Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ChezCindy: Zucchini Walnut Muffins

Zucchini Walnut Muffins

Wondrous, versatile zucchini.  Now, zucchini is not my favorite vegetable when it stands alone, but I do appreciate that this humble vegetable can serve as a simple side dish for dinner; add interest to a breakfast frittata; or surprising texture to sweet dessert. 

Once again, I was cleaning out my vegetable drawer.  Once again, I had too many vegetables that needed to be eaten.  (I really need to learn to pace my purchasing.  Just wait until the Farmer’s Markets get into full swing!)  I had green beans, broccolini, a few mushrooms, and zucchini.  The first 3 were easy.  Steam, sauté, eat them with dinner that night.  But for the zucchini, I had plans of a sweet treat. 

I have several dessert-type recipes for zucchini.  My favorite is a Zucchini Pecan Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting.  It is amazingly delicious.  But it takes a bit more effort to put together and I wanted something that took less time to complete.  Zucchini Walnut Muffins were perfect.  Quick to put together and only 25 minutes to bake. 

This recipe for zucchini muffins can either be a muffin or a cupcake.  It truly resembles a carrot cake, but using zucchini instead of carrot.  If frosted with cream cheese icing, it definitely tastes similar to carrot cake.  But when I want something a bit more "healthy", I forgo the icing and call it a muffin.  This way, I get to eat cake for breakfast. 

Zucchini Walnut Muffins
2 cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup currants
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups shredded zucchini
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 large muffin cups with paper liners.  Toast the walnuts in the oven for 5-7 minutes.  Set aside to cool. 
In a microwave safe bowl, cover the currants with the brandy, heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Set aside to cool, drain. 
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; whisk together.  In a large mixing bowl, add the oil, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and eggs; whisk to combine. 
Squeeze the excess moisture from the shredded zucchini.  Stir the walnuts, currants, zucchini, and ginger into the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3 small batches, stirring each time to combine.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.  Bake in oven for 25 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool. 

To make this even more healthy, add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and/or ground wheat bran. 

Can be frosted with cream cheese icing.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to your favorite recipe to match the spice of this cupcake.

Monday, May 7, 2012

ChezCindy: Pork Loin Roast with Mustard, Garlic & Thyme

I am a huge fan of cooking with mustard.  I always have several open jars in the fridge and many waiting in the pantry for use.  Dijon is a must for my vinaigrette's; whole grain Dijon for mustard mashed potatoes; spicy brown mustard for sausages and brats; and numerous other specialty mustards round out my collection.  Stonewall Kitchens in Maine makes a variety of mustards that have become my mustards of choice.  You can find them on grocery store shelves, but a greater variety are available by mail-order delivered to your door.  I recently stocked up on one of my favorites that I could no longer find in the store, and a few new ones to try.  I also cannot live without Maille Whole Grain Dijon mustard.  Use it to make the best mustard mashed potatoes. 

For this recipe you can use standard Dijon mustard, but today I used Stonewall Kitchen Champagne Shallot Mustard.  A mixture of mustard, garlic, and thyme is spread over pork loin, providing a mustard glaze that gets cooked-in and mingles with the natural pork juices.  Add carrots and potatoes to the same roasting pan for a one-pot dinner.

Pork Loin Roast with Mustard, Garlic & Thyme
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 1/2-pound boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Working on a cutting board, chop 3 cloves of garlic.  Add the tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, continue chopping the garlic and thyme together until finely minced.  Place the garlic and thyme into a small bowl.  Add the mustard and 1 tablespoon of oil.  Stir to combine. 

Place the pork loin into a large roasting pan, fat side up.  Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the pork, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the mustard mixture over the top of the pork.  (Add cut vegetables to the pan at this time if using.)  Place the roast in the oven.  Roast for 40 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven to check the internal temperature of the pork, stirring the vegetables for even browning.  Place the pan back in the oven, continue roasting for 15 - 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the pork reads at 145 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let the pork rest for 10 minutes. 

Favorite Mustards

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ChezCindy: Kentucky Derby Hot Browns

When I realized the Kentucky Derby runs this weekend, my thoughts turned to this famous sandwich that originated in Kentucky; Hot Browns.  I generally associate all events, regardless of what they are, with food.  It just makes life more fun, and delicious.  (This weekend is also Cinco de Mayo.  Can you imagine my conflict?  Mexican fare vs Derby food)   

This famous Kentucky sandwich was created in Louisville's Brown Hotel, by Chef Fred K. Schmidt, in 1926.  It is most commonly served open-face, but has also been made into a casserole using the same ingredients.  Turkey, bacon, cheese, toasted bread and tomatoes are the key ingredients to a Hot Brown. 

What makes this sandwich really stand out is to use real oven-roasted turkey breast.  (Remember this at Thanksgiving for turkey left-overs.)  Today, I just used deli sliced turkey because that is what I had.  I prepared a quick white sauce with cheese, toasted the bread, and browned the layered sandwich under the broiler.  The sandwich is hearty and can be served as dinner, lunch or brunch. 

Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich
Roast turkey breast
Crisp cooked bacon
Sliced white bread
Tomatoes, sliced
White cheddar cheese, shredded
White sauce with cheese

Prepare a basic white sauce, add cheese.  Toast 2 slices of bread for each sandwich.  Preheat broiler.

Place the toasted bread on a baking tray.  Top each slice of bread with 2 - 3 slices of turkey breast.  Ladle 2-3 tablespoons of cheese sauce over the turkey, top with shredded cheese.  Place the baking tray directly under the broiler heat until the cheese sauce starts to bubble.  Carefully remove the tray from the oven.  Place 2 slices of tomatoes onto the cheese for each slice of bread.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese onto the tomatoes.  Place the tray back under the broiler, continue broiling until the tomatoes are warmed and the cheese is fully melted and somewhat browned.  Remove from the oven, top with the crisp bacon. 

White Sauce with Cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan.  Whisk in the flour; cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, bring to a boil whisking continuously.  The sauce will thicken after 4-5 minutes.  Whisk in the cheese, stir until melted.  Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.