Enter Chicken Cacciatore, which means “hunter” in Italian. It’s a complete meal made “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, bell pepper and chicken. You can bake it or make it in a skillet on the stovetop. (It’s ideal for a Tahoe-style blackout during snow days.) A common recipe calls for olive oil, a variety of chicken parts, wine, and stewed tomatoes, like my mother used to make. As a 21st century post-hippie kitchen rebel, I did the oil, forgot wine, turned to skinless chicken breasts, and embraced fresh Roma tomatoes. I cooked the meal faster rather than slower to save the nutrients of the vegetables. And, of course, I used organic ingredients and whole-wheat pasta. A hot, hearty stew like this, is a must-have during pre-winter days like we’re having this week on the South Shore with our ground covered with fresh snow. This mid-week, as I tried to adjust my life to living with one dog, not two, it brought back pleasant memories and one-on-one bonding.Several years ago, Simon, my No. 1 Brittany, and I often used to walk in the snow to a friend’s house around the corner. It was an oasis for both of us. One night, he roughhoused indoors and outdoors for hours with his favorite rat terrier. My gal pal and I watched the film “As Good As It Gets” and I munched on chocolate and savored hot tea. That night, I recall she was baking a casserole to freeze. I was envious. Back in the day, I was buying frozen dinners, not cooking at home. After midnight, I walked home with my happy pooch and remember the moon — big and bright just like Thursday’s new moon will be — and vowed to Mother Nature to hit the kitchen and create wholesome food. It was a cold night to cherish with me and my warmhearted bird dog.Chicken Cacciatore 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and European-style butter2 boneless, skinless chicken breastPepper, to taste1/2 cup red onion, chopped1 garlic clove, minced1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped4 Roma tomatoes, chopped4 organic basil leaves1 24-ounce jar of organic roasted garlic pasta sauce2 cups whole wheat rotini, cookedOn medium heat, heat oil and butter in large skillet on stovetop. Add chicken (rinsed with water), sprinkle with pepper, cook about 5-6 minutes, flip over for about another 5 minutes. Place on plate. In another large skillet add onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, basil leaves, and pasta sauce. Stir for several minutes. Add chicken breasts. Cover and simmer on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes; turn to simmer for another 15 minutes or till chicken is tender and cooked. Tip: If sauce is too thick, add a bit of water. Serve on top of pasta (follow cooking instructions) with French bread and a green salad. Serves 2-4 (depending on size of chicken breasts) with leftovers.So, this week when I cooked Chicken Cacciatore it brought back a sense of comfort of warmth and friendship. The aroma of garlic, onions, veggies and poultry warmed my cabin. Once done, I gave my boy Simon (who has lost his pack follower and friend, Seth) a piece of cooked chicken and dished up a plate of the Italian fare for me. The best part is, I whispered in my dog’s ear: “Next week Santa is coming early. We’re going to be blessed with a newborn Brittany puppy but we have to wait until after V-Day to bring him home.” He got the message and wagged his tail. I hugged him — my best friend.Motto: Healing a torn heart is a challenge. Two-leggers and four-leggers survive life’s ups and downs and lean on each to feed each other’s heartaches. — Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) “Animal Attraction: A Collection of Tales & Tails” will be released this spring. Her website is www.calorey.com.
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