Easy Coq Au Vin

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This past Tuesday, February 18th, was National Drink Wine day.  I didn’t even know it at the time and made Coq Au Vin  for dinner while drinking half a bottle of wine, call it intuition.  This was my first time attempting to make the classic French dish, which immediately makes one think of Julia Child.  I know better than to claim my cooking skills are anywhere close to those of Julia Child, but they get me rave reviews in this house.  Coq Au Vin is a braised chicken dish made traditionally with Burgundy wine and bone-in chicken.  To make an easier weeknight version I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts and cut a few corners along the way.  For base instructions and ingredients I followed a recipe posted by the barefoot contessa, Ina Garten.  As with most braised dishes, the final product did not disappoint.  We ate this solo like a stew, but it would be amazing served over mashed potatoes.

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Ingredients: 

5 slices of thick cut applewood smoked bacon, diced (regular bacon or pancetta if you don’t want a smoky flavor)
4 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/2 pound of carrots cut into thick diagonal pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of brandy
1/2 bottle of Burgundy red wine (something you want to drink the other half of)
1 cup of chicken stock
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, center stem removed
2 Tbsp of butter
2 Tbsp of flour
1/2 pound of fresh mushrooms, sliced or button mushrooms.

Directions: 

1. In a large dutch oven brown the diced bacon over medium heat.  While this is cooking slice the chicken breasts into 4-5 large strips and season generously with salt and pepper to prepare for cooking.  When the bacon is fully cooked remove from pan with a slotted spoon to reserve the rendered fat in the pan.

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2. Add a small amount of olive oil to the bacon grease if you need more to fully cover the bottom of the pan.  Brown the slices of chicken for a few minutes on each side, do not fully cook.  Brown in batch if necessary to not crowd and set on a plate for later.

3.  Add the onions, carrots, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper to the oil in the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until onions are lightly browned and soft.  Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute to release a nice garlic aroma without burning.

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4. Pour in the brandy, bacon, chicken ( with the juices on the plate), stir in gently and allow to cook for a few minutes before adding the wine, chicken stock, and thyme.  Bring to a simmer.

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5.  Once simmering cover with a lid and place in the oven at 250 degrees F for 35-40 minutes.

6.  While the chicken is in the oven slice your mushrooms and place in a heavy skillet with 2 tbsp of butter and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic.  Heat over medium heat until mushrooms are lightly browned and softened stirring frequently.  There should be a bit of liquid with the mushrooms, if there isn’t add more butter.  Add 2 tbsp of flour slowly to the mushrooms and butter to thicken.

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7. When chicken is ready to remove from the oven (make sure it’s not pink in the center of the largest piece) return to stove top on medium/low heat and stir in the thickened mushrooms.  Simmer for 10 minutes before serving.  If you want an even thicker sauce add a little more flour to the stew (a little goes a long way).

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Cheers!

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Healthy Pasta-Free Carbonara

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While on our honeymoon to Italy a few years ago my husband fell in love with spaghetti alla carbonara.  A delicious and surprisingly simple concoction of pancetta, eggs, black pepper, and parmesan cheese.  After making the champagne cupcakes the other day I had a lot of egg yolks sitting around and needed a plan to use them up.  I also had a half of a spaghetti squash that I couldn’t let go to waste.  To make it a little healthier and add some color, I threw in the spinach.  These proportions and directions are just what I came up with based on what I have after looking at a few basic recipes online.  It couldn’t have turned out better, truly amazing.  My only mistake was not making more than two servings.

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Ingredients:

1/2 large Spaghetti Squash, roasted
5 strips of thick cut Bacon, diced
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 handfuls of Baby Spinach
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp black pepper

Directions:

(I had a spaghetti squash that was already roasted, if you have to roast the squash still you need to do this first.  Half the squash and scrape out seeds.  Lightly spray with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Roast at 400 for 45-60 minutes.)

1. In a heavy skillet on medium heat cook the diced bacon.  I used an apple-wood smoked bacon, so flavorful!  When fully cooked turn heat to low and add the minced garlic, stir to avoid burning about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and toss in spinach until wilted.  Set aside in a large mixing bowl.

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2. Whisk together egg yolks, egg, parmesan cheese, and black pepper in a small bowl.

3. Here is where it gets a little tricky.  I warmed up the spaghetti squash in the skillet for a few minutes to get it really hot.  The heat from the “pasta” is going to thicken and cook the eggs.  When the squash is hot put it in the large mixing bowl with the bacon and spinach mixture then quickly toss/whisk together with the eggs until creamy.

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4. In my case the spaghetti squash was apparently not quite as warm as a freshly cooked pasta would be, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t serving raw eggs.  I warmed up the skillet on low heat and browned 1/2 Tbsp of butter, then added everything back into the warm skillet for just a few tosses.  Cook the eggs until creamy then remove from heat into mixing bowl.  You want to avoid scrambling the eggs, which is why you typically mix the eggs with everything in a bowl instead of in the skillet over heat.

This extra toss in brown butter not only enhanced the flavor and consistency of the dish, it made it safer to consume ;).  Top with a little parmesan cheese and black pepper before serving.

Enjoy and Eat Well!

Champagne Cupcakes

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My very good friend asked me to make a mini-baked good for her bridal shower dessert table this past weekend.  Trying to think of what to make for a lunchtime bridal shower was a little tricky, since baking is not my strong suit.  My first thought was cake ball pops, they are so darned cute and always a hit at parties.  Upon further thought I decided they would be a bit too time consuming and probably wouldn’t look as I imagine them being.  Instead, I started looking for a cupcake recipe that involved champagne.  When I get together with this group of girlfriends we drink almost exclusively champagne, so why not eat it too?  I found a recipe on the food network website for champagne cupcakes and a separate recipe for champagne buttercream frosting…perfect!  When it comes to baking I know better than to make my own adjustments.  Especially when baking for a crowd, who cares about fat and calories.  For the frosting I did add some almond extract to give it a little extra pizzaz.  Be prepared, this recipe makes a LOT of cupcakes.  I ended up with 50 mini-cakes and 20 large cupcakes.  If you aren’t baking for a crowd you may want to half the recipe.

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I didn’t frost the extra cupcakes so they could sit out, I’m not comfortable letting the buttercream frosting sit out for too long.  To make them presentable for a fancy bridal shower I wanted to pipe the frosting.  I found a piping set at marshalls for $5 and got a mini-cupcake pan and liners to make these mini-sized.  They turned out great and so adorable with the Lego bride and groom topper (thank you to my brother and his beautiful wife in Denmark)!  Pop some bubbly and lets get baking!

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Cupcake Ingredients: 

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup of milk (I used almond milk since I forgot to pickup regular milk)
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup champagne
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 egg whites

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1 pound of unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups of powdered sugar
4 Tbsp of champagne
1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  I made these in my KitchenAid standing mixer with the whisk attachment, otherwise you can use hand beaters to blend.

2. Add together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add the milk, shortening, champagne, and vanilla extract, beat on medium speed for 30-60 seconds.  Add egg whites and continue to beat for 2 minutes.

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3. Line cupcake pan and fill half full with batter.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until center is springy when touched.  Let cool on cooling rack.

4. Make your frosting while cakes are cooling.  I made this in the KitchenAid standing mixer as well with the whisk attachment.

5. Whip butter in mixer on medium/high speed until creamy.  Start to add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix in champagne/almond extract until you have the flavor and consistency you are looking for.  It should be smooth and creamy.  I didn’t add all 6 cups of sugar, I stopped around 5 so it wasn’t so sweet.

6. When cupcakes are cooled pipe the frosting on with the tip shape of your choosing.  I used the smaller star looking tip and piped in a circle starting at the outside working toward the center.  They look pretty fancy to me!

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Enjoy!

Goat Cheese and Apricot Tarts

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So this recipe took a few tries to get the taste I was looking for.  The first round looked pretty but was a little too dry from a thick layer of phyllo dough and not enough flavor from the cheese.  The most recent round really came together nicely and has the flavor, moisture, and crunch I was dreaming about.  These are good for a small gathering or a quick dessert for a last minute occasion.  I used sage this time, but it would also be great with Thyme as I had used the first round.

Ingredients: 

1/2 roll of Phyllo Dough
1 cup of dried Apricots, cut in half lengthwise
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup of chopped Walnuts
3 Tbsp butter, separated.
1/2 cup Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage
2 Tbsp Honey

Directions:
1. In a small sauce pan make your toppings by mixing apricots, brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 Tbsp of butter.  Warm over medium heat until butter and brown sugar is melted making a glaze coating the nuts and apricots.  Remove from heat and set aside in a small bowl.

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2. In second sauce pan heat goat cheese, 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp sage, and honey over medium heat.  When cheese melts and consistency is of an alfredo sauce remove from heat, do not boil.

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3. Lay phyllo dough flat and cut into 3×3 inch squares or slightly larger, split into pieces that are 6-8 leafs thick.  The first time I made these I kept the original stack thickness and it was too much, half that is good.  Separate on a cookie sheet.

4. Spread the cheese mixture onto the squares then top with apricot and nut mixture.

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5. Brush edges with remaining 1 Tbsp of butter, melted.  Bake in oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.

6. Garnish with remaining sage and serve warm.

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Enjoy!

 

Easy Oven Ribs

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Making a full slab of ribs is a hearty and simple meal to make any night of the week, depending on how late you want to eat.  I usually make ribs on a weekend since they do take a long time to cook.  You can speed up the process and cook on a higher temperature or grill them, but if you want moist ribs that fall off the bone, slow and low is the way to go.  This is perfect for the winter time, the oven is on to add a little extra heat to the house and the smell is amazing.  I have been experimenting with making my own rubs and sauces, but they easiest way to go is obviously pre-made when you don’t have the time.  My go-to rubs and sauces are Famous Dave’s, I just find the flavor to be so rich and perfect for the taste I’m going for.

Ingredients:

1 –2 full slabs of Pork Ribs
Rib Rub of your choice (I used Famous Dave’s, Rib Rub)
1/2 Onion, sliced thin into rings
1 Bottle of Beer (I used 1/2 guiness and 1/2 harp, why not)
BBQ sauce (I used Famous Dave’s, Devil’s Spit)

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Directions:

1. Remove ribs from fridge about 20-30 minutes before cooking and rinse with water, pat dry.
2. Sprinkle heavily with rib rub of your choice on both sides, pat into meat.  Place on a cookie sheet bone side down so the ribs are flat and not crowded if you have more than 1 slab.
3. Let sit for the remainder of the 20-30 minutes since removing from the fridge while the oven preheats to 285° F.
4. Slice onion and lay on top of rubbed ribs.
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5. Add beer to pan, cover with foil, and cook for 3 hours.
6. After cooking time has elapsed and meat is fully cooked, remove foil and set onions to side.  Brush ribs with BBQ sauce and broil for 4-5 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned.

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You can serve with a simple side salad, or go all out with coleslaw and cornbread (check out previous posts).  I keep the onions to serve with the ribs, they make a nice little garnish.

Enjoy and Eat Well!