Friday, June 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Homemade Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta Cheese with Fruit and Crackers

If you have never given thought to making cheese at home, it's time to start thinking.  If you can heat milk in a sauce pan, you can make cheese.  It could not be easier to do.  Really.  You will be so impressed with yourself. 

This is a great way to use up milk getting close to its expiration date.  I make this recipe with whatever milk I have in the fridge, whole, 2%, or skim.  I often add in a cup of heavy cream as I usually have that too, yielding a richer ricotta.  The recipe can be scaled up or down as necessary. 

4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a medium sauce pan, fitted with a thermometer, combine the milk, salt and vinegar.  Set over medium heat and cook stirring frequently.  As the temperature reaches 165 degrees, reduce the amount of stirring so as not to disturb the curds that are forming.  When the mixture reaches 190 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes. 
Carefully transfer the contents to a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl, to strain and separate the curds from the liquid whey.

Toss out the remaining whey or save for another use.  Let the curds continue to strain through the cheesecloth for 15-30 minutes.  Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out the excess liquid.  Refrigerate ricotta until ready to use.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ChezCindy: Special Occasion Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad for all Occasions

Spring and Summer bring forward a multitude of occasions for gathering and sharing food.  Whether it be a wedding or baby shower, graduation party or just a summer picnic, this chicken salad is a delight to share with friends and family.  The recipe is a bit of a twist on classic chicken salad in that I add cooked long grain wild rice, tossing it all together with a home made salad dressing with just a touch of mayonnaise.  To make things easy, use rotisserie chicken bought from the grocer, or simply poach 2 boneless chicken breasts.  I like this served chilled or just slightly room temperature. 

Chicken Salad with Wild Rice
3 cups of cooked long grain wild rice
2 chicken breasts, cooked - skin removed
3 green onions
1/2 red bell pepper
1/3 cup of frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
salt & pepper
Lettuce leaves for serving

Add the cooked wild rice to a large mixing bowl.  Cut or shred the chicken into bite size pieces; add to the bowl with rice.  Thinly slice the green onions, using the whites and the green tops.  Dice the red pepper into 1/4 inches pieces.  Add the green onion, red pepper, green peas and chopped pecans to the chicken and rice mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss together with the dressing to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve in lettuce cups or over chopped tender lettuce leaves. 

Creamy Salad Dressing:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped parsley and chives, combined

In a small bowl, add the Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.  Whisk in the mayonnaise.  Stir in the chopped herbs.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

ChezCindy: My New Favorite Granola

Honey & Coconut Granola

Every so often I tweak my basic granola recipe and end up with a new favorite.  Nothing dramatic, but it brings a new flavor profile.  I most often use a combination of brown sugar and maple syrup as the sweetener.  This time I used local honey.  I also used coconut oil in place of olive oil.  If you are familiar with coconut oil, it has a consistency that changes based on room temperature.  If the room temperature is above 76 degrees, the oil will turn to a liquid.  Below that temperature, the oil is hard and solid.  These changes resulted in my granola remaining in planks or shards of granola as opposed to crumbly bits.  So, think of a crisp granola bar, however not as dense.  I loved it. 

Listed below is my new favorite granola.  The tweaks you can make are with including the type of seeds or no seeds; not a fan of coconut - leave it out; have a particular type of nut you enjoy or an allergy to nuts - swap it out.  Another option is to include dried fruit or not.  The combinations are wide and varied for you to create your new favorite.

Honey & Coconut Granola
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw walnuts pieces
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds, walnuts, coconut, brown sugar and salt.  Stir to combine.  In a small pan, melt the coconut oil; stir in the honey to combine.   Pour the honey oil over the oat mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the honey oil to completely coat the oat mixture.  Divide the raw granola between the 2 prepared baking sheets, spreading into an even layer.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring twice during this baking time.  Continue baking for 15-20 additional minutes until the granola is golden brown and toasted.  If you want the granola to remain in planks or shards, do not stir again during this remaining baking time.  Remove the trays from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely without stirring.  This is where the magic takes place resulting in the solid layer of granola.  Once cool, break or cut into large pieces.  Store in glass containers.  The granola will keep at room temperature for up to a month. 

Note - If you would like to add dried fruit, add in at the time of the second stirring.  Continue baking as directed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ChezCindy: Brown Butter Trout with Almonds

Classic Trout Amandine Beurre Noir

Trout is an easy fish to work with if you are new to cooking fish.  Preparing it in a skillet with a simple butter and lemon sauce lends towards its mild flavor.  When you buy the fillets from the fish market, they should be boneless with the skin on.  Once you sauté the fillet, the cooked skin is easily removed and discarded, leaving you with a beautiful golden brown fillet.  Feel free to use the fancy French name or more simply, brown butter trout with almonds.  Enjoy.    

Brown Butter Trout with Almonds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
4 trout fillets, 5-7 oz each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons paprika
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a shallow bowl or container, combine the flour and the paprika; stir to combine.  Season the trout fillets with salt and pepper.  Dredge the fillets in the flour to coat lightly.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil.  When the butter begins to foam, the pan is ready to add the floured trout fillets.  Shake off any excess flour and place in the skillet skin-side up.  Sauté for 3 minutes on this side.  Using a long, narrow spatula, carefully turn the fillets and continue cooking skin-side down for 2 minutes.  Flip the fillets over so they are once again skin-side up.  Using tongs, carefully pinch the skin from one end of the fillet and pull back.  The skin should remove freely, leaving a skinless fillet.  Using the spatula, remove each fillet from the pan, one at a time, placing skin-side down onto the serving plate.  Cover with foil to keep warm. 
Lower the heat on the sauté pan to medium, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combining with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  When the butter begins to foam, add the almonds cooking for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt.  Swirl the sauce in the pan to combine.  Spoon the sauce over each trout fillet; garnish with parsley and serve. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

ChezCindy: Please, don't lose this brownie recipe!

Favorite Brownies
Ever have that one recipe that everyone loves, but the next time you want to make it you cannot find the recipe anywhere?  This is exactly that recipe.   Hold on to it.  Store it in multiple locations.  Share it with your BFF.  But please, don't lose this recipe!

If you like fudgy brownies, this is the recipe for you.  These are rich with big chocolate flavor.  The recipe fills a 13" by 9" pan, which is a lot of brownies.  I usually cut the pan of baked brownies into 4 large pieces, wrap them individually and freeze 3 of the 4 pieces. 

Favorite Chocolate Brownies
3 sticks unsalted butter
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 13" x 9" metal non-stick baking pan. 

Chop the chocolate into roughly 1/2" pieces.  Working with a double boiler pan, melt the butter with the chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Remove the top boiler pan from the lower pan.  Whisk the eggs one at a time into the chocolate.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together.  Add the sugar and the salt, stirring to combine.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, folding with a large spatula to combine. 

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing out the top and filling in the corners. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 2 hours. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

ChezCindy: Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad

 Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad

A traditional tabbouleh recipe would not include the vegetables and cheese that I added to this bulgur wheat grain salad.  I have taken liberties with tradition to make this a substantial and tasty side dish for summer picnics or Sunday brunch with friends and family.  The salad can easily be turned into a main course by adding grilled chicken or shrimp.  Or keep it vegetarian by adding chickpeas.  Either way, this salad comes together quickly with no cooking. 

Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 "English" cucumber
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced yellow or orange pepper
6-ounces feta cheese

Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 grinds of black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil

Place the bulgur wheat into a large bowl.  Pour the boiling water over the bulgur; add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes. 

To make the vinaigrette:  Place the Dijon mustard and honey in a small bowl.  Add the kosher salt, a few turns of ground black pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the red wine vinegar; whisk together.  Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously. 

Prepare the vegetables and herbs:  Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise.  Using the edge of a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into 1/2 in pieces.  Cut each cherry tomato in half.  Dice the pepper into 1/2 inch pieces.  Chop the green onions and herbs. 

Once the bulgur wheat has absorbed the water, add the prepared vegetables/herbs to the bulgur.  Add half of the prepared vinaigrette.  Dice or crumble the feta cheese; add to the bulgur.  Gently stir to combine.  Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.  Serve at room temperature. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Baking with Whole Grains

Raspberry Walnut Whole Grain Muffins

Baking with whole grain flours has been an exploration for me over the past few years.  A close friend of mine has a bit of a gluten intolerance, so I have taken an interest in discovering new ways to bake gluten free.  For my own preference, I like to incorporate whole grains in my baking to raise the health factor, while not taking away from the flavor and texture. 

There are more and more cookbooks available from the masters in this field from which I have learned, along with my own recipe experimentation.  Alice Medrich, a favorite cookbook author of mine, has a beautiful cookbook titled Flavor Flours, dedicated entirely to baking with wheat flour alternatives.  This book is truly a gift for those seeking gluten free options.  Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce is another great cookbook.  Kim's book provides recipes for baking with alternative flour profiles, blended with all-purpose flour.  A recent publication by Martha Stewart, A New Way to Bake, focuses on using whole grain flours with updated ingredients.  This book also includes a handy reference guide explaining different flours, fats and sweeteners. 

Spelt flour and millet flour have become my go-to flours when swapping out for all-purpose flour.  When a recipe calls for 1 cup of white flour, I substitute 1/2 cup of spelt or millet for 1/2 cup of the white flour.  Easier to find is whole wheat flour, to which you can do the same substitution.  I also like the flavor of buckwheat flour and oat flour, but substitute these to a smaller ratio.  Many of these flours can be found in the bulk food section of high-end grocery stores or prepackaged on store shelves. 

Raspberry Walnut Whole Grain Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup millet flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
2 large eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh whole raspberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare large muffin pans: lightly grease the muffin cups with spray oil or line with paper liners.  Recipe makes 15-18 large muffins.

Working with the dry ingredients, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the sugars, stirring to combine. 
Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly.  Add the tablespoon of sugar to the raspberries, gently stir to coat the berries.  Toast and chop the walnuts.
In a second bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter to combine.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir all to combine.  Fold in the sugared raspberries and toasted walnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling roughly 3/4's full.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the muffins have risen and the tops are lightly browned.  Remove from oven.  Allow the muffins to cool in the baking pan for roughly 15 minutes.  Remove each muffin from the pan, place on a tray to fully cool before storing.

No raspberries available?  You can be creative with the base recipe, swapping in other berries such as blueberries or cranberries.

Serve for brunch or a light afternoon snack with fruit and tea.