The thing I love most about culinary experiments, are the times when you just "wing it" and they surprise you by turning out fabulous. This adventure was inspired by the fact that I was about to head out to my second dance of the day and I knew that I was gonna be extra hungry for something substantial, nutritious and heartwarming by the time I arrived home for the evening. Knowing that I had some chicken in the freezer I could thaw was the first step. The tomatoes on my counter that needed to be used soon, put me one push closer to my creation. The eggplant that was gifted to me earlier in the day, sealed the deal, so here is what I did:
Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore
2 chicken legs (thawed, skin on)
2 chicken drumsticks (thawed, skin off)
1 chicken thigh (thawed, skin off)
(I regularly check out the "picnic packages" of chicken when they're on sale, buy organic when I can, and then portion them into small freezer bags so that I can thaw them as needed for a meal)
3 large ripe tomatoes
(I tend to use fresh tomatoes if they are in season ONLY. Off season ones tend to lack sweetness and flavor, and are often mealy. I hate mealy tomatoes.)
1 small can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
(Muir Glen Organic is my favorite)
1/2 yellow summer squash, diced
1/2 medium sized eggplant, peeled and cubed
4 cloves of garlic, roasted and peeled
5 large leaves of red chard
1 large stem of broccoli, peeled and cubed
(This is a great way to utilize the health benefits of broccoli, without wasting what most Americans consider the unusable part of the vegetable. Make sure you peel or cut away the tougher, fibrous outside of the stem)
several small onions, chopped
1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce
(I love finding super deals on marinades and sauces at Grocery Outlet and keeping them on hand for just an occasion as this! That said, I have also used pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa, V-8 or other tomato based things...)
crushed black pepper
1 cup of quinoa
medium to large Crock Pot
Start by thawing your chicken. Since this meal was a last minute thought and I only had 1/2 hour to prepare it, I defrosted the chicken in the sink, changing the water frequently, as my mother has always done. By the time you are done preparing all of the other ingredients, the chicken should be ready to go. When fully thawed, remove the skin off of 3/4 of the chicken. Leave a little skin on for flavor and for fat, to help break ingredients down as they cook.
Grab your garlic cloves, set on toaster pan or baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray or brush with olive oil and roast them at 300. When they become fragrant and soft, remove from heat and cool.
De-vein your chard leaves, chopping the stems and onions and set aside.
Chop up the remaining leaves and set aside.
Cube eggplant, broccoli and summer squash and add them to the bottom of the pot. (Veggies always take longer to cook in crock pots than meats do, so they need to be closest to the heating element.)
Sauté onions and chard stems in a little olive oil and add to the pot.
Slice up tomatoes and add them (peel and all) to pot.
Add can of fire roasted tomatoes and 1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce.
Season with basil, oregano and black pepper.
Squeeze garlic gloves out of their skins and into pot.
Submerge larger pieces of chicken first and lay smaller legs and thighs on top of mixture.
Turn on high and let be for 4-5 hours.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and return to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Fluff with fork.
The meal is done when you can grab a chicken bone with tongs and the meat just falls off the bone.
Remove all of the large bones and any skin left, with tongs and discard.
Stir and salt to preference.
Ladle over quinoa in bowls, with shredded asiago on top. YUM!
For more information regarding the benefits and nutrition in the ingredients I used (many of which are particularly wonderful in assisting with weight loss), click on the links below: