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!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Melon Mojito Salad

I enjoyed this delicious salad on our recent visit to New Orleans.  I ordered it as the starter to my lunch at Café Adelaide & Swizzle Stick Bar.  (And, by the way, I highly recommend this restaurant for lunch.  They offer $.25 martini lunches.  Order an entrée and your martini’s are only $.25.  The menu says, “limit of three – because three’s all you need!”  Fabulous food, impeccable service and beautiful atmosphere!)  I have tried to duplicate the salad since my return home.  I think I’ve done an admirable job.  I’ve served it twice, and all have enjoyed it and raved over it.  So – enjoy!
 
Ingredients:
 
Seasonal melon, cut into small pieces  (I used watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.  The melon will be arranged on the salad greens – so use enough for the number of salads you will be serving.)
Mint, chopped finely
1 – 2 Tbls dark rum, depending upon how much melon you’re using
 
Combination of greens, enough for the number of salads you will be serving  (I used Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce)
 
Chunks of Goat Cheese
 
Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
 
Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
 
Directions:
 
Combine the melon, mint and rum in a container about 30 minutes before serving the salad.  I’ve made this as much as three hours before serving and the melon didn’t become mushy. However, I did place it back in the fridge to marinate.
 
Combine the greens in a large bowl.  Drizzle with Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette and toss.  Serve the greens on individual plates.
 
Scatter chunks of Goat cheese on top of the greens and then arrange the melon on top of that. Sprinkle the Spiced Pecans on top.  Serve and enjoy this refreshing and delightful salad.
 
Note:  You could also add some grilled chicken to make this a main course salad.
 
Spiced Pecans Recipe:
(Adapted From Alton Brown)
 
4 oz pecan halves
¼ tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ tsp water
 
Mix the spices together in a small bowl and set aside.  Place the nuts in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes until they start to brown and smell toasted.  Be careful they don’t burn.  Add the butter and stir until it melts.  Add the spice mixture and stir to combine.  Add the sugar and water, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts.  (Approximately 2 to 3 minutes)
 
Transfer the nuts to a prepared sheet pan (line a sheet pan with parchment paper – or spray with non-stick cooking spray) separate them with a fork or spatula.  Allow the nuts to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container for storage.
 
For this salad – you will break the spiced pecan halves into pieces for topping the salad.  I suppose you could start with pecan pieces – but I was afraid I would burn them more easily than starting with the halves.
 
Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette Recipe:
 
2 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces – fry until crisp.  Drain on paper towel – reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease
 
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons minced shallot
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon grease
 
Place everything, except the bacon, into a small blender.  (I use the small container of my Bullet for this)  Whirl until everything is completely combined and smooth.  Add the bacon to the vinaigrette.   Set aside. 
 
Note:  I’ve made this the night before making the salad.  However, I didn’t add the bacon until about 30 minutes before serving.  Just place in the fridge until ready to use.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Eating My Way Through New Orleans


There is no doubt that the city of New Orleans lives within me.  Almost 25 years ago I took my very first trip there.  A little piece of my heart and soul stayed - and I return as often as I can to visit the city that holds my heart! 
 
On our most recent trip we tried to eat at restaurants at which we hadn't eaten before.  We have always had amazing meals in NOLA - and this time was no exception.  Just gives me more places to add to my list of recommendations.  In the past we have eaten at Emeril's, NOLA, Delmonico, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, Muriel's, Commander's Palace, Court of Two Sisters and Bayona - to name a few.  We've had Po-Boy's at Johnny's, Mother's and Parasol's.  All of them delicious.  But, as I mentioned, we wanted to try places to which we hadn't been before.  So, here is a visual tour of some of our best meals on our most recent visit to The Big Easy!
 
Kingfish
 
We celebrated my birthday at Kingfish, in the French Quarter.  Fabulous appetizers, which I neglected to take photos of.  But, the main course - a hearty 14oz RibEye Steak with Guava Butter French Fries... that was heavenly.  The steak was cooked to perfection with a touch of creamy horseradish on top and olive salad confit.  Wow!  This was wonderful!
 

 
Café Du Monde

No trip to NOLA would be complete without several visits for Beignet's and Café Au Lait.  Sooooo wonderful!!

 
 
Parkway Bakery

I neglected to take photos of the Surf & Turf Po-Boys that we consumed. (I was too busy eating and enjoying it!) Think delectable fall apart roast beef with a touch of gravy and mounds of grilled shrimp.  Oh My!  They were so good!  My son had the alligator sausage po-boy.  He loved it.  Of course, you MUST request your Po-Boys be "dressed".  (That means it has lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise; onions are optional. Non-seafood po' boys will also usually have mustard; the customer is expected to specify "hot" or "regular"—the former being a coarse-grained Creole mustard and the latter being American yellow mustard.)  This wonderful neighborhood find is in Bayou St. John.  We will definitely return here on our future visits.
 
 
 
Atchafalaya

I wanted to go here for my birthday brunch - but waited too long to request reservations.  But, that's alright... it just extended the celebration by another day.  (Oh, who am I kidding... I celebrate my birthday for at least a month... and we've begun working up to "birthday season".  LOL)  The breakfast was so good.  Each of us had a version of Egg's Benedict - but Café Atchafalaya style.  I had Egg's Atchafalaya which was served on Fried Green tomatoes with lump meat crab. My son had the Eggs Treme and a side Alligator Sausage.  This was served on Boudin Cakes with Popcorn Crawfish.  The hubby had The Boudreaux which was served on Jalapeno Cornbread cakes with Alligator Sausage.  

 
 
 
They have an amazing Bloody Mary Bar!  Think "Salad Bar" but for your Bloody Mary's.  When you order one they bring the glass of vodka to your table, on ice.  You then build your own Bloody Mary by picking and choosing between three different mixes - Mild, Spicy and the House Green.  And, you get to add whatever garnishes you desire from the excellent and varied choices of vegies and garnishes.  We loved these!  (I had the Spicy on the left - and Hubby had the House Green)
 
 
 
 Commander's Palace

While we wanted to eat at "new to us" restaurants - we couldn't resist going to Commander's for their $.25 martini lunch.  We ate in the Garden Room - which is beautiful.  I had requested the Upstairs Garden Room - which I like even more - but they weren't sitting upstairs that day. 

We began with the famous martini's.  Vodka Please - Dirty - Three Olives.
 
For lunch, I had a Crab Boiled Seafood Tamale, Hubby had the Pickled Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Mango.  My son had Beef Carpaccio Panzanella Salad... and the guys had Chicken & Andouille Gumbo for starters (not pictured) and I had the Famous Turtle Soup... Heavenly.  We topped it all off with Baked Bread Pudding Souffle - AMAZING!

Commander's Palace is in the Garden District.  We usually take a cab there - so we don't have to worry about timing.  But, then we take the St. Charles Streetcar back after strolling through the area a bit.  Makes for a lovely day.
 

 
La Boca

Ok... this was INCREDIBLE!  La Boca is an Argentina Style Steakhouse in the Warehouse District and Zagat rated it the best steakhouse in New Orleans.

We started with the Gaucho Plate for appetizers - again, I was too busy eating to remember to take a photo.  The plate contained sausage, steak bites and sweet breads.  Everything was spectacular. 

When serving the steaks, they bring around a selection of steak knives and allow you to choose your own "weapon".  That was kind of fun!  All of our steaks were cooked to perfection.  No frills here - just delicious, mouth watering steaks.  (and the asparagus and French fries were pretty delicious too!) 
 
 
 
Herbsaint

We had a delicious dinner at Herbsaint on St. Charles in The Warehouse District. The Men had the Top RibEye with Fries - Oh My Goodness... that was the MOST amazing steak EVER! More like a tenderloin or Filet Mignon... Incredibly tender and delicious. I had Chicken & Andouille Gumbo and Shrimp with Tasso Ham Collard Greens served over the creamiest Grits I've ever had. Wonderful. Oh - I might have washed it all down with my very first Pimms Cup. Yum-O. Fantastic dinner with excellent service! Definite recommend!
 
 
 
Café Adelaide & Swizzle Stick Bar

Café Adelaide is on the corner of Poydras and S. Peters.  It is located in the Loew's hotel.  This is another Brennan's Restaurant - and they also participate in the fabulous $.25 martini lunch.  The food was delicious and the service and atmosphere were excellent.

Hubby had a Dirty Martini and I opted for a Cosmopolitan this time.  OK, we both had more than one... but we WERE on vacation after all!  ;-)

The Hubby and I both started with the Mojito Melon Salad. Wow! I have been working to recreate this one at home!  I think I've just about perfected it.  So, look for my recipe in the next few days.  Hubby had the Jalapeno Jelly Lacquered Chicken. I had the Black Skillet Roasted Drum with Spring Succotash and Son had the Chargrilled Skirt Steak Salad. Everything was Very Very Good!
 
 
 
 
 
Cocktails at The Carousel Bar in The Hotel Monteleone

After an afternoon of strolling through the French Quarter, we stopped at The Hotel Monteleone for a cocktail in The Carousel Bar. (Vodka Tonic's) It is delightful and a must see.  One of our favorite places to visit when in town.  The hotel is beautiful too.  So, if you're looking for accommodations in The French Quarter - this is one of my favorites. 



Muriel's

For our "last supper" we ate at Muriel's on Jackson Square. We have dined here for lunch on previous visits - but this was our first time having dinner there.

Hubby had New Orleans barbeque shrimp enhanced with Abita beer and rosemary; served with a chipotle-parmesan grit cake.  Son had the Wood Grilled Tournedos of Beef, which was Three Tournedos topped with a choron, au poivre and a chasseur sauce, with smoked bleu cheese mashed potatoes.  And I had Pan Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast with Duck confit dirty rice and a fig reduction sauce . 

Everything was wonderful.  But, I resisted the urge to take photos.  My son was a little "over" us taking photos at every meal and felt that I was not displaying good table manners and that I was acting like a tourist.  Gotta love a teenager!  In any case - I promised him I wouldn't take photos at this dinner - so I didn't.  But, trust me... it looked and tasted amazing!
 

So, another adventure to the City that Care Forgot has come to an end.  It always saddens me when I have to say good bye to this beautiful city.  As usual, I cried on the way to the airport - and I'm already trying to plan our next trip back.  It gives me something to look forward too!

Until we meet again -

Au Revoir!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chilled Parsnip & Mushroom Soup

Several  years ago I had the MOST AMAZING chilled soup at Muriel’s on Jackson Square in New Orleans.  (The City that holds a piece of my heart and soul!)  I’ve tried four or five times to duplicate it… I think I’ve finally perfected it.  This is a wonderfully creamy refreshing soup – that is lower in calories than you would think.  Serve it chilled as a first course to lunch or dinner on a warm summer day.  Phenomenal!

Ingredients:
2 ½ lbs parsnips, peeled and sliced into ½” rounds
3 cloves, smashed
2 chicken bouillon cubes
 
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
4 oz shallots, sliced
2 sprigs Thyme, strip the leaves from the stem
1 - 2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
 
5 – 6 cups chicken stock (I use Rachael Ray or Swanson’s)
2 spoons of “Better than Bouillon” Chicken  (Just a regular spoon from your silverware)
8 oz Fat Free Sour Cream
Salt & White Pepper to taste
 
Optional Garnish:  Truffle Oil and/or Chopped Chives
 
Directions:
 
Place the cut parsnips, smashed garlic and bouillon cubes in a soup pot; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until fork tender.  Approximately 30 – 45 minutes.
 
Warm the olive oil and butter in a non-stick skillet; add shallots and mushrooms.   Sauté until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are cooked.   Just before the mixture is done cooking, add the thyme leaves.  Add a touch of salt and white pepper to taste.
 
When the parsnip mixture is cooked; drain thoroughly.  Place half the parsnips, half the mushrooms, and half the chicken stock into a blender.  Blend until completely smooth.  Pour back into the soup pot.  Repeat with remaining parsnip, mushrooms and stock.  Add more stock, if necessary to the pot.  You want a creamy mixture – but not too thick. 
 
Return the soup pot to the heat.  Add the “Better than Bouillon” and heat until it just begins to bubble.   Remove from heat; whisk the sour cream into the soup.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.
 
Allow the soup to cool and then place into the fridge until chilled.
 
Serve with sprinkled chopped chives and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.  Could also serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Raspberry Lemonade Bars

Found these on Pinterest.   They are SOOO Yummy!  What a great recipe for the summer monthsThe original recipe can be found on the Improv Kitchen Blog, HERE.  Because baking is not my forte, I followed the directions to the letter.  The original recipe did call for ¾ cup sugar, but it was indicated if you preferred the dessert to be more sweet and less tart – increase the sugar to 1 ½ cups sugar.  I compromised and used 1 cup.  When I make these again, I think I will increase it to 1 ¼ cup – as indicated in the recipe below.
 
Ingredients:
 
For the crust:
9 T. (1 stick + 1 T.) butter
¼ c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
 
For the filling:
12 oz (heaping 2 c.) frozen raspberries thawed
¼ c. sugar
⅔ c. lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
2 T. lemon zest (3 lemons worth)
3 egg whites
1 egg
⅔ c. flour
pinch of salt
 
Optional:
powdered sugar for dusting on top
 
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 350º F. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper so you can easily lift the bars out once they've cooled.
 
To make the crust:
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, then add in vanilla. Add flour until just incorporated. Dump dough in baking pan and press with your hands until it evenly covers the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until slightly golden brown.
 
 
To make the filling:
Thaw the raspberries.  (If don’t have enough time for the raspberries to thaw on their own, place in microwave for 1 minute to soften them up.)  Put the raspberries in a fine mesh sieve and press the berries through (this removes the seeds) into a large bowl. If you don't mind seeds, you can add them in whole. Or if you don't have a sieve, you can blend them up in a food processor or blender. Add sugar, egg whites, egg, lemon juice + zest, flour, and salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the crust (don't worry, it's a very loose mixture, it will thicken) and bake for 25 - 30 minutes depending on your oven and the sized baking dish you use.
 
Let cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator for 4 hours (or until they've cooled completely). You can place them in the freezer if you need them sooner but refrigerator is best. If you let them cool overnight, they're even better!
 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tito's Tacos Copycat Salsa Recipe

No photo today.  I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to take a photo.  I was too busy stuffing my face with this delicious salsa!!!
 
Tito’s Taco’s is an institution in Culver City, where I grew up.  This is one of my favorite places for tacos, salsa and burrito’s.  Since I moved away I really miss their food – and I REALLY miss their salsa. 
 
I came across some copy-cat recipes on Pinterest the other day.  So, I decided to give it try.  I’ve put my own twist on it, as usual.  I’m not going to say this is a perfect copy-cat… but it’s pretty darned close.  And, even if you’ve never been to – or heard of – Tito’s, I think you’ll like this fresh salsa.
 
Ingredients:
 
8 -9 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/4 white onion
4 pickled jalapenos, sliced
Juice from the pickled jalapenos can, to taste (I used almost all of it)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Juice from one lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
 
Directions:
 
Put the tomatoes into a food processor and blend.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend until everything is chopped and the desired consistency.  Refrigerate overnight.  Enjoy!
 
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