Who Needs A Ring Anyway!

Or maybe I am just cranky that I couldn’t keep my fresh pineapple rings as rings!

I tried to make the quintessential pineapple upside down cake- all pretty with perfect rings, but when the first one broke apart I knew I would have to just embrace the pineapple “chunks”  instead.

pineapple upside down cake 1

I choose the 9×12 baking dish size purely because that was the only dish I had that matched one of the baking choices on the back of the box cake instructions. Yep…I used a box cake mix. I did cut up a fresh pineapple and used real butter and brown sugar. I also added a splash of vanilla to the cake mix. That counts as “homemade” right?

It always better to let someone else do what they do best, like say my friend “Betty” – she is a great baker – so I can focus on what I do best…EAT!

cake piece

Author’s Tips

Spray the baking dish liberally with baking spray first.

1 stick softened, salted butter and 3/4 cup (lightly pack) dark brown sugar make the most amazing base to place the pineapple on. Just smear it together right in the baking dish and spread evenly as possible across bottom of the dish.

A light dusting of ground cinnamon over the pineapple chunks (rings) nestled in the sugar/butter mix goes a long way towards adding flavor.

No need to get a mixer out for that box cake mix- just follow box directions for adding water,oil, eggs and whisk it by hand for a minute or two till smooth and pour over the top.

Pro-tip: rotate the dish 1/2 way thru baking time for a nice even cake.

Mandatory to let the cake cool a solid 15 minutes before turning it out (upside down) on a pretty platter or simple wooden board. It will still be smoking hot (all the sugar-fruit holds the heat!) so let it cool just a few minutes longer before cutting the pieces.

 

 

 

 

Hot & “Board”

The hot weather here in New England has really got me thinking about meals in a new way. That new way being when/if I turn on the stove at all in the house!

Of course the back yard grill is the best option during a heatwave, but even that is just too hot to deal with on an afternoon topping 95 degrees! I will often grill early in the morning while I enjoy my first cup of coffee. The neighborhood is quiet, the temperatures are cooler and I can get my garden watered while I wait for the meat to cook.

And once I get the grill going (gas-fired so it’s easy) I like to make it worth it and grill marinaded meats and lots of veggies. These can be cooled and served later in the day, chopped up on top of salads, or as I did this past hot Saturday, as a composed grouping on a wooden cutting board.

lunch

“Lunch on a Board” 

This particular grouping was inspired by the fresh made mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm and a fantastic heirloom tomato and zucchini from Stillman’s Farm.

The fresh basil came courtesy of my backyard pot and the steak from my freezer – defrosted and marinated a day prior. A drizzle of olive oil, red wine vinegar, black pepper and some pink Himalayan salt completed this beauty.

TIP: Hot weather entertaining? Grill up everything the day before and serve on large cutting boards or chilled platters with a fresh drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette and some fresh herbs sprinkled over.

 

Quotes of the Year

Just a little something I whipped up after reviewing all my posts in 2015… (Turn on the speakers and settle in, because it’s about 4 1/2 mins long!)

And in case you want to see some previous years… 2011 & 2012.

no videos these years but… 2013 & … too busy wrapping up my thesis at the end of 2014!

Kringle & Many Other Delights

It all starts with a Kringle in early December.

That delicious Nordic treat of pastry dough and filling shaped into a ring. And apparently Racine, Wisconsin is the epicenter of such a treat!

and more candy

Next the fancy box of chocolates, with an edible “logo” chocolate bar of course! These folks know how to plan ahead!!

By the time we entered the week leading up to Christmas, the office was receiving treats practically hourly! (not that I am complaining one bit!) There was a box from New York’s little Italy – full of authentic meat, cheese and cookies! oh those cookies were good! The whole thing was so good that I couldn’t even get a picture snapped before we were descending like seagulls attacking. It was 10:30 in the morning.

 

After that… more candy!

( you notice many are already missing!) holiday candy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And basically onto full “holiday carnage” as the deliveries reached a fever pitch… holiday cargage 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally on Christmas eve (yes a few of us are working today!)… the last of the pastries that came the other day….they won’t last the morning!

 

Avocado Lottery

Picking out an avocado at the store is a little like buying a dollar scratch ticket. You never know what you are going to get. Big winner or just a waste of a dollar.

It’s a low investment so you are not too worried if it doesn’t work out. But the dream of choosing just the right one and scoring big is strong! Oh the things you could do with the winnings.

When I pick out a winning avocado I know immediately that it needs to be enjoyed simply. The buttery flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado only needs a little salt, some ground cumin, a splash of lime juice. That’s it unless you want just a hint of hot sauce.

The secret to my nachos is simplicity. Oh and put the cheese down first. I use the broiler to melt the cheese onto the tops of the chips first. That way you get no soggy chips under there, the cheese acts like a barrier between the wet stuff and the chips. Next some fresh diced tomatoes if you can get your hands on some this time of year. A pinch of salt and pepper. The final topping is the perfect lottery-winning avocado. Mashed up with the above mentioned and simply spread on top. The avocado all fresh and velvety on top of cheesy, crisp chips. Truth be told you could leave off the tomatoes but why would you ever want to do that!

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

 

 

 

Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.

 

perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Remember When…

Who remembers the fast food chain Wendy’s® when they had the salad bar in their restaurants? They had nicer seating and real plants too back in the day. There was a time when they straddled the space between “fast-food and fast casual.”

My father loved that place and when I was little (and it was his turn to get dinner) we would go there and get the salad bar and baked potatoes with chili on top. (chili-topped baked potatoes was a menu item then – now they still serve chili and the baked potatoes but you have to order each and combine them yourself.)

As a result every time I make chili I serve it over baked potatoes. It always reminds me of those times and it makes things just a bit more hearty and filling. The potatoes offer a little more nutritional punch then corn chips or rice. The chili and the potatoes can all be done a day ahead and reheated at the time of the event. Plus if you are having folks over for a big game or even if you just want to get the kids interested you can do a topping bar of favorites like shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro, chopped red onion, sour cream…. you get the idea!

The best chili is the simplest chili – 2lbs of browned ground meat (turkey in this case – shhhh don’t tell hubby!) and 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste, 1 large can ( 12oz) of ground, peeled tomatoes, 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a white onion diced. 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite chili spice blend. 1 whole lime juiced and some salt and pepper. Add a cup of hot water if it’s too thick. 1-2 hours simmering and you are ready to go!

Author’s note:

My dad passed away in March 2011 after a long and happy life, but this week is his birthday and I think he always considered the cool weather and the beautiful New England fall leaves a personal birthday gift to him. He loved everything about New England and I think of him a lot in October.