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No day dawns quite as dark as April 15 for last-minute income tax return filers.

But there is good news for those who have not yet filed - this year, Americans have a few extra days. Our filing deadline has been pushed back to Tuesday, April 17, since April 15 is a Sunday and April 16, Emancipation Day, is a legal holiday in Washington D. C.

The IRS reports that 55.8 million tax returns have been submitted using E-File, and the agency expects more than half of all returns will be filed electronically this year. The heavy usage of E-File has to be good news for postal employees, too. Expect to find fewer post offices open until midnight this year to apply that crucial postmark.

If you planned things down to the dime on your withholdings, you and Uncle Sam can call it even for the year. It is hard to speculate on what fortune will come your way and some of us will have to send along a check with our annual correspondence to the good Uncle. And, believe it or not, there will be those who are angry that they will receive a refund! 'I could have put that money to good use all year long,' they will grumble …

If you are singing the Tax Day Blues, cheer up. What may start as a cloudy day doesn't have to end that way. Look for the silver lining on those ol' dark clouds - be thankful that you have income to report!

Take the sting out of the day by preparing a meal for your family, chock full of tender-loving care. Is there a family favorite comfort food or a special dessert? Something you haven't made for a while? Make that dinner for them on Tuesday.

You might even go so far as to print menus listing the evening's fare in tax-related jargon, such as The 1040 Special or the Penny Pincher's Plate. Whether you will be expecting a refund or sending Uncle Sam a check, your 'deductions' will enjoy a little levity around what can be a stressful day. It is said that nothing is certain except death and taxes, but I am willing to bet the family will appreciate your efforts.

Pasta is a staple in most every family's pantry, regardless of the tax bracket into which they may fall. It is easy on the budget and extremely versatile; it can be used to create the most comforting macaroni and cheese or elegant dishes. This recipe for Fettuccine with Chicken and Bell Pepper Cream Sauce is elegant comfort food that will please all family members.

The recipe calls for skinless boneless chicken thighs. I would encourage you to use bone-in thighs, as they will have superior flavor. You can choose to leave them whole, or cut the meat off the bone before adding the chicken to the sauce.

Feel free also to use milk rather than cream. You may want to thicken the sauce with a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch if you do use milk.

For the occasion of our Tax Day Dinner, I rename this dish Chicken and Bell Pepper Cream Sauce on Shoestrings.

If you think you will need more than a good meal to relieve the discomfort of Tax Day, maybe you should file for an extension, and just put the whole thing off for a while …

Chicken and Bell Pepper Cream Sauce on Shoestrings

(or Fettuccine with Chicken and Bell Pepper Cream Sauce)

Makes 4 first course servings

12 ounces skinless boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon butter

1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 ½ cups whipping cream

1-cup chicken stock or canned low sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces fettuccine

Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until brown on both sides, about five minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Add green and red bell peppers and onion to same skillet and sauté until crisp-tender, about five minutes. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper to skillet and sauté four minutes. Add whipping cream and chicken stock. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about eight minutes.

Cut the chicken into strips and add to the sauce. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about two minutes. Add basil and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese to sauce, stirring to incorporate. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain and return to the pot. Add sauce and toss to coat. Serve, passing additional Parmesan separately.

Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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