Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Cure For Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy days and Mondays always get you down, right? Well, not anymore, thanks to these delicious Martha Stewart muffins chosen by Anuradha at Baker Street for this weeks Muffin Monday roundup.

I was honored when she asked if I would be interested in participating, since so many creative and talented bakers are, and have been, contributors.  What a great way to promote fellowship, sharing, and learning among bakers and foodies alike. 

After receiving my email and recipe, my first thought was how adaptable this could be to different flavors and presentations. I love the sour cream for it's contribution of tang and moisture; And streusel topping, yum!, I love it on so many baked goods.

Since everybody loves springy muffin tops, unless they're on the beach hanging out of too small bikini's, and streusel is my favorite, I scaled my muffins kind of heavy, gambling on a great muffin top at the risk of a volcanic muffin eruption in the oven.  It turned out that I was slightly heavy, but no disasters!

I often play with recipes and put my own touch on them, but when making them for the first time, I usually tow the line just to have a baseline of what the original product was meant to be. However, I did vary from the presentation a little just to show the versatility of this type of recipe.  Instead of a dozen jumbo muffins, I used various 'bake and serve' containers from one of my favorite companies, NovaCart.  These are ovenable containers in a variety of shapes and  sizes that offer a more upscale alternative to foil pans.

The only straying from the original recipe was when I used the 4 x 4 square container. Here, I added some fresh blueberries to the top and finished with a simple 'roll icing' to create a cute little personal size coffee cake.

The beauty of good muffin recipes like this is that you can add flavors, fruits, etc. while changing the presentation, and excite your friends and neighbors with your gourmet baking prowess! Of course, my neighbors get excited when they beat the vultures to a fresh road kill, and think gourmet eating is having ketchup with their chicken nuggets.

Quick Release, free standing muffin cups. Cool, huh?

The final result? An easy, yummy, versatile muffin sure to keep rainy days and Mondays from ever getting you down again. And, muffin tops you'll be proud to show your spouse!

Be sure to visit Baker Street for links to other great entries to Monday Muffin's. :-)

For The Muffins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for greasing
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

For The Streusel Topping
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles large coarse crumbs; refrigerate until ready to use.
- For the Muffins: Butter and flour a jumbo 12-cup muffin tin (or two 6-cup muffin tins). In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
- On medium speed, beat together butter, sour cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. With mixer on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
- Divide half the batter among prepared muffin cups. Top with half the streusel mixture, then remaining batter, and top with streusel.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What Happens When You Pop A Goat?

Don't you love it when ideas just pop into your head? Me too. I live in hope that maybe one day the next paperclip idea will hit me like a ton of freshly minted hundered (southern for hundred) dollar bills. I read that in the late 1800's the head of the patent office resigned because, he said; "Everything that can be invented, has been invented!" Obviously, he wasn't the visionary one would expect to head the 'office of new ideas'. I can understand not foreseeing the computer during his time, but how could he not have anticipated Nutella, Cheeze Whiz, or Spinner Rims?

One great idea I ran across recently was an initiative in the food blogosphere called Goaterie. Based on the book Goat:Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, it was started by Rachel at La Fuji Mama and Barb at Creative-Culinary, and is an initiative to raise awareness of, and promote all things goat. It's an open invitation to create posts about recipes using goat and then link them all together. It doesn't matter if it uses meat, milk, or cheese, as long as it's from a goat.

I'm an avid hunter, and love exotic and wild game, so I immediately got on board with this wonderful idea. I had visions of Roasted Goat, Goat Jerky, and Goat Stroganoff, but, like a possum run over by a dump truck, my big city dreams were smashed by small town reality. You guessed it, Nobody sells goat meat in my area. I found one goat farmer nearby, but he only sells 'on the hoof', and isn't available when you try to hook up. I really wanted goat meat; for my own pleasure, and because I figured most people  would choose the cheese or milk options first (I have absolutely no justification for this assumption).  Despite my roadblocks, however, I was determined not to miss this great project all together, and started on plan B.

Obviously, you now realize my choices were down to cheese and milk (my readers are smarter than the average South Carolinian), so I went with the heartier of the two. Yes, goat cheese (you really are smart!) Now, if you've been a reader or twitter follower long, you know that I love appetizers as much as goats love grass, kids love candy, and Smokin Hot Wife loves....well, you know! So, I immediately focused my efforts in that direction. Since I was also hungry at the time, I needed something I could make now, not a future project.  Suddenly, as if being head butted by a billy goat, I remembered the profusion of Jalapeno peppers languishing in the garden and crying out to be used in a worthy manner. Jalapeno Poppers de Chevre! Yes, Perfect! 

I rushed to the fridge like a Nascar fan running to a Budweiser, and was happier than one who still has all his teeth, when I discovered several leftovers that would take my appetizer revelation over the top. There before me, so many of my faves; Pancetta, Cream Cheese, Parmesan, Shrimp (oh yeah), and the star attraction, Goat Cheese. 

Once the plan was in place, it went together quick and turned out better than I had hoped for. I made the filling out of  cream cheese (a mild, creamy binder), parmesan (a salty compliment), fried pancetta bits (bacon makes everything better), chives (a garlicky onion touch) and several shrimp chopped small (for some meaty ooomph and texture). After each Jalapeno half was filled with this mixture, I topped each one with a slice of tangy goat cheese and a strip of sweet basil for contrast, sprinkled with paprika, and baked to yummy perfection. (Adding the goat cheese separately allows people who don't care for goat cheese to remove it and still have a tasty treat treat without diminishing the tangy delight for us goat lovers) .

Jalapeno Poppers de Chevre
6 Jalapeno Peppers
3 oz cream chz
2 TBSP shredded Parmesan
2 TBSP Pancetta pieces-fried crisp
2 Fresh chives-chopped
4 med cooked shrimp chopped
1 sweet basil leaf

Tip: after cutting peppers in half, use a serrated grapefruit spoon to remove the core and seeds. use gloves if you're overly sensitive to spicy things.

After baking at 375 F for 13-15 minutes, allow to cool several minutes, then enjoy! The range of flavors and textures in every bite is wonderful. First is the spicy kick from the jalapeno immediately mellowed by the creamy filling. Almost simultaneously, you experience the unmistakable and longed for tanginess of the Chevre. Interspersed are heavenly surprises of crisp, salty Pancetta, and meaty shrimp. What's not to love?

So, what happens when you pop a goat? You're welcome to try it and find out. I may be from South Carolina, but I'm not that stupid! I bet that really gets your goat, don't it? :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lava With Luv From The Chef's Table

Remember the old saying; 'There's no place like home?'  Well, after a week cruising in the Caribbean, I'm never using that phrase again! It was simply gorgeous.  The beach at Half Moon Cay was blindingly white and the water was clearer than our  swimming pools and doesn't require gallons of chlorine to stay that way.  Grand Turk was wonderful too, and we had some tasty local fare at the most popular dive on the island, Big Mum's. Caribbean Jerk Chicken and Stewed Pork Chops sure hit the spot after a late start and no breakfast.  Nassau was the least impressive of our stops, but it was still fun to explore the shops (until Smokin Hot found Tanzanite International) and watch people make idiot's of themselves at Sen`or Frogs.

Despite all the fun we had at every port-of-call, however, the highlight of our cruise was enjoying The Chef's Table on our second 'sea day'.  This culinary adventure consisted of a four hour, seven course, private dinner (limited to 12 people) with the Executive Chef of the Carnival Fantasy. In addition, we were treated to a galley tour, baking demo, chef prepared reception tasting, and a champagne toast before being seated in our private dining room.

Yes, I'm the only guy not in 'formal' attire. I do own a suit (despite being from small town S.C.), but had no intention or desire to lug it to the Caribbean. (Hey, at least I don't have tobacco stains on my shirt.)  Unfortunately, Carnival does not allow photography or videotaping in any of their shows or events, which included our galley tour and dinner.  However, they did share the recipe for their famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, so I'm kindly passing it along. But first, a look at what we were treated to:

Reception Tasting

Ahi Tuna Tartar w/ Wasabi Crisp
Duck Pot Sticker
Steak Taco
Avocado Cheesecake
 (bite size, wrapped in paper thin pastry like a present. Amazing)


Beef Carpaccio
Parmigiano, Balsamico Gelee

Fried Calamari
Charred Lime and Lemon Preserve

Fire Roasted Tomato and Pablano Chili Bisque
Grilled Corn & Cherry Tomato, Cilantro Drizzle

Chopped Mediterranean Salad
Shaved Pumpkin, Feta Cheese Crumble

Fillet of Chilean Sea Bass
Wine Stewed Shallots and Chives Vinaigrette, Leeks Emulsion, Peas Risotto

Aged Filet Mignon
Fried Leek & Onion Streusel, Homemade Three Pepper Mustard

Chocolate Melting Cake (from our demo)
Chocolate Mousse, Almond Cake with Marscopone Filling & Glucose Lattice
 Ice Cream, Coconut Ribbon

I know in many chef circles the 'Lava Cake' is past it's prime, but this is still the most popular dessert on the ship and I'm sure many would still love to know how it's done. So, here ya go...

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake
8 oz Dark Chocolate
6 oz Butter (Best Quality, High Fat)
4  Lg. Eggs
6 oz Sugar
2 oz Flour (a/p is fine)

-Melt the butter & chocolate together

-Mix the eggs and sugar and whisk for several minutes, then add the flour and incorporate

-Add the egg mix to the melted chocolate and mix together
-Pour into a greased mold(s)

-Bake directly in the oven at 390 F for 14 minutes

cool several minutes, then serve warm with fruit and/or ice cream. Top will be slightly 'crisp' with a rich , oozing center! Rich and delicious :-)

It's very rich and I require a huge glass of milk or coffee to eat a whole one. On a positive note, when Smokin Hot ate hers, she got a glimmer in her eye and said; 'This is definitely worthy...'   I think it's a keeper :)

Stay tuned for more cruise pictures. I promise to improve on my photo's soon!  Now, go make your own Lava with Luv!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Post: Nelly Takes Over Cooke'd With Luv!

Greetings from somewhere in the Caribbean.  Smokin Hot Wife and I are on a nice little cruise in the Bahama's, but I hated to let the blog sit idle for a whole week, so I asked Marnely Rodriguez to share her humour, talents, and creativity with you.  Marnely was a major encouragment to start Cooke'd With Luv,  and she has been a wealth of information (as she is to so many others). We clicked on twitter right off the bat as our sense's of humour and wit sort of blended perfectly. Yes, that's scary! ;) The beautiful thing is, her style should go great with my blog; sort of like butter goes with bread, spankings go with chil'ren, and spit goes with chewin tobacco.  So, without futher delay, please welcome Nelly.....

Hello Cooke'd With Luv readers! I am so happy to be taking over Alan's blog today! Can you believe I have total control of his dashboard, template and settings?! What should I do: add some rainbows, unicorns and leprechauns? Do you think Alan likes deep pinks or lighter, rose pinks? He does seem like a lavender type of guy...mhmm...Ha! Ok, in all seriousness, I am completely happy to be here and I promised Alan I'd behave (he actually sent me a PDF contract to sign where I promised to not mention that he sleeps with a stuffed polar bear). Oops....Back to business! Today I'd like to share with you my new obsession (no, not bananas) but marshmallows!

What's a Marshmallow? To me, a simple-minded baker, a mallow is an edible cloud. But no one better to explain the science behind what a marshmallow really is than Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, authors of Ideas in Food, to tell you about "The Anatomy of a Marshmallow".

Stay with me now. Have you ever bit into a cloud? I bet you haven't but you will once you make these. Marshmallows from a bag cannot compare to homemade marshmallows. It's like comparing bacon to okra. NOT possible.

This recipe is adapted from food52, the original recipe being a Chocolate Swirl Cinnamon Marshmallow. I wanted a basic marshmallow recipe with no other flavorings than a Madagascar Vanilla bean.

Extra powdered sugar! I love the extra sweetness the excessive amounts of powdered sugar give them. Yes, I know. It seems like a lot. But hey, I'm only living once so I do what I want! By the way, I didn't have powdered sugar at home so I just pulsed white cane sugar in the blender, shaking it from time to time and had fine powdered sugar without having to head to the store!

You can check out the recipe over at Food52, here is the vanilla version I made:

1 cup water (divided into 1/2 increments)
3 packets unflavored gelatin (or flavored!)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla pod, scraped (don't throw it out!)
hefty pinch of salt (remember this is all sugar, so be generous!)


  1.  Grease 9x9 pan, as well as the spatula you will use to remove the fluff from the bowl. Set aside.
  2. In your mixer bowl (this fluff needs to mix a good 15 minutes, so hand mixing is not recommended), place the gelatin and hydrate with 1/2 cup water.
  3. In small saucepan, place the rest of the water, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Boil over high heat until it reaches soft ball stage or 240F.
  4. Turn your mixer on low and drizzle in the hot syrup. Up your mixer to medium for about 5 minutes and then hot high for the rest. You're looking for a shiny, thick fluff. You know what fluff looks like. Add vanilla scrapings the last minute.
  5. Use greased spatula, transfer fluff to pan and flatten. You can wet your hands to help flattened a bit, but this will somehow turn into a mess if a tiny bit of mallow hits a dry spot on your hand.
  6. Let sit for 2-4 hours (depending on the humidity). Flip over on powdered sugar cutting board and cut with greased knife. Cut into perfect squares, flowers, circles, stars. Whatever your heart desires. 
  7. Throw into a bowl with sifted powdered sugar and coat all the sticky sides.
  8. Enjoy in hot cocoa, rice krispies or by themselves!
Note: You can also transfer fluff into a piping bag fitted with a round tip (or a star tip if you'd like) and pipe strips onto a greased silpat. Let sit for a few hours, coat in powdered sugar and cut into mini-mallows. More work, cuter; I like my mallows big and chunky though!

Next week, I'll be making Stella's (BraveTart) Honey Marshmallows. (By the way, do you know Stella? If you don't, you should. Go click on over to her blog and show her some love. Or add her on Twitter @thebravetart and tell her I sent you. Oh, why should you? Because she's a macaron-diva-outstanding-pastry-chef-guru-of-ice-cream friend!)

Enough about Stella -- What would be YOUR ultimate marshmallow flavor? (Oh, and thanks Alan for hosting me! It was fun, we should do this more often! How about next time I go on a cruise and you take over? Great! Can you buy me cruise tickets? Thanks!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

If They Can't Join You, Rub It In!

If you follow me on twitter, you've probably noticed that I almost always include smiley faces, lol's, and exclamation points in my tweets.  That's because I love to have fun and also  hate uncomfortable situations, so I usually just 'joke' them away. I really have a strange and sarcastic sense of humour, but smokin hot wife says it's why she loves me, so I'm not changing!  Seriously, if you fell down the stairs I'd be the first one running to help, but I'd be laughing my butt off the whole time. That may seem cruel, but you know it's funny! If it makes you feel better, I've fallen down stairs and laughed at myself, too.  The problem with wit, sarcasm, and humour, however, is that it doesn't always translate well in written form. Sometimes I get responses that leave me wondering whether the recipient really understood or if they're staring at the screen dumbfounded, like a mule staring at a new gate. Don't get me wrong, I've owned a business and even been president of an industry association, so I can be serious and mature if I have to. But if I don't have to, I'd rather not, thank you.

With that in mind, you'll better understand the reasoning for this Flourless Choco Banana Torte post. You see, smokin hot  and I are leaving Saturday for a cruise to the Bahama's and Grand Turk and her co-workers are super jealous, so I've been doing my best to rub it in and pick on them every chance I get. Yes, it's mean, but it's how I roll, and they know I'm doing it all in fun. They crack on me too  when they can, so it's all good. In a weak moment, however, I was feeling sorry for heading off to a tropical paradise without them and decided to make a feeble attempt at reconciliation for my childish ribbing. So, in my infinite generosity,  I made them this cake to hopefully ease their suffering while thinking of us sitting around a pool or walking on tropical beaches sipping cool drinks with fancy umbrella's.  It needed to be something elegant and decadent because everyone raves about the wonderful food on cruises, but also something tropical to represent the Bahamas. Thus, I chose the banana variation of this wonderfully decadent and rich dessert.

Banana's and chocolate are one of my favorite combinations. Choco banana milkshakes, chocolate covered frozen banana's, banana splits with chocolate get my drift!  They just go together like bacon & eggs, baguettes & butter, and rednecks & four wheel drives. When I see one, I instantly think of the other. Eating a slice of this cake makes me smile like a baker with a new mixer, and it's so simple to make yet impressive enough for the most discriminating guests.

Flourless Choco Banana Torte:

2 lb Semisweet Chocolate (chopped or pieces) 
4 oz unsalted butter
1 lb eggs
1 medium banana- mashed/pureed

Some of my pic's 'dissappered' magically, so imagine a pic here of a plate with a mashed banana on it!


Grease a 9 inch cake pan, put a parchment circle in the bottom, then grease the liner.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and add eggs in fifths. Stir until smooth after each addition. Finally, add the banana puree and mix smooth. (pic of batter was lost too, sorry)

Pour the batter into greased cake pan and bake at 350 F in a water bath for 25-30 min. until just firm to the touch but not spongy.

Allow to cool 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn out onto plate. Let cool COMPLETELY.

My bottom edges spread a little because I used an 8inch pan and dumped it early due to time constraints. But, I'm a rebel!. Do as I say and not as I do, and you'll be fine :-)

When completely cool and just before serving, top with powdered sugar, fresh fruit, or any option that appeals to YOU.

Another favorite serving option is to place the cake on a glazing screen and cover with a simple chocolate ganache (equal parts dark chocolate and heavy cream). Double Yum!

Also, other fruit purees and/or liqueurs can be used to create endless variation. Don't be scared to experiment.

Warning: This cake is super dense and luscious, but oh so rich!!

Hopefully this will earn me a semblance of redemption for reminding our friends of all the fun we'll be having while they're at work!  What's your favorite chocolate/fruit combination?