Adventures in Good Cooking – Chocolate Upside Down Cake

Warm pudding cake served
with ice cream.
     I am on a mission and it is, indeed, an adventure in good cooking! This whole thing actually began several years ago when I received the book, The Man Behind the Cake Mix, a biography about Duncan Hines, written by Louis Hatchett (2001, Mercer University Press).
     It was a gift from Hines’ great niece Cora Jane Spiller, who according to Hatchett was instrumental in the completion of the book. Duncan Hines was a traveling salesman (during the early 1900s) with a hobby – he kept detailed notes on the restaurants where he ate. Over time he shared his list with friends and eventually began publishing Adventures in Good Eating. Ultimately that guidebook made him world famous and helped form the standards for today’s restaurant industry.
     Hines’ also published a cookbook.  Adventures in Good Eating and The Art of Carving in the Home went on sale during a time (1939) when few cookbooks were on bookstore shelves and the concept of a book collection of famous restaurant recipes was unique. Cora Jane also sent us a copy of this book (2002 edition, edited by Louis Hatchett, Mercer University Press) and that’s when I decided I would use the books as my inspiration for a Literary League program.
    That program is coming up soon so I’m testing recipes (the program will include sampling). Selecting which ones to include is the hard part and I am easily detracted. At present the cookbook is full of sticky notes . . . marking recipes I want to try for both my program and . . . just because. Although the recipe for Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake is not one I never intended to make for my literary presentation, it was at the top of my list to try. Its origin —  Cathryn’s in Portland, Oregon
     Personally I think the name is a misnomer – there is nothing “upside-down” about the recipe; it is actually a wonderfully rich and creamy pudding cake with a deep chocolaty flavor. But, far be it from me to mess with the name of this vintage cake!
    Watch for more Adventures in Good Cooking posts as I prepare for the program and test additional recipes from Hines’ cookbook.

Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake     Makes one 9” square
¾ cup (granulated) sugar
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup milk
1 cup (all-purpose) flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ tablespoon (unsweetened) cocoa (powder) (easy ½ Tbsp. measure = 1½ teaspoons)
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup (granulated) sugar
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
¼ cup (unsweetened) cocoa (powder)
1¼ cups boiling water

1.     Cream together the first two ingredients (sugar and butter).
2.     Add milk to the above mixture.
3.     Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa; add to above mixture. Stir well and put in 9” buttered and floured (or sprayed) pan.
I use a fine mesh strainer to "sift" the flour directly over the creamed mixture.
4.     Sprinkle with nuts.
5.     Combine ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; mix well and spread over top.
6.     Pour boiling water over the top of all.
Cake is ready to go in the oven.
7.     Bake in preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan.
The surface of the cake contains moist cake, velvety pudding and nuts.
We like the new dark chocolate Hershey's® cocoa but it
does turn bake goods a dark color.

Here’s Another Idea – Pimento Cheese Pinwheels

     We had a little Pimento Cheese left, so I decided to experiment with cheesy pinwheels -- essentially a savory biscuit-based cinnamon-type roll. Since I used homemade baking mix, these were super easy and fast . . . and yet another thing to do with our favorite cheese spread. (For additional homemade mixes, check out our Mixes & More tab at the top of this page.)
     I made the small batch for just the two of us but have also included the family size as well.

Pimento Cheese Pinwheel Biscuits

Biscuits for 2 or 3 - 6 biscuits
1 cup Baking Mix
1/4 cup milk
Pimento Cheese spread (I used about 3 to 4 Tbsp.+)

Family Size - 18 biscuits
3 cup Baking Mix
2/3 cup milk
Pimento Cheese spread 

1.     Preheat oven to 400°.
2.     Add milk to the Mix and stir about 25 strokes. 
3.     Knead about 15 strokes on lightly floured board. 
4.     Roll into a rectangle shape, about 1/2” to 3/4” thick; spread with a thin layer of pimento cheese spread.

5.     Roll up dough; pinch to seal edges.
6.     Cut into thick slices and place in a greased or sprayed pan.

7.     Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Cheesy Pinwheel Biscuits were a great with our first course salad.

Pimento Cheese is Popping Up Everywhere!

   According to Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays (Being Dead is No Excuse, “The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect”), pimento cheese is the paste that holds the South together. But, it seems to be a favorite just about anywhere these days.
     Over the years I’ve made lots of different recipes – from what I’d call the “purist” version -- just grated cheese, pimentos and homemade mayo to my sister-in-law’s rendering that contains grated onions and cottage cheese.
     Tasted this particular recipe at the home of a friend; she found it in the Salina Journal. I made it and Barry pronounced it, “Delicious!” What makes this one unusual is the addition of minced garlic and dill pickle juice and, that requires a warning – allow the mixture to age (as in overnight) so the flavors meld (if you taste it immediately after mixing – the garlic and pickle juice will be somewhat overpowering).

Pimento Cheese     Yields approximately 3 cups  (I cut the recipe in half for just the two of us)
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 to 2 tablespoons finely minced onions (this was my addition)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise+ (I added more to make it creamy)
2 tablespoons dill pickle brine

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco®)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (this was my addition)
½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper, or use red pimentos from a jar, drained (I used jarred roasted red peppers)

1 lb. Cheddar cheese, finely grated (I used sharp Cheddar and grated it from a block)

1.  Mix together garlic, onions, mayonnaise, pickle brine, mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper in medium bowl.
2.  Stir in red peppers and cheese. Mix well.
For a direct connection to the original recipe from the Scripps Howard News Service, click here.

One of the things I like best about pimento cheese is that it is so versatile. Here’s some of our favorite ways to use it . . .
·      ***Serve it as a spread w/ crackers.

·     ***Use it to stuff celery (this is a favorite from my childhood).
·     *** Spread it on a corn muffin.
·     *** Use it to make tea sandwiches.
·     ***Or, use it to make Pimento Grilled Cheese sandwiches (this recipe also appeared in the Salina Journal article) . . .

Pimento Grilled Cheese Sandwiches    Yields 4 sandwiches
¾ cup pimento cheese (recipe above)

½ cup coarsely chopped celery
 (I cut it into small pieces)
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

8 slices bread (original recipe called for brioche; I used multi-grain)

1.  In medium bowl mix together pimento cheese and celery.
2.  To assemble, spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on work surface. Spread cheese mixture on bread. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up.
3.  Heat skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Put sandwiches into pan, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until undersides are golden brown. Turn sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with spatula to flatten slightly.
4.  Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes until undersides are well browned. Remove cover, turn sandwiches one more time and press firmly with spatula. Cook until cheese is warmed through completely and bread is crisp.
5.  Remove from pan and let cool 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

Or, try our recipe for Pimento Cheese Pinwheel Biscuits.

Soup's On - Corn Sausage Chowder

Debi Seley Dayani & her brother,
Jim Seley, joined us for a casual
soup supper.

     In need of a quick-to-make soup, I turned to Margaret Shouse’s recipe for Corn Sausage Chowder.  It is hearty and could very well be a one-dish meal; I served it with a green salad and a loaf of homemade sourdough bread as simple company fare.
     Margaret shared the recipe when I interviewed her for my monthly cooking column  in February 2007 (“Home-Cooking—Dickinson County Style,” Abilene Reflector-Chronicle).  She has been making her variation of this grand prize winning recipe since 1988 after discovering it in The Salina Journal’s holiday recipe insert. The recipe was submitted to the Journal by Betty Hunter of  Salina.
    Although the recipe is delicious as is, like Margaret, I made a few minor variations of my own – they are included in paranthesis.

Corn Sausage Chowder   Serves 6 to 8
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped onion (I used an entire small onion – about ½ cup+_
4 cups peeled potato cubes, ½” pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram (I used about 1½ tsp. of thyme instead)
2 cups water
1 (l7 oz.) can cream-style corn
1 ( l7 oz.) can undrained whole kernel corn
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk (I used just about half of the can as I preferred a thicker consistency)
I added a paprika-based seasoning salt near the end for additional flavor + also used it to garnish the soup, along with a sprig of thyme

  1. Cook sausage and onion in a 4-quart soup pot until sausage is brown and onion tender.If needed, drain excess grease from sausage.  
  2. Add with potatoes, salt, pepper, marjoram, and water to the soup pot.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about l5 minutes.
  3. Add the 2 cans of corn and the evaporated milk. Heat through but do not boil. Note – if you want an even thicker soup, add a cornstarch (a little cornstarch mixed with cold water) slurry to the hot soup.

Soup garnished with seasoned salt & a sprig of thyme.

#1 Rating - Colette's Meatloaf (it makes the BEST sandwich, too)

     Our quest for the “best” meatloaf may be over! We really liked the Glazed Meatloaf that I posted last fall. But when our nephew and his wife were here, Colette (West) was telling me that she will only eat one recipe and immediately texted her friend (Tracy Carbaugh) to send it.
Colette's Meatloaf on top of
cheesy orzo pasta, with peas and
     I made it yesterday – loved the taste, the texture and the ease of preparation! It has moved to the #1 slot on our meatloaf scorecard. But the real test -- it made a great sandwich. According to Barry, "This is the BEST meatloaf sandwich I've had for a long time!"
     Since I associate this recipe with niece Colette, I've assigned her name to it. Also, I was unsure about a couple of the ingredients so  have my take on them added in parenthesis.

Colette’s Meatloaf  
1½ lbs. ground beef  (I used 85% lean)
½ cup cracker crumbs (I used Club® crackers – there are 4 “sleeves” per box; less than half of a “sleeve” made ½ cup of crumbs – they were crumbed in the food processor)
2 eggs beaten
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
¼ cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon sage (I used about 1 tsp. of finely chopped fresh)
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used garlic salt)
Ingredients are ready to mix together.
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
½ teaspoon mustard (I used the ground variety)
1.     Preheat oven to 400°. Spray or grease a loaf pan
2.     In a mixing bowl combine all the meatloaf ingredients – mix well but avoid overmixing as this can create a dense loaf.
3.     Shape mixture into a loaf (it will be quite moist) and place in prepared loaf pan. (I used our Perfect Meatloaf® pan.)
4.     Combine sauce ingredients and spread over the top of the meatloaf.
Meatloaf is ready to go into the oven

5.     Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
6.     Grip insert of Perfect Meatloaf® pan by handles. Lift meatloaf to platter or cutting board; tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. (Standing will help keep the meatloaf from breaking apart as it is sliced.

"Muy Bueno" Pork Carnitas Dinner w/ all the components

   Yum! This is a delicious meal . . . also, a very labor intensive one. The pork must be slow cooked – Barry just threw the end of a pork loin into the slow cooker late one morning and by early evening the house was filled with wonderful aromas. I was ready to eat by that time . . . but then he had to make the Mexican rice, prepare refried black beans and also chop ingredients for Pico de Gallo!
    Even though the evening meal was time consuming, lunch the next day was a snap  – we just wrapped the leftovers in a flour tortilla for a meal in one!
     By the way, the term carnitas refers to Mexican-style pork and literally means "little meats." 

Pork Carnitas Dinner
Refried Black Beans
Prepare all the following in advance according to the recipes that follow:
       Slow-Cooked Pork
       Mexican Rice
       Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
       Sautéed Onions 
Refried Black Beans – Barry sautéed some chopped onions & garlic in a little bacon grease, added a can of partially drained black beans that he mashed in the skillet; then he added grated Pepper Jack cheese to the surface of the hot beans (see photo on the right).

    Grated Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
    Chopped Lettuce
    Fresh Cilantro, chopped
    Salsa – we used Sandi’s Salsa
    Other possible accompaniments: sour cream, guacamole, etc.

To Serve: Set out all the basics (pork, rice, pico, and beans) and toppings of your choice.

Slow-Cooked Pork
2 to 3 lbs. boneless pork roast or loin
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1½ to 2 tablespoons CCG blend (chili, cumin and garlic) or a blend of the 3 individual spices
½ to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 onion cut into chunks
½ teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon pepper

1. Put all ingredients in a slow cooker; cover with water. Set on Low for 7 to 8 hours or on High for several hours and then reduce to Low – meat should be tender and easily broken up with a fork. Check seasoning and adjust to your preference near the end of the cooking period.
Pork and seasonings are simmer in the slow cooker.
2. Remove pork; remove excess fat and break into chunks. Mix in enough cooking liquid to moisten the meat to your taste.
Note: Save pork stock for soup making.

Mexican-style Rice w/ Veggies
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (olive or canola)
1 cup long grain rice
Onions are chopped fine
for the rice dish.
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 small carrot, peeled, diced & cooked (steam on stove or in microwave)
½ to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

1. Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven. Add rice. Cook and stir over medium heat until lightly brown. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until onion is tender. Add water. Cover and stir until water is absorbed. Stir in broth and reduce heat to low; steam 30 to 40 until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed (add more water or broth if needed).
2. Add peas and cooked carrots near the end of the cooking time. 

Pico de Gallo   Makes about 3½ cups
In Mexican cuisine, Pico de Gallo (peek-o-d minutes ay-GY-o), also called salsa fresca, is a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chilis (typically jalapeños or serranos). Although other ingredients can also be added, this is the basic recipe Barry prepared on the line at the Kirby House.
1 cup chopped onion
Pico ingredients are
ready to be combined.
¼ to ½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers (depending on level of heat desires); remove seeds & mince or, use an equivalent amount of pickled jalapeños
2½ cups chopped tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, or more to taste as desired

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped onions, minced garlic, and jalapeño peppers. Add the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper.
2. If time allows, chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours to blend flavors.

Sautéed Onions
Sautéed onions have a slightly crispy outside and a very soft center.
1 large or 2 small to medium onions, cut into ¼" slices
About 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher salt
Coarse ground pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the onions.
2. Quickly cook the onions, moving them around the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. It should take no more than 10 minutes at the most for the onions to get nicely browned.
AND, THE NEXT DAY . . . assemble the leftovers in a tortilla, fold, and lunch is ready! 

Soup-er — Barry's Cabbage & Kielbasa Soup

     Not only does it look good, it tastes fantastic! And, Barry even wrote down the recipe!!! Jokingly (at least I took it that way) he noted, “You must do it in THIS order for it to taste right!” Ironic since he usually ignores (or at least complains about) specific step-by-step instructions.

Barry’s Cabbage & Smoked Kielbasa Soup
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small yellow or white onions, julienned
1 small carrot, peeled into strips and slightly chopped
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¾ teaspoon cumin
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
½ medium head cabbage, core removed and chopped or slices as fine as desired
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup white zinfandel or merlot or other white wine
3 cups chicken stock (homemade, canned or boxed, or from concentrate)
¾ lb. smoked kielbasa sausage

1.     In a stock pot, heat oil and sauté onions, carrots and garlic; add seasonings while sauté is in progress.
2.     Then add cabbage and cook until partially tender; add wine and simmer for a few minutes.
3.     Add chicken stock and kielbasa; cover and cook on low for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Uncover and cook 5 additional minutes.

Good Things do Come in Small Packages -- Green Bean Bundles (the canned version)

Barry, our nephew, Jeremy West, and his wife, Colette, dine
on Marinated Chicken Breasts w/ White Wine Sauce,
Orzo Risotto and Green Bean Bundles.  And for dessert --
Pineapple-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

     Aunt Waunita (Bateman), contributed this recipe to a cookbook (Goodness From Our Kitchens), put together as a fundraiser for one of her favorite charities -- Children’s Day Nursery of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
     My sister, Marla, served Green Bean Bundles on Christmas day and we were reminded of how much flavor is packed into each little package. Besides that, they make a great plate presentation.
     Although I have a couple of recipes that call for steamed fresh green beans, this recipe relies on the canned variety. The French dressing marinade imparts lots of flavor and don’t worry about the bacon – there’s plenty of oven time to crisp it to perfection.
    The bundles do take a little PREPLANNING: Wrap the beans . . .  this could even be done a day ahead. / Marinate bundles at least 3 hours before serving. / Put in the oven 40 minutes+ prior to serving time.

Marinated Green Bean Bundles    Marla allows 2 per person
2 (16 oz.) can whole green beans, drained
12 to 16 slices bacon, cut in half
1 (8 oz.) bottle commercial French dressing

1.     Arrange green beans in bunches of 8 to 10, wrapping a half slice of bacon around each bunch.
2.     Place beans in a 13”x9”x2” baking pan. Pour dressing over beans. Cover and chill 3 hours.
3.     Bake, uncovered at 350° for 40 minutes, turning after first 20 minutes.
4.     Remove beans from baking dish with slotted spoon.

We actually have several recipes for green bean bundles . . .
Plus, I’ll post at least one more later.

What’s for Dessert? Pineapple-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

     Our nephew and his wife were coming for dinner, our January tablescape features pineapples, Barry’s birthday is at the end of the month and he loves pineapple upside-down cake, we found a fresh pineapple for $ .99  – so you see,  there was never a question about what I’d be making for our Friday night dinner finale! It was just meant to be!
    It seemed like the perfect time to pull out Judy Potter McMullen’s extraordinary recipe that combines cranberries and walnuts with the usual gooey pineapple cake. Judy made this for a family reunion and it was an instant hit.
    I had no expectations that I was going to create a healthy dessert. Even though I’m using a fresh pineapple, one of the healthiest types of nuts and, cranberries instead of dye-filled cherries, it is still packed with processed sugars, flour and has a relatively high fat content. But perhaps, I thought, if I made my own cake mix, I’d at least avoid all those preservatives. That took me immediately to a Kansas State University Master Mix publication. Yes, I found a recipe for a large batch of cake mix but I simply wanted to make the equivalent of one 18¼ oz. package. My first Goggle search took me to “Chicken in the Road” blog where I discovered exactly what I was looking for and have linked to Suzanne McMinn’s page so you, too, can access her step-by-step recipe.
     However, there are only going to be four of us for dinner so instead of a making one large cake, I’m going to make two small and freeze one for later use.

Pineapple-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake   Makes one 13”x9”x2” or two 9”x9” cakes
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits (or use slice), or use fresh pineapple slice (cut it over a bowl to try to preserve some juice – they’re won’t be much)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 (18¼ oz.) pkg. yellow cake mix or use Suzanne McMinn’s homemade yellow cake mix*
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil (canola)

1.     Preheat oven to 350°.
2.     Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add water to juice to measure 1¼ cups; set aside.
3.     Pour butter into a greased 13”x9”x2” (or two 9”x9”) baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cranberries and walnuts. Top with pineapple. 
4.     In a mixing bowl, combine dry mix, eggs, oil and reserved pineapple juice. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
5.      Bake at 350° for 35+ minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 

      Cool for 10 minutes then invert onto a large serving platter. 

6.     Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired.

* Suzanne McMinn’s homemade yellow cake mix ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 
1 1/2 cups sugar,
1 tablespoon baking powder & 
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk.
Historically the pineapple symbolized hospitality. In the Caribbean, the Spaniards soon learned they were welcome if a pineapple was placed at the entrance to a village. During early Colonial days in the United States, families would set a fresh pineapple in the center of the table as a colorful centerpiece of the festive meal, especially when visitors joined them in celebration. Although we don’t have a fresh pineapple in the center of our table, we’re using pineapple symbols (on our tablescape) to welcome our guests at the beginning of the New Year, 2012.

Barry cuts off the bottom of a fresh pineapple.
After cutting off the top, he uses a sharp chef's knife and trims
the sides, following the contour of the pineapple.
Use a corer to remove the core from the center of the pineapple.