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Lone Star Chicken

Following is a super-easy recipe that's perfect for this busy time of year when we're short on time but still need to serve healthy meals. But first, did you know how American cooks first came to use measuring cups and spoons to measure recipes?

Before standardized cooking measurements were introduced in the late 19th century, American cooks used terms like "a large coffee cup," or "a small tea spoon," for their measurements. Results weren't consistent. I have an old fruitcake recipe that calls for a "jam jar" of brandy. Is that 6 ounces? 8 ounces? Should I take a swig and then fill the jar?

Fanny Farmer changed all that when she published her Boston Cooking School

Cookbook in 1896. (It was later renamed The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.) Fanny realized that American housewives needed accurate measurements to have consistent results. Oxo, the popular kitchen utensil manufacturer, has been grateful ever since.

But I digress. This recipe for Lone Star Chicken comes from Marion Cunningham, the longtime editor of the Fannie Farmer Cookbooks. Marion was a student and great friend

of legendary chef and cookbook author James Beard. Her recipe was so insanely easy to prepare, I wouldn't have tried it if it hadn't come from Marion. I trusted her enough to give it a try. I am now wondering why someone else didn't think of it sooner.

The method is dead simple: you simmer canned tomatoes, onions and spices for 30 minutes on the stove top, add raw chicken pieces, cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for "about an hour." ( If you're using only breasts, check after 45 minutes.) Marion published this recipe in the 1990's, when most recipes called for whole chickens cut into 8 pieces. I used about 3 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts and thighs.

The chicken emerges from the oven with plenty of delicious sauce, so you can serve this with pasta if you'd like. Here's a quick tip: boil short pasta (like penne) until it's almost done and then add chopped broccoli to the pot and let it cook for 2 minutes before draining. You'll have a complete dinner with fewer pots to wash.

1 chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (or your choice of pieces)

1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp. oregano, crumbled

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped Italian parsley for serving

Put the tomatoes and their juices into a large stove-top casserole. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano and wine vinegar. Stir to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer on top of the stove, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the chicken pieces, pushing them down into the sauce. Cover the casserole and bake for about an hour. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Serves 4

Zero WW Points for skinless breasts

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