June 25, 2011

pineapple upside-down cake

I have a difficult time getting my family to eat dessert that isn't all or mostly chocolate. With few exceptions, they view fruit-based desserts almost like a diet option.  Never mind the butter, sugar, cream, etc. that's usually present.  So when I mentioned that I wanted to tackle pineapple upside-down cake, Darling Husband and Sonny Bunny gave me the tilted-head look.  I had previously sold them on my carrot/pineapple cake with orange cream cheese frosting (that post is coming as soon as I can bake it again and remember to take pictures), so they were willing to endure the torture of another non-chocolate dessert.  What angels.

I adapted this recipe from a great Gourmet offering. I used good ole TN whiskey in place of the rum, and cinnamon instead of the intense cardamom.  That's what I love about baking - spices and flavorings can be whatever you want them to be.  

To me, using a cast iron skillet is essential.  It gives the cake these amazing crusty edges that work well with the liquid-infused cake.  

The cake turned out so well that all were happy and momentarily forgot about chocolate.  Mission accomplished.

Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

for topping:
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into half rings
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
12-15 fresh or jarred pitted cherries (I used Trader Joe's Morello Cherries)
for batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon whiskey
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons whiskey for sprinkling over cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Melt butter in 10” cast iron skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly until a glaze forms, around two minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture, overlapping pieces slightly.  Arrange cherries inside pineapple half rings.

Sift together flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and whiskey. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.  
Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle whiskey over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from the amazing Epicurious.com recipe.

June 10, 2011

in defense of hot dogs

Confession: I love hot dogs.  If you stumbled on this blog thinking you’re going to get posts on 10 ways to be creative with kohlrabi, I’m sorry to disappoint.  We eat hot dogs ‘round here.  We also eat veggies, lots of them, but in the summer I don’t know much better than a perfectly grilled hot dog. 
Fortunately, I recently stumbled on Applegate Farms brand of hot dogs. 

Photo credit: Applegate Farms

They’re organic, they’re nitrate/nitrite free, they’re naturally low fat (just 90 calories & 6 fat grams each) and best of all (to me), the company is based in New Jersey.  This girl was born down the Shore, and proud of it.
Don’t worry – Nashville is my home sweet home, and I love to support local products.  In fact, we enjoyed these hot dogs for a recent weeknight dinner, and topped them with Mista Dale’s spicy mustard slaw.  Developed in a home kitchen by a man who loves food, the slaw is tangy, crunchy and just a little spicy.  It’s a nice change from the typical relish or kraut, and it’s healthy since there’s mustard instead of mayo to bind it. 
So there you have it.  I love hot dogs…and perhaps the most important reason?  They’re a super quick meal.  Serve them with some fresh fruit, and within 30 minutes you can be finished with dinner and doing what you love.
We did just that this week and we all scarfed one down (yes, we scarf in our family), leaving plenty of time for this:

It’s an organic process, and eating the things I love doesn’t have to mean eating over-processed. 
PS – Applegate Farms didn’t sponsor/promote/bribe me in any way to write this.  I just really love the product.  They don’t even have any idea I wrote this, though if they stumble upon it and want to send me some coupons, I won’t complain.