One of the first things I cooked after Gus was born – after weeks of nearly sleepless nights, and scrutinizing his eating, and doing anything – my God, anything – to stop colicky crying, was salsa verde chicken from Skinnytaste.
I had lost my groove, you see, so I needed a slow cooker recipe, something easy, but something fresh too. Flavorful. But above all, simple.
I suffer from chronic optimism, especially where projects are concerned. I see a complicated recipe, an intricate quilting pattern, an ambitious home improvement project, and I think, Of course I can!
When I was in college, I took a musical theatre class. The professor asked what musical numbers we intended to do for the final performance project, and without a moment’s hesitation, I said the “Moses Supposes” number from Singin’ in the Rain.
My professor wanted to know if I knew how to tap dance.
Well, no.I didn’t. I intended to learn in the two months ahead.
Thankfully, he pushed me in a more reasonable direction, but I tell this story because it points to my affliction: I just assume the thing can be done.
This seems like a superpower I should harness and use for the greater good. But since having a baby, it has been my undoing. I think I can do the laundry and clean and keep the baby happy and write and make cookies and run to the store – sure!!
No. Just, no.
So I turned to Skinnytaste, and I dumped a few boneless skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker. I sprinkled oregano and cumin and garlic powder and salt over top. I poured in a jar of salsa verde (per the recipe, I used Target Archer Farms brand). And I let it cook two hours.
Rice, chicken, peppers and onions – in a bowl. Squeeze a lime wedge over it all if you want a little brightness.
(Chronically optimistic people with outsized ambitions tend to like a little brightness.)
It was delicious, fresh, bright. Salty and sweet, savory with just a small kick of spice. And the sense of accomplishment I had? It was like I had taught myself to tap dance in two months!
About that: I finally did learn a little tap. I took classes for three months (sadly I had nowhere to practice, so I was fated to keep taking the same intro class again and again). I learned to shuffle, ball-change, I learned to make my steps travel across the floor. And I thought back on college me: I had to laugh at my unrealistic expectations, but I also had to admire my own gumption.
I’m putting a lot of value on gumption these days. In the fake it till you make it operation that is new motherhood; in learning to be a more open and honest writer, a more responsible citizen, a more authentic human in the world – gumption gets me there.
As it happens, it also gets dinner on the table.