Monthly Archives: September 2010

Cornmeal Thyme Cookies


These cookies are so light.  Look at the cookie dough balls floating over Eden Park.  Told you.



Cornmeal Thyme Cookies
Compliments of JennaDish

from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup dried currants (I used Craisins)
1 Tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt in a bowl

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs one at a time.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until just combined.  Mix in currants and thyme.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake until pale golden, 10-12 minutes.  Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks; let cool.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.


No Bake Peanut Butter Cherry Bombs


Now We're Talkin'!!!!

Honest Disclosure:  When I first made these, they were OK.  Great little non-Twinkie after school snack for small kids.  But I don't have any of those anymore (small kids that is).  So I tinkered with them a bit.  I imagined I had a test kitchen and kicked them up a notch for grown ups.

My test kitchen made plain on the left.  Mmm good for kids.  And I tried just adding cinnamon, which was also OK.  Cinnamon and ancho chili powder however made them almost party-worthy, great with an adult beverage.  Makes people say "What's in these?  They're pretty good!"  Ancho chili powder is milder than regular chili powder.  For awhile, ancho chili brownies were all the rage.  Especially when Oprah put out a recipe for them. 

You can use alternative cereal (I used Rice Krispies) or dried fruit.  Whatever you have on hand.

You could take these to a party in little cupcake papers.  They'd go great surrounding a fruit tray or something chocolate.

Didn't talk you out of it yet?  I hope not.  If you're looking for a no bake, healthy, quick snack that you can make for yourself, your kids or take to a gathering, these are fun!

No Bake Peanut Butter Cherry Bombs
Compliments of JennaDish

adapted from Martha Stewart

1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter (natural pb is best)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry cereal (I used Rice Krispies)
1 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup dried sweet cherries (or cranberries or apricots or dried banana chips)
pinches of cinnamon and / or chili powder as desired

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the honey, peanut butter and butter.  Heat until melted.

Combine cereal, oats and dried fruit in a medium bowl.  Pour the warm peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and gently combine.  Stir until all of the dry ingredients are evenly covered with pb mixture.

Use a small scoop to drop balls or stacks of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Put in the fridge a few minutes to allow to chill enough to be able to form into balls.  Once formed, refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.  You can actually eat the snacks right out of the freezer.  If freezing, store in a freezer bag or plastic wrap tightly.  Use within a few days. 

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

  Chicken Pot Pie f1 Chicken Pot Pie f3
Baby, it's cold outside! 

Not really.  But at least it's finally below 80 degrees.  It's time for some hot, soupy, chicken pot pie with a flaky, ooey-gooey, well-done crust. 

Chicken Pot Pie Prep 1

Cook veggies, flour, chicken,broth, milk and half n half to make filling.  Pour in individual bowls and top with puff pastry.

Trim and fold under the pastry edges.  Brush with egg white and bake 25 minutes. 

Let rest briefly.  The more you let the inside cool, the thicker the broth.  About the crust: I'm not a food photographer (newsflash!) so although the top photo left looks cheesy and the bottom photo looks greasy, I assure you the crust is neither one.  The egg white coating is playing tricks with our eyes.

  Chicken Pot Pie f2

Oh who wants to wait for it to cool or thicken.  I'm diggin' in.

Our Chicken Pot Pie:  350 calories, 15g fat (8g saturated), 650 mg sodium

Boston Market Pastry Top Chicken Pot Pie: 800 calories, 48g fat (18g saturated fat, 7g trans fat), 1,090 mg sodium

Chicken Pot Pie
Compliments of JennaDish


from Cook This Not That

2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups stemmed and quartered white or cremini mushrooms
2 cups frozen pearl onions
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (leftover or pulled from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken borth, warmed
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
salt and black pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Heat the butter in a large saute pan or pot over medium heat.  When it's melted, add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent and the carrots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and pearl onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 mintues.  Stir in the chicken and the flour, using a wooden spoon to ensure the vegetables and meat are evenly coated with flour.

Slowly pour in the chicken broth, using a whisk to beat it in to help avoid clumping with the flour (having the broth warm or hot helps smooth out the sauce).  Once the broth is incorporated add the milk and half-and-half and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened substantially and lightly clings to the vegetables and chicken.  Stir in the peas.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cut the pastry into quarters.  Roll out each piece on a floured surface to make a 6" square.

Divide the chicken mixture among 4 ovenproof bowls.  Place a pastry square over the top of each bowl and trim away the excess with a paring knife; pinch the dough around the edges of the bowl to secure it.  Brush the tops with the egg whites and bake until golden brown about 25 minutes.


Crab Cakes with Avocado Sauce


Dear Jillian

You walked yesterday in the 21st Annual Walk to Stop AIDS event with friends from school.  StopAids is "dedicated to educating the community about the continuing risk of HIV infection and providing competent, compassionate service to those already impacted by HIV/AIDS."  And this walk helps them get information out to people.  I love to see you involved in your community and helping good causes.

I'm so happy we moved to the city to be closer to your school.  I'm glad for all the the school has to offer, your friends, your awesome teachers. 

I'm thrilled that MTV's Taking the Stage


is gone.  Cute little show but the camera crew and shooting during school was a pain in the arse for teachers and students.

Well, anyway, Jillian.  I'm glad you're you.  Who's hungry?

Continue reading

Apple Cinnamon Tea Cake


Dear Alyssa and Jill

Today was pretty awesome.   It was such a pretty, almost fall day.  Blue skies, 78 degrees.  (Where's the little degree sign on this thing.)  You know, we really are very lucky.  I think of that all the time. 

We don't have a lot of money, but we are all healthy. 

We don't have a big house, but we are blocks away from our schools and work and we live next door to a huge, beautiful park that we walk or drive through everyday.

I really like our family and the direction we are going. 

Today we girls spent the afternoon here.

Take Over Logo  IMG_2072
Look at you, Alyssa, teaching Jill some signs.  You both are good girls.

I made a Donna Hay apple cake this morning before we left.  It involved a small art project.


I cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of a springform pan.  Are you a little uncoordinated when it comes to these little projects?  Here's a tip.  You can trace the circle (bottom of the pan) onto the paper, fold the paper twice, keeping the lines matched, and cut just part of the circle instead of all the way around.  BAM!  Yer done.

You can spray Pam for Baking (has flour and oil mixed) on the pan to make the paper stick or you can use shortening.  Cooking spray doesn't do it.

Once you get to the actual food, it's easy.  Just beat softened butter and sugar/cinnamon, add eggs and beat.  Sift flour and baking powder on top of the batter. 

Add milk, mix and put batter in pan.  Core, peel and halve apples and cut a row of deep slits in them without cutting through.  Lay them on top of the batter pressing lightly.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture and bake 50 minutes. 


Take the cake out and brush with warm apricot jam.  Bake 10 minutes more.

You may not want to substitue even a spoonful of strawberry preserves for the apricot or else you will have little dark hunks like I did.  Not the end of the world but also not quite right.  Somehow it got eaten anyway. 

Apple and Cinnamon Tea Cake
Compliments of JennaDish

from Modern Classics Book 2 by Donna Hay

13 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup caster sugar (fine sugar)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk

4 small green apples, peeled, halved and cored (I used just 2 average sized Granny Smiths)
1 t sugar
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apricot jam, warmed

Preheat the oven to 320F. Line base of 9 in (I used 8 in) springform pan with parchment paper.

Place butter, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and beat with hand mixer until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Gradually add the eggs and beat well.  Sift flour and baking powder over butter mixture and stir in milk until combined.  Spoon the mixture into the pan.

For topping, cut a row of deep slits in each apple half and arrange over the top of the cake mixture.  Press apples into the batter very slightly.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples.  Bake 50 minutes.  Remove and brush cake with warm jam.  Return cake to oven 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a toothpick in center.

Euchre Party Cheese Ball


 Welcome to another episode of

JennaDish Theatre

starring Jenna and her husband Allen

Jenna:    Do you think I should put a cheeseball recipe on my blog?

Allen:     Yeah, why not?

Jenna:    I don't know, I thought it might be like putting up a recipe for buttered toast.

Allen:     Well, I wouldn't know how the hell to make a cheese ball and I'm an AVID reader.

Is that love or what?



Ah the memories of life in my home state of Indiana in the 80s.  The euchre parties.  The cheeseballs.  The screwdrivers I drank.   Why shouldn't I post a recipe for a cheeseball?  Why should I deny the youngsters of today just because I first made this back in 1978? 

As a matter of fact, I've read some foodies "wax poetic" about their mothers' recipe collections.  Well, here it is girls!  Authentic euchre-worthy 1978 cheese ball.  And if you really want to go vintage, then you'll switch out the hoity-toity pecans and use some strips of packaged dried beef and paste them on the outside.  Buddig brand, as I recall.

Hey, look at my new apron that Alyssa and Jill picked up for me at their favorite vintage store.

Orange with brown fringe and BE MY GUEST is written all over it.  It's very Dale Rogers meets Beauty and the Beast.  Love it!

I bet Roy and Dale Rogers ate lots of cheese balls.  And Trigger too.

Euchre Party Cheese Ball
Compliments of JennaDish


Cheese balls taste better if you can make them the day before.  I like to make 2 smaller cheese balls out of this recipe so I can keep one fresh and refrigerated while the other is being eaten.  Then by the end of the evening it's not as dried out. 

1 pkg (12 oz) cream cheese (I used low fat)
1 jar Old English cheese spread or other Extra Sharp Cheddar spread, about 6-8 oz.
4-6 oz crumbled blue cheese
1-2 Tablespoons minced fresh onion
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley or 2 Tablespoons dried parsley or cilantro
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

In a medium bowl, combine cheeses, minced onion and garlic (I process them together in a mini food processor), cayenne pepper and parsley.   I recommend using a skinny rubber spatula to start mixing the dense cheese mixture together.  Or some nice clean hands.

Shape into one or two balls or logs, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Before serving, place the chopped pecans in a shallow bowl and roll the cheese ball in them to cover the entire outside.  Use a spoon to gently press the nuts in place.  Keep refrigerated and covered until ready to serve.

Cakey Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_1820 IMG_1827
Dear Alyssa

Remember when I was going to Starbucks a few years ago and you asked me to get you a Rice Krispie treat?  And when I came back with something else, you asked me why?  I told you that when I asked for your Rice Krispie treat, the clerk Barista said that they didn't have any in the summer because they're "seasonal."   Rice Krispie treats are SEASONAL?  Really?

On a related note, years ago, I bought a bag of mint chocolate chips.  On the back was a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.  They were really just chocolate crackle cookies using mint chocolate chips, so it was a dark cookie with dark chips and had a dusting of powdered sugar.  Very different from the above photo.

Why?  Why is this recipe different?  Well, one day, years eons ago, I couldn't find the mint chocolate chips I'd always bought, so I asked the store manager.  Guess what he said?  "Those are seasonal items."  MINT. CHOCOLATE. CHIPS. ARE. SEASONAL?  Really?  Do you know that I have never, I said never, seen a bag of mint chocolate chips since.  Even in the winter. 

I don't know.  Maybe because I live in third world Ohio?  Well fine.  I'll use Andes mints then. 

UPDATE:  I decided to contact Hershey regarding my quest for mint chocolate chips.  Here is their response:

"We are pleased to hear from consumers who enjoy our products.  We are committed to the highest standards of excellence.  HERSHEY'S Mint Chocolate Baking Chips are produced only during the Christmas season.  Consumer demand plays an important role in the products that are produced.  Your comments are valuable and have been forwarded to the Marketing Department."

So they didn't address my particular situation.  No mint chips have been spotted in these parts for over 10 years – even at Christmas.  They have a product search feature which tells you when a particular product was purchased and where.  It came up No Search Results.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  (What the freak does that mean, anyway?)  I think these people are out of touch.  People eat mint all year round.  Mints have taken over the grocery checkout lanes.  People are making mint cookies out of Altoids for Pete's sake.  I see chat rooms of bakers looking for mint chips in May, July, September.  And what's up with the white chocolate chips I see year round?  Are they any less holiday season than mint?  Am I wrong here people? 

I'm using a cookie recipe from here: Martha Stewart Cookies.  I can't recommend this book enough.  It makes a great gift.  Actually, I got mine as a birthday gift last year from Alyssa.   Beautiful photos.  I looked through it every night for weeks.

Cakey Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Compliments of JennaDish

Adapted (only the chips are different) from Martha Stewart Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 Tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 – 1 1/2 cups chopped Andes mints

Preheat oven to 350F.  Whisk together flour and baking soda in a bowl.

Put butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  (Or use a hand mixer.)  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low.  Add salt, vanilla, and eggs; mix until combined, about 1 minute.  Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.  Stir in mint chips.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake cookies until centers are set and edges are golden, 10 – 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool on baking sheets 2minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.


Easy Lemon and Chive Salmon Cakes

Salmon Patties f1IMG_9854

I have weird fond memories of helping my mom make salmon patties (we called them patties, not cakes).  Opening the can, plopping it in a bowl, poking around at the gray slimy fish skin, making a game of trying to remove a long row of soft round bones and spiny bones all at once without breaking them.  Rarely works. They're too fragile. 


Although I could certainly come up with my own recipe for this common dish, I don't mind at all using a recipe and crediting someone else.  This recipe comes from this Mary Engelbreit cookbook I received as a gift on my birthday in 2000.  I think I appreciate the artwork and beautiful photography as much as the basic, dependable recipes of good ol' American home cooking.  Makes a nice gift.  I should know!



Usually I give an overview of the recipe process, but for Pete's sake, you mix all the ingredients except the bread crumb coating, form patties, cakes, patty cakes, then coat with crumbs, fry, eat.

Here's a tip.  Pick up some horseradish sauce from IKEA.  Or make your own by adding horseradish to mayo and relish.  Tasty.

Lemon & Chive Salmon Cakes
Compliments of JennaDish

adapted from Mary Engelbreit's Queen of the Kitchen Cookbook

1 (15 1/2 ounce) can red salmon, drained
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Dash of Tabasco, or to taste
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F for keeping patties warm, once cooked.

In a medium bowl, mix salmon, fresh bread crumbs, parsley, chives, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, milk, mustard and Tabasco until well combined.  Shape the mixture into eight 2 1/2" rounds.  Put the dried bread crumbs on a plate and coat each salmon cake thoroughly with the crumbs.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.  Add half of the salmon cakes and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Transfer to an ovenproof platter and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining salmon cakes in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil.

Top with your favorite tartar sauce or horseradish sauce.



How to Make a Frittata


A frittata is very much like a pizza in that it's so versatile.  You can be fairly simple and conservative with ham and cheese or you can choose ingredients that give it a distinct flare.  Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, gourmet, cheese, or go Elvis Presley-style and throw in oddball ingredients from the fridge. 

Here's the general formula:

2 people – 8" or 10" skillet – 6 eggs
4 people – 10" skillet – 8 eggs
6 people – 12" skillet – 12 eggs

A frittata is similar to an omelet.  Once you start cooking the eggs, they will be done within a short time, too short to cook the fresh or frozen veggies or meat.  So you start by sauteeing or steaming anything that needs longer cooking.


For this sample I'm using red peppers, onion, jalapenos, garlic, rotisserie chicken and cheddar cheese.  I had frozen veggies from the market, so they were all chopped and ready to go.  Cook them in olive oil a few minutes on medium heat until softened …

If using harder veggies and/or uncooked meat, like sausage, potatoes or asparagus, you need to steam/saute them.  (Of course, bacon you would just fry separately.) 

To steam/saute: In skillet, drizzle olive oil, add 3 Tablespoons of water and minced garlic and salt & pepper to taste, add the harder veggies and uncooked meat (not the soft yet), put the lid on the pan and steam on medium to med-high heat until veggies are just soft and tender.  Take the lid off and you will notice that when the water totally evaporates, the oil is left and the veggies start to saute.


… then throw in any softer stuff that would cook quicker.  In my case it's minced garlic which would have burned with the other veggies by now. Throw in the cooked chicken another minute, just long enough to heat.

Remove from heat temporarily and lightly beat the eggs in a bowl.  


Make sure the veggies/meat are distributed evenly in the skillet, put back on the burner, sprinkle cheese evenly over the veggies/meat and pour the eggs on top.  Do not stir.   Cook until the edges are set, about one minute.

Place in a 400F oven and heat about 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set and do not jiggle. 


Remove from oven and let rest away from heat for a couple of minutes, loosen the edges with a knife, place a plate upside down over the skillet and flip the frittata onto the plate.


Above is a 6-egg frittata made in a 10" skillet, so it is a more shallow result.  Use the same amount of eggs in an 8" and you'll obviously have a taller result. 

Some ingredient ideas:

Hearty: Ham, Asparagus, Onions, American Cheese
Italian: Hot or Mild Italian Sausage, Potatoes, Parmesan
Mediterranean: Tomatoes, Olives, Feta
Gourmet: Roasted Red Peppers, Fennel, Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese
BBQ Chicken: Chicken, Corn, Beans, BBQ sauce, Smoked Cheddar
Veggie: Mushrooms, Artichokes, Pesto, Mozzarella

You get the idea.

Compliments of JennaDish

adapted from Pam Anderson, author of How to Cook Without a Book

swirl of olive oil for sauteeing
filling ingredients
salt & pepper to taste
garlic clove, minced
4-12 eggs, depending on #servings
1/3 – 2/3 cup shredded or crumbled cheese (optional)
fresh or dried herbs to taste

2 people – 8" or 10" skillet – 6 eggs
4 people – 10" skillet – 8 eggs
6 people – 12" skillet – 12 eggs

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place rack in middle or just above middle position.

If using only softer veggies (onions, peppers) and cooked meat, cook veggies in olive oil a few minutes on medium heat until softened then throw in the cooked meat to warm and blend…

If using harder veggies and uncooked meat, steam/saute.  In skillet, drizzle olive oil, add 3 Tablespoons of water and minced garlic and salt & pepper to taste, add the harder veggies and uncooked meat, place lid on pan and steam on medium to med-high heat until veggies are just short or being soft and tender.  Take the lid off and throw in any softer veggies and continue to saute until all ingredients are just cooked.

Remove from heat temporarily and lightly beat the eggs in a bowl.  

Make sure the veggies/meat are distributed evenly in the skillet, put back on the burner, sprinkle cheese evenly over the veggies/meat and pour the eggs on top.  Do not stir.   Cook until the edges are set, about one minute.

Place in a 400F oven and heat about 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set and do not jiggle.

Remove from oven and let rest away from heat for a couple of minutes, loosen the edges with a knife, place a plate upside down over the skillet and flip the frittata onto the plate.

Serve alone or with something light, like salad or fruit.

Individual Upside Down Cakes

Pineapple Cherry Upside Down Cake

Traditional Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Maraschino Cherries

Nectarine Cherry Upside Down Cake

The individual cakes shown were baked in fairly large 8-9 oz ramekins.  The cakes are a little bigger than they look.  You could use smaller ramekins, about 6-7 oz and you could fill about 6.  You would use less batter which would still be plenty.  Nothing wrong with more fruit and less cake.

A Few Notes: 
If serving with ice cream in the ramekins, this size might be too big.  Depends on if you have teeny tiny ladies watching their weight, or if you have teenage boys who could eat this in 2 seconds flat. 

If using canned fruit, like pineapple rings, the fruit will not cook down as much as say, fresh, juicy peaches or plums or nectarines, and you will depend more on the butter and sugar mixture for the gooey part.  You'll see this in the above photos.  The fresh nectarines cooked down creating more sugary juices to mix with the batter.  The above three cakes were baked with the same amount of sugar mixture in the bottom of the ramekins. 


Compliments of JennaDish

Adapted (very slighlty) from David Lebovitz

Makes a 10-inch cake or 4-5 large ramekins of 9 oz each or six 5-6 oz ramekins

You have some latitude with the fruits that you use. Just make sure that whatever you use covers the bottom in a substantial layer, around double-thickness, since the fruit will cook down while baking. Berries and such are good nestled in the gaps between the slices of fruits.

For the fruit layer:
3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Fruit: 8 quartered plums or apricots, 3-4 thickly-sliced pears or nectarines, or 2 cups cranberries; add a handful of huckleberries, cherries, raspberries.  You can also use canned pineapple tidbits or pineapple rings.  Canned fruit will not cook down as much so one layer is fine but you may want to increase your  butter and sugar mixture for more gooeyness.  Add 2 T each butter and sugar.

For the cake layer:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature (I used part skim and part half n half)

If using skillet to bake in, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool. 

If using or cake pan or ramekins, melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan until it begins to bubble, then divide evenly into ramekins or pour all into cake pan. Set aside to cool.

 Once cool, arrange the fruit in a pinwheel design, added berries if desired. Set aside.
 Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Beat the 8 tablespoons of butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

Spread the batter over the fruit and bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on the size of the pan, and the thickness of the batter.) The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place a cake plate on top, and wearing oven mitts, flip the cake out on to the plate, taking care, as there may be some hot caramel that might escape.

Serving: Upside Down Cake is best served warm, perhaps with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It can be made in advance, left in the pan, and rewarmed in the cake pan or skillet right before serving. It’s also very good rewarmed in a microwave, and served immediately.