Who are we kidding? Even if you can overlook the whole childbirth or adoption process, both mind-blowingly arduous in their own impossible way, without a staff of nannies and night nurses, it's hard to spot the glamour. And then kids! Don't get me started! Kids are decidedly less glamorous than babies. They develop independent interests and bizarre fashion senses and let's not even discuss their dining preferences. Playdates with wine for mommies (remember those!? Oh, those were the BEST!) and homemade pureed organics for babies give way to being berated over the contents of their lunchboxes while driving carpool, forced to listen to pop music that makes you feel a little dirty and afraid for the future while you try to manipulate the time/space continuum, mentally juggling the next five things on your to-do list to create a window big enough for a shower. Glamour has left the building.
Maybe I thought having a baby would be an adjunct to my life, as in "I am smart and successful. I am a writer and a good cook. I enjoy live music, wine, fine food, fashion, travel and books. And I have a baby." No. It goes like this: "I HAVE A BABY (or, BABIES, KIDS, WILD ANIMALS ROAMING MY HOUSE, etc.). I work myself to the bone, at home and/or otherwise. I used to do other stuff and I hope to again someday if only I could remember what it was." This, in my mind, is the world of the soccer mom. A world where your own needs have been subjugated by theirs to the point that you rise early every morning, to feed them and clothe them and ferry them about, leaving little time for yourself which is sort of alright because who has the energy? I always wanted to be a mom; I never wanted to be a soccer mom.
Nothing makes me feel more like a soccer mom than my crock pot. I don't care how trendy they've become, crock pots (slow cookers to some) are not very cool. They are not hip or sytlish, they are not edgy. I do not labor under the delusion that in the back of my favorite restaurant kitchen there sits a tidy row of crock pots chugging away. But, denying the greatness of a good crock pot recipe is akin to denying that I am, in fact, a soccer mom. Why fight it? I became a soccer mom so easily and effortlessly...I slipped right into it. My eldest girl tripped out of toddlerhood and into Kindergarten then - whoops! - right into soccer practice we all fell. Easy! Easy like a crock pot. And denying the excellent results of a good crock pot recipe would be just as silly as denying the excellent results of all the mommy-ing. Not easy, but good. Good kids. And happy. One good giggle from any of my three makes me happier than all of that stuff I can't remember was making me.
So, I'm going to stop whispering when I say "crock pot". For starts, I'm going to shout this one from the rooftops. My whole family likes Chinese food and this ridiculous crock-pot-tacular version made them all very happy. And by "all" I mean the 1-year old, the 3-year old, the 6-year old (especially that one) and the 35-year old (but he eats almost anything). The recipe is adapted from Southern Living but I've messed with it. Southern Living also suggested serving the chicken you're about to read about in tortillas as opposed to traditional Chinese pancakes but that's crazy so I ignored them and boosted the nutritional value way up by making these into lettuce wraps with lots of healthy things for garnish. Think vaguely-Asian tacos, if you will. If it's called a taco, my kids will eat it. It was very successful. Being a mom is all about the small victories. Maybe the glamour will come later.
This makes a big batch because why not? Cut it down if you like.
Moo Shu Chicken from the CROCK POT
- 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- 1 T. olive or canola oil
- salt & pepper
- 2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
- 1/2 c. Hoisin Sauce (Chinese food aisle)
- 1 T. Honey
- 3 T. Soy Sauce
- 3 T. Rice wine vinegar
- 1 T. fresh ginger (I buy it minced in a jar...no need to struggle with the root for this recipe)
- 1 head bibb or flat leaf lettuce, like romaine
- 2 red bell peppers, sliced into matchsticks
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 3 green or spring onions (scallions), sliced into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Fried Wonton Strips (found them in my grocery store near produce with other salad toppings)
- Siracha, if desired, for grown ups
Get your hands on a crock pot. Plug it in.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sear chicken thighs for about 2 minutes per side. While chicken sears, combine Hoisin sauce and the next 4 ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Place chopped onions and garlic in the crock pot. Place seared chicken thighs on top. Pour sauce over the top and give it a stir. Place the lid on the crock pot and set it to medium high (6 hours). Ignore it.
After about 6 hours, shred the chicken with two forks right there in the crock pot. It should be falling apart. Serve shredded chicken "taco-style" as lettuce wraps with veggies, etc. to garnish as you wish.