Friday, April 12, 2013

Chicken Cacciatore (Slow Cooker)

One of my new year's resolutions, and possibly the only one I'm sticking to as I can't remember what any of the rest were at the moment, was to cook more from my cookbooks. I love trying recipes from blogs and other online sources so much that I neglect my more than decent cookbook collection far too much. One of the largest categories of cookbooks in my collection are dedicated to slow cooking. Today's recipe comes from The Italian Slow Cooker, which was an impulse by at an adorable little bookstore called Salt & Pepper located in historic Occoquan, Virginia. If you're in the DC/Northern Virginia area, I highly recommend a visit to this quaint little store. There aren't many independent bookstores out there anymore in general, let alone one dedicated to food, so it's nice to support the ones that are left.

Something interesting that this book recommends is to brown all the meat first, including the chicken. I regularly do that with beef in my slow cooker dishes, but for some reason never thought of doing that with chicken. It makes a difference! Often chicken is difficult in the slow cooker because it falls apart. Browning it first not only brings out extra flavor, but also makes the skin sturdier as to not melt away during cooking. One downside with chicken that is present in this dish is a much shorter cooking time than beef. However, it's perfect for a weekend meal that you don't have to get going until noon, then can leave cooking on the counter while you run a few errands and come home to a yummy smelling house. This dish was quite tasty too!

Chicken Cacciatore (Slow Cooker)  photo ChickenCacciatore3.jpg

4 lbs chicken (I used thighs)
salt, pepper, olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips
12 ounces button mushrooms, halved
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBS all purpose flour
1 TBS good tomato paste (use 2-3 if using cheap stuff)
3/4 c dry red wine

Dry chicken pieces gently with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat large skillet with oil, about 2 TBS, and heat over medium heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and cook until nicely browned. Flip and brown other side. Transfer chicken to slow cooker.

Pour all but 2 TBS of fat from skillet and increase heat to medium high. Saute peppers and mushrooms until they begin to soften. Add onions, thyme, and garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.

Sprinkle flour over veggies. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine and bring to a simmer. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the yummy brown bits of flavor. Pour over chicken.

Cook on low for 5 hours or on high for 2.5 hours.

Serves 4

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Muffins

I needed a quick dessert for a dinner with a crowd of fitness buffs so I didn't want to make anything that seemed too dessert-like. Chocolate cake wouldn't do, but I had a hunch that whole wheat muffins, albeit with chocolate chips might do that trick. And they did. Some of my guests had three muffins, and this was after a fairly hearty dinner. I love that these muffins are just sweet enough. Plus, there's texture and crunch thanks to the whole wheat flour and nuts. This recipe is slightly adapted from this one found at

Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Muffins
 photo chocolatechipmuffins2.jpg 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup light-brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten (I used 1 whole egg + 2 whites)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts or 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together dry ingredients, except chips and nuts, in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients until well-blended.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and incorporate milk mixture until just combined. Stir in chips and nuts.

Using a muffin scoop, fill prepared muffin pan 2/3rds of the way.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack.

Makes 15-18 muffins.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Butternut Squash and Kale Chicken Pot Pies

Wow, how did it get to be April already? Apparently, I missed the entire month of March. Fortunately, even though I didn't post at all last month, I tried a bunch of new recipes which I hope to share with you between now and . . . say, June? :) Just kidding (I hope)!

Today's recipe comes from the February 2013 issue of Bon Appetit and is perfect for winter or fall. We absolutely love butternut squash and chicken pot pies, so an excuse to put the two together couldn't be passed up. Plus, I've also been on the lookout for new ways to try kale, so again this recipe fits the bill. The recipe absolutely did not disappoint. I used my regular pie dough instead of the suggested puff pastry and chicken which I had in the freezer from the last time I roasted a whole bird for stock. These pot pies are fantastic right from the oven but also freeze well.

Butternut Squash and Kale Chicken Pot Pies
 photo bnsquashcknkalepotpie1.jpg

Pie dough for a 9" double-crust pie
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS fresh sage (or 1 tsp dried)
1 small bunch kale, stem removed and leaves chopped (~2-3 cups)
1/4 c all purpose flour
3 c chicken broth
1.5 c butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces
1.5 cooked chicken, chopped or roughly shredded
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water
salt, pepper, olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Saute onion in olive oil until softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic and sage. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook until kale is wilted, about 4 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 4 minutes. Whisk in broth and add squash. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is softened (fork-tender) and broth is thickened. Add chicken and adjust seasoning.

Roll and cut bottom and top rounds of pie dough appropriately sized for your pan(s). Grease and flour pie pan(s) and needed. Fill generously with mixture, allowing the filling to mound slightly. Add top layer of dough, crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork, and make a few slits to allow steam to escape Brush with egg mixture. I made individual pot pies and got 6 well-stuffed 4" pies with a little bit of both filling and dough to spare.

Bake 15-20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes until pies are a lovely golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes to allow filling to set before serving.

Makes 6 individual pot pies or 1 9" pie.

 photo bnsquashcknkalepotpie2.jpg