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
- 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.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat butter in a 10-inch cake pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- 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).
- Cook until toasted – about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before enjoying on top of anything and everything you can imagine.
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!
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
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beat the eggs and cheese together, add to the bowl with cooked veggies and chopped tomatoes. Mix together and transfer to large baking dish.
- 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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What’s your go-to breakfast food?
There is basically never a time when I don’t want a stuffed artichoke since my college roommate first introduced me to this delicacy. (Hi Jill!) It’s not the fastest thing in the world to make, but it’s completely worth it, especially when you can start eating it before going out with your friends and finish the rest when you come home starving after a night of dancing… if you can stand to not eat it all in one sitting.
- 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs with Italian seasoning added)
- 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I use jarred but this is about 1 1/2 cloves)
- 2 small to medium artichokes
Stuffing in progress
- Lightly toast bread crumbs in a frying pan – no oil needed. Put water on to boil with a steaming basket big enough to hold your artichokes upright.
- Cut off the top 1/4 (or so) of the artichoke with a knife, and trim the stem except for the last 1/2 inch or so. Fan out the remaining segments of the artichokes and cut off the spiky tips with scissors. You should only need to cut off about the top 1/3 per section but you should make sure you get all the sharp bits even if it means losing a little more of the ‘choke.
- Mix everything else together and start stuffing! Start at the outer pieces and put the bread crumbs as far down in each segment as you can. If you separate the pieces as you go, you should be able to get a good amount in each section. When you get near the middle, keep stuffing – that’s the best part!
- Stand up the artichokes in your steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and cook for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your artichokes. Add more water to the pot as needed.
C’est tout! Just peel off the segments and eat them from the base, and then attack the middle with the fork once you get past the rougher outer layers.
Did your college roomies ever share tasty treats from home? What do you put inside your stuffed artichokes?
I cannot in good conscience tell you how to make this soup, since I did it entirely wrong. My version involved:
- the smoke alarm going off while I was in the shower
- “cooking” the butternut squash in three different ways
- splattering boiling soup all over my arms and my stovetop
But boy, doesn’t it look pretty? It was tasty too, once I started breathing again.
More when I actually get this right…
Things I love: coming home to the smell of something cooking.
Things I hate: anything that could feasibly burn my house down.
I have a bit of a complicated relationship with the idea of crockpots. I just don’t trust them. I know that they work for tons of people, but I just can’t wrap my head around intentionally leaving something cooking in my kitchen when I’m so far away. So in my quest to get over this, I decided to take on a classic crockpot recipe today – with a twist – while I was out and about in the neighborhood.
The results were confidence inspiring and actually amazingly delicious – more so than anything I’ve made this way before. The recipe is modified from a “Crockpot: the original slow cooker” cookbook I nabbed for $5 outside of Borders once upon a time.
Other than the delicious taste, this recipe wins because it just involves chopping some things up (no braising the meat, etc.), cooks at one temp the whole time, and doesn’t require you to buy tons of things you’ll never use in another recipe. It’s also adaptable to almost any veggie – you can just use this as a starting point. Definitely recommend for anyone who’s looking to spice up the old classic this winter!
Asian Beef Stew – Crockpot Style
- 1 onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut up – I got mine pre-cut into stew meat sized chunks at the deli
- 1 head of celery, sliced
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced – make your slices pretty thin, my carrots still had some crunch to them!
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (really, can use as little as 1 cup or as much as you want)
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup beef broth (look for low sodium and low fat versions)
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce - the one weird ingredient!
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Combine onion, beef, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a large crockpot (the book recommends the 5-quart version, as though you have multiple sizes just filling your cupboards).
- Combine orange juice, beef broth, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, and curry powder in a small bowl – whisk together until cornstarch is dissolved.
- Pour into crockpot and give it a good stir – cover and cook on high for 5 hours or until the beef is tender. When the beef is almost done (go ahead, peek!), stir in a cup of frozen peas and cook for a final 20 minutes or so.
Serve over rice, share, freeze, and enjoy!
This is definitely going in my list of easy favorites. It has a great warmth to it, between the spiciness of the sauce and the curry. The beef was so tender and tasty – I’m really looking forward to eating this all week. Seriously!
What’s your favorite crockpot creation? Had any major flops you learned along the way?