As is probably well-known by now, I am very much a "seat of the pants" style of cook: I take the recipe, eyeball it for a short list of ingredients and ease of preparation, head to the internet to research any unfamiliar terms or ingredients (Intarwebs I can haz! :), occasionally dump ingredients or make swaps to make things simpler, and sometimes experiment just for the fun of it. This is one of the reasons I so like crockpot recipes, in fact — easy is good!

I also tend to use the crockpot for the (formerly Monday, now) Thursday Night Gaming Horde, and there are several dietary restrictions amongst those individuals. One of the most common issues is to not make anything too toxic to a diabetic — and for which, I am given to understand, it is most important to eschew carbohydrates. Potatoes, as an example, are high carbohydrate vegetables, but unfortunately there are a great many excellent and tasty crockpot dishes which call for potatoes. So to the internet I went, to find out acceptable substitutes for potatoes. After a little research I discovered the hands-down favorite is rutabagas.

Now, I don't know if you have the same reaction to this word as I do, but I find it rather silly… almost giggle-worthy. Say it a couple of times, and maybe you'll see what I mean: rutabaga, rutabaga! Doesn't it sound like it should be part of some high school cheerleading chant? "Knock 'em down, mash 'em up! Rutabaga, rutabaga! Go, team, GO!"

Ahem. Anyway! :) Back to the point of this posting. I found a nice, simple little crockpot recipe titled "Chicken and Potatoes" and thought: perfect! I'll try this with rutabagas instead of potatoes, and it'll feed the entire Horde with no problems, dietary or otherwise! I mean, how much simpler can this get, you know?

Chicken and Potatoes (or Rutabagas!)

6 pieces of chicken
4 to 5 potatoes, peeled & cubed
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10.5 oz.)
Salt & pepper, to taste

  • Layer in slow cooker the potatoes, chicken, and then onion. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Layer cream of mushroom soup (undiluted) over top.
  • Cook on low 6 to 8 hours.

This is originally from Bonnie Scott's 2013 Slow Cooker Comfort Foods, on page 82 of the Kindle Edition. Sounds really straightforward, right? Admittedly, I had to start changing it immediately, using a package of dried onion soup mix instead of any onion and/or salt, like I usually do for the onion-allergic member of the Horde.

Then there was the question of the six pieces of chicken. I'd already stumbled, with one of my first attempts at crockpottery, upon the fascinating secret: the chicken breasts your butcher will hand to you are not the chicken breasts talked about in cookbooks! I remember one recipe which asked for three chicken breasts. Having had chicken breasts at, say, KFC, I naively assumed that'd be perfect for feeding three people, and asked for them by name from the nice meat section clerks in my local grocery store.

Raw chicken breasts -- ick!

Probably the only naked breasts that will ever appear on this blog. ;-)

It wasn't until I dished out enough food for the three of us from the crockpot — and hadn't even gotten halfway through it! — that I learned: there are two sides to a chicken breast! Thus, generally, when a recipe asks for a chicken breast, it means only one side of the chicken. Awful lot of leftovers from that recipe. Fortunately they were really tasty… and that's quite enough about breasts. Onwards!

So while I prefer white meat, I have one or two of the Horde who prefer dark because they say it's more flavorful, and most of them don't care. Okay, I can go with that. I go to the meat department and (carefully!) ask for three half chicken breasts and three pieces of dark meat. Not being entirely sure how much of the chicken is dark meat, I smile and nod when asked if I mean legs and thighs — that sounds safe. We dither a bit as we try to figure out how big a piece each one should be, and sort of mutually negotiate a safe happy medium, based on my knowing that about four ounces of meat daily is supposed to be plenty. I walk away with my package of meat and feel quite smugly pleased with myself for handling that so well.

So, what's next on the grocery list? Just the rutabagas — I've got everything else I need at home. I had a vague idea of what rutabagas looked like, since I'd done a recipe with them years ago. Consequently I was pretty confident that I could pick them out, and even if I couldn't, I could always ask a clerk. So I headed over to the produce section, still pretty pleased with myself. A bit of browsing, and I find what I'm looking for… sort of. It appears the signage is not as clear as it could be, because there are like four or five signs all crammed in horizontally, cheek by jowl — right above a veritable cluster of root veggies!

Parsnips -- NOT rutabegas!

Don't they look like vampirized carrots?

Okay… so clearly the first two signs in the row should denote the two different types of veggies in the column below them, right? Then the next two should be the next column, and… hmm. Do beets come in a "red and golden" variety, or is that two different types? Are those even beets below them? Did the rutabaga sign get shoved over too far? What are those washed-out-looking carrot thingies? Were they slain by a vegetarian vampire or something? There doesn't seem to be a sign for them. Also, I can see two different types of purplish root veggie — one a round, dark purple thing and one a round, lighter purple thing… and both rather sad and unappetizing looking. Er… hmm. Are they the same veggie, but harvested at different times?

Time to find a clerk. I look around: no one. I mean, seriously! The only time there are no clerks working in produce is when you actually want one, right? Also right about then is when I realize the time — crap! I'm about to be late for a scheduled on-line appointment! Okay, must hurry: back to the veggies. The rutabaga sign is over the column that has the washed-out carrot-thingies and the paler of the grubby round purple thingies. I know rutabegas don't look like carrots, so it must be the little round purplish thingies. I grab up the four I need into the bag, and head for the cash register.

Tomorrow the adventure continues with the answers to these pulse-pounding questions (though I recommend aspirin and a good book if your pulse really is pounding at reading this): will I discover I do actually have rutabagas? Will I be on time to my appointment? Will I be able to make the recipe or will I languish rutabaga-less? And… what on earth does a vegetarian vampire even look like?!


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