Monday, February 27, 2012

Bananas, Coffee, and Chocolate

While I am fond of all three ingredients in the title of this post, I was not entirely sure they'd go together well in a muffin. But The Cheese Board: Collective Works cookbook says it's a great combination and that many patrons love these muffins, so I figured scores of Berkeleyans couldn't be wrong.

These are not healthy muffins by ANY stretch of the imagination, but could be modified to be somewhat less bad. The cup of sour cream added a really nice tang to the batter, which was still present after the muffins baked (I was afraid it would dissipate). Plain low-fat yogurt could be substituted, though, and still impart the same basic tang. An entire cup of chocolate chips just isn't necessary; I used a half cup and thought it was more than enough. I also reduced the sugar in the recipe by a tablespoon or two, which turned out just fine.

I was a bit disappointed that the coffee flavor seemed to get lost in the muffins, what with all the banana, sour cream, and chocolate, so it might be worth adding some espresso granules or instant espresso powder to the batter to increase the mocha flavor.

The recipe actually says to fill the muffin cups all the way to the top. When does THAT happen?!

I froze most of the baked muffins, since I can't possibly eat 12 of them in a few days, and have found that when I slice them in half and reheat them in the oven for several minutes, they hold up pretty well. Maybe that's because the stick of butter contains enough fat to prevent them from drying out. Like 47 times over.

The perfect muffins for letting a little kitty cat warm himself on a cold winter morning.

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins
from The Cheese Board: Collective Works

makes 12 muffins

1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C strong brewed coffee, cooled
1 C sour cream or plain yogurt
2 1/4 C AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 - 1 C chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine egg, egg yolk, bananas, vanilla, coffee, and sour cream or yogurt. Whisk until blended.  Set aside.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in bowl of stand mixer. Add salt and sugar to dry ingredients. 
4. Add butter and cut in on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until it is the size of small peas. Mix in chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients. Gently mix just until combined. Do not overmix!
5. Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each well until batter just peeks over top of well. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown, firm, and springy.
6. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Heart You


The Texan and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together this year. And while, as one of my friends pointed out roughly 27 times on Facebook, one should not save all gestures of love and affection for February 14th, The Texan planned a lovely surprise for me, so I figured I would cook him something heart-y in return.

 Ages ago, I cut out a recipe for Rosemary Shrimp Scampi Skewers from Cooking Light magazine (February, year unknown). The blurb that accompanies it says, "Rosemary has a long history of being associated with the heart: It has been believed by many to be a love charm, by others to be a token of remembrance and fidelity, and by some to be a potent aphrodisiac." So figuratively, this recipe was perfect for V-Day.

Literally speaking, it was also perfect: The Texan and I had fallen into the highly indulgent but not so healthy habit of eating out a zillion times a week. We agreed that our hearts (not to mention our wallets) would be better off if we cooked at home more. Plus, shrimp are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Which is of course what everyone is thinking about on Valentine's Day.

Anyway, there just happens to be a rosemary bush in The Texan's backyard, so he snipped off a few sprigs a few minutes before we cooked the shrimp, which had been marinating in white wine, lemon juice, and a bit of olive oil with some spices. He threaded the shrimp onto the now-naked sprigs, which still smelled fantastic despite being totally bare, and because it's February and his girlfriend  would have spent the evening complaining about how cold she was, he fired up the stove top instead of the grill.

As the shrimp cooked in their marinade, I sauteed some asparagus spears in a bit of olive oil and a seasoning that had the words 'Texas', 'cowboy', and 'grill' on the bottle. I know! My eyebrows were raised, too! But it turned out well, and we ate every single piece. The Texan knows his way around a microwave, so he steamed up more veggies to round out the greenness on our plates, and dinner was on the table in under 30 minutes.

You couldn't give a rat's ass about omega-3s, marinades, or spice blends, though. What you are really wondering is, is rosemary actually an aphrodisiac?

I can't tell you that. My dad reads this blog.

Rosemary Shrimp Scampi Skewers
adapted from Cooking Light magazine

NOTE: I made at least double this quantity of marinade, both to cover all the shrimp and to have extra to use in the pan. 

1 TBSP dry white wine
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 lb shrimp (I used 1 pound of the 26-30 size), peeled and deveined
6-inch rosemary sprigs (number you will need depends on number of shrimp used)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a resealable bag or non-reactive bowl. Add shrimp, turning to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
2. Remove leaves from rosemary sprigs, leaving about an inch of leaves at one end. If grilling, rinse/dip sprigs in water to prevent fire.
3. Load 3-4 shrimp onto each rosemary sprig. Carefully load onto preheated grill or saute pan, using marinade if desired. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until shrimp is pink and cooked through. 
Do NOT use uncooked marinade on cooked shrimp!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Texas French Toast

Before we started dating, The Texan boasted to me that he knew how to make a mean batch of French toast. He warned that it had a gazillion calories a slice. I was unfazed. He promised to make it for me after the holidays.

On our first date, he asked conspiratorially, "Wanna know the secret ingredient in my French toast?" My mind raced as I considered the possibilities: An exotic spice? Syrup in the batter? A special type of bread?

He leaned in, grinned, and divulged, "Cap'n Crunch cereal!"


He'd come across the recipe, which was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, online. It also features 2 cups of heavy cream, a stick of butter, and 6 eggs. Sounded like the perfect way to start the morning. That is, if it were our last morning on earth, since the French toast would probably send us into cardiac arrest.

As we planned the meal, we discussed ways to make it slightly less lethal. I suggested using milk instead of cream, but he wasn't sure whether he should gradually step down from cream to half-and-half, or just jump way down the fat ladder to whole milk. He chose the latter, but not because he thinks my ideas are so great. No, it was a perfect stranger's comment on the recipe, saying she'd used whole milk and it turned out fine, that convinced him it was safe to do. In all fairness, though, he did use my suggestion of cooking spray combined with a little butter to grease the pan in place of the stick of butter the recipe calls for.

Normally, the Texan uses Texas toast for this recipe. Which you totally could have guessed. But he has this bread machine that he thinks is pretty darn cool. And it is, I must admit. For the occasion, he made two loaves of beer bread: one loaf two days before The Breakfast Event, and the other, one day before. We cut both loaves into Texas-sized slices, and drowned and dredged them in all kinds of goodies. As we ate, we realized we preferred the day-old slices, as they seemed to have better absorption of the cream-I-mean-milk mixture, creating a tastier, softer French toast.

The Texan was in charge of the cooking, firing up not one but two pans for the event. And I do mean firing: a few minutes into the process, I noticed a slightly smoky smell in the kitchen. I fanned the back door a few times. The smoke increased. I opened a window. The smoke detector went off. His roommate and I opened many windows, and I checked the flames under the pans. They were Very High.

Because that's what men do.

There is already about a week's worth of sugar in the Cap'n Crunch coating, so maple syrup is not really necessary (nor advised). I put some frozen raspberries in a saucepan, along with a spoonful or two of raspberry jam, and cooked them to form a syrupy topping for the French toast. We put a few dollops of whipped cream next to the raspberry sauce, and one particular roommate may have created a smiley face or two on her breakfast even though she is no longer 8 years old. Clearly, she knew she might keel over from this meal, and wanted to make it memorable.

And it was.

Texas-Sized French Toast

6 eggs
5 TBSP sugar (you could cut some or all of this out)
2 C heavy cream (or whole milk)
1  tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1 box Cap'n Crunch cereal
1 loaf thick toast 

1. Crush cereal in a resealable bag or baking dish, but do not turn the entire thing into dust. Spread cereal into baking dish or large plate.
2. Combine eggs, sugar, cream or milk, vanilla, and spices in a bowl large enough to fit a slice of toast.
3. Preheat pan(s) or griddle, using medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and a thin pat of butter.
4. Meanwhile, soak pieces of toast in milk mixture, 30 seconds per side, making sure to moisten edges of bread. Dredge in crushed cereal.
5. Cook slices for 3 minutes per side, or until browned but not burned (sugar in cereal will burn if heat is too high). Keep in warm oven until ready to serve.
6. Top with raspberry sauce or fresh fruit and whipped cream, if desired.