Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Maybe I can't watch the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Miami Heat in Rio de Janiero this evening, but I can see Doctor Who.  Happy Saturday!

Watching the news ... another photo hacking scandal.  If someone hacks into my iCloud, all they are going to snag are pictures of food.  And speaking of food photos, here we go:

This is the chili recipe I tried last weekend.  Aren't those chick peas gorgeous?  

Despite a massive recipe collection, which I am in the process of seriously organizing, I cannot seem to stop myself from browsing for more.  Any weekend when I am not on a Carnival cruise ship is an opportunity to try something new in the kitchen.  This weekend I had hoped to try Jamie Oliver's recipe for whole roast chicken cooked in milk, but the fresh sage leaves in the produce section at Publix were uninspiring.  Instead, I'm going to bake a little, and fry a little, and just maybe take a trip to to South Korea.  We'll see.

Right about now I was planning on typing up that chili recipe, but Anakin had other plans:

Baking his brains out while resting on the recipe.  Let's move on for a moment.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

1-1/2  tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
pinch of salt
12 maraschino cherries, patted dry and cut in halves
1-8 oz. can pineapple tidbits, drained, juice reserved
1-9 oz. box Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix
1 extra-large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 12-muffin pan with no-stick baking spray.

Melt the butter in a small pan and add the brown sugar and salt.  Place a cherry half, cut side down, in the center of each muffin cup. Divide the brown sugar mixture, about a half teaspoon each, around the cherry half.  Place 4 pineapple tidbits around each cherry, pressing lightly into the brown sugar mixture.  Set muffin pan aside.

Add cold water (or maraschino cherry juice) to the reserved pineapple juice to make 1/2 cup.  Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box, using the juice and egg.  Divide the cake mix evenly among the muffin cups.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 18 minutes until done.  Remove the pan from the oven, and with a long sharp knife, holding the knife flush with the top of the pan, slice off any excess cake.  Immediately cover the muffin pan with a baking sheet (I first place a piece of wax paper over the muffins), and turn the whole thing over.  Remove the muffin pan - the cupcakes should come out easily if you did not let them cool off - and admire those cute little upside down cakes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#TBT - Peanut Chicken Stir Fry

Marinade and Peanut Sauce:
1 medium onion, minced
½ cup peanut or other neutral oil (I use canola)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup thin terikayi sauce (I use Mr. Yoshida’s Gourmet Marinade 
and Sauce)
½ cup dark rum (I used what I had, 151 proof – zowee!)
½  cup honey
2 tablespoons peeled and grated ginger root
6 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 – 13 oz. jar creamy whipped peanut butter (you will not use
 all of it)
2 tablespoons half and half

Main ingredients:
2 pounds chicken breast meat, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium or 2 small red bell peppers, large dice
1 medium onion, large dice
2 cups (approximately) stir fry vegetables (I used a 12 oz. bag of
 Eat Smart brand)
¼ cup thin teriyaki sauce (this is in addition to the ½ cup used in the marinade)

Wok on:
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger root
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

To serve:
½ pound angel hair pasta
2-3 green onions, white and some green parts, thinly sliced
Olive oil

For the Fancy Schmancy:
Chopped peanuts
Additional green onion, thinly sliced

Combine all of the marinade ingredients except for the peanut butter.
 Pour over and marinate the chicken for several hours in refrigerator.  
Stir occasionally while marinating.

When ready to prepare the dish, set out all the ingredients next to 
the wok. Mise en place is always important, but never more so than 
when making a stir fry dish!

Drain marinade from chicken.  Measure it, then put into a small
 saucepan and heat over medium until boiling. Watch it very carefully, 
as the alcohol will cause it to boil over. Measure out half as much 
peanut butter as marinade, then remove pan from heat and add the peanut butter, stirring until sauce is smooth.  Taste and adjust with 
more peanut butter if you like.  Stir in the half and half.  Let sit on 
stove at very low or warming heat.

Cook angel hair pasta according to package directions.  Do not run 
cold water over the hot pasta.  As soon as hot water is drained off,
 add a drizzle of olive oil and sliced green onions and toss to coat
 and combine.  Return to pot and hold over low or warming heat on stovetop.

In hot oil in wok, stir fry garlic and ginger till fragrant, but do not let 
brown. Immediately add the chicken to wok and stir fry till done, then remove and hold on side.
Add more oil if needed to wok. Stir fry onion and red bell pepper.  
Add remaining vegetables to wok.  While stir frying, add about 
¼ cup teriyaki sauce to vegetables to create steam.  When vegetables
 are tender, add back the chicken.  Lower the heat under the wok and 
add the warm peanut butter sauce, stirring with the chicken and vegetables.

To serve:  ladle peanut chicken and sauce over the pasta.  Sprinkle
 with chopped peanuts and green onion if desired.  Or skip the pasta 
and serve with rice, preferably the sticky Chinese type.

Incidentally, I used my trusty electric fry pan instead of my wok
 for this dish.  Worked great, and the chicken had the opportunity 
to pick up a nice brown color.  If you do use a wok, I recommend 
stir frying the chicken in two separate batches, so that the chicken
 browns instead of steams.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Welcome Back - Easy Falafel and My Favorite Tzatziki Sauce

My house smells awesome, as I am trying a new chili recipe.  Because you can never have enough chili recipes, ha ha.  These past few weeks I have tried a bunch of recipes, for no other reasons than my family has to eat, and perhaps more importantly, I find cooking to be extraordinarily therapeutic.  It is my meditation.

There were some successes but also a couple of epic fails.  The whole wheat bread pudding was just feh.  The kale and smoked turkey wing was so awful, I got up in the middle of the night, while it was simmering in the crock pot, and threw it out.  One of the successes, perhaps the best of the best, was my version of falafel, prepared from canned chick peas.

I love falafel.  Really love it, especially in a warm pita with chopped salad and garlicky yogurt sauce. Having moved to Central Florida in the early nineties, I was resigned to never experience the joys of real New York food, like a real falafel sandwich, bagels, and pizza, ever again.  After 23 years, I can safely report that you cannot get a decent bagel, nor a proper slice of pizza, in the entire state of Florida.  Good falafel can be had in, of all places, downtown Kissimmee.  Nadia's Cafe' on Broadway Avenue, right across from my office and a stone's throw from my house, serves excellent Mediterranean food, including an authentic falafel, which I get as part of a salad.  But Nadia's is not open at all those times I might experience a Mediterranean food craving, so I was going to have to come up with a homemade version that did not involve a mix, did not require me to soak beans overnight, and would not fall apart in the hot oil.

Voila!  By the way, that is an ebelskiver pan.  While it is not crucial to the success of the dish, I really think it made the frying part a lot easier.  Less mess, less oil absorbed, and more even cooking.

This recipe makes 18 falafel, which I portion out using the same size scoop I would use for meatballs.    These are best when served hot out of the oil, but they are also good cold.  I like them with tzatziki sauce, and I am posting my recipe below.  There are other Mediterranean sauces that probably work as well, but I'm a tzatziki sauce nut, and that's that.  

If I was going to serve this to a group, I would include pita and lightly toasted naan bread on the table, along with hummus, tabbouleh, and an Israeli salad, and let folks create their own version of Mediterranean goodness.  Cheaper than a flight to Morocco, safer than a trip to Israel.

Easy Falafel

1-15 oz. can chick peas (garbanzos), drained, rinsed with cold water, patted dry.  I use Goya.
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
white pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup matzo meal, more if needed
canola oil for frying

In a large bowl or an aluminum pan (always my preference) mash the chick peas with an old-fashioned potato masher until thick and pasty.  There should be some recognizable bits of chick pea in the mixture.  Add the onion, garlic, and parsley, and use a fork to combine them.

Add the spices, lemon juice and baking powder to the egg, beating lightly with a fork to combine them.  Pour the egg mixture over the chick pea mixture, and then add the olive oil.  Use your trusty fork one more time to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Now add 1/2 cup of the matzo meal and use your hand to work into the chick pea mixture.  Do not overwork.  Add a little more matzo meal as needed, until mixture is no longer sticky nor too stiff.  This is similar to adding bread crumbs to a meatloaf, and you must rely on touch to know when enough matzo meal has been added.

Use a meatball scoop to portion out about 18 balls.  Roll lightly in your hands, then press gently to flatten slightly.  Heat the ebelskiver over medium high heat, and add enough oil to fill each well not more than halfway.  You can also use a regular skillet with an inch of oil.  Carefully place a falafel into each well, and fry until golden brown on each side.  Repeat until all the falafel is fried, and serve hot with your favorite Mediterranean accompaniments.

My original tzatziki recipe called for plain Dannon yogurt and a Kirby cucumber.  It's hard to buy just one Kirby, and I finally found a way to make an everyday cheap cuke work.


1 - 6 oz. container Chobani plain non-fat yogurt
equal amount of sour cream
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 clove fresh garlic
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1 or 2 drops Tabasco sauce

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and sour cream and set aside.

Shred the cucumber on the medium holes of a box grater.  Place the shredded cucumber between two sheets of paper towel, roll up and squeeze out the excess liquid.  Add the cucumber to the yogurt.  Mince the garlic very finely, or use a microplane to grate it, and add to the yogurt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the Tabasco if using it, and mix everything together.  Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for an hour before using.  Serve with the falafel.  Also nice with certain lamb dishes, and I love to eat it as a dip with toasted naan.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Good heavens, I forgot the lemon poppy seed cake

Forgot to post it, can't remember where I put it, and haven't been here since. Mea culpa.  Wait, I just found it, stuck between the pages of my Johnsonville Big Taste of Sausage Cookbook.  Awesome.

Looking at the recipe part of this blog, I was shocked and appalled to realize that almost all of the photos were gone.  No idea why.  It may be a technical glitch, but if it involves my venturing into the mechanics of this blog, it may never get corrected.  After spending two hours on the phone yesterday with Bright House Networks, trying to figure out why my email up and quit, I am not feeling the emotional stamina to deal with Google.  Really, some of the pictures were pretty useless; food colors were off and the lighting sucked; but the recipes are pretty good, so try them anyway.  Look, I taught myself to cook starting in 1974 from The Joy of Cooking, and there is not one darn photo in there!    Yes, yes, when I was your age I walked to school in blizzards, uphill both ways.

2013 was a really tough year, and nowhere is that more reflected than in this blog.  I ignored it because I had barely enough energy to get out of the house each day to go to work.  Despite presenting a whole new set of challenges, 2014 is shaping up a lot better than its predecessor, so I will try to be a little more attentive ... but that's not a promise, just an aspiration.  Like the phrase I put into some court orders stating "the Department will make it's best effort to obtain the following services."  I'll make my best effort.

Here's the recipe:

Too easy.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray some nonstick stuff into an 8 x 12 x 2 inch aluminum bake pan.

1 package Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs  at room temperature
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Combine cake mix with water, oil and extracts.  Beat on low speed just to combine, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat at medium speed (I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer) for 4 minutes.  Yes, that is four (4) minutes.  Add poppy seeds and stir in on lowest speed.  Pour into prepared aluminum pan.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before adding the topping.

Topping: Stir together 12 ounces defrosted Cool Whip and fresh lemon juice to taste. Spread on the cooled cake.  Store cake in the refrigerator.  Serves 12 to 24.

Monday, November 11, 2013

So much time has passed and so many things have happened in the last 19 months, and it is difficult to quantify the impact. One thing I have noticed is that I do not cook as frequently as I did in the past, and this blog is really based on my love affair with cooking.  Tonight having whipped up a really easy lemon poppy seed cake with a light frosting, also ridiculously easy, I suddenly felt the desire to share it on the recipe blog.  Maybe even take a picture.  Look for it tomorrow - between pretrial conferences and trying to recover our car from a garage in Cordele, Georgia, I should have the time to do so.