Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cassoulet in an Instant Pot #KitchenMatrixCookingProject

Did you know that the French dish, Cassoulet, had it's very own holiday?  Neither did I, but I learned that January 9th is the day set aside to celebrate this comforting, homey dish that originated in the Languedoc region of France.



There are some amazing wines from the Languedoc region as well and we are celebrating those wines this month over in the French Winophiles group to which I belong.  I will post more about that on Saturday when I talk about how these wines paired with this recipe that I'm sharing today.


My friend, Cam, invited us to join her on a journey this year as she cooked her way through Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix Cookbook.  You can read all about her challenge and join us if you'd like.  All the information is found in this post.

Each Tuesday we post a recipe inspired by a section or subsection of this cookbook that encourages you to think outside the box and be creative with recipes.  As luck would have it, Bittman has a section just for Cassoulet.  Since Cam also belongs to our Winophile group, she chose Cassoulet as our entrée for this month.  Thank you, Cam.

Bittman wrote a recipe for classic Cassoulet containing duck stock and duck confit.  I love duck but, unfortunately, am the only in the household that does.  I have made Cassoulet in the past, sans duck, using my slow cooker.  That recipe was also used to celebrate the wines of Languedoc and can be found in this post.

I was tempted to follow Bittman's recipe to a T. The thought of buying a whole duck, making stock and confit and braising it all in the with some lamb was very appealing to me.  I could invite company for dinner and have Frank suffer through having to eat not only duck but lamb too, for which he also doesn't care.

Then, as I read through Bittman's thoughts on Cassoulet a couple of sentences struck me and stuck in my mind.

"There are two ways to think of cassoulet.  The first is as a canonical recipe from the South of France.  The second way is as simply a glorified version of franks 'n' beans."
"When making a traditional dish it is important to remember that the people who "invented" them just used what they had."
Glorified Beanie Weenies?  Count me in coach.  Frank LOVES Beanie Weenies.



I went into the freezer to see what I had.  I had a package of spare ribs and some smoked chicken sausage.  I also had a day filled with errands to run and since I had already made a slow cooker cassoulet and wasn't going to be home to tend to the oven, I decided to make my cassoulet in the  Instant Pot.

One of the things I love about the Instant Pot is the saute setting that allows you to brown your meat right inside the pot, instead of dirtying another pan and smattering up your stovetop.  I cut the ribs into portions, seasoned them with salt and pepper and browned them before adding the sausage, beans and vegetables to the pot with some chicken stock.

I adjusted the setting on the pot to the stew/meat function that automatically sets the timer to cook for 35 minutes.  It takes about 10-15 minutes for the heat and pressure to build to the point where it starts to cook.  Once done cooking, I let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes before opening the quick release valve.


Because I used spare ribs, I had the added step of removing any bones and gristle from the dish, before dishing it up and sprinkling some seasoned bread crumbs over the top.  All in all it took about an hour and 15 minutes from the time I pulled out the ingredients to being read to serve.  That's not too bad considering it would take a minimum of 4-5 hrs. if making it in the traditional fashion.  And that is after spending a couple of days making your stock and confit.



I do hope to make a traditional cassoulet one day but in the meantime this version and my slow cooker version are certainly delicious and comforting during these cold winter days.


Make sure you stop by and see how the others created their Cassoulet. You will find links immediately below my recipe.

Cassoulet in an Instant Pot
inspired by Kitchen Matrix by Mark Bittman


2 T. olive oil
6 portions meaty spare ribs
salt and pepper, to taste
2 chicken sausages, cut into thirds
2 c. white beans, soaked for a few hours (I used Northern beans)
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 carrot, scraped and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 an onion, diced
1 T. Herbs de Provence
Garlic seasoned bread crumbs, if desired

Add the oil to the Instant Pot and set to saute setting.  Season the ribs with salt and pepper.  Add them to the pot and brown on all sides.  Add the sausage, beans, broth, onions, carrots, celery and Herbs de Provence to the Instant Pot.  Cancel the saute setting and seal the lid onto the pot, making sure the vent is closed.  

Set the Instant Pot to meat/stew setting.  It will automatically set up to cook for 35 minutes once the pot is heated and pressurized.  When done cooking, allow the steam to naturally release for 10 minutes before carefully releasing the remaining steam.  When pressure gauge is seated, open the pot and remove the ribs to a cutting board.  Remove the meat, discarding the bones and any gristle.  Return the meat to the pot and stir to combine.  

Serve garnished with seasoned bread crumbs, if desired.  Print Recipe

More Comforting Cassoulets












Butternut Squash Pizzettas #FootballFoods

I am pleased to be hosting a game day party today.  I must admit that we are not huge football fans in this household.  That not withstanding, I love hosting game day parties.  At our house the game is on in the background and the main focus is on the food, drink and the card games or board games that we enjoy while glancing at the screen every once in a while.

Being as it is the start of a New Year and many of us resolve to try to eat more healthily, I was thrilled to open up a flyer from my local grocer and find this recipe for Butternut Squash Pizzettas.


While these taste absolutely nothing like pizza, they are adorable and crazily delicious.  They are a great finger food and make a great addition to the often calorie laden fare normally found at game day parties.


Include these at your next gathering and watch the pleasure on your guests faces when they realize they can enjoy something other than the carrot and celery sticks on the snack table.


I made these in two steps, roasting the butternut squash earlier in the day and then topping the rounds and putting them in the oven shortly before my guests were to arrive.

Butternut Squash Pizzettas
adapted from Kroger

2 T. pine nuts, toasted
1 butternut squash
2 T. pesto, homemade or purchased
2 T. grated parmesan cheese

Cut the stem and bulb from a butternut squash.  Discard the stem and reserve the bulb to be peeled, seeded and used in another application.

Peel the neck and slice into 1/4" rounds. Place onto a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Bake in a preheated 400* oven for 15 minutes, flip rounds over and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until tender.

Remove from oven.  Top each round with pesto and then sprinkle with cheese.  Divide the pine nuts between the rounds and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Let cool a few minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.  Print Recipe

More Fabulous Football Foods

Monday, January 15, 2018








Last night we attended a wine and dine at the Springbrook Inn in Prudenville, MI.  The Inn puts on these dinners 6 times a year and we go as often as we can.  

Our friends, Bob and Cathy, live in the neighboring town so it is always fun to join them for the evening.  We start with cocktails at their house, have dinner, return to their house for after dinner drinks and laugh....laugh....laugh  the night away.

This morning they made us two wonderful casseroles for breakfast one savory and one sweet.  The savory casserole is going to make an appearance on this blog in the near future....it was delicious.  The sweet casserole was delicious as well.  It was a French toast casserole and I have shared many of them with you already.

Back to the dinner:


The tables are always beautifully set.  The chef works hard to offer food different for each event.  As you can imagine, this gets harder as time goes by.  This is their 3rd year hosting these events and he has yet to duplicate a dish.



We started off with a Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc from Australia.  This was paired with a goat cheese spread flavored with black pepper and honey with a fig compote.  This was my  favorite bite of the evening.  The pairing was very nice.  The Sauvignon Blanc was reminiscent of biting into a grapefruit.

The second course paired a Blackened Salmon with a Pinot Noir from Meiomi Vineyards in California.  The sommelier explained that Meiomi wines are made from wine grown in several different areas of the Coastal Region of California.  The same vineyards that supply the grapes for their Caymus label.  


Next we were served another wine from the family that gives us Caymus.  This Merlot from Emmolo was paired with Beef Burgundy.  Emmolo Winery is ran by Jenny Wagner in Napa Valley.  This wine was deep, rich and smooth.  We quickly ordered ourselves a case.


Dessert was an amazing Avocado Ice Cream paired with a Cristalino Brut out of Spain.  Sparkling wine is always a good choice with dessert and this was no exception.

We headed out shortly after breakfast because there were weather advisories for snow storms and we wanted to get home before they got here.  I had originally thought we would be stopping for dinner on the way home but we were home well before dinner time. 

This worked out just as well because I had half a slab of ribs in my refrigerator that needed to be used.  The other half had been turned into a Cassoulet that I will be sharing with you later this week.  

Besides the ribs, I had half a head of cabbage, 1 green apple, half a package of mushrooms, half an onion and about a cup of chicken broth in the refrigerator.  These all got thrown into the Instant Pot and an hour later we were enjoying dinner.


After nearly two months of feasting on fancy, fussy foods my body and soul are now craving homey, rustic, casual foods as is evident by this Roasted Veggie Tart that I shared with you on Saturday.

Pork and Cabbage in an Instant Pot

1/2 slab of meaty spare ribs
1 T. olive oil
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
1 green, tart apple, peeled and diced
3-4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 c. chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Turn the Instant Pot to the saute setting.  Divide the ribs into individual pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in the Instant Pot until browned on both sides.

Add the cabbage, onion, apple, mushrooms, broth and garlic to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Hit the cancel button to stop the saute cycle.  Place the lid on the pot, ensuring that the steam vent is closed.  Press the Meat/Stew button and allow to cook for the preset time of 35 minutes.  Let steam naturally release for 10 minutes when cooking cycle ends before using the quick release method.  Print Recipe



Saturday, January 13, 2018

Celebrating Sonoma #WinePW #SonomaStrong

Today we are going to look back to that horrible period in October when the wildfires raged over northern California.

See the source image

These fires dealt a terrible blow to the tourism industry that supports this area.  Not only did many people lose their loved ones and their homes, they also lost their jobs and financial security.  While the fires are contained the devastation continues.

See the source image

You can read about how all these fires affected the economy and jobs of all those who live and work in the wine industry which is huge in that area in this article

Our friend, Jill of L'Occasion , invited all wine bloggers to join the members of our Wine Pairing Weekend group this month to honor this area's winemakers and join in the relief project known as #SonomaStrong.  You can read her invitation and get more information here.  Should you be interested in helping with this cause you can make a donation through United Way Relief and Recovery Fund.

The folks over at Geyser Peak Winery decided to show their appreciation and offered their support by sending some of us 2 bottles of their wines to sample.


"One of California’s oldest and most renowned wineries, Geyser Peak Winery was founded in 1880 by Augustus Quitzow, a pioneer in Alexander Valley winemaking, Geyser Peak has flourished as an award-winning winery for more than 130 years. Quitzow chose the original winery site in Geyserville for its vantage point of the famed Geysers Geothermal area. The white steam that billowed from the geysers along the mountain slopes provided the winery with a spectacular ‘view of the clouds’. Today, Geyser Peak pays fond tribute to its past roots in Alexander Valley as it sets forth on a new path into the Dry Creek Valley Appellation where the winery has recently relocated. Although the address is new, the commitment to the highest quality artisan winemaking is not. Geyser Peak will continue to “Reach For Peak” for many years to come."


I have enjoyed Geyser Peak wines in the past and was excited to create a meal with which we could enjoy these bottles.  All opinions and thoughts in this and all of my posts are strictly my own.  Purchasing wines from this area is another great way to help get the economy in that area back on stable footing and offer support to the people affected by this disaster.


I tried to make sure that over the holidays all bottles bought as gifts were from this area.  Just my little way of saying "I got your back".  It was easy for me because, as a California wine lover, I know that a label from Napa and/or Sonoma are sure to contain a quality wine even if I'm not familiar with the winery itself.


I served the Sauvignon Blanc with Chicken Alfredo Lasagna last Saturday. This was the entrée for our last Dinner party of the Christmas season, shared with our family who lives up north and was bringing our great niece back down for the next semester of University.

I wasn't sure how this wine was going to be.  You see, we are in the middle of a deep freeze here in Michigan.  Indeed, throughout most of the Midwest and Eastern States of the Country.  When my wine was delivered, this bottle was partially frozen and slushy.  Luckily the bottle was still intact.

As it thawed, the color of the wine looked fine and I wondered if, perhaps, we often buy wine that has frozen during transport and then thawed in the store without ever realizing it.


I opened the wine and took a taste while I was making dinner.  I was pleased that it tasted exactly as I expected.  It was citrusy and bright with hints of grass.  I used it to deglaze my pan while making the sauce with the chicken breasts.

The crispness and brightness of the wine cut through the richness of the lasagna making it a wonderful pairing that we all enjoyed.


I served the Cabernet Sauvignon on a Meatless Monday with a Roasted Vegetable Tart.  Say what?!! Cabernet Sauvignon and no meat?  Yes, folks, I did it and it was amazing!!

If there is a better pairing than blue cheese and Cabernet Sauvignon, I have yet to find it.  This tart has just a hint of blue cheese that gives the perfect flavor to the sweet earthiness of the roasted veggies.  

And my crust....that rustic, homely crust......was the flakiest most tender crust I have yet to make.  That adage not to judge a book by it's cover was certainly true in this case.  

This recipe was inspired by  this one found in Food and Wine that recommended pairing a Roasted Veggie Tart with a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  

The wine, a 2014 Walking Tree, was aged for 21 months in small oak barrels.  It is smooth and full bodied.  I think it would complement a nice juicy steak or black and blue burger as well as it did this recipe I am sharing with you today.





Savory oven roasted veggies covering a blue cheese sauce and enfolded in a flaky, tender all butter crust, this Rustic Tart makes a perfect Meatless Monday or Vegetarian Dinner.  Paired with a full bodied aromatic wine it made a great casual dinner.  The recipe could easily be doubled or even tripled to serve at a dinner party.



Please stop by and visit the other members of our group who are supporting Sonoma during this terrible disaster.  They will have additional options available for those who want to assist in this endeavor.

Rustic Roasted Vegetable Tart
inspired by Food&Wine

1 1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
10 T. butter, well chilled and cut into 1/4" dice
ice water
6 (1/4") slices eggplant
1 portabella mushroom cap, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 of a Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick moons
1/2 of a  red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. gorgonzola cheese
2 oz. Neufchatel cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 t. parmesan 

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until crumbs are pea sized.  Add 2 Tablespoons of the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times until incorporated.  Add 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing after each until the dough holds together when pinched.  You do not want it to turn into a ball in the food processor.  As soon as it holds together, turn onto a floured counter and form into a ball with your hands.  Press into a disc shape and wrap with plastic wrap, covering completely.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Unwrap and place on a floured work surface.  Let rest for about 10 minutes so that it warms up enough to be pliable.

While dough is resting, toss the eggplant, mushrooms, onion, zucchini and pepper with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicone mat.  Place in a preheated 450* oven and roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring once.  Remove from the pan onto a plate and set aside.

Mix together the gorgonzola and Neufchatel cheese until smooth.  Beat in the egg and parmesan cheese.

Roll the dough into a round, you don't need to worry about trimming the edges or making it look pretty.  Place the round onto the same lined baking sheet that you used for the veggies.  Spread the blue cheese mixture on the crust, leaving a 2" border.  Arrange the veggies over the cheese mixture.  Fold the dough up partially covering the veggies.  Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Print Recipe

Let's Keep #SonomaStrong by visiting the others' posts








Friday, January 12, 2018

Wining this Weekend and the Weekly Menu

Yay for Friday!!!  I don't normally get excited about Friday's because when you are retired every day is the weekend but this weekend is different.

Tonight, we are going over our daughter, Amy's, house to celebrate Doug's birthday.  Tomorrow I will be sharing a post I wrote for Sonoma, California wineries that are suffering due to the wildfires that engulfed the area.  I will be sharing some great wines from that area not only tomorrow but later in the month as well.

Then, on Sunday, we are heading north to join our friend's, Bob and Cathy, at a Wine and Dine.  These Wine and Dine events are held at the Springbrook Inn and are limited to a small number of guests. You can read about a past Wine and Dine we attended here.  I am looking very forward to this event that has the theme "Black and White".

We will spend the night at Bob and Cathy's and head home on Monday.  We will probably stop for dinner en route.

The rest of the week is routine.  We will pick up Melody on Tuesday.  Wednesday I have food pantry.  Thursday is choir and Friday we are going to try, for like the 10th time, to have a date night.  Last May we were given gift certificates for massages and also a gift card to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Both are located about an hour away from us so we are trying to plan a date when we do both.  Something else always seems to come up before we can make our reservations.  Perhaps I should make the reservations now so that it doesn't get shoved to the back burner again.



So here is my Weekly Menu. Please stop by each day as I share recipes, photos and a bit of my life here on the farm.

Soup Saturday
Chili
Cornbread

Sunday
Black and White-Wine and Dine

Monday
Dinner out on the way home

Toddler Tuesday
Thai Inspired Noodles

Wednesday
Burritos made with Leftover Chili

Thursday
Mushroom Pie

Friday
Date Night





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ginger Garlic Shrimp #ImprovCookingChallenge

Our theme for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife,  is Ginger and Spice.

I was so overloaded with sweets during the Holiday season that I almost sat this event out.  Then, when I was creating my menu for Christmas Day, inspiration struck.  I knew I was going to serve ham and chicken marsala.  I also like having a fish or seafood dish and decided to make shrimp.  That's when I remembered the theme for this month's challenge and knew that I was going to use ginger and spices in my shrimp so I could participate.



This is so easy and quick that it hardly seems like a recipe at all.  I can see me making this again and again throughout the year.  It is lowfat, healthy and delicious.  It can be adapted to serve a crowd or just one person, simply adjust the amounts.



I served this as part of a dinner buffet but I will be making it again for dinner served with stir fry veggies and steamed rice. It will be perfect.

Ginger Garlic Shrimp

2 lbs. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact
2 T. olive oil
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1 T. garlic paste
1 T. ginger paste

Heat the olive oil and crushed red pepper in a wok over med high heat.  When shimmering add the garlic and ginger.  Stir into the oil.  Immediately add the shrimp.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, being careful not to overcook as they will become tough. Print Recipe

The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.You can also read more about the event on our our home page
If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna #ComfortFood

Oh My YUM....you guys are going to be so happy when you try this fabulous Lasagna recipe that I'm sharing with you today!!

This recipe was served up on Saturday at my last dinner gathering of the Christmas Season.  We celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas so the parties continue right up to Epiphany or, what we like to call, Little Christmas.


My friend, Cindy of Cindy's Recipes and Writing, invited the members of our Festive Foodies group to share Comfort Food recipes today.  This recipe is PERFECT!  If you are a fan of Fettuccine Alfredo you are going to be doing a happy dance.

It is perfect for a crowd or a dinner party on a cold winter's night. It can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it in the oven.

I used oven ready lasagna but you can use regular lasagna noodles or homemade lasagna noodles if that is more your thing.  I adapted this recipe quite a bit but the original idea came from my Cuisine at Home Magazine published in 2004.

I served it up with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma. You can read more about that and join in the efforts to help those suffering from the devastation of the wildfires next Saturday.


I sautéed up some chicken breasts that I had thinly sliced into strips but this would also be a great way to use leftover chicken.


It is a little disconcerting when you assemble using oven ready lasagna sheets because there is so much empty space in your baking pan. 


Not to worry. Once it is baked, everything expands and melts together to make a perfect lasagna.  Look at all those layers of cheesy, comforting goodness.


Chicken Alfredo Lasagna
inspired by Cuisine at Home, Issue #43

1 lg. chicken breast (about 2 lbs) sliced into thin strips
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. olive oil
1 lg. leek, white and light green, well cleaned and sliced
1 (12 oz) pkg mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 T. garlic paste
2 t. dried basil
1 t. oregano
1 t. thyme
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small onion, diced
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch nutmeg
1/3 c. flour
3 cups milk
1 pkg (5 oz) Boursin Cheese
3 oz. Neufchatel Cheese
1 bunch baby spinach leaves
1 egg, beaten
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pkg. oven ready lasagna sheets

Season the chicken and saute in a large skillet over med. high heat, until no longer pink on the outside.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Add the leeks and mushrooms to the same skillet, adding more oil if necessary, and cook until softened.  Stir in the garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and thyme.  Cook and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the white wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the chicken broth and lemon and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Return chicken to pan, remove from heat and set aside.

 In a large saucepan, melt the butter over med high heat.  Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent.  Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.  Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth and cook until thickened.  Add the Boursin and Neufchatel cheeses, a little at a time, whisking until melted.  Add the spinach leaves, in batches, stirring after each until wilted.  Return the chicken to the mixture, remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Whisk in the beaten egg.  Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

Spray a 9x13x3 baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/3 cup of the béchamel (white) sauce onto the bottom of the baking pan.  Lay 3 pasta sheets across the bottom of the pan and cover with another 1/3 cup of the béchamel.  Spread 1 cup of the chicken mixture over the pasta, add some of the mozzarella slices and sprinkle with parmesan.  Add 3 more pasta sheets, 1/3 c. of the béchamel, 1 c. of the chicken, mozzarella and parmesan.  Repeat until all pasta is used.  Top the final layer of pasta with the reserved béchamel and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 400* oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly and top is browned in spots.  Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.  Print Recipe



More Comfort Foods