Friday, September 23, 2022

ChezCindy: Pasta Risotto with Chicken and Mushrooms


Making pasta in the style of risotto is not a new thing.  I simply had not tried this process before now.  It is good!  The pasta takes in flavor, absorbing the stock, garlic and vegetables as it hydrates and cooks.  It becomes full of flavor with great texture.  The tradeoff is the amount of time and attention it takes to make the pasta risotto.  You will need to tend to the pasta adding stock stirring for roughly 20 minutes.  I found it be a relaxing transition from a full day while I enjoyed a glass of wine.  

Pasta Risotto with Chicken and Mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups brown or white button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups dry gemelli or penne pasta
1/2 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken stock
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Working with a large Dutch oven pan over medium-high heat, add in the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add in the onion, garlic and mushrooms, stirring to coat in oil.  Cook while stirring occasionally for 6-7 minutes, then add in 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Add in the tomato paste, stirring to incorporate with the mushrooms.  Add the dry pasta to the pan with the mushrooms, stirring together, then add in the wine, stirring for 2-3 minutes.  The wine will bubble and absorb into the mix.  Lower the heat to medium.  

Meanwhile, have the stock on the stove in a pan over a low temperature to stay warm.  Once the wine has absorbed into the mix, begin ladling 1/2 cup of stock into the pasta mix, stirring to combine.  After the ladle of stock has absorbed into the pasta, continue adding 1/2 cup at a time until you have added 2 cups.  At this point taste a piece of pasta to determine the tenderness.  It will mostly likely be too firm.  

Add in the chicken thighs and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, stirring with the pasta.  Cook the chicken while continuing to add more stock and stirring.  Check the chicken for doneness of internal temperature of 165 degrees.  When the chicken has reached correct temperature, taste the pasta for texture.  You will want a tender pasta but not soft.  You may not use all of the stock.  

Remove from the heat, adjust for seasoning, garnishing with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.  

Friday, September 9, 2022

ChezCindy: Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin


When has cauliflower looked better?  This recipe is a simple 5-ingredent, minimal time and cleanup dream.  A dream only if you like cauliflower.  In my house, that is just me and the dogs!

My recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay, downloaded from the Food Network years ago.  It is super healthy by way of the cauliflower but watch out for the calories coming from heavy cream and three types of cheese.  Serve it with a green salad or a simple piece of grilled fish or chicken.  

Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup heavy cream
6-ounces goat cheese
2 ounces grated fontina cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the cauliflower florets into a medium size casserole dish, spreading out into an even layer.  Pour in the cream.  Crumble and scatter the goat cheese over the florets, along with the fontina and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle on the kosher salt.   

Place the casserole dish into the hot oven, roasting for 30 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has slightly thickened.  Remove from the oven, resting for 10 minutes before serving.

Note:  Other cheeses can be substituted such as gruyere and Pecorino, and herbed goat cheese work well together.  

Thursday, September 1, 2022

ChezCindy: Summer Corn Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad


Inspiration for this salad came from thoughts of Mexican Street Corn.  Which would have been fabulous as a salad, but I took this salad in a different direction to the Mediterranean.  I used Greek yogurt in the salad dressing, chickpeas, feta cheese with fresh mint and parsley, which all compliment the sweet summer corn and cauliflower.   

The salad is wonderful for sharing and can be made ahead of time as it holds up well fully tossed with the salad dressing.  It may even get better after sitting for 20-30 minutes as the ingredients marinate in the dressing bringing out the best of each. 

Summer Corn Cauliflower Salad with Fresh Herbs
1/2 of a large cauliflower head
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
3 large ears corn, cut from the cobs
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 head bibb lettuce

Creamy Yogurt Salad Dressing (recipe follows)

Cut the cauliflower into large pieces, placing each into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse until chopped into small bits.  You should have about 4 cups for the recipe.  Transfer the chopped cauliflower into a large bowl.

Add the drained chickpeas to the bowl with the cauliflower.  Add in the fresh cut corn as cut from the cobs, chopped red bell pepper, chopped parsley and mint.  Sprinkle on the salt and pepper.  Using a large spoon, gently stir to combine.  

Pour 6-8 tablespoons of the Creamy Yogurt Dressing over the salad, tossing to combine.  To serve, place individual leaves of the bibb lettuce onto a platter, spooning the dressed salad into each lettuce leaf, piling the remaining salad into the center.  Crumble the feta cheese over the salad.  Garnish with additional herbs, and a drizzle of additional salad dressing.  

Creamy Yogurt Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain full fat Greek yogurt

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 yogurt.  

Saturday, August 20, 2022

ChezCindy: Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad


Iceberg lettuce may have fallen out of favor with so many lettuces taking top marketing for nutritional value and taste.  But none of the kale, spinach or arugula mixes can stand in for the classic wedge salad.  Only iceberg can take center stage for this steakhouse favorite.  

This salad is simple and quick to put together, great to serve on a hot summer day.  The lettuce is crisp, juicy and deliciously chilled, served with just a few ingredients.  Key to success is a creamy dressing drizzled in abundance.  Optional additions are cherry tomatoes, bacon, and chopped fresh herbs.  Most are served with blue cheese, but feta could stand in as a substitute if blue cheese is not preferred or skip the cheese altogether.  

As far as nutrition goes, iceberg lettuce can hang in with the other lettuces.  It is loaded with vitamins K and A and has high water content to keep us hydrated on these hot summer days.  Dig in and enjoy!

Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 cup cherry tomatoes, each sliced in half
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
flakey sea salt for serving

Creamy Salad Dressing 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain full fat yogurt

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 and yogurt. 

Putting it all together:  Make the dressing, then keep chilled until ready to serve the salad.  

Using a large knife, cut the head of iceberg lettuce into 4 equal wedges, cutting through the core.  Place each wedge onto a large dinner plate.  Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of dressing over each wedge.  Scatter a generous portion of halved cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of chopped chives, 1 tablespoon of blue cheese, and a shower of flaked sea salt over each wedge.  Serve chilled within 30 minutes of dressing the salad.  

Friday, August 12, 2022

ChezCindy: OMG Giant Peach Muffins


These giant peach muffins were inspired by the abundance of peaches I had from my annual peach picking with my BFFEach year we head out for our adventure to pick peaches.  The peaches are always gorgeous, and I come home with a full peck, which is a lot of peaches.  Peaches don't hold for a long time like apples.  They ripen quickly and need to be eaten, used for baking and cooking, or frozen within a short time period.  I've been baking, and sharing, many of my favorite recipes, like peach bars and this new recipe for peach muffins.

This recipe for Giant Peach Muffins was inspired by a new cookbook by Jessie Sheehan, Snackable Bakes.  Ms. Sheehan's book is full of fabulous recipes that come together quickly with limited equipment, usually just a large bowl, whisk and rubber spatula, and go from idea to eating in short time.  I like that!  Not always do I want a baking project that takes a full day or multiple days.  Simple.  

The original recipe called for cherries, another favorite fruit, but I really needed to use the peaches.  The recipes in this book offer suggestions for swap-out variations.  It seemed logical if I could swap out cherries for raspberries or strawberries, I could do the same with peaches.  Lucky for me, it worked beautifully.  

A few notes about the recipe.  By itself without fruit the recipe is delicious.  Full of vanilla, deeply golden brown and a great texture.  If you choose to use fruit, use a soft fruit like peaches, raspberries, or cherries, measuring to 2 cups of chopped fruit.  A firm fruit such as apples might not cook fully.  The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.  That is not an error as you might think teaspoons is meant.  The vanilla is delicious in the muffins and your house will smell wonderful as the muffins are baking.  If you don't have turbinado sugar in your pantry, it is a good addition to have on hand.  You will use it often to add a sprinkle of shine and crispy tops to many pies, cookies and muffins.  I highly recommend it.  The recipe calls for starting the bake at a high temperature, 400 degrees.  This will yield a high puff and a quick brown of the muffin.  The temperature is reduced15 minutes into the baking time to 350 degrees.  Make note of this reduction otherwise the muffins will be over baked.  Below is my adaptation of Ms. Sheehan's muffin recipe.  

Giant Peach Muffins
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cups full-fat yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped peaches, raspberries or cherries

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease the wells of a large 6-well muffin tin (not standard size) with cooking spray oil to coat thoroughly.  Set aside.

Working with a large mixing bowl, add in the oil, sugar and vanilla whisking to combine for 30 seconds.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then add in the yogurt whisking to combine.  One at a time, whisk in the baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt whisking well after each addition.

Fold in the flour and the peaches, (or other fruit if using) using a rubber spatula just until combined, not over mixing.  Divide the batter among the prepared muffin wells.  The 6 wells will be very full.  You may have batter leftover.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar over the top of each muffin.

Place the muffin tin into the preheated oven at 400 degrees, baking at this temperature for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, baking for an additional 20-25 minutes until deeply brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean with just a few crumbs. A total of 35-40 minutes baking time.  

Remove from the oven, allowing the muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Using a butter knife gently loosen the muffins from the tin, transferring to a wire rack to cool.  Keep the muffins on the counter until they are gone, up to 2 days.  

Sunday, July 24, 2022

ChezCindy: Grilled Steak with Farm Tomatoes & Feta


This simple dish of grilled steak and tomatoes has been in my cooking rotation for many years.  Sometimes I forget to make our favorites as it had been years since I made this for dinner.  Last night was perfect timing as I had lots of gorgeous tomatoes from the farmer's market.  

The recipe is simple.  Basically, grill a strip steak as you prefer, medium rare for us.  The key to success is to have really good tomatoes from a farm stand, perfectly ripe and ready for use.  Make a vinaigrette and you are done.  I like to serve a few center-cut slices of the steak, pile on a good amount of tomatoes, drizzle all with vinaigrette and a sprinkle of crumbled feta.  A fabulous summer meal.  

Grilled Steak with Farm Tomatoes and Feta
2 strip steaks, 10-12 ounces for each steak
4-5 large heirloom tomatoes, any variety and color
Shallot vinaigrette
Feta cheese
Fresh basil for garnish

Serves 4

Light a grill or prepare an indoor grill pan as preferred.  Season the steaks with salt and pepper.  Grill to your preference in temperature.  Remove from the grill transferring to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.  

While the steaks are grilling, make the shallot vinaigrette and prepare the tomatoes.  

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil

To make the vinaigrette:  Place the chopped shallots, Dijon mustard, honey, salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Allow this mixture to marinate for 5 minutes.  This will mellow the flavor of the shallots.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.

Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces.  Place the tomatoes into a separate medium size bowl.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of vinaigrette to the tomatoes, tossing gently to combine.  

Putting it all together:  After the steak has rested, cutting crosswise, cut each steak into 1/2-inch slices.  Place 3-4 slices in the center of each plate.  Place a heaping mound of the dressed tomatoes above the sliced steak.  Drizzle a tablespoon of dressing over the steak slices, crumble the feta over the steak and tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.  

Sunday, July 17, 2022

ChezCindy: Blondies - An American Cookie


Blondies are a bar cookie quite often compared to brownies but without chocolate.  I had never baked or even considered baking a blondie until recent years.  I was fortunate enough to be in vicinity of being able to purchase cookie boxes from Joy Cho Pastries.  Joy presented a sampling of various cookies in her boxes, all with her unique application of ingredients to traditional cookies.  Occasionally the boxes included blondies.  The blondies became my coveted favorite that I would declare as mine, not sharing with anyone else.  Sounds kind of harsh, but my husband prefers chocolate cookies, so it worked out well.  Joy is back in NYC doing fabulous baking and I am left on my own to bake blondies.  

First, I had to do some research to find a base recipe.  It turns out blondie recipes can be somewhat controversial among bakers.  I have learned that the first blondie recipe came into publication in the1890's using molasses as the sweetener, lending a dark color to the cookie bar.  Blondies were quickly upstaged by Brownies using a similar recipe with the addition of chocolate and using white sugar in place of molasses.  Blondies fell out of favor until the late 1980s when New York City bakeries and delis started selling the homemade cookie bars as packaged sweet treats.  Recipe development took off from there, with a more modern spin on the traditional recipe by adding leavening (baking powder and baking soda), increasing the amount of butter used, switching from molasses to brown sugar, and adding decadent ingredients like chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, toasted nuts and more.  

The first recipe I tried was from one of my mother's old cookbooks.  It was truly awful, very bland and flat.  I am using them as dog treats.  Much research later, I have found my base recipe for Blondies.  This recipe is a blend of modern and traditional, with the use of leavening, and the only add-in is toasted walnuts.  My vision is to use this base recipe with various changes such as adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom.  I most certainly will add chocolate chips at some point, and maybe adding dried cherries or cranberries.  

Chewy Blondies with Toasted Walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (8-ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups toasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack placed in the center of the oven.  Butter and lightly flour a 9"x13" baking pan.  Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring to combine.  Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter to the bowl, mixing for 3-4 minutes until creamy.  Add in both sugars, creaming together for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute before adding the second egg, mixing again for 1 minute.  Turn off the mixer to add in the dry ingredients, with the mixer set to low speed, mix until just combined.  Add in the toasted walnuts, using a rubber spatula to be sure they are evenly distributed within the batter. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.  The batter is somewhat thick and will take some effort to distribute evenly.  Bake in the preheated oven for 35-38 minutes.  The blondies will slightly pull away from the sides of the pan and the top will be lightly browned.  Cool the blondies in the pan for 10 minutes.  Place a cooling rack on top of the pan to flip out the blondies from the pan.  Place a large cutting board on top of the blondies to flip over again so that the blondies are now right side up.  

The blondies can be cut while still slightly warm or can be cut when they are cooled to room temperature.  Store the cut blondies in an air-tight container or freeze for later use.  

Saturday, June 25, 2022

ChezCindy: Zucchini Banana Bread



This mash-up of zucchini and banana came by way of using what I had available.  I had one sad looking banana and 1 zucchini, each in the condition of use it or throw it out.  I decided to make zucchini banana bread.  Something I have never thought to do.  If I did an internet search, most likely I would find that such a recipe exists.  However, I simply decided to use my tried-and-true zucchini bread recipe I have used since I was very young.  I'm not sure when I hand-wrote out the recipe card, but it is still my go-to for zucchini bread.  

I had more zucchini than banana, so the bread is more of a standard zucchini bread, with just a bit of banana as a background flavor.  From the recipe card, you can see the original measure of zucchini is 2 cups.  I swapped out 1/2 cup for banana in this new recipe.  Both resulting breads are wonderful.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the addition of banana.  Use what you have to equal a 2-cup measure.   

Zucchini Banana Bread
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup mashed banana 
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Makes 2 loaves 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 loaf pans, 8"x4" in size, by lightly spraying each with baking oil spray.  Set aside.

To make this recipe, use an electric stand mixer or a hand mixer.  I used a fork and a spatula.   

Working with a large size mixing bowl, add the eggs and the oil to the bowl, mixing to combine thoroughly.  Add in the sugar, grated zucchini, mashed banana and vanilla, mixing to combine.  In a separate medium size bowl, add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, whisking to combine.  Transfer the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Folding together until just combined.  

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pans.  Place the pans into the preheated oven, baking for 55-60 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, cooling in the pans for 10 minutes.  Remove the bread from the pans to cool on a rack. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

ChezCindy: Carrot-top Parsley Pesto with Parmesan


It was not new to my awareness that carrot-top leaves are edible.  I don't think I had even eaten them in a restaurant or certainly had not used the leaves in my own cooking.  Their gorgeous green color and feathery fern-like leaves are attractive to the eye but sadly discarded.  I was at the farmer's market and kept seeing carrots greens peeking out of the tops of other customer's market bags.  This brought inspiration that I should make something with carrot leaves.  Carrot-top pesto came to mind and what an awakening that was.   

Pesto most commonly is thought of as being made with basil leaves.  Actually, the word pesto means to pound as traditionally made with a mortar and pestle.  Of course, we now have the convenience of using a food processor.   Pesto can be made from many types of herbs and leaves such as kale and spinach pesto, garlic scape pesto, and even sundried tomato basil pesto.  

In this recipe I use carrot leaves and parsley leaves which pair together very well.  I encourage you to taste the carrot leaves on their own in comparison to the parsley leaves.  Both are bitter, with the parsley leaves having a stronger punch than the carrot leaves.  Using them together in a standard recipe in place of basil results in a delicious flavorful pesto.  Also not surprising is the nutritional value of carrot-top leaves.  They are off-the-chart in vitamin A just like the carrots themselves, and high in potassium. 

Other uses for carrot-top leaves are to sauté carrots slices in olive oil adding chopped carrot leaves at the end of the cooking time finishing with a sprinkling of kosher salt or adding chopped carrot leaves to homemade soup as you would parsley leaves.  


Carrot-top Parsley Pesto with Parmesan
1 cup carrot-top leaves from 1 bunch of carrots, well cleaned and dried
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup roasted cashews, unsalted or lightly salted
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Working with a food processor, add the carrot leaves and the parsley leaves, along with the clove of garlic to the processor bowl.  Pulse the contents until coarsely ground.  Add in the cashews, pulsing until mostly combined.  Add in half of the olive oil, pulsing to begin to make a sauce.  Add in the remaining oil and the salt, processing until blended.  Add in the Parmesan cheese, pulsing until just combined, not over-processing. 

Serve with pasta or drizzled over crostini toasts.  Also, delicious folded into scramble eggs or an omelet.  

Summer Vegetable Tart with Carrot-top Pesto  

Make this tart using the recipe link above, substituting the carrot-top parsley pesto for the basil pesto.  

Thursday, June 2, 2022

ChezCindy: French Potato Salad with Broccoli


French potato salads are made with a mustard vinaigrette and lots of fresh herbs to dress waxy new potatoes.  Most American potato salads are made with a mayonnaise base as the dressing.  Both are delicious.  The French potato salad is best served at room temperature, making it perfect for an outdoor picnic gathering with no worries of the mayonnaise getting too warm for safe serving temperature.  In this recipe, I have taken a twist on tradition by adding steamed broccoli.  If broccoli is not for you but like the idea of adding a vegetable, steamed green beans would be more traditional.  

For a quick and easy method to steam the added vegetables, click here to learn that process. 

I used my standard Chez Cindy vinaigrette recipe using white wine vinegar and olive oil, with Dijon mustard and honey.   


French Potato Salad with Broccoli
1 pound bite-size red-skin and new potatoes
3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
1 small shallot, minced
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, chives)
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons Chez Cindy vinaigrette

Scrub the potatoes well, leaving the skins on.  Place the whole potatoes into a saucepan, filling the pan with cold water to cover the potatoes by 1/2-inch.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat cooking the potatoes until they are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.  Drain and allow to cool.  

Steam the broccoli, cool to room temperature.  Tear the florets into small bite-size pieces.  Mince the shallot.  Tear or rough chop the fresh herbs.  Make the vinaigrette.  

Putting it all together:  Place the cooked potatoes and the broccoli into a medium size bowl.  Add in the minced shallot, fresh herbs, and salt, gently tossing all together.  Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture, tossing gently to coat the potatoes, broccoli and herbs.  The potato salad can be served immediately or kept at room temperature for use within 1-2 hours. 

Recipe can be doubled if desired.  

Sunday, May 22, 2022

ChezCindy: Double Nut Harvest Grains Granola


Each time I create a new granola recipe I end up saying this is my new favorite.  But I really do love this Double Nut Harvest Grains granola.  It has a good balance of sweet and savory with a hint of salt.  I used walnuts and pecans, and an extra dose of mixed grains with the whole oats.  The Harvest Grains is actually a product from King Arthur Baking Company, as shown in the photograph below.    

The Harvest Grains product is a large bag with a combination of four grains and four seeds.  I initially bought it to make yeasted whole grain bread.  I found that I was not baking enough whole grain bread to work through the bag quick enough.  To be sure I did not waste it, I decided to store the bag in my freezer and come up with other ways to use it.  I have added the grains to oatmeal cookies, muffins, and now this granola.  It is a good value, not expensive for the quality and the amount of product.  But even for as often as I bake it is lot of grains, still highly recommended for purchase.

My new favorite granola is a great mid-day snack with a cup of tea, or more traditional as breakfast with yogurt and fruit.  Below are links for other favorite granola recipes.  

Double Nut Harvest Grains Granola
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw walnuts pieces
1 cup raw pecan pieces
1/4 cup Harvest Grains 
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line 1 rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, pecans, Harvest Grains, coconut, flax seed and salt.  Stir to combine.  In a separate small bowl or mixing cup, add in the olive oil and maple syrup, using a whisk, stir to combine.   Pour the combined olive oil and syrup over the oat mixture.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir to completely coat the oat mixture.  Transfer the raw granola to the prepared baking sheet, spreading into an even layer.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes without stirring until the granola is golden brown and toasted.  Remove the tray from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely without stirring.  This is where the magic takes place resulting in a crisp, solid layer of granola.  Once cool, break 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 after fully baking the granola.

ChezCindy: Pan-Roasted Sesame Salmon


I have many recipes for Asian Salmon using traditional ingredients for Asian cooking, such as hoisin, soy sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger, and more.  Somehow, no two recipes are alike, and all are wonderful yet different.  I found this recipe in Eating Well magazine in 2020, sadly no longer in paper publication, but available online.  This recipe demonstrates that sesame seeds are not simply a garnish but add great flavor and texture to the glaze for the salmon.  

I encourage you to build your pantry with common Asian ingredients, ready for use in so many recipes.  I have several recipes on this site for you to try.  From Asian Sloppy Joes to Asian Lettuce Wraps and Shrimp and Broccoli Stir-fry.  The ingredients add great flavor, lending towards quick-cooking recipes, and so very pleasing to the palette.  

Pan-Roasted Sesame Salmon
4 green onions, white and green sections separated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon mirin
4 6-ounce pieces of salmon. skinless
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Cut the green onions into 2 sections separating the white from the green.  Thinly chop the white section, and thinly chop the green section, keeping each separate.  Place the white chopped onions into a small bowl.  Set aside the green chopped onions to use as a garnish for the finished salmon dish.  Add the minced garlic, hoisin, soy, sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey, mirin into the bowl with the chopped white onions, stir to combine. 

Pat the salmon pieces dry using a paper towel, sprinkle with the salt.  Heat a 12-inch oven proof non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of canola oil.  Place the salmon pieces, skin-side up, (what would have been the skin-side if the skin has been removed) into the heated skillet.  Cook the salmon for 4-5 minutes.  Flip the salmon over skin-side down.  Spoon the sesame sauce mixture over the salmon pieces.  Transfer the skillet into the hot oven, roasting the salmon for 4-5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven.  Remove the salmon pieces from the skillet, sprinkle the chopped green onions over the salmon as a garnish.  Serve with sautéed vegetables or rice, if desired.  

Sunday, May 15, 2022

ChezCindy: Red Pepper Egg Cups


Here is a clever way to add vegetables to your breakfast meal.  Not only are you using a cut bell pepper as the edible baking cup, but I also add tiny cherry tomatoes to the pepper cup.  Add in a fresh egg, topped with a bit of cheese for a delicious breakfast or dinner.  

The egg cups can be baked ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator, and reheated in the microwave for a later time.  If this is the plan, bake the eggs on the shorter time, knowing that reheating will bring the eggs to a firmer texture.    

For another egg cup recipe, see an earlier post on the process egg cup recipes.  

Red Pepper Egg Cups
2 medium red bell peppers
12 small cherry tomatoes, 8 if larger in size
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 large eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, or oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray oil

Cut each pepper in half through the stem end.  Remove the ribs and seeds.  Place the peppers in the pan, cut side up.  Place 2-3 cherry tomatoes inside the well of each pepper.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Place the baking sheet and peppers in the preheated oven, roasting for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Crack one egg into each pepper cup, sprinkling a bit of salt over each egg.  Divide the cheese evenly topping each egg, about 1 tablespoon per egg cup.  Sprinkle with the dried Italian herbs.  Return the baking sheet to the oven, baking the eggs for 12-15 minutes, depending on desired "doneness" for the egg.  Serve immediately while hot.  

Saturday, April 23, 2022

ChezCindy: Balsamic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Chicken and Pasta


This lovely dinner of roasted cherry tomatoes and chicken was created with the intention to have a meal that could be eaten at time of making it or saved and reheated for another time.  Both have great success.  The chicken remains tender and moist due to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  If serving with the pasta, that too can be made ahead of time and stored separately in a zip-top bag, combining each after reheating.   I have also served this with quinoa or rice, but pasta is the favorite topped with grated Parmesan cheese.  

Balsamic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Chicken 
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 8-ounces each
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small red onion, sliced vertically
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Working with a 10-inch square baking dish, or something similar, place the cherry tomatoes and the garlic into the dish.  Pour in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add in the brown sugar.  Stir a bit just to distribute the sugar.  Nestle in the chicken among the cherry tomatoes.  

Place the sprigs of fresh thyme on top of the chicken.  Scatter the sliced onions around and over the tomatoes and chicken.  Sprinkle on the salt and a bit of black pepper.  

Place the baking dish into the hot oven.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes have slumped and the chicken is tender with an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Remove the thyme stems, with the fallen leaves remaining on the chicken.  Serve hot with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese as desired.  

Friday, April 8, 2022

ChezCindy: Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


This carrot cake recipe is one to make when you have time to relax and enjoy the process of baking.  There are several steps to prepare ahead of time before actually creating the cake batter.  You'll need to make brown butter, which is not difficult but browning three sticks of butter takes a good amount of time to slowly bring it to color, adding a depth of nutty flavor.  Additional nuttiness and texture come from toasted pecans, either purchased as toasted or toasting them yourself.  And not to forget, grating the carrots, by hand with a box grater (recommended) or in the food processor.  After doing all that, then you are ready to make the cake batter.  But the reward and use of time is well worth it, resulting in an irresistible carrot cake.  

My favorite carrot cake recipe is this one created by Ina Garten that I posted in an earlier post.  I love the traditional flavors using crushed pineapple, dried currents and toasted walnuts, baked into individual small cakes.  I was drawn to this new recipe, based on one from Martha Stewart, as I wanted to use brown butter in the cake batter.  Ms. Stewart's original recipe does not use browned butter, but it uses butter, whereas most other carrot cake recipes I have seen use oil.  I improvised her recipe increasing the spice level with more cinnamon, also adding dried ginger, and fresh orange zest.  

Both recipes result in a moist cake that is a challenge to resist eating more than one piece.  Share it with a crowd of friends and family.  


Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), plus more for buttering the pan
1 cup toasted pecans**, chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 cups grated carrots, (12 ounces of whole carrots)
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest

Makes one 9x13-inch sheet pan cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper across the long edges of the pan with 2-3 inches of overhang on the long edges.  This will act as a sling to remove the cooled cake from the pan (pictured below).  Butter the parchment paper on the bottom and sides of the pan.  Dust the entire pan and parchment paper with flour, tapping out the excess flour.  Set aside.  

Working with a wide skillet, add the 3 sticks of butter to the pan placed over low heat.  Melt the butter, continue heating the butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is lightly browned.  This will take 25-30 minutes.  Once lightly browned, set aside to cool.

Chop the toasted pecans into small bits.  Set aside. 

Measure out the flour, placing it into a medium mixing bowl along with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Whisk together, set aside.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, place the grated carrots, eggs, sugar, buttermilk, vanilla and orange zest into the bowl of the stand mixer.  Set the mixing speed to medium-low to combine the ingredients.  Turn off the mixer, add in the flour mixture, mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated with the wet.  Transfer the cooled browned butter and chopped pecans to the batter, mixing until combined.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl and the bottom, stirring and folding to ensure the ingredients are well combined.  

Transfer the cake batter to the prepared baking pan, smoothing the thick batter evenly out to the corners.  Place into the preheated oven, center rack.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs.  The cake will be nicely browned.  Remove the cake from the oven, allowing to cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Using the parchment paper sling, lift out the cake to cool on the rack for another 20-25 minutes. 

Once fully cooled, ice the top of the cake with orange cream cheese frosting.   

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons shortening
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature*
1 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest

Working with a stand mixer or using an electric mixer, place the butter, shortening and cream cheese into a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium-high speed to combine until fluffy.  Add in the salt, vanilla and orange zest, mixing to combine.  Gradually add in the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting is thick and creamy.  

* I recommend using real Philadelphia brand cream cheese as the texture is superior for making cream cheese frosting compared to generic.  

** To toast raw pecans:  preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the pecans onto a sheet pan with sides, spreading the pecans into a single layer.  Toast in the oven for 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven, allowing the pecans to remain on the sheet pan to cool completely.  Use when cooled, or store in an air-tight container for later use.  


Friday, April 1, 2022

ChezCindy: Italian Beans and Greens


I was very surprised at how much I loved this recipe for Italian Beans and Greens.  My recipe is loosely based one I found in Ina Garten's cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey.  However, beans and greens are a concept found in many cultures and most don't require a true recipe.  Using canned beans is a time saver and does not lessen the quality of the dish.  That said, I will borrow a term from Ina, use good chicken stock.  I had homemade stock in my freezer, that elevated the taste overall.  

Most Italian beans and greens use escarole lettuce.  I do like escarole, but I had kale available along with the remaining ingredients, with the kale making a fine substitute.  I like this kind of recipe where you can sub in what you have in the pantry or fridge.  I used cannellini beans, which are white kidney beans, very creamy in texture.  Other beans that could be used are navy beans, or great northern white beans.  I'm a big fan of Pecorino Romano cheese, using it and Parmesan cheese too.  

Italian Beans and Greens 
2 15-ounce cans white cannellini beans, unsalted
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large bunch of kale. cut into 2-inch pieces 
3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

extra hot chicken broth if desired to serve
good olive oil for final drizzle to serve

Drain and rinse the white beans, set aside.  Working with a large 11-inch pan or a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add in the minced garlic, the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, chicken stock, drained beans, crushed red pepper flacks and salt.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.  Using a potato masher or a fork, mash half of the beans in the pan, continue simmering for 3-4 minutes.  Add the cut kale to the pan, cover and steam the kale to wilt into the beans.  Stir gently to combine.  Remove from the heat, sprinkle on half of the Pecorino and Parmesan cheese.  Seve hot with additional hot broth if a soupy texture is desired.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top as preferred, and a drizzle of good olive oil.  

Saturday, March 26, 2022

ChezCindy: Meatballs and Mexican Salsa Sauce


Here is a new twist on meatballs simply by adding in jarred salsa to make Mexican mini meatballs. The meatballs are a fun and delicious appetizer for a party, or as a meal served with a side of roasted vegetables.  I made a delicious soup by adding the cooked meatballs to my recipe for chicken soup substituting the poached chicken with the meatballs, to make a Mexican meatball soup.   

This recipe is a great one for young chefs just starting out in the kitchen.  There is not much to chop, and with supervision at the stove, all new cooks will gain a sense of accomplishment.  Short on prep time and long on flavor!  

Meatballs and Mexican Salsa Sauce
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-pound lean ground beef
3 tablespoons oil

1 cup mild or spicy jarred salsa
1/2 cup water

Working with a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, ketchup, chopped cilantro, dried oregano and salt, stirring to combine.  Add in the grated Parmesan cheese and the ground beef.  Using a fork, or your hands, mix the cheese and ground beef in with the breadcrumb mixture.  Mix until just combined so as not to overwork the mixture.  

Place a deep-sided pan over medium-high heat.  Add the 3 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan.  Using a small spring-loaded scoop or a teaspoon measure, scoop the meatball mixture into mini meatballs packing it firmly, adding them directly to the hot pan.  Cook the meatballs without moving them until nicely browned on the first side, about 5 minutes.  Use a flat metal spatula or metal spoon to flip over to continue cooking the meatballs for additional 2 minutes.  You may need to do this in 2 batches to cook all of the mini meatballs, setting the partially cooked meatballs aside on a plate, repeating with the remaining meatball mix.  Return all of the meatballs to the pan if having cooked in 2 batches.  The meatballs are not fully cooked at this time.  

Add the cup of mild or spicy jarred salsa to the hot pan with the partially cooked meatballs, along with 1/2 cup water without stirring to allow the sauce to bubble and finish cooking the meatballs, about 5 minutes. Gently stir the salsa sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan to incorporate into the salsa sauce.  Turn off the heat, remove the meatballs and salsa sauce to a serving bowl.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

ChezCindy: Quick and Easy Chicken Enchiladas


Rotisserie chickens are fabulous anytime just as they are, served with a salad and a fresh baguette, all bought from the grocery store for a quick delicious dinner.  What is really great about rotisserie chicken is the versatility of the leftover chicken!  I've mentioned this in previous posts, like this chicken pot pie recipe.  In this simple recipe I'm using the leftover chicken to make quick and easy chicken enchiladas.  All it takes to make an entirely different dinner are a few additional ingredients, store-bought as well.  Great for dinner when you are short on time but want a flavorful meal.  

Quick Chicken Enchiladas
1 cup refried beans, from 1 15-ounce can
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 16-ounce jar of mild salsa, divided (spicy if preferred)
12-15 6-inch soft corn tortillas

Additional toppings and sour cream for serving, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Working with a large bowl, stir together the beans, oregano, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Add in the shredded chicken.  Season with salt, stirring to combine.

In a separate smaller bowl, add the jar of salsa with 1 cup of water, stirring to combine.  Measure out 1 cup of the thin salsa mixture, pouring it into a 9x13-inch glass Pyrex baking dish.  

Lay out the soft corn tortillas.  Evenly divide the chicken and cheese mixture among the tortillas, slightly less than 1/4 cup for each tortilla, placing the chicken mixture in a line across the tortilla.  Pick up one side of the tortilla, lifting it to cover the chicken.  Continue to roll the tortilla and chicken mixture to form a long slender tube.  Place the tortilla chicken tube in the baking dish with the salsa, seam-side down.  Continue rolling each tortilla chicken mixture placing each into the baking dish.  Gently press each tortilla with your hands, fitting each tortilla roll closely together to fill the baking dish.  Pour the remaining salsa over the rolled tortilla.  Then sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the enchiladas.  

Place the baking dish into the hot oven, baking the enchiladas until the cheese is melted and the enchiladas are hot, about 25-30 minutes.  Serve with additional toppings and a spoonful of sour cream.  

Sunday, March 13, 2022

ChezCindy: Shrimp & Cod Parchment Packets


The technique of cooking seafood, vegetables, and herbs together in a parchment paper packet is a French cooking process called 'en papillote'.  The process of sealing the ingredients within the paper packet creates steam from the natural juices released from the seafood and vegetables.  The ingredients mingle and mix, cooking quickly yielding a complete meal for your family and guests to enjoy.  The only accompaniment needed is some great bread to sop up all of the juices, while you soak up the praise. 

Shrimp & Cod en Papillote
4 4-ounce portions of skinless white flakey fish, cod or halibut
8 large shrimp (13-15 per pound) peeled and deveined
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-2 small zucchini
1-2 small yellow squash
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and peeled
2 small shallots
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
fresh herbs, such as Italian parsley or basil 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place 4 sheets of parchment paper (approximately 16"x12" in size) on a work surface.  Fold each sheet in half crosswise, like a book.  Set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini, squash, and carrot into ribbons by pulling the vegetable peeler across the length of each vegetable.  Peel the shallots and slice thinly. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. 

Working with the prepared parchment paper, open the folded sheets spacing each sheet in front of you to begin.  Divide the ribbons of zucchini, squash, carrot, (about ¼ cup total combined) and sliced shallot among the 4 sheets of parchment, placing the vegetables in the center just under the fold on one side of the paper.  Spread out the vegetable bundle into a thin layer, roughly 4x3-inches in size.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of oil.  Place one portion of fish on top of the vegetables.  Place 1 shrimp nestled at the right side of the fish and 1 shrimp nestled at the left side of the fish, using a total of 2 shrimp per packet.  Scatter the tomato halves around the fish and shrimp.  Drizzle the fish, shrimp and tomatoes with the remaining oil, sprinkling each fish packet with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.  Place a 1/2 tablespoon of butter onto the top of each fish.  Add a 1/2 tablespoon of fresh herbs to each packet.  

Close the top half of the parchment paper over the fish and vegetables.  Begin crimping the parchment paper, starting at one corner of the folded edge, make small overlapping folds to close the open edges of the packet.  The paper will begin to resemble a half-moon shape.  Crimp the last edge for the final seal.

Place the sealed packets onto 2 large, rimmed baking sheets - 2 packets of fish per baking sheet.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.  This is where you'll want to toast some bread, ready for sopping up the juices.  Place one packet onto 4 separate plates.  Carefully, using scissors to cut open the top of each packet (steam will escape), keeping the fish and vegetables resting inside of the packet with its juices.  Serve as a full meal and enjoy.