Kitchen Adventures, Olympic Edition: Pineapple Upside-down Cake

What better way is there to celebrate the Olympics than by singing to Daft Punk eating the Olympic rings? None.  We adapted a classic pineapple upside-down cake to fit into the Olympic spirit, rainbow rings and all.  Make your own before the games end on February 23, and let me know how it goes!

Olympic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (adapted from good old Betty Crocker)

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar (slightly less for Olympic version)
  • Red, green, and blue food coloring
  • 1 can sliced pineapple, drained (will only use 5 rings for Olympic version) – save the juice, too!
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  1. Pat dry 5 pineapple rings – they don’t have to be too dry, just enough so that the color won’t run. In 4 separate containers, mix one drop of food color with a splash of pineapple juice, then lay one ring of pineapple in each color (red, blue, green, and one with a tiny bit of each to make black).  Yellow is just the plain pineapple ring.  Don’t flip the rings (since we only want the color on the top), but do move them around the container a bit to get all the dye onto them.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat butter in a 10-inch cake pan.
  3. While the butter is melting, combine flour through egg in a mixer, and beat at low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl occasionally. Then beat at high speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl as you go.
  4. Arrange pineapple slices color-side-down in the butter, then sprinkle brown sugar in a thin layer over the remaining butter, so there’s either a pineapple or brown sugar coating the entire base of the pan.
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove, and immediately invert over a plate, keeping the pan on top for a few minutes.  Remove and reveal your pineapples, then serve warm.

Enjoy with a mug of hot cocoa while cheering on your favorite Olympians.

Kitchen Adventure: Maple roasted pumpkin seeds

The best part of making this delicious recipe for Thanksgiving was seeing how incredibly easy it is to toast your own pumpkin seeds.  Where has this idea been my whole life??  They’re great for:

  • putting on top of stir-frys
  • adding to salads
  • snacking (dangerous, but good)
  • putting on top of a pumpkin pie

With one bag of pumpkin seeds, you can make at least 3 servings of this – plenty of time to try all the combinations you can dream of!

pumpkin seeds

Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 3/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, coating the seeds with oil and syrup.  Pour into a foil-lined pan (rimmed cookie sheets work best, but I just used a baking dish).
  3. Cook until toasted – about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool before enjoying on top of anything and everything you can imagine.

Kitchen Adventure: Easy cheesy frittata

For those nights when you can’t get enough cheese… when you want to use as few pans as possible… when you want leftovers you can eat for a week – this meal is for those nights!

cheesy goodness

 

Easy Cheesy Frittata 

  • 1 large head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 whole eggs, beat
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups cheese (I used a 4 cheese “Mediterranean” blend of sharp Provolone, feta, Kasseri, and Romano)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or two large tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Caramelize the onions in a small frying pan, cooking over medium heat with olive oil until golden.  Remove from pan and set aside in large bowl.
  3. Sauté the broccoli in a pan with water until it’s lightly steamed.  Add chopped garlic and cook until easily cut with a fork.  Add to the bowl with onions.
  4. Beat the eggs and cheese together, add to the bowl with cooked veggies and chopped tomatoes.  Mix together and transfer to large baking dish.
  5. Cook for 25-30 mins or until cheese is melted and eggs are set.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between!

Lessons from the guac-off

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Last weekend, I got to express my undying love for avocados by participating in a cooking contest in my neighborhood: the first annual guac-off at The Painted Burro.  It’s exactly what it sounds like – an epic guacamole contest.  A bunch of us Yelpers submitted recipes online and the top 12 recipies were chosen to compete in person, with judging by fellow Yelpers and local “celebs” (our Yelp community manager, a city councilor, and the restaurant’s chef).

Presenting my plate to the judges

Presenting my plate to the judges

My recipe was lovingly named “Sucker Punch” thanks to the unusual ingredients I added – lemon and curry powder.  It also had all your guacamole basics – avocados, chopped cocktail tomatoes, chopped onions, garlic, salt, pepper.

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I didn’t win the contest, but I did have a great time and learned some serious lessons for my next competition.

Lessons learned at the guac-off:

  • Ask a bajillion questions.  Originally, we were going to have to find and pay for the avocados ourselves, and needed to bring a GALLON of guacamole.  I was able to talk to the organizer and get the expectations down to a reasonable/not cost-prohibitive level.  The restaurant actually gave everyone the avocados in the end, which was amazing.
  • Have a plan B.  Apparently some avocados were not as good depending on what day you got them.  I got lucky, but it’s important to always have a backup plan when it comes to your ingredients.
  • If you don’t know the rules, exploit them.  What does “prepare before” mean? Who is stopping you from bringing your own chips?  Figure out what your ideal situation looks like, then make it happen.  The worst someone can do is tell you to stop (or disqualify you, if it actually is a rule that you’re breaking).
  • Bacon will always win the popular vote.  I mean, it’s bacon.  The competition should just end there.  Just make sure it’s labeled for the vegetarians in the crowd (there were some seriously unhappy people who didn’t know they were eating meat until later).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Lots of love to my sous chef Sara – cooking with her was the best part of this day!
  • Be prepared.   Did you think the contest was over when you delivered your goods?  WRONG.  We then had to plate (which I barely prepared for), present (which I was totally unprepared for) and rally people to win the popular vote (which I was too nervous for).   The contest is going until the winner is announced, so you should be prepared for every step of the way.
  • Don’t store guacamole in a bag.  Seriously. Don’t.   It’s gross just to watch it get plated.  Surely you have some Tupperware somewhere?
  • Don’t focus too much on winning.  I ate some delicious food, spent the day with one of my best friends, and made a new friend who shared her awesome story about meeting her boyfriend on LiveJournal in 2003.  Be still, my 11th grade heart!
The makings of a great Sunday afternoon

The makings of a great Sunday afternoon

I’ll definitely be throwing my hat in the ring for future contests – I’ve got my eye on Fluff Fest next year.  Let me know if you hear of any other cool competitions in Boston, and share your stories about cooking adventures in the comments below!

Special thanks to my family for brainstorming some very silly names and listening to me make my way through the rules, Sara for helping me make this giant batch o‘ guacamole, and Katie and my coworkers for making good use of the leftovers.

Kitchen Adventures: Quinoa and Brussels Sprouts

This simple recipe is great for the end of a busy week and can accommodate almost any ingredients you have around.  Sub couscous for quinoa, add in other veggies, or include other proteins if you have them handy.

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Quinoa and Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 lb shredded Brussels sprouts (I got them precut from Trader Joe’s – one bag will do it!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into thin strips
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice – about one lemon worth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese (optional, for topping)
  1. Cook the quinoa – one cup of quinoa to 2-3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15-20 minutes for liquid is absorbed.  Let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  2. Add the oil, onion, Brussels sprouts, salt/pepper, and half the lemon juice to a frying pan over medium heat.  Stir frequently – when the sprouts get bright green, add more lemon juice and bell pepper.  Stir for about 7-10 minutes total, until sprouts are cooked but still crunchy.
  3. Add quinoa to the pan of veggies and mix well.  Serve hot or cold.  (I topped mine with goat cheese crumbles – SO GOOD!)

This made about four salad-sized servings – can’t wait to eat it for lunch later this week.

Enjoy!

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Kitchen Adventures: Quiche Tartlets

I am the definition of a breakfast person.

I could eat it three times a day – eggs for breakfast, cereal for lunch, crepes for dinner.  Bring me to a diner at any hour and I am 99.9% likely to order hash and poached eggs.  I simply can’t live without a good meal to start off my day.  But when I combine my love for breakfast with my tendency to hit snooze a million times (right family?), it gets to be an expensive habit that ends up with me stopped in at Dunks on my way to work.

Luckily, I saw this pin the other day and decided to whip up some planned-ahead breakfasts so I could save some money and time in the morning.  These tartlets came out great, and in 45 minutes, I was able to pack up 6 healthy breakfasts to eat and freeze for the week ahead.

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Quiche Breakfast Tartlets

  • 5-8 oz of baby spinach
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 links chicken sausage (optional)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (low-fat preferred, or another kind of shredded cheese works too!)
  • 3 eggs and 6 egg whites (I use them from the carton) (alternatively, you can use 5 eggs)
  • Dash skim milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a frying pan, heat up 1 tsp olive oil and cook the mushrooms.  Cut the chicken sausage into small pieces (1/2 dime sized or so) and add to mushrooms, browning lightly.  Remove from pan.  Wilt spinach in frying pan. add to mushrooms and sausage.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Pour into lightly greased muffin tins, making sure that each section has all types of filling as well as some liquid.
  3. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until edges are browned and tops are solid.  Remove from tins and let sit before freezing/storing.

By the end, you should have 12 muffin-sized crustless quiches (mine actually made 5 mini muffins as well – use it all up!) which are each worth 2 PointsPlus each (I recommend two as one serving).  In one travel-sized bite, you have cheese, eggs, meat, and veggies, or as I like to call it “perfection.”

These quiches are super versatile to whatever you have in your kitchen – asparagus and red pepper, cheese and more cheese, garlic and onion, you name it.  My recommendation: go light on the fat, especially in the cheese.  I only had full fat cheddar around, and these were a little more oily than I would usually eat, but they’re still quite healthy and definitely delicious.

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What’s your go-to breakfast food?

Kitchen Adventures: Peanut butter cookie brownies

What’s better than a chocolate chip cookie, a peanut butter cup, and a brownie?  Being able to eat all three of them at once.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for my office’s Pie Day Friday.  Even though it wasn’t technically pie (ok, not at all), it rocked because:

  • I was able to get all the ingredients at CVS on my way home
  • All the ingredients cost less than $10 and made more than 20 servings
  • I was able to make different portions easily
  • I was able to give the extra peanut butter cups to my gluten-free colleague so he could have somewhat the same thing as the rest of us

These were a huge hit and especially great for when you don’t have time to get to a full-blown grocery store or need something that travels well.

Cookiebrownies

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

  • 1 bag of small Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1 box of brownie mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  • 1 roll of refrigerated cookie dough or box of cookie dough mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Grease a muffin or mini-muffin tin
  2. Press cookie dough into the bottom layer of each section.  Add a peanut butter cup. Top with brownie mix, filling to about 2/3 full overall. (The cookies and brownies will both take up a little more space when cooked.)
  3. Bake for 18 minutes, less for mini-muffins.  When testing to make sure your treats are done, don’t let the melted chocolate from the peanut butter cup throw you off.  I overcooked mine a little, but they were still delicious.

Done!  I made 12 large muffins, 12 mini muffins, and 1 mini loaf pan (with the leftovers) with these ingredients.  Serving recommendation: warm these up and top them with ice cream.  You won’t regret it.