home cooking

Pineapple Upside-down cake

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I will confess right now, I had never made a pineapple upside-down cake ever in my life.  But my father in law had a birthday and I asked the Hubby what kind of cake would his mom make for birthdays, and this is what he came up with.  You know how loathe I am to use anything out of cans, and more of these recipes call for a boxed cake, again, something I refuse to do!  So I did a little research, and came up with a hybrid of several recipes, and the verdict was “It’s delicious!”, which really was all I could have asked for.

My only issue here was that the batter seemed way too thick, so I thinned it with 2 tablespoons of whole fat milk.  Take my advice, don’t be tempted to do that.  The cake, while very good, was so moist, I couldn’t get a slice to hold together at all.  Perhaps that was also due to the fact that I was forced to use fresh pineapple.  I went to several different stores in search of the canned rings, but to my amazement, I couldn’t find any, so the local fruit and veg store cored me a fresh one.  I wanted to get super cute with the bottom/top of the cake, and so you’ll see the multiple cherries and bits and pieces of pineapple strewn all over.  No need for you to do that, basic is usually best.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Top/Bottom

  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • sliced pineapple (6-8 slices, reserve the juice)
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries

Cake

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup reserved pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Pour melted butter into a 9-inch pie dish or 9×2 inch round cake pan, turn the pan so the bottom and sides are covered with butter. Sprinkle brown sugar to coat, turning and tapping the pan as you go. Top with pineapple slices and arrange cherries between the pineapple slices.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir well to combine.  Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, pineapple juice, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick, don’t let that scare you.
  4. Pour the batter over the prepared pineapple lined pan.  Smooth over the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, this will be the bottom of the finished cake.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil if it starts to brown too quickly. Remove the pan from the oven when it’s uniformly browned on top and there isn’t any wiggle when you shake the pan.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack.
  5. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake, and invert cake on a cake stand or a large serving plate. Slice and serve warm, room temperature, or even cold. The covered cake will store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Not too hard, and definitely delicious!

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home cooking

Blogging 101

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I am part of the Blogging 101 team on WordPress this season, and our charge today is to write about our blog and why we write.  Here we go!

I write a public blog rather than in a journal because I want feedback, and I never could understand the point of a journal that no one else reads.  As I have said many times, my passion is to help others realize that cooking, while being a bit of chemistry, isn’t rocket science.  Not by a long shot! There are basic techniques that need to be learned, but that’s pretty much it.  You don’t need fancy machines in most cases, and no gadgets.  A few good knives, a cutting board and one or two basic pots and pans and you can pretty much do anything.

That’s it pretty much.  I have loved to cook since as long as I can remember, from being a little tiny child making pudding on my mom’s kitchen floor, to discovering Julia Child at 10 or 12, to cooking my first meal (can you believe, Coq au Vin, with chicken backs??), to  my first wedding cake, to my second, to cooking for my friends, then my husband, then his family and my co-workers.  It’s a life long love, and I aim to keep on going.

This year, I’d like to get more into the writing swing, and maybe even get better at it, and the topics I post.  Who knows how successful I will be?

Thanks for reading dears, and here’s to a New Year!

E

 

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home cooking

Bolognese for Vegetarians and Meat Eaters!

onion celery carrot mush

I find myself in a flurry of cooking and great ideas recently.  Mainly, I am all about cooking so that we have food during the week, and I don’t have to cook, or get takeout each night.  With that being said, I usually cook like it’s a job, sometimes taking photos for blogging and then forgetting to post it all, getting lost in the cooking and not enjoying the results.  My pledge has always been to remember to enjoy the cooking, not just doing it by rote.

A few weeks ago, I had another opportunity to cook with some colleagues, as a part of their year end retreat.  They looked at it as a cooking lesson, I looked at it as an opportunity to show friends that cooking isn’t all that hard and certainly even without the gear you see on TV and in the stores, you can make a serious dish, and make it easily.  So, we learned how to make pasta, without the rollers, by hand.  We did a white mushroom lasagna I made here.  We also made a tomatoes based lasagna with Swiss chard, and no-boil, store bought pasta.  Hands down, the homemade was the winner.  A few days later, one of the colleagues told me she made two dishes with the pasta recipe we made, and they were both excellent.  Mission accomplished!  I wish I had taken photos, but it’s hard to remember while you’re showing other people how to do something!  I’d love to have the opportunity to do that again and again, and get people cooking from scratch!

Another sweet thing that happened over the holidays, was that I gave my youngest niece the childhood cook book that I talked about in a past post (here). She was delighted, and wanted to know how old I was when I got the book.  I am pretty sure I was between 8 and 10, she is 7 by the way, and she seemed happy with that answer.  She then told me she was making one of the recipes in Play-Doh!  That’s a good start!  I look forward to choosing a few of the recipes and cooking them with her!

Which leads me to the recipe in the blog title.  Hubby is vegetarian, I am not, and I increasing find myself cooking separate dishes for both of us, which is double the work!  I can’t do the soy for dietary reasons,  and he can’t do meat.  So, when I found this recipe for white Bolognese, I realized we could have pretty much the same dinner, with the same flavors, and satisfy both of our dietary deals!  The full recipe is below, with the vegetarian options alongside the meaty ones.  It was spectacular, and this time, I just relaxed and allowed the satisfaction of cooking to take over!

The recipe calls for rigatoni, which honestly is the best pasta, with it’s ridges and places for sauce to gather!  You can use any pasta, for example pappardelli would be fab, Fettuccine too, even macaroni would do in a pinch, so experiment with what you have on hand.  Admittedly, I did have a lot of the ingredients on hand for both versions.  The base of the sauce is an onion/carrot/celery mush, but again, you can vary it depending upon what you have in the fridge, for example if you don’t have onion, use garlic, or add in some.  Definitely don’t skip the celery if you can manage it, it’s a flavor that adds a lot in the background.  You can add all kinds of herbs, as I did to duplicate the flavor profile on the vegetarian version.  For my Vegetarian version, I added dried fennel, since I couldn’t find vegetarian sausage flavored crumbles.  Here we go!

White bolognese:

 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1/8ths)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 6
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 6
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mild/sweet Italian pork sausage meat (1 bag of vegetarian crumbles, you can get Morningstar, or Quorn in the freezer section)
  • 1 pound ground beef (omit for vegetarian version)
  • (for Vegetarian version add in 1 tsp ground fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and some red pepper flakes of you like)
  • 1 ½ cups dry Italian white wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water (use 2 cups warmed up veggie broth instead)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (don’t skimp!)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other pasta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

The easy way to start this is to add the onion, carrots and celery to your food processor and pulse until they’re finely ground, but you can still recognize the vegetables.  The hard way is to finely chop them all by hand, it’s up to you!

In a large heavy bottomed pot, add enough olive oil so the bottom of the pan is covered completely with a thin film (about 2 tablespoons).  Warm this on medium for about 1 minute, watching so it doesn’t start to smoke or burn, then add in the pulverized vegetables and raise the heat slightly and saute them.  While stirring, add in a pinch of salt and several good grinds of pepper, or about 1/8 tsp of both, and if you’re making the Vegetarian version, add in the fennel, basil, oregano and pepper flakes.  When everything is translucent and fairly soft, but not colored, tip in the 2 meats and saute until cooked through, breaking it up as you go so they are in small pieces, about the size of an olive.  You will want to again raise the heat slightly but not to high.  If you’re using the Veggie crumbles, do the same, and stir them around until everything is well combined and the crumbles are completely defrosted and heated through.

The meat mixture will give off a great deal of liquid, so when you’re sure everything is fairly cooked through (probably 15 minutes on medium high) turn the heat all the way up and stir until the juices are reduced, almost dry.  Be very careful here, if the sides of the pan start to burn (as mine usually does)  turn the heat down slightly and allow for more reduction time. Once you can see the bottom of the pan while stirring, add in the broth/water and bullion, bring the pot to a boil (this goes for both versions), and start to stir again.  Once you’re confident everything is well combined, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to cook gently, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  Allow it to bubble away until the liquid is again, almost dry.  For the Vegetarian version, this should be between 15 – 20 minutes.  For the meat version this may take up to an hour.  Again, when you stir and see the clean bottom of the pan, you’re ready to go.  When you’re at this point, take the pot off the heat, add in the cream, stir well and keep covered off the heat but still on the stove.  Taste the sauce, it should be highly seasoned, but adjust it to your liking.

Make your pasta according to the package directions, and your taste. I would start the water to boil half way through the final reduction period, you can always cover it and allow it to keep a simmer until you add the cream to the sauce.  When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.  If the pasta looks dry, add enough of the pasta liquid and stir, you may not use all the water.  The big trick here is to stir like mad once you add the water, so that it is completely amalgamated into the pasta and sauce.  It won’t effect the taste at all, but will make it more silky if too dry.  When you serve, pass around the cheese and chow down!

This recipe is a little time consuming, but completely easy, and so delicious!  Yum!

 

 

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brownies, chocolate, favorite chocolate, Holiday cooking, home cooking, homemade desserts, Nigella Lawson, pudding, vegetarian, winter desserts

Easy chocolate cake for the New Year!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

My messy, frosted cake!

Below you will find a seriously good, slightly unusual chocolate cake, and the best buttercream frosting I have been able to figure out how to make!  It’s a little labor intensive, it’s easier to just grab a Betty Crocker box and take the short cut, but it’s SO much better to make your own!  Normally I shy away from buttercream, but I figured out the perfect way to make it light and delicious without the grittiness I usually get!

I did steal this one, but made the adjustments that get the cake to be super silky and very dense.  Check it out below and let me know what you think!

Fudge Cake:

  • 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • ½ cup corn oil
  • 1 ¼ cups chilled water

Fudge icing:

  • 6 oz chocolate, melted and at room temperature
  • 18 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

You’ll need 3 mixing bowls for the cake, and a stand mixer or hand held mixer for the cake and icing.  It’s a lot but it’s necessary, I found out the hard way!

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour two 8 inch cake tins, round or square are fine.  In a medium sized bowl combine all the ingredients for the cake up to but not including the eggs.  Use a fork to combine them and set aside.  In a small bowl, or a measuring jug, combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract, combine well and set aside.  (*quick note here, please, please use good extract, and not artificial essence.  That will quickly lose it’s flavor.  To make your own, 2 cups good vodka or bourbon in a Mason jar, and one vanilla pod, pushed down to cover with the alcohol.  Let it stand for a few days, you’ll see the change in color almost immediately.  Keep in a dry cool place and shake every few days.  After about 2 weeks,  you’ll have good extract.  You can keep it forever, and feed it more alcohol as you use it up!)

In the third bowl, if you have a stand mixer, use that bowl, combine the vegetable oil and melted butter and beat them together like mad.  When they look fairly amalgamated, add in the water and again beat like mad.  Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour mixture.  Mix until well combined, then add in the sour cream mixture.  Don’t do it out of order, or skip a step and add all the dry ingredients to the wet, do the two additions of dry then the sour cream, that will make the cake dense and rich.  If you short cut it, you’ll end up with a flat hard cake (my husband said it “hurt” his mouth to eat, but it was still delicious!)  Stir all well to combine and divide up in to the two pans.  Tap the filled pans on the counter lightly to release any air bubbles and put them in the oven.  They will bake for 50 – 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Once fully baked, cool the pans on a rack, and when fully cooled, either wrap well with plastic wrap and save until ready to frost, or just start frosting them.  It’s critical they are completely cooled.

For the frosting, you’ll have to do a little forward planning.  Critical step number one is to allow the butter to come fully to room temperature well in advance.  I usually take it out of the fridge the night before I make it and let them wrapped sticks sit overnight and most of the following day.  When you’re ready to make the frosting, plop the butter into the mixing bowl and beat it like mad, for longer than you even think necessary.  Once it’s pretty light and looks whipped, start adding in the confectioners sugar one big spoonful at a time.  This is going to take a while. Critical step number 2, once the sugar is fully incorporated, once again, beat like mad.  In doing so, you’re not only adding air, you’re also allowing the sugar to dissolve more in the liquid in the butter.  It’s not going to curdle, the sugar also acts as a stabilizer, so beat away.  At this stage, I let it sit for a good 20  minutes, beat it again, then add in the vanilla, and then the completely cooled chocolate.  And one more time beat like mad.  Stop occasionally to scrape down the bowl and beater, as you beat it, the color will be come lighter, and the texture will be very fluffy.  Once you’re sure it’s all combined, time to frost!

Find the plate or cake stand you’ll be serving on, and set the cake on strips of wax or parchment paper, like so with the rounded top side down (borrowed from the Betty Crocker site):

Betty Crocker frosting

Dab a tiny bit of the frosting under the cake on the plate to hold it in place. Use about 1/3 of the frosting on the top of the cake, and leave a 1/4 inch border around the edge, for expansion when you put the second layer down.  Next layer should be humped side up. Use the rest of the frosting to ice the remaining cake, including the sides, and once you’re done, remove the paper strips, and you’ll have a clean presentation!

Of course, you can change up all the flavors of the cake by changing the vanilla extract to something else, and also replacing the water in the cake with a fruit juice, or a liqueur.  If you do, just watch the baking time and test slightly earlier than 50 minutes.

Happy New Year all!  Go forth and bake!!

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