Every September our schedules get turned upside down. As much as I fantasize about keeping some sort of routine over the kid’s summer break, it just doesn’t happen and this summer may have been the worst. I know it’d make the return to school easier, but that seems so distant in June when the days are long and it’s so nice to just go with the flow.
There were lazy days where we had so much fun that no one, certainly not me, wanted to leave the park early to make dinner.
There was our 15-day Rau Family Road Trip that threw anything resembling routine, including a responsible bedtime, way out the window at 55 miles per hour!
And there were soccer tournaments that took us across town twice a day, completely disrupting meals, work and time with our dog who wasn’t necessarily invited to the playing field.
Ah, but here we are again in September, totally unprepared for the return to schedules, routines and the need for plans. Meal plans.
Last weekend I sat down for a bit to look at our schedule for that first week of school (gasp!) and browse through my favorite recipes to start planning things out. It seemed to take longer than ever. There was so much to juggle. There were so many new recipes I wanted to try. And there were nights that I wasn’t sure how we’d squeeze in something resembling a meal.
But about an hour later I had a solid meal plan and a shopping list.
It should be no surprise that I turned to some familiar tools since I’ve sung the praises of my two kitchen-BFF’s here before: my slow cooker and rice cooker. One of my go-to recipes for weeks like this uses both of them to get something delicious and easy on the table when we’re ready to eat: Adobo Chicken over rice with vegetables.
We have a couple nights each week where soccer practice times means that I’m meeting up with my husband and kids on the way home from work. Once there, it’s a mad dash to feed hungry (they’d claim starving) children by the time they take off cleats and shin guards.
When we moved to the northwest about twelve years ago, the concept of a bento bowl hadn’t really crossed my palate in southern California, but they’re a regular part of our family’s diet now. And thank goodness – they’re so easy and yummy!
Bento bowls come from Japanese heritage and simply refer to a packaged meal. You may have bento-style containers to package up food for your child’s lunch. Around the northwest we often refer to a bowl of (typically) rice, with meat or vegetables on top, and a sauce as a bento bowl.
My kids devour them. We have amazing food carts around Portland that serve up every imaginable “bowl” offering but my kids love my simple take on them, thankfully, just as much. They even ask to take them to school for lunch – that’s the sure sign for me!
And without my kitchen-BFF’s, I’m not sure how I’d make this all happen.
The chicken and “adobo” ingredients can go in the slow cooker the night before but it’s also super easy to just drop them in that morning while the kids are getting ready for school or eating breakfast. Sometimes I need that distraction while they’re eating or I find myself reminding my daughter to eat faster, which really doesn’t help. One of these days I’ll learn.
Having a rice cooker that you can program is ideal so it’s ready when you want to serve everything up. Before we had a rice cooker, we made a large batch of rice on Sunday night or early in the week to cover us through a few meals since we tend to eat a lot of it. Either way is fine.
Since we can’t seem to eat enough roasted broccoli, we will often serve that on the side if we’re having meat on our bowl. I also like to sauté bok choy with some garlic and ginger which I let simmer while I change my clothes and get drinks ready.
A friend of mine with three girls, each with unique and different likes and dislikes, told me that this if the first meal she found that all three girls like! Warms my heart!
Slow Cooker Adobo Chicken Bowls
6 Chicken thighs (boneless or with the bone; you’ll shred it once cooked)
4 Cloves of garlic, minced
2 Bay leaves, whole
3/4 cup Low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Ginger, finely grated
1 tbsp Brown sugar
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1/4 cup Low sodium chicken stock
Dash of pepper
Lay your chicken thighs along the bottom of the slow cooker. Add garlic, whole bay leaves, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, ginger, brown sugar and pepper. Swirl ingredients around until they’re mixed well.
Combine corn starch and chicken stock in a bowl and mix until smooth, without lumps. Stir into slow cooker.
Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Meat will be very tender and falling apart. Don’t open the slow cooker though – the lid needs to stay on for the full cooking time. Shred the meat, placing back in the slow cooker to stay warm.
Serve and enjoy.
This is one of those recipes that my kids put in our Top 10 Rau Favorites for taste, and I rank it high for ease and health.