Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

This dish started with a recipe at some point, likely from The Washington Post, but I haven't referenced one in years.  I eat a lot of chicken so I am constantly looking for things to do with it.  I had cacciatore at a friend's house many many years ago and have been making it and tweaking the recipe ever since.  Its a great hearty comfort food that isn't too heavy.  I think at this point, my mish-mash of ingredients is quite consistent from batch to batch so I thought I should finally write it down.  Here goes!

(enough for multiple servings)

4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" chunks
1 large or 1 ½ medium yellow onions, cut in a large dice
3-4 Bell peppers, cut in a large dice (definitely use at least one green for that peppery flavor)
3 cloves garlic, minced (or about 1 tsp garlic powder)
2 28oz cans tomatoes (stewed or diced work very well, but for this batch I used whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes that I mashed up in the pot)
1 small can tomato sauce (optional/if necessary, depends on how thick you want the sauce)
Couple splashes of wine (white preferred but red will work in a pinch)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried parsley
Couple pinches cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil


In a large pot with some olive oil, cook the chicken on medium-high heat until just beginning to brown on all sides.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and anything else you may like (I highly recommend McCormick Chicken Seasoning).  When starting to brown, remove from pot and set aside - it will finish cooking later in the sauce.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot with a little more olive oil if necessary.  Cook until the onion begins to become translucent, then add the peppers.  Cook for a few minutes until the onions and peppers have softened.  Add the tomatoes and sauce, if using, followed by all of the herbs, wine and cayenne.  Give everything a good stir then turn down the heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes add the chicken back to the pot, including any juices that have accumulated.  Stir to combine and once again, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Do this one or two more times, tasting each time to see if you need to add anything - more spices, garlic, salt, etc.

After 30 minutes or so of simmering you should be good to go!  I have seen cacciatore served over both rice and pasta. I personally prefer rice and I typically use long grain brown rice - gotta make sure the carbs you take in are healthy ones, right?  One note - a general rule of thumb, at least in my kitchen, is that rice should almost always be cooked in some sort of broth or stock rather than water, its a great way to add a little more flavor.  For this dish, I use chicken broth.  Enjoy!

Road Cookies - Oatmeal White Chocolate Cranberry

If I could, I'd make cookies on a regular basis and keep a well-stocked cookie jar easily accessible.  And I guess while I technically could, I'm not sure my waistline would appreciate it.  Whenever I have an excuse to make some though, I am all over it. 

Some friends and I went to Deep Creek Lake over Labor Day weekend, which meant - road trip!  These cookies, which as it happens, are filled with whole grains and antioxidants, are the perfect road cookie.  They are salty and sweet and seriously delicious.  If you get a little hungry on the road but don't want to stop, these will definitely tide you over for a while.  And I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like them. 

It starts with the good old "Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies" recipe from inside the lid of Quaker Quick Oats, but then I made some adjustments to suit my taste, so I'm going to deem this as another "S Original".  Oh, and just pretend you didn't notice that the first ingredient is a full 2 sticks of butter, because everything really is bettah with buttah....


½ pound (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I try to mix light and dark if I have both on hand)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ - ½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
3 cups uncooked Quaker Quick Oats (old-fashioned will work if you don't have quick)
Dried cranberries - a couple handfuls
White chocolate chips - a couple handfuls


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Stir to combine and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.  Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until well incorporated.  Stir in the oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips.  3 cups of oats will look like a lot, but trust me, it should all be added.  As for the cranberries and chips - I usually just eyeball it and add as much as I think looks good, it probably comes out to just over 1 cup of each.

Drop the cookies in rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for a minute on the sheets then transfer to wire racks to cool.  These cookies are pretty delicate, especially when warm, so use a spatula with a nice sharp edge that will slide under them easily.  Makes about 4-5 dozen.  Store in an air-tight container to keep them chewy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lime Cupcakes - Baking Contest Attempt #1


So I didn’t win the cupcake contest at the DC “State Fair” (bummer!), but I still think these cupcakes are really delicious.  Maybe the judges didn’t like my non-traditional use of tulip papers, or maybe they aren’t fans of citrus or maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better….  At any rate, if you like lime (or even if you think you don’t – ahemmm JM!) you should try these cupcakes.  The fresh fruit taste mixed with the cream cheese icing is quite a tasty combination.

As for the contest – this definitely won’t be my last – who wins on the first try anyway, right?!  Check out all of the DC State Fair follow-up here:  See if you can spot mine in the pictures of the cupcakes…

Recipe adapted from

1 cup AP flour
IMG_14803/4 cup self-rising flour*
1 stick butter, room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp finely grated lime zest
13 drops yellow food coloring (I used 2)
2 drops green food coloring (I used 1)
3/4 cup buttermilk

1 8oz package cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp (I used 6 tbsp)
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lime zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lime juice (my addition)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tin with 12 paper liners.  Whisk both flours together in medium bowl.  Beat butter in large bowl until smooth.  Add sugar and beat until blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in the lime juice, zest and food coloring (batter may look curdled).  Stir in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.  Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each liner.  Bake until tester comes out clean - about 18-25 minutes (depending on your oven).  Cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely.

For the icing, beat all ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add powdered sugar until icing reaches your desired consistency.  Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

*Note about the self-rising flour – In my test run of these cupcakes, they came out very dense.  Turns out that even though my bag of self-rising flour was not expired, the baking powder in it was dead.  After consulting with my favorite peeps, King Arthur Flour, they gave me the breakdown of how to make my own.  To make 1 cup of self-rising flour, combine 1 cup AP flour, 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt.   If you don’t need a cup, then you do the math J  After making my own concoction, my cupcakes came out nice and fluffy!