Monday, July 27, 2015

Maple-Rum Pineapple Upside Down Cake


Cake Pineapple Upside Down Rum Maples Dessert

I'm not big on sweets but this kicked up version of a classic is one of my favorites to make and eat.

The Hub, well, he does have a sweet tooth and whenever he sees a pineapple ripening in the kitchen - he knows what is coming. He even does his own version of a happy dance.

What's kicked up in my version of this classic is the addition of maple and rum in both the topping and the batter. I'm not adding these ingredients for the sole purpose of making the recipe different - but to enhance and add layers of flavors.  And they do!

Don't be put off by the steps, this cake comes together fast. Not only is it a crowd pleaser it looks quite impressive.  I have taken this to many dinners and BBQs and I have yet to see anyone turn down a piece. Even folks who aren't into sweets chow down on this without reserve.

I leave you with a bit of friendly advise ... make two -  if you are taking one to a party.  Your family may not be talking to you if you don't!

Topping:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch rings
  • Marachino cherries
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Heat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet* over medium heat, adding butter to melt. 
  2. Add the brown sugar and allow to simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly. 
  3. Add maple syrup, rum and vanilla, stir to incorporate simmer an additional 30 seconds.
  4. If you are using a cast iron skillet you can cook the whole cake in it. Pour 
  5. butter-sugar mixture into a 13"x 9" baking dish that has been generously greased.
  6. Then arrange 8 pineapple rings along the bottom of the dish, 4 on each side and place a cherry in the center of each ring.
Preheat oven at 350 degrees F

Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons dark rum - Divided into 2  and 4 tablespoons
  • 2/3 cup pineapple juice, no sugar added
  1. Sift the first three ingredients together.
  2. Cream butter with and electric mixer until its light and fluffy, medium speed
  3. Slowly incorporate sugar
  4. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to incorporate each egg fully before adding the next egg
  5. Beat in vanilla and rum
  6. Lower mixer speed and add 1/2 of the flour until blended and add the juice
  7. Then add the remaining half of the flour until blended.  Do not over beat.  The batter may look lumpy or look like it is curdled.
  8. Carefully spoon batter over topping,  Take care to spread batter out evenly. 
  9. Bake until golden and toothpick or other tester comes out clean - about 45 minutes. If tester does not come out clean continue baking in 5 minute intervals until it does come out clean. Take care to not over bake.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of rum over cake - immediately after taking out of oven.
  11. Cool on wire rack, Flip over once cooled.


*If you are using a cast iron skillet you can cook the whole cake in it. Arrange the pineapple rings along the bottom and use half rings along the sides of the skillet. Continue recipe as above.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Wednesdays with Eryka

One of My Favorite Then and Now Pictures with Eryka

Some of you great folks out there have written asking where is Wednesdays with Eryka. First thank you for letting us know how much you miss her Wednesday posts. We are genuinely touched!

Eryka is going back to school for her RN degree and that is going to require a lot of her time. With a full time job as an LPN and clinical work,(for her RN) twice a week till late at night, it's going to be rough.  And school is always a priority.

We hope you understand and who knows maybe she'll stop by and surprise us with one of her quick and easy recipes. Thank you Eryka (my sugarplum) for encouraging and supporting me and the blog. Wishing my daughter the best of everything as she embarks on a new path to further her career.  Dad and I are so very proud of you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Portobello Mushrooms

Paste Penne Chicken Sausage Portobello Mushrooms Italian Food
Portabella vs. Portobello, apparently either is correct
but you won't care once your serve up a bowl of my
Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Portobello Mushrooms

One of my favorite Sunday dinners is pasta and this particular pasta recipe is a family favorite! And it's a low fuss meal that comes together in about 15 minutes and then it's left to simmer to develop it's rich flavor.

What I love about it is that it is lighter in calories then a traditional pasta and sausage dinner because I use lean Italian-style chicken sausage. If you splurge on a good brand you won't miss the pork variety. 

The addition of the portobello mushrooms adds that extra meatiness and lots of depth of flavor.

Typically, I like to serve this with some kind of slow cooked greens, such as kale or swiss chard and wine, red or white.  I tend to drink whatever I am in the mood for and just chuck that whole this type of wine goes with that type of protein.  If you like it ... I say drink it!

Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions  sliced
  • 2 red and yellow bell or 8 mini-bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 caps of portobello mushrooms, thick sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, dried
  • 1 tablespoon basil, dried
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes
  • 4 mild Italian-style chicken sausages, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound cooked penne pasta (or pasta of choice)
  1. Heat a heavy bottomed, skillet with tall sides over medium heat, add the first 3 ingredients, saute 3 minutes.
  2. Next, add the mushrooms, garlic, oregano, basil and red chili pepper. Saute 3 minutes.
  3. Add sausage and saute 5-7 minutes, stir often.
  4. Pour in wine to deglaze the pan and allow to simmer until the wine is reduced by half.
  5. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Simmer 30-45 minutes over low heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Add cooked pasta and stir well to incorporate.
  8. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serve with garlic bread and a light salad and of course wine, lots of wine!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baked Custard-y Zucchini and Squash

Baked Zucchini Yellow Squash, Cheese Eggs Custard



Like most individuals I hate waste, especially when it comes to food.  It pains me to throw out food because it has gone bad because I just didn't have time to get to it.

I had two zucchinis and two yellow squash in the veggie bin and I knew that once the work week hit, they were not getting used.  Their end was getting closer.

While I made my Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Portobello Mushrooms (recipe coming next Monday), I figured why not just go ahead and make something with the squashes. I was chopping veggies up anyway, what difference did it make if I chopped a few more.

So I sliced and diced away and this is what resulted from a very quick impromptu, on the spot, made it up as I went, vegetable side dish. I wanted cheesy and I wanted something a little creamy and custardy. That's a lot of "eee"s or is that "y's"!

Did I mention it turned out delicious? No?

Well, it did and the Hub, you remember him - the ever present food barometer, he had thirds and took the rest for lunch the next day.

Serves 4 - 6
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2/3 cup of heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (like egg beaters)
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese PLUS 1/2 cup reserved and set aside
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 6 slices provolone cheese
  1. Preheat oven at 375 degreesF
  2. Spray a 11" x 7" baking dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Place zucchini and squash in dish
  4. In a medium sized bowl add cream, whites, 3/4 cup of Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until well incorporated and pour over vegetables in baking dish
  5. Sprinkle the reserved Parmesan over top and bake for 40 minutes
  6. Top with provolone cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and just slightly browned.  


Serve with an arugula salad dressed with my  Roasted Garlic Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette , warm, toasted baguette and a crisp white wine.  Perfect for a simple lunch or light dinner.

Recipe Notes:
Want to cut the fat and not use heavy cream? Use fat free half & half, it works just fine.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Maple Bourbon Garlic Roast Chicken


Maple Bourbon Garlic Chicken Recipe Delicious



Maple, bourbon and garlic, three simple ingredients that play together so very nicely!

This recipe is easy to make, it just takes a little patience during the brine and marinade process but I promise that the results are nothing short of divine.

The Hub, who never remembers the name of any recipe, will ask for it by name.  It think it's the bourbon that he remembers most.

But it has become a special Sunday dinner, although I've made it during the week too.

This recipe recommends that you brine your chicken, you can skip this part, but frankly if I have a chance to brine I do. Why? Because it makes for a very moist chicken throughout, including the breast. For time efficieny, brine the night before and marinate the next day until it's time to roast.
If you want to brine check out my post on how to brine here.

With this recipe you get crispy skin and juicy, flavorful chicken and to me that's the perfect roast chicken right there.


  • 1 - 4-5 pound whole chicken (remove the neck and giblets from the chicken's cavity)
  • Brine 10-12 hours or overnight.  Here's a link to my post on all things brine.
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Maple Bourbon Garlic Roast Chicken Recipe Food

Clean up your chicken by removing any excess skin and fat.


  1. Brine chicken overnight or at least 10 hours.
  2. While the chicken is in the brine solution, mix all the ingredients in a bowl, except for the salt and pepper, cover and place in fridge. This will give the marinade time to develop it's full flavor potential.
  3. After brining, remove chicken from solution, rinse well and pat very dry.
  4. Place chicken in a large zip bag and pour all the ingredients from the bowl into the zip bag. Zip it closed, roll chicken around in the bag so the marinade is well distributed and place in fridge (place in a deep bowl, just in case).  Allow to marinate 2 - 8 hours, the longer the better.
  5. Take chicken out of fridge and allow to come to room temperature  - about 30-60 minutes
  6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  7. Remove chicken from zip bag, do not discard marinade.
  8. Pat chicken dry and lightly rub olive oil all over.
  9. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken, then all over the outside
  10. Place chicken in a deep fry pan or cast iron skillet
  11. Put in the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes
  12. In the meantime, bring the marinade to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes
  13. After the initial roast at 425, lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F and brush the chicken all over with the marinade
  14. Roast for 50-70 minutes. Be sure to brush chicken with marinade a half hour into the roast time and then again 15 minutes before it is done.  The chicken is done when the internal temperature, taken from the thigh, reads 165 degrees F.
  15. Now this is really important, remove chicken from pan onto a carving board and allow it to rest 15-20 minutes before carving.


Serving suggestions:  The questions here is what can't you serve  with this delicious chicken?


Recipe Notes:
Allowing the chicken to rest lets the internal juices that have have been driven to the center of the meat to relax and "redistribute" throughout the meat. That's the simple explanation of why you should let pretty much any roasted/grilled/pan fried meats rest. However if you want to know more there is a wealth of  whys and hows on the web if you want to learn more about the science behind the resting period.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tripping All the Way to Tuscan-Inspired White Bean, Kale and Chicken Soup

Tuscan-Inspired White Bean, Kale & Chicken Soup
I bought a huge, and I mean huge, bag of Kale on Monday and was determined to make something warm and satisfying by the way of soup. I had also just watched a travel show about Tuscany and the flavors, herbs and scents of that region and I wanted them in my food. It was inspiring, I was inspired and I got cooking. The ingredients you need to incorporate those flavors aren't all that hard to get, they are simple, clean, fresh and you probably have most or all of them on hand. This is not a heavy soup, it is hearty in flavor, but it will not weigh you down. The Hub had seconds, he is my eternal "meter"! When he has seconds I know I hit a home run! So come along with me and let's get tripping to Tuscany.

Serves 6 as a meal and 8 as a starter.

1 pound chicken* thighs, diced into bite size pieces, about 1", sprinkled with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of Tuscan seasoning mix (recipe follows at the end)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, quartered and diced
2 celery stalks, halved and diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Tuscan seasoning mix (recipe follows at the end)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped
A palm full of fresh thyme, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunny Saffron Mango Jam

I started making jams at the beginning of this year and have found it both relaxing and rewarding. I find that I enjoy the preparation, the canning process and then knowing I have a particular jam, that I made, on hand. And not just one jar but at least 4-5 of them ... I like to make small batches. It's great for gift giving, I know few people who would say no to homemade jam. This past weekend, I visited my cousin/godmother, Lourdes, who lives in Naples, and has a bunch of fruit trees, herbs and pineapple plants in her backyard. The Hub being the fruit fanatic that he is immediately hit the backyard when she said help yourself to some mangoes. And boy, did he get a bunch of mangoes! Once we were back home and I realized how many mangoes there actually were, I told him I was taking some to make some jam. He very happily surrendered them over and now we have 5 scrumptious half pints of saffron infused mango jam! This is an easy recipe, that I think anyone new to canning and preserving would enjoy making.

Makes 4 -5 half pints

4 1/2 cups mangoes, diced, peel removed, seed discarded. (about 4-5 mangoes)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter - to reduce foaming
A nice pinch of saffron threads, to enhance the flavor and color
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 - 3 tablespoons of natural fruit pectin. Depending on how you like your jam, is how much or less you add.