even a bit time-consuming, but well worth it!  Let's consider the components, shall we?

Graham cracker crust.  Caramel.  Pecans.  Apples cooked in butter and brown sugar.  Cheesecake filling oozing between the slices of apple.  Fresh sweetened whipped cream.  More caramel.


Indulgent.  Award-winning.  Perfect.

Caramel Apple Pie
Adapted from Doughmesstic

Double Batch of Homemade Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (take it up a notch and use cinnamon graham crackers!)
3 tbl. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup caramel sauce
1 cup chopped pecans

Apple Filling:
5 crisp apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
5 tbl. unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cheesecake Topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tbl. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Whipped Cream:
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
2 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup homemade caramel sauce
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, process 1 package of graham crackers until finely ground.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.  In that same bowl, add graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon to the melted butter and mix well.  Press into a 10-inch pie plate and up the sides.  Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden in color.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Pour caramel sauce into pie shell and sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Refrigerate pie shell while making apple filling.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Add apples and cook until apples are soft and tender (but not mushy--you don't want applesauce!!) about 15 minutes, stirring often.  Cool for 10 minutes before pouring into pie shell.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (or any other mixing bowl), combine softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.  Pour over apple filling.

Bake for 30 minutes until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight.

In mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.  Using a spatula or a spreader, spread the whipped cream over the top of the chilled pie.  Generously drizzle top of whipped cream with caramel sauce and top the edges of the pie with additional chopped pecans if desired.  Refrigerate again until ready to serve.

Before serving, let pie stand for about 30 minutes, coming close to room temperature.  Slice and serve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Homemade Caramel Sauce

I think that caramel--especially homemade caramel--is absolutely the most luscious thing in the whole world.  Sweet and buttery, smooth and creamy, it is the perfect add-on to just about anything!  Ice cream? Yep.  Apples?  Yep.  Whipped cream?  Yep.  Popcorn?  Yep.  Pizza?  Well....maybe if it is an apple pizza, but sure!  Add it on!!  Pie?  Absolutely!  Stay tuned to see what kind of pie I made with this caramel sauce....

I personally think it is a good idea to make up a batch just to keep in the fridge.  A staple, that you keep on hand at all times.  Because you know that there will be emergency situations that will require a generous drizzle of this lusciousness.  Caramel just makes the world a better place.

Making caramel is easy, but it will require constant supervision on your part.  Watch your temperature closely as you are cooking the sugar--for me the sugar started to burn way before it reached the "required" temperature.  You need to get the sugar dark enough for the intense caramel flavor to come through, so don't undercook it.  Whisking in the warm cream will cause the sugar to bubble furiously, so keep your face away and whisk quickly and continuously while you stream the cream in slowly.  If any of the sugar seizes up and hardens, just place your saucepan back over the heat to melt it again, still whisking away!  Also, make sure you use heatproof utensils, like a wooden spoon or a heatproof silicon whisk.  We're talking about lava-like temperatures of melted sugar!  Let it cool a bit before you serve it, so it thickens up.

Homemade Caramel Sauce
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 liquid cup water
1/2 liquid cup heavy cream, heated until warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened. Place your candy thermometer into the pot, making sure that the tip in immersed into the sugar mixture.

Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (380°F.) *See my note above:  my sugar started to burn before I got to this temperature, so use your best judgement to determine when the sugar is dark enough and hot enough. Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream slowly into the caramel, whisking constantly. It will bubble up furiously.
Use a high-temperature heat-resistant rubber spatula or whisk or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.

Allow the sauce to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.

Keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; refrigerated, about 3 months. I stored mine in a Mason canning jar.  To reheat, simply place in a microwave safe container and heat for about 45-60 seconds. Stir well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

If you are new to this site, welcome!  If you are wondering which recipe to try first--this is it!!


When you make these, people are going to dub you the "Official Muffin-Maker" of your group...trust me.  It will happen, because it happened to me.  I was officially "volunteered" to make these for each and every meeting for the rest of my life.

And you know what is amazing about these muffins?

Even if you do make them for the next million weeks in a row, they are impossible to get tired of!  Yep.  'Tis true.  In fact, I think I am going to go snag one right now and then come back and type the recipe.  These cream cheese-filled pumpkin muffins are just a good idea every time!


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Source:  Annie's Eats

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups canola oil

For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners.  

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nutella Mousse

My husband works second shift.  It's a love-hate relationship with that shift.  As with all police work, there are pros and cons of each shift and each part of the job.  One of the cons for us is that we can't have dinner as a family every night of the week.  However, when El Hub is home for dinner, I think I subconsciously go into "celebrate" mode for dinner, even if it is the middle of the week.  He was teasing me (in a serious way) the other week that I needed to cut back on my grocery spending and start serving PB&J for dinner a couple times a week.

Of course, I looked at him like he was nuts.  I know that he seriously does NOT want to eat PB&J for dinner on his nights off!!  He eats less-than-wonderful meals in between calls and tires quickly of fast food on the go, so I feel I have a duty to him to place something wonderful and deliciously homemade in front of him when he has the chance to sit at our table.

This dessert ended up being the perfect balance between simply and celebratory.  It was so extremely easy to make and looked tasted so elegant when served (I will highly consider updating this photo when I make this again--soon!).   As perfect as this was for a weeknight dessert, I also think that this would be a wonderful holiday dessert served in martini glasses or something "fancy."

Nutella Mousse
Adapted from Sweet Tooth, via Pinterest

1/2 cup Nutella spread
2 tbsp hot water (not boiling)
2 tsp instant espresso
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Chocolate and chopped hazelnuts (optional) for topping

Dissolve instant espresso in hot water in a medium sized bowl.

Add the Nutella, beating until smooth.

In a mixer, whip the whipping cream and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the nutella mixture into the whipped cream until the color is uniform.

Divide mousse into serving glasses.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken Marsala

I've noticed something as I have looked back over my blog....there are very few dinner posts in the most recent history!  Oops.  While cupcakes and muffins and sweets are beyond wonderful, sometimes a body needs a good, savory meal!

Quite honestly, for me this is more of a photography problem than a cooking problem.  I cook dinner most every night.  However, you see, I live in the woods.  While beautiful, woods are not nice for streams of natural lighting.  So, by the time dinner comes around, the light outside (if there is any this late in the year!) is a very cool blue.  Not cool for food.

Enter El Hub.  He built me a DIY lightbox.  It was very simple really, and the completion of this project (it took all of like 15 minutes to put together!) coincided perfectly with a wonderful, savory meal--chicken marsala!

I think that might still need to make some tweaks to my lighting, but overall, it worked like a charm and I am excited to have it for the upcoming days when it gets dark at like 3 pm (ok, so I exaggerate just a little!!).

And the chicken marsala?  Absolutely yummy!  After all, what's not to love about chicken and mushrooms, Italian-style?!  It took me about an hour from start to finish, but that time also included prepping a salad and making a side dish.  Even on a weeknight, the meal was well worth the time invested!

Chicken Marsala
Adapted from The New Best Recipe, by America's Test Kitchen

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half across to make cutlets
1 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbl. olive oil
2 1/2 ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta, diced (*I used some Genoa salami, since it was what I had on hand--pancetta is way better!)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbl. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tbl. fresh parsley, minced

Heat oven to 200 degrees and place a large, heatproof dinner plate (or baking dish) on rack.

Pat chicken breasts dry.  Place the flour in a shallow pie plate.  Season both sides of each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper.  One at a time, coat both sides of each chicken piece with flour.  Shake to remove excess flour and place on a plate; set aside.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering.  Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, turning once.  Transfer the chicken to the heated plate or baking dish in the oven.  Repeat a second time if necessary.

Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta.  Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the pancetta is crisp and browned, about 4 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase heat to medium-high.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.

Off heat and add the Marsala wine.  Return to high heat, simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits  front he pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.

Off the heat, add the lemon juice and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Pour mushroom sauce over the chicken.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

What a fun, fall twist on the classic snickerdoodle--which just happens to be my favorite cookie!!  I loved the addition of the pumpkin, giving the cookie a nice orange tint, perfect for adding to a fall harvest party dessert spread.  While softer than the classic version, adding ginger and allspice to the coating sugar gave the cookies a nice component of spice and flavor.  Since I was taking these cookies to a party, I made them a couple days ahead, and put them in the freezer until the day of the party.  They froze and thawed very well, maintaing their "just baked" freshness.  All around, win-win!!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Source:  RecipeGirl

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Coating Sugar:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugars and pumpkin puree and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time just until incorporated.

Cover dough with plastic and chill at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix rolling sugar ingredients in a small bowl.

Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they're coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a glass with a nice, flat bottom to dip in sugar and flatten the balls.

Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nutella Fruit Dip

Not being a huge chocolate lover myself, I am not yet completely on the Nutella bandwagon.  However,  I realize that my lack of chocolate passion is unusual and rare, and many of you are already head over heads with Nutella.

This one's for you!

My son commented that he thought this fruit dip tasted like chocolate pudding, and to my daughter's tastebuds, anything with "pudding" or "sugar" added to the recipe is a solid score for her.  And I will admit, a red, juicy, sweet strawberry plunked into this dip was pretty tasty!

With the holidays looming coming up, sometimes its the simple things that make a spread.  This dip certainly qualifies!  It sounds somewhat fancy and exotic, yet is so simple!

Nutella Fruit Dip

8 oz. Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Nutella

Mix together until smooth and combined.  Serve with your favorite fresh fruit, pretzels, graham crackers, etc.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meatball Subs

I recently posted a mind-blowing homemade meatball recipe....I mean, really mind-blowing.  :)  Even though my family is a huge pasta-loving one, sometimes it is fun to get a bit creative in ways to eat meatballs.

Enter meatball subs.

Next to pasta, truly the best way to eat Italian meatballs.  If you happened to make a double batch of meatballs and kept the remainder in the freezer, this meal comes together in the time it takes to thaw the meatballs (which of course, can be done during the day!) and assemble the sandwiches.

A simple meal, which the kids devoured, and left very little mess for me clean up afterward.


Meatball Subs
A Karla Recipe

1 loaf of fresh French bread (I made homemade bread shaped into a French loaf)
olive oil
Homemade meatballs in sauce, in a single layer (How full you stuff your sub will determine how many meatballs you use)
1 1/2  cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
handful of fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

Preheat broiler.

To assemble the subs, slice loaf of bread in half lengthwise.  Place open loaf on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the open bread. Layer meatballs in a single layer on bottom half of the loaf, using only enough sauce to keep the meatballs moist.  Top with shredded mozzarella and basil.  Also, sprinkle cheese over the top half of the loaf.

Place baking sheet in oven and broil, about 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly golden, and meatballs are heated through.  Remove from oven, place top of bread on the meatballs, and slice to serve.