** Weds. August 7th 1:30 PM Congratulations to our giveaway winner: Katrina E! ***
Today I'm super-excited (and proud to share an apron with) a best-selling author, proud military wife and a tenth-generation Texan-- now cheering her beloved Aggies from north of Red River. With forty-five novels (nearly two million copies) in print in the US and abroad, this amazing lady has been nominated for a Carol Award, a RITA award, Reader's Choice Award, Career Achievment Award . . . and many more! On top of all that, she's a great cook!
Please raise those wooden spoons in a big Authors' Galley salute to our special guest,
Three years ago, I was a single mom of four grown kids who thought popcorn was a suitable meal—except for breakfast, of course—and that restaurants were a fine substitute for cooking at home. I hadn’t always been an absent chef. When my children were young, I loved making dinner for the family. Most mornings, they went off to school with a home-cooked breakfast, too. I was the mom. Cooking is what I did.
Then came the nearly empty nest years when all three of my sons had flown off to college and work, leaving only my daughter and me to fend for ourselves at mealtime. Between Hannah’s cheerleading and dance activities and my fulltime job as a paralegal, fussy dinner arrangements went by the wayside. Those nights when we didn’t go out were spent making salads or something quick on the grill. Other times, we ordered in and enjoyed the plethora of delivery options our Texas town offered. Boiling the water for tea became my biggest culinary achievement of the week.
With Hannah off at college, I moved from a home to a third-floor condo with no elevator and little incentive to purchase large quantities of groceries. This ushered in the popcorn years, happily interrupted in times of kid visits and summer vacations. But mostly, my cookbooks gathered dust, as did my stove. I will confess that I wasn’t as bad as my friend whose oven was used as storage for mail that needed sorting (true story). Until Thanksgiving morning when she attempted to cook turkey for her husband and immediate family, she had no idea the oven had never been properly installed when they built their dream home almost a year before.
But I digress…
Life as I know it changed on October 9, 2010, when I married my hero in combat boots and moved north of the Red River to where a fully stocked kitchen and several hungry teens awaited my cooking. Did I mention two of them were teenaged boys? In what felt like the blink of an eye, my empty nest was full again and so was my grocery list.
Now the issue wasn’t whether to cook, but how much? And when? I had to relearn what I had forgotten in the years since my boys were home. Males, especially those of the under-twenty variety, love to eat. And salad is not a suitable meal. Nor is popcorn. It took some experimenting, and more than a little trust on their parts, but well before the hubs and I celebrated our first anniversary, I had these Okie teens eating—gasp—Cajun food, among other delicacies.
Life bumped along quite nicely north of the border until deadline season hit. For non-writers, those are the weeks when the amount of words required to complete a book does not match up with the leisurely pace of time allotted for writing them. And thus I began to experiment with “deadline food”. The crockpot became my friend, and I began to create recipes around what I could toss into the pot without having to make a grocery store run.
One of my stand-by recipes that I still keep in often rotation is Crockpot BBQ Chicken. This is a great two-ingredient dish that is literally a throw-it-in-and-forget-it entrée. To make this, simply stack frozen chicken breasts into the crockpot and then dump barbecue sauce over them. Cover and cook on low all day. Serve with corn, beans, and a salad. Delish!
But what to do when plain chicken isn’t what you’re hungry for? Try my Black Bean and Mango Lime Chipotle Chicken. This dish begins by slicing fresh mango then tossing it into the freezer for a few hours or overnight before dumping it over a layer of frozen chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot. Top with black beans (I used canned but freshly cooked would be great too) and chipotle salsa. You could also use canned chipotle adjusted to take your taste level into consideration. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the dish and put the lid on. Don’t peek until suppertime, and then serve over rice with salt and pepper to taste. I promise, it’s worth the wait whether your nest is empty or full!
Oh MY, your crockpot creations sound delicious, Kathleen--though I totally can imagine a meal of tea and popcorn . . . Is that Greune Hall in one of those photos? I'm pretty sure I recognize it from our Texas days--memories of great music and eating at the Gristmill.
Love your "tat!"
And so appreciate your joining us today.
Meanwhile, happy reading and . . . Bon appetit!