August 26, 2011

Pineapple Pointers

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Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

My husband jokes I own every kitchen gadget available to the home cook, but he's wrong.  There are a lot of items I don't own including a cheese slicer, food processor and mandoline to name a few.  Until recently, I didn't own this:

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

This handy tool is a pineapple slicer.  You can slice a pineapple without it, but it makes the job a lot faster and easier.

Fresh pineapple is more succulent than canned or frozen.  Like the latter, it's also available year round, but you have to be selective.  The notion you can pull a leaf out of a fresh pineapple is a myth.  The best way to choose a pineapple -- like many aspects of cooking -- is with your senses.
  • Look for a yellow or yellow gold pineapple without bruises. Avoid a pineapple that's too green; it won't ripen well.  The leaves on the top -- the crown -- should be green without any brown tips.  
  • Feel the pineapple to make sure it's heavy -- a good indication of juice -- and will yield slightly to gentle pressure.  You don't want the pineapple to be too hard or too soft.
  • Most importantly, smell the pineapple.  If there's little or no aroma -- or it smells bad -- don't buy it.
Fresh pineapple is delicious to eat by itself, but it's also a good addition to fruit salad.  However, fresh pineapple can't be used in congealed salads. Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme that prevents gelatin from congealing.  If you want to use pineapple in a congealed salad, use canned pineapple instead.

Once you purchase a pineapple, you need to use it within a few days. Slice the pineapple and keep it stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

If you eat a lot of fresh pineapple, a pineapple slicer is a time saver and isn't very expensive.  To use the slicer, slice the crown off the pineapple.  

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

Center the slicer over the core. 

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

Push the slicer into the flesh and turn the handle, screwing the slicer into the pineapple.  The slicer acts like a corkscrew while also separating the flesh from the core.  Remove the slicer and you'll have pineapple that resembles rings.

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

The version I have came with a wedger so, with one quick motion, I can cut the rings into chunks.  You can use a knife to do the same thing.

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

If you're serving the pineapple chunks right away, use the pineapple shell as a serving bowl.  Just make sure there's no hole in the bottom.  The core will still be attached in the shell, but you can cut it out with a knife and scrape any remaining out with a spoon.

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

Margaret's Morsels | Fresh Pineapple

The next time you buy pineapple, skip the canned and frozen and give fresh a try.  Check back next week for an entree -- it's not pork -- that goes great with fresh pineapple.

© Margaret's Morsels

August 13, 2011

Dirty to Clean in 20 Seconds

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Margaret's Morsels | Brunch

The last few blogs have something in common.  Do you know what it is? Three of the recipes -- Baked Omelet Roll, Peach Ice Cream and Orange Peach Soup -- use a blender.

You may be wondering why I'm even writing about this.  As I wrote on my introduction at the top of the page, I love to share recipes, cooking techniques and tips.  This blog falls into the latter category.

I love to cook, but I don't enjoy cleaning up afterwards.  Some households have success with one person doing the cooking and the other cleaning up, but that's never worked at my house.  After cooking -- especially a holiday meal -- I want to get out of the kitchen fast.

Many years ago, I discovered a quick way to clean a blender.  Fill the blender container half full of water.  Add a drop or two of dishwashing liquid.

Put on the lid, turn on the blender and blend.

Remove the lid and rinse the container with hot water.  Voila!  A clean blender.

Now it's your turn.  Do you have any tips -- cleaning or otherwise -- that make kitchen work less time consuming?  Please share them here so we can all benefit and make our time in the kitchen more productive.

© Margaret's Morsels

August 9, 2011

Brunch: Part 3

Pin It This is the third of a three part series on brunch.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

Brunch is such a versatile meal.  You can serve breakfast, lunch or a combination of the two.  When restaurants serve a brunch buffet, they usually offer a selection of sweet items.  When I serve a brunch that's more breakfast than lunch, I prefer to offer something with just a hint of sweetness that also doubles as the bread.  Fruit bread, scones or muffins are all good choices.

Muffins are quick and easy to prepare.  They're usually mixed in a bowl with a spoon.  Muffins run the gamut; they can be sweet or savory, fruit or vegetable, plain or fancy.  When you make muffins, there's one important rule:  don't overmix the batter.  If you do, the muffins will be tough.  Mix the batter only until the ingredients are moistened.  It's ok if there are lumps in the batter; they'll disappear during baking.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

One of my favorite muffins, Coffee Cake Muffins, taste like coffee cake, but with the ease of preparing muffins.  Unlike most breads that are best served hot from the oven, these muffins are best made a day ahead. Since the muffins are already baked, there's one less thing to do the day of the brunch.

Coffee Cake Muffins have a brown sugar mixture similar to a streusel that goes in the middle and on top of the muffins.

Line the muffin cups with paper baking cups and lightly spray each one with nonstick cooking spray.  Put one tablespoon of batter in each cup.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

Sprinkle half the brown sugar mixture evenly among the 12 cups.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

Put the remaining batter on top of the brown sugar mixture, using about 3 tablespoons in each cup.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar mixture on top of the batter.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins

Bake the muffins and remove them to a wire rack to cool.  The muffins can be served as is or with a powdered sugar glaze.  Drizzle the glaze on the muffins while they're still warm.  Once the muffins are completely cool, store them in a single layer in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins
Without the glaze.

Margaret's Morsels | Coffee Cake Muffins
With the glaze.

If you're serving Baked Omelet Roll and Potatoes O'Brien, add a breakfast meat -- bacon, ham, sausage -- and some fresh fruit or a fruit salad.  A batch of Coffee Cake Muffins will round out the meal and make a sweet ending to brunch.

Coffee Cake Muffins
12 Servings

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
glaze (optional)

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and, if desired, pecans.  Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in the center of the mixture.  Stir together egg, milk and oil; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.

Place paper baking cups in muffin pans and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.  Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each of 12 cups; sprinkle evenly with half of brown sugar mixture.  Top evenly with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar mixture.  Bake at 400° for 22 to 24 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove muffins to wire rack to cool.


1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine in small bowl, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle over warm muffins.

© Margaret's Morsels