Friday, August 17, 2012


I never was one for gooey sweet pineapple upside-down cake, which is why I resisted making peach upside-down cake.   So I tried this recipe, from Alton Brown on Food Network, and I must say I have been missing out all these years.  Alton uses candied ginger to flavor the peaches, and it really is a perfect complement.  Chopped fine, the ginger is hardly noticeable, yet the subtle lift turns the peaches into something very special.

This is a sweet dessert, but not uber-sweet like pineapple upside-down cake usually is, and it's perfect for a small dinner party.  You can top it off with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche.  I chose to very lightly sweeten some non-fat Greek yogurt and, for me, it was perfect.

Alton's recipe calls for about 3 Tbsp. candied ginger, but I used 2 Tbsp, per many reviewers' recommendations.  However, the amount will depend on which crystallized ginger you use.  Ginger People's (available online) is the best and will be stronger.  Other brands may use more sugar on smaller, thinner pieces of ginger and will have less of a ginger bite.  I recommend using 2 Tbsp. at first to see how you like the flavors.

The recipe makes 4 cakes.  This was just a test, so all I needed was one.  Since I was experimenting, I decided to try freezing the other 3.  Instead of cooling all the baked cakes for 5 minutes, then turning them over, I left 3 cakes in the ramekins for an additional 5 minutes.  The juices were starting to come together by that point.  I turned the cakes, cake sides down, onto a wire rack to cool, and there were no juices dripping at that point.  It was then easy to place the cooled cakes, peach sides down, into wax-paper-lined containers (empty 5.3 oz. Greek yogurt containers are perfect).  

When I removed a frozen cake from the freezer, I found it could stay in the container to thaw on the counter (give it at least 1 hour), then be slid out onto a plate, cake side down.  A quick nuke (about 20-25 seconds on high) warmed it up.  My experiment was a success and I was able to enjoy these delightful peach upside-down cakes on demand.

Individual Peach Upside-Down Cakes
Adapted from Alton Brown, 2006
Rating:  10 out of 10

Please note:  This recipe does not use eggs!

3 Tbsp.softened unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 medium peaches, peeled, cut into 12-14 pieces each
2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger (I used 2 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup + 1-1/2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (I used 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup milk.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract.)
Ice cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, or sweetened Greek yogurt for serving (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease each of 4 (6-oz.) ramekins with 1/2 Tbsp. butter.  In a small custard cup, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. brown sugar evenly into bottoms of each ramekin.

Cut each peach into 12-14 pieces.  Lay peaches on top of sugar, evenly dividing them between the ramekins.  Sprinkle with ginger, dividing equally among dishes according to amount you use.  (For 2 Tbsp. ginger, you will use 1-1/2 tsp. for each ramekin;  for 3 Tbsp. ginger, you will use 2-1/4 tsp. for each..)  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, vanilla and the reserved 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently, just to barely combine (think pancakes, muffins -- do not overmix).  Spoon batter over peaches, dividing equally -- about 3 Tbsp. for each.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and set on middle rack of oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took 23 minutes), or till cakes reach internal temperatures of 190F on an instant-read thermometer.  Transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes*

Run a knife around the edge of each dish and turn upside down onto a serving plate.  Repeat with each cake.  Serve immediately topped with ice cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche or sweetened Greek yogurt, if desired.

*Cook's note:  To freeze one or more of the cakes, do the following:  Leave cakes on wire rack in ramekins for an additional 5 minutes (total of 10 minutes).  Run knife around edges of ramekins, then turn cakes, cake sides down, onto a wire rack to cool.  Place cooled cakes, peach sides down, into wax-paper-lined containers (empty 5.3 oz. Greek yogurt containers are perfect).  Thaw frozen cakes on the counter in the containers, for at least 1 hour.  Unmold cakes onto individual plates, cake sides down.  Nuke each cake about 20-25 seconds on high to warm it up.

Monday, August 6, 2012


So my hubby got invited on the "fishing trip of a lifetime."  Giddy with joy, he and two buddies traveled to Grand Isle, Louisiana, where they were guests of a young man who repairs oil rigs and owns a 58-foot yacht that comfortably sleeps seven.  They each had their own bedroom, outfitted with New Orleans Saints everything, from sheets to blankets to towels.  Keith, captain and owner, is an avid Saints fan -- he even named his yacht the "Whoo Dat."  (The extra "o" was put in to avoid copyright infringement.)

(For those of you who don't know, the Saints are called Who Dats because of the chant that's repeated during their games.  According to, it began circa 1983, when Bum Phillips was head coach of the Saints and the team came close to making the playoffs. New Orleans fans used a popular football chant and adopted it as their own. It went: "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat? Who dat?" Occasionally, opposing teams would defeat the Saints and respond, "We dat!")

Turns out, Keith, of Cajun origin, is a foodie who cooks.  The men came home with fresh yellowfin tuna, red snapper and a recipe for tuna salad they said they couldn't live without.  The only problem was it started off with 1/2 gallon of fresh tuna, 8 hardboiled eggs and a list of other ingredients with no measurements at all. This was particularly problematic when it came to the liquid crab boil.  I worked it out, though, and my final version has just enough spice to linger a bit on your tongue, but not enough to cause you to sweat. The only other problem is that, once you taste it, you may never want to open a can of tuna again. (You can find yellowfin tuna at Harris Teeter or B&J's on Route 70, when in season.  Sorry, but I'm not sharing what's in my freezer.)

Whoo Dat Fresh Tuna Salad
Adapted from Keith Richardson
Rating:  10 out of 10


1-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 tsp. liquid crab boil (adds a nice hint of spice -- add 1/2 tsp. more if you like it hot.)
8 oz. fresh tuna
1 hardboiled egg, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped celery, preferably organic
3 Tbsp. finely chopped dill pickle
1/3 cup light mayo (Hellmann's or Duke's)
3 Tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt (my addition)
1-1/2 tsp. Grey Poupon mustard
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black if preferred)

In a small saucepan, bring water, salt and crab boil to rolling boil.  Add tuna; cover; cook 1 minute; off heat.  Let tuna steep for about 20 minutes; drain; cool.  

In the meantime, in a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Flake tuna into the bowl and toss lightly to combine.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.  Chill.  Serves two to four.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Here's an exciting giveaway from one of my favorite gals that I've posted about previously.  She makes cupcakes, but not ordinary ones.  I love Nicole and what she has brought to our little town of New Bern, so please read below how you can be entered into this fabulous giveaway.  If you can't wait, just go on over to Rebecca's on Metcalf Street, where you will find Nicole and her cupcakes.

Check out Nicole's website and her facebook page. 

Nicole says, 
"This is how it's going to work...I haven't done a give away throughout the entirety of The Wild Cupcake's existence...when I reach 500 (my goal that I had for The Wild Cupcake when all of this mayhem started) I will give out a free dozen (that I will hand deliver) to one lucky winner. Rules of engagement...if you are in the New Bern (Havelock, Morehead, James City, get the idea) area (and you must be local...sorry for any disappointment) feel free to enter this give away by liking this post and sharing The wild Cupcake's page with your friends (YOU MUST SHARE TO BE CONSIDERED)...leave a comment below that says you liked and shared (must leave the comment or you are not eligible...because I'm not super tech savvy and wouldn't know unless you told me...honor system). Once I reach the magic number I will literally put your names in a hat and draw the winner...I will worries...I will also be in and out of town quite a lot this month...but no worries...I have cupcakes for you...May the force (of cupcakes) be with you"


Don't throw those beet tops away!  They taste like spinach when cooked, and the small leaves are great, raw, in a salad.  Beet greens and Swiss chard are both cousins of spinach, and can be used in any spinach recipe.  This recipe will serve two big eaters, or four smaller ones.  We get enough for two meals, and the leftovers are even better when they're reheated a couple nights later.

Always buy wild-caught U. S. shrimp, preferably North Carolina for best flavor and quality.  Harris Teeter and B&J's on Route 70 in James City both carry North Carolina shrimp in season.

Also be sure to buy the freshest beets possible, with greens that are not wilted or brown, for the best results.  If beet greens are unavailable, use Swiss chard or spinach.

When you look at the list of ingredients below, you may think it's too much trouble to make this dish.  But remember, it's a complete meal by itself and you don't have any other preparations to consider.  Once you line up your ingredients, this is a snap to make, and the flavors are so balanced, your taste buds will thank you.

Shrimp with Beet Greens (or Swiss Chard or Spinach) and Pasta

2-3/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided use
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1 lb. raw wild-caught, preferably North Carolina, shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry 
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 1 tsp. dried crushed oregano)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp. crushed dried basil)
1/4 cup drinking-quality dry white wine
3/4 cup canned, diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Black pepper to taste (up to 1/2 tsp.
8 oz. dry thin spaghetti, or other pasta of choice
3 cups chopped fresh beet greens (or Swiss chard or spinach)
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. heavy cream, divided use
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with cold water and 2 tsp. Morton kosher salt.  Set on stove but do not heat.  In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil till very hot. Add shrimp and quickly par-cook on both sides, but don't cook through. Remove shrimp to a dish and keep warm.  

Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan with onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat till soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook for another minute, stirring as needed. Pour wine over veggies and let it bubble for about 30 seconds while scraping up bits on bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and broth and bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, till mixture reduces.  Taste sauce, adding up to 3/4 tsp. salt and up to 1/2 tsp. pepper as needed.  Cover pan and continue to cook sauce on low heat.

Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and cook per package directions, until tender.  When pasta is almost done cooking,  stir in the greens, par-cooked shrimp, and 2 Tbsp. cream, cooking just till heated through.  Drain pasta and toss with 1 Tbsp. butter, remaining 1 Tbsp. cream and parsley.

Place pasta  in serving bowls and spoon shrimp sauce over pasta. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of shrimp sauce.   Yield:  Serves two big eaters, or four smaller ones, and leftovers are delicious gently reheated.

Friday, August 3, 2012


When we first moved to New Bern in 1993, the Harvey Mansion was the restaurant for fine dining.  We ate there often and enjoyed their excellent food.  Then the chef took ownership, and, strangely, everything went down hill fast.  Business fell off and never quite recovered.

We haven't been back to the Mansion since the late 90's.  Our neighbors, though, have been eating there regularly and telling us how good the food is.  We decided to join them for Early Bird dining (5PM - 6:30PM).  All entrees are $13.95 during Early Bird hours, and are served with house salad and bread.  The menu is varied and interesting.

We were greeted warmly by our hosts, who escorted us to an intimate dining room complete with fireplace.  Instantly, we were transported back to the 18th century, when this house was part of a thriving seaport.

Our meal started with small house salads, nicely prepared, fresh and tasty.

Rita had asparagus pea soup.  I tasted it, and it was delicious.

Guy's meatloaf was served vertically on a bed of red-skinned potatoes, surrounded by gravy and topped with chef-prepared french-fried onion slices.  He was so very happy.

Tom ordered Lamb Osso Bucco, his favorite.  He said he orders it every time he comes because it's the best.

The Herb-Fried Chicken and lemon linguini tossed with prosciutto, peas and roasted tomatoes in a chardonnay cream sauce sounded interesting, but I wanted grilled chicken.  No problem, the chef made it with grilled chicken.  The flavors were perfectly balanced and the chicken was cooked to perfection.

Rita ordered her usual:  Grilled Salmon and Mango Salad.  Served atop organic greens, and drizzled with champagne orange vinaigrette, slivered almonds and orange segments, the salad got extra crunch from fried wonton strips.

We were very impressed with Harvey Mansion and will definitely be returning soon.  Owner Gene Simon and Chef Scott Durocher have brought this place back to fine dining.  We left filled and happy.

Harvey Mansion Historic Inn221 South Front Street, New Bern, NC 28560, 252-635-3232                                 

Dinner Hours: Tue-Sun Open at 5pm