Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pasta 'N Chicken Marinara for #NellysBigDay

Saturday is a happy day in the food blogging world! My good friend Marnely Rodriguez is getting married on Martha's Vineyard to the love of her life Brian Murray.  'Nelly' is one of the friendliest and most helpful people you'll ever want to meet, and is a constant encouragement to me and many others in the 'foodie' community. In fact, she is the reason I finally took the plunge and began writing Cooke'd With Luv.
When I was contacted about participating in a 'Virtual Shower' for Nelly, and providing some marital advice and a recipe, it was a no brainer. Another one of Nelly's friends wrote a nice introduction to our shower, so I'll share it to provide a little background:

“And …I said YESSSSS!”
It happened one November midnight, in Twitterverse, we  saw this tweet from our dear Nelly @nella22. Without missing a beat, we all  knew Nelly had “said YES” to her beloved “M”,as she sweetly calls Brian  Murray, her fiancĂ©.
So here we are,Nelly dear, your friends in the food  world, wishing you and Brian,all the best. And with our wishes, a simple  recipe with an easy formula for a life of bliss, rich with EVERYTHING in it!
Mix together: A lot of Love, Patience, Perseverance,  Respect, Courage, Strength, Trust, Kindness, Honesty, Compromise & Great  Sex.
Stir in : Equal Parts of Love, Support, Faith, Fidelity,  Hope, Validation, Friendship, Forgiveness, Communication.
Cook over slow simmer for the rest of your life. Dot  daily with a Sense of Humor.
Leave out the nagging, sarcasm, skepticism, doubts and  stubbornness.
Serving Suggestions: Best prepared daily. Serve with  flourish because Married Life is a FEAST. Live it with flavor, spice it with  unconditional love, enjoy its richness.
Recipe Notes: Some ingredients won’t always be fresh or  available. Or the heat may flare up and the anger spills over. Simmer down  and douse the flames with all the LOVE you can throw in.
Enjoy the feast of marriage, love and life!
(Written by : Elizabeth @Mango_Queen)

So, here is my recipe in honor of Nelly & Brian.  Even though they both love to cook, I assumed they wouldn't be doing a lot of 'kitchen' cooking for a few days (unless they have comfortable counters), so I wanted to offer something that is easy to prepare, tasty, and offers lots of fuel for increased stamina.

Quick Pasta and Chicken Marinara

2 cans diced tomatoes (Use fresh if available & you have the time)
4-5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-5 cloves fresh garlic-minced
1 small onion-diced
1/2 cup diced mushrooms (optional)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut up (feel free to substitute, shrimp, mussels, etc)
1 small box spaghetti (I like the tri-color veggie pasta)
Seasoning to taste (Fresh basil, lemon thyme, oregano, salt pepper, red pepper flakes, etc)
Fresh grated Parmesan

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Saute chicken, onion, mushrooms in 2 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
Boil salted water for pasta and prepare pasta according to directions. Drain pasta 1-2 minutes before recommended cooking time is completed.
While water is coming to a boil and pasta is cooking, add garlic and remaining olive oil to a large skillet. Saute briefly, then add tomatoes and seasonings. Heat thoroughly, mashing up tomatoes with a fork if desired. (The idea is to create a bright, fresh flavor as opposed to a heavy, reduced sauce)
After draining, add pasta and chicken mix to sauce.
Toss all ingredients together making sure pasta is coated. Allow to cook briefly until pasta is Al Dente. Serve on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Top with Parmesan and fresh herbs and/or fresh lemon zest.

In closing, we're supposed to offer some marital advice to Nelly for the coming journey. I'm sure most women aren't interested in marriage advice from men, so I'll just offer a few from the male perspective :)

1. Give lots of back rubs.
2. Spend time together (preferably in the kitchen or in bed).
3. Go easy on the credit cards.
4. Don't let your belly stick out further than your boobs! (unless you're pregnant)

That should cause enough backlash, so I'll end now with a huge CONGRATULATIONS!!!  :-)

Special  thanks to Heather for the logo, Elizabeth  for the intro write up Junia for the spreadsheet, and Sanjeeta kk for hosting the shower.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble

Well, it's Monday again, and I'm sure if the Bangles had tried this muffin, we would be singing; "It's just another muffin Monday"! :)

I think these were the moistest muffins An has given us to date. (Of the ones I've made, at least)

The flavor was great, and they had just the right sweetness to them.  I thought some walnuts would be a good addition to the apples and cinnamon, but when I looked, the nut cupboard was bare. I did find some dark chocolate chips, however, so I said; 'why not?'. After all, the batter was the same color as chocolate chip cookie dough, right? ;)

The dark chocolate chips were actually a tasty addition, pairing well with the coconut crumble.

Be sure to stop by Baker Street and see how all the great bakers put their own twist on this delicious recipe!

For the Muffins:
21/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
410g can pie apples
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the coconut Crumble:
1/4 cup plain flour
11/2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 cup flaked coocnut
20 grams butter

Preheat oven to 400F / 200C
For the coconut crumble:
Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and rub the butter using your fingertips till it is nice and crumbly. Set aside
For the muffins:
Grease or line a 12 hole muffin pan
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the apple. Do not over mix.
In a measuring jug or medium bowl, combine egg, buttermilk and oil.
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the apple mixture and mix gently.
Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared pan and top with coconut crumble.
Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marble Streusel Muffins

I was excited when I saw this weeks recipe, and I'm sure the Muffin Monday 'regulars' know why; Streusel! Yep, I didn't have to add it myself this time because it's part of the recipe. And, not just any ole streusel, chocolate chip streusel :)

The first thing that came to mind when I saw 'marble', was Marble Pound cake, so I knew immediately that I was going to use some of my batter to make mini loaf cakes. Of course, these little molds are small enough to call rectangular muffins. That's my story, and I'm stickin to it!

The recipe says to divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups, but I had a good bit more chocolate batter (which actually was more like a dough in consistency), so I just eyeballed it while scaling. I was scared I may have mis-scaled something, but they turned out fine, so I just said; 'Thank ya sweet baby Jesus'!

Jumbo Muffin with yummy streusel

An from Baker Street says these are her favorite muffins, and I can understand why. They are moist, delicious, and the cinnamon streusel with chocolate chips adds a nice depth of flavor and tiny bit of crunch.

These were so tasty, I was hoping to use them for some easy brownie points since Smokin Hot had undergone some minor surgery this past week. As I handed her  my 'special treat', however, she sat up and said: 'Oh, are these the Muffin Monday Muffins?'.  Foiled again, but I did make her some specially requested homemade tomato soup to make up for my deceptive ways.

Mini Loaf cut in half diagonally

Be sure to visit Baker Street and see how all of the great bakers put their own spin on these yummy muffins!

For The Muffins:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips

For the Streusel:
Combine the sugar, cinnamon and flour. Add the butter and work it with your finger tips till the mixture is crumbly and stir in the chocolate.

For the Muffins:
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Line a 12 pan muffin tin
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl
- Remove half a cup of the flour mixture and set aside
- Add cocoa powder in the remaining mixture.
- Beat cream cheese, 1 egg and the reserved 1/2 cup of flour
- In a separate bowl combine the egg, water, vanilla essence and oil
- Add it to the cocoa mixture. Gently mix it till incorporated
- Spoon the batters side by side equally in the muffin cups
- Sprinkle the streusel and bake for 20 - 25 mins

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.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Citrus Coconut Muffins

After missing the Monday Muffin roundup two weeks in a row, I'm excited to be back baking (as is the family), and these muffins were a delightful way to get back in the fray.  Sweet and full of zest, these muffins are what I think of when I hear: 'Good Muffin'!

When it comes to coconut in a recipe, I'm neither a lover nor a hater; however, toasted coconut is another story. Just like an airbrush can turn an average girl into a super model, a little toasting can turn coconut into a delicious candy like treat.

The recipe does not call for coconut in the muffins, but I would add a little in the batter next time. I think it would pair well with the citrus zest. Actually, a few chopped walnuts would be pretty tasty, too :)  I was a little concerned that sprinkling the coconut on top after filling the muffin cups and then baking for 25 minutes would burn the coconut, and I was right. I've toasted coconut enough to know that 25 minutes without 'stiring' is going make burnt coconut, not toasted.  In anticipation of this conundrum, I toasted some coconut separately, and sprinkled it on top when the muffins came out of the oven ;)

Bursting with flavor, these muffins give the added benefit of making your home smell wonderful as you zest your lemons and oranges!

Be sure to visit Baker Street and see how all the great bakers put their unique twist on these Citrus Coconut Muffins.

Citrus Coconut Muffins:


21/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
90 grams butter
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 390F

In a measuring jar or medium bowl, combine the orange zest, lemon zest, egg and milk. Set aside
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar, rub in the butter.
Add the milk mixture to the flour and gently mix until its just combined.
Spoon into a prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Bake for 25 mins in a preheated oven
Let it cool on the wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm.

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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Potato Soup - And The Comfort Food Test

They say the true test of a person's character and resiliency is how they react when the chips are down; how they respond to adversity and disappointment. Those who respond well and stay positive are said to have intestinal fortitude (in the South, we just say they have big brass one's.)  In like manner, I would argue that the true test of comfort food is what we crave when we're feeling our worst.

Recently this was brought home when Smokin Hot (aka the wife for new readers) missed several days of work after being diagnosed with multiple kidney stones. I've never had one, thank God, but I've heard on the pain scale, they resemble giving birth. 

3 kinds of basil and lemon thyme fresh from the garden
After two days of  not having an appetite, suffering through pain, and being a real trooper, Smokin Hot finally asked in the most pitiful voice: 'Luver Duver, will you make me some potato soup?' Well, as fate would have it, I had a meeting that night, so in true redneck fashion I told her to stop whining and suck it up. I did, however, make a mental note, and surprised her with her favorite comfort food the next day :)  Coincidentally, the weather also took a pleasant dip bringing in cool fall temperatures, which made this rich, creamy soup even more inviting.

Dried herbs work great, but the cooler temps. have also brought a little resurgence to the herbs and peppers in the garden, so I took full advantage of the fresh goodness with this recipe.  I planted lemon thyme for the first time ever this year, and it's become a new favorite. The tiny leaves are bursting with aroma and flavor!

Top it with a little shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, fresh chives, and a dollop of sour cream. Soon, you'll be on your way to a comforted spirit and a brightened day! Enjoy :-)

Homemade Potato Soup:


3 lb  Yukon Gold Potatoes - cubed approx. 1/4'
1 lb   Bacon - Fried and crumbled (reserve grease)
1       Small onion diced
1-2   Tbsp Basil (and other herbs if desired)
3       Cloves fresh garlic
1/2    tsp white pepper
2       tsp salt
1/2    Cup a/p flour
3       Cups whole milk
1       Cup heavy cream
1       Cup sour cream
32     Oz  Chicken broth


Fry bacon and reserve grease. When cool, crumble bacon
In a large, heavy bottom stock pot: saute onions & garlic until tender.
Add flour and cook approx. 5 min over med-high heat stirring constantly.
Add milk and stir until it begins to thicken (should coat the back of a spoon)
Add chicken stock, herbs, salt, and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add diced potato and 1/2 of crumbled bacon. Simmer 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Combine heavy cream & sour cream. Stir until sour cream dissolves, then add to soup.
Simmer 5 more minutes, then turn off heat to prevent over cooking potatoes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Perfect Snack For A Day At The Zoo

I don't often spend a day at the zoo; but, when I do, I prefer Zoo-chini Muffins as a snack. Stay hungry my friends!  O.K., that was pretty cheesy, but when you do a muffin post every Monday, it gets harder to be creative with your 'hooks' !

Nevertheless, I think you'll find these Zucchini Sesame Seed Muffins are worth suffering through my sad introduction. With grated zucchini, and no added sugar, they're a moist, savory, and healthy alternative to the donut and jam muffins covered in streusel.  In fact, I think An chose this muffin for the round-up just so I wouldn't be able to use my signature streusel topping again :)

Not only did I have to skip my streusel, but I had to read the recipe three times because I kept overlooking how much sugar was in it. Oh wait, it has no added sugar. I wasn't sure how I would feel about a muffin with no sugar; that's like an omelet without bacon, mashed potatoes without gravy, or a truck without 4-wheel drive. It's just hard to get my little mind around!

Obviously, being a dyed in the wool breakfast muffin kinda guy, I was gonna have to change my thinking, and get on the savory band wagon. Lucky for me, I was making a big pot of chili at the same time as these muffins. Warm muffins, with a hint of herbs, were a great addition to a hot bowl of meaty chili, and the family loved them!

Be sure to visit Baker Street, and see the other great Muffin Monday entries!

The recipe is from 1Mix, 100 Muffins.

2 medium zucchini (roughly 300grams)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoon sesame seeds (Plus extra for sprinkling on top)
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons sunflower oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C
Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line it with paper liners
Grate zucchini and squeeze out any excess moisture.
Lightly beat the eggs in another bowl. Beat in the buttermilk and oil.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the mixed herbs and half the sesame seeds.
Make a well in the centre and add in the liquid ingredients. Stir gently until just combined.
Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan and scatter the sesame seeds to top.
Bake for about 20 minutes

 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.

Let the muffins cool in the pan and then serve warm.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting Bogged Down...In A Good Way!

Bogs are common throughout the country. Some areas have bogs where cranberries are harvested, others have bogs where spaghnum peat moss is produced. In fact, any low, wet area could be called a bog. In the South, however, there are only two kinds of bogs that interest us; mud bogs and chicken bogs. Since this is a cooking site, and you probably aren't interested in mud grips, winches, and tractor pulls, I'm gonna tell ya about a great Southern, one pot dish called Chicken Bog.

Chicken Bog is a great dish for weekend crowds, cookouts, camping trips, or taking to a friend layed up after surgery (which is why I made this pot). It's considered a stew by some, and is native to the Lowcountry and Pee Dee regions of South Carolina. Consisting of rice, spicy sausage, and tender chicken, it's a complete meal in a pot!

In addition, Chicken Bog is often used for fund raisers, and you'll be hard pressed to find a barbecue joint that doesn't offer it on the buffet. It's not only easy to make, but to make LOTS of. Just be sure to use a heavy bottomed stock pot so you don't burn it.

The defining factor for good chicken bog, is moist, greasy (hence the bacon) rice. While greasy hair may be a turnoff (unless you're an Alabama fan), greasy chicken bog is highly desireable, so be sure to err on the wet side when measuring your broth. Unlike rice pilaf or pilau, chicken bog should clump to your fork when eating.

HINT: If you're short on time, use a rotisserie chicken and low sodium broth from the store.

September is #ricelove month, so if you love rice, be sure to join this blog hop started by Junia at Mis Pensamientos!

Chicken Bog

1 (3-5lb) Chicken cut or shredded
1 lb Smoked, Polish, or Kielbasa Sausage cut in small pieces
8 Cups Chicken Broth
4 Cups Long Grain Rice
3 Slices bacon (raw) cut into pieces
1 Small Onion diced (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
(diced carrots & herbs of choice if making homemade broth)

Crushed Red Pepper or Sriracha when serving if you like it spiced up!

Pour broth into a large, heavy stock pot. Season to taste, then add rice and bring to a boil.
De-bone chicken and shred or cut into pieces.
Add chicken, sausage, onion,  and bacon to broth. Stir good, then turn burner to low, cover pot, and cook for 30 minutes or just until rice is tender.

Chicken Bog freezes great, so if you have a big stock pot, make a double batch and put some up for an easy meal when you're pressed for time!