Saturday, October 31, 2015

Simply Simple Pineapple Cupcakes

How about pineapple cake that isn't upside-down cake or coconut-pineapple combo (piƱa colada-ish)? This recipe uses a standard recipe for yellow cake mix and crushed pineapple. Pineapple juice replaces the water. If you want to try an easy scratch recipe, visit "EZ Pineapple Cupcakes".

My cake recipes are usually for cupcake or mini-cupcake/muffin serving sizes; portions and handling are convenient for groups of people. They also take a lot less time to bake than sheet or round pan cakes. I can't work up enthusiasm for making a pineapple upside-down cake—too much mess and hassle for me, I guess.

I originally planned to try the bundt cake recipe that called for adding pudding, which I referred to in my "EZ Pineapple Cupcakes". This Dole recipe made my eyes glaze over, especially the need for 4 eggs and 3/4 cup of oil.

Fortunately, I spotted a related but more intriguing recipe. Although I want to bake a pina colada-type cake, I'm glad I read enough of the recipe to spot the part about replacing water with pineapple juice.

My pixstrip shows the following image sections:
  1. Initial preparing
    1. Implements
    2. Ingredients
    3. 20-oz can of pineapple (measured for juice and divided fruit). Note: I squeezed the fruit a LOT to obtain the 1 cup of juice I needed.
  2. Mixing
    1. Bowl with eggs, cooking oil, pineapple juice ("wet" ingredients)
    2. Lightly blended "wet" ingredients
    3. Cake mix powder poured onto the blended "wet" ingredients
    4. Mixed
    5. Pineapple poured onto the mixture
    6. Mixed
  3. Baking
    1. Batter in pans
    2. Baked cupcakes
    3. Cupcakes turned over onto cooling racks
    4. Cupcakes in tins (8 cut into halves and in checkerboard placement with the other 16)
  • mixer
  • medium-large mixing bowl
  • rubber spatula(s)
  • measuring spoon
  • measuring cup(s)
  • spoon and bowls for divided pineapple, measuring cup or jar for juice
  • cupcake pans (Use different size pans if desired, following baking time suggestions on the cake mix box.)
  • cooling rack for baked cupcakes
  • 1 box (16.5 oz) yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix.)
  • half of well-drained crushed pineapple (6 to 6 1/2 ounces)
  • eggs, number as listed on cake mix box (3)
  • cooking oil, amount as listed on cake mix box (1/3 C)
  • pineapple juice as replacement for the water called for on cake mix box (1 C)
  • spray oil
Instructions (Have the cake mix box handy!)
  1. Preheat the oven (350°).
  2. Prepare baking pans with spray oil. (The box says to use baking cups for cupcakes, but I didn't.)
  3. Lightly blend the eggs, juice, and oil.
  4. Pour the cake mix powder into the bowl of liquids and beat as directed.
  5. Pour the crushed pineapple into the batter and blend.
  6. Distribute the batter into the baking pans. (Cupcake wells will be almost full.)
  7. Bake for time recommended (18-21 min for cupcakes). Test for doneness with toothpick.
  8. Remove the pans of baked cupcakes and place on cooling racks (~15 min).
  9. Place cakes upside down onto the racks. You might need to use a knife to loosen cakes from wells.
  10. When the cakes are totally cooled, you can serve them up (with or without frosting), or pack them up.
The recipe yielded 24 whole cupcakes. I cut 8 in half, then arranged all of them in checkerboard pattern. People can pick half size, full size, or combination cupcakes.
Post-Recipe Thoughts

 White Cake Mix Instead of Yellow Cake Mix
The day after I made the cupcakes with yellow cake, I tried the same recipe with Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix. I used the other half of the crushed pineapple and added 1 cup of canned pineapple juice. I also added 8 drops of yellow food coloring before I folded in the pineapple, but the outcome was still paler than using yellow cake mix. Interestingly, the white cake mix calls for 1/4 cup of oil instead of 1/3 cup for the yellow cake mix. The calorie amounts reflect the difference in oil amount.

The table contrasts calorie amounts for yellow vs. white Duncan Hines cake mixes that I used.
Ingredients yellow white
prepared mix
each cupcake (1/24 cake)

EZ Pineapple Cupcakes vs. Using Boxed Cake Mix
The process for the scratch vs. cake mix pineapple cupcakes mainly differs for mixing methods. Scratch requires gentler batter combining, and cake mix requires more vigor. The scratch results were moister than using cake mix. The calories for scratch is 125 (assuming 2 cups of sugar), same as for yellow cake mix. I skipped frosting the cake mix cupcakes to minimize calories and extra effort. I had also passed on adding extract.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stuck Blender Blade?

Does your blender blade seem stuck and not moving? Before you buy a new blender or blender blade, test for non-function, then try a home remedy of FIRST resort.

I'd had my Osterizer blender for, uh, awhile. It's one of my devices I refer to in my "Frequently Used Electrical Long-time Kitchen Items" article. A couple of weeks ago, I thought about using it to puree some canned beans for bean soup. As I hadn't used the appliance for a couple of years, I decided I should wash out the non-electrical parts.

When I removed the blade assembly and tried to gently rotate the blades around its disk, I winced when it didn't turn. I had a familiar, sinking feeling that the assembly froze up, same as its predecessor from maybe at least a decade or so. My recollection is that the replacement part cost half or more than half of a new blender—ten-ish or so dollars, at a bricks-and-mortar appliance repair place.

This time, I tried out a process that I distilled from some posts at "My blender blade is not turning?". The most helpful comments were by ceanothus, Andy, Jeffrey F, and Moondog. If your blender blade assembly sticks like I described, try my quick, no-cost home fix ("unsticking" procedure).

 Unsticking a Stuck Blender Blade Assembly

A: Confirm that the Blade Assembly Does Not Swivel
The first row of images shows the assembled and plugged-in blender, the top view with lid removed and blades viewable, and separated parts in the order they belong.
  1. Remove the blade assembly from the appliance, and gently try to swivel the blades on its disk. If nothing moves, follow this article's steps to safely "unfreeze" the mechanism.
  2. Plug the appliance in, then press Pulse to confirm that the blender's shaft rotates freely. This action helps confirm that the blade assembly is at fault.
  3. Re-assemble the appliance, and press Pulse just long enough to confirm that the motor hums but the blade doesn't move (perceived stuck), more confirmation that the blade assembly is at fault.
  4. Separate parts again.
B: Use Boiling Water for Loosening the Parts of the Blade Assembly
The second row of images shows a saucepan of boiling water, then the pan with the blade unit right side up, alongside a spoon for retrieval. This process dissolves residue that might be stuck in normally movable parts.
  1. Bring about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches or more water to a rolling boil. The water level should be high enough to submerge almost all of the blade assembly.
  2. Use a spoon or tongs to gently lower the blade assembly into the pan, disk side down.
  3. Boil the blade assembly for 3 to 5 minutes.
C: CAREFULLY Clean the Blade Assembly and Manually Swivel It
The third row of images shows the blade assembly after its removal from the pan.
  1. Use a spoon or tongs to remove the blade assembly from the pan of boiling water, placing it on a cloth (terrycloth ok).
  2. Using extra care to avoid hurting yourself with the hot and sharp blades or disk part, wipe the blade assembly dry. You should now be able to easily twist/swivel the blades from the disk part.
  3. Carefully wash the blade assembly by hand with soap and water, and wipe dry. Confirm that the assembly still turns freely.
D: Re-assemble the Blender
The last row of images shows the re-assembling of the blender parts. Suggestion: Before re-assembling, wash all other washable blender parts.
  1. Re-assemble the parts in the order as shown. (The second image shows the jar and rest of the parts turned upside down. Be sure that the gasket is between the jar and the blade assembly.)
  2. Plug the blender in, and press Pulse to confirm that the blade assembly spins.

Periodically (monthly to annually), check that the blade assembly still freely spins. If not, try the "unsticking" procedure.

Want to peruse Oster blender spare parts? Also visit eye-catching bundling at Oster and Walmart: blade assembly, sealing rings (gaskets), bottom cap (which contains the jar items and seats onto motor unit), lid and filler cap (that might not work on your blender). Priced at just over $10, these kits cost much less than buying piece parts separately. YMMV WRT other possible sources.

For non-Oster blender parts, do a Google search for "blender parts [product name of your blender]".

Mounting Mason Jars instead of Blender Jars
In poking around for info about the blade assembly, was unable to find any about the blades, metal base, and bearing collar (?). However, I ran across images of Mason jars near or on blenders. Visit articles that describe using these jars to make their smoothies with instead of using the standard blender jars.
Caution: Firmly place a hand on top of the unit during blending to prevent the jar from unscrewing from the base cap.