The beautiful cross-stitched napkin was a gift from Karen.
I have a love/hate relationship with pineapple. I love the way it tastes, but the acid burns my mouth *and* water tastes gross for like 30 minutes after I eat it. Does this happen to everyone? On the flip side, water tastes sweet after I eat (fresh) artichoke hearts, so that's a plus. I hear that doesn't happen to everyone. And while we're on the subject, I hear that eating too much wasabe doesn't give everyone a sudden fierce pain at the top of their head? At least according to some friends of mine. This really floored me. I assumed my reaction was normal. Now I'm kind of afraid to eat wasabe.
Anyway, so I had my book club over and we read Salt by Mark Kurlansky. It's a really long book about...salt and the location, extraction, refinement, transportation, and taxation thereof throughout the millenia of recorded history (and some pre-history). It is both as interesting and not nearly as interesting as it sounds. I enjoyed it, but I'm a huge nerd. Anyway, the hostess supplies appetizers and then everyone chips in for pizza.
I like trying to tailor the food to the book and this one was an obvious candidate. One of the things the book mentioned was the chili salt that is used in Asia for dipping fruit. I had actually had this in Vietnam and it was surprisingly good. I couldn't find such a mix at the store or a recipe online, so I ground up some red pepper flakes with coarse sea salt in my trusty mortar and pestle (of course), and squeezed a lime over it before serving. I later asked my Vietnamese neighbor what is in it, and he said that they crush a fresh chili pepper into the salt and then dehydrate it. Pineapple is particularly good this way, so I bought a pineapple and cut it up (also served mango, strawberry, and peach).
The fruit was a big hit, but I still had like a quarter of a pineapple left. Due to the aforementioned mouth-burning and water-grossness I couldn't eat it all plain. When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie, or in this case, when life gives you pineapple, make mini carrot cake cupcakes. Both of these recipes are adapted from allrecipes.com. If you're not overly generous with the frosting the result is vaguely in the realm of healthy.
Mix 3 Cups carrots, grated (I used the fine side of the grater; more trouble but it's worth it) 1/2 Cup brown sugar 2 ripe bananas, mashed or 1/4 Cup applesauce Let sit for 1 hour (or up the four hours, depending on your schedule--I grated my carrots and then got distracted by my bed for a couple hours while I took a nap.)
Add: 2 eggs 1/3 Cup sugar 1/4 Cup oil 1 tsp vanilla extract 3/4 Cup crushed pineapple, drained (you can use canned, but I hand-shredded fresh)
Stir in: 1 Cup flour 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat flour 3/4 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon 3/4 tsp cloves 1/2 tsp allspice 3/4 tsp ground ginger (or fresh grated, if you have it)
Bake at 350 about 18 minutes for mini cupcakes, about 22 minutes for full-size cupcakes, or 45-50 minutes as a sheet cake; check doneness with a toothpick. Let cool before frosting. This is a very moist cake so don't be alarmed if your cupcakes lose some loft as they cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream: 4 oz neufchatel cheese--that's the 1/3 less fat cream cheese(half an 8 oz package; there are ounce lines marked on the package) 2 Tbsp butter
Add and beat until well blended: 2 1/4 Cups powdered sugar 1 1/2 Tbsp milk 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/2 tsp cinnamon