Friday, March 12, 2010

If You're Early, You're On Time. If You're On Time, You're Late. And If You're Late, Who Knows What's For Dinner?

I don’t like to be late. I don’t like to be late and I don’t like to be on time.

I like to be early.

Son and Darling Daughter are well aware of this quirk. It rears its head every morning, when, in my role as master-calendar-keeper, household-chauffeur and bossy-mom-extraordinaire, I go over who has to be where and when for the next 24 hours and how that affects everything they are compelled and would like to do and what colleges they may get into as a result.

Today, for example, Son had (yet another) orthodontist appointment. This one, though, was unusually important, because, unbeknownst to him, Son was having his braces removed. Over breakfast, I reminded him that I’d be picking him up later at school. I also coordinated what he’d be doing after school, DD’s afternoon with friends, the upcoming weekend plans, other doctors’ appointments on the horizon, and how our plans might change in the event of rain. (Yes, in addition to being early, I like being thorough.)

The appointment was at 9:00 a.m. Since it takes 15 or 20 minutes, with traffic, to get there, I planned to leave at 8:30 a.m. According to Wiles Mean Time, I’d be there right on time -- 10 minutes early. Perfect.

Kinda. Sure, I’d be there 10 minutes early – but without Son. Oopsy daisy. Must’ve been a hole in the schedule.

No need for suspense. Yes, I was late. And I hated it. I was late picking up Son at school. We both hated that. But by then, there was nothing to be done. We could’ve fumed and stressed. We could’ve yelled at the stupid cars that were driving 10 miles below the speed limit in the passing lane. (OK. We kinda did, but they deserved it.) And Son really could’ve yelled at me -- understandably. But mostly, we laughed. We listened to the radio and laughed all the way to the appointment. And I was grateful.

Yes, we were late -- really late -- getting to the orthodontist. But, as is so often the case, it worked out. The kids’ orthodontist is famously accommodating.

Son’s braces are being removed as I type.

And look. There he is. I am dazzled. For the second time today.

I’m still a planner, though, which is why I came up with this recipe for Slowcooker Chicken in Peanut-Ginger Sauce. Somebody has to be thinking ahead. And somebody has to be accommodating.

In my family, I’m blessed to have it all.

Slowcooker Chicken In Peanut-Ginger Sauce

When I first came up with this recipe, I tried it with bone-in, skin-on thighs, but the result is too fatty and too much work. This version is super simple and very flavorful. The thighs stay moist and tender, and I cook plenty of them, so I can use the leftover chicken in salad or Chicken in Saffron Rice.

10-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons fresh grated ginger

1 red bell pepper, cored, cut in thick strips, then cut in half
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
6 peeled garlic cloves

Fresh lime wedges

Quickly sear chicken in a nonstick skillet, over high heat. Put in slowcooker. In a large measuring cup, gradually stir soy sauce into peanut butter. Stir in red pepper flakes, sesame oil and ginger. Scrape mixture into slowcooker and toss with chicken. Scatter bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic on top of chicken. Cook for 3-4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low. Gently pull chicken into bitesize pieces and serve over hot lo mein noodles, or linguini or rice.  Squeeze a bit of lime juice over, for extra flavor.
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