Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pineapple Pecan Upside Down Cake

Being a Hawaii girl, I approve of all things pineapple, even spam-and-pineapple over rice, but that is another matter altogether. Please don't challenge me ever.

And so I set out to make a fabulous pineapple upside-down cake for Easter supper, wanting a different kind of dessert, something flavorful and Spring-like. I think I managed all very handily. (Recipe
adapted from here.) The cake was moist, light and sweet with a nice after taste of rum, vanilla and almond. It was also easy (cooked in the same skillet in which you melt the butter and sugar) and truly delicious. I also liked the use of pecans as opposed to cherries (a trend I find kind of harftastic), and will in fact be making this in the future without the pineapple and with the pecans, for a nice and simple coffee cake.

Needless to say everyone at the table raved...mainly because they knew they'd better, but also because it really was fabulous. My grade: A

Pineapple Pecan Upside Down Cake


1/2 ripe medium pineapple, peeled, cored, eyes removed and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds (about 4 or 5 slices)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
14 pecan halves
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tablespoon dark rum


Melt 3/4 stick of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the sugar mixture is bubbly, about 2 minutes. Arrange pineapple slices in the skillet in a pleasing pattern and continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until the sugar mixture turns an amber color. Arrange the pecan halves in the spaces between the rings. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 1/2 cup butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in 3 batches, mixing at low speed after each addition until just combined. Stir in the vanilla, almond extract and rum.

Spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices in the skillet. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool the cake in the skillet on a wire rack for 4 minutes only. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and, wearing oven mitts and working quickly, invert the cake onto a cake plate, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together. Carefully lift the skillet off cake and replace any fruit stuck to the bottom of the skillet, if necessary. Arrange the fresh cherry halves, cut side down, into the top of the cake, in the center of the pineapple rings.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hr 20 minutes (approx)
Serves: 6 - 8

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Copy-cat Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine Recipe

One of the most addictive things for me is the Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine smoothies. You probably know the ones -- extremely overpriced but oh so nom-nom-nom. Anyway, I found a copy-cat recipe for this marvelous drink and thought I'd post it here for both myself and anybody else who'd like to try it. (They're fab!)

Orange Dream Machine Smoothie Recipe:


2 scoops frozen vanilla yogurt
2 scoops orange sherbet ice cream
1/2 cup low-fat milk (soy or rice is fine)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/8 cup - 1/2 cup of ice (not too much is needed)


Add all ingredients to blender and, well...blend.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 5 minutes
Serving: 1

Monday, March 17, 2008

Slow Cooked Apple Roast Pork

While I delight in beef and chicken, my absolute favorite meat has to be pork. Barbecued pork, pork Asian-style, pork roast: you name it and by God, I'll eat it. And so because I love it so much, I am often looking to find or create a new recipe that will make my beloved piggy sing. By the rave reviews received from various members of my household, I think I may have done just that.

This slow cooked pork is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy and full of beautiful apple-infused flavor. It is basically a bone-in roast pork cooked slowly in a flavorful apple-brown gravy, a concept both Midwestern and divine. I happened to cook mine in my slow cooker but this can easily be placed into a Dutch oven and cooked for about 3 (or more) hours at 325 degrees for about the same results.

What kind of results? Fabulous results. My grade: A

Slow Cooked Apple Roast Pork


For the Sauce:

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
32 ounces low-sodium pork stock (if you do not have pork stock, try beef or chicken)
  • You may want to use up to 64 ounces of stock, depending on consistency of sauce and amount desired to turn into gravy after roast is cooked. Make sure consistency is not too thick but also not too thin. If anything, err on the thin side.
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 - 2 pork bouillon (or beef) (check for saltiness before adding second bouillon)
1 yellow onion, sliced in wedges
3 cloves minced garlic (we are garlic people and put up to five cloves and are very happy with it)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (build with salt, starting with half teaspoon and working up)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

+ 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1/3 cup water, to be used after roast is cooked

Melt butter in pot big enough to contain amount of broth called for. When melted add flour and mix, making sure there are no lumps. Once mixed add broth gradually, continuing to mix to make sure there are no lumps. Once mixed add apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, onions, minced garlic, bouillon, salt and pepper. Test at all times for roundness of flavor. Add more salt and pepper, if needed, or more Worcestershire (though careful here, it has a distinct flavor). Start slowly on the salt and bouillon and build upward to desired taste.

Cook mixture until flavors are blended, about ten to fifteen minutes.

For the Roast:

4 pound bone in pork roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 teaspoon fresh thyme)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in frying pan. Add pork roast and brown on both sides until meat is golden brown. Remove from pan and place in slow cooker or Dutch oven. Rub with minced garlic and then sprinkle with Kosher salt, black pepper and thyme. Reserve.

Pour sauce mixture over reserved pork roast. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 6 - 8 hours, depending on cooker. If using Dutch oven, cook for 3 hours (or more) at 325 degrees.

Once roast is finished, pull out pork and pour sauce through sieve into pot. The sieve should catch all onions, which should then be placed back over pork. At this point pork can be shredded if you prefer to eat it that way.

In pot with sauce, add cornstarch dissolved into water gradually and heat, stirring constantly until sauce becomes a thickened gravy. Taste always; season if needed. When at desired thickness, serve on the side as gravy or pour directly over roasted pork and onions and serve.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes plus 6 - 8 hours
Serves: 5 - 6

Fan-freaking-tastic Carrot (with Pineapple) Cake. I am SERIOUS.

I just love carrot cake. It's not that chocolate and vanilla cakes are bad, they're just kind of ... pedestrian. Common. I like a cake with some refinement, with some class. Yes, what I'm saying is that I like my cake with a little bit of jazz hands.

Carrot cake has been my favorite since childhood. I perpetually requested it for my birthday cake and we used to buy the Oregon Farms boxed version like crazy people. My mother never made it from scratch, and now after having made my own, I can't imagine why. It's not tough and plus, it's nine million times better. Even if you hate baking, or if everything you try turns out dry and flaky and off, try this recipe anyway, particularly if you like carrot cake. It's a combination of two great recipes and it's rich. It's moist. The cream cheese frosting is easy and to die for. I'm serious. I wanted to stuff my entire head right into this cake and stay there forever. My grade: A+

Carrot (with Pineapple) Cake



3 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (I actually make mine closer to a puree, because my family doesn't like to actually KNOW they are eating carrots and therefore cannot actually SEE any.)
1/2 cup diced pineapple (I make a puree out of this, as well)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Non-stick baking spray, like Pam

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans with non-stick spray and set aside. Cream butter in mixer. Add the sugar and beat. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make sure to mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the eggs (one egg at a time). Mix well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix. Add carrots and pineapple and beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Fold in the nuts. Divide evenly between the 2 cake pans and bake until set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove from the pans, and let cool.

For Frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar slowly, beating constantly. Add the vanilla. (Pecans can also be added to frosting mixture if you like. I don't do this because I don't like nutty frostings.)

When cake is cool, place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread the top with cream cheese frosting and then top with the second cake layer. Spread the icing on top and around the sides of the cake and let harden slightly before serving.

Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 8 - 10

Green Beans with Garlic and Shallots

This is a perfect side dish recipe. I love it with all roasts, all casseroles, even by itself. I use fresh green beans only because frozen or canned are not from Jesus. Add some crispy fried pancetta to the mixture too, if you're looking for something different and are feeling like Giada. Note too that my shallots are pretty dang caramelized, but that's because that's how I like them. If you like them less golden, by all means, YOU DO YOU.

Green Beans with Garlic and Shallots


1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and washed
3 large shallots, sliced or chopped, depending on size desired
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Blanch green beans by boiling in water for approximately 1 - 3 minutes. Remove immediately and plunge into ice bath (a bowl filled with ice and water, which will stop the cooking process immediately). Leave in ice bath for a minute or so and then drain and reserve. (Blanching preserves texture, color and flavor of vegetables and is a preferred method of preparation.)

In pan heat up olive oil, adding sliced shallots and cooking until caramelized, about 5 - 10 minutes. Toward last two minutes of cooking add minced garlic and incorporate. When finished remove shallots and garlic from pan and place into bowl. Reserve.

Add one more tablespoon olive oil to pan and heat up. Add green beans and saute for four minutes. Add salt and saute another 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from heat and combine garlic and onions with green beans, mixing. Serve hot.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Cheese-Inside Cheesyburgers (Oh My God!)

Again, and this should go without saying: I am a Food Network Junkie. Certifiable. I watch all the hosts except maybe one or two that I simply cannot stand (I'm sorry but...Alton Brown? Manic! Insane! Slow down!) and am presently really enjoying Guy Fieri. You know him; he's the guy from Guy's Big Bite with the spiked white hair and a hankering for dude-food and big cocktails. The kind of guy I would like, right?

Anyway, I was watching Guy on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and just happened to see a couple of guys in Minnesota prepare what looked to be the best freaking cheeseburger in the world. Big, thick, packed with juice and what looked like flavor, these guys placed a big ol' hunk of cheese in the center of their patty as opposed to topping the patty with cheese after the fact. And oh my God.

I wanted to get into my car and go to St. Paul immediately, but given the price of gas these days and plus the fact that hello it's winter in Minnesota, I decided to try to make these fabulous burgers myself. I made sure to buy ground chuck with good fat content to insure juiciness, but also mixed it with ground sirloin which I knew would pack that wonderful flavor. And WOW, were they good. My grade: A+

Cheese-Inside Cheesyburgers


2 parts 80/20 ground chuck to 1 part 90/10 ground sirloin (I used 2 lbs to 1 lb)
1 - 3 cloves of garlic (one clove for each pound of meat used)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 ounces cheese of choice per burger (about 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches long) we used cheddar, pepper jack and American)
Hamburger buns, store bought, your favorite
1 tablespoon olive oil
Hamburger garnishes (lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, mustard, you know the drill)


Mix first four ingredients in large bowl. Salt and pepper is dependent upon amount of meat used. Needless to say seasoning is essential, meaning too little salt = bland while too much salt = inedible. Ride the lightning, my friends, and make the right choice for the amount of meat you have.

Pat down a thin, large patty with burger mixture and place hunk of cheese in the center of the patty. Pat another thin, large patty of equal size, and place it on top of the existing patty with cheese. Mold together, sealing ends. (Slapping the patty back and forth in your hands is the easy way to do this.) Fry in cast iron pan or atop grill until cooked to specification. Don't know how to judge when a hamburger is done? Read this.

While burgers are cooking, heat olive oil in griddle or frying pan atop stove. Toast hamburger buns until golden brown or desired coloration/texture is achieved.

When burgers and buns are finished, assemble with garnishes and EAT. Just EAT and EAT and EAT.

Difficulty: Extremely easy
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 8 + depending on size of burgers (and based on 3 lbs of meat)

Toasted Onion Mashed Potatoes

Another side dish I kind of just want to slather all over my body. I'm sorry, but mashed potatoes are the bomb. And bland mashed potatoes are ridiculous! Yet how many times have we all eaten them? Or else they come straight out of a box which is particularly gagtastic. Make your own mashed, people, and don't forget the butter and salt.

Look, if you're going to have mashed potatoes in the first place, you've already basically psychically agreed to put on some weight, am I right? So why not just go whole hog? Add that whole stick of butter (I know, I said it), add that salt, add that heavy whipping cream. Because trust me, you'll love these potatoes. LOVE THEM. My grade: A+ plus nine +s

Toasted Onion Mashed Potatoes


4 - 5 extra large Russet potatoes, peeled, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoon + Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (add to taste)
1 - 2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Peel and chop potatoes and place them in pot. Cover with water plus one inch and cook until done, which is when fork or knife slides through potato effortlessly. Turn off heat and reserve, undrained.

In pan, add two tablespoons unsalted butter and melt. When melted add 1 - 2 cups chopped onions and cook until truly toasted -- which means fully caramelized and golden -- about ten minutes.

Drain potatoes and place them into bowl. Add caramelized onions, and all other ingredients except heavy whipping cream. Mash potato mixture and then slowly begin adding heavy whipping cream until desired consistency is reached.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 - 6