Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coq au Vin - (in other words, French Chicken Stew)

Coq au Vin
From the moment I woke up this morning I knew it would be one of those fall days where my mind, body and soul would yearn for comfort food and a glass of bold red wine. The sun was bright, the air was crisp and the wind blew briskly enough where I could hear the leaves falling from the trees. As soon as I got out of bed I poured myself a hot cup of coffee, sat at the kitchen table and started looking through some of my cookbooks. I have hundreds of them and the first one I pulled off the shelf was "Saveur Cooks - Authentic French." I quickly looked to see if they had a Coq au Vin recipe and sure enough they did. I don't think I've made Coq au Vin since last fall and for whatever reason the recipe on page 185 was begging me to make it. Maybe it was the bottle of rich red wine it called for, maybe it was the crisp bacon, maybe it was the earthy mushrooms, carrots and onions, or maybe it was the plump browned bone-in chicken it called for. Whatever the reason or ingredient that moved me to make this recipe, it was hands down the right choice for me and my family.

Making Coq au Vin requires several steps, so you need a chunk of 2 plus hours to make this recipe. I knew I had time the time so I really looked forward to "playing" with food today. Yes, playing with food is what I said. Come on, those of you who love to cook or bake know what I mean…cooking for the mere act of self pleasure and entertainment! I had so much fun making this meal and the end result was OMG delicious. My favorite part of making this recipe was pouring an entire bottle a bold red wine into my Le Creuset dutch oven. No, it didn't call for a measly one cup of wine, it called for one flipp'n bottle…how awesome is that!  My second favorite part was browning the chicken and bacon because it created the most flavorful aroma throughout the house. The boys were playing football outside and as soon as they stepped in the house they were like "Wow, it smells soooo good. What are you making?" I explained I was making Coq au Vin and of course they got a chuckle out of pronouncing the name but also said "What is that?" So I told them Coq au Vin is, in other words, a french chicken stew. Honestly, as long as it smells good, looks good, and tastes good they don't care what their food is called…nor does Dave for that matter!

Let me talk about taste for a minute…when I mentioned as soon as I woke up this morning I knew I wanted to make a recipe that would satisfy my mind, body and soul…this dish's taste and flavor over satisfied if that's even possible. The chicken was so tender and juicy it fell off the bone, the red wine sauce was rich tasting with layers of flavor you didn't want to put your fork down, and the vegetables soaked up the medley of herbs and spices which made it take on a whole new taste. I served the stew over egg noodles because they are light and airy but you could serve them over mashed potatoes or any pasta or serve them over nothing.  I also served a crusty french bread on the side so we could soak up all of the juices from our bowls. And I made sure to buy an extra bottle of french wine that the recipe called for so we could have a glass (or two) with dinner. This meal created quite a positive food impression on all of us. It was simply divine!

If you are looking to make a quintessential fall meal; one that will truly satisfy your mind, body and soul like it did ours, then look no further.  Salute to Coq au Vin, or in other words French Chicken Stew!
Medley of ingredients
Sauteing Vegetables in the bacon and chicken oil
Browned chicken and bacon
Adding one bottle of good, rich red french wine!
Zachary chopping the fresh herbs 
Love when my boys help me cook and create a delicious family meal!
Just out of the oven
Coq au Vin over egg noodles
Coq au Vin (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and Cook Time: 2 hours

Serves: 6


  • 1 roasting chicken cut into pieces
  • 2 large yellow onions peeled and chopped
  • 3 shallots peeled and chopped
  • 5 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 tb chopped parsley
  • 2 tb chopped thyme
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle of good rich red wine like bordeaux or burgundy 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tb flour
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 3 thick cut pieces of bacon, diced
  • 1 lb of small white button mushrooms
  • 3 tb tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
Using a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium to high heat. Salt and pepper chicken pieces and brown on both sides until crisp. Add garlic gloves. When chicken is browned set aside on a platter. In same pan add bacon pieces and brown for about 10 minutes. Remove bacon bits from pan and set aside along with chicken. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms and shallots and cook until al dente about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Add flour to vegetables and mix well. Add beef stock to scrape pan of the chicken and bacon bits. Add parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and pepper and stir. Add chicken and bacon back to the pan and add cognac. Then add bottle of wine. Heat over medium to high heat for 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until well blended in wine sauce. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. bake in oven for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, cook 1 package of egg noodles according to package. When done, add a spoonful of egg noodles to a bowl and add a large spoonful of chicken and it's red wine sauce over top. Serve with crusty french bread. 

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I love the sauce over the noodles and the chicken is so tender and juicy." 

Tyler: "Every time I take a forkful I get something different. Once it's bacon, then it's chicken then it's a piece of carrot. I think the combination of all of the ingredients are super delicious." 

Zachary: "This Coq au Vin or however you pronounce it is really yummy. I love the sauce and it tastes so good dipping the bread in it. Oh, and the mushrooms are so meaty tasting."

Dave: "This is the best Coq au Vin you've made. The sauce has depth and there are just layers of flavor every time you take a bite. The chicken is perfectly cooked, the vegetables aren't overly tender or mushy, and the egg noodles pair well. The wine is also a perfect pair with this dish."

Andrea: "I must admit, this dish was outstanding. The reaction of Dave and the boys regarding this recipe was priceless. This dish is quintessential fall comfort. It is great for a Sunday family dinner or it's great to serve for a fancy dinner party. I'm glad there were some leftovers so I can have it for lunch the next day. It takes a few hours to make but if you are in the mood to play with food, as I said in this post, you will truly enjoy yourself in the process. Absolutely delicious meal. Make sure to have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the juices, oh and don't forget to buy and extra bottle of wine to serve with it!"
Nate enjoying his meal
Zachary soaking up the juices with his french bread!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Butterflied Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Butter

I often make grilled shrimp that I marinate, put on a skewer stick, and then grill 'em…they are always delicious and a cinch to make. But every once in a while I want to get fancy with my shrimp, so for dinner tonight I decided to make Butterflied Grilled Shrimp with Lemon Garlic Butter.

What made my so shrimp fancy was the fact that I took the extra time to "butterfly" them. Dave was quite impressed with my "butterflying skills." Butterflying shrimp simple means cutting the shrimp down the middle of it's back with a paring knife or scissors and then spreading the shrimp's flesh until it lies flat.  Butterflying shrimp takes some extra time and effort but the presentation results are far worth it. It makes you feel like you've prepared something truly special or something you'd see on the Food Network. You can butterfly your shrimp with shells on like I did or without. In my opinion leaving the shells on yields a more juicy, flavorful and succulent taste. Plus once they're grilled the shells peel off with ease. You can buy shrimp that's already "butterflied" but you will pay an arm and a leg for them. I buy jumbo sized frozen shrimp that has the shell on but has already been cleaned and deveined. That way that's all you have to do is defrost the shrimp and use a good paring knife to split and butterfly. It's so simple once you get the hang of it.

I marinated my shrimp with a little white wine, lemon, olive oil, fresh parsley and salt n pepper. Dave grilled them for approximately 8 minutes. The tailed end of the shrimp curled a bit after they were grilled but it made it super easy to pick up with your fingers and eat them. No utensils required with these tender and juicy morsels! I also made a warm garlic butter to dip the shrimp in. The boys kept double and triple dipping because the butter was that good and tasty….oh who am I kidding, I also kept double and triple dipping too! The grilled shrimp was good enough by itself but indulging in this butter made it seem like we were dipping chunks of lobster. This dinner was a treat for sure!

Next time you decide to grill shrimp, go the extra step and make it a fancy one! Salute to Butterflied Grilled Shrimp and Garlic Butter.
Marinating with white wine, lemon, olive oil, parsley and salt n pepper
Grill for 8 minutes
Beautiful grill marks when the shrimp is butterflied
Succulent and moist shrimp
Even better once it's dipped and drenched in warn garlic butter
Butterflied Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Butter (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and Cook Time: 40 minutes

Serves 6


  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined, with tail and shells (about 24 shrimp)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tb minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • salt n pepper
Garlic Butter:
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 t fresh minced garlic
To butterfly the shrimp: Make sure to keep the shell and tail on. Using a paring knife, make a deep incision from the tail to the opposite end. The incision should be where the shrimp was already deveined. Make sure not to cut all the way through. Once the incision has been made use your fingers to spread open the shrimp's flesh until it lies flat. Place shrimp in a baking dish. In a bowl mix white wine, parsley, olive oil and lemon and whisk until well blended. Drizzle mixture over shrimp and add salt n pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat grill to medium to high heat. Place shrimp on grill shell side down. Cook for 4 minutes and flip for another 3-4 minutes or until shrimp is opaque. 

For Garlic Butter: In a medium saucepan over medium heat and 1 stick of butter until melted. Add garlic and heat for 1 minute. Turn heat to a simmer and add the other stick of butter until melted. Stir continuously until all butter is melted and garlic is warm. Place in a small dipping bowl. 

You can drizzle butter over the shrimp or simply dip the shrimp. I prefer drenching it in butter!

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Ummm Ummm this is finger licking good"

Tyler: "The shrimp is so juicy and I love the butter. It's pretty easy to peel!" 

Zachary: "Mom, we should really get our own bowls for dipping the butter!" He's right with all of the double and triple dipping that was going on!

Dave: "Loved that you butterflied the shrimp…it really gave the shrimp a moist and flavorful taste. Feels like a meal we'd have on the east coast." 

Andrea: Next time we have someone over for dinner I will make these for dinner or for an appetizer. They were delicious! It was a hit with everyone. I need to buy a warming dish for my butter though. It cooled quickly without a warmer. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gazpacho: The Perfect Summer Soup

If you aren't familiar with Gazpacho, now is the time to get acquainted with this delicious soup! Gazpacho is my favorite summer soup because it's full of flavor and very refreshing to eat. It's a tomato based soup, that is made with raw vegetables and is served cold. Gazpacho originated in Southern Spain and helped people cool down during hot summer days.

Years ago you couldn't get me to eat a cold soup. My thought back then was that soup is a comfort food, thus should only be eaten warm. Plus the texture of a cold soup simply turned me off. Until one day, our friends Tony and Sheila made Gazpacho as their first course for our Gourmet Dinner Club. I remember thinking "oh no, cold soup and it's gourmet so I have to try it!" I hesitantly took my first bite and immediately said "oh my gosh this cold soup is amazing!" I think I had two helpings that night it was that good. Thank you Tony and Sheila for eliminating my crazy aversion to cold soups! If you aren't a fan of cold soups, give this a try and it may change your opinion like it did mine.

What I love most about Gazpacho is that it's the freshest tasting soup. Nothing is cooked so the flavors are at their highest peak. Gazpacho is made with tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion and garlic. The veggies are finely chopped in a food processor and then tomato juice and white wine vinegar is added. My father-in-law was over while I was making it and he could smell the cold soup from the other end of the kitchen. The aroma of this raw soup smells like you are in the middle of a salad garden. It's vegetarian, paleo friendly and super healthy for you. You feel good after eating it, like you are doing your body good. So it's healthy AND tastes delicious!

The other thing I love most about this soup is that it's served raw and that means no cooking is involved and that means not having to turn on the oven or stove….gotta love a recipe like that on a hot summer day! Plus, it's a chilled soup so eating it will be sure to cool you down. It's refreshing and light. I always make a double batch so I have leftovers the next day. In fact, it tastes better the next day because the flavors have a chance to really meld and come together. So it's a great make ahead soup if you are having guests over.

There are several recipes out there and I've tried a few but my favorite by far is a recipe from Ina Garten.  Many gazpacho recipes either tastes like you're eating salsa because it's too chunky or like you're eating tomato soup because it's too pureed. The texture in Ina's soup is the perfect balance! Make sure to follow this recipe exactly to get the best results.

So cool off this summer and make yourself some Gazpacho Soup. It's refreshing, healthy, and full of the best summer ingredients. Salute to Gazpacho, the perfect summer soup!

Gazpacho Soup - By Ina Garten (Click to print recipe)
Preparation time: 30 minutes

Serves 6 


  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes ( I used beefsteak)
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tb kosher salt
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
Roughly chop the cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1 inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steal blade and pulse until its coarsely chopped. Do not over process! 

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer the gazpacho chills, the more the flavor develop.

Food Impressions:

Nate: Didn't have any tonight, for whatever reason he said he just wasn't in the mood. You know what that means, more for me!

Tyler: "This is soup is "souper" Get it? Very clever of him to say! He said it well after dinner. Oh and he had two bowls.

Zachary: "We haven't had this soup in a while. You should make it more it's so good."

Dave: Very refreshing and flavorful. It has a really fresh taste.

Wally: My father-in-law stopped over to give me birthday flowers while I was making this soup..I gave him a bowl to take home and told him to eat it the next day so the flavors had a chance to meld. He texted me the next day and said "This soup is a keeper."

Andrea: Four words: LOVE this cold soup!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Garlic and Olive Oil Zoodles!!!! (Zucchini Noodles)

Zoodles???? What the heck are zoodles you ask? I know, sounds like a weird kids' toy, right? Well no, Zoodles are zucchini cut into strands that look spaghetti noodles; the "Z" stands for zucchini and the "oodles" stand for noodles, hence why they are called Zoodles!

I went out to dinner with my dear friend Kate at a restaurant called Coco Bar and Bistro (food was awesome by the way) which is located in downtown Buffalo. I ordered off of the pre-fix menu and one of the appetizer choices was Zucchini Noodles with Marinara Sauce. It tasted out of this world and I couldn't stop talking about how delicious it was. I asked the waitress about it and she told me it's something new the chef was trying. I knew I had to google these strands of deliciousness to see just how they were made. I saw that there were a few cooking gadgets that would spiral the zucchini into spaghetti strands. Some were pretty elaborate and some some very basic, so it was hard to decide which one was best to buy. I saw that Bed Bath and Beyond sold a variety of these gadgets so that was my store of choice.

The funny thing is that my cousin Keri who lives in San Diego, California posted a picture on Instagram of Zoodles. I immediately replied to her and told her that I tried them for the first time a few nights prior and that I was buying a zoodle maker. Her homemade zoodles looked amazing. She simply added olive oil and salt n pepper. Keri also mentioned that she bought the Paderno Spiralizer and loved it. I opted for the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. It was only $14.99 plus I had a 20% off coupon so I figured if it was a bust I wasn't breaking the bank to buy it.

So tonight, I finally got a chance to use my Veggetti to make Zoodles! It's awesome and soooo easy to use. Honestly, I thought my gadget worked great…bonus for being so cheap. You literally just cut the ends off of the zucchini attached a safety holder and twist the zucchini into a cylinder type cutter. They have two sizes of strands thick or thin; I used the thick cutter. The strands are continuous so they are super long. You have to cut them so they are easier to eat. The boys were floored when they saw I was making noodle strands from zucchini. You could add yellow squash, carrots, cucumber or any other vegetable that would fit in the cylinder and hold up to the spiral type cutting. The only draw backs were that you can't use a large sized zucchini, it has to be thin enough to fit through the cylinder. The other draw back is that this gadget spirals most of the zucchini but there is a small piece that's left over….it's edible just not spiral-able. I'm not sure if the other models have this issue.

I made my zoodles with fresh garlic and olive oil and served it with broiled lemon butter tilapia. I sautéed the zoodles on the stove top and it took 5 minutes to cook. You can do a quick boil, cook it in the microwave or even eat it raw. Which ever way you decide it's super simple and super delicious. What I love most about Zoodles is that it's a healthy low-carb alternative to pasta. I love my pasta, but every once in a while I want to go guilt free eat'n! This is quilt free for sure. Plus, its a nice quick dish for the hot summer months. The boys liked it but I could tell they much prefer their carb ridden pasta. You should error on the side of one zucchini per adult because it does wilt while cooking…kind of like sautéed spinach.

Zoodles will be a staple in our house. The next time I make zoodles I will make them with my 5-Minute Marinara SauceIf you've never heard of zoodles or have debated whether or not to get this gadget…go buy it and begin spiralizing your veggies! You will not be disappointed. Salute to Zoodles and my new beloved gadget to add to my collection!

My Zoodle maker
Here are the noodle type strands it makes, so simple to use
This is the piece of the zucchini that's left over, still edible just not spiral-able
You could eat it raw, it's so fresh
Yep, this is how long the strands are!!!
Sauteeing with olive oil, butter and garlic
Look at how beautiful these zoodles are!
I served the zoodles with a broiled lemon butter tilapia, perfect compliment!
Garlic & Olive Oil Zoodles (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4


  • 4 medium sized zucchini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tb butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic mined
  • 2 tb fresh chopped parsley
  • pinch of grated red pepper flakes
  • a squeeze of half lemon
  • salt n pepper to taste
Using your zoodle maker, cut your zucchini according to your device. In a skillet, sauté olive oil, butter and garlic over medium to high heat. Add zucchini strands to pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add parsley, red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon and salt n pepper to taste.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Wow, those are so cool…what are they?" Zucchini Spaghetti Nate. I hope they taste as good as they look!" Once he tasted them he response - "Eh, they are ok just not as good as spaghetti though."

Tyler: "I like zoodles a lot" He didn't even finish the small portion I gave him!

Zachary: "I love Zoodles, they are super tasty." He had two helpings! He loved them the most of his brothers.

Dave: "I really like these, they are flavorful and a good a nice change from pasta." Dave was eating them raw and liked them just as much.

Andrea: Loved them! I can't wait to use my veggetti again but with other types of veggies. The book says it will also make spirals out of potatoes but I'm not sure how they will fit. I'd like to that next. I also can't wait to try it with marinara sauce. I can't wait for zucchini season to begin now! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crab Boil Summer Solstice Party

This past weekend our friends Michael and Heather hosted a summer solstice party at their beach house. The party involved a pretty deluxe crab boil, wait, let me rephrase, a pretty mack-daddy crab boil. I've made plenty of seafood boils and have been to many as well, but never one quite this involved  or of this magnitude. When they sent the invitation they also attached a copy of the recipe. From the recipe description, I could tell this crab boil wasn't for a small crowd, in fact it was quite the opposite.

On our way out to the cottage I told Dave based on the size of the crowd I was curious as to how they were going to boil all of this food; we took a few guesses but were totally wrong. When we showed up to the cottage Michael took us to the spot where the magic boil was to take place…and it started with - a turkey fryer! Yep, a turkey fryer. I never considered a turkey fryer to be used for anything other than, well, frying a turkey! Brilliant idea, right??

Every step of the crab boil was such an enjoyable process to watch and participate in. From adding all of the ingredients into the humungous pot, to smelling the spicy aroma of the seafood boiling, to draining the seasoned liquid from the pot, to seeing all of the delicious ingredients dumped onto the butcher paper covered table, to digging in and eating all of the scrumptious seafood, sausage, potatoes and corn, to dipping every piece in a cup of warm clarified butter, to making a mess of yourself and loving every minute of it because you are sharing the experience with good friends! This was truly a quintessential summer beach feast.

The boys thought it was the best because making a mess was allowed, eating with your hands and not utensils was a must and eating a soft shell crab for the first time was ridiculously cool and crunchy to boot! What I love most about seafood boils is that everyone is involved with the process…it's truly a communal experience. Plus, Michael and Heather used ingredients that were of the upmost quality and were locally sourced. For example the chorizo and andouille sausage were from Spars, and the shrimp, clams, mussels and soft shell crabs were from Schneider's Fish and Seafood Company. So not only was the process fun and engaging, the food was superb!

Talk about lasting food impressions….this is a summer solstice party we will always remember. Salute to Michael and Heather for hosting a memorable crab boil!

The best way to describe the process of this amazing crab boil is to share it with the photos I took of the day. The recipe is below.
Michael boiling the Old Bay seasoning broth in the turkey fryer
Heather adding the Genny Creme Ale, after taking a sip
Adding the onions and garlic
Adding the chorizo and andouille sausage
Now adding the corn
Now the shrimp
And for the highlight, time to add the fresh crab but all of the kids just had to touch them first!
All of the ingredients are finally in the pot
A two person job to strain the broth, smells so good!
And the moment of truth…the ingredients being dumped onto a huge butcher paper covered table! WOW!
Almost ready for 30 of us to dig in and eat
Quintessential summer beach fare!
Nate and Zachary waiting for everyone to sit down 
Now this is a mack-daddy crab boil summer solstice party
The kids kayaking in Lake Erie after a very filling meal!
Crab Boil (Click to print recipe)

Cook time is approximately 30-40 minutes total

Serves 25


  • 6 quarts of water
  • 12 oz Old Bay seasoning
  • 16 oz Genny Creme Ale
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves whole
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 7 pounds of new potatoes (small and halved)
  • 2 pounds of andouille sausage (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 2 pounds chorizo sausage (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 dozen ears of corn cut in half
  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 3 dozen little neck clams
  • 5 pounds of shrimp, tail on
  • 24 soft shell crabs
Add 6 quarts of water to a turkey fryer or very large pot. Add the Old Bay seasoning and beer and bring to a boil. Add the next four ingredients and boil for 10 minutes. Add sausage and corn then continue to boil for an additional 10 minutes. Add mussels and clams and boil for 5 minutes. Finally add shrimp and crabs until crabs are done, approximately 7-10 minutes.