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Full Dinner Menu: Black Bean Soup

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Mouthwatering Photo by JeffreyW

Believe it or not, they are forecasting snow by the end of the week. From 90 to snow in 4 days. Fall in Colorado. If it does snow it will be quick and brief I’m sure, then back to warm days and fall leaves. But cool weather means soup to me, so that is what I chose for this week’s menu.

This is a recipe from a restaurant in Ouray, CO that was in an old bank. They gave it to me 20 years ago on my honeymoon and I make it all the time. This was my first experience at having to change a recipe meant for 60 into one for 6-8. It’s spicy, so ease up on the cumin and chili powder if needed, you can always add more during the last 30 minutes if needed.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Black Bean Soup
  2. French Bread
  3. Red Grape Salad
  4. Apple wedges & Cheese

Black Bean Soup

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp to 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green pepper, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb chopped smoked sausage
  • 12 cups water


Add all ingredients to slow-cooker and cook according to directions (usually 8-10 hours on low). Just before serving, take a potato masher or hand blender and blend/mash slightly to thicken

Red Grape Salad

  • ½ head red leaf lettuce, torn
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 4 oz shredded carrots
  • Poppy Seed dressing

Serving bowl

Toss ingredients together, chill and serve

Shopping List:

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 4 -6 carrots or equivalent shredded carrots
  • ½ onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb smoked sausage
  • ½ head red leaf lettuce
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes
  • 1 pear
  • Poppy Seed dressing
  • French Bread
  • Apple wedges & Cheese

Also: salt, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, chili powder, beef bouillon, cumin, pepper

Originally posted December 2009



Chicken in Red Wine Sauce

DSC_7581 (1600x1060)Also know as Coq Au Vin, this is a classic dish that Julia Child taught me to make, though I rarely look at her recipes any more.  They tend to be too fussy with multiple steps and otherwise involved directions so I tend to wing it while looking at a similar recipe.

I looked for frozen pearl onions at the store yesterday while we were putting in provisions for the coming brutal cold weather the mavens are predicting for us.  I’ve found them there before but had to use the kind you have to peel.  Drop them into boiling water for two minutes and then you can peel them pretty easily when they’ve cooled.  Cut one end off and these will pop right out when you pinch them.

I also looked for the small button mushrooms that look so cute but had to make do with larger ones that I sliced and sauteed in butter and olive oil.  The mushrooms and the onions both are cooked separately from the chicken and added to the dish when plating for the table.

The recipe I linked to above calls for cognac, I used Marsala wine instead, and used a slurry of cornstarch instead of the butter/flour mixture to thicken the pan liquids.  I’ve made this many times using slightly different variations of ingredients and methods and it always ends in a delicious meal – one of our all time favorites.

Coq Au Vin

It’s been a long time since I’ve prepared this classic chicken stew.  I’ve taken some liberties with the recipe made famous by Julia Child.

Fry some bacon until crisp and set aside on a paper towel.  Dredge some chicken parts in seasoned flour and brown them well in the bacon fat.  Bone in thighs are perfect for this but you can use whatever.  Set the browned chicken pieces aside on a plate.  Drain most of the fat and pour in a cup of red wine to deglaze.  Add back the bacon and the browned chicken.  Stir in a cup and a half to two cups of beef or chicken broth – I use beef most often but chicken broth will work fine.  Add some carrot pieces and a coarsely diced onion.  Pearl onions work great for this but aren’t absolutely required.  Add canned mushrooms if you have them, fresh mushrooms are great but they need to be cooked down earlier if fresh – between the bacon and the chicken browning.

After the broth and veggies are added bring it all to a simmer and then reduce heat to low and cover.  It should take about 45 more minutes to cook through, turn the chicken over halfway and give it a stir.

I like to serve this with a wild rice mix.  Noodles or potatoes will work as well.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Braised Italian Chicken

Happy Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I could have used the weekend two days ago, it’s been that kind of week. Let’s get right to tonight’s ingredients: chicken and vegetables. This was really just my excuse to be able to test drive a recipe I’ve been thinking about for a while. I came across a recipe for an Italian braised chicken in a white wine sauce served over pasta and my first thought was, I wonder if you could do that with a traditional red sauce? I love chicken cacciatore, but the texture of the chicken leaves a lot to be desired. I could go with a traditional chicken parmesan, but that isn’t quite the same, the meat isn’t permeated with sauce flavor in the same way. This recipe gave me just what I was looking for, a nice textured chicken packed with flavor.

In case Italian chicken isn’t a favorite, I posted two other chicken recipes this week: Barbecue Chicken with Spinach and Grilled Lime Chicken. Next week: I’m taking requests.  What would you like?

Now for tonight’s recipe:

Braised Italian Chicken

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Dried: basil, oregano, rosemary, cayenne pepper, pepper, salt, thyme


  • 6-8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini cubed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4-6 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic or equivalent
  • 1/2 cup good red wine
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes or equivalent (I use unsalted)
  • 2-15oz cans of tomato sauce (again, I use unsalted)
  • 2 tsp dried basil (or fresh equivalent)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • Pinch of rosemary
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 10-16 oz of favorite pasta (I like angel hair with this dish)

Bowl, Saucepan, Skillet, Baking dish or Dutch oven

In a bowl, mix together about 2 cups of flour and a good amount of the spices. Wash and dry thighs. Dredge in flour and fry in large skillet in about 1/2 cup of olive oil (I start with skin side down and do not touch it until it moves easily when I nudge it with a fork, then I flip it). When browned on both sides, remove to a plate with paper towels to drain a bit. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add diced vegetables, cook until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute, then add wine, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Let simmer, covered, on the stovetop while chicken browns.

In baking dish, add enough sauce to come 1/2 way up the side of the baking dish. Nestle chicken in the baking dish, skin side up. Now here is the important part, ladle additional sauce AROUND the chicken as needed, but DO NOT cover the top. Leave enough room for the browned top of the chicken to remain above the sauce. This lets it braise and the skin still stay crispy. Bake, UNCOVERED, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, check to make sure the sauce is barely bubbling, if it is boiling, reduce heat to 300 degrees. Chicken is done when it gives easily, but not falling off the bone.

Leave remaining sauce on the stove to simmer on low while the chicken cooks, you’ll probably want extra for the pasta. Prepare pasta just before chicken is done.  Serve with salad or green beans and a nice deep red wine.

Prep time is a lot on this meal, so I suggest it for weekends or special guests. I also doubled the sauce and froze 1/2 for another meal.

Tonight we also get a glossary:  What is braisingWhat is deglazing?

Beef cooked in red wine

Thawed a beef roast today thinking it would make a good batch of Italian beef and got sidetracked when I browsed into this recipe. That looked even better so I texted Mrs J and asked her to stop for the fresh mushrooms and carrots and a bag of frozen pearl onions.

I stayed pretty close to the recipe, subbing bacon for the pancetta.  I used a Merlot wine that was gathering dust in a cabinet and it seemed to work just fine.


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Elegant Grilling Menu: Sirloin in Wine Sauce

This grilling recipe is a bit more elegant. Perfect for an evening with friends. Serve with rice and Summer Fruit w/Mint for a complete meal.

Sirloin in Wine Sauce

  • 1 lb sirloin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 ½ cups dry red wine


Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and sauté about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the steaks across the grain. Divide the steak slices among 4 plates. Drizzle the sauce over the steak.


Oxtail Stew

We did this a few days ago.  I saw a chef do about this same thing on a late night, odd satellite channel.  We were at the grocery store last week and found some oxtails at the meat counter.  I grabbed some just because the dish cooked on that TV show appealed to me.  I did a Google search for oxtail recipes and settled on one that had me braising them in a red wine sauce that seemed to be very close in spirit to the beef bourguignon I did a while back.

Start by reducing a bottle of red wine by about half in a sauce pan.  As the wine simmers, brown the oxtails on all sides in butter and olive oil.  Set the browned pieces aside in a bowl and sweat down some veggies that have been coarsely chopped-onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and leeks and shallots if you have them.  I did without those last two.

Layer the meat atop the veggies and pour in the wine reduction, then add beef broth to just cover.  Toss in a few bay leaves and some thyme.  Bring the pot to a boil and then cover and put it into a 325 oven for 3 hours or so.  You want the meat tender but you’ll want to serve it with the meat still on the bone. Remove the meat to a bowl and keep warm, pour the liquid through a sieve, discard the solids, skim the fat,  and reduce it to a cup or two.  You make the call of how thick you want the sauce to be.  Add some cornstarch to thicken if you want.

I served the oxtails with some roasted potatoes and a nice little salad.


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Beef Bourguignon

I suppose this recipe is the one everyone gets to one time or another. This one isn’t Julia’s but it is fairly close. Turned out great!

Without further ado:

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Homemade Ravioli with Chicken in Awesome sauce

I made and froze a batch of cheese stuffed ravioli a few weeks back, and I was afraid I’d forget about them so I promised myself I would cook them up today.  Decided to go with chicken in a tomato sauce to go with them.  Pretty simple recipe for the sauce, sweat some onions in olive oil, brown some chicken in the oil, deglaze with some red wine,  then simmer all afternoon in tomato sauce.   Added the usual stuff-oregano, basil, more garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.

I picked the chicken out of the pot to cool, then boned it and tore it into chunks before returning it to the pot.  Seemed a tad dry so I added a pint of my world famous Awesome Sauce™.

I dumped the still frozen raviolis into salted boiling water and gave them a few minutes after the water returned to a boil.  Plate em up and top with the tomato/chicken sauce, grate some parmesan on top, and serve with some nice bread on the side.  Yum yum yum.


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Thursday Night Menu: Pot Roast for a Crisp Fall Day


This was from a ride last October, it's just as pretty this year. © TRW4D 2009


I’m still in re-entry mode, but things are slowing down a bit.  When I went to sleep last night, I swore I heard the bustle of Bourbon Street still in my head.  To my delight when I returned from the Big Easy, the fall colors had popped – mountain foliage has been in full swing, but down here, it hadn’t quite hit its peak yet.  Now we are getting just beautiful, vivid colors everywhere and the mountains are snow tipped.  It really feels like fall now.

I would have bet anything I’d already done a pot roast menu, but according to our archives, I have not.  So here is a nice slow-cooker pot roast dinner to greet you after a day of raking leaves or making your way through a corn maze.  You can substitute beef broth for the wine if you like.  The frozen pie is the family favorite of a friend of mine, I’d never even heard of it before, but she said she grew up with it.  It is easy enough to make and I love chocolate and mint together, so it was a no-brainer when she suggested it.  Everything can be put together ahead of time and be a nice end to a busy fall weekend.

On the board tonight:

  1. Slow-cooker Pot Roast
  2. Tossed Salad
  3. Ice Cream Delight

Slow-cooker Pot Roast

  • 4 lbs Pot Roast (chuck roast)
  • ¼ red wine
  • ¼ cup beef broth or water
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • ¼ tsp dried dill
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 6 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 lb bag baby carrots


Optional:  coat roast in 1 tbsp flour and brown on all sides in 2 tbsp oil in skillet before adding to slow-cooker.  Nice, but not necessary for great flavor.

Add roast & liquid to slow-cooker.  Sprinkle rosemary, dill, bay leaves, salt & pepper on top of roast.  Add in order: onion, potatoes and carrots (this keeps carrots from over cooking).  Cover & cook according to your slow-cooker directions (they vary considerably) usually 8 to 10 hours on low.

Gravy – When I use a slow-cooker, I usually cheat a bit on the gravy.  I take ½ cup of beef broth and mix with 1 tbsp of flour, stirring well.  I bring the beef juices (about 1 cup, if more, you’ll need more flour) in the slow-cooker to a boil and then stir in the flour mixture, stirring at a boil until thickened.  Then I reduce the heat back to low and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Not as tasty as a gravy started with a roux, but it does the trick and you’ll never have lumps.

Ice Cream Delight

  • 8 oz Oreo style cookies
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 qt. mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 6 oz chocolate topping
  • 4 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

8×8 baking dish

Crush cookies in a blender until fine crumbs.  Mix ½ of the crumbs with melted butter, spread on the bottom of baking dish, don’t pack down.  Cut ice cream into 1-inch thick slices and layer on crust (or let melt enough to be spreadable and spread with a large spatula).  Spread chocolate, then whipped topping on top.  Sprinkle remaining cookie crumbs over top.  Freeze.

Shopping List:

  • Salad fixins’
  • 4 lbs Pot Roast
  • 2 oz red wine
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 1 lb bag baby carrots
  • 8 oz Oreo style cookies
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 qt. mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 6 oz chocolate topping
  • 4 oz. frozen whipped topping

Also: beef broth, rosemary, dried dill, 2 bay leaves, salt & pepper,