Welcome to my site!

Welcome to my site!
I'm Cindy, and I love to cook! And, I love to eat... hence the size of my rear end! I come from a long line of cooks. My great great Grandmother was a cook in the original Harvey Houses. My grandmother Julia was an awesome cook, and my mom was incredible. I owe my skills to these great women. Especially my Mom who said this to me about making gravy... "Cindy Lynn, wallpaper paste is wallpaper paste & gravy is gravy. Never the two shall meet!" Shall we say my first experience at making gravy left a little bit to be desired! Thank the high heavens my cooking skills have improved since then! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecakes

Got this recipe from my dear friend Jamie!  I’ve had the recipe for a while; I think we did a recipe exchange one Christmas.  However, I’ve never tried it before.  So, this weekend I dusted off my collection of goodie recipes and found this gem.  Gave it a try and we loved them!  Exceptionally easy to make – and with baking only 15 minutes – very little work in the kitchen.  The payoff is these incredibly creamy, delicious and decadent individual cheesecakes.  I can think of several other combinations and ideas for these little cupcake sized cheesecakes – and I’m sure I’ll share those recipes with you too!  Enjoy!
12 paper muffin cup liners
12 Nilla Vanilla Wafers
12 oz. Cream Cheese, softenen
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12 small Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Heat oven to 350.  Line regular sized muffin tins with paper baking cups.  Place one vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup – flat side down.
Beat softened cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy.  (I used my Kitchen Aid for this.  Perfect!)  Add the vanilla and beat in one egg at a time.
Fill cups three-fourths full.  Top each with one of the peanut butter cups.
Bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. 
Note: as I type this I’m wondering what it would have been like if I had used full sized peanut butter cups, instead of the small ones?  Additionally, I did make these the day before I served them at a party.  I just kept them in the fridge until we were ready to serve.  They held up perfectly.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Braided Ham & Cheese

I came up with this combination last summer and it was well received.  I’ve been trying to come up with a catchy title, but this seems to be as good as it gets.  Unless I go the way of “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” and call it the Appetizer Formerly Known as “to be named”.  Well, with a catchy name or not – it’s a yummy treat that is easy to make and perfect for appetizers and cocktails on the deck.  Enjoy!
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
3 oz Chevre Goat Cheese with herbs, room temperature
3 heaping tablespoons sour cream
8 - 10 pieces of shaved ham lunchmeat
6 large green olives with pimento, rough chopped
3 mushrooms, rough chopped
2 handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese
Chopped Fresh Rosemary
Mix the goat cheese with the sour cream.  Stir until well combine and smooth.
Lightly flour a cutting board; unfold the puff pastry.  Roll it out slightly, but you want to still be able to faintly see the creases from where it was folded. 
Cut diagonal cuts in the pastry, as shown below, leaving the middle panel intact.  These will be the “braids”.

Spread the goat cheese mixture down the middle panel of the puff pastry.  Loosely fold the ham and place down the middle, leaving hills and valleys.  Scatter the olives and mushrooms over the ham.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over that.  Sprinkle fresh rosemary over the cheese.
With the diagonal cuts facing toward you, start folding the pieces of pastry over the top of the middle panel – alternating sides - effectively braiding the pastry.
When all the cuts have been braided, place on a cookie sheet and paint with egg wash.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Note: Truthfully, you could use any combination of meats & cheeses in this braid.  I just happened to have ham and mozzarella on hand and loved those two with the green olives.  But, you could get creative and make this a couple of different ways. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jalapeno Lemon Drop

I love Lemon Drops – especially when the weather gets warm they are so refreshing!  We recently saw a recipe for Jalapeno Lemon Drops, which called for Jalapeno infused Vodka.  I wanted one so badly, but didn’t have Jalapeno infused Vodka – nor did I want to take the week or two necessary to make my own.  SO, I had the brilliant idea to make Jalapeno Simple Syrup and use THAT in the my normal lemon drop recipe.  It turned out amazing!!  I think you’re going to LOVE this one.  Just the right amount of spicy combined with the perfect lemony sweetness.  So amazing!
3 oz. Vodka (good quality top shelf preferred)
1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz jalapeno simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 oz orange juice


Shake all in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Pour into two frozen martini glasses. Garnish with a jalapeno slice, or lemon twist. YUM!

Simple Syrup Recipe
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 jalapeno, seeded and rough chopped
In a small blender, like a Bullet, add sugar and jalapeno.  Whirl until the jalapeno is finely chopped and sugar has turned green.  Add a little bit of the water to help it combine.
Place the sugar mixture with the remaining water in a saucepan.  Bring to boil and cook until sugar dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain through a mesh sieve to separate chunks and fiber of jalapeno.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower

My niece Erin introduced me to Roasted Cauliflower last Thanksgiving.  It was delightful and I wondered why I had never tried to roast cauliflower before.  This is super easy and quick.  It’s very delicious and good for you!
1 head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
Good Quality Olive Oil
Black Truffle Salt
Preheat oven to 400°.
Wash and cut cauliflower into florets; place into a bowl.  Drizzle Olive Oil over the cauliflower and toss to coat.  Sprinkle Truffle Salt over and toss well to coat.
Turn out onto a baking sheet; I like to use the kind with an edge to prevent spills in the oven and I use a Silpat to keep the cauliflower from sticking to the baking sheet – plus it makes for easier clean up.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  Start checking the cauliflower at about the 15 minute mark to be sure it’s not burning.  Take it out when it looks good to you. 
You can garnish with some fresh chives or parsley, if desired.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any when I took the picture above.  They don’t really add much in the way of flavor – it’s just more for visual appeal.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cream of Asparagus Soup

We had dinner at a new restaurant a while back.  The soup of the day was cream of asparagus.  I love asparagus – but had never had this type of soup.  So, I ordered it.  I wasn’t super impressed.  It seemed to lacking “something”, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  So, as I’m prone to do, I began the process of trying to recreate the soup – only better.  After several attempts – this is what I’ve got for you today.  Mmm Mmm Good!
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 small white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 – 2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 – 1 ½ lbs. asparagus, ends cut off and then chop spears into chunks
1 quart chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 – 3 oz. fresh spinach
2 Tbls. Butter
2 heaping Tbls. Flour
1 cup milk
Drizzled the olive oil into a soup pot.  Sauté the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes for about seven minutes; until the onions are translucent.  Add the chicken broth, bouillon cubes and chopped asparagus.  Bring to simmer and cook until the asparagus is well cooked; about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool.
Place the soup ingredients in a blender and whirl until completed blended.  Add some of the spinach.  I add about a handful at a time.  You want to give a nice green color to the soup – but not too dark of a green.  So, I find adding a little spinach at a time allow you to control the color of the soup.
To the same pot in which you cooked the asparagus, make a roux by adding the butter and then flour.  Cook just a minute or two; add the milk and whish until well blended.  Now, add the soup mixture from the blender.  Whisk to completely combine.  Continue cook for just about five minutes.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with chives.  FANTASTIC!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Quinoa Mac and Cheese

I really love quinoa – and for that matter I love mac and cheese.  This is a healthy and totally delicious compromise on macaroni and cheese.  It’s got fabulous texture – especially with the vegetables – and incredible flavor.  Unfortunately, there’s no picture today.  It’s difficult to get an appetizing photo of this dish.  None of the shots turned out appealing and quite frankly – I just really wanted to EAT. 
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken broth
Veggies of your choice (optional, I use onion, mushroom and zucchini)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
A little seasoning salt
1 cup soy milk or non-fat milk
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, more for sprinkling
Crushed Red Pepper, could be added to quinoa while cooking or to vegetables while sautéing
Panko Bread crumbs for topping while baking
Salsa, Hot Sauce, Sour Cream or Scallions for toppings
Lightly sauté any veggies you would like in this dish, season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Bring the chicken broth to a boil, add the minced garlic and rinsed drained quinoa.  Place a lid on the pot and reduce heat.  Simmer until fully cooked and all liquid is absorbed.  About 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 13x9 inch dish (or 8 individual ramekins) with cooking spray.
Whisk together eggs, seasoning salt and milk in large bowl. Fold in quinoa, sautéed vegetables  and cheese. Stir very well and let some of the cheese melt. 
Transfer to prepared baking dish and if using Panko Crumbs or Bread crumbs sprinkle on top now and bake 30-35 minutes, until bread crumbs are browned. 
Serve and enjoy – using any of the optional toppings of your choice.  I actually didn’t use anything except the Panko Crumbs.  It was delicious just by itself.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Flan Cake

This was AMAZING!  I found this recipe on www.MyBigFatCubanFamily.com.  I did make a slight adjustment to her original recipe in that I don’t make cakes according to the package directions.  I always follow the process outlined below when making cakes.  It makes the texture and taste more like “from scratch”.  What a fantastic treasure this cake is.  I’ve never had much luck making flan.  But, when I saw the recipe for Flan Cake – I thought it sounded wonderful.  Oh My… it was more than wonderful!  Deliciously sweet and the flan is so creamy and decadent.  In fact, as I’m creating this post I wish I had a piece of it waiting for me!  But, alas – I made this more than a month ago.   Hmm… might be time to run to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make it again – and soon! 
For the cake -
1 yellow cake mix
4 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup water
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
For the Caramel Topping & Flan -
1/4 cup caramel topping
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 large can evaporated milk
1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a large Bundt pan
Place the cake mix and instant pudding in a mixing bowl.  Add the 4 eggs and beat slightly.  Add the oil and water and beat until well blended – starting very slowly at first.  I use my KitchenAid stand mixer for this.  Stopping halfway through the mixing process to ensure the dry ingredients are being thoroughly combined.
Pour the caramel topping around the bottom of the Bundt pan.
Pour cake mix over caramel.
In a blender, mix together well: remaining 4 eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract.
Pour gently through a mesh strainer over cake mix in the Bundt pan. (You’re sifting out any large pieces of the egg.)
Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Place filled Bundt pan in a 9×13 pan filled with hot water about 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the side of the Bundt pan.  The cake mix will begin to rise to the top.
Bake (in the water bath) one hour at 350 degrees. It should be slightly golden brown. Test for doneness by inserting toothpick in the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
Remove from water bath and cool 10 to 15 minutes.
Invert onto a cake plate. The caramel will still be runny – it’s supposed to melt over the cake, so be careful when inverting.  Some of mine remained in the bundt pan – so I drizzled additional caramel sauce over the cake before serving.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cuban Sandwich Braid

We love our monthly “dinner and movie” nights with our good friends.  Our recent movie was “Chef” starring Jon Favreau.  If you haven’t seen it – I highly recommend it.  The theme of the movie centers on the relationship of a father and son.  And, it features delicious Cuban Sandwiches.  I was in charge of making the appetizers.  I thought that making Cuban Sandwiches would be too filling, so I improvised and made a version of a Cuban, but as an appetizer braid.  I hope you enjoy!
1 porketta roast  (If your market doesn’t have porketta roasts – you can use a regular pork roast and season it well.  I just happen to like the flavor of the porketta and this allowed me to just pop it in the oven with no prep.)
8 -10 slices of shaved ham
4 – 6 slices of dill pickle
4 – 6 slices of swiss cheese
Yellow Mustard
1 sheet puff pastry
Roast the Porketta at 350 until done.  I used a fairly small roast – so it was cooked in just about an hour.  Allow to cool and then slice into thin pieces.
Lightly flour a cutting board; unfold the puff pastry.  Roll it out slightly, but you want to still be able to faintly see the creases from where it was folded. 
Cut diagonal flaps in the pastry, as shown below, leaving the middle panel intact.  These will be the “braids”.

Spread the yellow mustard down the middle of the puff pastry.  Layer as follows:  Pork Roast, Swiss Cheese, Pickles, Ham, Swiss Cheese.
With the diagonal cuts facing toward you, start folding the pieces of pastry over the top of the middle panel – alternating sides - effectively braiding the pastry.
When all the cuts have been braided, place on a cookie sheet and paint with egg wash.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
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