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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Foodie Friday Coq au Vin

The flavor of the chicken is incredible.   I hope you enjoy it.







Modern Coq au Vin
Serves 6      Total time 1 ½ hours

A medium-bodied, fruity red wine such as Pinot Noir or Rhone Valley Grenache is best for this recipe.     If neither frozen nor fresh pearl onions are available, substitute one large onion cut into ½ inch pieces.     Do not use jarred pearl onions.


2  bottles Pinot Noir   (one for recipe and one to drink with dinner)
2  cups low-sodium chicken stock  (not broth)
10  sprigs fresh parsley
2  tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2  sprigs fresh thyme
1  bay leaf
5  slices bacon, thick cut, cut crosswise into 1 / 4  inch pieces
2.5  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut in half crosswise.
5  tablespoons unsalted butter
24  frozen pearl onions, thawed, drained and patted dry  (see note above)
8  ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean – sliced thickly
2  medium cloves garlic, minced
1  tablespoon tomato paste
2  tablespoons all purpose flour

Bring all but 1 tablespoon wine  (reserved for later use), stock, parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat.    Cook until reduced to 3 cups, about 25 minutes.    Discard herbs.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.   Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate.    Reserve 2 tablespoons fat in small bowl;  discard remaining fat.

Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper.    Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat in Dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking.    Add half the chicken in single layer and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side.    Transfter to plate and repeat with remaining chicken and 1 tablespoon bacon fat.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter  in now-empty Dutch oven over medium high heat.    When foaming subsides, add pearl onions and mushrooms;   cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.   Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.     Add tomato paste and flour;  cook, stirring frequently, until well combined, about 1 minute.

Add reduced wine mixture, scraping bottom of pot with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits;  add   1 / 4 teaspoon pepper.   Return chicken, any accumulated juices and reserved bacon to pot;   increase heat to high and bring to a boil.    Reduce heat to medium low, cover pot and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Using  slotted spoon, transfer chicken to large bowl;  tent with foil to keep warm.    Increase heat to medium high and simmer sauce until thick and glossy and measures 3 cups, about 5 minutes. 
  
Off heat,  stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and reserved 1 tablespoon wine.     Season to taste with salt and pepper.    Return chicken to pot and top with minced parsley.

Serve immediately with mashed potatoes or wide noodles and a green vegetable.





NOTE:    Several parts of this recipe can be completed ahead of time.     For example, the wine reduction and the bacon.     Be sure to heat these items before proceeding with the recipe.





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival



We made one of those rare decisions, set the alarm clock!      I have to say that doesn't happen very often anymore.    We are, after all, retired.

Today, however, is the first day of the Hot Air Balloon Festival.     It's a 100 mile drive and the first balloon goes up at 7 a.m.     The alarm goes off at 5 a.m.     I'd made my iced tea the night before, but RJ still needed to make coffee.   It's nearly 5:30 before we hit the road.     Fortunately, it's all interstate and we arrive in Mesquite with 5 minutes to spare.






The first balloon to depart carries the American Flag while the National Anthem is broadcast over the speakers.    





Many of the handlers were at or near retirement age.     They obviously enjoy having time for this hobby.     There is a fan to start the process of inflating the balloon.    You can see it in front of the lady with the hood.     It's not very big considering the size of the balloons.




The next step is adding hot air which is accomplished with fire.




As the balloon rises, the basket turns upright and the crew climbs in.








They are off..................




Up, Up and Away............





This photo gives you an idea as to the size of these balloons.     This one is not fully inflated, but you get the idea.




The same balloon after take off.    They need to keep the "hot air" going periodically to keep it inflated and afloat.




An overhead shot........................




The snow covered mountains make a nice backdrop for these two.



The balloons are all up (except one which never did get off the ground).      I've never been to one of these before and know that I will find another and hopefully be able to take a ride myself.     I think that might be my next adventure.........






Friday, January 22, 2016

Foodie Friday Lasagne

A fellow blogger suggested I initiate a "Foodie Friday" post.   I will be sharing favorite recipes interspersed with photos and commentary from some of our favorite eating spots.  I'll still be doing my regular travel posts, too, as we do new things.    (Maybe I'll get some fun pictures at the Hot Air Balloon Rally tomorrow)  

I  have to be honest, though.   Friday to a retired person is just like any other day.    What I'm trying to say is "Foodie Friday" can (and will) happen whenever I feel like it.    Hope you don't mind.

A cool weather favorite for us is this lasagne recipe.    It's easy to make and if there's just two of you, there will be plenty for dinner another evening.       Fresh ingredients and whole milk cheeses really make a difference.     If you can't find ground hot Italian sausage, buy it in link form and remove the casing.







LASAGNA FOR TWO

Time from start to eating:     1 HOUR 50 MINUTES
Makes plenty for two full meals or it could (and has) serve 4

SAUCE:
Tin Foil
4 OZ LEAN GROUND BEEF
6 OZ HOT ITALIAN SAUSAGE  (yes, you want the bite of the hot ones)
2 TLB HEAVY CREAM
14.5 OZ CAN DICED TOMATOES, INCLUDING THE JUICE
8 OZ TOMATO SAUCE


FILLING:
4 OZ WHOLE MILK RICOTTA
1/ 2 CUP PLUS 4 TLB PARMESAN - fresh not from the green can
3 TLB CHOPPED FRESH BASIL
1 LARGE EGG, BEATEN
1/ 8 TSP TABLE SALT
6   NO BOIL BARILLA LASAGNA NOODLE SHEETS
8 OZ WHOLE MILK FRESH MOZZARELLA BALLS –  cut them into slices  (or even easier, buy the pearl ball size)(don't get the pre-shredded stuff if possible)

PUT OVEN RACK IN MIDDLE AND HEAT TO 400

HEAT A LARGE SKILLET OVER MEDIUM HEAT.    ADD MEAT, SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE.    COOK,  BREAKING THE MEAT INTO SMALL PIECES.   COOK UNTIL NO LONGER PINK,  ABOUT 4 MINUTES.

STIR IN THE CREAM.     BRING TO A SIMMER AND COOK UNTIL LIQUID EVAPORATES,  ABOUT 2 MINUTES.      STIR IN THE TOMATOES AND TOMATO SAUCE.        BRING TO A SIMMER AND COOK ABOUT 2 MINUTES.     SEASON WITH SALT TO TASTE.

IN BOWL, COMBINE RICOTTA,  1/ 2 CUP PARMESAN,  BASIL,  EGG AND SALT.   

SPREAD 1/ 2  CUP OF THE TOMATO SAUCE OVER THE BOTTOM OF AN 8X8 PAN.      PLACE  2 OF THE NOODLES ON TOP AND SPREAD 1/ 3  OF THE RICOTTA MIXTURE OVER THE NOODLES.       SPRINKLE EVENLY WITH 1/ 4  OF THE MOZZARELLA.

REPEAT ABOVE  NOODLE LAYERING TWO MORE TIMES.    (I alternate the direction of the noodles)     COVER FINAL LAYER   WITH THE REMAINING  TOMATO/MEAT  SAUCE AND  TOP WITH THE REMAINING  MOZZARELLA AND  PARMESAN.

COVER THE DISH TIGHTLY WITH FOIL THAT HAS BEEN SPRAYED WITH VEG OIL SPRAY.   PLACE ON COOKIE SHEET TO CATCH ANY OVERFLOW.  

BAKE FOR 30 MINUTES.  

REMOVE THE FOIL AND CONTINUE TO BAKE UNTIL HOT THROUGHOUT AND THE CHEESE IS BROWNED IN SPOTS, ABOUT 15 MINUTES LONGER.

LET COOL FOR 25 MINUTES BEFORE SERVING.    

SERVE WITH WARM BREAD/BISCUITS AND SMALL GREEN SALAD



Sorry about using all caps, but all my recipes are on my computer and it's much easier for these aging eyes to see while I'm cooking if I use caps and bold.    

Enjoy ...................



Monday, January 18, 2016

Who knew we'd run into snow in New Mexico.............


I'd forgotten about these pictures I took on the drive out to Las Vegas.      Our normal route through Denver and the mountains looked pretty iffy (weather wise) so we took the southern route.    I've spent very little time in New Mexico, but the image I had was adobe homes and desert - hot desert.

Imagine my surprise when we ran into this sight.     Maybe because it was so unexpected, but it was absolutely beautiful with the vibrant blue skies  and the snow covered trees.      (Or maybe it was beautiful because in a few hours we would be in our much warmer winter home)









How often do you see this kind of snowfall while the sky is so blue?

Actually, it was not snowing.      The car's driver (not me) will never be accused of over using the windshield washer.     These "snowflakes" are really dirt on the windshield that is being highlighted by the bright sun.       RJ is always looking for ways to save money !!!




We arrived to below normal temperatures (mid 50's) but this week we are in the 60's.    I even wore sandals yesterday.     This is much better.................






Sunday, January 17, 2016

One of my favorites for a winter's day ..............................

The Packers are playing against Arizona in the play offs.     Since I have a clear view of the TV from the kitchen of our condo in Las Vegas, it's the perfect time to make one of my favorite meals.
 
This is a very easy meal, but it takes a bunch of time.    One hour 45 minutes from the time you take your items from the fridge until you are eating.    Believe me, it is worth it !!!    Plus, if there are just two of you, you have yummy leftovers................

I like to add a little fresh Parmesan to my plate, but RJ doesn't.    That's strictly a personal choice.




SPINACH NOODLES WITH BOLOGNESE SAUCE
TOTAL TIME:    1 HOUR 45 MINUTES                          SERVES:   4

1 / 4 CUP OLIVE OIL
1 / 3 STICK BUTTER
3 STALKS CELERY, (chopped into small dice)
2 CARROTS,  (chopped into small dice)
1 CUP WHOLE MILK
3 / 4 LB LEAN GROUND BEEF     *see note below
1 / 4 LB GROUND PORK      *see note below
6 OZ CAN TOMATO PASTE
28 OZ CAN TOMATOES – Pear shaped best, but peeled whole tomatoes are fine
12 OZ SPINACH NOODLES – If you have trouble finding – try the organic foods section – DeBoles brand makes Spinach Fettuccine which works just fine.   Sometimes I luck out and find the fresh stuff in the refrigerator case which is best.     Once I made my own  (yes, I have the pasta maker attachment for my mixer)     Believe me, it’s not worth the work for this particular recipe.

PUT BUTTER, OIL, CELERY AND CARROTS INTO MEDIUM SIZED SAUCEPAN.    SIMMER OVER LOW FIRE ABOUT 10 MINUTES.   STIR FREQUENTLY SO VEGETABLES WILL COOK BUT NOT BROWN.

ADD RAW GROUND BEEF AND GROUND PORK.   CONTINUE STIRRING UNTIL MEAT IS BROKEN UP AND WELL MIXED WITH VEGETABLES (ABOUT 10 MINUTES)

ADD MILK AND WHEN IT HAS ALMOST EVAPORATED OR ABSORBED INTO MIXTURE, CRUSH TOMATOES (your hands work best for this)  AND ADD TO MIXTURE ALONG WITH TOMATO PASTE.   MIX WELL.

SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE, COVER AND COOK 45 MINUTES.

COOK NOODLES – (They cook faster than package says – you don’t want them mushy)    DRAIN.

SERVE WITH WARM BREAD.

NOTE:     I will frequently buy 1 lb of lean ground beef and 1 lb of ground pork.     I use half of each in this recipe and freeze the other two halves (labeling them that they are for this recipe).     I don’t feel it changes the taste and I don’t have to wait for the meat department to be free and get me exact amounts.    If you do this, also buy the other ingredients for your pantry so that you are set to go without a trip to the store.

Even though the Packers didn't win their game, it was exciting and we ended up eating true comfort food along with sharing a bottle of 19 Crimes Cabernet.







Sunday, January 3, 2016

Halibut en Papillote with Summer Squash and Tomato

We have been back in Wisconsin for the past month, so no exciting travel pictures to post  (unless you want to see snow).       Right now we are sorting and packing up for our journey back to Las Vegas - hope you are planning on a visit!

Tonight for dinner I wanted a light meal after all the Christmas and New Year's indulgences.     This fills the bill.    Although it is supposed to be prepared in parchment paper, I was out.     Tin foil worked just fine.  



   

Halibut en Papillote with Summer Squash and Tomato for Two

2 small summer squash, peeled and sliced 1/ 4 inch thick
Salt
Container of Grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tlb coconut oil  (or extra virgin olive oil)
1/ 2 tsp minced fresh oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
8 oz skinless Halibut fillet (cod and haddock are good alternatives)
2 Tlb dry white wine
2 Tlb fresh basil leaves cut in thin strips
Lemon wedges for serving

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat to 450 degrees.

Toss summer squash with 1/ 4 tsp salt, place in colander and let drain for 30 minutes.      Spread evenly on double layer of paper towels and pat dry with additional paper towels.

Combine tomatoes, oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1/ 4 tsp salt in medium bowl.

Cut two large pieces of tin foil (rather than parchment).    Shingle squash down center.      Sprinkle with the wine then lay halibut on top.     Spoon tomato mixture on top of fish.     Place second piece of parchment/foil on top and securely seal edges.

Lay packet on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.    Carefully open packet, and using spatula, move layered halibut and vegetables to serving dish, along with any additional juices.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.      I had an easy side dish:   Near East Rice Pilaf, Original.    It goes well with the fish and absorbs the flavorable juices.

Enjoy.............