Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day Dinner...or another special occasion


My VD gift this year?  A quiet house.  I spent all day cooking, dumped the kiddos at grandma's house at 5:00, came home cleaned up and ate dinner with my husband in a quiet house.  Then we looked at pictures on the internet.  Then I read a book and he went to pick up the boys.  Other Valentine's present?   The boys came home asleep - no bedtime fights.  Awesome.

For our dinner I wanted to do something nice - real grown-up food with out chicken nuggets or mini pizzas in sight. I also decided for the most part, do do something traditionally French because when all else fails, go French or go home.

Le Menu:
Homemade Croissants (started at 6:30 am and pulled them out of the oven at 4:30 pm.  Not my best effort but they were tasty.)
Roasted Garlic Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Beef Bourguignon (ala Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa - I totally DID NOT USE COGNAC...the wine is up to you.)

How was dinner?  Tres Magnifique!  My husband in fact, in the middle of his second helping confessed, "This may be the best meal you've ever fixed."

Perfect timing - I want a new iphone.

Beef Bourguignon (Ina Garten, Food Network)


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
  • 1 can (2 cups) beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:

  • Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Home Made Chicken Fingers


This is one of the easiest and fastest things for me to fix for my boys to eat. In fact, they are so good my giant picky eater brother eats them, my allergic to everything baby eats them, and my kids would rather eat my chicken fingers than kids menu chicken from any of their favorite restaurants.

Here's what you'll need:
Chicken Tenders (I start with frozen)
Seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder)

Set your self up with two bowls, a buttermilk bowl and a flour dredge bowl.
Let the chicken tenders soak in the buttermilk about 5 minutes, making sure that each one is well coated.
Mix all of your seasoning into the bowl of flour. Go easy on the cayenne and chili powder if your a wimp, or making these for kids, but add enough stuff to the flour that you change the color and texture a bit.

Heat up a skillet with some oil. Not a lot of oil, but just enough to cover the bottom of the chicken and climb the sides just a tiny bit. Make sure that the oil is super hot and ready for the chicken.

Pull the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat it in the flour dredge, both sides and make sure you get it on thick. If you want, you can even double dredge, sending the chicken back into the buttermilk for another quick coating and then back to the flour.

Work with about half your chicken and get it all floured up. Put the chicken in the hot oil and while the first round is cooking, start the second batch in the buttermilk and flour.

Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes per side, but use the color as a good guide. Dark golden brown means it's ready to turn. Cook it some more, until both sides are the same shade and it's done. Place on a plate covered with paper towels and start the next batch.

Once the chicken is done, eat up. Serve with your own dipping sauces (I like a home made honey mustard, my husband a BBQ and mayonnaise mix).

Fast and Easy Super Bowl Spread


We had plans for a big super bowl party yesterday. Only one problem though. The host, my mom, was sick and the party got canceled. We switched plans, found some guests, and had a mini party at our house instead for the big game, which I didn't watch.

I was already planning on making potato skins so I just stood in my refrigerator for about 15 minutes and tried to figure out what else to serve our guests.

Our menu ended up being pretty simple but very yummy.
Potato skins
Home made chicken fingers (with a couple dipping sauces)
Nachos (with salsa and guacamole)
Chocolate chip nutella cookies.

It was total football food - Nothing healthy, everything tasty and from start to finish it only took me two hours to throw it all together. And even better, I have left over potato skins for today.


Potato Skins
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)
6 Russet Potatoes
10 slices of bacon
green onions/chives
sour cream

Bake the potatoes at 400 for 1 hour. Pull from the oven and let cool until you're brave enough to handle them, 10-20 minutes.
Cook your bacon.  When it's cooled, crumble it up.
Grate cheese.
Slice in half and scoop out the majority of the potato.
Brush the skins, both sides, with vegetable oil and salt both sides liberally.
Bake for 7 minutes. Flip and bake for another 7-10.
Pull from oven. Add cheese and bacon. Put the skins back in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Top with green onions, chives, and sour cream as desired.