Hawaiian Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hawaii may seem far away, but this dessert is just an hour from your table. This pineapple cake is the perfect summer dessert, transporting you from wherever you are to the beautiful beaches of the North Shore. It’s special because the cake itself is a little denser, but with every bite you take you get the crunch of walnuts and the chewiness of pineapple chunks. Those little nuggets of pineapple pop with flavor in your mouth, and the cream cheese frosting balances their sweetness.

You can see the chunks of pineapple and walnuts while the cream cheese frosting oozes over the cake. Delicious.

What you’ll need:

  • For the cake:
    • 2 cups minus 4 tablespoons flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple in light syrup
    • 2 cups sugar (I used Splenda)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • For the frosting:
    • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature (use full-fat)
    • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature (no margarine, real butter)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, and salt.

**Tip: If you have a sifter, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. I don’t have a sifter, so I used a whisk instead. The sifter works better, but your cake will still taste great even if you don’t have one.

Mix in the pineapple (syrup included), sugar, vanilla, eggs with an electric mixer. This won’t be perfectly smooth because of the pineapple, but you want to make sure it’s well combined. Add the walnuts.

Pour the batter into a greased 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

There’s the batter in the pan, ready to go in the oven.

While the cake is baking, blend the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. It’s really important to use an electric mixer here, I’ve found that good ol’ elbow grease just doesn’t work for frosting (I learned this after many, many failed attempt at making frosting by hand). Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the walnuts.

See the consistency of the frosting? Perfect! But remember it will melt a little on the hot cake.

Remove the cake from the oven. Use the toothpick test to check if it’s done. Or, instead of using a toothpick, use a fork. Once the cake is done, poke the cake all over with a fork (you want to make holes for the frosting to seep into!).

Here’s the done cake. You can see that it hasn’t risen too much, which is normal. You can also see all those holes I’ve poked with a fork.

Frost immediately and serve.

The full cake has been frosted, and you can smell the pineapple, cream cheese, and butter. It makes me salivate just looking at it!

**I must give credit where credit is due. This recipe was derived from a recipe book my dad gave me, called Treasures of Love: Secret Recipes and Gifts from the Heart. It’s a delicious collection of recipes by the Safari Sisters, who compiled this book to benefit children in Africa.

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Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi, and a 50th post thank you

To celebrate my 50th post on SeaJetCook, I wanted to post one of my favorite dishes of all time: Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi. There are so many reasons why this is my favorite. The mango brings me back to one of my favorite places in the world: the beach in Hawaii. The cilantro in the salsa reminds me of growing up in Southern California, my home. Fish is one of my favorite foods ever, and mahi mahi in particular tops the list. It’s spicy, sweet, light, and fresh. The crunchiness of the salsa perfectly balances the delicate flakiness of the fish. The deliciousness of this meal is to die for (no pun intended, keep reading), and I just lucked out that it’s incredibly healthy, too.

Maybe this is a little morbid, and maybe it’s a bit of an over-share, but my family and I have often discussed what we would want our last meals to be. More specifically, what our death row meals would be. It’s weird, I know. But if you throw away the weirdness, what it really boils down to is what our favorite meals are. I know Clinton’s would be teriyaki steak and chicken with a zesty salad and giant scoop of white rice. My dad’s would be a bone-in filet with a baked potato, sautéed mushrooms, and beets. Mom’s would be the same (which is why they’re meant for each other). Throw a big helping of steamed broccoli and creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes with mango salsa-topped mahi mahi, and you have mine. So here’s my recipe, I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do!

It’s spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it’s healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 filets of mahi mahi
  • Mango salsa (makes enough for leftovers):
    • 2 ripe mangos
    • 1 medium onion
    • 2 Serrano chiles (or 1 if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 cup chopped cilantro
    • 6 tbsp lemon juice

What you’ll need to do:

Though I generally like to multitask when cooking, I like to make the mango salsa before I even start cooking the fish. It gives the salsa time to let the flavors marry and letting me focus all my attention on one element of the dish.

Start by peeling your mango. Once it’s peeled, cut off the very bottom to make a flat surface or base, making easier to cut around the pit. Use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit. Chop the mango into small- to medium-sized chunks. Add to a medium-sized bowl.

Cutting a base on your mango makes them easier to cut. After you cut off the big fleshy sides of the mango, they’re easy to chop into small, salsa-perfect pieces.

Peel your cucumber and chop into chunks, making them about the same size as your mangoes, and add to the bowl. Finely chop your onions.

The chiles are going to give you the heat in your salsa. Start by cutting them in half and removing all the ribs and seeds to control the heat (the spiciest parts). Then mince into very small pieces and add to your bowl.

Chop your cilantro with both the leaves and stems – I like to leave the stems in because I think they have a ton of flavor that you miss when you add only the leaves.

Add the lemon juice to your bowl, and thoroughly combine. Set aside.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It’s a fun twist on a traditional favorite.

**Tip: I purposefully make extra servings of the mango salsa because it’s also delicious to simply serve with tortilla chips as a dip. You can also use it to top chicken or pork.

Set a pan over medium-high heat on your stove, and spray with cooking spray. Cook your mahi mahi in the pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Top your mahi mahi with mango salsa and enjoy!

**As I’ve written my 50th post on the 5 month anniversary of SeaJetCook’s launch, I would like to thank all of my readers. I started this blog as a small passion project. It was a way to write down some of my recipes so I wouldn’t forget them, and I hoped to inspire a few hesitant cooks to get in the kitchen and give cooking a try. So far, SeaJetCook has reached thousands of readers in 27 countries, which simply astounds me. While I set out hoping to inspire you, it’s you that has inspired me to keep creating and keep writing. So again, thank you. And bon appetit!

Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with my Zesty Dressing

A few weeks ago, I posted about how much I love avocados, so much so that an avocado tree was my tree of choice when I was a kid. Well today you’re in for a treat, this recipe was made with avocados from that very tree.

This salad is one of my favorite summer dishes because it’s fresh and light. The ingredients are all in season, which makes them super flavorful. The avocados taste smooth, buttery, and rich with a subtle nuttiness; the tomatoes pop with a slight sweetness and acidity; the cucumbers add lightness and a crunch to the salad; and my zesty dressing adds the citrusy zing that brings this simple salad to the next level. Whenever I make this dish, I can’t help but go back for a giant scoop of seconds.

I love how fresh and delicious this is. And I love that it’s not your typical salad.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):

For the salad:

  • 2 large avocados
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes (or 4 plum tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber

For the dressing:

What you’ll need to do:

For any salad, as I’ve mentioned, I always start by making the salad dressing because it gives the flavors some time to marry. In whatever container is good for salad dressing, start by combining your zesty Italian salad dressing mix, lemon juice, and sherry. Shake or stir, and then set it aside until you’re done preparing your avocados, tomatoes, and cucumber.

As I wrote in my guacamole recipe, start with ripe avocados. You’ll know they’re the perfect ripeness if they’re about the same density as if you press on the pad of your hand. Use your knife to cut your avocado all the way around length-wise, dragging your knife tip around the pit and being careful not to puncture it. Twist your avocado like an Oreo to release it. Then, use your knife to chop into the pit to get a grip on it, then twist your knife to release the pit. Slice your avocado vertically while it’s still in the skin, but be careful to not puncture the skin, then slice horizontally to make perfect chunks. Use a spoon to scoop the chunks out of the skin into a medium bowl.

**Tip: I found this awesome diagram of how to cut an avocado, which I posted on my Facebook page here. Like my Facebook page while you’re there!

See those beauties? Those were grown on the tree I planted years ago at my parent’s house. Delicious. My pride and joy.

Chop your tomatoes into the same-sized chunks as your avocado. Then peel your cucumber and slice into similarly-sized chunks. Add the tomato and cucumber to the bowl with your avocado.

Go back to your salad dressing and add the oil, then shake or stir to combine. Toss your avocado, tomato, and cucumber with about 1/2 cup of your dressing (you’ll have leftover dressing, perfect for any regular salad). The lemon juice in the dressing will help the avocados stay green and not brown. Most importantly, it adds an extra zing to your delicious dish.

Enjoy!

Yum.

Mango Chutney

Costco gets me every time with their tempting, inexpensive produce in gigantic quantities. Do I need 4 pounds of blueberries? Absolutely! And a crate of 20 oranges? Sure! So when I walked by this beautiful crate of mangoes that was way cheaper than the regular grocery store, I couldn’t resist. I love mangoes. They remind me of sitting outside on a patio in Hawaii, eating a Belgian waffle slathered with mangoes, papayas, and whipped cream.

But with my Costco-sized crate of mangoes, I knew I needed to do more than eat waffles every day. So I began thinking of every other way I love to eat mangoes, and mango chutney came to the top of my list. Mango chutney is sweet, gooey, and slightly tangy – it’s a perfect topping to my basic chicken. Serve that with a side of steamable veggies and you have yourself a delicious meal.

This mango chutney was inspired from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
1 mango
1/2 tablespoon margarine
1/4 medium onion
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (I used Truvia)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

What you’ll need to do:

Start by peeling your mango. Then use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit – don’t worry if it’s a little sloppy, you’ll be putting it in a pot and cooking it anyway. Once your mango is free of the pit, chop it into chunks and save for later. Then, chop your onion into small pieces.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter then add the onions. Saute for two minutes. Add the mango, then saute for another two minutes.

Add the vinegar and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the water. It’s very important to whisk the cornstarch and water separately before they’re added to the mango mixture, otherwise you’ll end up with little pebbles of cornstarch in your chutney. Once the cornstarch/water is mixed, stir the slurry into the mango mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil, and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.

You can see the big chunks of mango in there, delicious!

Top your chicken with the chutney and enjoy!

Green Apple, Cranberry, and Feta Salad

Have you ever been invited to a BBQ or potluck last-minute and thought, “Shoot, what am I going to bring?” Sure, you can bring a bottle of wine or beer AGAIN, but you don’t want to be THAT person that only ever brings the booze. You want to bring something tasty, something that will make people want to keep inviting you back, and you don’t want that something to be store-bought. Well, that situation happened to me recently when I ran into a neighbor who said, “Oh hey, we’re going to BBQ at the pool tonight, do you want to join us?” That BBQ was to start in one hour.

With SeaJetCook’s reputation on the rise, I knew I couldn’t bring just a 6-pack of beer. But I had nothing in my fridge that I could throw together for a big group of people (I normally cook for a group of two). So I ran to the market and grabbed ingredients that would create a SeaJetCook-worthy salad in about 5 minutes – very little chopping involved.

Gotta love any dish that only takes 5 minutes to make.

What you’ll need:
1 16 ounce pack of mixed greens (if you can get already washed greens, even better)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 6 ounce pack of crumbled feta cheese
2 green apples

What you’ll need to do:

Chop your apples to about the same size chunks as the large chunks in your feta cheese (you’ll want to get all components on a fork for a perfect bite). Then dump your mixed greens in a large salad bowl. Add in your cranberries, feta cheese, and chopped apples. Toss, and you’re done! Add any dressing you like; this blush vinaigrette is my favorite, but a raspberry vinaigrette would also be tasty.

I love how simple this is because it involves very little chopping (that’s the most time-consuming part of any salad). But whenever I bring this dish to a potluck, no one ever leaves enough for leftovers! The creaminess of the feta and sweetness of the cranberries complement the crisp, tartness of the green apple. Enjoy!

Turkey Meatballs: Part 4 – Marinara Turkey Meatballs over Quinoa

We’ve finally made it to the last installment of my turkey meatball series. As you’ve read, most of my turkey meatball recipes are healthy spins on old favorites. First and foremost, the turkey meatball itself is a healthy spin on a traditional Italian meatball, using brown rice instead of bread crumbs and extra lean ground turkey instead of pork or veal. Then we had the turkey meatball lettuce wrap take the place of a traditional meatball sub, and the turkey meatball soup is a healthy version of a matzoh ball soup.

Part 4 is the  pièce de résistance in my healthy swaps. Instead of serving a traditional meatball over a pile of pasta, I’m serving the already-healthier version of meatballs over quinoa with a big scoop of marinara. It absolutely satisfies my craving for Italian food (which I crave often), while being much more figure friendly. I bring this to work for lunch all the time, and my coworkers always ask, “What smells so good?” The quinoa soaks up the garlicky marinara, and the herbs in the sauce bring out the oregano in the meatballs. It’s a perfect, delicious, guilt-free weekday meal that takes virtually no time to make.

Already packed in a Tupperware for lunch. Yum.

What you’ll need (makes 1 serving):
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup marinara sauce (whatever is in your cupboard)
4 turkey meatballs

What you’ll need to do:

This recipe is less about cooking, and more about assembling already cooked ingredients. I usually have quinoa already cooked and packed in Tupperware in my fridge, the turkey meatballs have already been cooked on the weekend, and I just use a store-bought jar of sauce.

If you don’t already have the quinoa cooked, simply follow my Quick and Easy Quinoa recipe. You need one part quinoa to two parts water. Like I mentioned, I usually make a big batch and store it in my fridge for up to a week. If you haven’t already made your quinoa, bring your quinoa and water up to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the water starts to bubble, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Assemble your dish by putting down 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, top with the turkey meatballs, and slather with the marinara. If you’re bringing this to work for lunch, just reheat for 1 minute on high in the microwave. Delish!