The tree is down. The decorations are all put away. The chateau is back to being the nest of the empties. With the exception of Chippy, naturally.
The only flora in the living room are the flowers adding a bit of color to the now bland interior! And that’s okay!
And with all the holiday cooking and activity that surrounded us, and made us feel—well, to tell you the truth, it made us feel needed, it takes a while to get back to feeling normal.
Okay. So THIS guy makes us feel needed. Chippy…
But there is also a calm in knowing that, when everyone leaves, the time belongs to you. It’s great for Bonaparte and I to spend time, just the two of us (with Chippy, naturally), enjoying each other’s company. Simple things, like watching a movie or TV show together. Or running those mundane errands like going to the hardware store for a battery for the smoke alarm or for light bulbs.
…or even just enjoying the ferry over to St. Tropez–it’s our time together!
And there is something very comforting in turning your home into a restaurant of sorts to enjoy an at-home date night. It’s fun to turn the nest into a cozy little bistro—just you and your better half.
Won’t you join us please?
Early preparations include setting the table for the starters.
For my Frenchman, the weekend meal plans start on Tuesday or Wednesday when he starts thinking about the easy Friday night meal into the more French-style Saturday night meal. (As I write this Monsieur Bonaparte has requested Fajitas for Friday evening’s dinner).
Hmmmm. If it’s Tuesday, it’s time to think about Saturday night’s dinner!
Friday night is usually something like home made pizza or fajitas..
Friday night’s pizza. HE ATE THE WHOLE THING!!!
We’ll discuss the little appetizers that’ll accompany our aperitif—presently we are on a Gougerès kick. I literally made a ton over Christmas, and replenished the supply when we ran out. These little nuggets freeze so well and only take minutes to reheat. They are the perfect appetizer to make-ahead.
We enjoyed the last of the frozen gougeres this weekend. I have to bake a new batch! For your pleasure, I’m re-linking the Alain Ducasse Gougeres Recipe!
TIP: Choose appetizers to make ahead and freeze them. Got a day when it’s snowing or you have some time on your hands–make those appetizers ahead and double-batch them. It’ll save so much time later on!
The starter to the meal is next. I like to keep it light. Bonaparte likes something a bit more substantial. Sometimes we’ll have a cucumber or red cabbage salad to keep me happy. Most of the time we’ll have escargot, pate, foie gras or the salmon rillettes that everyone has been known to love and request.
From pantry to fridge where this baby rested until it was time for the Saturday Night Starter!
TIP: Going on vacation? Pick up food items that are canned or that can legally be transported back home. You’ll have a reminder of your vacation months later! It’ll be a great conversation starter too!
The bread was baked early on in the day!
TIP: Baking bread or baking dessert can be done early on during the day! While you are out running errands, the dough can proof. It’s part of multitasking and time management!
The most difficult decision comes next. The main plate. We try to stick to something that’ll tie into the appetizer and starter. Then he’ll decide which wine to serve. For dessert, I’ll bake whatever Bonaparte wants. And since I don’t eat the desserts while I’m trying to lose weight (like now) the sweet treat during the week.
It’s quite the production—right? Well, not really. We both decided on an easy, healthy, and favorite choice–Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Olives. Here’s how last Saturday night’s dinner rolled:
My mise-en-place of sorts. Black olives, fresh basil, Roma tomatoes, white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper, the juice from the olives.
TIP: Always have the ingredients at the ready. It makes for less stress, knowing what’s on hand and a smoother cooking prep.
Don’t get rid of the olive juice!! It can be used to add flavor and as a salt substitute. I always save olive juice whenever canned olives are used!
My mallet. This little tool is crucial whenever I cook chicken breasts. Pounding the chicken thinner makes for a quicker cooking time and you can also increase the servings!
Chicken breasts–before and after pounding..
I’ll cook the tomatoes a few hours ahead. While the tomatoes are cooking, I can work on blog posts or send out resumes. I cook them in a touch of olive oil and about a half cup of white wine. When the wine reduces, I’ll add a bit of the olive juice. After the tomatoes soften and the juices are released, I take off the burner and put aside. The crushed red pepper is added while the tomatoes are cooking.
My microplane. I love microplaneing garlic for recipes. It’s better than chopping!
TIP: Need to use garlic? No need to chop if you have a microplane. It’s an easy way to get more of the garlic incorporated into your recipe. Remember, add garlic last because you don’t want to burn the garlic. It burns easily!
The secret ingredient to moist, juicy chicken breasts–a coating of rice flour! It’s gluten-free and doesn’t have the heaviness of flour!
TIP: To save calories–forego breading chicken breasts and coat with rice flour. It is gluten free. It isn’t heavy like flour and it keeps the juices within the chicken without the taste of a coating. I use this whenever I saute chicken breasts.
The chicken breasts are dredged lightly in rice flour..
…and sauteed in butter and olive oil. This can also be done about an hour ahead of when you sit down to enjoy your aperitif!
And before dinner, the chicken and olives are added to the tomatoes and heated. Basil is last.
With everything prepared, I can get dressed and we can sit down to our Kir Royals and appetizers. And after that, it’s to the table!
The bread I made is toasted and the Pate Foie Gras is ready to be spread and enjoyed!
We enjoy it with this Monbasillac 2012–it’s sweet and delicious. Y.U.M.!
The main plate–Chicken Breasts, Tomato, Olives and Basil. A dish for all seasons!
The chicken dish was accompanied by this 2008 Saint-Julien. It was really good because it smelled like dirt! I fell asleep shortly after.
And let’s not forget dessert. For a little something extra, I served the pound cake I baked with some home made Lemon Curd. Lemon Curd. So easy to make and lasts forever in the fridge! Got Lemons? Make Lemon Curd–here’s Martha Stewart’s Recipe.
TIP: Bake a pound cake! And double the recipe. Put one cake in the freezer and save for entertaining. Pound cake can be dressed up with a curd, with ice cream or a sweet sauce–the perfect end to an evening. It’s a simple, no stress cake that everyone loves. I made Ina Garten’s Perfect Pound Cake my own by cutting the heavy cream down to 1/2 cup and adding 1/2 cup of Cointreau. The orange liquor gives a great taste and makes the cake as moist as ever!
Life changes when the kids are gone. They have their lives but sometimes we fail to see that—I know I do!
But we are important now. We can prepare and cook and savor those special meals we may not have had the time to enjoy years ago. Have a go! Turn your dining room into your Bistro! And enjoy! Thank you for joining us!
As an aside. Today is my Ruby’s birthday. She was born on January 16, 1996 and would be 22 today. It’s hard to believe she left us five years ago at 17. I miss her terribly and am thinking about her and how happy she made my life, my children’s life, my ex-husband’s life and Bonaparte’s life. Everyone loved her. Here’s to you Ruby!
I think of Ruby every day–and today she’s been on my mind since I woke up. I miss you so much Miss Ruby–who was named after a favorite restaurant in New Orleans that is also gone!
Hi Catherine! Loved your post and your elegant dinner ideas for just the two of you. I have a question for you about Chippy–is he a Basset Fauve de Bretagne? And if so where did you get this rare breed dog? I’ve had two of these French hounds, and Chippy sure looks like one. They are difficult to find in the US. I am curious to know!
Hi Molly! To answer your question–He’s a rescue. We adopted him from Main Line Animal Rescue and they were unsure of what he was. I thought he had some Petit Griffon basset Vendeen so we had him genetically tested. The results were 50 percent lab, 48 percent poodle and 2 percent Schipperke. After Googling the Basset Fauve de Bretagne I’m convinced he resembles that breed–especially since his paws turn out!!! That BFdB is a gorgeous dog!!!! How can you find them in the USA??? Curious!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!
Chippy’s DNA makeup is fascinating. I wonder if the DNA company isn’t able to match for rare breeds? Fauves are few in the US–I think there are still a couple of breeders here but many people import their dogs from Europe. My two dogs came from breeders in Georgia and California–neither of which is breeding any longer. If you’re interested in finding out more about the breed there are a couple of Facebook groups you can join by searching “Basset Fauve de Bretagne.” I would bet Chippy is related–he has the velvety ears and wiry coat. He’s adorable!
Molly–thanks so much for that FB information. It’s so odd but even though his DNA says Lab & Poodle, we’ve had many discussions about this (the schipperke is such a small percentage that I don’t even pay attention to it) because he doesn’t look like your normal lab/doodle mix–he could be first generation. I’ve had a Basset hound before and what intrigued me was Chippy’s stance–his feet are turned out just like my Dorothy’s was. He’s ridiculously hard for me to walk because his nose is constantly to the ground. He’s cute as all get-out. In my delusional world, I picture him a doggie star because he’s so cute. I’ll be interested to see what others say if I post a pic on one of those group walls!! Thanks so much!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!
Everything looks so good!!! I think we should have a contest and the winner spends a weekend with you cooking and eating!!!
Airfare not included haha!!! 😎😎😎
Hi Debe!! That actually sounds like a ton of fun!!!!!!!!!!!! XOXOXOxO!!!!
Hi Catherine — I agree with you about the microplane for garlic; makes life so much easier. Also, love the blonder wig color on you. It’s very becoming!
Hi Claudia! Happy 2018!! Oh..the microplane is the greatest instrument for grating garlic—and ginger too!! It makes life far easier!! You likey the blonder wig? Me too–it’s fun!! XOXOXOXO
What a extremely lovely writing, it bought back wonderful memories of me and my late husband. We enjoyed a similar ritual which was made even more fun once he retired as he entered into full participation being the one that often prepared our Friday night meal From tag teaming in the kitchen to being the one in charge of what music to play as the good smelling food simmered on the stove was so much fun. Thanks too the tidbits and recipe suggestions along the way. I Just knew when the read the title, you were inviting us to dinner 🙂
Arabella!!! OMG. Thank you–but I am so happy to have brought back fond memories of you and your husband’s meals. It’s so much fun to plan together–isn’t it? And you just reminded me that he picks out the dinner music. Our musical tastes are different but we both agree on classical music during dinner!! So thank you!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Madame Bonaparte! WONDERFUL POST! How Lucky You are that your husband actually makes meal requests! It really makes life easier! Sometimes, I am at a loss as to what to make for supper and every time I ask The Hippie, his response is ALWAYS, ” why are you asking – you have so many cookbooks!..” There are times that one isn’t “feeling” it or is just stuck in a cooking rut and it would be SO Helpful if the husband would just make requests like YOURS!! Anyway, your meals ALWAYS look FABULOUS!!!! But, I would NOT invite any guests over on a “date” night ;)…
Your Ruby is Beautiful!! I am sure her Spirit is around you and Chippy everyday….God Bless You and Your Family and Keep Cooking and Writing!!
Hiya Shakey!!! LOL! I woulda thunk that The Hippie was more vocal about what he wanted for dinner–I think it’s just that you are a great and creative cook–so he doesn’t have to think about it!! OMG. Bonaparte is never at a loss for what he wants for dinner. In fact, sometimes I have to pull the reins in because I remind him that I like a decision too. For instance–I’ve been waiting and suggesting my favorite chicken meal–chicken breasts with morel mushrooms–but he hates any kind of mushroom. That’s it–I’m putting my foot down!!! Hahahaha!!! Thank you. Ruby was the greeatest…and I will keep writing and cooking!!! XOXOOXOXO!!!
Oh that looks fantastic, the OH is away for 4 weeks so I am cooking basically for me whilst the offspring like to do their own thing, I have chicken breast in the frig so I guess that could be tomorrow – although with the OH away I can indulge in my truffle obsession – I adore truffles and mushrooms, my other weakness is anything with spinach, OH likes his mushrooms but with bacon and eggs, sometimes I just crack on and do my thing. Like you, I am back doing the WW – once you are in the mindset it is all good, I don’t think it is that difficult if you cook from scratch (I am with you – I do that every night).
Hi Juliet. When Bonaparte used to visit Daniele for family business oftentimes I would stay behind due to work commitments. And my eating habits were great because I basically lived on chicken soup and pasta. Bonaparte cannot stand pasta and I love it–although for now I’m “off” of it because the gluten makes me a bit bloaty. But it’s so true when the OH is away we can indulge on items that we normally don’t have when they are home!!! XOXOXOXO!!!
Great post! Have you tried Jovial gluten-free brown rice pasta? My husband never liked the other g-f pastas I have tried, but he can’t tell that Jovial is not semolina. I also like BioNature Linguine (rice,soy,potato). Both are made in Italy.
Wow……I’m coming to your house for dinner! So ambitious!
I’ve been slacking off on cooking last few years, with two major surgeries and a couple of deaths etc left me feeling like I could care less whats for dinner. But after surviving on tacos and takeout, it’s time to take it up a notch. I am enjoying some slow roasting, which is easy (roast a chicken and half way thru add some veggies) and really adds warmth and comfort to home. Because Organic chicken is so expensive, after eating I throw carcass in pot and simmer to make stock for soup.
That way I get my dollars worth out of the chicken.
I too have loved a house filled with people that I can cook for, but I am at a different time now……….time to focus on me…………I have two new knees, getting new hairdo, and sorting thru clothes to see what I might need to spiff up. A new chapter is emerging for sure.
So what do we do now that holidays are over. I’ve been napping, reading, walking….. but I feel the way off call of spring as it evidences itself thru my tending of orchids, the urge to clean (so rare)
and thinking about painting ( I do contemporary abstracts).
Thanks for your date night cooking inspiration……..what time is dinner?
Best to you all
Hi Christine. Like you, I’ve been taking it easy after the Holidays and I do feel that slight call of spring but I want to wait and savor this winter. Life is too short these days to want to rush any season–LOL!! Ohhhhhh aperitifs begin at 6:30!! Be here or be square!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!
PS Hope you have the fondest memories of your beloved dog
Ahhh, Christine–I do. OMG, I have wonderful memories of Ruby. If only dogs could have longer lives….XOXOXOXO!!!!
I am on my way over for dinner!! Even if I have to drive seven hours and cross the border! That all looks delish!
That beast of yours looks like a sandy haired version of my dog, a rare Cur de Gananoque which is a polite way of saying a mutt from Gananoque Ontario.
Dad was golden doodle and Mom was an Irish terrier…they had ten pups!! like your Chippy the nose is always in the ground ( that’s terrier) Chippy looks like he has some ‘terror’ in him but that voracious appetite for anything, that’s Lab!
Hi Momcat! Hope all is well with you and yours!! Come over the border for a meal!! I like that Cur de Gananoque–I may use it!! Yeah–his nose is always to the ground!! And the appetite–actually I think Bonaparte is part lab too!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Love your kitchen bistro idea. And Ruby is a beauty. I’m sure she’s looking down on you.
Hi Cathi! Yes!! The kitchen/dining area should always have a touch of bistro. It’s where everyone convenes and where the good stuff is!!!! Thank you–Ruby was an incredible beauty!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Wow, and I was feeling so good about my self because I actually made a quiche last week! I truly loved your culinary visuals. Yes, to the microplaner-I love mine and use it mainly for hard cheeses and we have our share of Bob’s Red Mill bags.
And I understand about Ruby. Even with my beloved Poodles, Michael and I still talk about Sabina, our Sheltie that passed in ’04.
They become such a part of our lives and family. When Ruby passed away, Oona took it the worst out of the kids–they grew up with each other. Oona was 6 when we got Ruby and the boys were older. It was so sad…..XOXOXOXO!!!!
Hi Terri! Hey–you deserve to feel good about making that quiche!! It’s homemade–it’s healthier! Thank you!! Oh I use the microplaner for hard cheeses too. Bob’s Red Mill is the bomb–his almond flour and chick pea flour are regulars in our house!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
love love love the ” blonditude ” on you ! and i think Rougié foie gras is made in my area !!!!amitiés !
Hi Nathalie! Ohhhhh lalalalalalala!! If Rougie foie gras was made in my area, I would be begging them to let me work for them. It’s an excellent canned product and we have quite a bit here in our pantry!!!! Happy New Year to you and yours!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Oh my god my mouth is watering! Is it too early to make those cheesy things? (9 am here)
Hey Warrior. It’s never too early to make gougeres. In fact, I was going to go to the grocery store for more guyere cheese to make some today on this snowy day. However, Bonaparte likes my car better in snow. So I’m home working on more blog posts that are sure to get me into more trouble!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Ha! They look amazing as does the pizza. Been hungry all day now! Have downloaded recipe – trouble is Son allergic to egg so for parents only! Or can I substitute something else for the egg?
There’s a tear in my eye reading that, Catherine. You always touch a chord, sometimes it’s hysterically funny, other times it’s wistful and at all times it’s wonderful. We miss our two border terriers so much, and like your Ruby, they have left a huge hole in our lives, but the memories are there. Dinner looks fabulous. I always feel that lighting the candles on the table when it’s just the two of us is extra special and I am following your example and will do our own home bistro this Friday night. I will work on the menu today, but the main course will definitely be rack of lamb. Perhaps lemon sorbet for dessert?
Thanks for a great post. Xxx
Judy–you’re making me tear up thinking about your border terriers! At what point does the dog become not a “dog” anymore? The love just grows and grows! Oh…I love your rack of lamb idea….Lemon Sorbet??????????????????????? YES!!!!!!!!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Everything about this post made me happy – it is inspirational, as well!
Thank you Marsha! I have to say, writing this post put me in a great mood–it was tons of fun to write!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Weekend dinners at your place looks amazing! Just a question — more of a request actually. Can you share with us some ideas for weeknight dinners for two? I always seem to lose inspiration to cook during the week. What do you usually serve? Inquiring minds would like to know!
During the week we keep it very simple. Salads, fish and believe it or not–eggs. Sometimes in omelettes, other times in “breakfast for dinner” sometimes in a souffle. Other times a very easy pasta with oil and garlic and a salad–it’s the weekends that we go crazy!!! XOXOXO!!!!
Great post and the food looks so yummy! I have microplanes and forget to use them!! Never again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’re very organized – I don’t think of meals that far ahead, perhaps I should follow your lead!
Honestly Vava–if it weren’t for Vincent, I wouldn’t be that organized about the meals. As my son Jake always says “Why didn’t you meet Vincent when we were young?” LOL!! XOXOXOXO
So enjoyed this! You’re such a romantic at heart. (And you and Chippy look like you have the same hair color in that picture! 😀 )
Oh sweet, sweet Ruby! She was just beautiful! And all this food prep and food photos have made me downright hungry. My husband is currently in the kitchen cooking up something fabulous. My mouth is watering as the aroma is drifting my way! Then this post…I need to eat something stat! Thank you, Cathe, for sharing so much of your wonderful life with us! And thanks for linking up with me, my friend!
That Friday night pizza looks fantastic, glad i subscribed to your blog. Keep up the great work, looking forward to reading more in the future.
Thank you so much!!! I’m looking forward to a great Saturday evening meal of Chicken and Morels. I’m hoping I can find the morels!!!!!!!!!!! XXOXOXOXO!!!