Whole Chicken In a Crockpot: Who Knew?

Not this working mom. Because if I had, I would have been making this one for years!

My picture of a whole chicken in a Crock Pot was either that I would have to smother it in some type of liquid which, for me, conjures up images of a slimy-skinned, wet and drowned whole chicken that is definitely not nice to look at and just as unpleasant to eat!

Or it could go the complete opposite way. A dried-up chicken with no liquid and a house ready to catch fire from a smoking Crock Pot when I returned home.

So I Googled it.

And low and behold there was a fool-proof recipe for a whole chicken in a Crock Pot. And it’s amazing!

Now, I’m not trying to pass on a recipe that’s not my own. Because with everything I cook I like to put an extra spin on it. It’s the technique here that makes this so good. You could dress up your chicken any way you like and it would still turn out fantastic.

Not only that, whole chickens are about $4 each and sometimes you can stretch one chicken to make two meals such as chicken noodle soup and enchiladas, or chicken alfredo pasta and cold chicken salad. Endless possibilities for very little moola.

This is what I did the night before I was going to set up my masterpiece chicken in the Crock Pot.

Gathered my ingredients:

– One whole chicken, innards removed and patted dry
– Three smashed and minced garlic cloves
– 1 tsp. of grated fresh ginger
– 3 tbsp. of orange marmalade
– 1 tbsp. of soy sauce
– 1 lemon with all of rind grated
– Seasoned salt and pepper
– 1 large whole white onion, roughly chopped

Put it all together:

First, in a medium bowl mix the orange marmalade with the grated lemon rind, ginger, garlic and soy sauce and squeeze half of the lemon into the mixture.

Next, with the chicken on a platter, spread the bulk of the mixture underneath the skin of the breast and legs and then some remaining on top of the skin. Season the whole chicken with a sprinkling of seasoned salt and pepper.

Then add your chopped onion to the bottom of the Crock Pot, place the chicken on top and when you’re ready in the morning—fire that Crock Pot up for at least eight hours. That’s it! The onion and chicken itself provide enough liquid for the chicken to braise. But what’s unreal is that there’s enough fat in the skin that the outside turns out golden brown and delectable. There’s nothing better than browned, wonderful crispy chicken skin. (Well…maybe.)

There you have it. Eat the chicken as is in one dinner setting or cut and divide for multiple dishes. It’s completely up to you!

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Quick Pot Pies to Die For: How to Make Individual Pies for a Family of Four

I can remember when I was a kid and I could hardly wait for the Stouffer’s chicken pot pies to come out of the oven after about 40 minutes—all browned on top and oozing down the sides of the mini aluminum pie pan with creamy goodness. I just wanted to devour the thing right when it came out of the oven but quickly learned it wasn’t worth burning my mouth off! I had to be patient. 

Now days I still crave the yumminess of a pot pie but for some reason, the frozen ones don’t appeal to me as much. Maybe it’s because the tiny aluminum pie tins were replaced with microwavable cardboard. Or maybe it’s the sheer number of calories and fat in them that I just can’t bring myself to splurge on.

Maybe, being a mom of two with a job and a household to manage, I really just don’t have the time to wait for them to bake and I refuse to microwave them! I don’t know. But what I do know is that I made my own several weeks ago and it was everything I wanted in a pot pie.
I have to say this recipe was a long time in the making. First, I knew I had to get four medium-sized ramekens that would hold four individual pies. I wanted each of us in the family to have our very own! I finally found those at a World Market store.
Next, I had to find some way to make a low-calorie version of the creamy sauce that defines a pot pie. The inspiration hit me when I remembered my husband’s favorite meal: Chicken baked in Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup. There are only 60 calories and 2 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving!

Then I needed to figure out if I wanted to make my own crust or not. That became a downright “no” when I finally picked up some Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust at the grocery store. Throw in a little frozen peas and carrots and I figured I could really pull this thing off!

This is my Chicken Pot Pie to Die For recipe:

Ingredients:
-Two large chicken breasts, cubed into one inch chunks
-One tablespoon of olive oil
-Two cans of Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
-1 ½ cup of nonfat milk
-1/2 cup of frozen carrots and peas
-1 package of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust, kept refrigerated
-1 egg, beaten
-Seasoned salt and pepper to taste
To start, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, season the cubed chicken in a bowl with seasoned salt and pepper and mix. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the chicken until brown on the outside and done in the center.
Then, add the two cans of cream of chicken soup to the pan along with the milk. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir the mixture. Then add the frozen peas and carrots. Place a lid on top and simmer for about five to eight minutes.
In the meantime, unroll both pieces of pie crust on a floured surface. Beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Take a ramekan and place upside down toward the outer part of the crust, leaving about an inch and a half of crust outside the rim. Take a knife and cut around the circumference of the rim leaving an inch and a half around the whole circumference. Place the circle of dough aside.
Next, dip a pastry brush in the egg and brush onto the rim of the ramekan. Then fill the dish to the top with the chicken mixture and place the circle of dough on top of the dish and crimp the edges in an up-and-over style. It does not need to be perfect! Combine the scraps of dough and roll out flat again to create crusts for the remaining pies.
Cut a slit in the middle and brush egg lightly over the crust of each pie. Bake the pot pies on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Just the way I like it! And the kids love having their own pot pies to eat and digging right in.

This is definitely one of the comfort foods that takes me way back. All I would need now to transport me back in time is an episode of the Odd Couple and a TV tray! Okay, I’m dating myself.

Bruschetta Chicken: Hello My Love!

My love for bruschetta runs deep. Especially if it’s done the right way. I remember in the late ’90s or early 2000s when high-end restaurants started serving bruschetta on crustini as an appetizer and saturated the tomato and basil mixture with garlic. I wouldn’t want to step foot in a dance club or bar after that for fear my dragon breath would blow everyone away.

Now days, I’ll get a jones for the bruschetta served at a small organic produce store nearby–but it’s only prepared on some days as part of their salad bar buffet. It’s a crap shoot. And it’s one I’m willing to risk. And believe me, you know that it’s being served that day before you even enter foot into the old farmer-style establishment because the aroma is tantalizing. Savory, I think is the word for it. Sweet with garlic and a little tart because of the vinegar. Absolutely divine. Their mixture is served on sliced french bread, toasted in the oven with olive oil.

Done with some proper balance, I think the tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil and (in my case, balsamic vinegar) mixture that goes on top of some type of toasted or soft bread or crunchy crustini is the type of food that almost everyone can sink his or her teeth into and enjoy. And when you top chicken with it, it’s not just an appetizer anymore. It’s a meal.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. I love it. My husband loves it. And remarkably my kids eat it!

Ingredients (to serve four people):

-1 pound of thin sliced chicken breasts or three chicken breast steaks pounded out thin inside of a zipper bag
-Three tomatoes, diced
-Five or six leaves of fresh basil, rolled together and cut into thin strips (or you could use a half tablespoon of dried basil)
-Two cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
-Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (and a little extra to brush the checkin with)
-One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
-Shredded parmesan cheese
-Garlic powder
-Salt and pepper
-1 pound of spaghetti
-Two green zucchinis, diced (if desired)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Start boiling salted water for the spaghetti.

Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup!). Brush the chicken breasts on both sides with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Season with a little garlic powder, salt and pepper. Lay the chicken evenly on the baking sheet and place on the top rack of the oven. Bake on the first side about eight minutes or until golden.

Add spaghetti to the boiling water. If desired, add a stacker-steamer pot to the top of the pot and steam some cut-up zucchini while the pasta is cooking.

In the meantime, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. When hot, toss in the tomatoes and garlic. Saute until the veggies are soft. Add the basil and balsamic vinegar and saute for a small amount of time. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from the heat.

Flip chicken breasts and cook another eight minutes or until golden. Next, transfer the chicken breasts to a foil-lined baking dish so the chicken lines up but doesn’t overlap. Top the chicken with the tomato mixture, top with parmesan cheese, turn your oven on broil and broil until the top is melted and bubbly.

Toss the spaghetti with a small amount of olive oil and salt. Plate pasta on each person’s plate and place one or two chicken breasts with bruschetta mixture on top. Enjoy!