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.

 

 

 

 

Dilly Good

I think fresh dill is one of the most under-used, under-appreciated herbs. So every chance I get to use it, I do. And not just for pickles! or for Spanakopita!

This time I decided to use it in a quiche! My favorite way to use up stuff anyway is to pair it with eggs.

I decided instead of a crust to make more of  “Tortilla Espanola” or a Spanish style potato omelet. You typically start these on the stove-top and finish them in the oven, but feeling a little lazy I decided to do the whole thing in the oven. So I got out the trusty glass pie dish that I use for everything and layered the ingredients into it. I made sure to slice each ingredient thin so it would cook easily in the time I typically bake my quiches (about 45 mins at 425 degrees)

The layers of ingredients  – inspired by fresh dill – took on a decidedly “Eastern European” inspiration with red onion, potato and dill. A couple tablespoons of sour cream added to my standard quiche mix made everything extra light and fluffy! A little grated parmesan cheese on top never hurt anything !

 

 

 

Never Boil Corn Again!

This week I fell in love with the internet all over again!

I was feeling lazy about getting out a giant pot, shucking the corn and steaming/boiling my corn on the cob. Ugh.

However, my desire for early corn (Florida corn) at this time of year outweighed my laziness so the big corn pot came out. And then I decided to procrastinate more and check the internet. There must be a better way, right?

And there was!!!

Cue angels singing!

Simply roast them on a sheet pan, in the husk, for 30 mins at 350 degrees. THAT’S IT!

look I will show you how easy….

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SOOOO easy! And the house fills with the most amazing smell of sweet corn roasting.

Now I can have my fix of “corn & tomatoes” much easier.

or “corn & pineapple” muffins!

or “chicken corn stew!”

or “corn, chive  & tomato omelets!”

 

Color Competition

Ever since the purple sweet potatoes showed up things have gotten colorful around the house!

Not only was I intrigued with the colorful sweet potato, but the whole family got into the act. What better time to have a “potato bake-off” then over the holidays, among the many meals shared with loved ones.

Our potato bake-off was all about the sweet varieties – but we did bake some regular old white potatoes too.

2015-12-25 11.34.05

(…and no we did not have like 25 people over for dinner, we mash and freeze the leftovers!)

It was fun to see them all lined up and ready to go into the oven!

Stokes Purple – purple skin and flesh

Garnet- reddish skin and very orange interior

Idaho – we all know this staple of baking white potatoes.

Japanese (Kotobuki) – rosy skin with light yellow inside

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They looked so pretty cut up and on the platter. By cutting them in half everybody got a chance to choose and taste the different varieties. And if you mash some of the varieties together – what a pretty bowl that makes – kinda looked like tie-dyed potatoes!

Everyone had their favorite – I just liked them all!

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Purple

My coworker was eating the most beautiful potato I had ever seen the other day.

It was purple!

It was a Stokes® Purple Sweet Potato to be exact. It’s really the color of purple, not just hinting at being purple, but so deep and rich in it’s ‘purple-ness’ it is hard to believe that it is a natural product…but it is!

These are not Photoshopped -they are real… and delicious!

And as my co-worker pointed out they have that same earthy flavor and consistency of roasted chestnuts.  Definitely different and more complex than your average sweet potato.

I just ate them with butter and sea salt but if you need them to be sweeter – sprinkle a little brown sugar on them.

 

 

Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

 

 

 

When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.