Chicken Cacciatore + the Compliment Club

My friend David enjoys food just as much as I do and we go back and forth sharing food finds and recipes. I am always flattered when he asks for my opinion because I really am just making it up as I go. This blog is my outlet to share what I’ve learned from watching way too much Food Network, reading cookbooks for fun, and googling everything. I also enjoy sharing my hits (and misses) and it encourages me to try new recipes. David made chicken cacciatore last week and he inspired me to make it. This is a slightly different take on the one he made, but I like it because the portions are reasonable (only makes enough for four) and it does not have too much flour in it. Some recipes called for a lot more and I wanted to keep this fairly healthy. Besides, you need to save some carbs for the penne! I didn’t have capers, but I do recommend them. They can be hard to find, but Trader Joe’s always has them and they’re good with fish. I also like to add them to tomatoes, feta cheese and olives.

I recently read Joy the Baker’s post about creating a compliment club and I immediately loved the idea. She describes the club as “a group of people whom actively, enthusiastically, sincerely, and frequently offer words of praise to the people around them.” It’s not exclusive, anyone can be a member, and it should be practiced everyday. Can you remember the last time you received a compliment? If nothing comes to mind, then that’s a problem! Sure, we may get the occasional, ‘I like your outfit,’ but these should be sincere and thoughtful. Joy provides seven rules for the compliment club to give you some guidance. Here’s a short synopsis:

  1. Look for the beauty in the people around you!
  2. Mean what you say!
  3. Be specific.
  4. Tell them how it makes you feel. I know, emotions!
  5. No backhanded compliments. Please and thank you.
  6. Go for it – life is short. Hand out those compliments like candy now.
  7. Don’t expect anything in return.

I’ve noticed how friendly people are when I am out and about in downtown Indy with Winston. Something about a cute, rambunctious pup makes everyone want to stop and say hello. As I’ve gotten older, I have become bolder with handing out compliments the moment that I think of them. An attentive barista with a great smile at Starbucks that took the time to chat with me, Jessica at the hardware store who wears the sassiest red lipstick and she always makes Winston feel special at the counter when he waits for his treat, Chris at Patachou who always asks me how my dad is, and on and on. It’s amazing how important the little things in life really are.

I was in the elevator today with a woman that went to my dad’s high school and had him as her principal. I noticed some hesitation, but just as I was getting out of the elevator, she stopped me. ‘Are you Libby?’ Always a dangerous question… ‘I went to Snider and I saw your dad in the lobby a few weeks ago. He is the nicest guy and told me about your puppy and about you. He is so very proud of you.’ MADE MY DAY. I used to be so embarrassed when my dad would talk about me with other people. I would become uptight and worry that they would think that I still ‘need’ my dad and that I look helpless. Wrong. I do still need my dad and he needs me. There’s no shame in that and it meant a lot that she decided to share that with me.

I am also thankful that I inherited a lot of my dad’s traits. Neither of us know a stranger and we both feed off of each other when we go places. Not everyone appreciates this trait, but at the end of the day, my dad and I are happier people because of it. There’s no reason to go through life doing the bare minimum and hoping no one notices you. Try to impact one person each day. I’m not talking about anything monumental – just make someone smile.

Final thought since this has become a lengthy rant about compliments! I used to have someone in my life I cared about immensely. For more than ten years we were best friends and I shared everything with him, but there was a certain trait he hated about me: I am a giver. I made scones yesterday and took them to two friends. I mailed keylime cookies to a friend and dropped off another stack at work. I send letters like it’s my job. I am constantly looking for ways to encourage and applaud others. It is innate in me and he hated it. I have realized that maybe this has to do with the theory that the other person now owes you something? This is entirely not true and I know my friends and family appreciate the gestures and know they do not need to reciprocate. You can’t be taking a tally or keeping score on a legal pad. That’s not how life works. Keep paying it forward and hopefully (when I make it big) someday I will have the opportunity to help even more people. If only someone would pay me to make cookies!

Photos from the Fourth! I forgot how good s’mores can be. Also, my ‘I am excited to be home face.’ That’s our backyard in the background. Lots and lots of trees.

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Chicken Cacciatore 

Recipe via Cozy Apron

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
6 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press, divided use
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
Olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 yellow bell peppers, cored and seeded, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup sauvignon blanc (or other white wine)
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons capers
½ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
cooked penne pasta

Add the chicken pieces into a large bowl, and add in about 2 cloves worth of the pressed garlic, the lemon zest and juice, and a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, and toss to coat; allow the meat to marinate for about 10 minutes.

Place a saute pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil; while the pan heats up, sprinkle the flour over the chicken pieces and toss the pieces to coat; once the pan is hot, add in the coated chicken pieces, and allow them to caramelize and become golden-brown on that first side, then toss them and allow them to become golden-brown on the  other side, about 3-4 minutes total; remove the chicken pieces from the pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Into that same pan, drizzle in a little more oil if needed, and add in the onions and the yellow bell peppers, and allow them to caramelize until a light golden-brown; next, add in the Italian seasoning, about 2 teaspoons of salt, and about ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and stir to combine; add in the remainder of the garlic, and stir it in.

Once the garlic has become aromatic, add in the Sauvignon Blanc and allow it to quickly reduce for about 30 seconds while you scrape up the good browned bits on the bottom of the pan; next add in the dice tomatoes with their juice, along with the capers and the chicken stock, and stir.

Simmer the sauce on medium-low/low, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes; once simmered, turn off the heat, and add back into the pan the chicken pieces, the brown sugar and the chopped parsley, plus another good drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt if needed, and stir to combine; finish by adding into the pan the cooked penne pasta, and toss the pasta well to coat it in the sauce.

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Add penne pasta and top with parsley and parmesan cheese

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