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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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.

Meatloaf with Tomato-Mustard Glaze

Today I am here to redeem the meatloaf. It has gotten such a bad rap lately! Now, I have had my share of really tough, bland meatloaves, so I understand. After playing with this recipe over the last few months, I think I finally have it down. I’m totally thrilled. I also like that this recipe has veggies built into it, which is great for picky kids that do not like veggies, since if you dice them real fine, they can’t tell they are there (I do think it’s important that you don’t always hide the veggies so kids get used to seeing and eating them). The veggies also work great in that they add flavor and make the loaf more moist. Another trick to moist meatloaf is the buttermilk. You are more than welcome to use regular milk instead, but there is something about the enzymes in the buttermilk that make the meatloaf extra moist.In my opinion though, the glaze is what takes this recipe from ho-hum to awesome. It’s a tangy, sweet mix that plays really well with the meat. Give it a shot.
As a side note, I love¬†sun-dried¬†tomatoes, and they add awesome flavor to the meatloaf, but it would be just fine without it. The meatloaf is enough to feed my family of 4 for two dinners, so half it if you are feeding less. I would also substitute a few tablespoons of regular mustard if you don’t have any mustard powder.
 Ingredients:
3 Tbsp Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
1 Yellow Pepper, finely chopped
1 Green Pepper, finely chopped
1 Cup Mushrooms, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Sun-dried Tomatoes, minced (optional)
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil, chopped (if using dried, use 1 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped (if using dried, use 1 Tbsp)
1 Cup Dried Breadcrumbs
1 Beef Bouillon cube, crumbled (or 1 tsp powder)
3/4 Cup Buttermilk (or plain Milk)
11/4 tsps Salt
1 Egg
2 Pounds Ground Beef
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1 Tbsp Dry Mustard
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. In a pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion, peppers, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes until the veggies are soft. Add garlic and fry for another minute. Take off heat and cool slightly.
2. Transfer veggies to large bowl. Add the basil, parsley, breadcrumbs, bouillon, salt and buttermilk. Taste the mixture and adjust if necessary.( I usually do the tasting before adding in the egg and meat to make sure the meatloaf is not bland. At this point, you want it to taste overly salty and you want to be able to taste the herbs, otherwise once you add the meat, it will make a bland loaf. Add more bouillon and herbs if needed).
3. Add in the egg and the beef. Mix just until combined. Do not overwork the mixture or it will make the meatloaf tough.
3. Spray a cookie sheet or 9 by 13 inch rectangular pan with cooking spray (or foil the pan like I do. I hate cleaning pans). Put meat mixture in pan and shape into a loaf. Try and compact as much as possible to remove air pockets. It will ensure even cooking, but also keep the loaf from falling apart when slicing.
4. Mix ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and¬†Worcestershire¬†in a small bowl. Spread over the top of the meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour .( I check mine after 50 minutes with a meat thermometer, and it’s done at 160 degrees).
5. I also like to broil it for the last 5 minutes  to brown the top and caramelize the glaze. A few dark spots are fine.  Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies. Enjoy!
Devotion For The Day:
The Great Comforter.
The last two weeks have been emotionally tough. Tomorrow we lay to rest a little boy who is a friend of the family. He was 5. Many questions come to mind, many of which have no good answers. I have struggled as a parent and as a Christian to make sense of the loss the parents, sibling and loved ones face. I have struggled with knowing what to tell the grieving family. Yet at a time like this, when words fail, I can see God holding this family up in a way that only He can. As human beings, we are inadequate to totally be there and understand their pain, but I am so glad that it’s not the case with God. These verses stick out to me today.¬†Isaiah 41:10 Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Verse 13 says: For I hold you by your right hand- 1, the Lord your God. And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.¬†I pray that God the great Comforter who sees all our pain and knows our deepest groaning will provide an extra measure of grace and peace to the grieving family and friends. He is able!