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Fruity Banana & Pineapple Muffins by The Pink Whisk

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve last posted, and I really hope it doesn’t happen again, but life since Jayden arrived has been rather hectic, and I’ve been trying to catch up on my deeply missed sleep in any spare time I’ve had.  I am rather proud to say that I managed to make a lone batch of brownies in one of the few spare moments I’ve had since Jayden’s been born.  Sadly I must admit that they came from a box, but their gooey and chocolatey goodness helped get me through some sleepless nights!

I’ve had the guest post below nearly ready to go for some time now, but just haven’t been able to finalise it and add in the pictures went along with it.  This guest post comes from the amazing Ruth Clemens, who many of you will know was the runner up on the first season of the hit UK TV series “The Great British Bake Off” which I throughly enjoyed watching (season 2 is airing now by the way).  I’d been following Ruth’s blog “The Pink Whisk” even before I knew she was going to be on The Great British Bake Off, and have enjoyed drooling over her amazing creations.  Ruth has been kind enough to put together a guest post for you all, while I try and get back into a routine and finish some of my own posts.  

Ruth has made some delicious fruity muffins with a tropical twist – perfect to go with the fabulous 27ºC weather we’ve been having in London over the past week!  So, if you’re in the mood for muffins, please do give Ruth’s recipe below a try!

Fruity Banana & Pineapple Muffin by The Pink Whisk
Summer holidays are over, the children (and grown ups) are back to the old routine.  My thoughts turn to livening up the kids packed lunches without overloading them with sugary bits and pieces. This is a really simple muffin recipe packed full of fruity goodness guaranteed to put a smile on their face at lunchtime!
Makes 12.
225g (1 3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp) Wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)
180g (3/4 Cup + 3 Tbsp) Soft Light Brown Sugar
2 Ripe Medium Bananas, mashed
1 Tin (425g or 15oz) Pineapple Chunks, drained
90ml (6 Tbsp) Sunflower Oil
2 Large Eggs
Optional: 1 tsp Icing Sugar for sifting.

1.  Preheat oven to 160c (fan)/180c/Gas Mark 4 (350ºF). Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper liners.

2.  In a large bowl mix together the wholemeal flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and light brown sugar.

3.  Mash the bananas and drain the pineapple. Make a well in the centre of  dry mixture and add the fruits, sunflower oil and eggs. Mix well until thoroughly combined.

4.  Divide the mixture between the paper liners and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. 

5.  Optional – Dust with a little icing sugar and serve.

Gourmet S’mores

The weather here in the UK has been positively dismal.  Having just returned to soggy ol’ England from holiday in Toronto where the weather was 38°C (100°F) has only reinforced the fact that our summer so far has been absolutely crappy. 
It was so nice to get away and spend some time in a tropical climate – even if it was on the beaches and streets of Toronto, and not the Caribbean.  No visit back home to Canada is complete without some serious food (ingredient) shopping.  I always return to the UK with a suitcase full of North American treats that are hard to find in UK stores.  I made numerous visits to a fantastic bulk food shop where I stocked up on sprinkles and candy melts –  almost an entire carry on suitcase full!  I also visited Golda’s Kitchen – the most amazing cake supply store, thanks to a recommendation from Jodie Whitley via the Made With Pink Facebook page (I’ll be posting pictures of the cake shop and my holiday purchase on my facebook page shortly!)
A few days before I left on holiday I decided to perk myself up and get into the summer spirit by making some gourmet s’mores (sans campfire) using some of the ingredients I’d picked up from my previous holiday to the States. 
I’d had a few bags of speciality marshmallows and a couple boxes of graham crackers sitting on my baking shelf for the past few months,  I’d always intended to use them for gourmet s’mores, but I just never got around to it until now.  Plus I needed to make room for my new impending purchases!

I made four different s’more combinations:
Pina Colada:  Original graham crackers sandwiched together with white chocolate, pineapple & toasted coconut marshmallows, and a slice of freshly grilled pineapple. 
Chocolate Mint:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with mint chocolate marshmallows and dark mint chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cup:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with flat vanilla marshmallows and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Salted Caramel:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with caramel flavoured chocolate callets, flat vanilla marshmallows and a spoon full french salted butter caramel (not pictured).

Don’t think you can’t make these if you don’t live in the US, or don’t have the graham crackers or fancy marshmallows.  I’ve seen toasted coconut marshmallows in the UK before in several stores, and most recently I’ve been able to find them in the South African grocery stores near my home.  Regular marshmallows will work just as well in all of these s’mores, but my tip is to cut them in half so they lay flat instead of standing tall like they normally would.  All of the chocolate I used is from the UK, and is available in any major grocery store with the exception of the caramel callets which were a gift from my March Foodie Penpal who bought them in a local shop in Manchester.  If you don’t have the caramel callets or the salted butter caramel, then you can use the new flat Rolo chocolate bars that have just been launched for sale in the UK. 

As for the graham crackers, you can make your own at home by following the recipe here that I used to make my mini s’more pops a couple of years ago.
To make the s’mores you’ll need the above ingredients and an oven.  If the UK weather ever gets better then you can make them the way they were originally intended – with a camp fire.  But until then you’ll need to pre-heat your oven to 200°C (400°F).  

Assemble your s’mores together and wrap them in a square of aluminum foil (this will ensure your chocolate and marshmallow don’t melt and ooze out the sides of your graham crackers and into the oven.)  Place them in the hot oven for 3-5 minutes before removing.  Carefully unwrap each s’more and enjoy – just make sure you don’t burn yourself on the hot gooey marshmallow and chocolate!

I think that the salted caramel s’mores were my favourite out of the bunch.  They were so so soooo good, but also very rich.  I couldn’t have eaten more than one.  I also really liked the Pina Colada ones, they were so different from any other s’more I’d made.  I only got to try a small bite of the chocolate mint s’more before my husband gobbled it up.  As for the Reese’s s’more, while it was good, it wasn’t my favourite.  I’d still prefer to eat the Reese’s cup by it self.

What other unique flavours of s’mores have you made?  Do you have any other suggestions for me??

5 Fruit Smoothies

Ever since I found out I was pregnant I’ve done my best to try and get in as many fruits and vegetables as possible.  I kinda figured that carrot cake, banana bread and apple crisp weren’t exactly going to count towards my “5 a day” – bummer!  I’m a lazy eater, and tend to grab what’s easiest at that particular time, which isn’t always what’s best for me.  Although I was buying a lot of fresh fruit, I wasn’t necessarily finishing it before it would start to go bad.  In order to prevent the fruit from spoiling I’d cut it up, put it in zip lock bags and throw it in the freezer where it would wait until I came up with something to use it in – like these Lemon & Lime Blueberry Muffins I made a while ago.

I’ve had a slight obsession with strawberries over the past few months, and since strawberry season came kind of early in the UK this year, they were often on sale for buy one get one free.  I’d eat one package and wash, cut and freeze the other pack.  The same thing happened when I made those Lemon & Cheesecake Raspberry Bites I just threw the left overs in the freezer.  

I quickly began to accumulate a wide variety of frozen fruit in my freezer, and I needed some way to use it up.  Then it hit me – the best way to get a few servings of fruit into my diet quickly  and easily would probably be to make a fruit smoothie.  Back in Canada I loved smoothies, but I never actually made them myself – I always ended up paying a ridiculous price for one whenever I was at the mall.  

After ordering and waiting for my smoothies to be made at the mall, I’d seen how easy they were to make, so I started making my own.  I love tropical flavours like pineapple and coconut, so usually try to incorporate at least one of those in my smoothies.  I don’t have an exact recipe for them, and I tend to just use whatever fruit I have on hand.  Lately that’s been pineapple, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, mango, etc.  Add in a bit of vanilla yogurt and some fruit juice, blend for a couple minutes and you’re done!

5 Fruit Smoothie

15 Blueberries, frozen 
1/2 Banana, frozen
10 Raspberries, frozen
7 Large Pineapple chunks, frozen
5 Strawberries, frozen
2 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
1/3 Cup Vanilla Yogurt
1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice

1.  Dump everything into a blender, turn it on, and you guessed it – blend!  Blend everything together for a minute or two until there are no large chunks of fruit remaining.  Check the consistency to make sure it’s not too thick (or thin).  If you think your smoothie is too thick, just add in a bit more juice and blend again.  If it’s too thin, add in a bit more frozen fruit and blend. 

To avoid making a portion way larger than I can drink, I usually fill the glass I’m going to use with my fruit as I’ve found it to be a pretty good indicator of how much smoothie it will make.  Fill the glass with frozen fruit – get a glass full of smoothie.  Fill it half full, get half a glass of smoothie.  Pretty simple.

If you don’t like or have one of the fruits above, just use something else.  There’s no rules with smoothies!  You can also use fresh fruit as well, as long as you use at least 1/2 frozen fruit then you’ll still get a nice thick consistency and it will be cold without needing any ice.

I like my smoothies to be a tad thicker which can mean that they can be a little hard to drink through a regular straw.  I’ve found the best thing to drink my smoothies with is a Bubble Tea straw because they’re wider than normal.  

There you have it – a quick and delicious, yet healthy treat!  I can’t say that about most of the things I blog about!  

Golden Pages & Designer Macarons

In the world of recipe books, there’s  some that just belong on the shelf.  C’mon – I’m sure we all have a few.  Then there’s some that belong in the kitchen.  You know, the ones that get used ALL the time.  And then there are the ones that belong centre stage on the coffee table for all eyes to see. They’re the kind of books that you could sit with for hours and just read every single recipe and imagine exactly what each of them tastes like.  The kind of book where you just lose yourself in page after page of gorgeous pictures, and fantasize that one day when you make that recipe it will turn out EXACTLY as it looked on the pages of the book. 
These books don’t come around very often, but when Laduree finally released their famous recipe book Sucre in English I’ll admit I got SUPER excited! Sucre got glowing reviews on the Amazon France site, and if French women thought it was good (because we all know French women are able to whip up a perfect pastry at a moments notice!) I knew it was going to be amazing.
I purchased my copy from Amazon and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived at my office nearly 5 days ahead of schedule.  When I opened up the package I was greeted with a familiar looking box – or so it seemed!  Laduree’s Sucre comes packaged in a replica of their famous macaron box, and it looked so similar that I actually had people stop by my desk thinking I had a rather large box of macarons!
Sucre The Recipes can be purchased in English via Amazon US here and Amazon UK here.  Unfortunately it’s not available in English yet on Amazon Canada.
Laduree has done a fabulous job transferring the opulence of their tea salons into this recipe book.  With it’s mouth watering pastry pictures, velvety pistachio green cover and gold gilded pages, this book is a little work of art.  There are oodles of recipes in it.  Everything from Vanilla Eclairs and Strawberry Napoleons to Raspberry and Rose Sundae’s and of course – their famous macarons!
Strawberry Marscapone Tart
I can’t wait to start making delicious pastries from this book, although I will warn you that some of the ingredients are rather hard to find.  Things like chestnut puree, almond & pistachio pastes or rose syrup.  But, there are definitely lots of recipes that can be made with ingredients are can be found at your local grocery store.
A sampling of some recipes that caught my eye:
Chestnut Barquettes
Rose Cream Puffs
Pistachio Salambos
Roasted Pineapple Tart
All Chocolate Tart
Upside Down Apple Tarts
Chocolate Mousse
Pistachio Sour Cherry Verrines
Lemon Cake
Cherry Calfoutis
The list goes on and on!!
There are even several recipes included for their infamous macarons, but my past history of macaron making has been a bit hit and miss.  Sometimes they turn out beautifully, and sometimes they don’t.  I have no idea why.  So for now, I’ll try my hand at making a few other Paris pastries from the book and stick to buying my macarons from Laduree.  Speaking of which – each year Laduree partners with one (sometimes more) famous fashion brands to design and release a limited edition macaron box.  This year Laduree has partnered up with famed fashion designer John Galliano, and I must say the box is absolutely gorgeous.  Last week I popped into the Harrods branch of Laduree and picked one up.  I couldn’t help but rush down there the day after they were released so I could get a hold of one.  In case you don’t know – I’m a bit obsessed with collecting Laduree Macaron boxes.  The limited edition John Galliano box is available in Laduree stores now.
My selection of macarons below:  Coconut, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Black Current & Violet (amazing btw) and Praline.
Golden Pages! 
Keep checking back to see what I make from this amazing book!

Aloha Wontons

Well, it’s September.  I know. How depressing!  School is starting up again, summer holidays are over, days are getting shorter and cooler, and worst of all the Halloween decorations are already starting to appear in stores.  Don’t get me wrong – I love Halloween, but it’s definitely a summer buzz killer!  A few weeks ago I created something amazing.  A delicious combination of a few of my favorite summer flavors: pineapple and coconut.  Throw in some yummy almond pound cake and wrap it all up in a crispy fried wonton, and then sprinkle with some cinnamon & sugar.  Yeah – I told you they were amazing!  And to make them even more amazing, I whipped up a delicious cinnamon cream cheese icing to dip them in!
To make these you’ll need some wonton wrappers (available at Asian supermarkets – I got mine at Wing Yip), some pineapple compote and some pound cake.  Pound cake originates from the Southern United States, and gets it’s name from the fact the cake traditionally called for a pound of each ingredient.  Pound cake isn’t very well known in the UK, but it’s probably comparable to a UK Madeira cake.  You don’t need very much pound cake for these – just a few slices, so you could easily use a store bought pound or Madeira cake, but I felt like making my own. You know – cuz I like to be difficult. 
First you’ll need to drop about a teaspoon of the pineapple compote onto the center of the wonton wrapper, and then add a few pieces of the pound cake.  Use a bit of egg white to coat the edges of the wonton before folding it into a triangle and deep frying. 
After the wontons have been fried to a nice golden brown color, sprinkle them with a light coating of cinnamon and sugar.  
Now they’re almost ready to eat. Dunk them in some cinnamon cream cheese icing and enjoy! See the chunks of pineapple and pound cake inside!

Aloha Wontons
wonton wrappers
1 egg white
pineapple compote (recipe below)
pound cake cubes (recipe below)
2 cups (500ml) oil for deep frying
1/4 cup (50g) sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
cinnamon cream cheese icing (recipe below)

1. Cut 2-3 slices of the pound cake into very small cubes.
2. Lay out 1 wonton wrapper at a time (keep the rest covered using a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out). Drop 1 teaspoon of the pineapple compote onto the center of the wonton wrapper and then add 3 – 4 small cubes of the pound cake. (Make sure not to overfill the wontons, so use your own judgement as everyones pineapple and cake cubes will be different sizes.) Dip your finger into the egg white and run it along the edges of the wonton – this will be the glue that holds the wonton together. Now fold the bottom corner up to the top corner so that the wonton forms a triangle and pinch the sides together so they are tightly sealed. Set wonton aside, and being on another one.
3. Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat to 350ºF (175ºC). (The oil should be at least 3 inches deep)
4. Cook the wontons, carefully placing the wontons 3-4 at a time into the hot oil and deep fry until golden brown, flipping as necessary for even browning, about 2 minutes. Remove the wontons from the oil and drain on papers towel and sprinkle immediately with the cinnamon sugar mixture on both sides.
5. Once slightly cooled, dip wontons into the cinnamon cream cheese icing and enjoy!

Pineapple Compote

1/2 can canned pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon pineapple juice (from canned pineapple)
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Drain the pineapple chunks, and set the liquid aside (you’ll need it later).  Cut 1/2 of the pineapple chunks into much smaller chunks (I cut 1 chunk into another 6 smaller chunks – the UK pineapple chunks are bigger than most North American pineapple chunks).  
2. Over medium heat in a small pot combine the finely cut pineapple chunks and all other ingredients. Stir ever 1 – 2 mins until the pineapple compote begins to thicken up. This usually takes about 5 mins. Remove from heat and set aside. 
Butter Almond Pound Cake

2/3 cup (150g) butter
1 cup (200g) white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups (165g) flour (NOT self raising)
3 tablespoons, plus 2 (55ml) teaspoons of milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Grease a loaf pan, and line with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour alternating with the liquids (milk, vanilla, almond and butter flavorings) and mix just until incorporated.
3. Pour the batter evenly into the loaf pan, and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. After removing them from the oven, immediately loosen cake edges with a knife. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans. Strip off the parchment paper and cool completely on wire racks. 
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (60g) powdered sugar
2 oz (56g) cream cheese
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Combine all ingredients together to create a delicious cream cheese icing to be used for dunking the Aloha Wontons.
I know it may seem like a lot of work, but these Aloha Wontons are like little pockets of sunshine.  They are really, really good! So if you’re sad to see summer go, then cheer yourself up by making these.  Enjoy!