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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.

 

A lot Like Matt

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Matt? As in “Fat Matt?”

No really that is his real name!

Well I had the pleasure some years back of going to see him in his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. Yup some of the finest BBQ you will ever experience. None other than “Fat Matt’s Rib Shack!”

While I can’t imagine be able to replicate BBQ anywhere near what they do so well down there, I do try on occasion to make an old-fashioned plate of BBQ.

served

Serve it like Matt does with slaw, white bread and pickles but this could easily be on a bun or over rice and beans!

While they didn’t ask me or pay me to talk nice about them – if anybody out there wants to send some of their food my way – email me and we can make it happen!

In the meantime I can’t emphasis how easy it is to make some more than acceptable BBQ at home. With your slowcooker. Yup no grill and no smoker needed, just the slow cooker.

The secret to sucess is that you purchase a high quality jar of sauce – preferably one with a “smoky” flavor built-in. I simply pour a jar of sauce over a small roast (usually 3lbs+/- for me) into my relatively small slow cooker, cover and cook on high for at least 4-6 hours. If you are feeding a crowd or want lots of leftovers (freezes well!) you can double the meat and use two jars of sauce. You don’t need to add anything else unless you want to.

So if you can’t get down to Atlanta, this could be an easy alternative!

 

Devils on Horseback

There are many obscure food nicknames/references in the world but with advent of the internet most of the time the origins of these can be tracked down. Not as easy with “devils on horseback.”  Or “angels on horseback.”

Google it and you will find some stories about English pub snacks and horseback warriors wielding meat-covered shields. However these snacks got invented and why they have this name, I may never really know. But in the meantime I shall just make and eat dozens of them.

I can’t take credit for inventing this. I first heard about these from a friend and colleague at work . We carpool once a week and torture ourselves discussing food all the way home, hungry for dinner after the work day!

She had the pleasure of eating at the Chicago restaurant, “Avec that invented these.  As she described them to me,  I knew immediately that I would need to make these.

My variation of "devils on horse back"

My variation of “devils on horse back” – dates split and stuffed with a lardon of smoked Spanish Chorizo and wrapped in bacon. Smothered in a smoky tomato and red pepper sauce.

Production Notes

The rolled, stuffed dates bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-30 mins.

You can double roll them with bacon and if you do you may want to bake them on their end so all sides get a little crispy.

These could also be made with raw, uncooked Chorizo – just make sure to cook them long enough that they are done. Use a thermometer if need be to test for temperature.

The sauce is basically finely minced onion and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil, add a 7 ounce jar of roasted peppers diced up, a 15 ounce of diced tomatoes, some garlic powder, ground cumin and smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes on med-low. Taste for seasoning and add salt/pepper and a tiny bit of Agave to smooth it out. This makes plenty of sauce for the approximately 36 dates I made.

An Evening on The Marsh

Author’s note: Sorry I have been slow about new postings but have just emerged from summer session final projects. So will now be able to resume my usual pace of cooking and eating. Stay tuned for lots of new posts!
 
 

Recently I took a little time out of my summer semester at grad school to attend a 50th birthday party of a friend and colleague. It was my first time over to her house and what a spot she has!

daily sunsets such as these! Can you even imagine!

view from the edge of the backyard – daily sunsets such as these! Can you even imagine!

She is perched right on the edge of Boston, just 10 mins from a local “T” station. (that’s subway for the rest of you folks) But a world’s away in atmosphere.

I always love a party for the obvious reasons, but I secretly really love the food and drink the best!

She not only had great food but great style AND bravery.

First the style: Sangria!

sangria

red!!

red!!

no plastic ware for her, just really gorgeous fruit with some great Spanish wine ( choice of red/white sangria) and you topped it off with a flavored or non-flavored fizzy of your choosing.

Second the Bravery: Paella

paella

Brave because she cooked this BEAUTIFUL pan of paella on her outdoor fire pit. I could never trust my fire-skills with a such a dish. You can’t tell from this photo but this pan was about 24-30″ across! It took 2 guys to get it on and off the fire. And she even offered up a second pan with a vegetarian version.

Of course there were other yummy things to eat and fine folks brought other offerings. The mango salsa was to die for! So simple and yet delicious! But the paella simply stole the show!

So the moral of the story is anyone can have style but “BE BRAVE!” at your next party! ( oh and be sure to swap recipes!)

party

early in the party

Stuffed – Three Ways!

Inspiration comes in many forms. But for me it is usually roaming the aisles of the grocery store with no plan in mind.

That is when I saw the 40 oz (yup 2 1/2 lbs!) of giant stuffing size mushrooms on sale. I just knew immediately that I wanted to stuff them and not just one way. So I started gathering all the ingredients for stuffing these mushrooms in three different ways.

From left to right:

Ham & Swiss, Creamed Spinach, Italian Sausage & Peppers

Word to the wise… invite some friends over for a party because the 40 oz package was about 32 mushrooms. 32 HUGE mushrooms. You could probably freeze the stuffed, cooked mushrooms but we will just eat them over the next few days instead. Breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Production notes

No real recipe was used. I simply cleaned and de-stemmed the mushrooms, chopping the stems and using them in the stuffing for the sausage and the ham/swiss versions. I oiled them really well (use your favorite oil) and the pan they were baked on. I did whiz up a sleeve of Ritz crackers and that was split between the three mixtures before stuffing. I did freeze the extra stuffing.

Ham & Swiss: I sautéed (almost caramelized) a small amount of diced white onion in butter, added diced stems and ham, sautéed a bit more.  Let it cool, off the heat for a few and stirred in finely shredded swiss cheese. Mix in the Ritz cracker crumb. Salt and pepper to taste and you are ready to stuff.

Sweet Sausage and Pepper: I took some sausage out of its casing, crumbled it and lightly browned it with some diced red, green & yellow sweet peppers , the diced mushroom stems and diced white onions. Turn off the heat and mix in a palm full of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Mix in the Ritz cracker crumb. Salt and pepper to taste and you are ready to stuff.

Creamed Spinach: Use your favorite recipe – maybe cut it in half if you are not doing so many mushrooms. But mine was basically sautéed onion in butter, add a pinch of nutmeg  and a bigger pinch of granulated garlic. Add some heavy cream and let simmer to reduce and thicken, add lots of finely grated Pecorino Romano and maybe a little of that swiss cheese. Add the fresh, washed, dried and torn up spinach. Cook awhile longer. Turn off the heat and while piping hot,  mix in the Ritz cracker crumb. Salt and pepper to taste. Let cool a bit and you are ready to stuff.

I baked all of them at the same time on a couple of sheet pans in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15-20 mins. I personally think they could have gone a tiny bit longer since these were huge mushrooms. Or maybe even pre-roasting them for a few minutes before stuffing could be an option. A drizzle of oil across the top of the stuffed mushrooms before putting them into bake will also keep things moist.

Do you think this is lucky? Like getting a double yolk egg?