Monday, August 29, 2016

Cheese stuffed cauliflower in tomato sauce, Mexican style (Coliflor rellena de queso en caldillo)

Cheese stuffed cauliflower in tomato sauce, Mexican style (Coliflor rellena de queso en caldillo)


Even though I really like deep fried almost everything, the part of me that knows better -or at least believes that knows better-, called "a wife" stops me from doing so with some exceptions: deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Oreos,  doughnuts, deep fried Mars Bars, tempura and other foods that I can't remember. She takes care of me...oh love....

I usually don't eat cauliflower and I really don't know why as it is quite tasty (if it is next to some dressing or in a food...because raw is just disgusting) and I went back to memory land and remember that this dish is quite similar to one that the woman who claimed to be my mother use to make, without the cinnamon, the clove and stuffing the cheese the way I did. In Mexico they usually cut the cauliflower in pieces, mix it with the egg batter and deep fry them -called "tortitas de coliflor"-. So it kind of seems similar to the traditional Mexican way, but I think that this way is somehow a bit more tasty and you don't get the oil and the egg batter aftertaste. It also looks awesome. 

As we are only the two of  us, this dish lasted for two days and for a hungry wife lunch, but usually this should be plenty to feed six people. Honestly, the touch of cinnamon and clove and the way the cauliflower is presented is just super tasty. When you cut into the cauliflower and the cheese melts in the plate incorporating itself into the tomato sauce...is just a mystical experience. Try it...you will know then what separates mixing ingredients and cooking. 

Cheese stuffed cauliflower in tomato sauce, Mexican style (Coliflor rellena de queso en caldillo)


Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 6 servings
Ingredients

1 Medium size FRESH cauliflower,
separated in small trunks.

For the caldillo (runny tomato sauce)

1/2 Onion, chopped

1 Garlic clove

2 Large tomatoes

1/2 Beef broth cube (knorr os similar)

Water as needed

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Clove, ground

For the stuffing

200 g Mozzarella cheese (or Panela cheese if you can find it), sliced in 1/4 inch pieces.

2 Large eggs, room temperature

To put together the cauliflower

  • 12 Tooth picks
  • Flour
2 Cups of canola oil to fry the battered cauliflowers.

To serve
  • White rice, Mexican style


Cooking Instructions

1. Boil water in a medium size pan and once is boiling add the cauliflower trunks (in Mexico they call them cauliflower “trees”) and cook them for exactly 5 minutes -otherwise they will turn soggy-, then drain the water and reserve.


2. In a medium size pan, heat the oil and add the onion so it gets a bit translucent, then add the garlic clove (just broken by using a knife) and mix the until the garlic has browned a bit. Reserve

3. Using your blender or food processor blend the tomatoes  and then add the  onion/garlic. Blend again and reserve in the blender.

4. Using the same pan where you fried the onions, add a bit more canola oil and, once is warm, add the tomato mix, add the 1/2 beef cube, the cinamon and the clove, mix and cover. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes. If, after the 20 minutes the mix looks a bit dense, add some water as we are looking for a more liquid mix -called “caldillo" in Mexico. Taste and correct if necessary. Reserve

5. Now, we are going to prepare the egg batter. First separate the eggs and reserve the yolks. In a medium size bowl use your hand mixer to beat the egg whites until you  get them stiff (you can turn upside down the bowl and it won’t make a mess). This should take about 3 to 4 minutes; then we are going to add one egg yolk and mix again until incorporated, then add the second egg yolk, mix until incorporated too. Reserve

6.  Now, we are going to prepare the cauliflower. First let’s divide each cauliflower piece in two and put a piece of the mozzarella cheese in the middle then put together with two tooth picks, like a sandwich where the cauliflower represents the bread and the cheese is the sandwich filling. Reserve 
7. In a deep small pan, heat the 2 cups of canola oil to frying temperature and it in that temperature.

8. Take each cheese stuffed cauliflower piece, cover with flour and cover with the egg batter, then carefully drop it in the frying oil. Once the bottom part has browned, using some tongs turn the cauliflower so the other half gets to brown. Once the whole piece is done, remove using the tongs and place each piece on a kitchen paper towel to remove the excess oil. Reserve

9. Once we have all the fried cauliflower pieces ready, we are ready to serve. In each plate put one or two pieces of the battered cauliflower and cover them with the tomato sauce, which should be a bit loose (caldillo), then on the side add some Mexican style white rice and serve.

10. Enjoy!

  


Friday, August 19, 2016

C-52 Cake (Kahlúa - Cabot Trail-Grand Marnier cake)

C-52 Cake (Kahlúa - Cabot Trail-Grand Marnier cake)

Trying to keep my creativity spurge and hiding from the Sun (it is warm today and I rather wait until I'm in Hell to suffer this kind of heat) and based on the famous B-52 classic drink, I decided to create this cake to pamper my ex-student, now friend, that came for a visit yesterday. She is not a person who likes sweets so I took this in consideration. Also as Canadian (yes, yesterday I was in my Canadian mood) I decided to give a twist to the B-52 cocktail and add the Cabot Trail Maple Cream which on its own is fantastic (and...no, they don't pay me to say this).

The cake is not hard to make, but it takes a bit longer to bake than a traditional cake because I didn't want to loose the liquors flavors due to high temperatures. The frosting is soft and delicate and creates a fantastic mix with the chocolate cake. I served it on a bed of Kahlúa and Cabot Trail and...wow...it is absolutely fantastic. It is moist, soft and creamy. I kind of think that even kids can eat it without the cocktail bed.

The evening was great and the catching up was very nice. The current wife also was there, but I am guessing that she was more for the cake than for the chat...but it is only my guess.... 

Today there is only 50% of the cake left. My prediction? It won't make it till Sunday. Honestly I can say that when the end result is so fantastic and is one's creation..it feels good. 

Please feel free to copy the recipe, just credit the site !


C-52 Cake (Kahlúa - Cabot Trail-Grand Marnier cake)

Baking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 16 servings

Ingredients


340 g Dark chocolate, chopped into pieces 

340 g  Unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Cup milk  (lukewarm)

1/2 Cup Kahlúa

1/2 Cup Cabot Trail Maple Cream

1/2 Cup Grand Marnier

2 Tbsp instant coffee

1 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 Cups (450 g) Sugar

3 420 g All-purpose flour

1 1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1 Tsp baking soda

3/4 Tsp kosher salt
3 Large eggs, room temperature

Glaze 

1/4 Cup Kahlúa

1/4 Cup Grand Marnier

1/3 Cup Cabot Trail Maple Cream

 8 Oz (one packet) Cream cheese, room temperature

175 g confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 Tsp kosher salt


Instructions

1. Preheat an oven to 300˚F and generously butter a 12-cup bundt pan all over to the very top of the pan, making sure to get every single millimeter!. Dust it with flour and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Place the chopped chocolate and the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and over low heat, melt the chocolate-butter-milk mix, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in, Kahlúa, Grand Marnier and Cabot Trail and add the instant coffee and vanilla, stir for 5 minutes then remove from heat.


3. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar 1/3 part at the time and beat to incorporate between additions, about 10 minutes, then add the flour one cup at a time, stirring on slow speed until the flour is absorbed before adding the next cup. Add the baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir on slow speed to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed to incorporate before adding the next egg. Pour the batter  into the prepared bundt pan... it will be a wet mix, don't worry. It will fill the pan up pretty high so
make sure the pan is on a baking sheet because it will overflow (it actually overflows...but reserve the overflow bits and eat them warm....yum)

4. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes -depends on your oven- until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (mine takes 1 hour 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then invert the pan while still hot (wear heat proof oven gloves!) onto a wire rack. Remove the pan and let cool
completely (2 to 3 hours)

5. To assemble the cake, brush 1/4 cup of Kahlúa and 1/4 cup of Grand marnier over the entire cake, letting it absorb the liqueur. Place the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, the Cabot Maple Cream and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until a glaze forms. If will be a super creamy mix…don’t eat it, remember is for the cake.

Put the glaze on the cake with a silicone paddle and let the glaze
dry before serving.

Serve on a plate with a small amount of Maple Cream and Kahlúa around it. It is nothing but extraordinary!



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seed Cheesecake (Mexican Cheesecake)

Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seed Cheesecake (Mexican Cheesecake)

So, the current wife invited a couple for dinner -long time friends she claims- and it just happens that one of the guests to come is celiac (for real), so the menu had to be 100% gluten free. I had some days to think about it and I decided to cook some appetizer -which I can't remember-, then Plantain stuffed chiles rellenos with Mexican rice and...I went all food designer and created my very first Mexican Cheesecake. I replaced the Graham crackers with Roasted Amaranth seeds (that are vanilla flavored and that I bought in Mexico in our last trip) for the crust and I incorporated them into the actual cheesecake. I served the cheesecake with my world famous (yeah right) Tequila drunken cherries and...success.

The couple had never tried plantain, so that was great (and if they didn't like it then they deserve an Oscar for best Guest Performance of the Night) and the dessert was the jewel on the crown. Once they had annihilated the food supply, they left. All we had left was the memory of a great dinner and good company and...my ever disappearing memory of the recipe adaptation.  As Summer is here I am overwhelmed by heat and garden duties, so just because today it is MEGA warm I am indoors and decided to write down the recipe and share. I do this while I am creating (wow...now I "create") a C-52 Cake for this incredibly smart and pleasant ex-pupil who is coming for a coffee later on today. The house smells great...if this C-52 cake works... I'll post and if it doesn't...well...tough.

So, here it is. My own recipe of a cheesecake, which I called Mexican because I relate Amaranth seeds with the Country that claims that I born in and because Alegrias are one of my favorite street treats in Mexico. If you are celiac, gluten free or just plain weird...this is for you. You will love it.

Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seed Cheesecake (Mexican Cheesecake) 

Cooking Time: 45 Minutes   Makes 12 servings

Ingredients 

1 Cup of Vanilla Roasted Amaranth Seeds*

1/3 Cup plus 3/4 Cup Caster Sugar, separated


6 Tbsp Butter, melted

3  (225 g ea.) Packages of Cream 
Cheese, softened and room temperature

100 g Sour Cream

1 Tbsp Cornstarch 

3 Large eggs, room temperature

2 Tbsp Vanilla extract

1/4 Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seeds




Cooking Instructions 

  1. In a medium size bowl combine the roasted vanilla amaranth seeds* with 1/3 of the granulated sugar and the melted butter until fully incorporated.

2. Cover the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.

3. Pour the amaranth mix into the pan and distribute evenly only on the bottom, not the sides, and press firmly so we get a compact base for the cake. Reserve 

4. In the bottom of the oven -or the bottom rack- place a shallow baking pan with boiling water and turn on the oven to 300 ̊F. The rack for the cheese cake will be in the middle. 

5. In a mixer combine the cheese and the sour cream with the rest of the sugar until combined, then add, one by one, the eggs and keep mixing until incorporated (you will get a semi-liquid mix...don’t panic, that is what we are looking for). 

6. Add the vanilla and the cornstarch and mix a bit more until incorporated. 

7. Finally fold the 1/4 Cup of the Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seeds and pour the mix into the prepared pan. 

8. Place the pan into the oven (middle rack), which will be a bit steamy. Allow it to cook between 20 to 30 minutes, but it might take longer (if so, verify every 5 minutes). 

9. You know that the cheesecake is ready when the outer ring is firm but the center jiggles like undone jello -you feel that is not going to happen…too liquid, but that is what we want).

10. Turn off the oven, remove the water bath and run a thin knife around the edges so when the time comes it won’t crack. Then remove the cake and allow it to cool in a semi-warm spot in the kitchen -as cooling it fast will create cracks-. This is a two hour wait. Do not unmold!!!

11. Once is cool enough, unmold and put it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

12. Enjoy!

Here is the most important parts: 

-We know that the cheese cake is ready when we shake the pan -lightly- and we see the center part wobble but the sides not. It is shinny on the top. If it does not wobble...you over cooked the cake (still is good but not fantastic) and if you take it out when is not ready...you will have a mess. Keep an eye on the “wooblyness of 
the cake” 
-When ready, remove and place the cake in a cooling rack for 2 hours without opening the mold. 

* Roasted Vanilla Amaranth Seeds are available in Mexican Specialty Stores, Organic Food Stores or on the internet (Amazon). Just make sure that they are actually amaranth and no artificial additives whatsoever.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Budino di Panettone (Sweet Panettone Pudding)

Budino di Panettone (Sweet Panettone Pudding)

Life is good, more so when I am able to find and try a new recipe that challenges me but at the same time combines ingredients that I like. Panettone is by far one of my favorites of all times -even though I have never baked one, but I will- pretty much along with the Colomba di Pascua which is a fantastic sweet bread-, rum and Marsala. How can you go wrong with these ingredients?

In one of my classes one of my students is Italian and she lent me her favorite cook book where I got this recipe. I did return the book but without the page (ha!) ... she'll never find out unless she reads this website which...she actually reads...oh... sorry Diana....

In any event, I decided to bake this Bread Pudding and see what happened. I was hesitant as I have never done a bread pudding before but, hey, there is only one life. The timing was perfect as the current wife was starting a diet and I was decided to make her break it (it is the Lanister's blood in me) so I did . The end result was fantastic. The baking time was kind of funny because I doubled the amount of Rum (but this recipe has been corrected for the non crazy people, even though I will do it with 1/2 Cup of rum next time as we did like it like that). So 2 hours into the baking and...nothing; 2 1/2 hours...nothing...pretty much wet....3 hours and is was kind of OK...so I left it for another 1/2 hour and voila! It was ready.

The house smelled like a cantina that was the Peaky Blinder's favorite fight bar, but wow...the smell, the flavor and, the best of all...the wife broke the diet! Now she is back to it, so I'm preparing a new dessert today...let's test her will.

For those who are not on a diet or want to be part of the Lanister's family...just go for it. It is amazing. Honest. 




Budino di Panettone (Sweet Panettone Pudding)

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 10 servings

Ingredients

3/4  Lb Sliced Panettone (stale?…even better!)

1/4 Cup Rum (guilty...I used 1/2 but you go with the 1/4)


1/4 Cup Marsala wine

5 Cups Milk, room temperature

- Grated rind of a lime (or lemon)

1/8 Tsp Cinnamon

5 Large eggs, room temperature

1/2 Cup Caster Sugar

- Butter to prepare the baking dish 


Baking Instructions

1. Soak the Panettone slices in the Rum-Marsala mix, cover with plastic so the aromas don’t evaporate. Reserve.


2. Bring the milk to a boil, stir in the lime (or lemon) rind and the cinnamon and allow it to cool.

3. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until incorporated, then add 1/2 cup of the lukewarm milk and mix it together. Whisk like crazy otherwise the mix will be ruined!

4. Once the egg/sugar/milk is one smooth mix, incorporate the rest of the milk and mix again.

5. Add the egg-milk mix to the already soaked in rum-Marsala mix trying not to break the
Panettone (as much as you can, though). We don’t want a mushy mix, we are trying to keep the bread as a unit.

6. Beat the egg whites stiffly and FOLD them carefully into the bread mixture (again, it is essential not to break up the slices…try…) 

7. Once is 100% blended, pour the mix into a buttered baking dish. Remember to butter all the baking dish… this mix will grow all the way to the top.

8. Turn on the oven to 300˚F and put water in a baking pan with hot water (I don’t have one large enough so I used a Pyrex square dish that covered 1/4 way up the side of the baking dish with the Panettone mix, but if you have a large one then try to keep the water level so 1/2 way up the baking dish is covered)

9. Bake for about 2 hours until the pudding is firm. Mine took actually longer, a bit more than 2 1/2
hours but better check at the 1 1/2 hour mark. I did insert a wooden skewer just to verify how easy would go in… when I felt it was firm enough -didn’t feel wet when out but a bit sticky- then I knew that it was time to turn off the oven and allow it to cool with the Panettone inside the oven. It didn’t wobble at all, that was my cue.

10. Once cold, let it cool a bit more outside the oven (2 hours or so) and then put it in the fridge. Serve it cold.


11. Enjoy!




Friday, July 8, 2016

Caramelized Onion Gnocchi

Caramelized Onion Gnocchi

Sometimes we just cook things the way we have seen or eaten all the time. Usually we don't go to Italian restaurants as is hard to find a good one and the ones for the commons, like me, just offer a very simple menu. All my life I have eaten and cooked gnocchi with tomato sauce, meat sauce or cream and mushrooms but that is all.

Gnocchi and I have a long history, though. It was a celebration dish at my home when I was a child. It was the main dish for New Year's and the woman who claimed to be my mother always put a small coin under each plate for luck. That was neat I have to admit (then she always took the coin back because she was sort of Scottish that way). I love gnocchi and I can't imagine who wouldn't. When I have the time I prepare mine from scratch but the ones from the Italian shop (Renzullo's !) are great.

The other day I was reading one of my Italian cooking books and I discover this recipe and I decided to try it. It is so easy to cook and the end result is nothing but fantastic. It is a heart warming dish, for those gloomy gray Fall days. If you are not counting calories this is a great dish to prepare, otherwise just substitute the gnocchi for rice cakes, the butter and olive oil for nothing and the cheese with cottage cheese.

Fortunately the current wife loves to eat so this was a sure pleaser. The only problem is that we ate it so fast that I forgot to take the picture, so I resourced to Google for one -sorry-. 



Caramelized Onion Gnocchi

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes   Makes 4 servings


Ingredients

1 Pound gnocchi 

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp butter

1 Large onion, chopped

4 Tsp minced garlic

2 Cups cheddar cheese, grated


Cooking Instructions

  • Heat butter and oil in large frying pan. 
  • Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes, until brown and caramelized. If the edges start to get too much color, just add a little water and stir it up. 
  • Cook the gnocchi and remove 1/4 cup of cooking liquid before draining. Add it to the pan of onions. 
  • Add the drained gnocchi and the cheese and toss to combine.
  • Enjoy!

  • * Not my picture… we ate it faster than the click of a camera !

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Avocado and Prawn Linguine (Linguine all'Avocado e Gamberetti)

Avocado and Prawn Linguine (Linguine all'Avocado e Gamberetti)


This is the thing: I can't resist sales and more so if they have something I really like on sale. In this case on the weekend I went with the current wife to do some grocery shopping -advise to all of you guys: always feed the wife before going grocery shopping otherwise you end buying twice as much as you planned) and they had avocados and mangoes on sale. I just couldn't resist.

The current wife loves avocados as much as bread, milk, chocolate, food, junk food, pop, ice cream..... so is easy to imagine that a bag of avocados won't last long at my place. I always ask if she wants a tortilla when eating Mexican and she always answers: "is there any avocado?" if the answer is yes, then she does and if the answer is no then she still wants some but without the happy-happy face.

Also I listen  and pay attention to my readers, more so if they are whiners and complainers, like the pseudo-cousin I have. So here, a fast and tremendously tasty meal in... 20 minutes (for you pseudo-cousin will take an hour by the time you translate this, but we still love you).

Honestly this is a fantastic meal. Easy to make and so (SO) delicious. Try and see. It can't get better than this. If you have a restaurant this is a great recipe to get some extra cash as the special of the day (prawn + avocado = $$$$ in a restaurant!...hmmmm...), now if you actually name it the original Italian name then it will be $$$$$$$$$$$. Ha!

Avocado and Prawn Linguine (Linguine all'Avocado e Gamberetti)

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes   Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

400 g  Linguine pasta or similar

400 g Medium size Prawns (peeled with tails left)

1 1/2 Avocado

2 Tbs Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 Tbsp Lime juice

4 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove finely chopped

1 Fresh Shallot, chopped

- Salt to taste

- Parmesan Cheese at serving time 

Cooking Instructions
  • 1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the core and spoon out the flesh and put it in a mixer of food processor (I use a small food processor). Add the parmesan cheese (the 2 Tbsp..full not just exactly though) and mix until smooth -about a minute-

  • 2. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix again until incorporated and creamy, then add the lime juice. Add salt to taste and reserve.

  • 3. Bring to a boil a large pot and add salt and a bit of olive oil (I don’t do this but “some people” do…I don’t see the point but is up to you). Once is boiling add the pasta so we cook it while we prepare the prawns.

  • 4. In a medium size frying pan warm up between 2 and 4 tablespoons of olive oil -depends on the size of your frying pan…small use 2, big use 4). Add the chopped garlic and stir for about a minute, until starts to look light brown, then add the shallot and mix, then add the prawns and cook. Stir frequently and make sure that all prawns are well cooked to perfection (they turn pink). Reserve

  • 5. By now the pasta should be ready…drain it perfectly and mix it with the avocado mix and with the warm prawn-shallot mix. Fold until all is incorporated and serve immediately.

  • 6. Once is served each individual can add as much or as little grated parmesan cheese on top and…

  • 7. Enjoy !

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mojito Cupcakes !

Mojito Cupcakes!

Winter is coming...in Westeros. Here is Spring looking forward to Summer so, in order to welcome Winter in Westeros the way to go is...to celebrate! Mojitos to say good-bye to the 6 season long Summer and get ready for Winter. Honestly I can't even imagine that the Night King (ugly as hell) would say no to a fantastic and heavily rum loaded Mojito Cupcake. If John and his ban are smart, they should be baking like crazy: lots of mouths to feed BUT, I guarantee that after four or five of these each...they will gladly stay in Summer land and ditch the ugly king. I would.

The wife eat all the Margarita Cookies and wanted more, so to make a small change I modified Lawren Moneta's recipe and the end result was fantastic. She suggested a meringue-butter topping but I am not crazy about meringue and even less would be the current wife once she takes one to work every morning. I substituted with a butter topping with rum and honestly is absolutely great.

So, at the end of the day, sure, Winter is coming but while that happens let's have a mojito cupcake eating contest and see who wants to play "let's memorize the huge title of Khaleesi: the Queen of Meereen, Queen of Andals, the Rhoynar Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady Regnant to the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons (they should add "the Queen of dramatic entrances and the Queen of flammable clothing".

Mojito Cupcakes  


Cooking Time: 120 Minutes   Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

CUPCAKES

1⁄2 Cup (125 ml) whole milk

 1⁄2 Cup+2tbsp(125ml+30ml) packed fresh mint leaves, divided, plus extra for garnish

 11⁄2 Cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

11⁄2 Tsp (7 ml) baking powder

1⁄4 Tsp (1 ml) salt

1⁄2 Cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 Cup + 1 tbsp (265 ml) granulated sugar, divided

2 Large eggs

2 Limes, zested and juiced, plus extra lime slices for garnish

6 oz (125 ml) rum, divided (4 oz and 2 oz)

1⁄2 Tsp (2 ml) vanilla extract

- thin lime wedges and fresh mint, for garnish

RUM BUTTERCREAM

175 g Unsalted butter, room temperature

400 g Icing Sugar

1 oz Rum



Baking Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together the milk and the 1⁄2 cup of the fresh mint leaves (extract won’t work!) over medium heat. Warm until steaming, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain through a  fine- meshed sieve into a small bowl, pressing on mint leaves to extract  flavored milk. Discard mint and set milk aside to cool.

3.  Preheat oven to 325˚F . Line 2 standard-sized muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together  four, baking powder and salt.

5. In bowl of a stand mixer  fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and 1 cup (250 ml) sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, about 4 minutes. 

6. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine after each one.

7. Beat in lime zest and juice, rum and vanilla extract until thoroughly incorporated. Add  flour mixture in three batches, alternating with  flavored milk in two batches.


8. Mix just until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, give batter one last stir. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. 
9. Bake, rotating pans after 12 minutes, until cakes spring back when touched and a wooden skewer inserted only has a few moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes total.

10. While cupcakes bake, we are going to prepare the syrup, so combine the remaining 2 oz of rum, 2 tbsp of the mint and 1 tbsp of sugar in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until sugar has melted and mixture is just warm, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover and let steep.

11. Carefully remove cooked cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to cool
on a wire rack for 8 minutes. Brush top of cupcakes with infused rum syrup and allow to cool completely.

12. While cupcakes cool, let’s make the Rum Buttercream.

13. On your mixer bowl combine the room temperature butter with the icing sugar and mix for about 6 minutes until the mix is smooth and you can’t feel the sugar in your mouth, then add the rum and mix for another 2 minutes. You should have a very soft and runny butter mix. That is what we are looking for.

14. Using a bag pipe, decorate the top of the muffins and garnish with a fresh mint leaf and a thin lime slice (I didn’t do that as limes are so expensive and the lime slices will go to waste, but is up to you!)

15. Put in the fridge for an hour so the butter gets harder. Then serve and…


16. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Margarita Cookies !

Margarita Cookies

Spring is though for me as I struggle to balance my hobbies. In one hand my garden is in need of attention after Winter time (plus all crazy new projects that I want to do which usually take the whole Spring and Summer to complete) and cooking/baking. Then we have sun and that means that my body wants to go out with the current wife and walk, visit places and enjoy the fantastic place where we live. I struggle but I try to do bits here and there.

I already expanded my rock planter in the back garden and I have started a new patio of stone with a water feature that can be seen from my Music Room, Hallway and Living Room. Looks so fantastic and it is not even finished!

Also my cooking mood changes and I look for different recipes that will satisfy my sugar craving, keep the current wife happy (otherwise is "Danger Will Robinson...danger!") and when I can do something unusual but tasty. The Margarita Cookies is exactly that. A great mix of two of my favorite things...sugar and tequila. I baked yesterday and I used a recipe I saw long time ago in a magazine -but I couldn't find it- so I decided to do butter cookies with a twist and using my ever fading memory. The original recipe called for more sugar, orange extract and a nit of tequila. I went the other way. I used Grand Marnier (which I use for my Margaritas) and a bit more tequila (just a teaspoon wouldn't do it for me!). Also I changed the glazing as I wanted more of the lime juice kick. 

The end result is great. Fantastic grown-up cookies. If your kids want some just buy them Oreos...what do they know. I tried to hide them from the wife but she found them using her uncanny smelling ability. When I came back home from my classes half the batch were gone. Then at dinner time she just asked for a bit of the main dish because "she was stressed and weren't hungry". Yeah right...stress...plus 14 cookies....

Margarita Cookies !

Cooking Time: 40 Minutes   Makes 24 servings

Ingredients

Cookie Dough

2 Cups of flour

1/4 Tsp Salt

1 1/2 Butter sticks, room temperature

6 Drops green food coloring 

1 Cup Granulated sugar

1 Egg, room temperature

2 Tbsp Lime peel finely grated

3 Tbsp Grand Marnier

1 Tbsp Tequila reposado

1/2 Cup Sanding Sugar

1/2 Tbsp Kosher Salt

Tequila/lime Glaze

1 Cup Confectioner’s sugar

3 Tbsp Tequila Reposado

3 Tbsp Lime Juice



Baking Instructions
  1. Mix the dry ingredients for the cookies (flour and salt) and reserve.

2. Using your mixer, medium speed, beat the butter and the sugar until smooth and fluffy (10 minutes or so), then add the egg and keep beating for another 5 minutes.

3. Now let’s add the lime peel, food coloring (it will look pale but that is what we are looking for), and the dry mix in three batches.

4. Now add the Grand Marnier and the Tequila and mix for another 5 minutes. While this happens drink a tequila to celebrate that you are baking today. 

5. The dough will look pretty much like Play-dough. Divide it in two and roll both halves so they form two 1 1/2” bars. Wrap them in wax paper and refrigerate for an hour. Drink another tequila to celebrate that you are so patient.

6. After an hour the dough bars should be firm. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

7. Mix the Kosher Salt and the sanding sugar (the one you use to decorate cookies with. Basically it doesn’t melt with the oven heat) and roll each bar to cover the bars fully.

8. Cut in 1/4” thick slices and place the cookies on a non stick baking sheet (don’t butter it though) and place in the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the sides start to look a tinny golden  but not brownish.

9. Remove from the oven and allow them to rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, them move them to a cooling rack and leave them for an hour or so.
10. Now, let’s do the glazing: basically mix the confectioner’s  sugar with the tequila and the lime. Taste it until you get a tequila flavor with a lime kick (play with the mix as sometimes limes are not the same). Beat like crazy so we get a smooth and aromatic mix. Drink another tequila to celebrate the glazing preparation.

 11. Sprinkle the cookies with the glazing (the first time I over did it and I found them too sweet, so make them so they get some thin lines and drops of the glazing but don’t cover them with it).

12. Enjoy!

* Sorry…not for the kids, though.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Game of Thrones Cake

Game of Thrones Cake

So, this is Game of Thrones season 6 final countdown. I am quite exited and ready. The current wife shares the feeling and last night she surprised me with a Dragon mold from Think Geek (they don't give me a commission...so you know). The following day, a rainy Friday, I was ready to bake my Game of Thrones cake. Obviously there are no recipes out there and I wanted a Dragon with the eggs cake, so i modified my Rum and Raisins cake (not published) and went crazy. I couldn't find a way to use icing sugar to paint the cake and I don't like fondant, so I use my well known creativity and decided to mix my colors with different liquors (I know...) and, after 2 hours of ice sugar painting this is what I got. 

I know as a fact that the Rum and Raisins cake is fantastic...all I added was the creativity and some more alcohol -why not-. I dedicate my cake to the Lannisters, my favorite family. They make me realize that I had a GREAT family...they make me feel good. First slice in honor of King Joffrey that makes my son look like an angel.



Game of Thrones Cake
Cooking Time: 120 Minutes   Makes 12 servings
Ingredients

225 g Room temperature Butter
4 Large eggs room temperature
1 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Vanilla
2 1/4 Cup sifted flour
3 Tsp Baking powder
1 Cup raisins *
1/2 Cup Run

* A day prior put the raisins on the rum, cover with plastic film so the raisins absorb the rum

Decoration

-Icing sugar as needed
-Grand Marnier
- Vasari Nero liquor
- Blue Curacao
-Red food coloring
-Blue food coloring
-Green food coloring

Mold
Think Geek's Dragon Mold 

Patience
...lots


Cooking Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F˚ and butter and flour the whole dragon mold

3. In a bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder.

4. Using a mixer beat the butter (must be room temperature) until softened and add the sugar for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

5. Add to the butter-sugar mix the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (if they are small use 5 eggs).

6. Beat in the vanilla and in three additions incorporate the flour mix and milk alternately. Mix well until combined. Now fold in the raisins with the rum. If the batter is too dry...and a bit more rum -little by little-

7. Pour the batter into the baking pan and get rid of the air bubbles by pounding it on the cooking table like crazy.

8. Bake for 50 or 60 minutes minutes (at 350 F˚) until golden brown and when we insert a
toothpick  and comes out clean. Because this is a thick cake most likely it will require more time than usual...don't worry...check every 10 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean (you don't want an under baked cake). If it takes 90 minutes, then so be it.

9. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven but keep it in the pan. Place the pan in a cooling rack.

10. Let it cool for an hour and remove from the pan.

Decoration

1. Using small bowls (I used 4) put a teaspoon of icing sugar on the first one and put about 8 drops of
red coloring and a bit of Grand Marnier...add the Grand Marnier as needed. We are looking for a semi-wet (not wet-wet) mix.

2. Mix the icing sugar with the red and the Grand Marnier until you get a smooth mix. Using a small paintbrush paint the dragon part trying not to touch anything else. At first it will look like nothing is happening. Don't worry. Repeat the same procedure until you see the dragon RED. I used two small bowls to get the texture right.

3. Clean the brush with cold water and repeat the procedure with the Green and some water. Do the first egg.

4. Then again clean and do the blue egg with the Curacao and the blue coloring.

5. Finally do the same with the green and the Vasari Nero...to get the dark egg.

6. Go back to your red and re-touch as needed and do some blue touches to enhance the Dragon's lines.

7. Allow it to cool for 3 hours and rectify if needed. I was "painting" my cake for almost 2 hours...it is worth while.

11. Turn on Game of Thrones... time for cake and whatever makes you happy. Enjoy!







Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Kidneys and People

Today I won't be talking about a recipe. In this case a kidney recipe. Today I will be talking about human kidneys, so if you are only into recipes, today is not your day. Today I want to talk about something that is extremely important to me: kidney transplant.

It just happens that I have two birthdays: one that celebrates when I was born (I know...it should be a World wide festivity) but also I have my second time around birthday. Five years ago I received a kidney from a diseased organ donor. Today I am alive thanks to that person and I must honor that.

My donor (and I will use "my" with the outmost respect) died unexpectedly and I was given a chance to live my life back to where it stopped 14 years prior. Those were 14 long years of which I spent 7 in dialysis. I have to be honest: dialysis is a great way to keep people going but is not a walk in the park. When I thought that the long 7 years in the  kidney failure clinic was though as I was feeling worst as days past; dialysis took over and yes, I did feel way better but obviously never as I did before the whole ordeal. I had a terrific team of professionals who looked over me in the two stages.  99% of the time I found compassionate and caring people who understood what I was going through. The 1% is not worth mentioning. All my doctors still know me by my name. Most nurses do. I am lucky that way. Now I am taking care by another terrific team who make sure that I keep my kidney healthy and my spirits high. My own family doctor was with me the whole ordeal. He was and is great.

I can't forget -not even for a second- what my family went through. When my world was collapsing in front of my eyes, my family was next to me and they suffered because they love me. My son was a small kid, now he is a man. My wife did everything to keep me going, and I mean everything.  Obviously life didn't turn the way I planned, but at the end, I have a good life. I am very close to my family and they are close to me. I am lucky.

Today I am 5. It has never been a moment when I don't think of the person who gave me more time to enjoy life. I promised I would do it for the two of us and I try very hard to keep my promise. Today somewhere there is a family who is remembering a loved one gone. Today I am celebrating life. Still today is hard to understand for me. Is there a word to say thank you for something like this? I don't know it but I know how I feel: that is the word I want to use.

During the 19 years (today) when I started this long ride I have talked to people, I have listened to people and I have read what they have to say about organ transplant. People are funny that way; most people say they are in favor of donating their organs but only 30% do the proper paperwork, that is, 70% of those good intentions never become a reality. Nevertheless they think about it. They approve it. They want to be part of it. There is also a group of people who are totally convinced that organ transplant is wrong and shouldn't be allowed. Furiously they defend their beliefs and are ready to steamroll anyone who is in favor. I hear them, I listen to them and I read them but I don't understand them. I am sure they have their reasons and I respect that. What I don't respect is what is said about the whole issue. I recall that I was fresh out of the surgery room when I received a call to congratulate me (highly appreciated) but short after the same person sent me a letter saying that he/she was taking his/hers name of the organ donor list because -I quote- "we are not replacement parts". It hurt so much. I love that person but his word choosing was poor and the result was hurtful. Unintentional harm I want to believe.

Life at the end. People at the end. I don't believe that there are good and bad people. I strongly believe that there is people. Just that, people. Today I celebrate 5 years and I want to share my feelings with you all. Donate if you feel is the right thing to do but, if you don't, please think twice before attacking the ones who are in favor. We are people same as you are. Try to understand and walk in our shoes. If that alters the way you think...great and if it doesn't...great too because everybody is responsible of their own destiny. My destiny was altered by the generosity of someone else. Today I celebrate 5 and I celebrate life.

Let's have a Margarita and have a good laugh. Let's enjoy a good meal. Let's do something kind. Let's try no to harm others. Lets be people but let's be good people.