Coq au Vin 

After years of cooking together we are much braver when it comes to seemingly intimidating dishes. Coq au Vin sounds like a very impressive and intimidating so we tackled it this weekend. After we went shopping on Saturday we realized that the dish would need to marinate in the fridge overnight so we decided we would prep it together on Sunday afternoon and I would cook it for dinner Monday night.

This dish is involved. I think that’s why it seems intimidating. There’s an aromatics portion, the chicken is coated in flour and then pan fried, and preparatory steps for ingredients needed the following day.

The recipe calls for two full bottles of Pinot Noir in the sauce, but I’m pretty convinced that some in a glass goes quite well with the meal rather than cooking all the wine. And on that note, a better quality Pinot Noir for the non-cooking portion is recommended.  
Honestly, in our humble opinion, after making this dish only once, we were not a fan of the floured chicken. We would prefer a non breaded version if we make this dish again.  

It certainly looked yummy before we soaked it in wine!

Alton Brown’s Coq au Vin video   Oh, these aromatics! Yum!

You cook the mushrooms, pearl onions (we substituted sweet yellow onions because our grocery store was fresh out of pearls), and lardon (what? we used bacon) and then refrigerate them to use in the sauce the next day. (In the background of the image below).

Original Recipe
  After I pulled it out of the oven, it did not look pretty but it smelled fantastic.

At this point in the recipe you strain out everything you see below, retain the chicken, cook down the fluids, add in the mushroom/onion/bacon mix to the reduced liquid and you are ready for a plate!img_3859

I didn’t take a picture of the plating because it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. He recommends you serve it over egg noodles, I used bread and that was pretty yummy.

Her remake of last night’s recipe

I realize that a good portion of my posts about Cook Smarts might sound like a sales pitch, (and let’s be honest, I’d totally appreciate a remuneration package for my advertising), but that’s not the case. This subscription service has revolutionized our week nights and my hope in sharing this is that someone else will benefit as well.

Most of the meals are 30-45 minutes from start to plating and every single meal uses fresh ingredients (and sometimes frozen, boxed or canned, as well. I haven’t gone off the deep end!). I’ve made my own seasoning mixes, my own salad dressings, salad mixes and the list goes on. My confidence in the kitchen is skyrocketing. This isn’t to say that every dish has turned out perfectly or that we’ve loved every single meal, but we’ve enjoyed a majority.

Take tonight’s meal for example. I had chicken thighs thawing in the fridge and since tonight wasn’t an “authentic Cook Smarts” night I was going to do something really simple. However, newly inspired with last night’s dish I decided to do a variation on the meal and repeat it! The only thing I changed was using peas instead of the avocado and orange salad for the side. To be fair, a post from Cook Smarts today inspired my creativity. They shared a “cooking mad libs” post about the “secret” formula for many of their dishes and encouraged making your own substitutions. You can find this post on facebook or in their articles.

I felt so empowered to make a creative meal to enjoy in my home! Full disclosure, I love pinterest, I have a fantastic “on the menu” board. I have every intention of cooking through my list, but I’ve been burned too many times with untested or just-plain-bad recipes. I had every intention of making out my own menus and creatively cooking meals, but I had a lot of emotional investment in A) the meal turning out perfect, B) hoping my husband would love it, C) that I would love it, that I crippled myself before beginning. Now I have the perfect excuse to try new foods, recipes etc that have been tested so as long as I can follow directions the meals will turn out.

We’re learning a lot through this process. We’re trying dishes we may never have experienced and learning we do like green eggs and ham sometimes! (Okay, that was just my Dr. Seuss humor sneaking out.)

Thanks for following along on my cooking adventures. If you decide to sign up, let me know, I’m excited to have more people enjoying their kitchens and dining experiences!

Southwestern Roasted Chicken with orange avocado salsa / wild rice

I’ve been in a conference all day today and I was in the same conference all day yesterday, so I made this meal in stages which means I forgot to do my ingredients picture. I’m so sad! I really like taking a picture of the ingredients because most of the time it is all fresh or simple ingredients and I really like emphasizing that.

I only made one modification/substitution in this recipe, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (big substitution, right?) 

Let’s talk about this fresh salad! Avocado, orange (okay, I lied earlier, I used a clementine instead of an orange, substitution number 2), lime and cilantro. Yum! So fresh and light but satisfying! I wish I had finely chopped the cilantro instead of coarsely chopping it. That would have improved it exponentially. But hey, I’m learning, so it’s all good!

A perfectly ripe, non bruised avocado? This needed photo documentation!

I mixed up the spice seasoning mix this morning before I left the house! I really like it when the directions say, “you can do this up to ## days ahead of time”! It encourages me to read through my recipes a few times before I make the dish. It also encourages me to do an appropriate amount of prep work when I have a few moments here or there!

The shallots and raw pumpkin seeds are ready to be mixed with the rice!

Oh my goodness! The flavors and aromas!!

So sometimes I’m a ninny and forget that when you remove a pan from the oven, the handle you can normally grab shouldn’t be touched without a pot holder. Ouch, I’ll be doing burn wound care this evening. (I’m okay, my palm just looks like I spent some time in the sun.)

I have no idea why or how these flavors complement so well, but this was a very tasty meal!


Southwestern Roasted Chicken:

  • Coriander, dried – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Paprika – 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin – 1/2 tsp
  • Chili powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Black pepper – 1/4 tsp
  • Shallots – 1 clove, chopped
  • Pepitas / pumpkin seeds – 1/4 cup
  • Chicken thighs, boneless (with or without skin) – 1 1/2 lbs
  • Oil, cooking – 2 Tbsp
  • Cooked wild rice (leftover from Monday) – ~2 cups

Orange Avocado Salsa:

  • Oranges – 2, segments, roughly chopped
  • Avocados – 2, chopped
  • Cilantro – 1 Tbsp, leaves torn
  • Limes – 1/2, juice of

*This meal is part of Cook Smarts subscription meals!

Turkey Kofta with broiled zucchini / mint yogurt sauce

After making my 10th meal, a full meal, plating a dinner (!), I cannot sing the praises of Cook Smarts any louder (!)! My confidence with serving a dinner has grown exponentially! We haven’t loved every single complete meal, that’s for certain, but we have greatly enjoyed having a complete meal at dinner. Formerly we would save our extravagant cooking for the weekends. Our week night meals were very simple. (Imagine: chicken thighs and peas, a lot, not saying that’s what happened, but you could imagine. Sometimes we’d add garlic powder or Italian seasoning to this hypothetical chicken.)

Now, we’ve enjoyed a different vegetable every night! In addition to that we’re incorporating a variety of proteins as well!

If I read the directions properly ahead of time I would have realized I could have made the turkey kofta’s a day in advance (!) this would have saved me some time at dinner prep Wednesday evening, oh well!

I’d like to share with you my favorite method to chop: mint, basil, parsley, spinach, etc. I learned this technique from Gordon Ramsey.

You stack all of your leaves together flat in a pile,


Then you roll them up as tightly as possible.

And carefully slice with a knife. Easy peasy and you have similar sized pieces as your final product!

This yogurt sauce was really delicious. I made a few substitutions: coconut milk yogurt (minimal to no flavor difference) and fresh dill instead of dried. Also you might be interested to note that I actually made the yogurt sauce a day early. I have a conference on Wednesday so I knew my time/energy might be reduced and this component lent itself to making ahead.



Turkey Kofta:

  • Green onions – 1/2 stalk, green and white parts chopped and combined (I used a whole stalk)
  • Turkey, ground and lean (sub any ground meat) – 5/8 lb (I eyeballed this and probably landed closer to 6/8 lb)
  • Panko breadcrumbs – 1/8 cup
  • Italian seasonings – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Black pepper – 1/8 tsp
  • Pine nuts (sub chopped walnuts) – 1/8 cup (eye balled)
  • Oil, cooking – 1/2 Tbsp
  • Stock, any type – 1/4 cup (I used chicken broth)

Mint Yogurt Sauce:

  • Mint, fresh – 5 leaves, finely chopped
  • Lemons – 1/4, zest of
  • Yogurt, Greek or plain – 1/2 cup (I used non-dairy coconut milk yogurt, yum)
  • Honey – 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin, ground – 1/16 tsp
  • Dill, dried – 1/8 tsp (I used fresh and eye balled it)

Crispy Zucchini Spears:

  • Zucchini (buy the smallest you can find) – 1/2 lb, quartered lengthwise into spears (I cut it in half and then sliced it as close to evenly as possible, but I ended up with more than quarters)
  • Oil, olive – 1/2 Tbsp
  • Honey – 1 tsp
  • Panko breadcrumbs – 1/8 cup

*Recipe from Cook Smarts subscription service

Penne with sausage and broccoli rabe

One of the cool parts about having a modified tiny house is that all of my furniture is really easy to move. I can move almost everything in the house by myself. I took advantage of this today when I relocated our island so I could watch tv while cooking. Full House is so much fun! I think I’m in season 4 now.

I love pasta dishes, I mean really, really, love pasta dishes. My favorite lately have been ones I’ve made using fresh, homemade pasta. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I had a full and busy week this week so I did not make pasta. I bought pasta and it worked nicely.

This meal was incredibly simple, AND I got to cook with broccoli rabe! This was my first time purchasing and cooking with broccoli rabe! So much fun to try new things!

I doubled the garlic, I know you’re shocked! 🙂  

Above you’ll see one of the optional components- the red pepper flakes, that I affectionately call “pizza pepper flakes.” I decided to add these- good choice (sometimes I “make good choices”). It only gave the dish a touch of zing, and we all need a touch of zing in our lives!

I loved the garlic-y bread crumbs (panko and sautéd garlic)


Chicken Sausage Penne:

  • Broccoli rabe (also called rapini; sub broccoli florets) – 6 oz, chopped (I don’t think I used enough because it was 6 oz with the stems and I cut most of the stem off and it cooked down substantially)
  • Garlic – 1 cloves, chopped (I used 2)
  • Sausage, chicken (preferably pre-cooked; sub any variety sausage) – 1/2 lb, casings removed (if applicable) and sliced (I used 1 lb)
  • Pasta, penne – 5 oz
  • Butter – 1/2 Tbsp (I subbed non dairy butter, but oil would have worked as well)
  • Panko breadcrumbs – 1/4 cup
  • Oil, cooking – 1/2 Tbsp
  • Red pepper flakes (opt) – 1/8 tsp
  • Lemons – 1/4, zest of

*This recipe is part of the paid subscription service on the Cook Smarts website.

Honey Citrus Salmon with Radicchio, Fennel and Orange Salad

The sub title to this post is: someday I’ll have a gas stove top cooking surface and an oven that properly heats/regulates temperature. I now have a thermometer in the oven, but the oven is so temperamental it really makes cooking an extra sensitive adventure.

Another alternate title, Cook Smarts adventures, Week 3, Meal 1.

One of my favorite parts about this meal is that it made going to the grocery store a lot of fun! A)I’ve only purchased fennel seeds and had to google an image of a whole fennel. And B) I had no idea what a radicchio looked like either! Also, this recipe required a trip to two grocery stores due to a non existent supply of mint and radicchio at our normal Kroger stop. New discoveries at the grocery store: win!

Apparently, this is a fennel:

It has a sweet flavor but it’s not sugary. The recipe called for much less than I chopped up, but it was so good, I’d use that much again in the future. I probably needed to do something better about that center piece and it would have been better if I’d broken up the pieces better. All in all, this was a fun and tasty try. They mention that there are things you can do with the long stringy green pieces, but today I was already experimenting enough as it is, maybe that’ll be part of next round’s adventure.

This is a radicchio:

You treat it like a cabbage, you chop it like cabbage, it looks like a cabbage but the color is richer (I think), more of a mauve hue than a red cabbage. Also, it is incredibly bitter. So bitter, we couldn’t eat it. The recipe indicated that you could sub in red cabbage or baby spinach. I think next time I make this dish, I would prefer spinach.


Had I subbed spinach or anything-but-radicchio, this salad would have been awesome. I liked the orange marmalade dressing, the fennel, the beans and the oranges, I did not like the radicchio.

Remember my persnickety oven? Well, I over cooked the salmon. Oh well, it was still mostly edible. Personally, I thought this meal looked a lot better than it turned out, but that’s my own critique on the meal. Also, even with the results, it was still a lot of fun to try this new recipe. I enjoyed the challenge, the hunt in the grocery stores and trying new dishes! If the salmon were properly cooked, and the spinach replaced the radicchio, I think I would have given this meal an A!



Honey Citrus Dressing:

  • Orange marmalade (sub any orange or yellow jam) – 1/8 cup
  • Lemons – 1/4, zest and juice of
  • Soy sauce – 1 tsp
  • Mustard, Dijon – 1/2 tsp

Honey Citrus Salmon:

  • Salmon – 1/2 lb
  • Honey – 1/2 Tbsp
  • Homemade honey citrus dressing (ingredients listed separately) – ~1/8 cup

Radicchio, Fennel and Orange Salad:

  • Fennel bulb, small – 1/4, thinly sliced
  • Radicchio (sub red cabbage or baby spinach) – 1 cups, chopped
  • Oranges – 1, segments
  • Mint, fresh – 5 leaves, torn
  • Beans, cannellini or butter (14 oz / 397 g can) – 1/2 can, drained and rinsed
  • Homemade honey citrus dressing (ingredients listed separately) – ~1/8 cup
  • Oil, olive – 1 Tbsp

Week 2, Meal 4, Breakfast Burritos with spinach and tomato salad

Breakfast Burritos

We actually ate these for breakfast! We had so much food this week because we changed our plan from eating the meals as dinner and the following day’s lunch to eating the meals for dinner two nights in a row. This meant Friday night we were eating the leftover skillet chicken! Yum! So Saturday morning I made these burritos and a salad for breakfast! We ended up snacking on the salad all day.
  Sautéing onions! Yum! Also, I didn’t read the directions correctly and left more green pieces mixed in so some of those pieces charred a bit. Oops!

Scrambling eggs- yum!  

We added some of the pieces of tomato meant for the salad to our burritos. And it was very good!

4 servings
Breakfast Burrito with Black Beans:
Green onions – 4 stalks, chopped
Cheese (opt) – 2 oz, grated (Like cheddar, Jack, or colby)
Eggs – 6
Sour cream (opt) – 1 Tbsp + more for serving
Black beans (14 oz / 397 g can) – 1 can, rinsed and drained
Cooking oil – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Salsa – 1/2 cup
Leftover roasted potatoes – 2 cups
Tortillas, burrito-sized – 4 (Try some fun flavors like spinach or sundried tomato if your store carries it)

Spinach and Tomato Salad:
Roma tomatoes – 2 , chopped
Baby spinach – 4 oz
Paprika – 1/4 tsp
Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Brown sugar – 1/2 tsp
Cooking oil – 3 Tbsp (like grapeseed, vegetable, or avocado)