Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cooking at the Beau's

I love spending time with my Beau, and I am in Saskatchewan this weekend.  He recently completed renovations on his 1950's bungalow, doing a lot of the work himself.  And he did a great job, but he told me the kitchen was done so I would love being there, and boy is he right!!!!   He wanted to show the renos off, so Saturday night we had friends over and today we have family coming and going.

Originally when he had drawn up his plans for the kitchen, his island was going to have a raised eating bar area and I complained about that.  One big level area that can be used to roll out cookie, pastry and bread dough and to work on is best in my mind.  He wanted to put a small chop sink in it, and I thought that was okay, but really really really argued against a raised bar.   So I was thrilled to see a smooth granite one level countertop on that island (I knew I would win that argument, ha ha ha).  And it's huge!!!  You can easily seat 6 people at the eating area and when you are at the island you look out at the living room so you can talk to people while you are cooking.  

Now you think I would have been eager to use the new six burner gas range he had installed, but yesterday I used the slow cooker to make coq au vin.  We spent the morning arranging furniture and putting final decorating touches in place throughout the house, and we planned to catch a hockey game at the local rink that afternoon.  So I didn't want to have to rush making a meal for us and our guests when we got home.   The slow cooker is perfect for times like this, and coq au vin is something you can make even on a reduced calorie diet.  Serve with with garlic smashed potatoes and a salad.   Coq au vin is also a challenge for me in another way:  I must substitute something for the red wine usually in the recipe, because the Beau says no to vino!!!

For family that's coming over today to see the house, I roasted a small ham and a turkey breast early this morning. I sliced up most of it for bunwiches (thanks to the Beau's mom, there are some 10 dozen home made buns in the house to enjoy)   I took some of the ham to use in the soup that is being held on "stay warm" in the slow cooker....I did cook it on the range, but the slow cooker will keep it warm all day.   And I baked cookies. A nice thick bowl of soup and a bun full of freshly roasted meat, followed by a really chocolate-y chunky cookie is a nice treat on a day like today when snow is falling lightly and there's a chill in the air. 

Well, he's certainly made it very tempting to come to Saskatchewan much more, simply to be  (Is it possible to fall in love with a kitchen?  If so, I will miss you, your big island and great range!  Adieu till next time!!!)

Eight Hour Coq au Vin (adapted from Good Housekeeping)

3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 3/4 inch pieces (I use low sodium bacon)
2 - 227 gram packages whole mushrooms, each cut in half
2 cups pearl onions (fresh or frozen, your choice)
1 four pound chicken, cut up with skin removed from all pieces except the wings
Salt and Pepper
One medium onion, chopped
One large carrot, chopped
1 cup dry red wine ***
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs thyme
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup chicken broth*** 

*** To make a version without any alcohol, I skip the wine completely, using 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1.25 cups of chicken broth

  1. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until browned. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine mushrooms and frozen pearl onions; set aside.
  3. Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. In skillet with bacon fat, cook chicken (in 2 batches, if necessary) over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Place chicken over vegetables in slow cooker.
  4. Discard drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrot, and cook 2 minutes or until onion softens, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine, tomato paste, and bay leaf; heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve tomato paste. Pour wine mixture and broth over chicken pieces. Cover slow cooker and cook as manufacturer directs, on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.
  5. To serve, discard bay leaf, thyme sprigs and smashed garlic (if you see any, it usually cooks down and becomes part of the sauce). With large spoon, transfer chicken and sauce to deep platter; sprinkle with bacon.
The original recipe only called for one package of mushrooms.  We like mushrooms, so I used one package of white, and one package of crimini.    I also added the thyme and garlic.  If you like herbs de Provence, go ahead tie them up in cheesecloth and add them too, removing them before serving.  If alcohol is not an issue in your home, use the red wine.  I found just using chicken broth didn't give it the richness the wine does, but balsamic seems to do the trick nicely.   This version of coq au vin has 400 calories per serving.    

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

1 two pound bag of yellow "new/baby" potatoes
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 cup  to 3/4 cup O percent fat greek yogurt

Clean potatoes, removing dirt, eyes, etc.  but do not peel.  Cook the potatoes and the garlic in lightly salted water until both are tender.  Drain and mash roughly.  Add 1/2 cup of the greek yogurt and mix well.    If it's not creamy enough, add another 1/4 cup of yogurt.  This should make about six servings. If you use 1/2 cup of yogurt,  each serving will have about 132 calories, if you use 3/4 cup of yogurt, each serving is about 150 calories.  Let each person season them with salt and pepper to their taste.  

I like to use yellow potatoes for this for their colour, but also because they have nice thin skin, easy to smash up for these rustic mashed potatoes.   

Honey Lime Dressed Spinach Salad

6 cups spinach leaves, torn
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
pinch of salt

Place the spinach and strawberries in salad bowl.  Combin the oil, lime juice, honey, pinch of salt and ginger in small jar and shake well to combine.  Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients gently just before you want to serve the salad.  Sprinkle with the toasted chopped almonds.  Makes 6 servings, at 145 calories each

I will post the soup recipe another time.  But here's the cookie recipe.   Please note, there's nothing low cal about them!!!  But I think everyone is allowed a treat now and then, and one or two of these in a week where otherwise you have been "good" shouldn't capsize  your diet.  Or even better, plan for them and reduce your calories throughout your other meals accordingly.

Baker's One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 packages (8 squares each) Baker's semi sweet chocolate, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs 
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Chop one package (8 squares) of the semi sweet chocolate into bite sized pieces, set aside.  Coarsely chop the remaining squares and place in large microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on MEDIUM 3 to 4 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted.  Add butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder.  Stir until blended.  Stir in the nuts and the other chopped chocolate.  Drop 2 Tbsps of dough, two inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are soft to the touch but tops are still slightly shiny.  Cool on baking sheet one minute, then transfer to wire rack to complete cooling.  Makes 2.5 dozen.

** If you want to make this without the nuts, increase the flour to 3/4's of a cup to prevent the dough from spreading too much as it bakes.    These cookies are 175 calories EACH with the nuts, and 151 without the nuts.

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