Margaret Button: Weather still calls for slow cooker, unfortunately

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It's that time of year when I can feel summer waiting in the wings, yet Old Man Winter won't give up the spotlight. It's around 40 degrees as I write this column Monday; I wore my winter vest and had the car heater blasting on the way to work. I should be manning the concession stand for Marty's T-Ball, but it was called off because it was too cold for the kids. And, to add insult to injury, the furnace in my house just kicked on.

In self-defense, I find myself singing Alvin and the Chipmunks' song, "Christmas Don't Be Late," only with my own not-so-original-or-great lyrics:

Summer, summer time is near

Time for pools and time for beer

We've been good, but we can't last

Hurry summer, hurry fast

Want a day, hot and hazy

Me, I just want to be lazy

We can hardly stand the wait

Please summer, don't be late.


Knowing that it would be cold, and getting home late Monday due to T-ball, a hot, no-fuss supper sounded ideal. I pulled out my Crockpot on Sunday and searched through my recipes for something with ingredients I already had on hand. And since I was craving Chinese food anyway, sweet and sour chicken was the winner. I had boneless chicken breasts on hand and substituted those for the thighs called for in the recipe. I didn't have baby carrots, but did have full-size carrots, which I peeled and cut in thick diagonal slices. I also added the red and green pepper about an hour before the dish would be done because I prefer them to be a little less crispy and crunchy than called for.

Slow-Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken

Servings 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice

1 cup baby-cut carrots, cut in half

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup water

Hot cooked rice or chow mein noodles, if desired

DIRECTIONS:

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Place pineapple chunks in small bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Place carrots, onion, garlic and ginger root in 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker. Top with chicken. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar and reserved pineapple juice; pour over chicken.

Cover and cook on low heat setting 7 to 9 hours or until juice of chicken is no longer pink.

During last 30 minutes, add pineapple and bell peppers. Increase to high heat setting. Mix cornstarch and water; stir into chicken mixture during last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve with rice.


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