Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let it snow.

Can I tell you a secret? I kind of hope it snows tonight. They're saying it will, although they said there would be blizzard-like conditions by now, and outside, it's still just raining. I know my future self, the one who will be knee deep in snow, longing for sunshine in the middle of March, will hate me for saying so. My past self, the one has spent hours shoveling her parents' driveway from just one snowfall, the one who has brushed off a half a foot of snow off her car only to find two more inches of ice to chisel away, would probably throw a snowball at me for saying so. My husband, if he reads this post, might just name me Official Driveway Shoveler from now until we die. So I feel wrong for saying so.

But it also feels wrong when Christmas comes and goes, and there is not a single snowflake to be seen. When outside, instead of white, bright and sparkling, it's gray, dreary and just plain cold. There is something to be said about a white Christmas. And guys, it may not be December 25 yet, but Christmas has definitely begun.

I can tell by the steady stream of sweets and cards on the treat table next to the printer at work. By the ribbons and wrapping paper and unwrapped gifts and Sour Patch Kids candy canes that currently surround me. By the gifts under the tree -- a big box for Murdo, from me, and three from him to me. We're opening them tonight, our first Christmas exchange in our first home with our first Christmas tree (which is covered in Star Wars ornaments, complete with a Yoda tree topper). We'll have a fire in the fireplace. I'll have either bourbon or hot chocolate. Or both!

Next week, we'll spend Christmas day with my entire family for the first time in years. We'll watch my nieces, ages 6 and 3, rip open their gifts from Santa. I can't wait to see their faces light up, the way that only a child's face on Christmas morning can. We'll celebrate my nephew's first Christmas. We'll wander downtown Chicago with Murdo's family, and enjoy the city lights and German beers. We'll throw a baby shower for my sister-in-law. And maybe, if it snows, we'll get some sledding and snowman-making in.

But if it doesn't, that'll be OK, too. There's enough white and bright and happy in that last paragraph to make up for it, and then some. 

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A slow cooker, an easy dinner, chicken and biscuits.

10:30, Sunday night. I was perfectly fine spending the rest of the evening packing up my bag and lunch for tomorrow, playing Angry Birds: Star Wars, and going to bed. But then I saw my laptop sitting in the corner, this space untouched for a week or so, and well. Here I am, with not much to say. It was a quiet weekend -- we put up our Christmas tree, took a walk on this 60-something-degree day (hello, December?), tried a new Chinese place just three minutes from our house. 

What I do have for you tonight is slow cooker chicken and biscuits. Or, the easiest dinner ever. 

Here is what you do: the night before, chop the vegetables and toss with flour in a big Ziploc bag. Gather all of your other ingredients (chicken, spices, chicken broth, wine if you're using it) and keep them somewhere easily accessible and obvious so you won't miss them in the morning, when you're getting ready for work and suddenly remember that you also have to cook dinner before you rush out the door. It also helps to pull out your slow cooker and put it on the counter the night before, so when you see it in the morning, there's no way you'll forget. 

In the morning, grab your bag of veggies and dump them in the bottom of the slow cooker. Nestle in a few sprigs of fresh thyme, chicken thighs, salt, pepper, broth and wine. Cover, turn the slow cooker on (don't forget that one), and go about your morning. Maybe you'll still have time to stop for coffee! But probably not.

When you get home, dinner is almost ready. All you have to do is add some peas and milk (or cream) to the slow cooker and let your oven preheat while you take a quick shower, or pour a glass of wine, or settle on the couch to think about nothing at all, just for a few nice minutes. When the oven is hot, throw in some biscuits (we like Trader Joe's canned biscuits; don't judge), and 15 minutes later, dinner is served. 

I love how easy this dinner is. I also love that Murdo loves it, enough that when I was agonizing over what to make for dinner last week, he suggested "that chicken stuff" and I could've hugged him for that. I don't know why I didn't. But mostly, of course, I love that when I'm eating it, I often stop and look down at my plate of food and wonder how something so easy can be so good. And then I wonder where I can find more recipes like this. 

Let me know if you have any suggestions. Also, make this for dinner this week. 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits (from Real Simple)

4 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat, if you have time)
fresh thyme or rosemary
salt and black pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup of white wine (if you don't have white wine or don't want to use it, just add more broth)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
6 biscuits, canned or homemade

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, toss together the carrots, celery, onions, garlic and flour (I usually do this step the night before, tossing all together in a large Ziploc bag, along with some salt and pepper). Place the chicken on top of the veggies. Insert a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary between the chicken and veggies. (If you don't have fresh herbs, just use whatever dried herbs and spices you have on hand. I also throw in some dried oregano.) Add salt and pepper, then broth and wine (if using). 

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. When it's done, add the peas and cream and stir to combine. Let heat through, about 10 minutes. Prepare biscuits according to package directions about 20 minutes before serving. 

To serve, split one or two biscuits in half and place at the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with chicken mixture and plenty of broth. Don't be afraid of the broth -- the biscuits soak up most of the liquid to make the dish thicker and less soupy. Then pat yourself on the back for making such a delicious dinner, and eat it up.