Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Hello friends! Summer is flying by and things have been super busy for me lately. I spent a lovely weekend at wanderlust, a fabulous yoga and music festival at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. There are various wanderlust festivals happening all over the country, so check it out. I spent my time there with my friend Amy, her sister, and three of their cousins.

Such a good time! This coming weekend, we’ll be in the north woods of Maine, hiking and fishing to our heart’s content. I’ve got plenty of murder mysteries checked out from the library and I’m ready to camp and enjoy a nice long Fourth of July weekend.

If you have plans for a barbeque or a picnic this weekend, consider offering to bring dessert! These Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes are an adorably sweet treat that are fun, festive, and delicious. They use “convenience” ingredients so they come together quickly. You’ll need mini bundt pans to make these personal cakes – if you don’t have them, you could make this as a large bundt cake instead.

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
makes 12 mini cakes or 1 large bundt cake

1 butter cake mix + ingredients required on the box
1 can sliced pineapple rings
12 maraschino cherries
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

Grease the cake pans and set aside. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.

Mix melted butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Spoon some of the mixture into each of the bundt pans.

Slice each ring of pineapple and each maraschino cherry in half. Arrange in the bottom of the mini bundt pan with the cherries in the space between the halves of pineapple. Spoon the cake batter over the fruit.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto wire racks.

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Grilled Romaine

I’ve been wanting to post about grilling romaine for a year or two, but my pictures never seemed appetizing enough to get the message across that it’s REALLY good. I finally decided “screw it, I’m posting it anyway”. This change in attitude was brought on by a glimpse through a recent Food Network magazine in which Guy Fieri presents a bastardized version of this healthy summer side that my dad has been making for years.

For me, the whole point of grilled romaine is that it’s good for you. Topping it with blue cheese and bacon and who knows what else Guy threw on there kind of defeats the purpose. Sure, it’s yummy, but eating lettuce isn’t healthy when you smother it in fat. It’s all well and good for Guy, but some of us have to wear a bikini this summer without scaring away small children.

So here is my super easy, super healthy version. If you want the blue cheese-bacon monstrosity (and I can’t say I really blame you, I’m sure it’s very delicious), google it from the Stairmaster.

Grilled Romaine
serves 4

2 hearts of romaine lettuce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper

plastic wrap
rubber bands
Remove any soft or floppy outer leaves from the lettuce. Slice the romaine in half lengthwise, leaving the core attached.

In a small bowl, mix the oil, garlic, salt, and pepper into a paste. Drizzle over the cut side of the lettuce, pushing the mixture in between the leaves.

Put the lettuce back together (cut sides facing in) and wrap in plastic. Use a rubber band to secure. I throw these in the fridge and let them “marinate” while I’m getting the rest of dinner ready. This is an easy dish to take to a cookout – you can just bring the prepped lettuce along and have the host slap it on the grill.

Grill over medium-high heat, until outer edges are charred and lettuce has softened. You can slice it before serving if you like, but I think the half is nice looking on a plate.

Posted in greens, salad | 3 Comments

I Love Maine!

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Seafood Paella

My dad came to visit us after we moved to our new place, and I knew I wanted to spend some time cooking with him. He’s the one who taught me to experiment in the kitchen and not to stress about a missing ingredient or precise cooking times. Exact measurements are usually pointless and recipes are really more like guidelines. With the exception of baking, I tend to find this attitude makes my cooking so much less stressful.

When my dad came up to visit, I knew I wanted to capitalize on our mutual love of seafood. I’ve been wanting to try making paella for years and figured this was the perfect opportunity. Andrew and I took my dad to Harbor Fish, our favorite fish market in Portland. Narrowing down the options was the hardest part! The nice thing about paella is that it’s flexible in the type and quantity of seafood. This recipe may not be 100% authentic, but it’s delicious! It takes some time to make, but the effort is worth it, and much easier if you have a helper. This made 4 BIG servings plus leftovers. I was a little lazy – forgot the peas and skipped the herbs – but please add something green so it looks less bland.

 

Seafood Paella

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. sea scallops, cubed
1 lb. mild white fish (I used halibut), cubed
2 lb. mussels, cleaned

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
5 c. fish stock (chicken or vegetable will work too)
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 c. frozen peas

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic in the oil until softened. In a separate pot, heat the stock over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, season well with salt, and cook just until pink. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the shrimp to a heated bowl.

In the meantime, set a heat-proof colander full of the mussels over the stock pot and cover. Cook until mussels open, 10-15 minutes, then move mussels to the heated bowl with the shrimp. Dad and I opted to remove them from their shells, but if you like the prettier presentation, feel free to leave them in.

Add the rice and saffron to the pan with the vegetables and toast, stirring for several minutes. Add the wine, stirring well. (You should be recognizing my risotto method at this point!)

Once the mussels are cooked, remove the colander from the stock pot and begin adding the broth to the rice, a cup at a time. Allow the liquid to be fully absorbed before adding more.

When all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice should be creamy with a very slight bite to it. At this point, add the raw scallops, raw fish, and frozen peas to the pan, stir to incorporate, and cover. Allow to cook five minutes or so – just until the fish and scallops are opaque. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve on heated plates, preferably garnished with fresh herbs.

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Picnic Musings

It’s Memorial Day weekend and Andrew and I are heading “up north” to go camping. No matter what your plans are, I hope they include a picnic – I loooove cookout food! If you’re looking for some ideas on new things to make and bring along to a get together this weekend, look no further!

I’ll be doing a lot of this:

I’ll also be cooking over our camp stove and an open fire, so some of these aren’t options for me. I like to plan ahead for camping and tend bring things I’ve made at home – cold salads, pre-cooked ground beef (for taco pockets!), desserts. The options I’m providing here are more suited to picnics, cookouts, and simple summer dinners than they are to camping.

Olive Broils are a tasty appetizer with just five ingredients (some of which you probably have on hand!) that are a hit at every gathering. The best part is that they require no baking, just a quick broil, so the oven doesn’t need to stay on for any length of time.

Gorgonzola Spinach Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries are a healthy alternative to beef that don’t require you to sacrifice flavor. Top the burgers with caramelized onions and you’ll have a new cookout favorite!

Cold Curry Peanut Noodles are a fun spin on pasta salad and incredibly delicious, even as leftovers!

Tabbouleh is a non-traditional salad that is cool and refreshing. Such a great way to add some much-needed GREEN to a typical cookout menu. Make it the day before to allow the flavors to marry.

S’mores Bars are a sweet ode to a childhood campsite favorite! Super chocolatey and so simple to make that you can throw them together for a last-minute cookout without breaking a sweat!

***Do you have exciting Memorial Day weekend plans? Gardening, camping, hitting the beach? Share your plans (for fun AND food) with me in the comments!***

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Wednesday Yums

Just a little post to share some stuff I’ve been finding awesome lately!

Nasturtiums

These edible flowers are adorable – bright, springy, and yes, tasty too! Andrew’s cousin Elise gave me nasturtium plants when we went to visit over the weekend and I am so excited to see them flower and to come up with fun ways to eat them!

Super Easy Dinners

That’s right, here’s a recipe in the middle of a random post. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and throw a pound of boneless skinless chicken tenders onto it. Spray chicken with olive oil and sprinkle on your favorite seasoning (I used Old Bay). Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes (until chicken is cooked). In the meantime, boil a pound of pasta. Remove chicken from oven and shred with two forks. Toss pesto (store-bought is just fine, but if you have homemade, go for it) with the chicken and pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese for the easiest dinner ever.

Gaucho’s Churrascaria

Gaucho’s rocks! A Brazilian steakhouse on Commercial Street in Portland, the food is non-stop and it’s all delicious. Definitely a nice option for those who visit Maine but aren’t big seafood eaters. Twelve kinds of meat is only part of the story – there’s also a huge salad bar, tons of side options, and a nice wine and cocktail menu.

The String of Hope

I mentioned our cousin Elise earlier. I have been wanting to share with you that her daughter was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and is undergoing treatments in Boston. Mia is an awesome girl and it was her desire that we support something that isn’t all about her, or even all about cancer. She chose The String of Hope – a really great cause that focuses on bringing hope and compassion to those who have none. I’m loving the little reminder on my wrist that I am so blessed and so lucky to have love and hope in my life. Anything I can do to pass that on to other people, I’m willing to take part in. Check out The String of Hope when you have some time.

Have a great week! If you haven’t already, use the button on the right to friend TPF on Facebook – I’m hoping to showcase some more Portland restaurants and share more pictures with you there this summer.

Posted in chicken, it's not all about food, pasta | 2 Comments

Spicy Chicken Taco Cups

All right, if you never ever ever use store-bought anything, you’re going to want to turn away from this post right now and maybe read about the time I made Bouef Bourguignon from scratch, because I used *gasp* packaged crescent rolls. Things have been so busy since we moved and not only have I slacked on my blogging, I’ve gotten lazy about cooking dinner. It doesn’t help that Andrew has been out of town a lot for work – when he’s gone, I fall back on risotto and pasta, and you all definitely know how to make those if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time.  🙂

Andrew and I both love spicy tacos, and though I love “authentic” tacos made with carne asada or marinated fish, when I make them at home, I almost always go for ground meat. Ground chicken and turkey are good choices for us – with all the spicy seasonings, I really don’t miss the flavor that ground beef provides. Obviously, you can use whatever you want, but in the pictures of these taco cups, they are made with ground chicken.

Adobo sin pimienta is adobo without pepper – it’s a seasoning you can get in the grocery store, near the Mexican/Spanish ingredients. I love it on rice, pasta, polenta, and as a seasoning for meat. It’s just a blend of garlic, salt, oregano, and turmeric, so if you don’t want to buy it, you could always use the individual spices to your taste.

Spicy Chicken Taco Cups

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
2 tbsp. fajita seasoning
2 tbsp. chipotle tabasco sauce
1 tbsp. adobo sin pimienta
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 package refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 c. shredded cheese

Remove crescent rolls from the refrigerator to allow them to warm up a bit. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with one rack in the center of the oven and the other directly under the broiler.

Spray a large pan with cooking spray (I use sprayable olive oil) and heat over medium-high. Add the chicken and break up with a spoon. Sprinkle all the spices over the chicken and stir to coat well. After the chicken is mostly cooked, cover the pan and turn the heat down to low.

Separate the crescent rolls. In an ungreased muffin tin, coil each roll into one muffin cup, pressing the seams together. Allow some of the roll to drape over the top of each cup.

Bake according to package directions (typically 375 degrees) for 2-4 minutes. At this point, the rolls puff and start to fill in the cup. Use a small ladle or something cylindrical (the bottom of my ice cream scoop well!) to hollow the cup out again. Bake another 8-10 minutes or until rolls are a light golden color.

Remove pan from the oven and switch the temperature to “broil”.

Fill each cup with the spicy meat mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cheese. Return pan to broiler for 1-2 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

Top with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, chopped green onions, or the garnish of your choice.

Posted in beef, chicken | 1 Comment