April 30, 2006

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes


Ingredients:

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
20 oz canned pineapple rings in 100% pineapple juice, drain and reserve juice for batter


Cake Batter:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Butter or spray (with cooking spray with flour) 10 wells in a cupcake pan. Cut a 1/2 inch chunk out of 10 pineapple slices and place the slices (not the little chunks) individually in 10 cupcake wells. They should lie flat in the pan and look like a "whole" ring again. In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour about one teaspoon of this topping into the bottom of each pineapple ring covered cupcake well. In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add the baking powder, mix briefly then add the flour alternately with the pineapple juice. Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter over each pineapple slice and bake for 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes in pan then invert over a baking rack. You may want to place parchment paper or a towel under the rack because they may drip. Serve on a plate, pineapple side up.



My thoughts:
A friend from out of town is coming over for dinner tonight with her husband and little girl and I wanted to make something fun for dessert that I could make ahead of time. I debated about making a pineapple upside down cake but cupcakes sounded more fun. All of the recipes I found called for crushed pineapple in syrup or pineapple tidbits and a basic yellow cake recipe but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. What I really wanted were cupcakes with a whole pineapple slice on top, so much prettier than just pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple. I realized that if I just took a little chunk out of each ring I could get them to lie flat in the bottom of each cupcake. I also thought that a buttery brown sugar glaze sounded more appetizing than simple heavy syrup so I made a sugar glaze, adding a bit of corn syrup to keep it from getting grainy. For the cake I made a simple cake batter substituting pineapple juice for milk for extra pineapple flavor. It's not a fluffy cake, but it has a nice texture. I created the recipe to yield ten so you shouldn't end up with much, if any, pineapple slices or bits of juice leftover. I was pleased with how well my first attempt came out. They are simple, not too sweet and very pineapple-y.

April 28, 2006

Potato Salad with Bacon and Cheddar


Ingredients:
2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup green onion, sliced (red onion is good too)
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled*

Directions:

In large saucepan, cover potatoes with water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Chill 1 hour before serving.

*the easiest way to "crumble" bacon is to use kitchen shears to cut the bacon into 1 inch chunks before you fry it.


My thoughts:
I am a firm believer that everything tastes better with bacon. This potato salad is no exception. While it is not something you'd want to eat every day (although, in the past I have subbed plain yogurt for the mayo which might make it a smidge healthier) it is good for picnics and potlucks. I have never been to an event where I've brought this and it wasn't the first thing finished on the table.

April 20, 2006

Chocolate Pie


Ingredients:
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

8 inch chocolate graham cracker crust


Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Add milk, vanilla, and cocoa and mix until smooth. Slowly fold in Cool Whip. Pour into crust and freeze at least 2 hours or over night until thoroughly frozen.



My thoughts:

I am a little ashamed to admit that I made a dessert using Cool Whip- it's really not my style at all- but it is so good! Very chocolate-y and creamy. It's a a refreshing warm weather dessert but my mom actually makes something similar at the Thanksgiving for people (like me) who do not like pumpkin pie. Any occasion can be made better with chocolate.

April 19, 2006

Black Bean Soup with Chorizo


Ingredients:
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 carrots, diced
30 oz canned black beans, with liquid
20 oz canned tomatoes with green chile
3 oz chorizo, diced
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, pepper flakes and chorizo. Cook 10-15 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add black beans and tomatoes with chile. Stir to combine. Heat through, 10-15 minutes. Serve as is or topped with sour cream and green onions.


My thoughts:

This soup smells so good when it is cooking. I love the smell of onions, celery and garlic sauteing! We were lucky enough to find some authentic chorizo at a local market and the flavor really adds to this dish. I also like that Ro-tel is now available in our area, it eliminates the need to have both canned tomatoes and canned green chile on hand. I like recipes I can make with ingredients that we normally have in the cupboard.

April 18, 2006

Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes


Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 graham cracker, smashed*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 6 cupcake pan with papers, evenly divide the graham cracker crumbs to cover the bottoms of the papers. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the sugar, cream cheese, egg, vanilla and sugar. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill each paper cup with about 3/4 cup batter. Bake 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool** in the pan for 5 minutes then remove from the pan and refrigerate them for about 40 minutes or until firm. Serve as is or garnish. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers in a tightly sealed container.


*An easy way to smash a graham cracker is to place it in a plastic bag and whack it with the back of a spoon.


**As they cool, the cheesecakes may "fall" a little bit, leaving an indentation on the top. This is perfectly normal and doesn't not effect the taste. In fact, you could even use this indentation as a place for a garnish of whipped cream or a bit of chocolate.


My thoughts:
This is truly the easiest dessert I have ever made. Total prep time from smashing the cracker to filling the pan was maybe 7 minutes. The hardest part was waiting for them to cool and set. I kept peeking in on them but they did take the full 40 minutes to cool and set up. It's worth it though, eating a tiny, creamy cheesecake with little bits of dark chocolate really perks up an evening.

April 17, 2006

Roasted Vegetables


Ingredients:
1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
4 carrots, cut in 1 in chunks
3 potatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks
1 large onion, cut in 8 pieces
1 head broccoli, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons olive oil over a 9x13 baking pan. Arrange the carrots, potatoes, onion, and brussels sprouts evenly in the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake 1/2 hour. Remove from the oven to stir and add the broccoli, then return to the oven. Bake for an additional 1/2 hour.



My thoughts:
This would be a great side dish for a roasted chicken, as you could roast them side by side, but I confess, this was our dinner. The brussels sprouts were especially good, carmelized and very flavorful! I like how easy it was to prepare the same vegetables I would normally steam in a way that makes them taste totally different. The only thing you have to do after you put it in the oven is stir once and add the broccoli. The broccoli cooks and dries out much faster than the hardier vegetables, so you really do have to add it half way through, it's better to leave it out than to cheat and add it in the beginning.

April 16, 2006

Matzo Brei



Ingredients:
5 eggs
3 1/2 pieces Everything matzo (or plain*), broken into pieces
2 tablespoons milk
salt
pepper

Directions:
In a small bowl, scramble the eggs and milk, add the broken matzo, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour into a buttered frying pan. Cook as you would scrambled eggs, keeping in mind matzo brei cooks faster due to the dryness of the matzo, about 3-6 minutes until set. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings.


*if you use plain, unflavored matzo, you may need to add more salt and pepper to counteract the blandness. Everything matzo are very flavorful and do not need as much salt or pepper.

My thoughts:

This makes a great breakfast at Passover when you are likely to have matzo in the house. We have a great source for Everything matzo (matzo flavored in a similar way to an Everything bagel) and eat it throughout the year. Even though it sounds odd to basically cook crackers into your scrambled egg, it's really quite tasty. The trick is to have the right matzo to egg ratio, too many matzo and it's too dry, too much egg and it's runny. We think have found the perfect consistancy, but of course you can play around with it. A lot of people make sweet matzo brei but neither of us are fans of sweet dishes as main courses and prefer this savory recipe.

Another fun recipe for matzo brei I created appeared in the New York Sun. Read it here.

April 13, 2006

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomato



Ingredients:
10 oz macaroni, cooked and drained
28 oz canned whole tomatoes
8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons oregano

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease or spray casserole dish. In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, shallot and garlic, cook until translucent, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach, tomatoes and oregano. Stir occasionally, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Cook about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Pour over drained macaroni. Place in alternating layers in the casserole, beginning and ending with cheese. Cook 20-30 minutes or until bubbly hot.


My thoughts:
I have really been in the mood for some retro style comfort food. It was pretty fast to make and certainly easy. I bet you could make and refrigerate this the day before baking and it would be just as good although it would take longer to bake. It's actually a fairly healthy version of mac and cheese compared to a lot of recipes that call for butter and milk/cream along with all of the cheese. The tomatoes, celery and spinach give you more than a serving of vegetables and if you use low fat cheddar, it is almost light.

April 04, 2006

Marshmallow Popcorn Balls with Chocolate Chips


Marshmallow Popcorn Balls with Chocolate Chips
Ingredients:
1 1/2 oz popped popcorn*
5 oz mini marshmallows (Campfire Brand is by far the best)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter

Directions:
Pour the popcorn in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and marshmallows, stirring occasionally**. Pour immediately over the popcorn and using a spatula, fold the popcorn over and over to combine lightly. Sprinkle in the chips, continue to fold until the popcorn is thoroughly coated. Mix carefully as not to break up the popcorn. When coated, use your finger tips to form ball shapes. Place on waxed paper and allow to cool, about 40 minutes.


*I think air popped popcorn works best, but any plain popped popped corn would work.
**A silicon spatula sprayed with cooking oil works great.


My thoughts:
A retro, low fat treat. Every Tuesday we watch Gilmore Girls (the only show we regularly watch on television) and we normally make some thing special for dinner. Tonight: homemade chicken pot pie and marshmallow popcorn balls!

April 03, 2006

Grilled Pineapple with Buttered Rum Sauce

Grilled Pineapple with Buttered Rum Sauce
Ingredients:
1 pineapple, cored and cut into 1/2 in slices
1/2 dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons butter

Directions:
Lightly spray a grill pan and heat until hot. Place pineapple slices on the grill and allow to cook 3-4 minutes on each side. When it is time to flip, you should see caramelized grill marks on the slice. If not, cook it a little longer. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the butter, rum and sugar to almost a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until it is slightly thick and can coat the back of a spoon. Whisk occasionally to insure that it doesn't separate. Serve warm.


My thoughts:
We bought some really delicious "gold" pineapple and wanted to make something special out of it. Grilling really brings out the sweetness in the pineapple. The sauce is very good and easy to make. I bet it would be good on ice cream or even made into a butter free verison.

April 01, 2006

Green Eggs & Ham


Green Eggs & Ham

Ingredients:


5 eggs
1 cup ham, diced
2 tablespoons chives, diced
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
3 drops green food coloring

Directions:

In small bowl, scramble all ingredients together, using a whisk. Pour into a hot pan (use a bit off cooking spray if needed) and continue to whisk until the eggs are set, 3-5 minutes. Plate and serve.


My thoughts:
You could eat this on a plate. We did, we did when we ate. You could eat this with some toast, you could make it as a host. Did you see how long it took, to April fool you while we cook?