What Do You Get When You Cook With a Portuguese Girl Who Loves Italian Food? Chicken Cacciatore with Sweet White Yams!

chicken cacciatore

While Jason and a friend watched movies on Netflix and my sixteen-year-old busied herself in her usual way, texting and taking photos, I sought my own solitude by cooking Chicken Cacciatore in the kitchen.

This dish was absolutely one of our favorites in 2014.  My only regret is that I didn’t make it more.  But hey, better late than never.  I love the colors of fresh green herbs and red bell pepper glistening in the Greek extra virgin olive oil, and their aroma, along with the garlic and Greek Oregano filled the air.  (Jason’s brother-in-law from Greece brought us the oregano and oil.  It is to die for)!

I prepared the Cacciatore in my Le Creuset French Oven – slow cooking it of course; set it on top of the stove and when it was done, family and friends were invited to serve themselves. The chicken was so tender and juicy; no knife was needed.

Ingredients:

6 boneless chicken  breasts, halved crosswise
2 large white yams, halved crosswise then quartered
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celary stock (optional)
8 baby carrots, halved (optional)
3/4 cup dry white wine (or 50/50 water to apple cider vinegar)
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (I had to substitue flat-leaf parsley this time)
1 sprig of thyme

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. I do this by using a large vegatable plastic bag from the grocery store. Just add the chicken, salt, pepper and flour and shake!

In a large heavy sauté pan, (again I used the 9 1/2 Ct Le Creuset Oval French Oven) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and white yams to the same pan and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, include any juice resting in the plate, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Add the sprig of thyme.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Stop.   Wait!  Here is where I change it up.  Because I started cooking in the morning, rather than simmer for 30 minutes as the directions say to do, I turned the oven to 250 degrees and let the stew cook for approximately two hours.

Now, if you need this dish to be ready in 30-40 minutes, just pretend I didn’t say the above and follow accordingly:

Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

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Love Thy Neighbor with Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread, Photo by Jason Homa

I discovered my love for the warm buttery goodness of banana bread following a trip to New York City.  I was staying with my stepmom’s mother, Fania Stone, then in her eighties; still going to work everyday as a textile designer, with silver-white hair cut in a stylish pixie.   She was a delight and quick as a whip on walks to the Farmers Market at Union Square.  We used to walk there on the weekends from her apartment in Gramercy Park to get our fruits and vegetables.

Fania was an avid reader, an eloquent pianist and painter.  Her foyer was filled with books.  Amidst the novels and art books was a small little cook book.  In it I found the recipe for Banana Nut Bread.  I baked it for us weekly and we enjoyed it each night with a little butter on one slice coupled with a hot cup of tea over a highly competitive game of Scrabble.  I learned so much from her about art, culture, music, literature and good wholesome food.  My time with Fania will stay in my heart indelibly as a precious and momentous life experience.

Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit – adding a little hint of vanilla, lemon or some other variation of spice or fruit depending on the season, my mood or just what I had on hand in the kitchen that day.

Today’s recipe was made with a bit of chocolate and some rich vanilla and coconut.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Pre-heat oven to 325

3 Ripe Bananas
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter (salted)
2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
1 1/2 Cups Flower
3 Teaspoons of Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chunks

Mix all wet ingredients in larger bowl
Mix dry ingredients in smaller bowl
Fold dry into wet ingredients

Grease and flour large bread loaf pan or 2 small pans
Pour batter into pan(s)
Bake for 1 hour
Check with toothpick in the center to make sure it is cooked all the way through.  Toothpick should come out clean.

What I did with the recipe today was divide it into two smaller loaf pans and checked them at 45 minutes and 55 minutes.  I took them out as soon as the toothpicks came out clean (a little under an hour).

One bread stayed home for Jason and I and the second made the perfect #WelcomeHome #gift for our #lovely #neighbor #Sophie who just arrived from the hospital after a bad fall.  Happy to say she is on the mend, and like Fania, she has strength and vitality beyond her age.
#ILoveMyFamily

Portuguese Beef Stew

Image

This is the perfect dish for feeding hungry friends and family!  Whenever I make it I imagine my two brothers pushing past me to get firsts, then seconds of this stew.  My granny Mary used to make it during the colder months in California and bring it over on a Tuesday night – her day off.

Granny Mary

Hugs & Kisses wtih Granny Mary

Ingredients:

4 pounds bottom round, well-trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more if needed)
2 large onions, diced (2 cups)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup Portuguese dry red wine
1 pound potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 pound baby carrots (about 2 cups)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Portuguese sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas, thawed or 1/2 pound fresh haricot verts trimmed and halved
1 pound cooked egg noodles

Preparation:

In a large glass bowl, coat the beef in the flour. Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large French Oven over medium-high heat. I prefer using the Le Creuset French Oven.  Brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, adding more oil as necessary. If not using a French or Dutch Oven, transfer to a 4- 6-quart slow cooker, otherwise remove meat, set aside to add back later. Add the onions to your French Oven and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and coat the onions; remove and set aside to be added back with the beef or transfer to slow cooker. Pour the wine into the French Oven and scrape up any browned bits; add to the cooker or leave in French Oven, adding back your beef and onions and stir in your potatoes, carrots, haricot verts broth, salt, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and cook in the oven on 325°F for 7 hours.  If you’re using a slow cooker cook on low for 7 ½ hours or on high for 4 hours. Add the peas and heat through.

Serve over egg noodles.

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

Prep time: 35 Minutes

Other: 7 Hours, 25 Minutes

Beef Stew

Beef Stew, Photo by Jason Homa

Oatmeal Cookies with French Apricots and Dark Chocolate Chips

Oatmeal Cookies with French Apricots and Chocolate Chips

Photo by Jason Homa

Fall is one of those seasons that conjures up images of warm cable-knit sweaters, brown leather boots, and things that I just want to cuddle up with.  My children,  a good movie or a great book; or my boyfriend, a warm fire and some great music; either way this cookie is an excellent companion to either night in.

Here is my take on the traditional Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.  Instead of using raisins, I chop up  succulent dried French Apricots and add them to my batch.  The color is a rich amber gold and the texture is both chewy and sweet, which complement the crispy edges of the oatmeal cookie.  This particular batch was made specifically for my sweetheart.  He and I both love dried apricots in just about anything.  A batch of these are the perfect gift for your host with the most this Thanksgiving.

Show up with these and guests just might forget about the pumpkin pie.

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick plus 6 tbsp.) at room-temperature
• 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 2 eggs (or egg substitute of 1 tbsp. cornstarch & 2 tbsp. water per egg)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups of quick or old-fashioned, uncooked Oats
• 1 cup chopped dried French Apricots
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1 1/2 cups large dark chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  In a large glass bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed or by hand until creamy and well blended

2.  Add eggs and vanilla; continue to beat ingredients until mixed well

3.  In a separate smaller bowl, mix flour, baking soca, cinnamon and salt; mix well, combining all ingredients and working out any lumps in the flour.  Add combined mixture to wet ingredients and mix well.

4.  Add apricots, walnuts and chips; mix well

5.  Add oats and continue to mix all well together

6.  Drop dough by by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  I will also set aside half my batter and roll into waxed paper to freeze; thawing and cutting into 1/2 inch circular slices and baking.

7.  Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack or flattened brown paper bag .  I like to let them cool very little and enjoy them while the chocolate is still oozing and warm.

8.  Store in a tightly closed container.  Makes about 4 dozen delicious cookies.

Oatmeal Cookie

Photo by Jason Homa

Something else to try:

At Christmas time I like change the cookie recipe up with dried cranberries and cocoa powder.  In the next month or so I will post a picture of those with the slight variation of the recipe.

Enjoy!!

The best complement I could receive was this picture Catherine Garvey Simon sent me after she and her babies baked oatmeal cookies using my recipe!  Thanks Catherine!

The best complement I could receive was this picture Catherine Garvey Simon sent me after she and her babies baked oatmeal cookies using my recipe! Thanks Catherine!