Hearty Chicken Stew

In light of the fact that winter is just NOT giving UP, here’s a fabulous cozy winter dish to keep you warm until spring finally decides to arrive! I’m a big fan of any kind of stew, but this one is like if you made chicken pot pie without the crust – it is so thick and hearty and full of goodness.

What makes this even more awesome is that it’s SO cheap. I mean like less than $7 when you break it down – and this feeds 5-6 people. The most expensive part is the chicken – all the vegetables come SUPER cheap in the produce department.

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The best part is that the whole thing is made in only ONE pot – which means less dishes! Yay!

Start by doing all your prep work – called “mise en place” – you’ll need a cutting board and a good kitchen knife. 😉

Dice: 1/2 an onion, 2 stalks of celery

Peel & Slice: 2 carrots

Cube: 2 red potatoes, 1 large chicken breast

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Do it in THAT order and you should only need ONE cutting board and ONE knife! 🙂

Once this is all completed, put a couple tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. After the oil has heated, add the chicken to the pan and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.

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Allow the chicken to brown, moving it around the pan occasionally to keep it from sticking. This should take about 5 minutes or so. Once it’s browned, remove the chicken and then add the diced onion and celery.

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Sweat the onions and celery until they start to become translucent (about 3-5 minutes), making sure to scrape those brown bits off the bottom of the pot as you go! Once they’ve sweated, remove them from the pan.

Now, here’s where you can cheat a little: to the pan, add 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup and 2 cups of milk. Stir this until it has all combined, and then add two teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon each of pepper, oregano, and thyme. To give depth, add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and the zest of half a lemon. Stir in all the spices, and then add your previously cooked chicken, onions, and celery, along with the potatoes and carrots. Stir those in, then add 1 cup of frozen peas, 1 cup of frozen corn, and 1 cup of uncooked white rice.

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Cover and cook on LOW for about an hour (maybe even 45 minutes if you need it quick!), returning occasionally to stir. (The rice likes to settle to the bottom, so you’ll have to stir it every so often and scrape the rice off the bottom of the pan.)

After an hour of cooking it should be nice and thick and everything in it should be cooked through. Ladle it out and serve immediately!

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Best part, it just gets thicker and better if you leave it overnight! The starch from the potatoes and rice seeps into the liquid and just keeps thickening it!

Alternatively, you could do this in a crock pot by adding the soup and milk first and stirring until smooth, and then putting in everything (raw) at once and leaving it on low for about 4-5 hours or so. But I like this quicker version better. 😉 After you spent a few minutes prepping and browning, you can essentially busy yourself with something else for the hour that it’s cooking on the stove as long as it doesn’t take you too far from the kitchen. If you’re home from work at 5:00, you could theoretically have this on the table by 6:30!

Full Recipe:

Hearty Chicken Stew

Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of oil
1 large chicken breast, cubed ($2)
1/2 onion, diced ($0.20)
2 stalks celery, diced ( ($0.25)
1 can cream of chicken soup ($1)
2 cups milk ($0.50)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into medallions ($0.16)
2 red potatoes, cubed ($0.80)
1 cup frozen corn ($0.50)
1 cup frozen peas ($0.50)
1 cup uncooked white rice ($0.10)
Salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, cayenne (negligible)
Zest of 1/2 a lemon ($0.25) – because you can still use the lemon for something else.

(Total cost, if you buy in bulk and fraction it out: $6.26. That’s $1.05 per person!!)

Process:

1) Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add chicken, season with salt, pepper, and oregano, and stir occasionally until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

2) Add onions and celery to pan. Stir, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once onions and celery start to become translucent, remove from pan.

3) Pour in can of cream of chicken soup and 2 cups milk. Stir until smooth and combined, then add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp each pepper, oregano, and thyme, 1/2 tsp of cayenne and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. Stir to combine.

4) Add previously cooked chicken, onions and celery, along with the potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, and rice. Stir until well distributed, cover, and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to ensure rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan.

5) After simmering for 1 hour, give it a final stir to ensure it has thickened properly and then ladle into shallow bowls and serve immediately.

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Tuscan Pasta with Sausage in Lemon Blush Sauce

This one’s gonna be good – we’re traveling to Italy for this one! 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the pleasure of going to Italy and exploring the various culinary tastes the country has to offer. Tuscany is probably my favorite region of Italy… Rome is great and all, especially for history buffs, but it’s housed in the central coastal territory of Lazio. Tuscany is just above Lazio, also on the coast, but contains gorgeous scenery and fabulous cities like Lucca, Pisa, and my favorite, Florence. (Known to the Italians as Firenze. Also, Tuscany in Italian is referred to as Toscana.)

If you’ll allow me to nerd out for just a moment, here’s a couple photos from Florence that may help to illustrate why I love it so much: (More photos at the bottom from Lucca and Pisa.)

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Both photos were taken along the famous Arno river. And if the beautiful scenery isn’t enough to convince you, just know that Florence is known for farming… especially cattle. Which means fabulous leather goods for a fraction of what you’d pay in the States, and: the best. steak. ever. No joke.

Once you get finished booking your flight to Italy, though, I’ll show you how to create a dish (albeit it not steak) that just oozes Toscana with every bite.

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Blush sauce is this fabulous blend between a cream sauce and a red tomato-based (pomodoro) sauce. I kicked up the pasta a little by adding smoked sausage, but this would also be great meat-less, as well!

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The prep photos I show are for my lowly serving for one person, but I’ve adjusted the recipe for this blog post to feed four to six people. So, when your pans look fuller than mine, don’t panic!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. I used Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta but you could do any bite-size pasta. Penne would also be great! A one pound box of pasta is typically enough for 4-6 servings.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, do some prep work. Dice 1/4 of a large onion (or 1/2 of a small one), mince 3 cloves of garlic, take a cup of cherry tomatoes and cut each one in half lengthwise, and cut one package of smoked sausage (usually 14 oz) into 1/2 inch pieces. (I really like kielbasa, but any smoked sausage would do!)

Once you add your pasta to the boiling water, add your sausage to a large frying pan coated in olive oil over medium high heat. As long as you’re using smoked sausage, you only need to brown it. If you’re using a raw sausage (such as chorizo) then you should cook the links first, then cut them, and then combine them with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the sausage has browned (only a couple of minutes), add the diced onion and 1 cup of frozen peas. Toss this to combine, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Sausage onion peas

Let that simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add your minced garlic. Toss to combine, let cook for an additional minute, and then remove everything from the pan into your serving dish (temporarily).

Return the pan to your burner on low heat and add 1 & 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 4 ounces of cream cheese. (Half an 8oz block.)

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Stir this gently for a minute or two until the cream cheese has melted and is incorporated into the sauce. Add in about 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and melt this in as well, along with the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and basil, then remove it from the heat and add in your halved cherry tomatoes. (To make it extra lemony, add in the zest from the lemon as well!)

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Once you’ve drained your pasta, add it to the serving dish on top of the sausage and pour the sauce on top. Stir it to combine everything, and serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan.

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Full Recipe: (Extra Italy photos are below the recipe.)

Tuscan Style Pasta in Blush Sauce

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

One box uncooked bite-size pasta (like Farfalle or Penne)
4 quarts water

1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage, like kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 & 1/2 cups tomato sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon (zest optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil

Process:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, proceed with the remaining steps.

2) Coat a large frying pan in olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage and brown for 3-4 minutes.

3) Reduce heat on frying pan to low, then add peas and diced onion. Toss to combine. Cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes.

4) Uncover sausage and add minced garlic. Cook for another minute, then remove everything to your serving dish.

5) Return pan to low heat and add tomato sauce and cream cheese. Stir gently until cream cheese is melted, and then add in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

6) Once all of the cheese has melted, stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, basil, and tomatoes. Remove from heat. Add sauce and drained pasta to serving dish. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan.

As promised, here’s a few more photos from around Tuscany…

This one is in Lucca, during the early afternoon when all the shops were closed for lunch.

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Three guesses where this one’s from! Yes, it really does “lean”! It was originally intended to be the bell tower for the cathedral, but obviously since it’s always been leaning, it never made it to that purpose!

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This is also in Pisa, looking from the tower back toward the entrance to the walled section of the city. This building is the baptistry, the first of the three iconic buildings of Pisa. (In between the tower and the baptistry is the cathedral.)

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This one is, of course, not in Tuscany, since I said earlier that Rome is located in Lazio, but I couldn’t resist adding this super romantic night time Colosseum photo!

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