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Cowboy Casserole Light

Cowboy themed foods are traditionally very hearty and full of calories and fat. Not this one! You’ll find here a lower calorie, low fat and low carb “Cowboy Casserole” which was a hit at the recent potluck dinner hosted by The Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region. Jeanne, one of the parents brought this casserole and it was devoured!

Here is the recipe and it’s many versions she shared with me. Thank you Jeanne!

Cowboy Casserole is a very quick and easy one dish meal to prepare. It’s as good reheated as it is fresh from the oven too!

Basically it’s a layering of mashed potatoes, shredded chicken, bacon bits, grated cheese and BBQ sauce! I used puréed cauliflower in place of the potatoes for fewer carbs and an even lighter taste. Mashed or puréed are good

Other options are to use instant potatoes or adding flavoring packets to your mashed potatoes such as Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix or Caesar Salad Dressing Mix.

I used grated sharp cheddar cheese. You may prefer another cheese like white cheddar or Parmesan. If you prefer more meat add more. Add more or less bacon. Use your favorite BBQ sauce. I like Sweet Baby Rays or Billy Bones.

Poach your own chicken in water with onion and celery, bay leaf and black peppercorns My method is quick and easy. Cover the chicken with cold water. Add 1 unpeeled onion, quartered. Add 2 stalks celery, 1 bay leaf and 7 peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Cover and place on the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. Voila!

Or buy a rotisserie chicken

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower or 2-3 pounds potatoes cooked and mashed or puréed or a large package of instant potatoes or a large package of frozen or premade mashed potatoes or cauliflower

Ranch Seasoning mix optional

Butter for lining a baking dish

Foil

2 -3 large chicken breasts or 1/2 to 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded

1/3 cup real bacon bits or pieces of leftover cooked bacon

1 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup or so BBQ sauce

Here’s the Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Spread the pureed or mashed cauliflower or potatoes in bottom of baking dish
  • Place shredded chicken over potatoes
  • Sprinkle bacon over chicken
  • Sprinkle cheese over bacon
  • Squirt or spoon BBQ sauce over cheese to cover in s striped pattern
  • Cover with foil
  • Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly
  • Remove foil and bake about 15-20 minutes until browned and slightly crispy
  • It’s best served with a large flat spatula so the layers remain intact on the dinner plate
  • Reheat as needed
  • Voila!

Spread puréed cauliflower in buttered baking pan

Sprinkle on shredded chicken

Sprinkle on bacon pieces

Sprinkle on shredded cheese

Squirt or spoon on BBQ sauce

Cover and bake

Remove foil and bake till browned

Here’s how to poach your chicken. Don’t cook them too long! Chicken breasts are easy to over cook and dry out

Place chicken breasts of equal size in a large cooking pot. Cover with water by 1 inch. Add an unpeeled onion, quartered, 2 celery sticks, 1 bay leaf and 5 peppercorns Also salt if you like.

Bring mix to a boil. Then reduce heat to lowest level to barely a simmer for 15 minutes. Check temperature of chicken with an instant read thermometer. Remove chicken from water at 155F degrees and set aside 10 minutes. The chicken will reach 165 degrees while resting at room temperature.

To make some wonderful stock, continue simmering the broth uncovered until it’s reduced by half. Pour through a fine sieve and ladle into jars or freezer containers. Store in the frig or freezer

Puréed Cauliflower

Cut up 1 head of cauliflower into large pieces and place in a large saucepan with at least 2 inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes or until very fork tender. Drain and mash with a bit of added butter and milk

Enjoy!

Potatoes the French Way

This is the style of potato served in France. It has no flour in the cream sauce. Only heavy cream, grated cheese and garlic! It is baked in a heavy shallow baking pan and arranged in rows of upright slices. I used a cast iron fry pan. Serves 6-8 but can be doubled for a crowd which is what I did!

This recipe is from spoonforkbacon.com as Cheesy Garlic Potatoes Gratin

I did not add the final 2 tablespoons butter to the top of the cheesy potatoes. Otherwise the recipe is the same

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 heaping cup of grated white cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Procedure

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Heavily butter your shallow heavy baking pan
    In a large bowl combine cream, cheeses, garlic, salt and pepper
    Thinly slice potatoes with a mandolin slicer
    Mix potatoes into cream sauce
    Arrange potatoes in upright stacks in your baking dish so they are standing vertically
    Pour the remaining cream sauce over the potatoes
    Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes
    Remove from oven and sprinkle with the additional Parmesan. Keep uncovered
    Bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned and tender
    Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving

Add potato slices to cream sauce

Arrange potatoes as vertically as you can. My slices were pretty thin and delicate

Paris in Montmartre ‘n More

The very end of our 9 week trip we spent 9 nights in a large apartment in Montmartre close to Sacre Coeur. Our 3 daughters and 2 son in laws joined us. This was the beginning of May 2018 and the weather was mostly sunny!

Across the street from where the composer Erik Satié once lived we had a large modern apartment of two levels located also across from the Museum of Montmartre. The photos above were our neighborhood!

The Montmartre Museum was once home to many artists including Renoir. It’s two buildings with courtyards and gardens combined together. As many homes in Paris, including our apartment rental, the outside is plain and basic but the interior is more elaborate and inviting

There are gardens to explore here too! This is a view of The Montmartre Vineyard from the museum gardens

La Maison Rose is a picturesque spot in Montmartre. It’s a historical cafe serving fresh foods

Arugula pesto and salad

Fresh ricotta and herbs

A dinner in Montmartre at Poulbot

As we explored other areas of Paris we made reservations for Apertifs at Le Mary Celeste! They featured exquisite cocktails and small plates of creative foods!

Here is Diana’s reservation time and name written on the top of our table! So cool! 18:45 is 6:45 pm

Ellsworth located on Rue Richelieu was a favorite for dinner. The ambiance was very simple. The food delicious, creative and plentiful!

Touring the Eiffel Tower was top on our list! We bought tickets several weeks ahead directly from their website. We had tickets to go to the top and separate tickets for lunch on the 2nd floor at 58 Tour Eiffel

First we had lunch

Then we returned to the ground level and found the lift to take us to the top!

This was our only rainy day but we persevered!

Another day we had booked in advance a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. The Intensive Macaroon Class! This was a 3 hour lesson where we learned to make the Italian and French style macaroons and several fillings. Thoroughly enjoyable!! I’ll definitely take another class next time! Highly recommended!!

We each came home with a box of macaroons!

Another memorable beautiful day we took a private tour of the Louvre, enjoyed the Tuileries and then an exquisite evening dinner cruise on the Seine!

The Louvre private tour we booked though Airbnb with Kate Chartier who is an art historian and a portrait painter. We met first at her apartment next to the Louvre. She gave us an overview of the art history and then took us to the most important pieces of art at the Louvre. We avoided the long lines and saw more than we would have on our own. It was great to all be together

After our amazing tour we enjoyed relaxing in the Tuileries, the gardens outside The Louvre

The dinner cruise boarding on the Seine was a short walk away. We booked Calife Seine Dinner Cruise a few weeks ahead. It was marvelous! The boat was small, the food amazing and the scenery was picture perfect! Paris glitters and shines at night!

We took a walking tour through Montmartre, a food walking tour booked through EdibleParis.com and we explored all over Paris on our own!

Merci! A cute beachy vibe shop

Roue de Paris the transportable Ferris wheel

Montmartre and Abbesses regions

We had a marvelous stay up on Montmartre! Great views of the city below

Our last evening together we had dinner near the Eiffel Tower at Les Grand Vernes

Look for my post on our day trip to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny soon!

Santiago de Compostela

We parked our car at the Marriott hotel we stayed and then returned it to the Renault dealer after leasing it for 7 weeks! We paid about $29 a day to rent this through the Renault Eurodrive program! Much cheaper than your usual car rental! The longer you lease it, the lower your daily rate.

Santiago de Compostela is a city built around the cathedral that houses St James crypt and his remains. This city is the most sacred in Spain and is a world UNESCO Heritage sight. This is the end point for the St James Walk or The Way. It is more popular among Europeans and Asians than Americans. Millions of people have walked across the various routes in Europe to arrive at this cathedral.

It’s a very friendly city where people from all over the world arrive and share their stories. Families with young children, college students, retired men and women all walk The Way. Some people pay to have their belongings carried and sleep in comfy hotels. Most rough it and stay in basic hostels for a few euros a night. Some people make the walk every year!

It’s a relaxed place with crowds of people who all have a story to share. The sound of music is heard throughout the day as it echos through the old town

We stayed at a Marriott several days and enjoyed the views and special attention!

Hotel Palacio del Carmen

Our hotel was a convent in past. This breakfast room was a chapel.

The sparkly clean cathedral from a side view

View from the cathedral to the main square

The cathedral has a large silver urn that contains incense. It is swung from the large ropes so it swings across the open space. Originally it was to cover the bad smell of the pilgrims!

This is a group of college students from Mexico. They formed a musical band and performed during and upon completing The Way

One day we stopped for lunch at the farmers market area called Abastos .

This small parade came by as it was Ascension Day celebrations. See my other post on this Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Pastries are a thing here too! Special breads with St James symbols

We learned of a special place for dinner one night. The storefront was basic but the food was outstanding! Casa Marcelo.

No reservations. Wait in line early to get in for a seating. The menu was all in Spanish but the waiters interviewed us to find out our likes. Tapas/ small plates

Dinner at the Marriott one night outdoors.

Santiago de Compostela was a gem! I recommend it as one of the best of Spain!

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Ascension Day in Spain is celebrated with feasts of food, folk dancing, music, parades and carnivals! This holiday celebrates the 40th day after Easter remembering Jesus’ bodily Ascension to Heaven. We were lucky to be in Santiago de Compostela to experience this because the Old Town is the most religious site in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Galicia is a region of Spain on the far western coast. Santiago de Compostela is the city built around the cathedral that holds the remains of St. James. Millions of people have walked the “Way of St James” through Europe to this cathedral!

The cathedral and main square

View of the carnival from the main square

Parades marched through the old town for several days

Huge crowds walked though town to the carnival

The celebrations began Thursday night with the carnival. Crowds of people enjoyed the colorful rides, games, cotton candy, octopus and pork ribs!

Cotton Candy was made everywhere!

Boiled octopus and grilled pork ribs were grilled on site and served with beer and wine!

As we waited in line to be seated in the massive tents, we watched the chefs in action!

Slabs of raw pork ribs were grilled over charcoal and seasoned only with salt. No pre boiling or marinating! Grilled sausages too!

Raw octopus were rinsed in tubs of cold water with a hose and then dropped in a vat of boiling water. They tested for doneness by pinching the octopus. They were then lifted out of the water and cut into bite size pieces with scissors

The line was too long for dinner so we returned for lunch Friday

Fresh churros were a big deal! They’re like a long donut with different flavors, toppings and fillings

Early Friday evening in the main square I watched a variety of well trained musicians and dancers perform. The crowds were not too large because the performers rotated through several locations in the old town.

The costumes were gorgeous!

This experience was a true highlight of all of our travels!

Asturias

This rural region of Asturias Spain we visited is made up of tiny towns along the central northern coast. We stayed in Lanuna at a 2 bedroom 2 bath rental home attached to the owners smaller home. There were horses and a donkey on the property and pigs nearby. Here are some pics of our rental.

Notice the second story open deck area! These are all over this region and is called a hòrreo which was originally a raised grain storage shed. Today they are used as outdoor living space!

Cudillero was a fishing village nearby that is popular today with the tourists. It has the main square at the beach and the homes built up from there into the hills.

Notice the Pilgrims here. They are walking the El Camino trail of St James to Santiago de Compestelo, our next destination.

Much of the town was newer and well maintained. Spain provides funds for towns on the El Camino.

We had a typical local lunch on the square: Huge mussels in a light tomato broth as a first course. Bean soup with chorizo, blood sausage and fat pork for our second course. Very hearty and delicious!

We drove along the beautiful highways and viaducts to several magnificent coastal areas!

This last beach was close to our rental down a long narrow curvy road. There is a pension and restaurant called Miguel’s at the beach and a boardwalk. I’d love to stay there someday!

The next day we drove about an hour south to Salas, a town on the El Camino which again is the walk to Santiago de Compestelo. This town was very new looking, even more renovated than Cudillero. There was a pretty river running through.

Dave ordered the El Camino for lunch which is hearty! Many pilgrims come into town in the morning ready for breakfast! Also here is the Pilgrims Card which they get stamped or signed at each check in location so they can be certified at the final destination in Santiago de Compestelo. Albergue is the hostel pilgrims stay. The seashell is the symbol of the El Camino.

Here are more pics of the horreos, the raised grain storage buildings we found on our drives.

This day we drove towards Navia to Castro de Coñar, a Celtic settlement dating to 600 BC. There were over 80 dwellings here with the slate foundations in place. Imagine these buildings with wood walls and thatch roofs!

Then we went on to Luarca, known as the white city on the green coast. It has a pretty harbour and an upscale feel to it. It was lovely and prosperous

We stopped here for lunch at a lovely restaurant and ate on their covered patio. Blue cheese, ham crisps in liver mousse, pork ribs in chimichurra, fish in tortilla with spicy sauce and fish over potatoes in a spicy sauce. Mango sorbet for dessert.

The next morning we drove west along the northern coast of Spain towards our next destination, Santiago de Compestelo. We stopped at a seaside overlook called As Catebrais. The beach rock formations look like cathedrals when the tide is out. We were here around noon and the tide was still pretty high

We are thoroughly enjoying Spain and will spend a few days in Santiago de Compestelo before returning to Paris.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a vibrant historical city on the northern coast of Spain and very close to France. But why is it so different than France? I couldn’t begin to answer but believe me it is!

We stayed at our tiniest apartment yet but it was one of our favorites. We were at day 48 of our trip and a bit tired of driving to our destinations every day, so we parked the car and left it four days as we explored this city.

Our apartment was overlooking one of their beaches. The surfers beach! A surfing school had large groups of wet suit clad surfers there daily. It was early May but jacket weather. The simplicity of this apartment made it so easy. The only problem was the scaffolding around our windows. But we still appreciated our view and where we were

This visit was mostly about walking the streets of the old city, enjoying the views of the sea and of course the food which was amazing!

Here are some views of the Old City and the sea

Surfers walk barefoot through the streets to the beach

A protest march on the Spanish Labor Day May 1

San Telmo Museoa: A wonderful ethnographic museum

Historical head pieces

We strolled the old city for pintxos bars during the day. Pintxos are small plates of food. Each plate is inexpensive but they add up! Here is a typical street filled with bars

This traditional pouring of the new white wine is a sparkling treat!

The menus are posted outside and the variety is huge. Cold and hot pintxos, some on display for you to help yourself, others need to be ordered. Here are some bar and food scenes and also some bakery items!

And of course the farm market! Fresh produce and salted fish!

Our stay in San Sebastián was all pleasure. Early May was popular but not as crowded as the summer season. I would love to spend more time here!!