Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Labor Pains

Next time I announce that I'm going to make potato pancakes, please remind me of the time, the effort, the sweat and the physical discomfort that comes with it.

Maybe I keep making them because, deep in my heart, I know the end product is so worth it.

But, still - just as the memory of child birth invariably fades as soon as I see the sweet little being the pain produced, I invariably forget the sweat equity involved in making potato pancakes as soon as I hear the batter sizzle in my frying pan, see the round, slightly crisp delights take shape and hear the "yums" coming from my family.

The potato pancakes proved to be the perfect side dish for the Hungarian Goulash I served on Monday night (and again as leftovers last night).

And just as kids grow up and cause us all sorts of frustration and heart ache, making potato pancakes leaves me with cramped, scraped and sore hands.

Let me back up a bit. I do not own a food processor.

I know, I know.  But I've managed all of the years to get by using my Mom's old hand-held grater.  I've tried using more updated versions along the way, just to give hers a rest, but they couldn't take the pressure and snapped in half like an uncooked strand of spaghetti.

Sure, I could barely type yesterday but (sniff), the little darlings were so worth it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Multi-Coursed Menu

Last night's dinner capped off the fourth week of daily family dinners. As such, I figured it was high time to kick things up a notch and make it a really special meal, something I haven't made before.

One look out my kitchen window at the newly-fallen snow and one word came to mind. Soup. Homemade soup (ok, that's two words).

But what kind? It had to be one all of the boys would eat, easy enough to make and fancy enough to kick off a real meal.

What I found was a recipe that would not only satisfy both the carnivores and herbivores in my clan, but serve as the centerpiece of the meal itself -  broccoli cheese soup.

In the wake of the Paula Dean diabetes brew-ha-ha that bubbled up in the news recently, I'll admit that homemade does not necessarily equal healthy. The nutrients in the cup or so of fresh broccoli required by this recipe hardly makes up for the cholesterol-heavy half and half, cheese and butter.

But still, it was incredibly good - even it I do say so myself (pausing to pat self on back).

To consider this a true multi-course meal, I knew I had to serve other things. Enter, loaf of crusty french bread and the oft-written about chopped salad.

Voila. A three-course meal that just so happens to have been served all at once. Semantics, really.

I'm not sure what the boys enjoyed more - seeing me tear off hunks of bread and toss it to them or watching me dunk said bread into my bowl, then encouraging them to do the same. Either way, those delegated to loading the dishwasher afterwards were happy to see that the bread they used as a utensil did a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to clean-up.

For tonight's meal, I've once again plunged into my trusted copy of Dawn Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good's "Fix-it-and-Forget-it Cookbook" (Good Books, 2000). We're having Hungarian Goulash, but instead of serving it over egg noodles, I'll be making my Mom's potato pancakes (recipe below) from her dog-eared copy of "Dishes Children Love" (1955).

Unless you count the applesauce that I'll serve as a side, it's a one-course meal, but the week is just getting started...

Potato Pancakes

Heat in heavy skillet over low heat shortening to at least 1/4" depth.

Combine and set aside:
2 tblsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. pepper

Wash, pare, and finely grate 6 medium potatoes (about 2 lbs.) to about 3 cups, grated. Set aside.

Combine the flour mixture with 2 eggs, well-beaten, and 2 tblsp. grated onions.

Drain liquid that collects from grated potatoes; add potatoes to egg mixture and beat thoroughly. When shortening is hot, but not smoking, begin cooking.

Using about 2 tblsp. for each pancake, spoon batter into skillet, leaving about one inch between cakes. Cook over medium heat until golden brown and crisp on one side. Turn carefully and brown the other side.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Salad Days

Photo Credit: Michelle Humes
When I was a kid, salad rarely made an appearance at our dinner table.

My Dad was not a fan of "rabbit food". However, if we had visitors, my Mom would pull out a big, etched glass bowl into which she'd dump a head of lettuce, torn to bits, and tomatoes sliced into wedges that were big enough to avoid if they were not wanted.

The only other time I saw salad stuff at the table was on "BLT night", a family favorite. By definition, ours was an eat-in kitchen, but because there were eight of us (including my in-resident Grandma) sitting around the table, the kitchen had little maneuverability. Nonetheless, Mom would peel a head of lettuce like an onion, placing each clam-shaped leaf on a platter next to which sat a bowl stacked high with tomato slices.

My older sister would man the toaster, flinging hot slices to my brother who was armed with a blunt knife and a stick of butter, ready to disperse the dripping, aromatic bread to waiting plates.

My mom stood nearby watching over the bacon sizzling in her electric frying pan. With tongs in hand, she'd grab each slice as soon as it looked good and crispy, then carefully lay them on a paper towel-lined dish. When it was full, she'd take a deep breath and set it on a reserved spot in the middle of the table. Then we descended on it like piranhas.

In retrospect, I'm amazed Mom made it through with all limbs and digits in tact.

Those were the days...

And like my parents before me, I rarely offer rabbit food at our dinner table. My husband and I were never big salad eaters and it never occurred to me to serve salad to my kids.

But this daily sit-down dinner thing is starting to cast some sort of weird spell over all of us.

Along with my resolution, my son announced his intention to avoid meat this year. That trickled over to my  husband who, hoping to drop a few pounds, vowed to stick with healthier choices.

If I was going to get the rest of my crew on board, any salad I served would have to be tasty, colorful and easy to modify for their very different likes and dislikes. As for me, since I'm still running, any salad I made would have to be substantial - not just a showy bit of bunny food on the side of my plate.

I checked online for any recipes that might fit the bill. All I saw was a lot of ingredients that would turn my family off of salads faster than you can say "bean sprout".

Then I remembered a graduation party we attended last summer. The hostess served a salad that was remarkably good, tasty and hearty. I called her, requesting the recipe. My heart sank when she told me that the party had been catered, but then I rallied when she told me who catered it. I googled it and found the recipe (who says laptops don't belong in the kitchen?). Turns out, it's a chopped salad. Simple really. Basic ingredients. Easily modifiable.


I don't make the vinaigrette dressing that goes with it - I just put a couple of bottles of different dressings on  the table. I also leave certain things chopped up in separate bowls - the chicken, onions, cheese, tomatoes and bacon bits. What's left are two different kinds of lettuce (didn't I tell you it was fancy?) and little ditalini pasta - normally reserved for soups.

And my family loves it. It goes with everything I serve and can act as a stand-alone meal for my husband and I.

Who knew? Well, besides the bunnies...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spaghetti Will Be Flung

I took the opportunity during last night's dinner (of whole wheat spaghetti, fresh French bread and chopped salad), to hold a bit of a team meeting.

There were a couple of things I wanted to discuss - namely, our year-to-date performance on this family meal time thing and a gentle reminder about household chores.

After they filled their plates, I waited until they began eating to grab the floor. 

"So, how do you guys like having sit-down dinners every night?"

Five chewing faces looked blankly at me. It was as if I asked, "Who can explain Galileo's principle of relativity?"

Some shrugged, some indicated a vague positive response by nodding, although a tad apprehensively. 

I tried again. "Should we keep doing it?"

Their response was unanimous. "Yeah."  

Well, OK then. 

"Now, about the hamper. What are you supposed to do when you see that it's full?"

What followed next made the last televised political debate look like a little girls' tea party. 

I knew I should've typed up agendas.

All I could make out, and this is the censored version, was something about worn under garments not finding their way all the way down to the laundry room and how the owner should (redacted content). 

Note to self: leave bar of soap on table as a reminder during future discussions.

After dinner was done, the last strand of spaghetti was wiped off of the wall and the dishwasher was loaded, I flung open my pantry door, spread the grocery store ads on the table and drafted this week's menu:

Monday night - Make-Your-Own-Tacos
Tuesday - Whole Wheat Penne Pasta Casserole, Garlic Toast and Salad
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Thursday - Fish and Alfredo Noodles
Friday - Quesadillas and Spanish Rice
Saturday - Swedish Meatballs

Not especially creative, but as I told my boys, it's not up for debate.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"But Officer, They Weren't Frozen Pizzas!"

Ok, ok, before you point your flashlight beam in my face, I'll admit it - I served my family store-bought pizza on Friday night. But it wasn't frozen, I swear!

Please...let me explain.

Given the forecast of heavy snow, and one hefty "to-do" that would result in six loaves of homemade bread, the last thing I wanted to do was plan dinner.

As the first snowflakes started to fall, I jotted a grocery list: milk, eggs, bread, two pizzas (one cheese, one sausage) and handed it to my husband/cabana boy who was hoping for a shortened workday due to the impending white stuff.

When my work day was done, I descended to the kitchen and began mixing yeast, honey and oil with 10 cups of flour. With the help of son # 3, we dutifully kneaded the dough into submission, covered it with towels and left it to rise for an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew wanted some grub. With my fingers plastered in yeasty goo, I slid two rather large, again - fresh, not frozen, pizzas into the oven.  By the time my fingers were clean, they were ready to serve.

And I'm not going to be beat myself up about this.

When I was a kid, Friday nights were pizza night. My Dad would place the order - two large sausage pizzas - from Andy's, a storefront establishment that only served crispy thin crust, delicious pizzas. We'd watch for the delivery guy to show up in his battered station wagon, arguing over who would get the corner pieces. It was also the one night we were allowed to have pop.

To this day, a sip of Fresca has me lunging for the phone with the pizza delivery guy's number on speed dial.

With my husband and oldest at-home son at a college orientation, my next youngest two at a church retreat and my youngest on a play day, I capped off the week with a fragmented, served in seated shifts, dinner of leftover beef stroganoff and vegetarian chili. To make up for the mediocrity of the meal, I served a favorite, albeit out-of-season, dessert: Colonial Pumpkin Bars.

Today, it's all about menu-planning for the week. If I still have my wits about me, I'll share it with you later. I swear...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

10 Things Working Mothers Do Not Want to Hear

I don't care if you're a child, a co-worker or a spouse. There are some things you should never say to a working mother. Ever.

Here's my short list:
  • The carpet feels wet.
  • I said you'd make cupcakes.
  • The garage door looks a lot wider than it really is.
  • No, my concert is tonight.
  • Your mute button doesn't work. 
  • Did you mean to include a Happy Meal on your expense account?
  • Let's host Christmas this year, honey.
  • I like you in flannel.
  • Toss me another six pack.
  • I thought you did the taxes last year.

Movie Popcorn Does Not a Dinner Make

It was late Tuesday afternoon. Even though it was the last free day of my boys' long holiday weekend, I still had to work and had nothing planned for dinner.

My husband, on the other hand, had the day off and, wanting to celebrate the successful installation of a new bathtub faucet, he came up with a wonderful idea. With just moments to spare, we grabbed our younger two and burst into a nearby and relatively empty theater to catch the movie "Hugo".

Based on the book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick, the movie is a wonderful, visually spectacular escape into the world of Hugo, an orphan, who finds his talent to repair things extends to people, too.

While watching him race through the walls of a Paris train station to keep all of the clocks running smoothly, we downed bucket after bucket of popcorn. As he dodged the police officer patrolling the station, narrowly missing the clutches of his ferocious Doberman, we gulped copious amounts of cherry slushies.

By the time we left the theater, at 6:30 pm, dinner was the farthest thing from our minds. That is, until I got a call from one of my high school boys, still at home after begging out of the movie excursion.

"What's for dinner?"

Despite my transgression, I was pleased to hear that my New Year's resolution was starting to stick with my teens.  I had him check the pantry for pasta, start a big pot of water boiling and told him we were on our way.

An hour later, we were all seated around the table. Only two were eating dinner, but we were all together, sharing our favorite parts of the movie to make the other two regret their decision not to join us and revel in the warmth of each other's company.

Last night was another story all together. This is the third Wednesday of the month. You'd think I'd learn by now that planning a nice sit-down dinner will be nearly impossible until, oh, June when religious education classes, church choir practice, high school men's a cappella group practice and tax season will all be over with.

Slap-dash is the only way I can describe my attempt to feed everyone dinner last night. Turkey burgers and oven-fries for my younger three and a frozen Shrimp Lo Mein noodle dish for my vegetarian son. My husband, too busy getting ready for work, took a pass on dinner as did I.

A wise co-worker, always a font of logic and inspiration asked, "Do you plan weekly menus?"

My knee-jerk reaction was, "No, that would make far too much sense!" but I kept it to myself. Of course, she's right. If I know Wednesdays are bad nights for us, I should plan to have something delish and easy to prepare/warm-up ahead of time.

Point taken.

This evening's menu at Casa de Plate Spinner will feature a lovely beef stroganoff (made from scratch - only because I can't find the Lawry's stroganoff seasoning packet anywhere) and a zesty vegetarian chili for my health nut son.

Unless, of course, anyone wants to duck out to see a show...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Pounds of Round Steak Walk into a Bar...

What do you get when you mix a bunch of lean beef and a bottle of beer? Ok, get your mind out of the gutter...the correct answer is a really easy, really tasty slow-cooker meal.

I made this (doubling the recipe) and five pounds of mashed potatoes for dinner last night. It was soooooo good. Everyone liked it to the point where my vegetarian-minded son actually looked like he might start drooling on his salad as he scooped a helping of potatoes onto his plate. Tonight, we'll polish off the leftovers that I'll serve with another big salad and a round of milk - on the house.

Beer-Braised Beef
An oval 3- to 3 1/2-quart slow cooker works best for this recipe because of the shape of the meat. If you don't own an oval slow cooker, cut the meat in half to fit the one you have. Spoon this fork-tender, saucy beef over mashed potatoes.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)  
Cook Time: 8 Hours, 7 Minutes

  • 1 cup refrigerated pre-chopped onion
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound boneless top round steak, trimmed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
  • 1/2 cup light beer
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Place onion in a 3- to 3 1/2-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Add steak; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place steak over onion in cooker; pour tomatoes and beer over steak. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or until steak is very tender.
3. Shred steak with 2 forks in slow cooker; stir in molasses and salt. Let steak stand 10 minutes before serving over mashed potatoes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Going Green

Shortly after the beginning of the year, my oldest-at-home son announced he was no longer eating meat. While I didn't try to talk him out of it, the thought of having to come up with meatless meals that would please the whole family dimmed my new resolution to serve a nutritious sit-down dinner every night this year. 

I wondered just how long my husband and kids would tolerate a never-ending menu of cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other meatless fare traditionally reserved for Friday nights during Lent.  

This week, veggie boy subsisted on the salads I served as sides, the pasta I made in case they didn't like the new dish I served last Sunday and the potatoes I served with pork tenderloin - oven roasted one night, mashed the next.

By Friday, he was looking a little pale. I appealed to my sister. When we were kids, she'd scour cookbooks while I tore through TigerBeat. My boys love when she cooks for them and wonder why, when I make the exact same recipe, it doesn't taste as good as when Aunt Mary makes it.  

But I don't mind. She's always there for me and yesterday was no exception. Pulling out her handy-dandy Weight Watchers cookbook, she pulled out the gem below - a lovely, nutritious and best of all, meatless, casserole. The perfect comfort food for a frigid Friday night.

As soon as I clocked out, I buzzed into the kitchen. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hate making rice. Even if I follow the recipe to the letter,  it still comes out gummy or mushy, or is still hard and crunchy. It's been the downfall of many otherwise excellent meals. 

However, since cooked rice is a part of this casserole, married in with other ingredients, the pressure was off. I figured if it came out sub-par, no one would be the wiser.

And I was right.

As I pulled the bubbling beauty out the oven, I called out to my kids, "Dinner's ready!"

No response.

I knew my husband was at work, but where was everyone else? Was I so absorbed in making this new recipe that I didn't hear them escape to the nearest fast food establishment? 

The family room was dark. I ascended the stairs to the bedroom. There, I found my vegetarian son, exhausted from finals week, fast asleep in his bed. I quietly shut the door. My other three, huddled around a video game waved me off. The after school snacks, consumed too late in the day, had them more interested in Mario than the meal. 

After letting the lovely casserole cool, I popped it in the fridge. 

At least I don't have to cook tonight... 

Bon appétit!
Mexican-Style Brown Rice Casserole
Weight Watchers Recipe
Prep time: 12 min
Cook time: 30 min
Serves: 6
Like a burrito in a bowl, this dish is great for parties. Serve a big salad on the side.

1 spray(s) cooking spray
4 cup(s) cooked brown rice  
1 1/4 cup(s) fat free salsa
1 tsp Durkee ground cumin, or other brand
15 oz canned refried beans
10 oz frozen corn kernels, thawed
4 oz canned green chili peppers, mild, diced
1 Tbsp chili powder   
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, or collard greens, thawed and set to drain in a strainer over a bowl
3/4 cup(s) low-fat shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped (optional; for garnish)
·       Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a 2-quart rectangular, round or oval baking dish with cooking spray

·       In a large bowl, combine rice, salsa and cumin. Spoon 2 cups of rice mixture into prepared baking dish and spread out to evenly cover bottom of dish.

·       In another large bowl, combine refried beans, corn, chili peppers and chili power. Using a rubber spatula, scrape bean mixture on top of rice layer and smooth out top.

·       Squeeze out any excess water from spinach or collard greens and then spread on top of bean layer; sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of cheese. Top with remaining rice mixture and smooth out top; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

·       Place casserole on a large rimmed baking sheet to catch any spillage. Bake until heated through and cheese is browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro (if desired), cut into 6 pieces and serve.

·       Leftover brown rice works well in this dish. Or save time by picking some up at your local Chinese restaurant.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dinner and a Show

Is it Thursday already? Where has the week gone?

(photo credit: V1 Staff)
The chicken and dumplings dinner I served on Tuesday night was bested only by the side show, aptly heralded as, "Who can get James to laugh while he's drinking his milk so it comes out his nose?"

For this, I chopped baby carrots into bite-size pieces and attempted to slice slimy, raw chicken tenderloins into smaller bits?

Nonetheless, with my husband away at work, I was out numbered at the table and actually found myself joining in the fun, regaling my boys about a similar incident I experience as a child - only with cherry kool-aid and hot dogs. Enough said. 

Last night, I made an herbed pork tenderloin with oven-roasted roasted potatoes. I know, I know. This sounds like Sunday dinner fare, but again, it's a simple recipe that yields a) a lot of food and b) makes the house smell divine. 

The scent of rosemary mingled with thyme instantly transported me to back to being eight years old, sitting at my Nana's dining room table. This could explain why I found myself making a concerted effort not to slouch, but couldn't resist poking my sister (albeit on Facebook).

Despite all six of us homebound bodies eating together last night, there is lots of left-over tenderloin. Tonight, then, I'll simply make some mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it. For that, I will enlist the help of my master peeler, my fourth son. Although he has Asperger's Syndrome, his intense focus on the task at hand makes him a whiz in the kitchen and he loves to help. My kinda guy...

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dinner Stats and Stew

Last night's meal marked the one week anniversary of my resolution to do what my Mom successfully pulled off when I was a kid. Despite working full-time, she served up delish sit-down dinners for me and my sibs every single night.

In this, I have been remiss.

So, a week into my New Year's resolution,  it's time to dazzle you with some numbers:

Amount of sit-down dinners served: 8

Average attendance for family of seven: 5.3

Number of times left-overs served:  3

Number of new recipes tried: 1

Number of new recipes liked by family: 1

Number of frozen pizzas served: 0

Work and school commitments aside, I made it clear to my clan at the onset: resistance is futile.

So far, so good.

This evening, I will be serving a lovely chicken stew and dumplings recipe.

This is not my Mom's chicken stew and dumplings. Hers, while very good, requires use of a pressure cooker which I have. But, while that clanky hissing sound does bring back fond memories, my many attempts to replicate it have fallen woefully short.

This recipe is nearly as good and a little more reliable. Note: instead of making the dumplings from scratch, I cheat and use either Bisquick or Jiffy.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Table for Seven

Early yesterday morning, my youngest watched me load the crockpot.  He looked confused. The concoction of baby carrots, dijon mustard, a weird looking thing called a "leek", chicken broth, "woostersure" sauce, brown rice and funky-looking mushrooms apparently befuddled him.

"What are you making?" he ventured.

"Something yummy," I replied as I squished browned chicken tenderloins into the mixture.

When he grimaced, my stomach did a flip-flop. 

I'm always a little nervous trying new recipes, but this one would be shoving my guys into new culinary territory, challenging their tastebuds in ways that years of PBJs and frozen pizza hadn't even come close.

I began to rethink my decision to convince my college student son, blowing in for the afternoon to attend a friend's Eagle Court of Honor, to linger long enough for a home-cooked meal. Not that he's especially finicky, but this dish doesn't exactly qualify as a much-loved home-cooked meal - yet.

I made a mental note to make a side of pasta, just in case.

Around 2pm, an exotic aroma began wafting throughout the house. As I made my way into the kitchen, I found my youngest standing in the middle of the room, his nose up in the air as he sniffed.

"What smells so good?" he asked.


Three hours later, I beamed at my husband sitting at the other end of the table. After a week of typical, but trying parent-teenager relations, we watched as all five boys gobbled down the new dish. But that wasn't the best part. 

They weren't just sitting side-by-side eating. They were getting along. Really, really getting along -  chatting, being respectful and showing concern for one another. 

They laughed, I cried (happy tears).

It was weird, but wonderful. 

Yep, this is definitely a much-loved meal.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taco Meal Makeover

Last night's family sit down dinner was served warm, but parentless.

After transforming the spaghetti and meatball leftovers from Thursday night into a curious cheese-topped pasta pie, my husband took one look at it and announced that it was date night, an evening devoted to staring dreamily into each other's eyes over, in this case, a double-serving of sweet and sour shrimp with a side of spring rolls.

Although I suspected my husband's motives, I told the kids that I entrusted them to carry on with the sit down dinner despite our absence and hoped for the best.

The dirty plates  left on the kitchen table for me to find when I got home removed all doubt from my mind. Er, well done, men...

In contrast, tonight's dinner was parent-ful. When my three youngest entered the kitchen, they were aghast to see that I had transformed our traditional "taco-bar Tuesday" supper into "sit-around-the-table-and-create-your-own-taco-extravaganza Saturday."

I must say, it was rather nice watching them build their own feast instead of filling their orders and handing them a full plate.

I know to you, witnessing the affects of this resolution on my family must be akin to watching paint dry, but I'll take my successes, no matter how small. Granted, with my old method of serving tacos, I never ended up with a dribble of salsa on my tablecloth.

Baby steps...

On the menu for tomorrow night, a new recipe - Chicken, Mushroom and Brown Rice Slow Cooker Casserole (below). My guys like chicken, mushrooms and brown rice and I like slow cookers. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Rumor has it my oldest will be buzzing home to pick up the items he forgot when we brought him back to campus last week and he can stay for dinner. That's right - no leftovers for Monday, folks, but it will be worth it.

Chicken, Mushroom, and Brown Rice Slow Cooker Casserole

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 426 min
Serves: 8

cooking spray   
8 thigh uncooked boneless, skinless chicken thigh(s), about 2 1/2 oz each
2 cup(s) canned chicken broth
1/2 pound(s) mushroom(s), sliced
1 cup(s) uncooked leek(s), white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup(s) uncooked carrot(s), thinly sliced
1 cup(s) uncooked celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup(s) uncooked brown rice, medium-grain
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
·       Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; warm over medium heat. Add the chicken thighs and brown, turning once, about 6 minutes; set aside.

·       Combine the remaining ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker; nestle the chicken thighs in the mixture. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.