As a family, we love going to restaurants! So a Valentine restaurant dinner out last night would have suited me just fine, but Valentine's Day was on a Thursday this year, and Abby has gymnastics on Thursday evenings...so that nixed any plans of a romantic dinner out with our three kids. You know, because eating at a somewhat nice restaurant with antsy, loud, crazy kids is always so romantic.
In lieu of some delicious restaurant food, I decided to break out the crock pot for the first time for Valentine's dinner (no pressure, right?). I felt a little like I was flying blind with this project--not only was it my very first crock pot meal, but I was using a recipe that I found for which I didn't really have the ingredients...possibly not my best plan. It was a Sweet and Sour chicken recipe that I adapted into a sesame ginger chicken recipe because I have sesame ginger marinade, but no sweet and sour sauce. The recipe also makes 6 servings, which is way more than we will need since I figured the boys may not eat any, so I cut down some of the ingredients and added others that appeal to us. I've heard that crock pots are so great because you can just chuck whatever into them and come out with something great at the end...so I went with it. I'm the type of person who follows a recipe to a T if I decide to actually cook something, so it's a little stressful for me to make things up on the fly. I tried not to think about it too much and just got to cooking! I put carrots at the bottom and chicken over top to start the process, and then I covered everything with a cup of water mixed with the juice from canned pineapple chunks--the recipe didn't call for any liquid in the pot, but everything I read about crock pots said you shouldn't put stuff in there without some sort of water or broth to keep the heat distribution even, so I put water/juice mixture in to be safe. I turned it on, and I had no idea if it was working--I just sort of stared at it for a while, wondering what the heck was happening, if anything, inside.
|what's happening in there?|
The whole thing got warm to the touch, so I assumed it was working...and eventually, the chicken started to look cooked. The recipe called for draining all the liquid after 5 hours, so I did that shortly before the boys and I took a nice walk to the bus stop to pick Abby up--it was a beautiful day! I drained the liquid and then put the chicken back in the pot, covered it in the sesame ginger marinade, and added the veggies on top for another hour. The chicken was falling apart, but still moist--I was hesitant to put it back in for that last hour, because I was worried it would dry out, but I wanted the marinade flavor...so back in it went. I totally forgot to put the pineapple in, though, so I scrambled and threw them in for the last five minutes before I served the meal--boo! They were warm enough, but I was still bummed. Here's the concoction cooking after I added the veggies:
|notice the sad absence of pineapple...|
Dan didn't get home as early as I had hoped, but it worked out because I was scrambling around to get the rice made and get the meal plated from the crock pot. The chicken was a bit dry and just crumbled when I tried to pick it up out of the pot with my fork--just as I had feared. I think I need to way decrease the cooking time the next time I make this recipe! But for my first effort, it wasn't bad--and I'm learning. I was concerned about how it would all taste because Abby walked in the door from the bus stop and announced that the house smelled like dog food--not quite the taste I was going for, but thanks, Abigail! Kids... I finally got it all on the plates and decided to just serve the same thing to everyone--even though I was relatively certain that Alex wouldn't eat any of it, and I thought Jake would struggle with it even though it was chicken... He loves chicken, but it has to be just plain old chicken with nothing on it--the sesame ginger marinade gave the chicken a brown tint, and as I predicted, it freaked Jake out and he refused to eat it. After much coaxing from us and crying/gagging from him, he did manage to eat a few pieces, but nothing else. Alex must have been confused because he ate chicken, peppers, and rice for a few minutes before remembering that he hates eating anything other than macaroni or peanut butter and jelly...and then he pushed his plate across the table and declared it all yucky. Abby thought it was really good at first, but then she started complaining that her stomach hurt--typical food avoidance behavior from her, but she had eaten a decent amount and said it was good. Dan began eating and peppering me with all kinds of questions about what was in it--I swear, he thinks I'm trying to sneak mushrooms, mayonnaise, or sour cream (three things he hates--but other than mayonnaise, I don't really like that stuff either, so he's totally paranoid and silly to think I would make meals that include them prominently!) into his food without him know it. After I informed him of all the ingredients and the modifications I made to the recipe I found online to make it work for us, he exclaimed, "Woohoo! Mommy's a cook!" He really liked the meal and seemed fairly impressed that I mostly made up the recipe, just using that other one for guidance. I also really enjoyed the whole meal--it was delicious, and if I can get the timing down better on the chicken to not dry it out so much, this will definitely be in our regular dinner rotation. Sorry, kids-you're just going to have to figure out how to eat it eventually!
|The Good Housewife Crock Pot Sesame Ginger Chicken|
So I'm pretty pleased with this attempt--it wasn't an easy (for me), romantic Valentine's dinner out, but it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I enjoyed using the crock pot and the clean up was awesomely easy, which I really like. As I become more familiar with the recipe, I don't think it will take me as long--I had to do a lot of referring back to my notes to see if I was doing things in the right order (and still managed to forget the pineapple...grrr...), and the prep took me a while since I wasn't sure how much of everything I should use. I put all the ingredients into my WebMD calorie counter, and the whole meal (with the rice) came to about 630 calories--not super healthy, but not bad, either. If we didn't use white rice, that would bring the calories down a bit, but I haven't made that leap yet. The marinade is really high in sodium, but otherwise, it's just chicken, veggies, and pineapple over rice.
I'm still debating the usefulness of a crock pot as a stay-at-home mom--instead of the dinnertime insanity, I had morning insanity trying to get everything ready to put in the pot, and then I kind of felt like I was cooking all day long with the crock pot going and my incessant checking on it...it's like 6 of one, half a dozen of another, and I'm not sure which version of insanity I prefer? Also, the crock pot filled my house with a wildly delicious smell (not at all like dog food, thank you very much!) that made me feel incredibly domestic because I was actually cooking and had the aroma to prove it, but also made me feel incredibly hungry...not a great thing when you're trying to lose weight. I don't usually feel hungry like that during the day, so I know it was those darn smells that were tricking my stomach into thinking it was time to eat. That being said, I think crock pot meals will become a regular around here--I'm not always home all day, and it will be nice to have something ready when we do have places to go and people to see. It was relatively easy (will go much smoother now that I'm a little more familiar with the process!) and the end product was delicious--you can't complain about that! Happy Valentine's Day! :)
|my favorite flowers from my thoughtful husband!|