Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

slow_cooker_chickenThere’s a part of Rhode Island fairly well known for something they like to call Family Style Chicken.  Each restaurant has its own subtle variation, but, generally speaking, it involves some herbed/salty fall off the bone chicken, pasta with marinara sauce and, if done correctly, both roasted potatoes AND french fries.  It really is a meal made in heaven.  And I was lucky enough to eat it fairly frequently growing up.

I’ve tried loads of chicken recipes over the years–roasted, baked, in the dutch oven, on the grill, in the slow cooker–all in search of recreating that wondrous fall off the bone preparation.  It wasn’t until I came across a marvelously simple approach to cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker that the stars finally aligned.

I don’t think I would have made it through the five months that I had two kids under two without this meal.  We ate it every week.  Even the engineer started to complain a little (not as much if I served roasted brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes with it).  As with most of my bestest recipes, this one is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand.  Only have onions to throw in the bottom of the cooker?  No problem.  Want to use dried herbs instead?  Fantastic.  Nothing to stuff into the bird?  Who cares.  There is actually no way to ruin this preparation.  Well, except maybe if you lost power during the day at some point.  That would definitely ruin it.  Oh, one other word of caution.  Don’t mess with the chicken parts.  As in, think you’ll be all healthy and use boneless skinless breasts instead.  It is possible to substitute split chicken breasts (on the bone, with skin).  However, add some liquid (water or chicken stock) prior to cooking, definitely cook on low and don’t expect the results to be quite as moist (although, will still beat baked chicken any day of the week).

One other note–DEFINITELY use your scraps to make chicken stock.  This little trick is almost as good as the chicken itself.  Once you’ve eaten dinner, return all of the bones, skin, and ickies to the slow cooker.  Fill it up with water and throw in whatever you’ve got that may make stock taste good (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns). Cook on low overnight, strain all of the bits out, refrigerate for 24 hours, skim the fat off the top and use or freeze as needed!

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
Prep time
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Total time
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Serves: 6
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (or 1½ cups baby carrots)
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (one large or 2 regular sized sprigs)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  1. Slice the onions, carrots and celery and place in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the bay leaves and 3 of the thyme sprigs
  2. Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the sprigs and place them along with the garlic, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor (alternatively, chop/mince with a knife)
  3. Remove the chicken from its packaging
  4. Remove the neck and innards from the cavity
  5. Rinse the bird inside and out
  6. Pat dry with a paper towel and place on top of the onions, carrots and celery, breast side up (note: I accidentally cooked the chicken breast side down and results were equally great, dare I say even moister)
  7. Stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters
  8. Smear the rosemary mixture over the skin of the bird and drizzle the olive oil over the mixture to moisten it slightly
  9. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5



Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs

chick_teriyaki_meatball2So, it’s some kind of crime that I haven’t already mentioned my love affair with my slow cooker.  All three of them.  I don’t mention the number to suggest my kitchen is excessively or lavishly stocked (it isn’t).  I mention this to convey the depth of my devotion (dependence, really) on this extraordinary little device.  It’s brilliant for summer time cooking when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.  Equally brilliant during the winter just for the plethora of comfort dishes it’s well-suited for (not to mention how amazing it makes your house smell).  Ok, so we are all agreed then.  Slow cookers are essential.  And when you can cross them with something else equally essential like, oh, a MEATBALL, well jack pot.

The recipe here is actually for a double batch of meatballs.  It’s the only way I roll.  Trust me, the next time you’re coming up empty for time and dinner ideas and you remember you’ve got a meatball stash in the freezer, you’ll thank me.  Another thing you should know about me and meatballs–I only bake them.  Because I don’t mess with perfection when I’ve found it.

I usually make the meatballs during nap time and then throw them in the slow cooker for the rest of the day, but you could very easily make them the night before (or pull them out of the freezer) and slow cook all day.  In a pinch, you could also make them at dinner time and just quickly simmer them on the stovetop.  I used bottled teriyaki sauce today (here’s my favorite MSG-free brand), because that’s what I had handy, but if you’ve got the time and the recipe to from-scratch it, do it!

Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
Prep time
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Total time
Serves: 4
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 scallions (greens only), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • ¼ cup cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Prepare two baking sheets either with a baking rack or by lining them with parchment paper
  3. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and stir until just combined (alternatively, use a large bowl and clean hands to mix)
  4. Using a small scoop (2-tbsp sized), measure equal sized portions of the meat mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet
  5. Once all of the mixture has been scooped out, roll each meatball gently with hands until evenly rounded
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes (if using parchment paper, turn meatballs after 10 minutes)
  7. In the meantime, turn the slow cooker on to low and add the teriyaki sauce
  8. Wash, peel and chop the carrots into one-inch pieces (larger if slow cooking all day)
  9. Add the carrots to the slow cooker
  10. When the meatballs are done cooking, remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before placing half of them (about 20 meatballs) into the slow cooker
  11. Let the meatballs, carrots and sauce simmer on low in the slow cooker for at least 3-4 hours
  12. Just before serving, remove the meatballs from the slow cooker
  13. Combine 2 tbsp flour with ¼ cup cold water and stir
  14. Add the flour mixture to the sauce in the slow cooker and stir for one minute
  15. Return the meatballs to the slow cooker and mix gently to coat the meatballs in the sauce
  16. Serve over rice or thing spaghetti
  17. To freeze the other half of the meatballs, allow meatballs to cool to room temperature. Place them in the freezer on a baking sheet or glass pan in a single layer for about 30 minutes or until partially frozen. Remove from freezer, place in freezer bags and return to freezer until ready to use.





Easy Fried Rice

fried_rice_bowlOne of the bummers about having a food sensitivity in the family is that eating out can be tricky.  And by tricky, I mean we don’t do it very often.  Asian restaurants typically top the charts in terms of restaurants we can’t eat at, so when we find one that’s “safe”, we latch on.  And by latch on, I mean we’ve been going to our favorite place for over 10 years.  We’ve moved a few times over the years, though, and it’s no longer even close to convenient to get there, so we’ve had to find a way to make our favorite dishes at home. This fried rice is inspired by a similar dish at our favorite place.  It’s not an overly salty version to begin with (which is why the engineer has always liked it — doesn’t seem likely there could be MSG hiding in it!) , so if you were looking for a salt and MSG fix, keep googling.  The beauty of this recipe to me is that it only involves ingredients that I ALWAYS have in my kitchen.  Perfect for those nights when I have no time and no groceries.  Cooking the rice with a bouillon cube is an easy way to impart some additional flavor (here is my favorite MSG-free bouillon).  If you’ve got a wok, great, if you don’t like me, just use a cast iron skillet or non stick pan.

Easy Fried Rice
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Serves: 4
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ vegetable bouillon cube (or enough to make 1 cup stock)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ - 2 cups frozen vegetable medley
  • ¼ soy sauce
  1. Prepare the rice by combining the rice, water, olive oil and bouillon cube in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and reduce to simmer.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is fluffy but not mushy.
  4. Once the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork and set it aside.
  5. Beat the egg and cook it in a nonstick pan or skillet or medium heat as if you were scrambling it.
  6. Meanwhile, place frozen vegetables in microwave for 30 seconds (if they have not already thawed)
  7. Add vegetables, rice and soy sauce.
  8. Stir to combine.


The Infinitely Adaptable Taco

taco_mixTacos are a staple in our house.  Not only because they are an easy, last minute fix, but because, if made correctly, our whole family can eat them–baby through engineer.  It doesn’t hurt that I, personally, could eat tacos almost every day of the week.  The one challenge we do have in our house is with taco seasoning.  It’s kind of a big no-no.  There was one mainstream brand we used for many years that didn’t make the engineer sick, but they’ve started to subtly change ingredients over the years, so, we finally called it quits.  As it turns out, you can make your own with spices you most likely already have in your pantry.  This is a huge bonus for me as I had been known to plan tacos for dinner, only to realize at 5:15 that we were out of taco seasoning.

We all eat our tacos differently right now–baby, totally deconstructed and strewn across her high chair table–meat and avocado.  Toddler, starts rolled up, but usually ends up eating the filling with fingers–meat,tomatoes, avocado and extra cheese.  Me, rolled with pickles on the side–meat, salsa, avocado (dairy free right now because of baby, but normally EXTRA sour cream).  And, finally, the engineer.  Rolled with pickles (he got this idea from me), avocado, extra cheese and hot sauce.

Here’s how I like to make the seasoning mix for our family.  It’s a mild version so that the little palettes and heart burn sufferers stay happy.  If you like your tacos with a kick, experiment with adding more chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.

The Infinitely Adaptable Taco
Prep time
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Serves: 4
Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1½ tsp paprika
  • 5 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 3 tbsp taco seasoning
  • tortillas or hard taco shells
  • salsa
  • avocado/guacamole
  • shredded lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  1. Combine all spices together and store in an airtight container.
  2. To make ground beef/turkey/chicken tacos, brown 1 lb of preferred ground meat.
  3. Sprinkle the meat with flour and stir to combine.
  4. Add the taco season and water and stir.
  5. Let simmer 5 minutes, uncovered, or until sauce is desired thickness.
  6. If using tortillas, place 1-4 tortillas between damped paper towels and microwave on high 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  7. Add meat and toppings to tortilla/taco shell and serve immediately.