Tuesday, December 8, 2015


My good friend Leslie recently visited from Tucson with her 3 adorable schnauzers to make this delicious Mac 'N Cheese dish with me. The recipe is from Pati's Mexican Table, which I am not familiar with, but it sure was fabulous! I think I need to tune into her program on The Food Network!
Here is Leslie putting the Mac and Cheese together-ready for baking!
1 lb. penne or elbow shaped pasta (Leslie was in Italy earlier this year and bought this pasta which is what we used.)
3 large poblano chiles (The recipe calls for just rinsing, stemming, seeding and cutting into chunks, but we decided to roast them.)

I am peeling and seeding the roasted poblanos. We actually used 4 peppers. Your whole house will smell wonderful! The first night I met my husband I was roasting peppers and I think that is why he fell in love with me!
3 cups milk
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the dish
6 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt (+ or - to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups Monterey Jack (or Mozzarella) plus 1 cup for topping (We used Monterey Jack.)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesana Reggiano plus 1/2 cup for topping (Here we used the Pecorino Romano; Leslie hand-grated!)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, shaved from the cob or frozen
1/2 pound zucchini (about 2 medium); chopped
6 slices bacon, fried and cut into chunks
1/4 tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt

Bring salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente; about 8-10 minutes. Drain.
In the jar of a blender, puree the poblano chiles and milk until completely smooth. Strain into a bowl, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure you get mostly liquid.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Once it has melted and begins to bubble, add the flour. Cook, stirring continuously for about 5-8 minutes to make a roux. Pour the poblano chile mixture into the roux, stirring as you do. Add salt and freshly ground pepper and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 3 cups Monterey Jack and 1 cup Pecorino Romano, mix well, remove from heat and stir until well combined.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until completely soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the corn and cook for a couple minutes more. Add the zucchini, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, mix well and set aside. You don't need to cook the zucchini as it will get plenty done in the oven.
In the large pot where pasta was cooked, add the drained pasta, poblano chile sauce and sautéed vegetables, gently toss to mix. Add the fried bacon.

Pour into buttered baking dish, top with remaining grated cheese and place in the oven until the top layer of cheese has melted and begun to crisp along the edges, about 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.
Gracie and Leslie enjoying a well-deserved glass of vino after that delicious meal!
The next morning, I added 6 eggs to the leftovers and made a fabulous Mac N' Cheese Mexicano omelette.

Christmas is a little more than 2 weeks away! Last time I told you about a Bourbon Infused Chicken Liver Pate with Cranberry Gelee that I made for Thanksgiving. It was fairly simple to put together and was a big hit. I think it would be a wonderful addition to your Christmas dinner, as well! Here are a couple of shots as I was making it.
It's hard to make liver look pretty, but here it is coming out of the food processor and getting pressed through a fine sieve. This step is important for getting a perfectly creamy consistency.
Adding 2 ounces of bourbon.
Flaming bourbon!
Pate in its mold to chill overnight before topping with Cranberry Gelee.

Here's the Pate plated and ready to serve.

And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

Friday, November 20, 2015


This is the first year ever in my adult life that I have not cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner. It already seems a little odd, but I know my husband and I will have a wonderful celebration with good friends and neighbors. I am grateful for the love all around me and am blessed to be surrounded by such beautiful people.

I am going to bring an appetizer and a turkey roulade to our neighbors who have graciously asked us to join their 20+ member family dinner! First, the appetizer...

I love chicken liver pate and double checked with Brian and Lori to make sure their family feels the same way. I found this recipe online and because I am making it for the first time will follow to the letter. It looks gorgeous!


In case you don't want to go to the Serious Eats site (which I am not familiar with), here is the recipe:


2 lbs. chicken livers, trimmed of sinew and fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
2 oz. bourbon or whiskey
2 oz. apple cider
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
If using sweetened cranberry juice, omit the sugar.

Pat livers dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large skillet until smoking. Cook half of the livers, turning, until browned on both sides and pink in the middle, about 4 minutes. Transfer livers to the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 more Tbsp. oil to the skillet, heat until smoking and cook the second half of the livers.
Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet, add shallots and thyme and cook, stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Add bourbon and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan until almost evaporated or flame the bourbon to cook off the alcohol (that's what I plan to do!). Add cider and cook until slightly reduced. Scrape shallots and any remaining liquid into food processor bowl with the livers.
Add butter and process, stopping to scrape down sides, until a smooth pure forms. (The recipe does not say this, but have your butter at room temperature before adding to the food processor. It will blend much easier.)
Set a fine mesh strainer/sieve over a large mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon or ladle, press and plunge liver through it. Season liver pure with salt and pepper and scrape into a large ramekin or terrine (I just bought a pate mold special for this occasion!). Tap the container against the counter to remove air pockets. Smooth surface, then press plastic wrap directly against surface and chill in refrigerator until set, at least 2 hours or overnight.

To make the Cranberry Gelee:
In a glass measuring cup, sprinkle gelatin on top of cranberry juice and let stand for 15 minutes. Transfer cranberry juice and gelatin to a small saucepan and stir in sugar (if using. It's simpler to just use regular sweetened cranberry juice). Heat over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and juice is simmering. Remove from heat and let cool. Gently pour cooled cranberry juice on top of pate. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until cranberry sets, at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. Pate can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before serving.

Here is the roulade (boneless stuffed turkey breast) I am bringing which I generally make every year along with the full, big bone-in bird. Go to link below for complete recipe.

And finally, recently I was asked if I have a good pumpkin cheesecake recipe. Here is one I made for my family Thanksgiving dinner a couple years ago. I served it with pumpkin ice cream, which made for a fabulous combo. The ice cream is not made from 'scratch' so really simple and easy to put together. Here is the link. Scroll down as the desserts are at the end of the blog.
We are sharing Thanksgiving dessert with some of my favorite golf ladies and their families. I will bring the pumpkin ice cream to them!
Thanksgiving is less than a week away!
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, bountiful holiday
filled with good food and lots of love!
And thanking you all for  tuning in to another episode of
Cook with Cindy. We just exceeded 15,000 views.
I am grateful to all of you for sharing my love of cooking.
Here's my Dad in his easy chair after a huge feast--Thanksgiving 2013.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I have wanted to make sausage at home for a long time. Falls into my category of wanting to make cheese, which I just did, ice cream, which I now make regularly, and pasta, which has become one of my favorite homemade treats. Last spring, March to be exact, I met with some good friends for a sausage making party. None of us had made it before, but among us we figured it out and had a blast doing it. What a fun and festive evening resulting in two beautiful sausages: Traditional Italian, and a gorgeous Chicken Sausage with Poblano Peppers and Cilantro. I made the Italian and think it came out pretty good for a first attempt, but was a little salty.
I did extensive reading on sausage making before attempting and one of the things that I read again and again was salt to meat ratio has to be EXACT in order for the meat to bind. Not sure that is completely true and next time will use less.
1 4 lb. skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt) cut into 1-2" pieces (I couldn't get a boneless shoulder so used a bone-in. Since you're cutting it apart, it doesn't really matter and this way you have the benefit of the bone for soup.)
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. Morton coarse Kosher salt (too much; next time I would use 1 1/2 Tbsp. salt)
1 Tbsp. toasted fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. Italian blended spice
3 tsp. freshly grated garlic
3 Tbsp. red wine
Here I am with my 4 lb. Boston Butt!! ;-0 Glad you're seeing this view!

Cleaning silver skin, tendons, and anything else that looks tough and nasty is important
even if you are grinding the meat.
Chill all grinder parts, including die with 1/4" holes, in freezer until very cold, about 1 hour. Chill a large stainless steel bowl in refrigerator until cold. Place pork in a single layer on 2 plastic wrap-lined baking sheets; cover and freeze until meat is very firm, but not frozen, about 1 hour.

I followed these steps closely as I thought it might influence texture.

Combine salt, fennel seeds, black pepper, white pepper, Italian spices, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl, set aside.

Grind pork on high speed, 3-4 pieces at a time, into chilled bowl (keep second baking sheet in freezer until ready to use.).
Tony and Griff are pretty pleased their sausage is ready to grind!
If grinder clogs, clean die and cutter before continuing. We had no problem here.

Add garlic and mix gently with your hands just to begin to distribute, about 20 seconds. Sprinkle reserved spice mixture evenly over pork and knead, rotating bowl, until spice mixture is evenly distributed and a light film forms on the side of the bowl, about 1 minute.

Add wine; knead until mixture holds together and is very stiff (it will spring back when pressed), about 1 minute. Do not over-mix or sausage will be crumbly.
Sausage Making Supporters Carrie and Anabel who kept wine glasses filled and offered so much encouragement!
Form 1/4 cup sausage mixture into a 3" diameter patty; press into your palm. Extend your hand with meat, palm facing down. If meat sticks for at least 5 seconds, it is sufficiently mixed. If not, continue to knead in 15 second intervals until it passes the palm test. (This sounds so complicated, but it really is not at all. I believe there is much latitude in making sausage, with the most important ingredients being FUN and LOVE!).
Place casings in a large bowl under cold running water and let sit, allowing water to overflow and flushing water through casings (take care not to tangle) until softened, about 2 minutes. Slide 1 casing onto stuffer nozzle, leaving a 6" overhand (do not tie).

If casing is too long or tangles, cut in half and work with 1 piece at a time. I bought these casings online and they worked beautifully!
Carrie and sausage supporter Diana who quickly decides to get her hands into it!

As Diana stuffs,  Tony receives the filled casings.
Pack a handful of sausage mixture very lightly into stuffer. Working with a partner and with stuffer on high speed, use plunger (or your hands) to push meat through, gradually filling casing; gently slide filled casing off nozzle onto a baking sheet as you go (or in our case, the counter!).
Fill casing firmly, but do not overstuff (mixture will tighten when links are twisted, and overfilled casing will burst when cooked). As casing fills, lightly prick air bubbles (about 3 pricks per sausage--this helps prevent bursting) with sausage pricker. Leave at least 6" of empty casing at the end. Repeat with remaining casing and sausage mixture.
Griff and me tying off the sausage links.
I looked everywhere, including online, for the perfect sausage pricker, but could not find one so we
ended up using a toothpick, which worked perfectly. The tool I am looking for has a knife on one end
to cut the sausage once tied, and a two-pronged pricker on the other end.
Tie off 1 end of casing, making a knot flush with meat. Starting 6" from knot, pinch off a 6" length, squeezing on both sides (this part was really fun!). Twist link toward you 2 rotations. Staring 6" from link, pinch off another 6" length, squeezing on both sides, and twist link away from you 2 rotations. Repeat, alternating direction of twists, until you can't make another 6" sausage. The recipe called for squeezing out extra meat; we just made a mini sausage; and tied off the final casing.
The recipe also calls for arranging links on a parchment lined baking sheet and chilling, uncovered, to dry out casings at least 12 hours. We skipped that step, as at this point we were very hungry so went right to grilling after maybe a 30 minute rest on a platter!
Chef Tony did a fabulous job grilling both sausages...and none of our sausages burst so I guess we pricked correctly.
To learn a lot more about making sausage than I know, check out this fantastic book!
 I have so much to learn about making sausage, but what a fun and wonderful first experience with dear friends who made it a delightful experience! Thank you Dennis, Diana, Anabel, Griff and Tony and Carrie for hosting our first sausage making party. Let's hope it's the beginning of many more cooking adventures. The next sausage recipe I want to try is a goat sausage made with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, charred green onions and I would add some of my friend Anastasia's beautiful fresh goat cheese. How yummy does that sound?!?
My husband's birthday is less than a week away and, as usual I am spoiling him with food. Last night we had grilled filet mignon wrapped in Hempler's all natural bacon topped with a garlic and smoked salt compound butter served with steamed asparagus. Lobster Pasta and Osso Buco coming next! Lots of other goodies planned. His request this year for cake is a Blueberry Pie so you will get that recipe soon.
We consider his birthday the kick-off of holiday season so Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I am going to give you a quick idea next week for a fun and different appetizer--Bourbon Infused Chicken Liver Pate with Cranberry Gelee. How perfect for Thanksgiving. This will be the first time ever in my adult life that I have not cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner. It will be different, but I am sure I will find love and joy in every moment.
Until next time, continue experimenting and creating
your own delicious meals!
So proud of the first ones coming out!
 Here are a few more shots from our Sausage Making Party!
Grif grinding chicken for his southwestern sausage!
Me assisting.

Checking meat temp at all times through the process is very important.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015


I know I promised homemade sausage for the next blog, but Sunday, while my Patriot's game-day pork ribs were cooking, I made a wonderful Cauliflower soup, which I think would be delicious hot or cold. Today for lunch, my husband and I had it cold, topped with garlic shrimp, avocado, and finished with Smoked Sea Salt and I'Itoi scallions, which are an Heirloom variety I got from my new goat-lady friend Anastasia.
The word I'Itoi inTohono Odham means: The mischievous creator god who resides in a cave below the peak of Baboquivari Mountain in Tucson, aka I'Itoi Mountain. Legend has it that visitors to the cave are asked to bring a gift (onions?) to ensure their safe return from the depths. I am not sure of the connection to the onions so more research is needed, but I do know the bulbs taste mildly shallot-like and greens are both sweet and spicy! They are supposed to be prolific multipliers so I am excited to see how they do in my newly planted herb bed. Now, on to the soup!
Basic ingredients...

1 medium sized head cauliflower, cored and sliced into rough chunks
2 Tbsp. bacon fat (or butter, olive oil, or whatever good fat you have on hand)
1 medium white potato, peeled and also cut into chunks (I used an Idaho, but think Yukon Gold would be even better)
1 medium onion, peeled and thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 tsp. more dried thyme
2 tsp. mild curry powder
Salt/White pepper to taste
15 oz. can coconut cream
2 Tbsp. (or more) scallions or chives for garnish
Other garnish options below

Heat bacon fat (or oil) in a large soup pot. Add all veg and cook over high heat for about 10 minutes to coat the veg and just slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock, fresh and dried thyme, and generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer veg until very tender; about 1 hour. Turn off heat and let sit for another hour on the stove in the covered pot. Remove sprig of thyme. Add 2 tsp. mild curry. Check and adjust for enough salt and add 1/4 tsp. white pepper or more to taste. Add 15 oz. can coconut cream. Blend all ingredients in batches until very smooth and creamy. The consistency is rich and velvety, like a Vichyssoise, but taste has much more depth of flavor. Coconut cream is much lighter than heavy cream, which the Vichyssoise calls for, so even though it is thick and rich, it is not too heavy. If your soup gets too thick thin it with a little water.

This soup is delicious hot or cold!

Garnish options:
I pan fried 3 shrimp per serving in very hot olive oil and lots of garlic and topped each serving with the shrimp surrounded by chopped avocado (1/4 avocado per serving) and finished with a smoked sea salt.

Shredded chicken would be great as a garnish or a bunch of very crispy onions piled high. Use your imagination and let me know what you come up with!
Hope you enjoy this recipe. Next time, sausage for sure!

Monday, September 21, 2015


I have been eating a lot of cold soups recently and want to share another before fall sets in later this week. My husband, Jerry and I actually just had this soup for lunch. We ate it warm because it smelled so delicious we couldn't wait for it to chill down. It was wonderful warm with a sour cream garnish. I will chill it overnight and let you know if we like it better cold or hot. Or better yet, after you make it, please let me know your preference!
This attractive soup only has a few ingredients and if you already have chicken stock on hand is very easy to put together.
2 large beets, peeled and quartered
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. (or more to taste) salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Garnish: About 1/2 cup sour cream mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water. I did not have time to garnish with additional beets, but think adding some thinly sliced cooked beets would enhance the look and taste of this delicious bisque. Or possibly add some tiny beet greens, making a salad-effect on top.

In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk, shred the beets and apples. The reason for doing this is to get them a uniform size so they cook evenly. You can also use a box grater, but the food processor makes this very simple. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, a little salt and add onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Do this while you are chopping the beets and apples. Add the shredded beets and apples and cook another 5 minutes. Add stock, water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for another 30 minutes until beets are very soft. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. If you can't resist, like us, eat right away. Otherwise, put into a container and chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight. Garnish and serve.

I have wanted to make cheese for a long time. Recently I met a delightful woman who lives with 13 goats on a remote ranch in south eastern Arizona. Anastasia's passion for growing organic, sustainable food is infectious and she generously shared her enthusiasm by spending a couple hours talking with Jerry and me about her life on the ranch. She also is a fabulous cheese maker and shared some goats milk (milked fresh that morning!) along with some tips on making my first ever cheese.
Mine is the soft little log. Anastasia made the hard goat cheese I served here with plums,
cucumbers (from her garden), black olives and home-made mayonnaise.
It turns out I already had the book Anastasia recommended on learning cheese making, as I have been reading about this craft for years.
According to Anastasia, Ricki Carroll is THE authority on cheese making. Her company, New England Cheese Making Supply Company (http://www.cheesemaking.com/) is coincidentally based in Massachusetts, not far from where I used to live.
From source...

...to fridge! What a beautiful site!
I made a soft goat's cheese called Chevre, which is the French word for goat. I had a gallon of fresh goat's milk, but my husband drank so much of it I ended making a half batch. I will give you Ricki's recipe for the full gallon.

1 gallon whole goat's milk
1 packet direct-set chevre starter

Because my milk was fresh from the goat both Anastasia and Ricki Carroll recommend pasteurizing. Here's how...directly from Ricki's book:

Pour the raw milk into a stainless steel or glass pot (do not use aluminum) and place the pot into another, larger pot containing hot water. Put the double boiler on the stove top. Heat the milk to 145 degrees, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating. Hold the temperature at 145 degrees for exactly 30 minutes. The temperature and time are important. Too little heat or too short a holding time may not destroy all the pathogens. Too much heat or too long a holding time can destroy the milk protein and result in a curd that is too soft for cheese making.

Remove the pot of milk from the pot of hot water and put it into a sink filled with ice water that is at the same level as the milk. Stir constantly until the temp drops to 40 degrees. Rapid cooling is important to eliminate conditions that support the growth of unwanted bacteria.

Yikes! The last thing I wanted to do was poison someone with my first batch of cheese! I followed these instructions to the letter.

I covered the now pasteurized goat's milk with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator until I was ready to start the cheese.

Heat the milk to 86 degrees. Add the starter, stirring to combine.
Cover and let set at a room temperature not below 72 degrees for 12 hours. Ricki suggests making the cheese at night so you can drain it when you get up in the morning.
Line a colander with butter muslin. I used cheesecloth...get it?! Seriously, either/or is fine. Cheesecloth is more coarse and generally used for firmer cheeses, but I did not have any butter muslin on hand and the cheesecloth worked fine. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag over the sink to drain for 6-12 hours, or until the curds reach the desired consistency.
Per Ricki, a shorter draining time produces a cheese spread; a longer draining time produces a cream cheese-type consistency. A room temp of at least 72 degrees will encourage proper draining. I let my cheese hang for about 18 hours as I wanted to be able to roll it into a little log. It was creamy and tasted so fresh...much different from what you buy in the store. I am looking forward to perfecting my technique and making many other cheeses.

Here is Anastasia with one of her "kids".
Let me know if you want to get in touch with Anastasia. She has so much to offer and her life choices are truly inspiring to me!

Another interest of mine is making sausage and earlier this year I had that opportunity. Next time I will share the details of my first sausage making adventure!

Thanks again for tuning into my passion...cooking, 
learning new techniques...fulfilling my desire to live a more healthful, satisfying and sustainable life.
And most importantly, having FUN in the kitchen!

My husband, Jerry with Anastasia and a very inquisitive goat!