Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Cut a Pineapple

If you've never cut a fresh pineapple before, I think you'll be surprised at how simple it is. First off, don't let its looks intimidate you. Sure, it's spiky. Okay, it's awkwardly shaped. Yes, it's going to roll around on the cutting board. But so what? There's nothing in the world like the taste of fresh pineapple, and you'll be paying a ridiculous amount to have someone else cut it if you buy it in a little plastic tub. You are the boss of that pineapple. Grab your big, sharp chef's knife and a cutting board and let's get to it.

How to Cut a Pineapple
Lay the pineapple down on its side (it will naturally roll to it's flattest place; that's dandy, let it rest there) and grasp it firmly in your non-cutting hand to stabilize it. Place your knife about three-quarters of an inch down from the base of the spiky crown and cut straight through.
Next, turn the pineapple bum-end around and trim a quarter inch or so off the bottom so it will stand up flat. Now stand it upright on the cutting board.
Using your knife, begin to cut away the skin in strips from top to bottom. Don't worry if a few "eyes" remain; you can remove these with a paring knife later. Cut all the way around, top to bottom, until all the skin is gone.
 
The hardest part is done!
Place your knife in the center of the pineapple and cut straight down, to split the pineapple into vertical halves.
Lay each half flat on the cutting board and cut it in half lengthwise.
Then place your knife at a 90-degree angle and cut each quarter in half. Your pineapple will now be in 8 pieces.
Now you should be able to see, or feel, the woody core that extends about 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the center of each quarter from the inside. Go ahead and cut that part off. It's kind of tough and not that pleasant to eat. You can give it to your guinea pig, or, if you'd like, you can freeze those parts and use them to garnish tropical mixed drinks. Waste not, want not.
Now you can take your pineapple spears and chunk them up for fruit salad or whatever else your heart desires. So easy!  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cherry-Berry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Oatmeal is the comfy oversized hoodie of breakfast foods. It's warm, friendly, cozy. It doesn't have to look good ~ it just is good. Baked oatmeal is like a hoodie with style. It's got all the pros of the regular model plus a few perks to sweeten the deal. No stirring, no vigilant watching to see if the pot's going to boil over on your stove, no boiling over on the stove in spite of the fact that you only took your eyes off the pot for one second.
If a bowl of healthy, virtuous, whole-grain breakfast porridge married a sweet, sexy oatmeal cookie loaded with berries and walnuts, this would be their tasty, tasty offspring. It's soft but not gloppy, so it should please even those who object to what may be termed oatmeal's "gruelishness." It's lovely right out of the oven, but it's even better the next day (and the next). If you've got dinner in the oven the night before, throw this together (it takes, what, 5 minutes?), and stick it in the oven after your dinner is done. You'll have breakfast to reheat in the morning.
(Not to suggest that you're ever rushing in the mornings, but if you were ~ like my family tends to be ~ you might find it advantageous to have a really delicious, good-for-you breakfast on hand that can be warmed and served in light speed.)

Cherry-Berry Walnut Baked Oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup mixed dried cranberries, cherries, and blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick pan spray. Place melted butter in the casserole dish and add brown sugar; stir to combine. Add the egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk and whisk lightly to combine. Stir in the oats, baking powder, and salt; then fold in the dried cherries, berries, and walnuts. {Note: As reader JT commented below (thanks, JT!), if you'd like, you can combine all the ingredients in the casserole dish at once and mix well. The melted butter will solidify when it contacts the cold ingredients and may cause the oats to clump together. Just break up any obvious lumps with your mixing spoon before putting it into the oven.}
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, until just firm and the center doesn't move when you gently jiggle the baking dish.
  3. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into bowls and, if desired, top with milk or cream before serving.
Makes 4 servings

Recipe Notes:
  • To reheat, place desired amount in a bowl, top with a little milk or cream, and heat for a minute or two in the microwave or covered with foil in a 350 degree F oven. 
  • Try substituting two small sliced bananas for the berries and add 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.  

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