Saturday, January 18, 2020

ChezCindy: Walnut Rosemary Bread with Golden Raisins

At the start of this new year, I gave myself a goal of trying 4 new recipes each month.  I didn't think this was too aggressive for me.  But life gets busy, so why add unneeded pressure.  Sure enough, I had made 4 new recipes by January 12 without even thinking about it.  Let's see how the rest of the year goes.

Early in the month I made a soup recipe that I had torn from a Cooking Light magazine from 2017.  The recipe was titled Immunity Soup using ingredients that help boost the immunity system.  The recipe was basically a homemade chicken soup with added ingredients to bolster the healthy factor.  You could start with my chicken soup recipe, here adding in 6-8 cloves of minced garlic - a powerful antioxidant, sliced mushrooms for vitamin D, chopped kale for vitamin C, and chickpeas for protein and zinc.

I also tried a new source for recipes going to Kelly LeVeque's web site.  Kelly is a social media wellness expert and nutritionist.  She has a really delicious Cauliflower Rice with Creamy Coconut Chicken and Broccoli recipe on her site.  I loved it.  I made brown rice for my husband who will not eat cauliflower.  Easy, healthy and super good.  You can find the recipe at here .

I did have one failed recipe from a very trusted source in one of my cookbooks.  I made baked chicken breasts with Tuscan bread crumbs.  It did not work out well.  Too heavy on the bread crumbs.  We ate it for one meal with lots of leftover chicken that the dogs enjoyed.  Lucky pups.

One of the recipes I tried was a yeast dough walnut bread.  I sought out a basic recipe knowing that I wanted to add fresh rosemary.  Inspiration came from a food memoir I was reading with the author referencing a walnut rosemary bread in one of the chapters.  Sadly, she did not include the recipe.  So I was determined to figure it out.  I started with a basic recipe from King Arthur Flour web site and added my own twists.  It came out lovely and delicious.  The recipe makes two golden brown loaves, which I shared with my nieces and their families.  Sharing was a must.  The bread is so delicious I could have eaten all of it!

Walnut Rosemary Bread with Golden Raisins
1 1/2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup agave sweetener
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5-6 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups toasted chopped walnuts
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the bread dough hook, add the warm water to the bowl.  Add the yeast to the water to dissolve.  Mix in 1/2 cup of flour and letting the mixture stand without mixing for 10 minutes.  This will wake up the yeast to get the action started.

Stir in the agave, oil and salt.  Add in the flour, one cup at a time, mixing with the dough hook running on low to medium speed for the entire time.  The dough will become formed into a shaggy mess and will be a bit difficult to stir at the end of the process.  At this point, turn off the mixer and turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter.  Continue kneading by hand until a smooth satiny ball is formed.

Prepare a large bowl by drizzling a tablespoon of oil into the bowl.  Using a paper towel, lightly coat the inside of the bowl with the oil.  Place the ball of dough into the oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm spot so that the dough can rise until double in size.  This will take roughly 1 1/2 hours.

When the dough is puffy and double in size, remove the plastic wrap.  Using your hand, gently deflate the dough by pushing down in the center.  Add in the chopped walnuts, golden raisins and chopped rosemary.  Knead the dough to incorporate the walnuts, raisins and rosemary.  Transfer the dough to the counter to continue kneading and incorporating the chopped ingredients.  This will take 5 minutes or so.  Divide the dough in half.  Form each half into a smooth ball.  Place each ball onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I used 2 sheets that fit side by side in my oven on one rack.  Cover the loaves loosely with a damp towel.  Place the trays in a warm spot, allowing the loaves to rise.  This will take about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the towel.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of each loaf.  Cut 3-4 slashes across the top of each loaf, 1-inch deep.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.  The loaves will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Place the loaves on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.  It is very temping to cut in sooner, but be patient before cutting to enjoy.   Serve with salted butter.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

ChezCindy: Avocado & Blueberries Winter Salad

For the first time since the "holidays", I can see bare shelf space in my refrigerator.  I searched the vegetables drawers to see what remnants remained that I could put together for a refreshing salad this early January.  I discovered several avocados buried under the parsley, carrots and other staple items.  They were too unripe to use at the time of purchase and then forgotten about.  I also had a few blueberries and my favorite sweet tiny cucumbers.  A good start, but maybe this salad would need lettuce.  Yes, I had beautiful curly frisse lettuce still in good shape.    

The salad came together quite nicely.  The avocado paired extremely well with the citrusy blueberries, tossed with my Dijon Agave Vinaigrette dressing.  Chunky bites of crisp cucumber and a bit of curly lettuce to complete the salad, all showered with  a sprinkling of flakey sea salt.

Avocado & Blueberries Winter Salad
Serves 2

1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
2-3 small sweet cucumbers (sometimes called Persian)
1 cup frisse or curly endive lettuce, torn into small pieces
flakey sea salt to season as desired

Peel and cut the avocado into large pieces; cut the cucumbers into large pieces.  Place the avocado, cucumber, blueberries, and torn lettuce into a small mixing bowl.  Toss together with 2-3 tablespoons of Dijon Agave dressing.  Sprinkle with the flakey sea salt to season well.

Dijon Agave Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon agave sweetener
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Add the Dijon mustard, agave, salt and pepper to a medium size bowl.  Using a whisk, mix to combine.  Whisk in the vinegar.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy consistency.  

Friday, December 27, 2019

ChezCindy: Crudite Platter

Consider the crudité platter.  Kind of an old fashioned idea.  Set out on the buffet in earnest by the host, sampled by the guests in equal earnest.  It can be a boring smattering of baby carrots, celery and ranch dressing.  But hey, we need to have something "healthy", right?

I recently entertained a small group of friends and wanted to start the evening with a nibble while they sipped a glass of champagne.  I was serving a rich meal of Coq au Vin and potato gnocchi.  The crudité platter served as a deconstructed salad with a homemade vinaigrette.  The guests could select a single vegetable and dip into the vessel, or assemble a variety of items onto a plate with a drizzle of dressing to their liking.

When making a crudité platter, shop the produce department for interesting color and texture.  I used baby carrots, cutting them in half lengthwise at an angle.  I love the small Persian cucumbers as they are crisp with tiny seeds and tender skins.  I also cut these into bite-size pieces at an angle.  I blanched French green beans for just 2 minutes on the stovetop, chilling them in ice water and then dried and placed the beans into a gentle curve around one side of the platter.  For more color, I added tiny whole radishes and young organic purple kale torn into small pieces.  Switch up what is included on the platter depending on the season.  Serve with a homemade vinaigrette, a sprinkling of course sea salt, with small plates and forks for guests to help themselves.

Homemade Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon agave sweetener
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Add the Dijon mustard, agave, salt and pepper to a medium size bowl.  Using a whisk, mix to combine.  Whisk in the vinegar.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy consistency.  Pour into a small carafe or pitcher.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

ChezCindy: Gingerbread Scones with Clementine Glaze

One cannot approach the holidays without thinking of or seeing an artful display of gingerbread houses.  I do not possess the skill or patience to actually make one.  And, if you are talented enough to put one together, do you really want to eat it after all the work?  However, gingerbread baked goods are a favorite in many other forms during the holidays and throughout the winter.  I usually make Gingerbread cake and cupcakes to share with family and friends.  Everyone loves this treat topped with a cream cheese icing.

I recently came upon a gingerbread scone recipe in the wonderful cookbook Baked from Scratch.  Below is my adaptation of their recipe with my personal changes.  I love the flavor profile of warm gingerbread spices and sweet clementine juice.  The ingredient list is a bit long, but it comes together quickly and ready to serve any morning when you have extra time and a desire to bake.

Gingerbread Scones with Clementine Glaze
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely diced
1/4 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream
Turbinado or raw sugar for sprinkling
Clementine Glaze

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Working in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  Pulse to combine.  Add in the cold diced butter.  Pulse 3-4 times for a few seconds until the mixture is crumbly.  Add in the diced candied ginger.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of cream, molasses and egg, mixing until just combined.  Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture, pulse a few times for 3-4 seconds just until the mixture comes together.  The dough will not be smooth or fully combined.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead until it comes together.  Form the dough into an 8-inch disk, roughly 1-inch thick with a smooth top surface.  Cut the dough into 8 wedges.  Brush the top of each wedge with the 2 tablespoons of cream, sprinkling each with the turbinado/raw sugar.

Bake in the hot oven for 13-14 minutes until the scones are golden in color.  The scones are very tender at this point.  They will set up more firmly as they cool.  Allow the scones to cool before drizzling with the clementine glaze, recipe is below.

Clementine Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon clementine zest
juice of 1 clementine

Add the powdered sugar to a small bowl.  Zest the bright orange skin from 1 clementine using a zesting rasp tool.  Cut the clementine in half.  To start, squeeze the juice from 1 half of the clementine into the sugar, mixing to combine.  Add in the zest; mix in more juice until the mixture is smooth and pourable.  Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the scones.  

Saturday, November 23, 2019

ChezCindy: Roasted Delicata Squash with Fresh Sage

This squash dish is so simple to make and perfect for the fall holiday season.  Delicata squash may be unfamiliar to some people, unlike the more common butternut and acorn squashes.  The flesh is lighter in color and a bit more potato-like in texture and taste.  I occasionally will dice the squash and cook it in a skillet for breakfast hash browns instead of using potatoes.  As the name suggests, there is no need to remove the skin because it is delicate and can be eaten.  A real plus since autumn squashes can be quite a challenge to peel.

The sage leaves I use here get crispy-roasted and fragrant.  The crackle of the delicate leaves are eaten along with the squash adding an herby flavor that pairs well with poultry.  Thus, making this side dish a nice accompaniment to your holiday turkey or simply served on a weekday with pan-seared chicken.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Fresh Sage
2-3 medium sized delicate squash
1 small bunch fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and dry the squash.  Working with a cutting board, slice the squash into rings.  Remove the seeds and discard.  Place the squash rings onto a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, turning them over to evenly coat with the oil.  Place a sage leaf on each squash ring.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting for 20-25 minutes until the squash is golden brown and the sage leaves are crisp.  The squash rings are not turned over during the cooking process. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bonus Cooking Tip:  Leftover squash can be diced and made into hash browns the next day for breakfast.  I sautéed some diced onions in butter and oil until soft.  Then I added the leftover diced squash, a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring until warmed through.  Quick and delicious. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

ChezCindy: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!

I'm not sure many people are familiar with whoopie pies.  Said to have originated in the state of Maine, they are found in shops, farm markets and bakeries in the surrounding New England states.  Once I became familiar with them, I was quite smitten.

Whoopie pies are kind of confusing.  They resemble a sandwich cookie.  But when you bite into this sweet treat, the texture is soft and moist like a little cake filled with a rich cream cheese icing.  To add to the confusion, they are named as a pie!  I think the whoopie part of the name comes from the delight and surprise from first bite, causing one to shout Whoopie!

When you read the recipe below, you may be concerned with the measurement of the spices.  What is written is correct in that, yes, the tablespoon measurement is used for the cinnamon and ginger spices, and a teaspoon of cloves.  It may seem like an error, but trust that the balance of spices is a perfect blend.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheet trays with parchment paper.

In a medium bow, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, a stand mixer works well if you have one, combine the brown sugar and oil, mixing together until combined.  Add in the pumpkin puree, mixing to thoroughly combine.  Add in the eggs and vanilla mixing until well combined.

Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until just combined.

Using a medium spring-loaded ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, placing the dough mounds about 1-inch apart.  They will rise greatly but spread minimally.  Place the sheet trays in the center and upper part of the oven, baking the cookies for 12-13 minutes.  Rotate the sheet trays half-way through for even baking.  The cookies will be fully domed with the tops just starting to show cracks in the surface.  Remove the trays from the oven to cool, sliding the parchment sheet from the tray onto the counter.  Make the cream chees filling while the cookies cool.

Cream Cheese Filling
3 cups powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8-ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Working with an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth.  Add in the cream cheese, mixing until combined with the butter.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, combining with the cheese/butter mixture until thoroughly combined and fluffy.

Assemble the Whoopie Pies
Turn over half of the cooled cookies to show flat side up.  Using a small scoop, or a tablespoon, place a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie.  Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges.

Serve and enjoy.

Cookies can be kept room temperature for a day, or 3 days chilled in the refrigerator.

Friday, November 1, 2019

ChezCindy: Sliced Baked Potatoes

This dish comes to the rescue when you want to have baked potatoes for dinner, but are short on time.  You get all the baked potato flavor, plus the toppings of a twice-baked potato, baked in less than an hour.

I am so pleased with this dish.  I was looking for a way to do twice-baked potatoes for a cooking class, but wanted a new twist.  I was creating and testing for months, and nothing fit what I had in my mind.  I finally went rogue and created what is a cross between a potato gratin and a loaded baked potato.  This dish satisfies on all levels.

The tiny bits that look like browned marshmallows are cubed cream cheese, scattered over the potatoes.  They mostly hold their shape, getting lovely brown and soft.  The second cheese used here is shredded cheddar, melting gloriously and gooey.  I garnished only with fresh chives.  But think of the possibilities as you would for loaded baked potatoes.  When serving your family or a crowd, set out toppings of sour cream, sliced green onions, crumble bacon and more.  Each person can scoop out the potatoes and top as they desire.  So good.

Sliced Baked Potatoes
2-pounds russet Idaho potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, soften at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4-ounces cream cheese
4-ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
Chopped green onions or chives if desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Working with a 9-inch square baking pan, use the 3 tablespoons of butter to generously coat the sides and bottom of the pan.  This will add flavor and keep the potatoes from sticking to the pan.

Thoroughly scrub the potatoes.  Keeping the skin on each potato, slice the potatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Layer each potato slice into the buttered pan, fitting each slice into the pan like puzzle pieces.  Some will layer on top of each other.  Pour the heavy cream over the potatoes, sprinkle the potatoes with salt.  Cover the pan with a large sheet of foil, crimping around the edges to seal.  Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the foil from the pan.  Cut the cream cheese into 1/2-inch cubes.  Scatter the cheese cubes over the top of the hot potatoes.  Evenly sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the potatoes and cream cheese.  Return the pan to the oven, uncovered.  Continue baking for 20 minutes.  The cheeses will be melted and browned.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with chopped green onion or chives, or top with crumbled cooked bacon and sour cream, if desired.