Chicken Cacciatore – “Hunter Stew”

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Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken (pollo alla cacciatora) or rabbit (coniglio alla cacciatora). Basically the hunters would use what they could gather in the woods, and use gamey meats like rabbit, venison, etc. I will have mine without Thumper and Bambi please.

I am not really sure of how chicken was introduced, though one story is that if the hunter returned home empty handed his wife would go out back and kill a chicken and add it to the vegetable stew.

Another story is that the chicken got into the hunter’s vegetables like carrots, onion, and celery. And when the hunter caught the chicken, he became the dinner for the hunter and his family.

There are so many different variations of this dish based upon ingredients available in specific regions. For example, in southern Italy, cacciatore often includes red wine, while northern Italian chefs might use white wine. Some variations include bell peppers and mushrooms mixed in with the vegetables. I wish I had mushrooms on hand when I made this meal, the sauce would have gone great with the flavors of the mushrooms.

Chicken Cacciatore – “Hunter Stew”

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs chicken, I used boneless/skinless thighs and breasts
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red onion, thinly sliced root to tip
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white or red wine, I used red wine.
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 ts salt & pepper
  • 1 ts dry basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 ts dry parsley (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3-4 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stocks, chopped
  • 1 Tbs Italian seasoning

Directions:

  1. In a large heavy pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Once everything is combined coat chicken pieces on both sides. Place chicken in the hot oil and cook 5-6 minutes on both sides. Once chicken is done remove from pan.
  3. In the same pan that the chicken was cooked it add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until the onions are tender. Add the parsley and stir to combine.
  4. Slowly add the chicken stock to pan. Using a spatula deglaze the pan. Bring to a slow boil.
  5. Add in the 1/2 cup wine. Bring back to a boil. Boil on medium-high for 5 minutes.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan and continue to cook until the chicken is completely cooke all the way, about 30-40 minutes.

We served ours over white rice. You can serve it over pasta, rice or potatoes. I hope that you enjoyed this little trip to Italy as much as we did. What country will our taste buds take us to next time?

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Spinach Pasta & Chicken Alfredo Dinner

A few days ago I made chicken alfredo with my homemade spinach pasta and it was a hit. And of course I was not expecting it to be such a great success I didn’t write down what I did. I do that a lot. 🙂

My husband asked for it again and this time I wrote it down. GO ME! 😀 Even my non-pasta loving child was asking for second and thirds. I think this is going to be on our menu for a while.

Spinach pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Spinach pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Alfredo has this expensive Italian sounding name but it is so easy to make, don’t be afraid. I have seen other recipes that call for cream cheese and I just couldn’t do that. To me cream cheese belongs on a bagel or for the base of a great tasting 7 layer dip. My Aunt Karen use to make this 7 layer dip all the time, and I can remember just eating the shredded cheese on top. But I digress. I wanted the sauce to be simple yet still have a ton of flavor and this is perfect.

Spinach Pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 5 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb spinach pasta, fettuccine
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 TBS parsley, chopped
  • 1 TBS garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. In a large deep frying pan, fill about 3/4 way of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling add spinach pasta. Cook until tender: about 3-4 if using homemade pasta or 8-11 minutes using store bought pasta. <- See mine is faster cooking time 🙂
  2. Once pasta is done drain. Set to the side.
  3. Put pot back on the stove and drizzle a little olive oil in the center. Added garlic, cook until fragrant. Add chicken. Cook until done. About 10 minutes. Once done remove chicken.
  4. In the same frying add 1 cup a chicken stock and deglaze the pan. We don’t want all that yummy chicken flavor to go to waste.
  5. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the flour and the last 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Once combined add to frying pan. Cook over medium-low until sauce thickens.
  6. Once sauce is thick add the heavy cream and stir. Slowly add in the parmesan cheese in small batches, stirring after each addition. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add back in the chicken and let warm up in the sauce. Finally toss the pasta back into the sauce. Sprinkle in the parsley and serve.

This whole meal will take about 30 minutes to make and you only used 1 pot to make it. No, I am not kidding you. Easy to make and easy to clean up. For a busy family I don’t know what more you can ask for. This is where buying things like meat in bulk helps save money. Now let’s take a look at the break down.

$5 for the chicken + $0.45 for the chicken stock + $0.50 for the pasta + $0.05 parsley + $1.50 for the heavy cream + $0.05 for flour +$1.25 for parmesan cheese + $.05 for garlic = total $8.85. Now I feed 5 people, but since the average family is 4 we will base the serving price off of 4 people. That breaks down to $2.22 per serving. You can not go out and buy a meal for one person for that price.

Stocking up on Chicken Stock

9 jars of canned chicken stock

9 jars of canned chicken stock

We all have roasted a chicken or turkey at some point. Whether it is for a big Thanksgiving day meal or a simple Sunday dinner. But did you know that throwing away the bones you are throwing away money?! I know crazy thought but it is true. You can take those bones and turn them into chicken/turkey stock for your next soup, gravy, etc. And stretch you money even further. I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time to slave over a hot stove all day. Well guess what, you don’t have to. Follow these very simple steps and I promise you are not going to buy stock or bouillon again.

I made this batch of chicken stock from my BBQ pulled chicken we had for dinner last night. I just boiled the chicken first then separated the meat from the bones. Put the bones back in and shredded the chicken for what I want. Waste not want not.

Simple Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3-4 lbs
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 stalks celery
  • bundle of  parsley
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 large carrots

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken and water in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove from heat. Skim off foam.DSC_0019
  2. Remove chicken from stock, reserving chicken for another use. DSC_0020After taking all the meat off the bones put all the remains back into the stock. Let simmer for 1 hour. DSC_0022Strain stock through a sieve or several layers of cheesecloth.DSC_0031
  3. You may have to do this a couple of times to get everything out.
  4. Allow stock to cool until fat solidifies. Skim off fat. <- This is important. you don’t want to can fat, it is not safe for canning. But if you are going to place it in the freezer, this step would be up to you.
  5. Heat stock to a boil. <- At this point you can either  freeze your stock or you can can it. I prefer canning. Follow the directions below for canning.

For canning the stock:

  1. Prepare pressure canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

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    Heat jars and lids in the canner for 10 minutes.

  2. Ladle hot stock into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.DSC_0037
  3. Process filled jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed. 

See I told you would not be in the kitchen all day making this stock. There are so many benefits to making your own stock 1) it is healthier than store bought 2) you know everything that went into making it 3) will help cut down on cooking time 4) has a much better flavor 5) you are not wasting money by buying something you can do yourself 6) it cost a fraction of the store bought. I can go on forever talking about the money you can save by canning and making things at home. 🙂

Okay let’s look at the break down of making the chicken stock:

$2 for the chicken bones + $0.15 for the carrots + $0.25 for the celery + $0.60 for the onion + $0.10 for the parsley = total is $3.10 to make one large pot stock. That break done to $0.45 for every 16 oz jar canned (about every 2 cups). Try going to the store and buying it at that price to make that much, I bet you can’t. And your homemade stock is sooo much better.

Rememeber: these are only estimates for the area that I live in. Your prices maybe be different.

Food for Your Soul

Growing up in New England I had the joy of having four real seasons. I had a spring, summer, fall and a winter. But my seasons didn’t follow the calendar. I have more cold months then warm months, that just means I got to enjoy those warm good for your soul comfort foods longer.

There is something to be said about comfort foods that can bring a smile your face just by the mention of it like creamy mashed potatoes, hot chicken noodle soup, beef stew from the slow cooker, and nothing beats creamy cheesy macaroni and cheese straight from the oven. I might not have cold months any more living in the south but I do have wet, rainy days that nothing warms my family’s wet bones more then comfort food for dinner.

I grew up with the box version of the mac & cheese, as did my kids. But my husband has issues when it comes to powder cheese so I went to find the best tasting mac & cheesy. Best part is it is still really cheese even after putting in the oven.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

 

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 8oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz gouda cheese
  • 1/2 ts paprika
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1/3 c flour
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1 lb elbow noodles

Directions:

  1. In a large sauce pan start to heat up the chicken stock.
  2. In a measuring cup mix together the flour and water with a whisk. ( I find doing it this way take the clumps out that you sometimes gets when mixing flour and wet ingredients.)
  3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the chicken stock. Cook until slightly think.
  4. Slowly add the cheeses in the stock. Make sure to stir after each addition. This helps melt the cheese and keeps everything creamy. Add in the paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir to completely combine.
  5. Add cooked elbow noodles to the mixture. Mix everything together. Now you can eat it like this or you can transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees with a foil cover.

Hint: To make it a complete meal by mixing in bacon or ham and broccoli. Or a fresh side salad.