These past five months for me have flown by in a whirlwind of physical and psychological healing and growth (well, shrinkage, if I take into account losing that baby weight!) It's been wonderful and difficult and stressful, yet also the sweetest and most beautiful part of my life so far. Caring for a little human is so much harder than I imagined! I've discovered that I need way more patience than I am hard-wired to give. I've realized that my control-freak tendencies are stronger than I had anticipated. I've realized that I don't have enough time in the day to do the things that I really want to do that constantly makes me stressed and angry because I feel that if it doesn't get done RIGHT NOW, life will probably stop altogether and I'll be stuck with this mess of a kitchen/bathroom/living room/back yard/insert-a-space-of-your-choice-here FOREVER. It's enough to drive a person (my husband) crazy.
I've also realized that little things like smiles and giggles make everyone happier and even after five months of sleepless nights, a big smile in the morning from someone you love (and who loves you right back, even after you felt like screaming at them to JUST STOP CRYING ALREADY) makes you feel just a little more human. And that smile or giggle or squeal gives you enough energy to make it through another day (and maybe, just maybe, THIS will be the night when you all sleep soundly.)
Since my baby was born, my limited time and energy has forced me to step away from my vegetable and flower gardening. Not that I was very fantastic at either, but I loved the work of weeding, planting, watering and pruning, and then the satisfaction of watching the seeds sprout into gorgeous plants and vines and flowers. And now, after almost two whole seasons passing me by, I look out at my overgrown flowerbeds, my half-planted, weed-filled, sun-burnt vegetable gardens and I see:
Snapdragons and cosmos that re-seeded themselves from last year.
Tall sunflowers that towered over my head.
Zinnias and marigolds that were planted in lieu of veggies, and an enormous amount of flowers from the rudbeckia plants (that I don't even like and threaten to yank out of the garden each year, but they made me smile so maybe they've bought themselves another chance!)
Despite my inability to provide everything I possibly could to my gardens, and even though they are far from perfect, the plants soldiered on in their messy, overgrown, weedy garden plots and lived quite happily. And even though they've had to endure way too much sun and hot weather and lack of rain and shady days, they still manage to look lovely. They still smile every day and wave in the breeze, carefree and unapologetic and loving life. I've learned from my garden and from my baby that it's okay to let go a little. It's necessary to have patience. And it's important to give and receive smiles and giggles whenever possible, and perhaps to be a bit more unapologetic. It is what it is, right?
I think using a slow-cooker is like planting seeds in a garden and just letting them go. No trimming, watering, or weeding. No need to stress. No need to worry about perfection. I wish I had come up with a whole bunch of slow-cooker recipes before my little baby arrived. I'd have thrown everything in and it would have been one less thing to worry about! Since I think fall is a perfect time to bring out the slow-cooker, I'd like to share the following recipe. I've adapted it from the Chicken Tagine recipe in this month's Nutrition Action Newsletter . This recipe is perfect for end-of summer CSA veggies, as it incorporates peppers, zucchini, carrots and tomatoes, among other ingredients! It's warming and spicy and delicious. I plan on relying on my slow-cooker all fall and winter long to help me stress less and enjoy more!
Slow-Cooked Chicken TagineServes: 6-8
While this recipe does not actually utilize a traditional tagine pot, the meat is slowly simmered in a combination of vegetables, chicken stock, and spices.
- a 6-qt slow cooker (crock pot)
- a shallow frying pan
- 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 medium zucchini (or a zucchini/summer squash combination), chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
- 8 tomatoes, diced (approx. 8 cups)
- 1 cup chopped, dried apricots
- 1 can pitted green olives, halved
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
for spice mixture:
- 2 tsp tumeric
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
Place all vegetables except tomatoes, apricots and olives in your crock pot. Heat olive oil in frying pan and pan-fry chicken, approx 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer chicken and layer over vegetables, then layer the tomatoes, apricots, and olives over the chicken.
Combine spice mixture in a small bowl and then sprinkle over chicken and veggies in crock pot.
Pour water and chicken broth into the frying pan and stir to scrape the chicken pieces from the pan. Pour mixture into the crock pot. Cover and set to Low for 6 hours.
This dish is best if left overnight and then reheated, but will certainly be tasty if you cannot wait that long! Serve in a bowl over couscous or quinoa for a hearty, warming, perfect cool-weather meal.