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Eclecticisms: April 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down cake is one of those desserts that I absolutely love, but usually forget about. The sweetness of the pineapple is a perfect compliment to cake, and as I was baking this I found myself thinking, "Whoever came up with this idea was a wonderful human being". In case you can't tell, food is one of my favorite things.

I used another recipe from I liked that it calls for fresh pineapple, and not the canned stuff (though canned will work fine). I was never a pro at cutting pineapple- in fact when I buy them I usually cut them in chucks and eat the fruit off the rind. Fairly caveman of me I'll admit, but it gets the job done. I wasn't sure of the best way to cut a pineapple (even though my Mom showed me at one point not too long ago), so I looked it up. they realyl do have websites for everything now! I found I made sure to pick a nice and ripe pineapple, but less ripe might be easier to slice. This one was super juicy, which made for a slippery cutting board.

Start by cutting off and top and bottom of the fruit.

Stand the pineapple on it's end and slice off the rind. Go back and pick out the rind "pits" that are left behind.

While on its side, slice the fruit as thick or thin as you want.

You're ready to begin the cake!


3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 fresh pineapple - peeled, cored and cut into rings
Whipped Cream, for topping

You can pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees now, or wait until you've started getting the cake together. it was earth day, so I waited, knowing that my oven might sit at 400 for an hour with nothing in it. Not only was this a new recipe (that I had to document with pictures) but I was listening to music. I tend to stop what I'm doing and sing along. It makes baking way more time consuming that it needs to be, but even more fun!

Melt 5 1/2 Tbs of the butter.

Use a bit to coat the bottom of a 9" round cake pan.

 Combine the rest with the dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice. Pour into the pan. Add pineapple rings- you will use about 5.

Stir together the flour, salt, white sugar, and baking powder. Set aside. I love how many different shades of white you see in baking. I tried to capture 3 of them here.

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until stiff but not dry.  I'm never quite sure what this means, because I've never really felt that my egg whites are "stiff". I've replaced "stiff" with "foamy" when I cook or bake. I have no idea if I could be better, but hey, it works! There is some interesting information on this topic if you click here. Perhaps one day, I'll perfect my egg handling. I CAN poach them now!

Beat two of the egg yolks until lemony yellow. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup pineapple juice, vanilla, and remaining melted butter.

 Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Gently fold in the (foamy!) egg whites.

Pour batter over the top of the brown sugar and pineapple rings.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then cover pan tightly with a serving dish and invert so that the pineapple side is up. Do this last part over a paper towel or something... juice ran out all over my stove. I was sad to see it go. What a mess!

Slice, top with freshly whipped cream, and serve!

I made myself wait until morning to try a slice of this cake; I wanted natural night to take a picture of it in its entirety before I cut into it. Let me tell ya, it was well worth the wait. Another success!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Multi-tasking and Sugar Cookies

I was in the mood to bake tonight, but didn't want to start anything too involved. I decided to try out a basic Martha Stewart sugar cookie recipe, and they turned out pretty good. While I was making them I also was making some mushroom and broccoli pasta, and the multi-tasking wasn't too bad... except that while testing a noodle I burned my tongue and lip pretty badly. Here's how it went.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside. 

I don't usually sift my flour. I've noticed that many flours are packaged as "pre-sifted", and honestly, if I'm not using a great flour (I love King Arthur but don't always have it) I feel like it's just.... I don't know. Finer? Don't get me wrong- I'm not a flour snob (though I do tink some generic brands give you a drier dough or batter). Instead of sifting, I will often mix dry ingredients well with a fork. I've never had a problem with clumps, so it seems to work for me.

Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds.

Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice.

Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula.

I didn't realize when reading over the recipe (YES I read this one before I started!) that these were going to be pretty big cookies. I was curious about the flattening them though, as I've never heard that called for in a recipe. So, I decided to leave one as-is and see how it turned out. Yay for mini-experiments!

It was about this time that I went to stir my pasta and veggies. The noodles felt about done, so I gingerly lifted one out with my wooden spoon, watched the steam rise for a few seconds as it cooled, and lifted it to my mouth. That, my dear readers, is when the pain began. The pasta I was making was lumache, which you can see in picture to the left. (I literally just dug through my garbage to get the name of this pasta so I could really explain how I managed to do this.) These little bastards are shaped perfectly to house enough boiling water to do some damage. As I went to bite into the noodle to test it, boiling hot water came spilling out, all over my tongue and lower lip. Holy. Cow. The worst part? Now I couldn't taste any of the goodies I was making! I'm hoping for a speedy recovery, and am thankful I don't have any gross blisters. It still hurts quite a bit though, I must say.

Back to the recipe. Well, back to the recipe in theory. Martha tells us to "Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar" but I was preoccupied with keeping my food from NOT burning and focusing on the pain in my mouth. So, I unintentionally skipped that part. They turned out fine, just not fancy. Also- I planned to use raw sugar instead of sanding. Not that it matters now!

Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely.

The cookie I didn't flatten is just a little puffier and baked just fine. I'm not able to taste it though!

From what I can taste, these are good and they are super simple to make!  Better luck next time I suppose, but I would still call these cookies a "good thing".


Quotes Tuesday

I didn't do ANY baking OR blogging this weekend, and it's making me feel rather empty inside. I started on a project that involves scraping off 90 year old wall paper that has been painted over....let me tell you, it's NOT an easy task. 4 hours with 2 people and we only finished one wall! I plan to blog about that adventure when it's all done, but with the patching, sanding, scraping and painting, it might take awhile.

To help fill this blogging void, here are some quotes to enjoy (and a couple pictures I took a few years ago at The Botanic Gardens). I promise, I will be back soon with more recipes and how-to's!

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity." (I've seen several people listed as the source of this one, including George Carlin)

"A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."

-Groucho Marx

"Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision."

-Aldous Huxley

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."

-Ray Bradbury

"If you don't like what you're doing, then don't do it."

-Ray Bradbury

"He would make a lovely corpse."

-Charles Dickens

"Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire."

-Charles Dickens

“I don't wear small shoes, or tight pants that squash your balls.”
-George Harrison

"I don't like war. I particularly don't like the celebration of war, which I think the administration is a little bit guilty of."

-Neil Young

"How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity."
-William S Burroughs

"Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it."
-Jacques Prévert

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mini Post

My kitchen has quickly become on of my favorite places. It's very retro- not much has changed in probably 40 years in that room- and I love it.

I keep Mr. Bo Jangles' food on the radiator, and since he is a weirdo, after he eats he has to run his paw in his empty water dish (I never fill it because he will ONLY drink out of the dog's dish), on his food mat, and then pull at the curtains. Because of this, the hem of the curtain has started to come undone. Since I'm too lazy to fix it now (and haven't asked my Mom to do it for me yet, since I'm THAT lazy and she's a way better sewer anyways), I moved the curtains to the upper portion of the window in the meantime. I was letting the dog in the other night, and saw a brand new view of my kitchen from my back porch, which I enjoyed and wanted to share.

This is where the action takes place! (Note the droppy curtain on the left. Dumb, cat!)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eggs Florentine... aka Deliciously Tempting a Heart Attack

Eggs Florentine is one of those dishes that I have to get when it's on the menu if I'm out for breakfast, mainly because I had never made it at home, which means I've passed up lots of dishes that I'd like to try while out. The idea of poaching an egg really was a frightening idea to me. Cooking eggs in water? What? I'll let the guy in the kitchen do that for me, thank you very much. All of that changed today.

Some people like eggs over rice or noodles. I had a fried egg on rice once, and I wasn't a huge fan. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, but I like my eggs seperate and my rice with other delicious goodies. (Unless we're talking scrambled egg in thai food!) Leslie sent me a recipe today that involved an egg over noodles. I can't remember if it was poached or not, but it gave me the idea to finally trying to make eggs florentine for myself. She sent me some links to hollandaise sauce recipes (I've had the jarred stuff and wasn't impressed) and I ended up using one from The Pioneer Woman's blog. I'll tell you more about that later.

I watched several YouTube videos and read several instructions on how to poach an egg when I got home, and was surprised at all the conflicting info out there! Some people tell  you to salt the water while others tell you it is a horrible idea and that it will ruin the eggs. Some sites tell you to cover the pan and remove from heat, some tell you to keep the heat on and not cover it. Some tell you to bring the water to a boil and then bring back down to a simmer, but most have you only bring it to a simmer. I combined everything I saw and read and combined the techniques, using my own best judgement. Here's how it went.

Poaching an Egg
*I did this step last but feel that it deserves front and center attention*

Vinegar (White or Apple Cider)

Don't be afraid. It isn't as hard as it sounds, and after a bit of practice I have a feeling I'll really have this down pat! You'll probably want to watch some youtube videos to see how this is done. I only got a couple of pictures, because you really need to be focused on what you're doing and not fiddling with your camera while making these.

Fill a large sauce pan with enough water to cover eggs with 2-3 inches of water. Add vinegar, which will help coagulate the egg white. I used about 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, but I don't think it was quite enough. I'll try at least 1 Tbs next time.

Have eggs ready (Don't cook too many in one pan. 2 or 3 will work, depending on the size of  your pan) and crack the first one into a shallow bowl. You will add each egg to the water directly from this bowl, one at a time.

Bring water to a simmer, so that bubbles are just starting to come to the surface. (This is my fake-out picture. The water wasn't ready but I felt like some sort of image would be helpful!)

Swirl the water with a spoon and dip the edge of your bowl into the well that forms in the center and slide the egg out. Leave it alone for a few seconds while it sort of collects itself. You can add the other egg(s) now, but I found that the stirring method only really worked for the first one. (For me, anyways.) Not all directions I found told you to swirl the water... play around with it and see what works best for you. I will be doing the same!

Allow eggs to cook for at least 2-3 minutes on medium/high heat. When the egg is done, the white will appear firm and the yolk will still be a bit jiggly. The longer you cook the eggs, the firmer they will be. You can use the spoon to gently check that they aren't sticking while they cook. Running the spoon over the top of the water gently will help the eggs to form. You know they are almost ready when they start to float off the bottom of the pan.

When done, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg from the water, and place on a paper towel so the moisture will be removed. You don't want wet toast! It's a good idea anyways. I, on the other hand, was so worked up over my eggs at this point that I forgot to do this step. At one point I thought the yolk was leaking out and I sort of yelled at the egg. I'm a bit neurotic I suppose. I'd held the egg in the spoon long enough for pretty much all of the water to drain though, so it turned out ok.

If you are preparing the eggs ahead of time, you may keep them in ice water. The eggs will keep for 2 days in the fridge. Putting them in ice water will also stop the eggs from cooking but I skipped that part. (I do however, use that method when I make hard boiled eggs.)

Ok- here's how to make eggs florentine!


Poached Eggs
Sauteed fresh spinach
Sliced tomato (Optional... and I forgot to add it anyways. Oops!)
Hollandaise Sauce (recipe below)
English Muffin (I used sourdough)


Hollandaise Recipe

2 sticks (you read that right!) butter
3 egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Cayanne Pepper (I used about 2 tsp)

Start seperating the eggs and putting the yolks into a blender.

Juice the lemon. The recipe says to squeeze the juice right in, but I wanted it to be ready. Juicing the lemon first also ensures that you don't get a bunch of seeds in the sauce.

Melt butter in a small sauce pot

When butter is melted, turn blender on low. Slowly pour butter mixture into eggs. I had the instructions for this printed, and the pictures didn't print out. Having gone back to the website, I now see that you should take the center of the blender lid out. I had the lid off. Butter. Everywhere. Do not repeat my mistake. Ugh.

Mess, mess, mess.

Immediately add lemon juice, followed by cayanne pepper while blender is still running. I didn't do this as quickly as the recipe suggests, because at that point I had the blender covered completely with the lid. I didn't have any trouble with the consistancy (sauce with thicken a bit after sitting) but you can hold off on some of the lemon juice if your sauce is looking too thin.

Put sauce aside. (It's done!)

Now sautee the spinach in about 1 Tbs butter for about 4 minutes. It tastes better and retains more vitamins if you don't overcook it. Set aside.

Very lightly toast an English Muffin. I used two muffin bottoms, which will work out great later, because when served alone I much prefer the thinner tops. Lightly butter if desired. I don't really tink it's necessary... the sauce has enough butter in it!

Top muffin with spinach, then poached egg, then top with sauce. Use black pepper if desired.

This dish is delicious but super filling and rich! I can't wait to try poaching more eggs... and this time I won't be such a chicken about it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strawberry Bread

Yes, you read that right... strawberry bread! Strawberries have been on sale and super ripe lately, so I looked up another strawberry recipe. This bread is fantastic! It's moist, flavorful and the recipe makes two loaves, so you'll have plenty to share.

I got this one off All Recipes, which is quickly becoming a favorite site of mine!


2 cups fresh strawberries
3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans (I left these out. I don't think they're necessary!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. I used two different bread pans because I only had one of the standard size (the other was 8 x 4 1/2 x 3 1/2) ) and found that the non-standard size made a better loaf, at least in my opinion. Both were good, but the smaller one just seemed moister.

Slice strawberries, and sprinkly with about 2 Tbs sugar. Set aside (and try not to eat them all!).

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl. I tried to deviate from my "find or make a face!" and made a poor attempt at a peace sign...

Blend oil and beaten eggs into the delicious strawberries and sugar mixture. This part almost made me sad... those gorgeous berries were all oily and eggy now. Ew.

Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, and mix until batter is smooth. I've always added the dry ingredient in gradually, not the other way around... but I trusted the recipe and it worked fine!

Divide batter into pans. I also sprinkled a bit of raw sugar on the top. Yum!

The recipe says to bake for 45 to 50 minutes, but I let mine go about 65-70 minutes. After the suggested time the loaves were still a bit raw in the middle.

Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out, and cool completely. Don't try to cut into them until they're cool... I made that mistake and it was a mess!

Bon Appitite!

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Honey Bran Blueberry Muffins

There is a resturant around the corner from my work, Brett's Kitchen, and they have THE best bran muffins. I get a blueberry one at least once a week, sometimes as many as 3 or 4 times per week! I've been meaning forever to find a good bran muffin recipe and see if I can come anywhere near recreating these at home. I finally tried a recipe and it was good, but no where near the ones at Brett's. I'll have to try more recipes and see how they turn out! (Maybe I'll stop being a chicken and ask what the secret ingredient is. What's the worst they can say? "No, we can't tell you"?)

These muffins are healthy (I meant to add flax seed but forgot. Damn!) and tasty. I looked up bran (Yes, I know that  Wikipedia isn't official info, but I generally trust it) and found out that "bran is the hard outer layer of grain and consists of combined aleurone and pericarp." "Bran is particularly rich in dietary fibre and omegas and contains significant quantities of starch, protein, vitamins, and dietary minerals."

Yay, bran! The only kind I am able to find though, is cereal. I was hoping for more of a bag of grain, but ended up using Kellogg's All-Bran. I wasn't too happy about this, since there is high fructose corn syrup in it, but what can a girl do? Send me bran and I'll make you some muffins... maybe. :)

I got this recipe off Recipe Zaar.


1 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups all-bran cereal
1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
*Add flax for a healthy boost!

I have some delicious honey from an apple farm I went to last fall. It's always solid when I go to use it though, so I have to run hot water over the jar. In this case, I wanted it extra smooth, since I would be mixing it with other ingredients, so I ended up mircowaving it for a bit as well.

Grease muffin tin or use muffin cups (I used cups... less mess and easy out!).

Combine milk and lemon juice, set aside. I used a spoon (I guess you'd call it a holey spoon? It wasn't a slotted spoon, but same effect.) to catch the pesky seeds that were trying to sneak out. Watching Martha Stewart has made me realize that some ingredients can be eyed- you don't always have to use exact measurements.

Beat egg in mixing bowl with a fork; blend in oil, honey, soured milk and vanilla.

Toss blueberries in flour. The recipe doesn't call for this, but it will help the berries to not sink to the bottoms of your muffins.

Stir in cereal and blueberries; set aside.

Combine remaining dry ingredients in another bowl.

 Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. As you can tell, I did this step backwards. I'm not sure if it makes a difference...

 Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling to the top.

 Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes.

I think these are best served warm, with a bit of butter.

Check out the low calories and high fiber!
Serving Size 1 (95g)

Calories 235
Calories from Fat 83 (35%
Dietary Fiber 3.6g 14%

Makes about 10-12 muffins.


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