Slow Cooking On A Cold Day

What the barbeque is to summer, the slow cooker is to winter.

As soon as I feel it is cold enough outside to wear socks and dust off my mittens, I have uncontrollable urges to cook all my meals for as many hours a possible.

One of my favourite dishes to do with my trusty crock pot is none other than Chicken Cacciatore.  I have a few recipes that I have used over the years.  Now a days, I pretty much just make it up as I go along.  Cacciatore means hunter in Italian.  I find this fitting as I hunt around my kitchen for various fresh veggies and herbs to add to my slowly simmering and savoury concoction….

To begin, I coat all my chicken pieces, in about 3 tablespoons of flour.  Browning up the meat in a frying pan with some olive oil locks in juices and adds flavour:

Then I get busy with the veggies, chopping here and slicing there….

And the herbs!   Can’t forget about the basil and the thyme, of which I was pleased to discover I had fresh, copious amounts of in my fridge this morning.  It doesn’t need to stop with the fresh stuff – I always through in a couple of spoonfuls of dried oregano.

Once all the basics are ready to go, I add in the liquids.  Canned, diced tomatoes, chicken broth and white wine blend together harmoniously, adding layers of flavour and rounding out the all of the components.

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Voila! – A pot full of dinner that will cook, and cook….and cook…all afternoon – filling the entire house with awesome aromas of tomato, chicken and herbs.

Egg noodles act as the perfect platform when it comes time to serve it all up:

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Chicken Cacciatore is the perfect dish for the first, truly cold days in December, like today.

It warms you up – from the inside out.

IMG_8861Bon appetit!

(My absolute favourite recipe for Chicken Cacciatore can be found in this amazing cook book.  I also like Giada De Laurentiis’ version, which is not presented as a slow cooker recipe – just add a bit more wine or broth as needed.  I omitted the capers because The Hubby abhors them.  Though I think they are an awesome add-in you should try!)

Weeknight Juggling Act

  • Sometimes my ego is bigger than it should be.
  • Sometimes I don’t realise what I am getting myself into, until it’s too late.
  • Sometimes my ambition is much larger than my perception of reality.

All of the above was the case tonight, as I set about making dinner upon getting home from a full day at the office.  I had promised my son homemade pasta quite sometime ago.  I must admit that I had completely forgotten about my agreement to attempt butternut squash stuffed ravioli for tonight’s dinner.  As soon as I walked through the door, though, I was promptly reminded by my very eager 12-year-old.  He really likes cooking and loves to help me prepare our family dinners.

Only thing was, I had never made pasta completely from scratch before.  A small part of me wondered if it was really wise to tackle such a challenge on a Tuesday night.  But I pushed my hesitation aside, telling myself: “It’s just pasta…how hard can it possibly be?” So, I pulled out my tablet and did a quick Google search for a recipe.

But then my cell phone started ringing and dinging incessantly.  That was when I realised I still had to take care of an issue at work, via email.

“No problem,”  I told myself, “I’ll check my email and make pasta at the same time.”

Just as quickly as I checked my email, and started rolling out my dough, another issue popped up; a sudden scheduling conflict with a karate class tomorrow night.

“That’s okay…”  I assured myself as I chopped garlic and hit send on an email to my boss, “I can handle emailing, making pasta and phoning around to some friends for help solving this new problem.”

“Oh no!”  I said out loud to no one in particular, “what on earth am I going to blog about today?”  

This question to myself went unanswered for only half a minute.  I looked down at my growing pile of triangular squash-filled ravioli.  They were so pretty…

“A-ha!  Easy!   I’ll take photos of my pasta, while making it, as I check my emails and phone around to solve my karate conflict.  Sure, I can do this!! “

So, with my hands covered in squash and flour, I put down my cell phone and picked up my camera.

Luckily, my son is also accustomed to being my photography assistant.

Filing for ravioli: mashed squash with mascarpone cheese. (there is no way to photograph this without it looking like goop!)
Pressing Issues
Pasta From Scratch – there’s a first time for everything!
Boiling Point…once the ravioli is all stuffed, it’s time to be cooked.
Plated: Butternut squash ravioli pan-fried and tossed with a garlic butter sauce and topped with bacon and sage.

And that, my friends is what I call The Weeknight Juggling Act.

(Yes, all work related issues, karate conflicts and blog post question marks were resolved…and the pasta was a huge hit!  Woo-hoo!)