Sunday, February 28, 2021

ChezCindy: Individual Mini Meat Loaves


A few years back, I wrote a post featuring glazed carrots served with individual meat loaves, making a note that the meatloaf recipe I use most often is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  Today I decided to post a meatloaf recipe, heavily influenced by Ms. Garten's recipe with just a few tweaks.  

These mini meat loaves are comfort food.  The recipe can be made into 1 large loaf.  But I prefer the mini loaves because of the meatloaf to ketchup ratio.  The baked ketchup glaze on the mini loaves allows for a bit of ketchup for every bite of meatloaf.  

Hat's off to Ms. Garten for her cookbooks and recipes bringing joy to so many of us for all these years.  I have every cookbook she has written.  All are fabulous and well used in this house.  She has taught us all to enjoy cooking and certainly to enjoy sharing food with loved ones. 

Individual Meat Loaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup ketchup

Prepare a large sheet pan by lining it with a sheet of parchment paper.  Set aside.  Measure out 1 cup of ketchup into a small bowl.  Set aside to top the meat loaves.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Working in a large skillet over medium heat, add in the olive oil and the chopped onions.  Sauté the onions for 5-7 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add in the dried thyme, fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine, cooking for 2 minutes.  Add in the tomato paste, stirring and cooking for 1 minute.  Add in the chicken stock, stirring to combine.  Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.  

In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef to one side of the bowl, leaving a space to add the remaining ingredients.  Next to the ground beef, in the space left open, add in the beaten eggs, bread crumbs, and salt.  Using a fork, stir these ingredients together, not disturbing the ground beef.  Now, slowly stir in the ground beef using the fork to combine all the ingredients until just combined.  Use a light touch here so as not to overwork the mixture.   

Divide the meatloaf mixture into 6 eight-ounce portions, lightly shaping each into an individual meatloaf.  Place each mini meatloaf onto the parchment lined sheet pan.  Top each meatloaf with an equal amount of the ketchup.  

Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, baking the meat loaves for 35 minutes, until the internal temperature is 155 - 160 degrees.  Remove from the oven.  Serve hot with your favorite side dishes.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

ChezCindy: Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Spinach


This pasta dish is a good recipe to have on hand, cooking with ingredients you may already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.  It is flexible in that you can use any small shaped pasta, such as the orecchiette or medium shell.  And any greens in the refrigerator, spinach, swiss chard or even kale are all nice to use.  If you are not a fan of sausage, you could use ground beef or ground chicken.  In my house, I always have a large hunk of Parmesan cheese, but asiago or mozzarella would work too.

Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Spinach
8 ounces orecchiette pasta or medium shells
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces mild Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
1-2 teaspoons fennel seed, depending on your preference
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to your preference
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
6 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, additional for garnish

Prepare the orecchiette or shell pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

Working in a large deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet.  Add the sausage to the hot pan, breaking up the sausage into small bits while stirring, cooking for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Add in the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and minced garlic, stirring to combine, cooking for only 1 minute.  Quickly pour in the 1/4 cup of white wine, stirring to combine, this will stop the garlic from getting too brown.  Cook this mixture for another 2-3 minutes.  Add in the fresh spinach, kosher salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring the spinach into the sausage to wilt the spinach.  This will take a few minutes for the spinach to wilt down.  Add in the cooked, drained pasta and about half of the reserved pasta water, stirring to combine.  

Off the heat, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top, combining with the sausage and spinach.  Add in more of the reserved pasta water to make a light creamy sauce.  Garnish with more Parmesan cheese as desired.  Serve hot.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

ChezCindy: Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Roasted Vegetables


I'm on a bit of a pasta kick.  I've tested several new recipes here at the house.  This recipe is one I saw on a food show that seemed really interesting,* baked gnocchi with roasted vegetables.  I was a bit skeptical, but the process was easy and the results looked good as the tv host plated the dish. 

The recipe is quick to put together using frozen gnocchi and any vegetables you have in the refrigerator or pantry.  Frozen gnocchi is key to the success of this dish.  I recommended seeking out the frozen and not using the shelf-stable kind.  

I used cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, red bell pepper and onion because that was what I had available.  Mushrooms, asparagus, and broccoli would also be good.  Use what you have and what you like.  Cut each vegetable small in size so that each vegetable cooks in the same amount of time.  The dish was delicious and presented a different combination of textures and flavors.  This is one I will make often.  

Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Roasted Vegetables
8 ounces frozen gnocchi
1 small zucchini, cut into thin rounds
6 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, or dried oregano

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a sheet pan with sides, lining it with parchment paper.

Prepare the fresh vegetables, cutting each as described.  Add the frozen gnocchi and vegetables to the sheet pan, spreading into a single layer over the parchment paper.  Drizzle the gnocchi and vegetables with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and dried herbs.  Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting for 25 minutes.  Half-way through the cooking time, stir the gnocchi and vegetables to ensure even roasting.  The vegetables will be tender and the gnocchi lightly browned.  

Remove the sheet pan from the oven.  Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and olive oil over the gnocchi and vegetables.  Stir to coat.  Evenly sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese, and garnish with the chopped fresh herbs.  Serve hot or room temperature.  

*Recipe inspired by Food Network, The Kitchen

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Flourless Molten Chocolate Cupcakes

Taking a picture comes easy when the subject is this lovely.  After cooling, I stacked these lovelies onto a cake stand to store.  I could not resist but to take a few pictures.  

These cupcakes are a house favorite.  The recipe is from a chef I have followed for years, Michael Chiarello.  We have dined at Chef Chiarello's restaurant in Napa Valley, California, known for his Italian yet California influenced food.  In this post, I share his recipe from his cookbook titled, At Home With Michael Chiarello.  

The cakes are irresistible served warm.  Eat one, or two, as soon as they are cool enough to do so.  In the next days, simply warm them in the microwave for 10 seconds to melt the chocolate center.  One more thing, don't freak out when you review the ingredient list to include mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise is an emulsion of eggs and oil, both normal ingredients for baking.  This just takes a shortcut.   

 Flourless Molten Chocolate Cupcakes
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate baking bar, I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise, I use Hellman's 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cocoa powder for dusting the cupcake liners
Powdered sugar for dusting the finished cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 12-cup standard cupcake pans with paper liners, using the ones that are double lined with both paper and foil.  Lightly spray the liners with non-stick cooking oil, then dusting the inside of each liner with the cocoa powder.  

Working with a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and cream to the pan.  Allow this to heat for a few minutes, stirring to combine.  While this is heating, chop 5 of the 8 ounces of chocolate into small bits.  Set aside the remaining 3 ounces of chocolate for use at the end of the recipe.  Place the 5 ounces of chopped chocolate into a small heat-proof bowl.  When the cream and butter are combined and hot but not boiling, pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate.  Allow the cream mixture to melt the chocolate without stirring for a few minutes.  Then stir to combine into a smooth chocolate blend.  Set aside.  

Prepare the remaining 3 ounces of chocolate for use by breaking or cutting into 24 pieces.  These pieces will be added to each baked cupcake at the end of baking.  Set aside until the cakes are out of the oven.  

In a separate larger bowl with a pour spout, whisk the eggs, sugar, mayonnaise, salt, cornstarch and cinnamon until just combined.  Pour the now cool chocolate blend into the larger bowl with the egg mixture, gently mixing until fully combined.  Pour the batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling each three-quarters to the top, leaving room for each to puff up when baked.  

Place the filled cupcake pans into the preheated oven, baking the cakes for 30 minutes.  Each cake will be puffed with the tops still a bit shiny.  The cakes are best just a bit under baked.  Remove the trays from the oven.  Immediately insert 1 chocolate piece from the remaining 3 ounces into the center of each cupcake.  I use a small spoon to help push each piece deeply into the center of the cake.  The chocolate will melt in the center of each hot cupcake.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes before removing them to a rack to cool until ready to eat.  Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!  

Makes 21-24 cupcakes.  


Thursday, February 4, 2021

ChezCindy: Sautéed Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Sundried Tomatoes


The meal you see pictured above started out to be sautéed chicken with polenta, caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes.  Sounds good, right?  Along the way it morphed into no polenta, but roasted acorn squash.  You are probably thinking, that's a big jump.  I often roast vegetables to simply have available in the refrigerator any time I want to add vegetables to my meals.  As I was sautéing the onions and sundried tomatoes, the acorn squash was ready to come out of the oven.  It looked so good, I decided to skip the polenta and serve the squash with the onions and tomatoes.  So, there you go.  I still think the polenta would have been a good side dish to the chicken with the onions and sundried tomatoes.  Your choice.  

Here's how I put it together.

Roasted Acorn Squash
2 medium acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil 
kosher salt
dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut each squash into quarters.  Remove the seeds and discard.  Using a sheet pan with sides, lining it with parchment paper, place the squash quarters cut-side up onto the sheet pan.  Drizzle the oil over the squash.  Sprinkle with salt and dried Italian seasoning.  Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting the squash for 35-40 minutes until tender.  During the last 5 minutes of roasting time, add the tablespoon of butter, dividing a bit into the cavity of each squash quarter.  Remove from the oven, setting aside to cook the rest of the meal.  

Caramelized Onions and Sundried Tomatoes
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot pan.  Swirl to combine in the hot pan.  Add the sliced onions to the pan, sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt, stirring the onions into the oil/butter into an even layer.  Cook the onions until they begin to wilt down, about 5-6 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium.  Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the onions are browned and fully wilted into a bit of a jam.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Add in the sundried tomatoes, stirring to combine and to heat the tomatoes.  Remove the onions and tomatoes from the pan to a bowl.  Set aside.  Continue on with the chicken.  

Sautéed Chicken
2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts - thin filets
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt

Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

Working with the same skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt.  Add the olive oil to the skillet.  Place the seasoned chicken filets into the hot skillet.  Cooking until golden brown on the first side.  Turn over to cook side two until the chicken is fully cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  

Putting it all together: Serve the dinner on a large platter or prepare individual plates.  Place the chicken onto the plate, add the acorn squash.   Spoon a generous portion of the caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes over the chicken and squash.  Grate Parmesan cheese over all.  Serve and enjoy.  

Sunday, January 24, 2021

ChezCindy: Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry


I love this recipe!  It is versatile, easy, and comes together very quickly.  No need to order take-out when you can customize this stir fry dish to your preference.  

I first made this using chicken breasts for the main protein.  It was delicious.  Even the left-overs were great.  This time I wanted to use some shrimp I had in the freezer.  We loved it.  Just look at the color achieved on the cooked shrimp.   

The shrimp is only partially cooked here which is amazing to gain this much color and not over-cooking it.  The chicken was the same result, partially cooked and gorgeous browning.  The chicken and shrimp are tossed in a bit of corn starch and a few other ingredients before cooking.  This is key to getting the great color.  Browning equals flavor.  

The success of this recipe is prepping all the ingredients before you start cooking.  That is the nature of cooking a stir fry dish.  It is quick, hot cooking done in minutes once you have the prep work done.  

There are a few ingredients that are the backbone of Asian cooking to gain great stir fry flavor, such as fresh ginger and garlic.  Fresh ginger is found in the produce department of any grocery store.  I buy a knob of it and keep it in the freezer.  It stores well and I have it fresh any time I need it for cooking.  Most people keep ginger in the refrigerator but doing so will yield a shorter shelf life.

The versatility of this recipe comes with your choice of protein and vegetables.  I used broccoli.  Other vegetables could be snow peas, carrots, mushrooms or a mix of any of these.  The protein could be sliced beef, chicken, shrimp or even tofu.  

Here's how to make this recipe.  

Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry
For the shrimp or chicken:
1 pound peeled shrimp or chicken breast, boneless skinless (cut chicken into 1-inch pieces)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon coconut aminos* or low-sodium soy sauce

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons coconut aminos* or low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
5 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch

For the vegetables:
1 large head of broccoli cut into florets (or other vegetables of choice)
4 green onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola

First, blanch the broccoli in the microwave.  To do this, place 2-3 tablespoons of water into a large microwave safe bowl.  Add the broccoli florets to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  The bowl will be hot, so using hot pads, remove the bowl from the microwave and set aside leaving the plastic wrap in place.  

Combine all of the ingredients listed for the shrimp/chicken into a small bowl, stirring to coat well.

In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, add the ingredients for the sauce, whisking to combine.  

Chop the remaining vegetable ingredients, green onions, garlic and ginger.  Have these ready and waiting on the cutting board.  

Using a large non-stick pan or wok, setting the pan over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in the shrimp or chicken, carefully as it will splatter a bit.  Using a wooden spoon or tongs, move the shrimp/chicken into a single layer in the pan.  Do not move it again for 2-3 minutes, until you begin to see browning on this first side of cooking.  If it is not yet brown, leave it for another minute.  When nicely brown, flip over each piece or simple stir it for 1 more minute of cooking.  Remove the shrimp/chicken from the pan to a plate, leaving the pan juices in the pan.  The protein will not be fully cooked at this point.

Working with the same pan, add in the green onion, garlic and ginger, stirring for 30 seconds.  Next, stir the sauce ingredients as they may have settled, adding the sauce to the hot pan.  Stir to combine for 1-2 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove the broccoli from the bowl, dabbing with paper towels to dry off the water.  Add the broccoli and the shrimp/chicken to the pan, stirring to coat well with the sauce, cooking for 2-3 minutes until the protein is cooked through.  It won't take long as the shrimp/chicken had "carry-over" cooking while resting on the plate and the broccoli is already pre-cooked.   

Remove the pan from heat and serve immediately.  Enjoy!! 

* coconut aminos are a wheat-free replacement for soy sauce made from coconut sap from coconut trees.  You will find it on the shelf next to the other soy sauces.  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

ChezCindy: Halibut with Leeks & Potatoes in Broth


This recipe was inspired by chef Joanne Weir.  Ms. Weir has been hosting cooking shows on public television for 20 years.  She is a successful chef living in California, a food writer and cookbook author.  Her recipes often bring an international flair as she hosts culinary travels for her students to eat and cook the local recipes from Spain to Italy to Morocco.  This recipe inspires me more from an American perspective.  No exotics spices or ingredients.  The ingredients here remind me of a common supper perhaps stemming from New England.  

Ms. Weir's recipe was presented using cod.  I prefer the taste and texture of halibut.  But really, any flakey white fish would work in this recipe.  Most ingredients are pantry staples, perhaps with exception of capers.  Capers are good to have on hand lending a salty briny flavor to dishes.  Perfect for fish recipes and other Mediterranean influenced dishes.  They are inexpensive and will last in the refrigerator for months.  But if you don't have them, you can leave them out and still have a perfect dish for dinner.   

This recipe is comfort in a bowl.  You will want to have good toasted bread to sop up the broth.  Enjoy.

Halibut with Leeks & Potatoes in Broth
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers
3 sprigs fresh thyme, about 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves*
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes 
2 leeks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 4-ounce pieces halibut or cod, skinless
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Prepare the potatoes by peeling them and slicing into slices about 1/4-inch thick.  Prepare the leeks by cutting away the dark green stalks, keeping only the pale green and white parts.  Cut each leek in half from the root end to the tip.  Thoroughly rinse the leek under cold water to remove the dirt from the layers.  Place the cut-side down on a cutting board.  Thinly slice each leek half into thin half-rounds. 

Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add the stock, wine, Dijon, capers, fresh thyme leaves, and salt into the hot skillet.  Stir to combine.  Carefully add the sliced potatoes to the liquid, keeping the potatoes in one layer.  Scatter the cut leeks over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt.  Cover the skillet to cook the potatoes and leeks until tender, about 12 minutes.

Prepare the pieces of fish by sprinkling the lemon zest onto each piece.  Season each piece with a bit of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Carefully place each piece into the pan with the potatoes and leeks, slightly nestling in with the potatoes.  Cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  When the fish is cooked, turn off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the broth, gentle swirling the pan to melt the butter.  

To serve, place 1 piece of fish into a shallow bowl, add a scoop of potatoes and leeks to the bowl, and a ladle of broth to each bowl.  Serve hot with toasted bread.  

* if you use dried thyme, reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon

Sunday, January 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Spinach


This Chicken Stew is a welcome comfort to your senses.  Different from a standard stew, using smoked paprika as an interesting back-note to the sauce which pairs nicely with the chickpeas and spinach for a bit of a Mediterranean nuance.  

The stew takes less than an hour to make, but can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for the next day or so.  It reheats very well, without losing any integrity of ingredients or flavor.  

Serve this with a slice of crusty toasted bread, or spooned over steamed rice or egg noodles.  

Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Spinach
4-5 chicken thighs, bone-in
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sliced onion, sliced vertically from stem to root
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon mild Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 14-oncue cans diced tomatoes, unsalted
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
8 ounces fresh spinach

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over a medium-high flame.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, discarding the skin.  Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt seasoning both sides.  Place each piece in the hot pan with the bone-side facing up.  Leave the chicken to brown in the pan for 5-7 minutes without turning.  This will create good browning on this side of the chicken.  Turn the chicken over to cook the bone-side for about 2 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan, setting aside on a plate.  The chicken will not be cooked through at this point.  

Working with the same pan that the chicken was cooked in with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Transfer the sliced onions to the hot pan, season with 1 teaspoon of salt, stirring occasionally cooking for about 5 minutes.  The onions will begin to soften and lightly brown.  Add in the minced garlic and the smoked paprika, stir to combine, cooking for 30 seconds.  Stir in the chicken stock, cooking the onions and garlic for another 5 minutes until the onions are soft.  

Drain off and discard the liquid from one can of the diced tomatoes, keeping the 2nd can with the juice and the diced tomatoes.  Add the contents of both cans to the pan with the onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the drained chickpeas, stirring to combine.  Continue simmering until the sauce is slightly thickened, 5-7 minutes.  Add in the spinach, stirring to incorporate as the spinach wilts.  Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Place the partially cooked chicken thighs into the pan with the vegetables, slightly submerging the chicken under the vegetables.  Place the lid onto the pan.  Transfer the Dutch oven to the preheated oven, cooking for 35 minutes.  

Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the lid, gently stir the contents to cover the chicken.  Spoon one chicken thigh and a generous portion of the vegetables and sauce into a serving bowl.  Serve with grilled bread if desired.