Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Typical Weekly Menu

I thought it might be interesting to post what a typical weekly menu in the Grow household looks like, so here it goes. This is what we have planned for next week:

This is, of course, Meatless Monday, and also our first day back from our LA vacation, so we will be having stir fry using whatever vegetables I have leftover in the fridge, which is quite a lot at this point. Broccoli, peppers, spinach, and snap peas are definitely in order, served in a soy-ginger sauce over brown rice. Dessert will be the best of the season, strawberry rhubarb crisp, with fresh, sun-ripened strawberries from the stand on Jefferson Boulevard.

I’ve actually been trying to go mostly meatless lately. Tonight I want to try a Japanese dish called Otsu, which is basically soba noodles with cucumbers and fried tofu, tossed with a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, a hugely popular blog focusing mostly on healthy whole foods.

Cinco de Mayo, which means I’ll be heading to Whole Foods to get a cut of pork (they only ell humanely raised pork, which is a must) for Carnitas! I’m gonna cook it in the slow cooker all day, then have a fiesta that night!

I’m tired by Thursday, so I’ll be going with something simple. I know I have leftover Chicken Sausage in the freezer, so I’ll saute that up with some bell peppers and olive oil and serve over whole wheat pasta with a mixed greens salad.

Friday: I’m completely exhausted by Friday, so we usually do our date night here, often opting for Thai food.

Saturday: Usually it's spontaneous and somewhat laid-back. We’re attending a Yelp ball at the Sterling Hotel (a perk of being an Elite Yelper) with food served from various local restaurants (for free! Yay!).

Sunday: Dinner with my family, who live 10 minutes away. This usually means comfort food prepared by my mom and dessert brought by me. However, this Sunday will be Mother’s Day, so I will supervise my little brother and sister as they attempt to make spaghetti with meat sauce, green salad and a crusty loaf of warmed and buttered bread.

I’m thinking I might get a pie from the infamous, elusive Real Pie Company for dessert, as I’m now on the owner Kira’s exclusive underground e-mail list. Since she’s a stay-at-home mom now, she offers one type of pie each week and alerts fans by e-mail. Then, you have to order your pie and pick it up at the Corti Brothers the next Friday. This week’s offering was an apple, quince and wild bluberry galette. Can you say delish?!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things (for the Kitchen)

Here are a few of the kitchen gadgets that I cannot live without!

OXO storage containers: I love that they are air-proof so I can safely store my many flours (white, whole wheat, bread, etc.) in them. They pop open so easily when you press the button in the center; press it again, and it's sealed tight! Available at Crate and Barrel and Target.
Microplane box grater: I remember scraping my knuckles against my cheap old grater. No more! This amazing tool gets regular use in my kitchen, as each of its 4 sides boasts a handy tool, from cheese slicer to fine zester.
My aunt bought me this cake tester (also OXO) and it is wonderful. No more knives or toothpicks when I'm testing cakes, brownies, breads, etc. It is so thin that it doesn't even leave a mark.
Again from OXO (did I mention I love that brand?), this cookie spatula is my favorite spatula to use because of its thinness and flexibility. It's great not just for cookies but also for eggs and just about anything that you don't want to break with a thicker, clumsy spatula.

This is one purchase that I haven't made yet, but I know my next indulgence will definitely be a quality pepper grinder. There is no substitute for freshly ground pepper in recipes, and these are my favorite, from Williams-Sonoma. You can see the peppercorns inside, effortlessly grind them with a twist of the wrist, and on the bottom, you can choose how fine or large you want the pepper to be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

My sister-in-laws and I collaborated to serve a special Mother's Day Brunch for our mothers and grandmothers today as an expression of appreciation. I feel like it was an inspired idea; between the delicious food and the fun get-to-know-you game we played, it was a delightful bonding experience for all of us! Cheers to Chelsea for hosting.

What are you doing for your mother on May 9th (or before)?

The Orchid Table

The Rose Table

Lemon poppyseed bread with lemon curd, petit fours, pumpkin cookies, and assorted herbal teas

Top: Cucumber sandwiches; Bottom: Leek and Bacon Quiche

Fresh fruit plate and mixed greens

Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake

2 large lemons
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour two 9- x 5- x 3-inch metal loaf pans, knocking out any excess flour.

Finely grate enough zest from lemons to measure 2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure about 1/2 cup. Into a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, 2 cups sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until batter is combined well. Beat in poppy seeds and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and divide batter between loaf pans, smoothing tops. Bake loaves in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour.

While loaves are baking, in a small bowl stir together remaining lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert loaves onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and pierce tops all over with a thin skewer. Repeatedly brush lemon glaze over tops of loaves until all of glaze is absorbed.

Cool loaves completely. Tea bread keeps, wrapped in wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 4 days or, wrapped in foil and frozen, 1 month.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Secret of the Best German Chocolate Cake

When I was a young girl, my father’s birthday meant Esther Stinchfield’s German Chocolate Cake. At that time, my dad was a bishop in our church and watched over the elderly widows as part of his duties. One sweet, energetic woman called Esther Stinchfield, then in her late 80's, never tired of expressing her appreciation for his help by making his favorite concoction for him each year for his birthday.

The cake she presented him with annually was not a typical German chocolate cake that would weigh one down; instead, it seemed to float in a heavenly manner down to your stomach where it would settle with a great deal of satisfaction. Outside, the cake was smothered in creamy white whipped cream frosting; inside, the moist double-layered cake contained a thick coconut pecan filling.

For years we wondered how she made it taste so good and begged her for the recipe, but she usually just smiled in response to our requests. Finally, when I was a teenager and she was in her 90's, I struck a deal with her. She had been in poor health, so I offered to clean her cute little house if she would teach me the ways of the German Chocolate Cake- and she agreed! I enthusiastically cleaned, then we made her cake step by step, side by side.

As it turned out, she was quite the little tiger and had been using boxed cake mix and canned frosting all those years! I still say her cake is the best - maybe it’s the frosting! The silky, light whipped cream (slightly sweetened with powdered sugar) balances out the dense filling so that overall cake is not too heavy. In recent years, I have learned that if I dot the top of the cake with walnut halves and sprinkle generously with toasted coconut, it makes an extremely impressive dessert. I made this cake last week for a co-worker’s birthday and everyone loved it. It reminded me to be grateful for that wonderful, giving woman who has since passed away. Thanks, Sister Stinchfield - for the "recipe".

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

10 Simple Ways to Be More Green

Happy Earth Day, everyone! I was browsing and came across an interesting article, "10 Simple Ways To More Green". I thought I would share some them and see what people thought about these- reasonable, or asking too much? #2 makes me worry about messiness and contamination. Also #1 and #5 seem a little contradictory. What do you think?

1. Buy only what you know you’ll consume in a week, to avoid throwing away stuff you don’t end up using. (Steer clear of the “stockin’ up!” Costco mentality.)

2. Don’t use the plastic bags for fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. Bring your own that you’ve saved at home from when you were less green, or don’t bag at all. Wash and reuse saran wrap—just dry it on the drying rack.

3. Think before you open the oven and fridge so you don’t waste electricity. Don’t stand in front of the open refrigerator eating jam with your fingers. (The first is green; the second is gross.)

4. Don’t ditch beet tops, turnip tops, or radish tops—sauté them and eat them! Save scraps of meat and vegetables in the freezer and make stock when you have enough.

5. Buy stuff from the bulk section to avoid packaging. (Most markets will let you bring any kind of container you want—Mason jar, gym sock, what have you—just weigh it empty first and record the weight somewhere on the container for the checker.)

6. Shop at local, independent grocery stores, bakeries, and other purveyors, as well as at farmers’ markets. Fewer goods will have traveled thousands of miles to get to the shelves.

7. Try some baking soda or coarse salt to remove caked-on food from a pan or oven before you resort to oven cleaner. That stuff is toxic.

8. No bottled water. Ever.

9. Use cold water to wash all but your greasiest of dishes. Hot water heaters use energy.

10. Learn to cook. Eat the Michael Pollan way: mostly plants. Grow your own herbs. Feed your friendsstaying in is the new going out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Pizza Dough You Have Never Tried

One of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light, did a piece on pizza this month. With it, they came out with a fantastic recipe for homemade pizza dough. Reasons to love this dough:

1) It's cheaper than store-bought pizza dough, which can run $4+.
2) The bread flour gives it an excellent, tender texture; the olive oil and kosher salt add an incredibly flavorful nuance. It rises like a dream and browns beautifully.
3) It's so versatile - you can use it on the grill or throw it in the oven on a pizza stone or even on an ordinary cookie sheet (sans ridges).
4) It's incredibly convenient - just mix up the ingredients one night, stick it in the fridge for 24 hours, and it's ready to go for dinner the next night.

We had this pizza tonight, topped with sauteed bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, and black olives. While it was setting for about 10 minutes after I removed it from the oven, I sprinkled it with freshly torn basil leaves and a little freshly ground pepper. Fantastico!

Basic Pizza Dough
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 c. warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 c. + 2 T. bread flour
1 package dry years (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Cooking spray
1 T. yellow cornmeal

Pour 3/4 c. warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and spoons; level with a knife. Add flour to 3/4 c. water; mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 c. water and yeast in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add yeast mixture, oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt to flour mixture; mix 5 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; cover surface of dough with plastic wrap lightly coasted with cooking spray. Refrigerate 24 hrs.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand, covered, 1 hour or until dough comes to room temperature. Punch dough down. Press dough out to a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured baking sheet, without raised sides, sprinkled with cornmeal. crimp edges to form a 1/2-inch border. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap.

Position an oven rack in the lowest setting. Place a pizza stone on lowest rack. Preheat oven to 550F. Preheat the pizza stone for 30 minutes before baking dough. Cover dough with sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice; bake for 11 minutes or until the crust is golden.

4 Places I Want to Visit Before I Die

Venice: I know it’s said to be overrated and falling apart, but it’s so iconic. It feels like the sort of place you should visit at least once. Plus, real Italian food - HELLO!

India: My interest in this culture began in college with a few Bollywood films, expanded with my discovery of Indian cuisine, and I would truly love to explore this amazing country at some point.

Cambodia: I had a friend who was able to travel to Ankhor Wat and the other ruins here. They look incredible!

Bali: I know several people who have been and loved it. Reading Eat, Pray, Love a couple of years ago solidified my inclination to go someday. The beaches, architecture and culture look fascinating.

Where do you want to travel to before you die?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Where's the (Grass-Fed) Beef?

Happy cows, living the life they were meant to live!

I am currently about 2/3 of the way through the much-talked of novel Eating Animals (which was published last year) and it has been a fascinating read thus far. I have learned much more about the factory farm system of producing meat than I ever imagined before: the environmental effect, the incredible indecencies that have been documented, and even the inferior quality of the meat itself.
If the book hasn’t convinced me to go completely vegan, it has made me much more concerned about finding humane sources of these products, for my own health as well as that of my fellow creatures. I intend eat a whole lot less meat, and to buy cage-free eggs from my parent’s neighbors, humanly raised chickens and pigs from Nugget Market or Whole Foods, and grass-fed beef. The latter is probably the least offensive kind of meat in terms of how it is raised, in fact, and is becoming more and more widely available. I found it at the local Taylor’s Market in Sacramento for only $5.59/lb.- a bargain compared with some quotes I’ve seen of over $20/lb.

Grass-fed beef comes with its own unique (in my opinion, often superior) flavor. Research suggests grass-fed beef is likely to be lower in total fat, contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and have a higher level of C.L.A. (conjugated linoleic acid), which, in animal studies, reduces the risk of cancer. Perhaps most importantly, raising cattle on pasture offers a humane quality of life for them and a cleaner world for us, as the manure enriches the earth in this fashion rather than causing immense pollution as does the CAFO-style method.

Will these forms of protein cost more than a family pack of meat from Walmart? Yes. Am I rich? Certainly not. But as the author, Jonathan Safran Foer states, "If you’re not willing to pay the true price of meat, then you shouldn’t eat meat." Now that’s something to chew on!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Absolutely Amazing Asian Noodle Salad

A lot of my female fellow bloggers follow a cooking blog called The Pioneer Woman, and that’s where I got this recipe from... Kind of! The Pioneer Woman actually got the recipe from The Naked Chef (can you tell why I wanted to try it?!) and adapted it to her tastes, calling it her "Favorite Salad Ever". I also adapted it slightly and I have to say, this is one fantastic tasting dish. It’s fresh, it’s delicious, it's simple, and the colors are amazing. The great thing about it is that you can use whatever vegetables are in season or just the ones you like; you could substitute cashews for the peanuts, soba noodles for the udon noodles, and so on. Run, don't walk, to the kitchen to make this one!

Asian Noodle Salad (serves 2)

1 bunch of udon noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
1/4 head sliced purple or napa cabbage
1/4 bag baby spinach
1 whole red bell pepper (or can use multi-colored orange, yellow, etc.)
½ c. bean sprouts
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, sliced thinly like matchsticks
1/4 c. chopped dry roasted peanuts
chopped cilantro (optional)

For the Dressing:
½ lime, juiced
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T. Sesame oil
3 T. Brown sugar
1 T. chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
A squirt of sriracha sauce for some heat!

Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve platter.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thai Dinner Party with Tropical Pie Recipe

This weekend, I finally did something I've wanted to do for some time now: I hosted a dinner party for friends. I broke the cardinal rule of hostessing in doing so, according to all of the articles I obsessively read in preparation. What was my crime? I served a series of recipes that I had never tried before. This is apparently a big no-no, but it was a risk I was willing to take. (After all, am I really going to make a multi-course meal and buy unusual ingredients to serve just my husband and I? Probably not.)

Speaking of my husband, he assisted me as an excellent sous-chef and there was something wonderful about putting together something so cool together. The menu was Thai-themed and some recipes came out better than others, but overall it was a great time with fun people and lots of laughs. I can't wait to host my next one! Here are some pictures of a few of the dishes, and a recipe for the pie, which was probably my favorite of all the new dishes I tried. To my guests, I had a blast, and hope you didn't mind being my guinea pigs!

The table setting

Close up on a table setting, with name cards!

Chicken Satay, grilled in a peanut sauce

Tangy Cucumber Salad

Fresh Pineapple, Coconut and Macadamia Nut Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-oz package), room temperature
3 c. ½ inch pieces of fresh pineapple, well-drained
2/3 c. sugar
¼ c. all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten to blend
¼ c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ c. sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 c. chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 325F. Flatten crust on lightly floured surface; press seams together if necessary. Fit into 9-inch diameter glass pie dish; crimp edges.

Arrange pineapple in crust. Combine sugar, flour, and salt in medium bowl. Add eggs and butter and blend well. Pour batter evenly over pineapple. Sprinkle coconut and macadamia nuts over and press lightly into batter. Bake until light brown and center is firm to touch, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. (8 servings)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Defining Compassion

One of my favorite summer activities is visiting the Davis Farmer’s Market on a Wednesday night. If you’re not familiar with the town of Davis, it is home to the University of California Davis; it is a college town with a very liberal, bohemian flavor. Davis is the kind of place where the residents have built a special tunnel for the frogs, solely to prevent the little creatures from being run over by passing cars. To me, that story sums up Davis in a nutshell.

Their Farmer’s Market is spectacular, offering everything from locally grown produce to bakery items to free-range chicken eggs, even seafood and free-range meats. One can browse the market, grab some dinner one of the many ethnic food stands, and lounge in the park while local musical groups put on free concerts (on Wednesday nights). The people-watching is fascinating and when the weather is warm and mild, it is a recipe for bliss.

One day last summer, my husband and I were doing just this, polishing off top-notch hot dogs and lemonade on a park bench while a big band played jazzy tunes and an older couple a few feet in front of us practiced their swing dancing moves together. (Adorable!) Unexpectedly, a young man (probably a student) approached us and said he was conducting research and asked each of us to write down in his notebook our definition of the word "compassion". We accommodate this request, and I continued to think about the encounter long after he had moved on to speak with other park-goers.

I wonder what the true nature of his experiment was. Was he seeking to learn the meaning of compassion? Or was his real intent to make people reflect on the meaning of compassion, thus displaying more kindness in their treatment of their fellow men?

I can't remember what I wrote at that time, but I like some of the ideas from the Charter for Compassion, where over 43,000 people have affirmed that what the world needs most at this time is (you guessed it) compassion. The charter reads, in part:

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect."

If you would like to add your name to the charter, feel free! You’ll be joining the likes of the Dalai Lama, Meg Ryan, and leaders from all religious traditions. As Ghandi once stated: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Tribute to the Food Network

Today, I felt like doing a tribute to the Food Network, which is far and away my favorite thing to watch on TV. Particularly ironic are the moments in which I am plodding away on the treadmill or elliptical in healthful endeavors, while simultaneously watching this station and fantasizing about the food being prepared. So here are some of the shows that have been most influential for me:

The Naked Chef: At age 16, I loved and still love everything about this show. I loved the edgy filming style, the basic, simple foods prepared, and of course, the host Jamie Oliver, with his adorable Essex accent and contagious passion for cooking. My husband recently acquired the whole season 1. Major kudos to him!

Iron Chef: In high school, my dad and I would often watch this one together. It was something that we both enjoyed, as it incorporated martial arts-like effects (which appealed to my dad) and cooking (which appealed to me). The over-the-top dramatic effects made it comical as well - I will always remember that moment in the opening credits in which the host bites into a bell pepper with just a tad too much enjoyment.

Drive Ins, Diners and Dives: This show seems to be my constant work out companion, as it airs after work when I typically hit the gym. I also feel a personal connection with host Guy Fieri, seeing as he’s from Northern California, owns the local Sacramento restaurant Tex Wasabi, and has stated that our local Squeeze Inn offers the second best burger in the US! Yes, I do feel the irony of burning calories while watching him down chili dogs and an endless parade of fried foods, but still gotta love it.

Honorable mention to Bobby Flay's Throwdown, which can be pretty entertaining too.
Any other favorites out there?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Apricots, Foraging, Bartering, and Canning

Last summer was a bountiful and delicious one. I experienced a moment of revelation in July when I visited my parent’s house and discovered an apricot tree, heavy laden with fragrant, plump fruit that seemed to beg me to put it to good use.
I spent the next two weeks in feverish harvest mode. I brought baskets of apricots to work to share with colleagues, made freezer jam with my boyfriend, boiled up hearty homemade preserves, and cut and froze what couldn’t be used immediately. I even consulted some elderly ladies from my church on the lost art of canning, and emerged the fruit in a light sugary syrup, later lining the humble cupboard of my apartment with bright, attractive Mason jars.

For an American who had long grown accustomed to my weekly drive to the grocery store fulfilling my dietary needs, I often thought (and still think) of food in terms of dollars and cents. Last summer, however, taught me that nature has the capacity of generously providing for our needs in the most palatable way imaginable, if we will invest the time and effort to harvest and preserve this food.

I am also fascinated by the in vogue concept of foraging and bartering for food. One example of this trend are the many websites that encourage those with a surplus of fruit or veggies to share with those in need, or link up with those from the community who will are willing to share their own surplus. I love the idea of preventing waste, and providing fresh, seasonal food to as many people as possible, while promoting community unity.

Maybe I’m drawn to these ideas because they represent a romantic return to a simpler life based on agriculture, nature and tradition. Whatever the draw, I say: Let’s celebrate nature’s bounty this year, in whatever capacity we can. Also - anybody wanna trade me for some apricots?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Portuguese Coconut Tarts

When I was a little girl, my Portuguese grandma (who came to the US from the Azore Islands when she was young) would always bring two traditional foods to our Easter celebration: Portuguese sweet bread and little coconut tarts. I adored both of them. Portuguese sweet bread is easily found, but I haven't been able to find those tarts until I did an internet search for the recipe, determined to replicate them at home this year. (My grandma bought them at a Portuguese bakery.)
I did indeed find a recipe and made them yesterday, and my family all agreed they were just like the ones my grandma used to bring. They aren't hard to make since there is no crust to mess with, and if you like coconut, you will love these! The top is like a coconut macaroon; underneath, you will find coconut bathed a smooth, rich custard.

Pasteis de Coco
(Portuguese Coconut Tarts)

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Adjust the rack to middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 10 paper cupcake liners.

2. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside.

3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade shred the coconut flakes for 30 seconds.

4. In a large mixing bowl, stir the eggs and sugar together with a wooden spoon. One by one, add the cornstarch mixture, remaining milk, coconut, melted butter and lemon extract, stirring well after each addition.

5. Ladle the custard into the paper cups, filling to 1/4 inch from the top. (Note: Make sure to stir frequently to keep the coconut well distributed.)

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the coconut is nicely toasted. Cool completely in the tin before serving. Very nice served chilled.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cornbread from Scratch, and I Mean Scratch!

Today's subject is in response to a friend of mine who enjoys growing his own food so much, he doesn't just garden but plants crops in his backyard, including corn. He asked me if it would be possible to make cornbread out of some of the corn he anticipates harvesting this year. Here is what my research indicates:

First, you must dry the corn kernels. Next, grind the corn into a fine meal with a corn mill such as this one (the reviews for this particular brand weren't glowing, but you get the idea). Also, I found a video on Youtube demonstrating how to grind corn kernels here.

Once you've got your cornmeal ground, you can use it in any cornbread recipe. My husband claims he never liked cornbread until we got married, because it was always dense and dry. The recipe I use is great - it comes out light, fluffy and moist every time! You can use store bought cornmeal if you aren't putting in your crops anytime soon. :-) Slather with a little butter and it's fantastic with beans, chili, soup, etc.

Basic Corn Bread

1 1/2 c. yellow or white cornmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
6 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. milk (or plain rice or soy milk)
2 large eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Oil an 8x1182-inch baking dish. Set aside. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk, until blended. Whisk together the soy milk, eggs and oil in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture, and stir with a large spoon until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Serves 6.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Grandma's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My aunt passed on this family recipe to me, relating that her mother (my pateral grandmother) used to make this cake for her family of six kids. Ever since the same aunt bought me a deep cast-iron skillet for Christmas and gave me this heirloom recipe, I have been itching to make it.

This week finally I tried it out, using what I happened to have in my pantry, including a white cake mix. I know it would probably be about twice as good if I'd made it from scratch, but it was still tasty indeed.

The pineapple slices kind of slid around in the baking process and if you're wondering why I didn't add more fruit, it looked full before I added the batter! I think it would be fun to use cherries, nuts or coconut in addition to the pineapple.
We just loved the thick, caramelized topping. Yum!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (in Cast Iron Skillet)

Trader Joe’s has a good vanilla cake mix that works as a substitute for the dry ingredients. Just mix  1/4 cup pineapple juice in with 3/4 cup milk in place of the 1 cup of milk it calls for.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
One can pineapple slices in juice
Buttermilk (or sour milk made with lemon juice and milk works fine) plus juice from drained pineapple to make 1 1/4 cup liquid
Maraschino cherries, halved (optional)
Chopped nuts (optional)

½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar

Cream white sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Alternate adding the buttermilk/pineapple juice mixture and the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture until mixed without lumps.

Put ½ cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar in a cast iron skillet. Heat on stove top over medium heat until bubbling. Then reduce heat while bubbling softly and thickening slightly, about 3 minutes total. Don’t burn the sugar/butter mixture. Turn off and lay drained pineapple slices decoratively on top. (Add cherries or nuts if desired.) Pour batter over slices. Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes until done. Let cake rest for 10 minutes and invert cake. Leave upside down for a minute or so. Lift pan.