Monday, February 29, 2016

Sour Cream Bran Muffins

Because my favorite bran muffin is this one with its complex taste, chewy goodness, crunch of nuts, and added nutrition of grated carrots, I tend to not make them as often as I like. Because my favorite bran muffin, truth be told, is trouble. All of the things that make it extra good, require chopping, grating, and extensive measuring, the last thing I want to do when I first get up in the morning. So this morning, before even getting out of bed, I reached for my iPad and started trolling I came up with a well-reviewed recipe (How did we ever manage to prepare anything with confidence before the availability of reviews?!) for Sour Cream Bran Muffins and made them. As I am wont to do, I tweaked them a bit by soaking the raisins in dark rum beforehand, and used plain old All-Bran instead of their suggested variety, but they turned out beautifully, and we were both quite happy with them, as surely dad will be as well, when I deliver a trio of them to him later in the week.
Sour Cream Bran Muffins
Slightly adapted from

1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten lightly
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup All-Bran

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Measure out raisins and place them in a small bowl. Pour rum over raisins, pressing down on raisins to cover, and set aside while you make the muffin batter.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, sour cream, and molasses, and stir in the raisin/rum mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and bran. Add the dry mixture to the sour cream mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined. (The batter may be lumpy.) Spoon the batter into 12 well-buttered 1/3-cup muffin tins (or use paper liners) and bake the muffins in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and springy to the touch. Turn the muffins out onto a rack and let them cool.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Favazza’s Steak Mudega

One of our favorite restaurants in town is Favazza's on The Hill. It is a consistently wonderful, enormously friendly eatery in the quaint Italian part of St. Louis known to locals asThe Hill (it's really more of an incline than a hill, if truth be told, but who am I to judge?). Their Steak Mudega is one I routinely order and have always enjoyed, so I was very pleased to see the recipe for this dish in last week's food section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It's not a difficult dish to prepare when you do your prep work in advance as I did. I also seasoned the heck out of the Italian Bread Crumbs to give the steak a lot of delicious flavor. As often happens, my version wasn't nearly as good as the excellent one served at the restaurant, but it did make for a very special midweek meal.

Favazza’s Steak Mudega
Yield: 4 servings

For the sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided use
3 ounces thinly sliced Volpi* prosciutto, diced
12 ounces button mushrooms, sliced 1/3-inch thick
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cups white table wine (not sweet, not dry)
2 cups chicken broth
Salt, black pepper and white pepper to taste

For the steaks
4 (8-ounce) center cut filet mignon
¼ cup olive oil
Italian breadcrumbs seasoned with flour, granulated garlic, salt, white pepper, parsley and “lots of love”
4 (1-ounce) slices St. Louis-style cheese such as Provel**
Freshly chopped parsley

Make the sauce. In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil and 6 tablespoons butter until shimmery on medium high heat. Add prosciutto and saute until dark and crispy, taking care to avoid burning. Stir in mushrooms and cook about halfway, just until turning tender. Sprinkle mushrooms with flour, stir in.   

Deglaze skillet with wine, bring to a boil, let reduce by about half. (Timing wise, start cooking steaks now.) Add broth, bring to a boil, let reduce by half to a syrupy consistency. Stir in remaining butter to thicken the sauce. Season with salt and peppers, remembering the prosciutto is already salty. If needed, keep warm.

Cook the steaks. Dip steaks in olive oil, dredge in bread crumbs. Cook steaks on grill to desired doneness; add a slice of Provel for last 2 minutes.

To serve Favazza’s-style, arrange steaks on a plate; surround and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

*This is a local brand. If you don’t have Volpi in your area, just buy the best quality that you can find.
**There’s no substitute for St. Louis’s own Provel cheese, but provolone might work.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mexican Cobb Salad

There are some nights when I just don’t feel like cooking (a lot of them actually), and last night was one. On such nights when leftovers are not left over, I tend to turn to salads. During the winter months a salad seems so cold, unless it is kicked up with some spice and a bit of zing. Enter the Mexican Cobb Salad, a zippy take on a traditional favorite. You really don’t need a recipe to put this together, just envision all of the things that you like about Mexican food, plus what suits you in a salad, and layer it in rows across the top of the bed of lettuce (or lettuces) of your choice.
Mexican Cobb Salad

½ pound ground chuck
1/2 packet of taco seasoning
1 head Romaine Lettuce, torn
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup corn
1 avocado, cubed
1 tomato, cubed
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Pinch of cumin

In a 9-inch saute pan over medium heat, cook ground chuck, crumbling as you do, until done; drain. Put meat back into pan and add half a packet of taco seasoning (or use your own, as I did), and half a cup of water and simmer until the liquid has absorbed; set aside.

Assemble your salad with a bed of chopped romaine lettuce on the bottom, and then each topping, in whatever order you see fit, laid out in rows: egg, tomato, cheese, avocado, taco meat, corn.  Sprinkle the hardboiled eggs with cumin (chili powder or cayenne), and the corn with the cilantro.

Drizzle with your favorite dressing or salsa. I used a cilantro ranch dressing, made from my own mixture (recipe coming soon), but you can use plain ranch, or blend a half of an avocado into your ranch dressing for an avocado ranch. Season it with cumin, cilantro, lime juice, avocado, cayenne pepper, whatever you see fit and in any amount that suits you. It is very forgiving.

Makes 2 main dish salads.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chocolate Cheesecake-filled Strawberries

While I love the combination of chocolate and strawberries, I am not at all a fan of the chocolate-covered strawberries that seem to appear, with a vengeance, every spring. There is just something about a spongy, wet strawberry covered with rather waxy chocolate that just does not appeal. So after gobbling up the Chocolate Cheesecake Dessert of a few days ago, I decided to come up with similar chocolate deliciousness that I could pipe into fresh strawberries. As strawberries always seem to be enhanced by a touch of citrus, I added a tiny bit of tangerine zest and a hint of Grand Marnier. Oh, my! These are sinfully good.
 Chocolate Cheesecake-filled Strawberries

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tablespoons Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon half ‘n half
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
Fresh zest from 1/2 a Melissa’s Tango Tangerine 
Fresh Strawberries

 Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks; set aside.

Husk fresh strawberries, and carefully scoop out a part of the interior to give yourself piping space. Slice off a tiny bit of the bottom of the strawberry to allow it to stand level. Invert strawberries on top of a paper towel-lined plate to allow for drainage of excess moisture.

While strawberries are draining, in a medium mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, cocoa powders, powdered sugar, half ‘n half, Grand Marnier, and zest until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold together until fully combined.

Chill for 30 minutes. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and fill each hollowed strawberry to whatever heights you desire. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

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