A Christmas gift of faith and foodBy Angela Shelf Medearis — December 9, 2020
My father, Howard, was in the Air Force and my mother, Angeline, was a homemaker. They didn’t have a lot of money to buy Christmas presents for my three siblings or me, but it never seemed to matter. They gave us lots of love, and faith in God, and in the future, no matter how bleak things might look in the present.
The Bible says that faith is “a gift of God.” I believe that. It would take a God to create something as wonderful and as life-sustaining as faith. It takes great faith to carry on during all the troubles we’ve all faced day in and day out his year.
The wonderful thing about faith is that the more you use it, the more it grows. Unlike earthly things which become worn and depleted when used time after time, faith becomes even stronger and more abundant the more that you use it.
I often hear about people “losing faith.” If you feel like that, all I can say is that lost things are often found in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times. I’ve misplaced things, thinking that they were lost, only to find them when I was looking for something else. The thing I’d thought I’d lost was there all the time, waiting for me to discover it and use it again.
Faith is like that, sometimes when you think you’ve reached the end of your ability to believe, something or someone comes along to shore you up so that you can continue.
I have great faith in the future and the abilities of the American people to preserve in these difficult times. We must love and speak lovingly about our country. A thing that is not loved will not grow properly. We must have faith in our personal abilities and in our potential as a people to grow stronger together. We must never forget the faith of our forefathers and what this country was built on.
While the holidays pose their own special set of personal and financial challenges, it’s also a time to appreciate and treasure the priceless things in our lives — love, faith, family and friends. No matter what your circumstances, hold on to hope, preserve and cherish your family’s heritage, memories and recipes. And most importantly in these difficult times, keep the faith.
While I have wonderful memories of the dishes that my mother made for Christmas, this year, I’ve decided to start a holiday tradition of my own. I call this recipe Christmas Chicken because it’s a beautiful holiday dish with lots of colorful red tomatoes, white pasta and green basil or parsley. It’s also inexpensive, simple to make, and can be doubled to easily feed a crowd.
I look forward to sharing it with my family and friends for years to come. Merry Christmas, and have a blessed holiday season!
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs or a combination of both
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 stick butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Cento or San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound each piece to an even thickness, about 1 inch in the thickest parts. Remove the plastic and sprinkle each piece of chicken on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the poultry season, 1 teaspoon each of the salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper.
- To the flour, add 1/2 tablespoon of the poultry seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, and mix well. Press the chicken into the flour on both sides, shake off the excess and set aside.
- Make the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain it but reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until sizzling, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the seasoned chicken and pan-fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Place the chicken on a plate and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the garlic, tomatoes, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon poultry seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 tablespoon cayenne, and the cloves or nutmeg and sugar. Turn heat to simmer, and cook to a sauce-like mixture, about 5-7 minutes. Add the reserved pasta cooking water as needed if the sauce is too thick.
- Cut the chicken into strips and add it to the sauce. Stir in half of the parsley or basil. Top the drained pasta with the sauce and stir to combine over medium heat for about 1 to 2 minutes. To serve, sprinkle the pasta with the remaining parsley or basil and the grated cheese. Serves 4 to 6.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.
© 2020 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis