Intermezzo – July 4, Independence Day and a Picnic

July 4th came up soooo suddenly!
HALF of the year is already gone as Kentucky moves into summer.
A friend always invites us to his family gatherings and they always have fantastic food.  So this time I wanted to contribute something more than just a snack platter from Meijer. 
Thus two dishes: Cheesy Green Bean Casserole and Lobster Deviled Eggs!

Cheesy (Cheezy? 😁) Green Bean Casserole
A staple of family get-togethers, I decided to make the green bean casserole something that was my own.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
48 ounces fresh green beans
1 large carrot
1/4 large onion
8 ounces of your favorite cheese (I used Monterey-Jack since we were out of gorgonzola or cheddar.)
1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Celery soup
1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 container French’s Crispy Fried Onions

Directions: (really siimple)
Preheat oven to 350⁰F.
Start by rubbing the sesame oil into the 3 quart (3L) baking dish with butter.  Be sure to rub the sides of the dish.
Cut the fresh green beans, French-style.
Actually, this went pretty quickly after the first two (or you can purchase these canned).
Mince the carrot.  I just used my Cuisinart Smart Stick Grinder.
Slice and saute the onion until brown or clarified.
Grate the cheese.
Put the beans, onions and carrots into your dish.
Add the soups and mayonnaise and stir thoroughly.
Bake for 30 minutes after which add the cheese and cover the top with the fried onions.
Bake for five more minutes, and it’s done!

Lobster Deviled Eggs
I kept it simple even with the Lobster Deviled Eggs.  Anita cannot handle spices and is allergic to any kind of bell pepper, including paprika.  So I divided the eggs into two batches.

Ingredients:
One dozen large or extra-large eggs
8-10 ounces of frozen lobster meat; ground up
1/4 cup ground dill pickles (or relish) drained
1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ground olives drained
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
sprinkles of parsley flakes and paprika

Directions:
Hard boil the eggs and cool. If you boil them lying flat in a large pan or frying pan, the yolk will distribute better so you will not have some with very thin edges of white.  For ease I boiled the eggs the night before so they were in the fridge the next morning.
Peel and slice the eggs in half. 
Combine half the lobster meat and dill pickles and add half the egg yolks.
Add the yellow mustard and 1/4 cup mayonnaise and mash together with a large fork.
Spoon into the whites and set aside.
Combine the other half of the lobster meat with olives and add the the other egg yolks.
Add the Dijon mustard and the other half of the mayonnaise and mash together with any left over from the first batch.
Spoon into the remaining whites.
Add parsley flakes to the pickle set and paprika to the olive set.
If you boil an extra egg or two when you boiled the eggs, you can claim “cook’s privilege” and gobble up a couple for “testing.” 😉  The leftover filling can make a nice dip for crackers or chips.

Watch the fireworks and enjoy the food.

Intermezzo: “Traditional” New England Boiled Dinner

So THIS is how you make a traditional New England Boiled Dinner (🙄), which I have never done before!  I lived in R.I. for eight years and no one ever served this nor had I heard of it.  I copied the recipe from a new friend, Dorothy, and then made some variations that make it very different from her “traditional” NEBD, but it is still delicious.  Basically, you just throw any and all veggies and meat together in a cooking pot, slow cooker, or pressure cooker and call it your own “Traditional New England Boiled Dinner.” 😁  Dorothy is from Vermont, though, so hers is the real McCoy and worth checking out!   (Do they even have McCoys in New England?  That may just be a KY/TN phenomenon.🤠)

As always, gather your ingredients before you begin, to make sure you have everything you want for any recipe.  But this one is almost “anything goes” so it may not matter as much

New England Boiled Dinner
1 quart stock broth (veggie, chicken or beef)
1-1/4 pound beef brisket (really want to try this with lamb shank next time! 😋)
1/4 cup lentils
1/2 large onion chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon butter
==================
1/2 head of cabbage
2 large carrots
3 medium potatoes
1 meduim bok choy (or Swiss chard)
1 Roma tomato
3 or 4 Portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup Snap peas (or green beans)
2 fresh large beets (or a 15 ounce can not drained)
10 ounces (50 mL) ketchup
6 bay leaves
1 ounce lemon juice

Directions:
Put the broth in a medium saucepan with the onion, lentils, olive oil and butter to precook these ingredients.  Heat for about 20 minutes until onion begins to clarify.  I use Royal Prestige Waterless Cookware, so I cannot look inside until the whistle blows at 180⁰F (82⁰C), but this is about the time it took for mine to cook in the smaller saucepan.
If you like garlic, you can add a minced clove in the pot at this step as well.

Prepare the rest of the vegetables, cutting the cabbage into large slices, coining the carrots, chopping the potatoes into large chunks, slicing the bok choy, tomato, and mushrooms.  If you are using fresh beets, cut them into large chunks.

After the broth has clarified the onion, transfer to a slow cooker and put the potatoes on the bottom and then pile on most of the other veggies.  Put the meat with the bay leaves on top, and top with the remaining veggies.  Put in the ketchup and lemon juice.  (The tomato and ketchup can be replaced by tomato sauce.)  Add additional broth or water as much as you will need to cover about 3/4 of the dinner.

Put the slow cooker on high for a faster time (I went for two hours), or if you are preparing earlier in the day, you can simmer it on low for as long as you like, until poking a potato is easy.  I used our Royal Prestige Cookware 4 quart Dutch Oven with a Slow Cooker Base

IMG_2553 You can spoon the broth over the victuals, or you can serve it like a stew, but we think the broth makes a great stand-alone soup.
The leftovers from a New England Boiled Dinner are traditionally used for breakfast or supper, reincarnated as Red Flannel Hash, if there are any leftovers!  In my case this recipe made SO much for just the two of us, we had NEBD for four nights and one brunch!!  But I am not complaining. 😋  But next time, I will cut the recipe down substantially to accommodate just a couple meals.

Red Flannel HashRed Flannel Hash:  Afterward if you want some variation on the NEBD, dice up the leftover vegetables and sauté in olive oil over medium high until the vegetables begin to dry out.  Serve with an egg on top!  One dish, two New England traditions!  Bon appétit. 😉

Intermezzo: Fresh Strawberry/Walnut Cupcakes and Strawberry Butter Frosting

Well, spring WAS in the air . . . until Monday morning, when Anita and I started to go on our first of two one-mile walks.  We stepped outside without having checked the weather app, and immediately ran back inside!  The 55-60⁰F (13-15⁰C) temps we enjoyed on Sunday were gone, and the 40⁰F (4.5⁰C) bluster was blowing down to a 32⁰F (FREEZING) wind chill.  So after putting on our winter coats and Mongolian hats, we headed back out.  “There’s no such thing as too cold; only inadequate clothing!” (Ron Gifford, Canadian) 😁

So that has nothing to do with this “food blog” today.  Sunday afternoon the “baking bug” bit me again as I was ogling the strawberries Anita had bought, and wondering if I should try another pie or something new.  Thinking of the pie as more of a wintery treat, I decided on cupcakes, but with some idiosyncratic attempts to make them “my own.”  (Some would say “idiotic” but we’re not listening to them! 😂)  This blog, btw, comes on the heels of Smitha’s Bake Love’s blog which has such fantastic floral buttercream cupcakes that I could almost taste them on the computer screen.  Please read about my cupcakes before visiting her site, as once there you will find delicious cakes, breakfasts, breads, cookies, and even soups, salads and almond milk and you may never leave!  She politely tried to encourage me as a beginner, but I guess that’s what happens when you see what the pros can do 😞.

As usual, start with getting everything together to make sure you have what you need.  Yields 12 cupcakes.

  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour (300 mL)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (5 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (65 grams)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (120 mL)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (2.5 mL)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (60 mL)
  • 3/4 cup medium chopped strawberries (180mL)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (120 mL)

   

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (175⁰C).
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar together at medium speed until it is as fluffy as the sugar will let it get.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with each stage of the beating.
Add the first egg, blending it completely for at least one minute.  After it is fully blended, add the second and thoroughly blend it as well, again scraping the sides.  Beat for at least one additional minute on medium speed.

Add about 1/3 of the dry flour mixture and beat at medium speed to fully mix.
Follow this with about 1/2 of the milk and again beat to fully mix.
Repeat with the remaining dry mixture and milk, and beat until the batter is smooth.
Add the walnuts and then gently fold in the strawberries without beating.

 

Spoon into lined a muffin tin pan, filling each cup about 3/4 to 4/5 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops are cracking and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing.

Cook’s privilege. 😉

For the Strawberry Butter Frosting you will need:
1/2 cup of pureed strawberries
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners)
3/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

Directions:  While the cupcakes are cooling, place the strawberries and brown sugar in a blender to puree.  I tried to use my Cuisinart Smart Stick chopper, but it was not nearly fine enough, so I put it in the Osterizer blender and pulsed it to thoroughly puree it.

If you want reeeally smooth frosting, press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve before heating, but since the only sieve I have as yet is not very fine, I just put the mixture into the saucepan over medium heat for five minutes.  Once it begins bubbling, stir very frequently to constantly to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The puree should reduce to about 1/3 cup. (Note: in my picture I made waaaay too much because I started with 1-1-2 cup of chopped strawberries! 😱)
After removing from heat, cool the mixture completely in the refrigerator or freezer.

Beat the butter and powdered sugar together with the vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy.
Once the puree is cold, add it to the butter mixture and beat on high speed for three minutes or until it is very fluffy.
If it is too thin gradually add more powdered sugar until it reaches a slightly firm consistency.  Remember, it will set a little more when it is refrigerated and the butter congeals.
However, if it is too thick, thin it down by adding little by little a few drops of milk.
Spread the frosting on the cupcakes and enjoy!  If you want it really fancy like Smitha’s Bake Love, you will have to get an icing pipe with its various tips which I do not have yet.
Since fresh strawberries are in the mixes, the cupcakes should be refrigerated.  If you have leftover frosting (and I had a LOT!), store it in the fridge as well and use if for buttering toast or spreading on bagels.

I topped each of the cupcakes with a strawberry that had been marinated with sugar for an hour.
Since Anita does not care for sweets much, I left half the cupcakes unfrosted, but actually the strawberry butter is not too sweet, certainly not as sweet as Anita. 😊

The End of the Deep Freeze and a Warm Supper of Cauliflower Rice and Salmon

Today I am going to share a recipe I “stole” from BeautyBeyondBones, a favorite blog by a wonderful young woman following Jesus.  However, while she does it in 20 minutes, it took me closer to 45, but this cooking thing is new for me; maybe in a few years? 🤠  This recipe is my variation on it as we do not care for garlic and I am still learning.  Lots of customizable options according to your tastes, but it IS delicious and easy enough even I could do it.

2021-02-20 Traffic CamFirst, a long, longing goodbye to the wonderful Deep Freeze we have enjoyed in Kentucky.  This is not to be unconcerned about those who have suffered so badly in states further south, completely unprepared for such a stunning chill in the weather (proof of global warming, right? 🙄).  But in our neck of the woods, we seemed to adapt to it pretty well.  The CCP (Communist Chinese Party) virus already had most of us oldsters home-bound, and food delivery services were able to navigate the icy roads for those that needed it.  Main roads were cleared pretty promptly, thanx to a competent city council, mayor and dedicated road crews, and the clouds kept the sun from the melting/refreezing cycle that warmer climes experienced, only coming out a few minutes in these weeks.

1 Foot Deep IceAn elderly neighbor’s garage roof slants toward his drive, so when icy rain/sleet came down on Monday, February 15, it rolled into a mound in front of his garage to make a 12 inch deep mogul that his daughter could not drive over!  Neighbors cleared his drive while I attacked a handicapped neighbor’s drive.  When I checked on their work, they had cleared the drive but said the mound was beyond their scope or energy; we HAD cleared all our own drives so we were all pretty tuckered from our labors and called it a night.

The next morning, though, being the only retiree on our cul de sac, I pulled out my 15 pound wrecking bar and a 10 pound sledge, and went to work.  The 20⁰F (-6⁰C) meant I wore long johns under my jeans, used the hand warmers described before, and had on my Mongolian hat and Canadian coat.  However, after a few minutes of hammering and chipping at the pile of ice, I had to loosen my scarf and open my coat that eventually had to come off completely.  I told a passing neighbor walking his dog, “If I die of a heart attack shoveling ice and snow, grab my phone and text all my contacts that I died happy!” 😇

But it all worked out as I kept a slow pace, took breaks and kept my fingers and toes warm.  The next day, I hit the walks between the neighbors as we still had a couple days of subfreezing temps until Sunday.  Another neighbor built a fort for his children from the ice blocks he had taken off his neighbor’s driveway, with the same orientation and pitch of the garage roof sloping toward the drive.  One of the neighbors “rewarded” me with unbelievably delicious homemade milk chocolate balls! (Gotta get her recipe! 😉)

It will finally “warm up” to  45⁰F (+7⁰C) on Sunday, but still hover below or near freezing at night for a few nights while everything begins melting in the daytime.  Tuesday finally hits the 50s (10-13⁰C) and stays above freezing at night.  So today is probably the last day with diamonds on the trees and skating rinks beneath the 3 inches of snow we got last Wednesday.  The diamond studded trees take a better photographer than me to capture on my phone, but the icicles and sparkling trees look amazing.  A strange phenomenon I have never seen before, the ice on our deck table kind of melted, but somehow stayed together as it dropped through the holes of the metal grate.  I won’t even try to understand the physics of how this happened!  And the last pic is of the gentle white miracle falling on February 16 that made the scenery look so pure.  So now it’s goodbye to the Deep Freeze Winter Wonderland of the last two weeks.

IMG_1733For the delicious and simple Cauliflower Rice and Salmon, as usual, I recommend gathering all your ingredients before beginning:
Two Fillets of Salmon (halibut or other fish, or even chicken or steak!)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 lemon, Rosemary leaves, Ground clove, Salt & Pepper

Cauliflower Rice:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 onion (or less)
Salt and Pepper
Baby bella mushrooms
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Avocado
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil on which to place the fillets.  Drizzle them with the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Top it with the rosemary, a sprinkle of clove, and a slice of lemon.  Bake fish fillets for 20 minutes, until they begin to flake when pricked with a toothpick.  (Obviously, adjust the temperature/bake time for chicken or steak.)

While it’s baking, make the cauliflower rice.  Caralyn used her food processor, but I prefer the Royal Cutter from Prestige Cookware for more control.  Break the cauliflower into florets and use a coarse cone so the “rice” will not be too fine.  There may be a couple larger pieces of cauliflower – that’s okay!  (I save the cauliflower greens for a side dish, but some people find them too bitter.)  Grind the onion in the same way or dice it smaller if you prefer.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the cauliflower and onion, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Cook for about three to four minutes.  Do not overcook or the cauliflower rice will become too soft.  Then add the mushrooms and green beans and cook for another 3 minutes.  Finally, add the soy sauce and sesame oil and spinach, and stir it until it wilts, about 2 minutes.

Slice the avocado and place on top of the rice mixture on the plate.  Add the fish and eat like you’re at a five star restaurant in NYC!  Thanx, Caralyn, for a great meal!

 

Raspberry/Blueberry Custard Pie

IMG_1899There are lots of concerns with the new administration, from what will they do to promote abortion to how will they handle the ongoing leftist “protests” in Oregon that the mainstream media is finally willing to call “riots.”  And how is this any different from last summer?  It’s not.

But life goes on, even with the ongoing challenges that take me back to the ’60s when national guards were called out to the Watts riots in LA’s streets and students were shot on Kent State’s campus in Ohio.  And the USA is still the greatest nation in the world, where more people want to come than leave.  Wondering why some of the leftists in 2016 that said they would move to Canada if Trump was elected chose not to go?

Well, here in the hinterland where many of us deplorable conservatives live, there is nothing more patriotic that Red, White and Blue . . . well, off-white, anyway; kinda yellow as custard tends to be, but you get the idea.

Anyhow, Anita and I needed (? 🙄) a dessert as we had finished off the others I have baked and since I am enjoying my new-found “hobby” of baking, I decided to bake a pie with some fruit she had purchased on her last outing to the grocery store.  We both love custard, so I put together what I recently learnt about making this delicious dessert, added some fruit and voila, try this one.  It’s easy and hard to mess up!

Ingredients (which I always recommend you assemble before even turning on the oven)

IMG_1870

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 9″ pie crust
  • 1 cup milk (anything from skim to whole, your choice)
  • 3/4 cup cream (heavy, whipping, light, or half & half, your choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of raspberries/blueberries (~1/2 pound)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To blind-bake (pre-bake) the pie crust, line the chilled crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans.  This prevents the crust from bubbling up and reducing the volume of filling you can put in it.  I used another pie tin weighted with a mixing bowl; worked like a charm.
Bake the crust at 375⁰F for 20 minutes.  Remove it from the oven, and gently remove the foil or parchment with the weights or beans.
Return the crust to the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes, until it is very light golden brown all over.  If the edges of the crust start to become too brown, cover them with a pie shield or strips of aluminum foil.  Remove the crust from the oven and cool completely while you make the filling.

  • To make the filling: Start by thoroughly whisking together the eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl.

  • IMG_1873Combining the milk, cream, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Heat the mixture until small bubbles form around the edges, and steam starts to wisp from the surface; this is how you “scald” milk.
  • Pour about 1/4 of the hot milk/cream over the egg mixture, stirring well.  After this is mixed, pour the  egg mixture into the remaining hot milk/cream, stirring well.
  • Pour the custard through a sieve into another bowl to strain out any possible bits of cooked egg.  Stir in the vanilla extract.

  • Gently turn the raspberries and blueberries into the mix. Some like the fruit to be throughout the pie, not just on top.  If you want to use more fruit, be sure to reduce other items in the mix to avoid making too much filling, e.g., milk, sugar or egg.  I would stick with whole milk and heavy cream if you do this.
  • Pour the warm filling into the baked, cooled crust.  Sprinkle the nutmeg evenly over the top.

  • Cover the edges of the pie with a pie shield or strips of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.  If there is excess filling, use some silicone cupcake “tins” or a separate pie dish.  (Keep an eye on the extras as these will bake faster than the pie; how quickly depending on how much and whether you place them above or below the pie.)

  • Place the pie onto your oven’s middle rack and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes at 400⁰F, or until the custard is set at the edges but still a bit wobbly in the center. The temperature of the pie at the center should be between 170°F and 180°F.
  • Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Be careful if the pie is not fully set; this should be okay as it will stiffen as it cools.  When it’s completely cool, refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

  • Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for several days.

Notes: the cornstarch will firm the custard up much better than recipes that lack this.  The heavy cream and 2% milk worked fine for me, but if you use lighter cream or milk, you may not get the more solid texture that Anita and I enjoy.
You can use 4 large eggs and more fruit, but you will need “extra” cups for the excess and cut the cornstarch by half or completely.  If you use a larger pie crust, you can adjust the time, but watch it closely toward the end, as the last few minutes the pie really firms up fast.  Over-baking it will make the custard slightly chalky and dry.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, next Saturday I plan to post THE MOST IMPORTANT BLOG I have ever written.  Hope you come back and check that one out.

Hot Strawberry Pie Beats the Winter Blues

Nothing beats the winter blues like a bright red strawberry crumble top pie served hot from the oven.  Well, after letting it cool down a little.  Not that I get winter blues.  I love the cold weather, the gray clouds and most of all, the SNOW when we can get it!

IMG_1848

IMG_1823As with all recipes, I recommend getting together all the ingredients before beginning so that everything is a hand-grab away as you need it.  Read any recipe through before beginning so that you know in advance for which steps you need to be ready when some things have to happen in rapid sequence.

But for this delicious strawberry pie, its a piece of cake . . . actually, easier than cake!  No rushed steps, no surprises, just simple mixing and baking, as easy as anything gets.

Ingredients
4 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon butter

Topping
6 tablespoons butter (softened to room temperature)
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger

Prep the strawberries by removing the sepals and pith the strawberries by cutting off the calices.  Removal of the pith will keep the strawberries tasting their berry best. 😉  If you eat half of the strawberries in this step, set everything aside and go buy some more!! 😂

Preheat the oven to 400⁰F (200⁰C).
Make the topping first so that it will be ready when you have assembled the pie filling.
In a medium size bowl mix the 6 tablespoons softened block of butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup flour until it is a fluffy texture.
Thoroughly mix in the nutmeg and ginger.

Next, in a larger bowl whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
Gently coat the berries with this mixture, being careful not to crush the berries.  Be sure to allow the mixture to get into the pith area of the strawberries, but you need not be obsessive about this.

Pour the berries into a 9-inch pie crust, mounding them in the middle.  Remember, the berries will sink some as they bake.  Spread any left over coating mix around the berries and maybe shake the pie plate a little to settle it in between the berries.
Cover the berries with the topping mix.  Then space about 15-20 pea size blobs of butter over the topping.
Wrap the edges of the pie with foil or a pie shield to prevent it from burning.  I like the one from Talisman Designs (note the “s” at the end of “design” or you’ll find Susan Bucknam, the artist; she’s good, but I have no idea what she knows about pies! 😉 )

Bake the pie for about 20 minutes at 400⁰F (200⁰C), then reduce the heat to 375⁰F (190⁰C) and bake for 40 minutes more.  If you really like sweet, you can add some sugar in the last 10 minutes, sprinkling it over the topping before it finishes baking.  Keep an eye on the top and if it begins to blacken, check to see if the pie is done.  There are significant variations in oven temp performances.
I actually cut the sugar to make this recipe as my sources all had more than Anita and I enjoy.  But the end product is delicious, especially with a dollop of whipped cream or redi-whip on top!  Enjoy as we did after a cooolllld walk when we had some more miraculous snow yesterday!  Even as I type this, it is snowing huge flakes again.  Wow, God is good! 🙂

January 2 – An Upside Down Cake for An Upside Down World

IMG_1722January 2 finds us anticipating virus vaccines across the US and a finalization to our November 3rd presidential and vice-presidential elections in just four days.  What ever happens, we hope it is finally over!  However, based on the last four years, it is unlikely politics will slip away into the background for a couple years the way it used to after elections.  Mid-term balloting is “only” two years away when Americans will go back to the polls to choose lawmakers for whichever Senators are coming to the end of their six-year terms, and all the Representatives, who serve two-year terms.

And no one expects a reprieve from presidential hopefuls.  Vote for ME in 2024!  I’ll give you bigger stimulus checks than the other guy and unite the country around my partisan positions on abortion, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, the environment, what to call people who gender identify, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel and Social Security.  Okay, on Social Security almost everyone actually agrees.  But otherwise the parties and the national factions are poles apart, whatever the polls say.

So I decided to make an upside down cake to celebrate our upside down world.  Variation on a theme, I made a Pineapple Almond Upside Down Cake that actually came out pretty easy to do.  Hey, if I can do it, YOU can! 🙂

It is always safest with any recipe to assemble all your ingredients before beginning.  It would be a shame to make the caramel for the bottom/top and then find out you did not have cornstarch . . . course, at that point you could always claim you wanted to make caramel!  Actually, guess no downside there! 😉

So get together the following for your Ingredients:
Topping (which will go in the bottom of the cake pan):
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (salted/unsalted does not matter)
Pineapple slices, one 20oz can or enough fresh to cover the bottom of your cake pan
Cake Mix:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup ground almonds
(I like leaving some small chunks for crunch: I just don’t grind too finely.)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (soften to room temperature)
1 teaspoon almond extract (If you are afraid of too much almond, you can substitute vanilla extract here.)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
Pan – 8″ x 11.5″ x 2″

Generously grease the pan with butter.  You can use the stick you have for the topping, but make sure you reeeeally cover the corners and the sides up to the rim!  This butter greasing will make your cake smoothly come out of the pan when you flip it at the end.
Melt the butter at medium heat in a small saucepan and add the brown sugar, stirring until it dissolves. But after the sugar melts, STOP stirring, and let it simmer until the mixture just begins to bubble.
Pour the mixture into the pan and level it out. 
Next add the pineapple slices, arranged in a single layer to cover as much as you can of the caramel mixture.  As you can see my slices were not very pretty like the canned ones, but I was using a fresh pineapple and had not planned on the cake when I cut it up.

While making the cake mix, preheat your oven to 325⁰F.

To make the cake batter, whisk all the dry ingredients except the sugar in a large mixing bowl: flour, corn starch, almonds, baking powder and salt. 
In another mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter and flavoring (almond or vanilla).  Use the larger bowl for this, not like I did with a small mixing bowl.  Add one egg at a time and beat each one before adding the next.
Add about half the dry mixture and mix into the butter mix, followed by half the sour cream.  Repeat this step with the remainder of the dry mixture and sour cream.  This process it to ensure smooth blending of the batter without overbeating the eggs. 
Once you have a consistent texture throughout the batter, pour it over the pineapple and caramel; smooth it out so that it is fairly uniform on top.

Bake at 325⁰F for about one hour until a tester (e.g. butter knife) comes out clean.  If you have a baking thermometer the center of the cake should reach 205⁰F.  If you stop before the tester comes out clean the center of your cake will be mushy; tastes good, but not great presentation.
Allow the cake to cool in its pan for five minutes, off any source of heat; i.e. out of the oven and not on a hot rack.
Carefully flip the cake smoothly onto a platter.  If some of the topping that was on the bottom of the pan sticks to it, start over and butter the pan more generously! 🙂  Not really.  Just scoop it out and patch it onto the top of the now Upside Down Cake.

If you use canned pineapple or cut your fresh stuff into pretty rings, you can dress it up with cherries in the center of the rings for decoration.  The cake can be served still warm from the oven or cooled.
With the fruit on top, I recommend refrigeration after cooling to room temperature unless you are eating it all within 24 hours.
Next time I am going to try overbeating the eggs.  It is delicious as it is, with the texture of a pound cake, but I think overbeating the eggs before adding the dry mixture will make it lighter.

Bon appétit or maybe Nanea i kāu pāʻina!
And to end the year, one of the most spectacular Christmas musical renditions I have ever heard; the caption says it all: It Will Give You Chills!

 


Christmas Eve, Snicker Doodles, Church Services and a Movie!

IMG_1532Christmas Eve day and we are sitting at our computers sending out delinquent e-cards to friends all over the world, as snow covers the roofs of houses around us.  Well, it’s covering ours as well, but we are inside with no plans to go out into the 26F weather (-3C).  We were out this morning in a the balmy 34F (1.5C) which was as warm as it is going to get today, to deliver some cookies to one of our dearest friends here in Lex and a student we are thinking about adopting (just kidding, Neng!!)

IMG_1588A couple of days ago, we had sunny and cold weather and stopped to take a selfie by a creche some neighbors put up every year.  There is a reason it is called “Christ”mas, you know! 😉

Yesterday I baked a bunch of cookies, not really Christmasy, but I have been bitten by the “baking bug” since several blogs I follow are foodie journals with recipes that make my mouth water as I read them.  One of them from beautybeyondbones convinced me I could smell the Kari-Kari!

So for my second food blog (my first was about pumpkin pie!), this is my report on making butterscotch snicker-doodles.  Easy as pie . . . well, actually a LOT easier than pie! 🙂

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
dash of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Start by assembling all the ingredients because it won’t take long to prepare.
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Bring the butter to room temperature or soften in the oven or microwave. (Do NOT melt it!)
“Cream” the eggs and vanilla, adding the butter and sugar until it is fully dissolved.  I used my mother’s old Sunbeam mixer that she gave us when she was still on earth.  It is an antique but still works like a charm!  Use a low setting on your mixer so you do not whip the eggs.  It should be a smooth cream, thus the term for the instruction.  Afterward, add the butterscotch chips and continue blending into the cream.
Add the flour, salt and baking soda and blend at a little faster speed until it forms a sticky dough.
As each ingredient is added, spatula the sides to make sure you get all the goodness! 😉
Dust a baking sheet with flour (and some for your fingers!) and form the dough into 1-2″ balls (3-5cm).
Place about 2″ (4-5cm) apart on the baking sheet, and bake for about 8-10 minutes until set, but not too hard.
They should be pretty soft to the touch when browned but will set up as they cool.
Put on a cooling rack or silicone sheet to cool.
Didn’t I tell you this was easy!?

We will “attend” a Christmas Eve meeting at First Alliance Church here in Lexington, KY, at 3:30 EST and visit another in Colorado at 5:30 MST.  Join us online if you want to see some cool candlelight services with those brave enough to attend in-person.  Then, tonight we’ll watch Jim Carrey’s version of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and “settle down for a long winter’s nap.”

So with a couple of pumpkin pies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, pecan pies and now shortbread and butterscotch snicker-doodles under my belt (figuratively and LITERALLY!), I’m going to wish all y’all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and only blog once more until 2021 . . . oh, that’s just week away!

(Just so ya know, “y’all” is singular in Kentucky; “all y’all” is the plural! 🙂 D))))

Merry Christmas to all y’all and to all y’all a good night!

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