Sunday, September 26, 2010

Midnight Cravings, a tale of how a mini cake came to be

I don't know what inspired me. Maybe it was that I wanted to surprise Dylan with something special. Maybe it was my incessant need to bake things all the time. Perhaps it was my overpowering desire for something sweet. But cookies or candy or ice cream just wasn't going to cut it. I don't know WHAT it was. All I know is that I wanted cake and I wanted it right then. So I slipped into the kitchen while Dylan was distracted talking to his mom on the phone and started concocting my wonderful midnight treats. Oh, yeah. Did I mention it was almost midnight?

I had in my head a vision of something cake-y but gooey and fruity at the same time. I could just taste what it was I was trying to think of....OH pineapple upside down cake. But I don't want to make a whole cake...Of course! Miniature pineapple upside down cakes! I pulled out my mini Pyrex cups and got to work melting the brown sugar and butter to make a gooey caramel, mixing together the fluffy yellow cake (from scratch, yes it is sooo easy and soooo much better than a box), and layering all the pieces together with the pineapple. Yum! I was in heaven and soon Dylan was too as the decadent smell of freshly-baked sweetness wafted from the oven. What are you making in there? I wouldn't tell him. He'd just have to be surprised. 

It just so happened that as soon as I pulled the cakes out, Dylan had just gotten off the phone and wandered into the kitchen towards the delicious smell. He practically started hopping up and down with excitement and didn't even realize what they were at first (not just cake as by the looks of them in there upside down state). We waited in agony for 10 long minutes for the cups to cool down enough to tip them over without burning our hands, which we did as fast as we could as soon as the waiting period was up. It took all my effort to take a few impatient pictures of my creation before launching into the cake with my fork as fast as possible. It was one of the best pineapple upside down cakes I have ever had. I don't know whether it was the fact it was midnight. Or that I had succeeded in mysteriously baking something in the kitchen without alerting Dylan. Or that it was my craving for something sweet finally being fulfilled. All I know is: it was damn good.

Miniature Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Makes 2 mini cakes

What you will need:
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-3 Tablespoons butter
-2 handfuls of frozen pineapple chunks or 2 pineapple rings
-(optional: 2 maraschino cherries) 
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-1/3 cup sugar
-1/8 cup milk

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and melt on low heat until the mixture is a gooey bubbly caramel. Do not let it burn, you will ruin it, promise.

2. If you are using frozen pineapple, put the chunks into a small bowl and microwave for about 15 seconds (you're not melting them completely, just warming them up).

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until smooth and there are no clumps.

4. Grease your small Pyrex bowls with butter or non-stick spray. You can also us muffin tins for this.

5. Now start layering. First divide the caramel evenly between the cups, you don't have to use all of it. Add to your liking. Next, add either your pineapple ring or pineapple chunks. If you are using a cherry (for traditions sake), add it now. Next, divide the batter evenly over the pineapple and caramel up to 1/2 inch from the rim.

6. Place the cups on a baking sheet and bake for about 25-30 min. or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Depending on the oven and the amount of batter per cup, the cooking time will vary so I would check in on them every 10 min. (Don't worry the cakes won't fall if you open the oven)

7. When done, take the cakes out and let cool in their dishes for 10min. Carefully flip the cups over onto your serving plate and voila! You have 2 beautiful mini cakes just for you to indulge in. Yum!

Enjoy and as always Happy Cooking!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's a muffin kind of morning.

Even though it is still summer in Boston, it has finally cooled down from the raging roll of 90 degree weather that kept us under ice packs and fans for 5 unbearable days. And so in the wake of this new 70 degree weather, I am celebrating by thinking of all the yummy things to look forward to in the coming fall. I am literally holding myself back from running out and buying pumpkin puree so I can make pumpkin pie--my absolute favorite dessert. I am a pumpkin fanatic and it kills me that the stores here decide not to keep it in stock until November when Thanksgiving rolls around. So, in the meantime, I have to make due with other fall treats and flavors.

I turned over from a deep sleep this morning to see Dylan's smiley face saying "I want muffins!" So, hardly hesitating on the subject of breakfast, although it is already 10:30 in the morning, I look through my books for ideas on the perfect healthy muffin (without white flour, since I didn't realize that all the flour, that I assumed we had used up in the bag, had actually been moved to a glass jar which I failed to notice in my morning sleepiness). Making use of the oat bran and whole wheat flour I had stored, I created my very own blueberry bran muffin with a cinnamon-sugar crust to satisfy that late morning craving.

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffin
Makes 10-12 muffins

You will need:

-1 1/8 cup oat bran
-1 cup milk
-1 Tablespoon plain yogurt (although, I used banana cause that's what I had)
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + about 1/2 teaspoon for topping
-2 large eggs
-1/3 cup canola oil
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
-1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Combine the oat bran, milk, and yogurt in a large bowl. Mix together and let sit for 20-30min., letting the oat bran soften.

2. Make sure rack is in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

3. Mix together well the wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium size bowl. Put aside.

4. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla to the oat bran mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture to the oat bran mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined. Don't overmix! They will become tough if you do!

5. Add your blueberries and fold into the mix.

6. Grease the muffin cups with either butter or an oil spray. Spoon the mixture evenly into each cup, using all the batter.

7. For the topping: Mix the granulated sugar and last 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon together. Sprinkle each muffin top with about 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar. Don't skimp on the sugary tops! In the oven these will melt down to create a crunchy sugary crust.

8. Bake for 20min. or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Let rest for 10min on a cooling rack before serving.

9. Eat them with butter, with a little honey, or as is. Enjoy!!

Happy Cooking,


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer, Sunflowers, and Sauce

School's almost in session, I am back in my little apartment, and the weather is o so fine and dandy! It's been a wonderful couple days back so far, albeit busy. Taking the job on as peer advisor for 13 students as well as directing hundreds of students through orientation is quite a lot of repeating and re-repeating, but is so rewarding. I love greeting the shy, nervous looking student with a big, "Welcome to Berklee! How are you doing today? Where are you from? What's your instrument?" If I can get them to leave with a smile and a little less nervous, I've done my job and I feel so good about it.

Since I've been back, I've been on a bit of a health regime. I find myself craving fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies. Dylan and I ran into the Copley Square Farmer's Market last Thursday, which was a pleasant surprise, and led to the purchase of several freshly baked rolls and sweet corn. I became fascinated, as Dylan stood in line for bread, with the amazing sunflowers Siena Farm was selling. Huge, beautiful sunflowers smiled up at me out of buckets while honey bees busily collected their quota of pollen for the day.

Today's recipe is a little something I concocted one night this week to satisfy my need for meat--something I often overlook between my busy schedule and mouthfuls of food. The other reason I often find myself in a meat shortage has to do with Dylan's and my picky price requirements. We sometimes focus so much on the cheapest best quality food, that we overlook the meat section entirely, simply because nothing there is under 5 dollars. Luckily for us, Trader Joes provides meats that don't push the budget too much as long as we work it into our meals for the week. This week's perfect find: pork tenderloin for a little more than $5.00. And to satisfy my eternal craving for a balance between savory and sweet, a buttery apricot sauce to serve it with.

Black Pepper Encrusted Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Sauce

You Will Need:

-1 pork tenderloin
-sea salt
-freshly ground black pepper
-1 clove garlic
-1/3 cup white vinegar
-1/2 cup apricot jam
-1 cup chicken stock
-2 tablespoons butter

1. Cut of the silver skin of the tenderloin. Sprinkle with salt. Cover, roll, etc. in the black pepper evenly. You need A LOT of black pepper. Make sure you have enough to create a nice crust.

2. Brown the tenderloin in a HOT pan about 5-6 min. a side.

3. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20min or until done. Then, let rest while making the sauce.

4. To make the sauce: Use the same pan you seared the tenderloin in (don't wash). Saute the garlic for half a minute.

5. Add vinegar, jam, and stock. Mix well with whisk. Cook on high until reduced to half the original volume.

6. Add the butter and stir till melted.

7. Serve the diagonally cut pork tenderloin over the sauce! Yum!

As always, Happy Cooking!