Chicken Cacciatore

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I’m back! It feels so good to be back in the game. It has been quite a summer, and I am still in recovery mode. It’s been two long months since I have blogged, and I feel like the time has just flown by. My parents visited for 6 weeks this summer, and I’m still trying to get over them being gone. If I could move Kenya next door, I totally would! I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, and it makes me want to savor every second they are here, knowing our time is limited.

I’m excited that this is my return to blogging recipe. Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes that sounds way more fancy than it really is. Cacciatore is Italian for “hunter” and a meal cooked “alla cacciatore” means it’s cooked hunter style. It usually involves braising chicken or rabbit, and then adding tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. I learned how to make it about 10 years ago, and for a long time I was like a one trick pony.  It was the meal I prepared whenever we had company. I guess I made it so much that it got old for me, and as soon as I found other recipes, I shelved it. My hubby reminded me the other day that I hadn’t made it in ages, so I decided to revisit my old faithful recipe. I’ll tell you what… it was like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while 🙂 It’s comfort food at it’s best. I lightened it up a little to fit  our new lifestyle where we’re more watchful of what we eat, but it did not take away from the flavor a bit! It’s loaded with veggies and flavorful sauce, and you will be so glad to serve this to your gang. My version incorporates mushrooms, which does darken the sauce color a tad, but I love the depth it adds to the sauce.

You can totally play with this recipe to suit your taste. I used skinless chicken thighs to make  the recipe lighter, but you can leave the skin on if you would like. You can also use a whole cut up chicken instead of just using thighs, Do leave the bone in the chicken though, and DO brown your meat (dusted with some flour). It makes all the difference in the flavor of the sauce. You can pick and choose your combo of veggies too. I went more traditional with the onion, mushroom, peppers and garlic. I skipped the wine and used chicken broth instead. We like things a little spicy at my house, so I added crushed red pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount, or omit all together to suite your taste. The same goes for the capers. They are totally optional. I had some in my fridge, and I love the briny, salty flavor that they add to slow cooked dishes. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it. I served the cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, but any pasta would work just fine, or some egg noddles. Now that I think about it, rice or mashed potatoes would work here too. It would take away from the whole Italian theme, but I promise not to tell anyone if you choose to go that route 🙂

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
8 skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 Tablespoons capers (optional, but yummy)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Dredge the chicken in flour to coat lightly.
2. In a heavy bottomed pot (I used a cast-iron pot), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown for about 5 minutes per side. Do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan, which keeps the chicken from browning up. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.

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3. Add the onions, mushrooms and green pepper to the pot, and saute until the veggies start to soften up (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for another minute. Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
4. Add the chicken broth, and let the liquid simmer and reduce (about 3-4 minutes). Add the tomatoes, oregano, capers and crushed red pepper. (If you are not using capers, check for seasoning. You may need to add more salt. Capers are salty, so I didn’ t need to add more). Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

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Serve over pasta, and sprinkle with basil.
Devotion for the day:
The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions watching the news after this past weekend’s terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. My heart grieves for the families and friends who have lost their loved ones. My heart is sad for the city and country that I love. I’m angry at the terrorists who walked into that building and rocked our confidence and security. Through all the tragedy and grief, I’m reminded that I have to dig deep and find hope. Not a false sense of hope, but a deep hope in the ONE who never changes. Even when my world is rocked to the core, God is my rock, and my refuge.
The last night before my Mom left for Kenya a few weeks ago, she shared Psalms 62 with me. It has been the chapter that has returned to my mind multiple times over the last few days, and it is my prayer as the healing begins, and as Kenyans begin to try to make sense of the tragedy, and rebuild. Let us hope in God and God alone. He is our refuge and our strength.
Psalms 62: 5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Basil-Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breast


Yippeee!!! I am now the proud owner of an herb garden thanks to my daughter who diligently waters my plants. OK… maybe that isn’t totally accurate. It’s actually pots of herbs, but I am still really, REALLY excited. I have a bountiful supply of basil just dying to be used, which was the inspiration for this dish. I have been doing stuffed chicken breasts for years, but this was the first time I tried this particular combination, and I am so pleased with the outcome. Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella are a match made in heaven in my humble opinion. I am a little weird about my tomato textures though, and could not get myself to use regular tomato slices. I’m sure they would work fine, but sun-dried tomatoes have a depth in flavor that I love. Typically the chicken breasts are dipped in egg before coating with the bread crumbs, but I wanted to experiment with Italian dressing for extra ummppphh in the flavor department. Ohh… one more thing. If you have access to Panko breadcrumbs, please give them a whirl. You can thank me later (wink..wink). They are Japanese breadcrumbs and  make for a crispier crust than regular breadcrumbs. If you can’t find them, regular breadcrumbs would be just fine.
Other combinations for the stuffing that would be divine would be: Bacon, Cheddar and Chives, Spinach and Feta Cheese, Ham and Swiss, Goat cheese, Spinach and Sun-dried tomatoes, Mushroom and Swiss…. really, the possibilities are endless. Let me know what other exciting combos you come up with.
Ok.. one last thing… my sweetie decided to squeeze lime juice on his chicken after it was cooked, and it was really good! Try lemon or lime juice for added zing.
Let’s get cooking.
Ingredients:
5 Chicken Breast, boneless and skinless
10 Ounces Mozzarella, sliced into 10 pieces
1/2 Cup Fresh basil, chopped
1/3 Cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 Cup Italian dressing
11/2 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
Lime or lemon juice (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 375 Degrees F.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit into the chicken about 3/4 of the way through (along the long side). Sprinkle both top and slit of chicken with the seasoning salt.
3. Stuff the chicken by evenly distributing the Mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and basil into the slits.
4. Put the dressing and the breadcrumbs in 2 separate bowls. Coat the chicken in the dressing first (both sides), then repeat the process with the bread crumbs. You want the surface of the chicken well breaded for best results. I like to use toothpicks to hold the chicken together.
5. Place the chicken on a sheet or cookie pan, sprayed with cooking spray. Also spray the top of the chicken (this helps with browning).
6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the chicken has an internal temp of 165 Degrees F.
I love this chicken with mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies.
Enjoy!
Devotion For The Day:
Where’s my Joy?
Today is one of those days where 10 minutes out of being out of bed, I was ready to get back in and start the day over. It’s truly my fault. I know better than to get up and  immediately jump into mommy mode. I know that a few minutes by myself to have my devotion and then face the day makes all the difference in my attitude. Anyway, this morning, I set myself up to fail. 10 minutes into a parenting struggle, I retreated to my corner to see what words of wisdom the bible could offer me. I actually laughed out loud when I read today’s verse. If only I had read it 20 minutes before! Oh well… better late than never. I found myself  reminding myself of these words quite a few times today.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.