Slow-Cooker Sunday

Sooooo … I think I mentioned in my last post … back when the year was new … that I would like to cook more often, and use my slow cooker more often.  The problem with the first of those desires is that it is WAY too easy to fall back into the trap of convenience foods.  Like … the day after that statement is made.  And of course, the problem with the second of those desires is that there’s no need for a slow cooker if one is using convenience foods.  So if I was going to make a lasting change, a better plan was needed.  Here’s what I came up with…

A schedule!!

I know!  Life-changing, right???

I figured that the easiest way to stick to a plan of actually cooking something was to know what I was going to cook!  And since my free time and creativity are both at critically low levels, I further figured the best way to make this work was to come up with a “cuisine schedule,” and I put that in quotation marks because using the word “cuisine” and associating it with what’s going on in my kitchen these days really is a stretch.  Quotation marks are definitely needed.

There was a time that I sat down once a week and planned all the meals for the week.  But that was before I had three kids and all hell had broken loose with school/sports/scouts schedules.  Now, when I tried to plan a week’s meals, I have to admit I felt overwhelmed!  There were too many choices, and too many picky eaters!  So I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself!) of categorizing the week.  We’ve all heard of Meatless Monday, right?  Maybe even Taco Tuesday.  But why stop there?  Why can’t Wednesday have a theme?  And Thursday?

Why indeed!!!

So here’s the Improv House “Cuisine” Schedule

Meatless Monday (my biggest challenge here is to not allow every Monday to turn into pasta night … have to think outside the box!)

Tex-Mex Tuesday (because I don’t really want to have tacos every week, and because I’m lucky enough to live in Texas, where we have Tex-Mex!)

Whatever Wednesday (to allow a little creativity, but only once a week so it’s manageable … could be soup, sitr-fry, casserole, seafood … ya know, whatever! … a great day to try out something that doesn’t fit into any other category, or something that looks so promising I can’t possibly wait until the category rolls around again)

Throw-it-Out Thursday (this day is set aside to eat all the leftovers from Monday thru Wednesday, before I have to throw it out)

Pizza Phriday (it’s a tradition – my day off from thinking about what to make for dinner … the letters don’t work … let it go)

Seafood Saturday (this is the hardest day to honor because the schedule is so unpredictable, but I’d like to have a day to experiment with different seafood dishes, so here it is).

Slow-Cooker Sunday (I said I wanted to use my slow-cooker more, remember?)

And today is … not Sunday.  But let me tell you about a recent Sunday because I discovered an awesome slow cooker recipe that, until now, I haven’t found time to post about.  Because my life is like that.

I mentioned my picky eaters, right?  I have to say that it’s really hard to invest a lot of time in preparing a meal that you’ll offer to picky eaters because they totally don’t appreciate all of your efforts and the time you spent preparing their meal.  They ingest the obligatory bite or two and dump the rest into the trash.  That’s a good feeling.  Not.

So I browsed for a not-too-offensive slow cooker recipe, and happened upon this recipe for Slow-Cooker Honey Almond Chicken that looked promising.  OK, true, 1st daughter is not a fan of nuts.  OK, also true, none of my daughters are particularly fond of snow peas (I know the recipe calls for snap peas, but those look like snow peas to me in the picture).  It looked delicious to me and, despite that fact that I wouldn’t actually be eating it (since I’m not eating meat or poultry these days), I decided that I should definitely make it for my kids.

I’d like to say it was a huge hit.  The truth of the matter is, it met with mixed reviews.  But that’s only because I fed it to kids, and kids are not rational.  2nd daughter, at least, loved it and asked if I would send the leftovers in her school lunch the next day.

The chicken, apparently, was a little dry – which can happen to chicken breast in a slow cooker.  I might convert this into a stir-fry recipe for Whatever Wednesday, or if I make it in the slow cooker again I might try using chicken thighs instead.  I had some of the snow peas and sauce over rice and I have to say that I thought the flavor was AMAZING; a definite keeper!!  These kids of mine don’t know a good thing when it’s right in front of them served over rice.  And it was super simple to throw together since there are just a few ingredients.  Little trick I learned, though …. don’t toss those snow peas in until you’re sure that you are 15-20 minutes away from being able to put dinner on table.  As it happened for us, 2nd daughter took quite a bit longer than she told me she would to finish her science fair project and get it off the dining room table so that there would be space for my lovelies to eat.  The result was that the snow peas were rather beyond “crisp-tender.”  Still yummy, though.

You may also remember from my last post that my old slow cooker had apparently retired from cooking, so I had to pull out my newer, gargantuan slow cooker which would have been way too big for this little recipe, so I used the handy divided crock insert and decided to try to cook the rice in the other side.  That was somewhat less successful, but that’s a story for another post.

What’s for dinner tonight at your house?

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Blog Post #1 …

If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am.

– Cyril Cusack

Monday, January 6th, 2014.

The girls will (finally!) go back to school tomorrow and life as we know it will resume.  More or less.

I will start the new year with a clean refrigerator …

… is NOT what I was thinking this morning when I woke up.

But I needed to go buy groceries because there was a serious Old Mother Hubbard situation going on in my kitchen.

“Wait … before I go buy groceries I better clean out the fridge.  It’s garbage day anyway, and there are still too many holiday leftovers in there.  Start with the top shelf.  There’s that carton of chocolate milk that’s been in there a bit too long.  (Toss.)  And how long does whipped cream in a can keep after it’s been opened?  And wait … WHAT THE HECK SPILLED ALL OVER THE SHELF???”   It was a weird yellowish color that reminded me of cumin, but I haven’t been cooking any Indian food so what gives???

Don’t answer that.  I don’t really want to know.

OK I don’t know about you, but once I’ve completely cleaned off the top shelf so that I can take it out and wash it, I’m committed.  It’s a whole-fridge clean.  Everything had to come out, every shelf wiped, every expiration date checked.

So that was my morning.

And … I don’t know … is it just me or does anyone else do this too?  When I’ve cleaned out the fridge (like, seriously cleaned out – not just tossed out the leftover pizza and moldy cheese) I find that whenever I go into the kitchen, I have to stop and open the fridge … ya know, just to admire it.  It’s so clean.  It practically sparkles.  I will (seriously!) open the refrigerator door for no reason except to appreciate how clean it is.  Is that weird??

I think it’s a sign that I need to clean out my fridge more often because it’s clearly WAY too much of a novelty.

Anyway … fridge is clean.  Off to the store I go.

I had decided that I would send my beloved children off to bed on the night before their return to school with a hearty dinner of Broccoli-Cheese soup and crusty bread (OK, in truth, I imagined that I would serve that Broccoli-Cheese soup in a bowl made from a hollowed-out roll of crusty bread, but then I remembered that I’m neither Martha Stewart nor a restaurant called Panera Bread and so I snapped back to reality.  Large boule of crusty bread, sliced, on the side will do nicely, thank you). I don’t make resolutions, but if I did, one of them would be to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again.

So after returning from the store I set about washing and chopping broccoli, dicing onion, etc.  Popped it into the slow cooker, get on with my day.  As I think I mentioned, I don’t make resolutions. But if I did, one of them would be to use my slow cooker more often.

2nd daughter, 6th grade, needs a new binder for the new semester because they will start their “Health” unit of P.E.  We’ve had two and a half weeks over our winter break to get this task completed, but I thought we should save it for the last possible moment.  Mission accomplished.  Off to the office supply store we go.

1st daughter, 7th grade, is certain she brought her gym clothes home on the last day of school waaaaaay back in December, but we can’t seem to locate them anywhere.  We’ve had two and a half weeks to find and launder these articles of clothing, but I thought we should save it for the last possible moment.  Mission accomplished.  Since they can’t be located and the absence of proper gym attire for P.E. results in a zero for the daily grade, off to the sporting goods store we go.

Upon returning home, I realize that there’s something amiss with my slow cooker.  At this point, the aroma of simmering broccoli should be wafting throughout the house but it’s not.  Turns out my old slow cooker had decided that it’s too old to get hot enough to … you know … cook.

Awesome.  Time to come up with Plan B.

In the end, I sent my beloved children off to bed on the night before their return to school with a hearty dinner of canned Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and crusty bread, sliced, on the side.

I’m hoping that, in the giant universe of parental karma, I will at least get points for trying.

And … I have a sparkling clean refrigerator.