After trick-or-treating last week with temps barely above freezing, Mother Nature surprised us yesterday with a warm, sunshine-filled 74°F. The girls played at the neighbors for part of the day, and Mrs. K was kind enough to allow them to make homemade pizza with her for lunch. Claire constructed a teepee out of the limbs that their trees shed last week in the wind storm, and they all had an outdoor picnic sitting in and around the teepee when their pizza was done baking. This is just one of those days when the perfect pang of happiness catches you completely unaware, like the unexpected visit of an old, dear friend, or a “just because” gift from someone close to you. The suprise part enhances the enjoyment of the gift part.
So after a day outdoors, I needed to come up with a no-fuss meal. My supper plan was a simple chicken cassoulet that everyone enjoys. Well, except CRABBY AMY, but I’m hopeful that since that particular personality seems to have mostly moved on, she might eat it too. You know, that is one analogy that I could use to describe toddler and preschool growing pains: multiple personality disorder. Of course actual MPD is no laughing matter, so I don’t mean to diminish those who suffer from the illness. But doesn’t that string of words sum up the phases kids go through from about 2 years to… well, through puberty?
Boy this could be really useful. Hubby and I could use this as a kind of shorthand in which to relay what the other was in for when walking through the door after an extended absence. For example, in Amy’s case, her prominent personality has been CRABBY AMY. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping really hard that, since the CRABBY AMY personality has been with us from when she was about 6 months through about 2 years, 25 days, and 3 hours old (not keeping track or anything), CRABBY AMY has played herself out. FYI, CRABBY AMY is almost violently antisocial and against sharing anything she deems hers, including me. Most communication she utters comes out in a yell or is accompanied by a high-pitched scream. Hitting is not uncommon, and stomping is frequent.
Then there is Sweet Amy. This personality emerges when she and I are hanging out at home alone, and when she sees any animal (FINALLY, I have a kid who loves animals almost as much as me). Come to think of it, Sweet Amy emerges frequently in Wal-mart. Sweet Amy loves “window shopping” and delights in discovering a new Barbie or Little People collection (we just look, we don’t buy), and she becomes particularly exuberant when we visit the live fish – goldfish, which we always refer to as Dorothy’s cousins, guppies, neons, gouramis, etc. Sweet Amy also presents herself when any kind of birthday cake is involved.
Those are her main two personalities. Mulish Amy is a subset of CRABBY AMY, and the Loving Amy personality, who loves to kiss every area of my face, must “live” near Sweet Amy’s brain real estate.
Well, good. Now we have that settled. This nifty shorthand system can replace the exasperated looks and exaggerated sighs hubby and I usually use to convey Amy’s current mood. Before this flash of genius I’ve just had, all verbal communication that accompanied said looks was delivered by talking through clenched teeth. My new labeling system will streamline things a lot, don’t you think?
Anyway. Back to the good food. This recipe is a staple for us, and I have even made this recipe for guests and everyone’s always loved it. It’s cheap, it’s hearty, it’s tasty, and it’s easy — that’s like hitting the Mommy Chef Jackpot. Something this good shouldn’t be kept secret, so I thought I would share it with you all. To give credit where credit is due, this is based on a recipe I found in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about 10 years ago. The recipe is so easy that I’ve long ago lost the copy of it, so I cannot tell you how much I’ve tweaked or changed it.
8-12 chicken thighs
¼ C all-purpose flour
1 T paprika
1 t ground ancho chile
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can northern beans
1 T minced garlic
1 t oregano
1 8 oz. container of sliced mushrooms
1 can chicken broth (I just dissolve two cubes of boullion in 1 oz. of hot water)
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Remove skin and fat from chicken thighs.
- Place flour, paprika, and ancho chile in gallon-sized Ziploc bag.
- One or two at a time, coat thighs in flour mixture. Place thighs in 9 x 13 pan.
- Bake thighs, uncovered for 7 minutes.
- Remove thighs from oven. Dump all other ingredients on top of the thighs. I have found the order in which you apply the ingredients is of no importance. You cannot screw this up. There won’t be anything fancy-looking about it, but you’re not staging a food photo shoot, so who cares?
- Bake uncovered for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and serve.
I usually serve this with a Pillsbury French loaf that I pop in the oven with the cassolet about 20 minutes before it’s done. Sopping up the juices of the chicken with the bread is divine!
Oh, and for those of you with children, if you’d like to implement the MPD Shorthand System I’ve described above for childcare management, you’d better do it quick, before I run off and patent it.