I love Italian food, I love coming home from work to a kitchen that is full of the simmering aromatic smells of my favorite dishes without having to slave away in the kitchen.
I have taken some of Grandma's best dishes and started experimenting with the crock pot. The goal is to do all the chopping and prep at night or on the weekend and just dump the goods in the crock pot while my coffee is brewing in the morning and let it simmer all day, so I can come home to dinner.
The first meal is a Hearty Garden Chicken Cattiatore, using fresh, canned or frozen veggies, chicken thighs and some common seasonings, you can have a great meal with little prep.
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Step 1: Get It Together
Gather up the ingredients:
4 Chicken thighs, skinless (the skin just ends up being oily and mushy in the crock-pot)
1 large onion
2 bell peppers (I used one red & one green)
1 lb fresh tomatoes
1/2 lb Mushrooms
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning (I grow/dry/grind my own with basil, oregano, rosemary & thyme)
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper
Have on Hand:
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Dry Red Wine
6 oz Tomato Paste
Have your Knifes, cutting board and baggies or Tupperware ready.
Step 2: Night Before
Cut and prepare the tomatoes.
I used plum tomatoes, simply cut off the stem end, give them a quick squeeze to get rid of some of the seeds then give them a rough dice, I like my veggies a bit chunky, do what you prefer.
I mix the seasonings right into the tomatoes in a Tupperware, one less thing I have to do in the morning.
Pop on a lid, toss in the fridge.
Time saving tip: substitute 1 can of Italian Seasoned Diced Tomatoes. Easy. Done.
Prepare your Onions
Clean up and chop your onion, Once again I did a rough chop, feel free to dice as small or chunky as you wish.
Now put your onions in a Tupperware or baggie and pop in the fridge.
Time saving tip: FROZEN! Really? Yes, it will lack some crunch, but still quite tasty.
Now the Bell Peppers
Wash and seed your peppers, chop or dice to the desired texture. Shovel into a Tupperware or baggie and pop in the fridge.
Time saver: Frozen, once again, lacks some crunch but still quite good.
Wash & slice up your mushrooms, same procedure as the others.
Time saving tip: Pre-sliced, pre-washed, I went this route this time, because they just happened to be on sale.
I used bone in chicken thighs, after cooking all day the meat just fell off the bones, it was fantastic.
Boneless thighs or breasts can easily be substituted. I suggest removing the skins, they end up pretty flat and flavorless and make the entire meal a little too oily.
Just take the chicken, sprinkle with some salt & pepper and put in a gallon baggie in the fridge with the rest.
Now just clean up the cutting board and knife, and take out the crock-pot and go relax.
Step 3: Good Morning
Go grab the goods out of the fridge
And the other stuff
Add everything into the crock-pot, I start with the broth and paste, then the chicken, then onions & peppers, tomatoes, then mushrooms on top, then pour the wine over it.
Now turn on the Crock-pot to low, let cook for 6-9 hours.
Step 4: Serve!
Really. You can come home (make sure to take a deep breath when you walk in the door) and eat. You can serve it right out of the crock-pot, serve it over pasta, maybe add a salad or some garlic bread.
All I did to make a complete meal was on my way home I picked up a loaf of Italian bread, and cooked up a pot of egg noodles.
Grab a slotted spoon and scoop over the pasta. Serve with a slice of Italian bread to soak up the sauce and veggies.
(There will be lots of broth at the bottom of the Crock-pot, save it to make a quick soup during the week.)