Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe

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When it comes to food, I’m generally a purist. I prefer a classic mac and cheese with a fabulous creamy cheddar as opposed to the  countless varieties on trendy menus with numerous add-ins like artichokes, spinach and feta, or herbed truffle oil.

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My Star Wars/Lego cake – all the bling but without the zing 😦

With cakes I am the same way. Nothing like a luscious chocolate cake with a rich chocolate ganache topped with some fresh sliced strawberries to brighten my day. But somehow, I lost my way from the simple path. It hit me while I was removing the hardened candy melts out of the Lego molds and sticking on (inedible!) Darth Vader heads on my son’s birthday cake. Where were the all natural ingredients and simple garnishes? What I had before me was some flashy frosted thing that was admittedly pretty fun, but somehow fell flat.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for trying new foods and cuisines and experimenting with new flavor profiles and combinations. But sometimes it isn’t about adding all the new bells and whistles, but instead just keeping it simple and celebrating each ingredient. One of my favorite cakes is a pineapple upside down cake. You won’t find it on the dessert menu of the hottest new restaurant in town, but it never fails to please. Enjoy it warm after taking it out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or take it to almost any occasion (barbecue, potluck, baby shower) for an elegant and delicious dessert. I have tried many pineapple upside down cake recipes, but this is seriously the best one since it has a thin layer of cake providing the optimum topping to cake ratio. Hope you love this as much as I do!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe

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Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 50g softened butter
  • 50g light soft brown sugar
  • 7 pineapple rings in light syrup, drained with 2 tablespoon syrup reserved
  • fresh pitted cherries (can use frozen cherries too if not in season)

For the cake:

  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon reserved
  • 2 eggs

Note: You really need to get a scale for this recipe to ensure perfect and consistent results, but you can also try and use conversions from here.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. For the topping, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Spread over the base and a quarter of the way up the sides of a 9inch/20-21cm round cake tin. Arrange pineapple rings on top, then place cherries around the rings.
  2. Place the cake ingredients in a bowl and, using an electric whisk or mixer, beat to a soft consistency. Spoon into the tin on top of the pineapple and smooth it out so it’s level. Bake for 35 mins. Leave to stand for 5 mins, then turn out onto a serving plate. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Chocolate Avocado Truffles

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In parenting, some moments you just want to last forever. And others you just want to forget. The funny thing is that the line between the two is often blurred.

This week my two little boys made me this beautiful heart “sculpture” with their toy cars while arguing over who loved me more. I must say I was enjoying the conversation. At least initially. It went something like this:

20140812_124640_1– I love mommy.

– No I love mommy more!

– Well I love mommy’s hair. It’s so pretty!

– Well I love mommy’s tummy. It’s sooo soft. Just like a big pillow!

Hmmm…not the best comparison I thought, but I didn’t want to lose this loving moment we were sharing. So I justified it to myself…I mean, who doesn’t like a nice comfy pillow?

But the conversation was on a downward spiral and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It completely hit bottom when my younger one chimed in, “Awww I love it! It looks like there is a baby in mommy’s tummy!”.

And just like that, happy mommy time was officially over.

Actually I am thankful for my little guy’s astute observation of my waistline, for he forced me to realize I need to get back to my healthy eating habits which are currently on hiatus thanks to summer vacation.

Every summer we come to California to see my family and I always go overboard with all the yummy food. Vacation for me means no schedule and over indulging in everything. (Mint chocolate chip ice cream at 1am? Why yes I will have 3 scoops please!) In just 4 weeks I have seen the scale steadily creep higher and higher and my tummy get bigger and dare I say, more pillow-like.

So I decided to compromise. I will add more vegetables and make healthy choices but not deprive myself. And that is when I discovered avocado chocolate truffles. Yes, that is correct… Avocado Chocolate Truffles! All the nutrients in avocados plus all the antioxidants in dark chocolate combine to make a decadent and arguably healthy, treat. Although I won’t be on vacation forever, these truffles let me feel like I always am!

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES

20140814_181344_1INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz (Almost 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips (or use dark chocolate if you want less sweet)

½ cup mashed avocado (about 1 small avocado)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup cocoa powder, for coating. *Substitute any other coating such as ground almonds or pistachios, coconut or chocolate sprinkles

METHOD:

  1. Melt chocolate on stovetop or in microwave. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Mash avocado and vanilla with fork or handheld stick blender until smooth. (I prefer to use the hand blender so it is completely smooth)
  3. Mix avocado mixture and chocolate together with spatula and cool in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Scoop out bite size pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each piece into a ball and drop into bowl of cocoa powder. Roll around to coat. ( Instead of cocoa powder, you can use shredded coconut or chopped pistachios, rainbow sprinkles or anything you like.) Store in the refrigerator, but you can eat them at room temperature.

Pantry Diva Notes:

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Use a handheld blender to get the avocado really smooth

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Mix the avocado, vanilla, and chocolate well before chilling in refrigerator.

**By the way, these are super easy to make and fun to make with the kids! Just try not to eat them all at once!

Recipe inspired by the Detoxinista

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Chocolate Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Having two toddlers in the house is never easy, so when they both started school I was ecstatic that I would finally get a little time off in my day. But I soon realized that their being in school meant I would be assigned a lot of work as well. Every week they have some theme or other that the parents have to scramble around trying to find things for. For example, for Community Helper Day we had to find a fireman costume for my son…which he insisted be complete with hat and hose. Their class also just had Farmer Day to help illustrate their unit learning about living on a farm. (Sadly I found out last minute about Farmer Day and all we had lying around the house were some bandanas so my poor child ended up looking more like a gangster than a farmer).


But the theme days are nothing compared to what we must do for holidays. For Valentine’s Day we had to make handmade valentines for the whole class, make sure the kids wore something pink or red to school, and make some food for their class party. I decided to make cupcakes as I could easily double the recipe and greedily put aside some for myself. Actually I found myself making cupcakes for almost every holiday and class party. Cupcakes are great as they are the perfect size for little hands and versatile so you can decorate them to fit any occasion. Valentine’s Day? Just plop some heart stickers on top. Easter? Just add a chocolate bunny and some jelly bean ”eggs.”  St. Patrick’s Day? Make some green icing! I generally choose the easiest decoration since I am more of a spontaneous (ahem last minute) person, but now with Pinterest and other cooking and baking sites the possibilities are endless! 


Unfortunately  because there is such a plethora of information online and beyond, one can go crazy trying to find the perfect cupcake and buttercream recipe. For me, I prefer a moist cake and a rich but not too sweet buttercream. I always bake with my kids so I needed something easy to make and honestly something that doesn’t take too long to prepare as I prefer to spend my time eating rather than cooking :). 

After extensive googling I found a recipe that met all my needs. It is very easy to make, and uses ingredients that I always have at home, so if I get a last minute cupcake request as I often do, there is no need to go to the store.  One really interesting thing about this recipe is that it uses no eggs or butter and still turns out amazing moist cupcakes! Apparently the recipe is decades old and was from the Great Depression when eggs and butter were too expensive to buy. But today it makes a great option for vegans. I’m sure they must be tortured souls with no butter or eggs in their pastries…I know I would be. 


I have also included a buttercream recipe to frost the cupcakes. I love it because it uses almond extract which keeps the frosting from becoming too sickly sweet. If you don’t like almond extract, use vanilla instead. If you don’t want frosting, the cupcakes taste great on their own or sprinkled with a little powdered sugar too. 

So next time you have a party or somewhere you need to bring cupcakes, instead of going into panic mode or buying ones from the store, make these. It will be a fun activity to share with your kids and even more fun to eat together.  

Chocolate Cupcakes and 
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Cupcakes recipe by : Simply Recipes
 CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brewed coffee (or 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee granules)
 *NOTE: If you don’t want to use regular coffee, either use decaf or leave it out completely and use plain water instead. But coffee really makes it taste better!
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Tablespoon (1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoon) olive oil
METHOD:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2 .In a large bowl, vigorously whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt until there are no visible clumps (cocoa tends to clump up).
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the coffee (or water plus coffee granules), vinegar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until they just come together. The mixture should be thin and rather lumpy.
5. Ladle the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Place in oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Once cool, you can eat plain, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle or coat with frosting.

Makes 12-14 standard sized cupcakes.
NOTE: If you want to make this a cake instead of cupcakes, double the recipe and use two 8-inch round cake pans and cook for 35-40 minutes.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 
Frosting recipe by: Savory Sweet Life
FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!)
3½ cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
METHOD:
1.Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer.
2. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.
3.Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla or almond extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
Makes 3 cups.

Almond Tea Cake

I just celebrated my birthday in January. It was a month long affair, with dear friends and family showering me with gifts, well wishes, and of course tons of cake .  I really felt happy and blessed to have so many amazing people in my life and I would like to give something back. I have a cake recipe that is so simple to make, so tasty and very forgiving so it’s almost impossible to mess up.

This almond tea cake is delicious and beautiful and perfect for any occasion. I have used it for afternoon tea, baby showers, dinner parties,  and since it takes almost no time to prepare, have even made it on the spot for unexpected guests.

Enjoy! 

Almond Tea Cake

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ cup Sugar
¾ cup Butter
1 ½ cup Flour
2 Eggs
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
Slivered or Sliced Almonds for garnish

PREPARATION:

1. Melt butter and blend into sugar
2. Mix in eggs, one at a time.
3. Add flour, salt, almond extract and mix well.
4. Line 10” iron skillet with foil (Or just use a round cake tin)
5. Pour batter into pan and top with almonds for garnish
6. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, or check center with toothpick for doneness.

Lemon Muffin Recipe

I have learned that real life communication is often like that game “telephone” we used to play as kids. When you play “telephone”, one person says a phrase in the ear of the person next to him, and then that person whispers the same phrase to the next person until the very last person says the phrase out loud. It’s funny since the phrase said out loud has little resemblance to the original.

Every day I notice we all speak to each other yet the receiving end often gets a different meaning entirely, just like in the game. Just this morning, my son spent hours in class singing “Skip to my Lou” yet when he sang it back to me, said “Lou, Lou, skip to the moo”. Another example is listening to my friend from the UK who supposedly speaks perfect English, but with her accent and slang,  I have no idea what she is saying most of the time. So it was no surprise when I called to order 1kg of onions from the grocery store today, and they gave me 1 kg of lemons instead.

But rather than return them, I remembered the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So in the spirit of miscommunication, I changed the phrase from lemonade to lemon muffins, and luckily made a delicious misinterpretation.
Lemon Muffins

Original recipe from Cat Can Cook:

INGREDIENTS:
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup White Sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups White Flour
1/2 Cup Milk
Grated zest of 1 1/2 Lemons
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

INGREDIENTS FOR TOPPING:
Juice of 1 1/2 Lemons
1/3 Cup White Sugar

PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 400 farenheit. Grease muffin tins, set aside.
2. In a bowl, cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Add in flour, milk, lemon zest, salt and baking powder, mix well.
3. Spoon batter into the greased muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
5. Prepare topping. While muffins baking, combine the lemon juice from lemons and sugar in a bowl. Set aside. When muffins are baked, prick the tops with a fork, and drizzle topping over each muffin.
(**Do not skip this step, this glaze adds a yummy lemony punch to these muffins and makes them from good to amazing!)

Makes 12 muffins in standard muffin tin. 

Zucchini Bread

It’s funny how easy it is to get difficult things done in Dubai, such as building 163 floors of the Burj Khalifa in only 5 years, yet it’s often difficult to get easy things done, such as ordering a zucchini. Here’s an excerpt from today’s order from my friendly neighborhood grocery store:


Me: Hi, can I order a zucchini?

Grocery man: No, don’t have. You want courgette?

Me: Yes, that’s fine.

Grocery man: No, don’t have. Have baby marrow.

Me: Huh? What? (Then remember baby marrow is a local vegetable that is kind of zucchini-ish). Oh ok, I’ll try that.

Grocery man: Wait, we have in yellow.

Me: What? The baby marrow?

Grocery Man: No, zucchini. You come look.

Me: OK. I’m coming. (Do my fat lazy expat stroll to the store…)

After arriving at the store, of course there are about 50 zucchinis on the shelf. I actually found the man I spoke to earlier and informed him, only to have him say:  Ohhh, you want Za-co-ni. Why you not say before?

Normally I would have been amused at this whole exchange. Living here has taught me patience, an invaluable virtue to have, especially for raising two crazy boys. But today I was just not in the mood. In fact, this ordeal made me feel kind of homesick. So instead of making my farfalle with zucchini ribbons as initially planned, I decided to make some zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and something I haven’t seen anywhere but in the U.S. and reminded me a bit of home.

Zucchini Bread


Original Recipe found here, Yield 2 loaves

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

PREPARATION:
1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Chocolate Macarons

It is almost impossible to get some exercise in this town.  Even if you truly want to, there is always an enticing lazy solution lurking around the corner just begging you to take the easy way out .

Just this morning I scanned my to do list for today:
  1. Buy groceries
  2. Pick up prescription
  3. Hem Pants
  4. Mani/Pedi
  5. Work Out

The groceries and meds were delivered within half an hour of ordering them.  The tailor came over, took my measurements and promised to return my pants the next day. The salon sent the beautician to do my nails while my baby napped. At least I had to physically move and go to Studio Fitness to exercise.  But just then I checked my email to find an in-home personal trainer offer from Groupon. And you know which option I picked!

My list was done and I felt I didn’t actually do any work. So, I decided to make some chocolate macarons.Even though they are pretty easy to make, with all the steps and fiddling they are rather labour intensive. So,  I  jumped at the opportunity since I figured this was the only workout I was going to get today!
P.S. Since this is Dubai and there is always an easier option available,  rather than making these macarons yourself you can just catch me at Bakefest Dxb on November 26 at Wild Peeta and  eat them there!!


MACARONS AU CHOCOLAT

Recipe by: Lori Longbotham in Lucious Chocolate Desserts

INGREDIENTS:

For the cookies:
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
1  3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
For the filling:
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

PREPARATION:

1. To make the cookies for the chocolate macaroons, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Pulse the almonds with 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the cocoa powder and the remaining 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and pulse until well blended.

3. Beat the egg whites with the salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl just until the whites form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a whisk or a rubber spatula, gently fold in the almond mixture.

4. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe out 1-inch-diameter mounds about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the tops are cracked and appear dry but the macaroons are still slightly soft to the touch.

5. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment paper, to barely dampened kitchen towels and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully peel the paper off the macaroons and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (The macaroons can be made 1 day in advance and stored in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container.)

Make the filling:

6. Bring the cream just to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the chocolate and butter and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate covered, for at least 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm enough to hold its shape when spread.

Assemble the macaroons:

7. If desired, transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe the filling, or spread it with a table knife, generously on the flat side of half of the macaroons. Top with the remaining macaroons, flat side down, pressing together gently to form sandwiches. (The macaroons can be stored in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

Khana Mama at Bakefest DXB 2011 and Mini Cheesecakes with Jam

I never liked eating cheesecakes, but I always liked making them. From traditional New York Cheesecakes to Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ones, there was something about popping open that springform pan that somehow gave me joy.  But now I found a recipe (adapted from Grace Parisi) that is so  easy and so tasty that I actually like to eat these cheesecakes too. I hope everyone else enjoys these as much as I do since I will be making them for BAKEFEST DXB. Hope to see everyone on November 26!!
 
Mini Cheesecakes with Jam
 
 
 
INGREDIENTS:
 
9  digestive biscuits such as McVities, broken
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
8 oz.Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup crème fraiche, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry jam (or any you like)
 
PREPARATION:
 
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with foil baking cups and spray with vegetable oil spray.
 
2. In a food processor,  finely crush all the biscuits. Add butter and keep processing until mixed. Spoon the mixture into the 12 cups and press with the bottom of a glass to compact the crumbs. Bake for 5 minutes or until set. Leave oven on.
 
3. In a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the crème fraiche, the eggs, and the vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
 
4. Pour cheesecake batter into prepared muffin cups and fill about ¾ full. Bake 10-15 minutes or until centers are slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer to fridge and chill.
 
5. When ready to serve, remove foil paper and transfer to plate. Top with raspberry jam. 

The Best Chocolate Brownies

It was sometime in my second trimester when my friend Lucy first served these brownies to me.  These brownies were so amazing that eating them was one of my favorite pregnancy moments, not too far behind feeling my baby kick inside me, or seeing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
At first I thought it was just the hormones speaking. I mean, I did just have chocolate macarons and the Chili’s molten lava cake the day before. But I could not get them out of my head. So I immediately got the recipe from Lucy and raced home to make another batch. And yes, they were the best brownies EVER.
I cannot take credit for the recipe, but I can say that I have made these for very diverse groups of people from all over the world and each one has agreed that these are the best brownies they have ever had. I guarantee it. I also recommend making them in the evening so there is a bigger chance of not devouring the whole batch immediately since you have to go to sleep. If you can manage to save some for the next day, they taste even better. Enjoy with a glass of milk and with some of your favorite people. J


The BEST Brownies Ever
INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
4 cups (24 oz.) semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Spray 13×9 in. pan with nonstick spray.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In small saucepan, melt butter and sugar with water; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add 2 cups chocolate chips; stir until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
In large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer. Add chocolate mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture; stir until just combined. Stir in remaining 2 cups chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely before cutting. (Soo hard to wait!)
Makes about 24 brownies.