Chicken Cacciatore

Okay – I feel better now 🙂 I made a dish that didn’t fail; granted it’s a tried and true recipe and the previous ones were ones that I hadn’t tried before. Even so, I feel like less of a failure and I feel that it’s relatively post-worthy.

red pot Look at one of my pretty Christmas gifts from my husband! A gorgeous red Le Creuset dutch oven. I’m so in love with it. I’ve been wanting one for quite a while and he remembered…I wasn’t picky about the color, but I do like red things for my kitchen so again, he remembered!

I’m not very well-versed in cookware like this, so I still have a lot to learn in terms of what I can and cannot cook in it. I figure “low and slow” is a good mantra for this pot – soups, stews, and dishes that need at least a good 30-45 minutes to meld together. I am proud of the fact, however, that I remembered that it’s a coated cast iron pot – meaning that you need to wear oven mitts whenever dealing with it or else you risk some major burns.  This is also a step in the right direction for me, as I’m that person that will carelessly forget when a pan has been in the oven, and will accidentally grab it with my bare hands when I’m ready to serve it (my husband will vouch for me on this one).

Anyways – it’s winter time. It’s pep band season. We’re working a lot, and to save a little bit of cash, we need dinners that are going to last us a while so we’re not stopping at the store for a quick meal or even *ugh* fast food. Dinners that are still delicious and (relatively) healthy, but still stick to the ribs to keep us warm. Know what I mean? I thought about something to cook this week with my new pot, and immediately thought of chicken cacciatore!

Chicken cacciatore is “hunter-style” chicken; chicken with mushrooms, onion, and tomatoes. It’s a hearty dish that fills you up, goes a long way and tastes amazing. The recipe that I based my dish off of, however, doesn’t include mushrooms! I think I’ll have to make a note in my cookbook for next time.

Chicken Cacciatore

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 4 boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, quartered (or 4-6 tenders, halved)
  • salt and pepper (just a sprinkle of each)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (based on your preference)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth/stock
  • 3 tbsp drained capers
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. On a plate or in a shallow bowl, dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat.
  2. In a large heavy saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and saute just until they’re just brown (~5 minutes). Do not crowd the pan; feel free to brown the chicken in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and wait two minutes. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute until the onion softens. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid reduced by half (~3-5 minutes). Add the entire can of diced tomatoes (including the juice), broth, capers and oregano. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and coat it in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the chicken is cooked through and the flavors have melded together.
  6. Serve hot, sprinkled with basil and with pasta if desired.

cacciatore

As I said in the recipe, you can serve with or without pasta. This makes a lot of sauce and leftovers reheat really well. I had mine with a piece of baguette from work on the side to pick up any last sauce that was leftover in the dish.

I cannot recommend this recipe enough this time of year – it really warms you up and sticks to your ribs!  Delicious Italian food in the dead of winter. How can you go wrong!? Enjoy 🙂

 

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Valentine’s Day Fondue

I suppose I should let you in on a little secret as to one of our favorite “traditions” that we have, just the two of us.

For our Valentine’s Day celebration, we like to fondue. We’ll clear off the coffee table, set out bowls of dippable fruit, vegetables, & proteins…and have ourselves a wonderful & relaxing meal while watching movies. We received a fondue pot (the kind you can use Sterno with) as a wedding shower gift – it came with both a glass pot and a metal pot. The glass one broke…so a few years ago my sister gave us a new, electric one for Christmas.

Electric fondue pots are where it’s at. Easy to heat, easy to clean, easy easy EASY! 🙂

This year one of the movies we watched was West Side Story. I’ve seen this movie so many times, yet Mike never had. It was really hilarious to watch this with him and hear all of his commentary. As you can imagine, it’s those comments that often people just keep to themselves 🙂 The best part is that my husband truthfully does appreciate musical theater – he just likes to make comments to make me laugh!

We never did get to the chocolate fondue – as yours truly fell asleep (I ended up coming down with a chest cold the next day, also in true Valentine’s Day tradition – I’m sick almost every year on VDay. How’s that for romance?) We ended up cooking up cheese fondue as an appetizer, and broth fondue for the main course. Chocolate will just have to wait until this cough subsides…

Cheese Fondue

adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

  • 2 dashes garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup beer (we used homebrewed Saison or spitless Chicha, can’t recall)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, diced into cubes
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  1. Turn on your fondue pot.
  2. Combine first four ingredients and stir until the cheese is melted.
  3. Add hot sauce & worcestershire sauce (to taste) and stir to combine.
  4. Serve with your favorite dippables!

Behold the power of cheese.

Alright, so maybe it’s a little odd that we drank red wine with our beer-y cheese? Oh well. It was awesome anyway. We ate our cheese fondue with some crusty French bread from Breadworks. I also bought some broccoli & an apple to slice, but in the end we decided to keep this course a bit simple.

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For our next course, we opted for a broth fondue to be a bit healthier. I had a quart of mushroom broth lurking in my pantry. I supplemented it with some chicken broth as we cooked along, and threw in a clove of garlic.

Our favorite dippables (cookables?) for our broth fondue were some chicken, beef, mushrooms (my favorite), red onion, and potato. Next time I may copy what Kristin did on Iowa Girl Eats  and try some tots or french fries. Bell pepper and zucchini can taste pretty good, too. Truthfully, whatever you feel like cooking up in the pot – try it. You won’t be disappointed (and if you are, just don’t make it next time).

Oh – I can’t forget about the sauces! We made a simple soy sauce/teriyaki/ginger/sriracha one, a horseradish-mayo sauce, some honey mustard, and some barbecue sauce. All were delicious – I made them up on the fly, but next time I think I’ll do a bit more internet research so I can make (and memorize!) some winners.

Fondue is great any time, and for any families whose members can be trusted with pointy objects. 😉

Do you ever fondue? What are your favorite things to fondue?

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

I have to admit that it’s very rare that I make two new dishes at the same time. If it’s a new main dish, I make a ‘typical’ side dish. If it’s a new side dish, I make a ‘typical’ main course. While perusing my usual motherload of blogs  I came across this recipe on Skinnytaste. Through reading through the comments section, I saw that others had recommended making the fiesta bean salad to go with this.

It was band camp week, we had limes & CSA cilantro to use up, we had shrimp in the freezer,  and I wanted to use my new grilling skewers. All signs were pointing to “make this recipe!” (as cheesy as that sounds, but then again we all know I like cheese so it’s quite apropos). It was a no-brainer, easy, and delicious!

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • cooking spray
  • 1 bag large raw shrimp (15-20 per lb), peeled & deveined
  • 3 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 limes, sliced thinly
  • a dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • skewers (I’ll explain my new ones after the recipe)
  1. Heat up the grill on medium and spray the grates with the oil.
  2. In a bowl, season the shrimp with the garlic, cumin, salt, and half of the cilantro. Toss so that the shrimp gets coated with everything.
  3. On your skewers, thread the shrimp & lime slices, alternating so that you start with shrimp & end with shrimp.
  4. Grill the shrimp, turning occasionally, until they are cooked (they’ll be pink!) – usually this is takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes a side.
  5. Remove from heat & serve hot!
Yum!

Yum!

I have never grilled limes before, let alone any type of fruit (though I think Mike has grilled peaches or pineapple once; two fruits I don’t like). I was amazed by how the lime flavor was infused into the shrimp, simply by grilling it on the skewers.

Speaking of skewers, thanks to a great review over at the Ranting Chef, I decided to purchase these skewers. I never had liked using the bamboo, and both my husband and I have burned ourselves before on the long metal ones. These were easy to turn both because of their shape (they form a loop), and because there was also a small loop to grab onto with your tongs, if you wanted. They also cooled relatively quickly. I agree that I don’t think I can ever go back to regular skewers again; since they only came in a package of two, I need to order another set in case we decide to do kabobs for company.

These kebabs, served with the Fiesta Bean Salad, are a great meal for the dog days of summer where you really don’t want to use your oven. It tastes great, it’s fast, and hey, it’s even healthy, too 🙂

 

The Mandoline Slicer

Recently, my husband & I decided to buy a mandoline slicer for our kitchen. He wanted to make homemade potato chips, and I wanted something that could julienne & thinly slice vegetables. I did some research online and ended up ordering the Swissmar Borner V-1001 V-Slicer Plus Mandoline 6 Piece Set . It comes with 3 blades and has the ability to “slice, julienne, or shred”. So far we’ve tried two out of the three – and we’ve both loved the results so far!

When the mandoline first arrived, it was on a Wednesday – which in our house is Potluck Night at the community garden. We20130807-065622.jpg had several homegrown potatoes, so we decided to make some hashbrown casserole (my stepmom-in-law’s recipe, which typically uses frozen hashbrowns). After reading the directions, I put the blade that I wanted into the mandoline (shredding), stuck a potato on the safety holder, and began to slice. Shredding is pretty tedious, but it still went faster than using a cheese grater!

I also purchased some protective gloves for my hands. Amazon recommended this as an add-on item and I totally took the bait. Why? Because my husband & I are accident-prone and that mandoline blade is SHARP.

My husband used the mandoline this past Sunday for 1) breakfast potatoes, and 2) homemade potato chips. Once I showed him how to set up and use the mandoline, he immediately got to work. He sliced the last of the homegrown potatoes (save two for a meal) and threw them into the deep fryer. They were absolutely delicious and perfectly crunchy! After he was done using the slicer, I washed it off, turned the reversible plate around for thicker slices, and quickly sliced through the cucumbers that I wanted to pickle. It was so incredibly easy, and much more consistent than trying to cut with a knife.

I think that this is going to be a fantastic tool to make stir-frys with, too.

It doesn’t take a lot of room to store the mandoline, as this one is designed to hold the blades in two small compartments on the back. I typically store the julienne & shredding blades back there so that if the food holder falls off its pegs (during storage), the super sharp, pointy blades are not exposed.

Overall, I’m very happy with our purchase and I think that it’s going to be a very convenient tool in the next few months as we process our CSA vegetables, prepare food for potlucks, and just enjoy cooking in the kitchen together!

* I was not compensated in any way, shape or form for my review of these products. These opinions are soley my own – my goal is to spread the word about products & gadgets that are new to me and that which I find to be convenient & worth sharing. Photo created with PicCollage.

From My Kitchen to Yours

Santa Claus brought this chef something very exciting for Christmas:

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Needless to say, it’s going to be a wonderful addition to my kitchen! 🙂 What to make with it first…?

I hope that you have had a wonderful holiday season full of love and joy. We’ve been blessed to be with friends yesterday, and each other today; I’ll be heading down to Ohio to visit our loved ones once the blizzard subsides.

Thank you all for supporting & reading my posts – it’s a joy to share the fun I have in the kitchen every week. Thus – “from my kitchen to yours”…happy holidays!

CSA, Week 3

I apologize for the slightly boring post here. My family was in town over the past weekend, which was an absolute blast 🙂

This week’s CSA had a few more colors:

  • broccoli
  • snap peas
  • radishes
  • butterhead lettuce
  • kale
  • basil
  • fresh-picked garlic

Today I purchased a salad spinner. I used to think that salad spinners were one of the most idiotic kitchen gadgets out there for purchase by the misinformed consumer.

However, with the amount of greens and lettuces we’ve been receiving in our CSA, I think it will be very useful and I’ll get my money’s worth. Washing lettuce and waiting for it to dry in a colander/strainer is tedious. Washing your greens are crucial, though – the farm doesn’ t use any pesticides/sprays, and I’ve come across an occasional worm, earwig and/or caterpillar, hiding out amongst the leaves. *gross* So needless to say, a spinner has made its way into our home and I plan on using it as much as possible.

Tonight, I intend to make some Basil & Garlic Scape Pesto – I would normally use it for an immediate dinner this evening, but we had spaghetti & meatballs last night, and I really would like to use up last week’s basil & garlic scapes. Since my camera is charged & I have the house to myself, I have plenty of time this evening for kitchen wizardry & more blog posts  🙂

Do you have a salad spinner? If so, do you use it often, and have you found other uses for it?