Category Archives: special meals

Coq au Vin

The weather outside is frightful…..dinner by the fire is soooooooo delightful!  We have been cooking Coq au vin for over 10years.  It is one of our favorite fall/winter recipes.

Coq au vin didn’t originate on the 1960s TV show “The French Chef” but that’s where Julia Child translated the original coq au vin into the simple dish that it currently is, made with mushrooms, onions, bacon, red wine, and naturally chicken.

Here we provide the easy step by step instructions for a fabulous and “famous” chicken dish a smashing your Sunday evening supper or like us empty nesters and nice romantic meal by firelight.

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Oktoberfest Cooking

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Our Oktoberfest has now made it into the annals of our friends historic calendars, and requests for recipes have been made.  The preparation has been so much fun and obviously the recipes we share here on this site are made for a family dinner and not for a crowd of 40+, which our preparations called for.

Cooking German style isn’t difficult, it just takes a little time.  For recipes and cooking instructions for the Oktoberfest basics click here.

Information and recipes for Sausages and Red Cabbage as well as German Hot Potato Salad.  This is a great meal any time of the year, but especially good as a fall dinner.  If you cannot find German sausages at your local grocery store check the internet for a German deli in your area.  Here in the Sacramento area it is Morant’s Sausage Kitchen.  They offer all the German delicacies… sausages to cook, bake and spread… as well as fresh pretzels on Fridays.

Tell Dirk -Ingrid sent you.

Rack of Lamb for Two


Rack of Lamb with Mustard Thyme-Crust
Mashed Potatoes
Green French Cut Beans

Wine Choice
Beringer, Knights Valley
2006 Cabernet Sauvigon

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This is great for an intimate pre New Year’s Eve dinner for two..

1 1/4 Lb. Rack of Lamb (trimmed)
1 Tablespoon Garlic minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme (chopped)
1-cup Plain Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup Grey Poupon Mustard

Rack of Lamb:
Prep time 45 minutes Plus roasting

Whisk mustard, garlic and chopped thyme in small bowl and blend.  Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.  

Place lamb on baking sheet, rounded side up.  Spread mustard evenly over lamb both sides of lamb. (Lamb can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.)
Preheat oven to 425′ F.
 Roast lamb until thermometer inserted into center registers 125′ F for rare, about 25 minutes.  Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired, and serve. Stir bread crumbs and oil in medium skillet over medium heat until crumbs begin to crisp, about  5 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Press crumbs onto mustard coating lamb.  Place on roasting rack in a roasting pan.  

  Roast lamb until thermometer inserted into center registers 125′ F for rare, about 25 minutes.  Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired, and serve.

French Cut Green Beans
While rack is in the oven, trim the green beans, place in skillet and cover with water. Bring to simmer using high heat.  Turn to low and simmer for no more than 5 minutes.  Turn off and let set on the stove until ready to drain and serve.  Beans should be crisp and not over cooked.

This meal is best staged before serving… enjoy!


Chicken Saltimbocca


(Italian: jumps in the mouth)
in this case Chicken Saltimbocca… is a popular recipe in not only satlimbocca_w-24Italy, but also Switzerland, Greece and Spain.

It was in Florence that we experienced our first Saltimbocca which can also be made from veal or pork.

Our first Saltimbocca was at this table in Florence!cruise_2003_112


The espresso and desert were also wonderful!



Continue for recipe

Classic French Roast Duck “Canard”

This is a French classic canard (duck) which can seem intimidating, but is quite easy to prepare.  If you can roast a chicken you can roast a duck.  The trickiest part of the sauce is caramelizing the sugar.  Just take care not to leave the sauce pan over heat too long… and you should have no problem.. – I would not suggest for dinner parties… this is a difficult dish to eat “daintily”..  Great as dinner for two! Continue

French Roast Duck

Best Secret on the High Seas

Wine Pairing Dinner Table for 2
Vivi d Italia

Fine dining is one of the best kept secrets of the high seas!  Wonderful five-star restaurants can be found on most of the larger ocean liners.  Being partial to Royal Caribbean Cruise lines we always plan on making our dinner reservation early for sumptuous meals to be found in either Chops & Grill or in the Italian favorite Portofino’s on our favorite Radiance class ships .   Continue reading

Valentine’s Day is Coming…Start with a Card Table??

Have fun setting your Valentine Dinner table!
Have fun setting your Valentine Dinner table!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  So, let’s have some fun!  Has it been awhile since you’ve had a “date night” or a fun evening out?  Over the next few weeks we will be providing ideas to spark up this fun holiday.  Perhaps going out is your favorite alternative… We will be posting menus and pricing for Valentine Day Dinner restaurant locations for the Greater Sacramento “local” area as well as the Napa Valley and Placer County Wine Country areas.  But, for now… let’s explore the fun and anticipation of preparing a romantic Valentine dinner for two at home.

Start with a card table or folding table:

  • Small table (what it looks like won’t matter it will be covered up!
  • Location is next… You will want it to be different from your normal dining area.  Move some furniture if necessary… Tucking the table in front of a fire place is my favorite… but lacking such a window or corner of your living room would work as well…
  • Plan on a small fire for the evening (not in the kitchen!) but in the fireplace or candles tall pillars on the floor ??
  • Take a drive to JoAnne’s fabric store.. or any fabric store and have fun selecting fabric in a valentine theme to delight your creative and romantic desires…  If you have sewing skills, great… if not.. just cut to size… it won’t ultimately matter.
  • Perhaps you’ll want to pick up some wide ribbon to be used as napkin rings…
  • World Markets or The Linnen Outlet both have lots of cloth napkin choices…  red works well at Christmas, too! – Why not get 4 or 6?
  • Find some red or gold chargers… I’ve seen them at the Dollar Tree to add a dimension of elegance.  Check around at craft stores for additional touches.

Click on here for photos of examples or ideas…   Click here for  a great menu and prep instructions

Honkers Blanc with Scampi

Recently on our expedition to Costco we met a wine maker and bought a couple of bottles of the wine he and his wife were showing . What a delightful  surprise!  For under $8.00 dollars this wine was a perfect match for the Scampi dinner we had planned.  Sea food lovers that we are… scampi is a delicious and simple meal to prepare.  When a really good and fruity Sauvignon Blanc (California of course) is paired … it’s a WOW! Some nice wild rice/ mix  Rice~a~Roni makes the “side” easy… some steamed asparagus and the meal is complete!  It’s a whole new take for “movie night”.  It makes Netflix – special… the dinner romantic… and well combine it with wine and even folks in their sunset years … come ALIVE!The wine – Honkers Blanc from Napa Valley is truly worth every dollar, retailing around $13.95. But, a steal when purchased from Costco for under $8.00.  I’m looking forward to our upcoming winery and barrel tasting visit to share stories with the vintners.
Recipe and instructions can be found here .  Enjoy!

Rainy Days Call for Comfort Food

The Weather Outside is Frightful..But the Fire & Coq au Vin are Delightful!
Start by assembling the ingredients

Everyday chicken can turn into a marvelous meal when a few extra steps are taken.  On these blustery rainy week-end days, when the wind blows and the rain or drizzle keeps us indoors then why not spend a little extra time in the kitchen?  Hmmmm it smells so good… On this rainy week-end one of our favorites Coq au Vin is a flavorful and hearty dish which easily stands on its own with a baguette, tossed salad side dish.  This meal can be dressed “up” or “down” and tastes yummy at the kitchen table or in front of the fireplace as a cozy dinner for two.  The prep time is a bit longer than some of our recipes, but in addition to the resulting delightful meal the wonderful cooking aromas that will float through your house  make it all worth the effor, besides… what else do you do on a rainy day?? 

Costs for this luscious meal is  under $20.00 which  includes a good French Rhone – if you keep some normal cooking staples at home.  If you have to shop for the brandy or cognac which the recipe calls for … your costs bump up a bit.  Those of you that have been following us for a while know that Rick and I have made cost-effective dining… or elegant dining  on a “shoe string” the focus of our website We also highlight everyday family dishes that are great for weekends when we all have a bit more time to gather around the table.

Ready for the kitchen table... and a hungry crowd.
Ready for the kitchen table... and a hungry crowd.



4 slices bacon    2 chicken breasts  2 thighs 2 legs    (we prefer to use all thighs)
1/2 cup flour
Salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups pearl onions peeled (we use 12 pearl onions)
2 cups mushrooms (8 buttons quartered)
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup brandy or Cognac (we use brandy)
1 bottle Burgundy wine (French Burgundy is also known  as  CA Pinot Noir. 

 (Our variance 2 cups of either Pinot Noir or Zinfandel wine. Both provide rich flavor to the dish.)
2 cups chicken broth
5 sprigs fresh Thyme
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (savory, fennel,basil,lavender flowers)
3 bay leaves

Fresh Parsley, chopped for garnish

Coat chicken pieces in flour, salt & pepper. The easy way is to put everything together in a paper or plastic bag – and shake & set aside.
In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. 

Browning chicken


Brown chicken in hot bacon fat on both sides. Pull chicken from pan and set aside.

Saute vegetables


Add garlic, onions, mushrooms and carrots.  Saute 2 minutes to soften.
Pour brandy into small glass or measuring cup. 
Remove pan from heat (turn off flame) add brandy or cognac put back on heat. 
Next step Flambé..
Light the fumes within the pan by using a long match or long lighter and holding just above the pan. 
The Brandy will catch fire and the flames will burn out within one minute.  When the flames die down, add the chicken stock and then gradually stir in the wine. 

Add the wine...

 When the wine is well blended add  the herbs; 5 sprigs fresh Thyme
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (savory, fennel,basil,lavender flowers)
3 bay leaves cover and simmer for one hour. Then remove cover and simmer an additional 15 minutes to reduce the sauce.  To aid in the thickening process you might add t tablespoon tomato paste and stir in during the final simmering stage… Enjoy!



Lobster Anyone???

N_I_C_E... 16 oz of fresh delight!

Who says that $25.00 cannot buy a fabulous dinner for two? All it takes is a little skill in the kitchen. Lobster is actually one of the easiest meals to prepare. Costco must have had our anniversary in mind by bringing their lobster prices in line with the actual wholesale seafood prices. Now that the holiday season has passed, folks must be less willing to part with their money for over priced sea food.

To our delight when shopping for this special dinner, the star of our initial menu – rack of lamb had price competition from the sea– lobster! It has been sometime since we have put those yummy tails on our plates. Here was our opportunity. Two 8 ounce beauties for $20.00. Wow! Baking potatoes we already had, now for some asparagus, wine from our cellar …. ready to go! In total not counting the wine… we spent under $25.00.

For this special occasion, Rick chose a 2003 Le Reve from Domaine Carneros by Taittinger. This California sparkling wine has a wonderfully crisp flavor consisting of luscious yet complete apple, citrus and spicy yeast rolls. This bubbly proved to be an excellent choice for the butter dipped lobster. What a treat! For cooking instructions click here ….

Delicious! and...not difficult... to do...