Introduction: Three Course Meal in a Single Slow Cooker Batch
I cook with my slow cooker at least 3 times a week, and I was tired of the just one dish dinners. Or having to prepare something extra while the main dish was in the slow cooker.
That’s why I started experimenting cooking several dishes at once. I thought that a slow cooker is basically an oven. So why not use it like the oven? In my first attempts, the flavours got slightly mixed, but it was a matter of trial and error (more errors than trials) until I perfected the method to get great results every time.
Slow cookers offer many advantages, meat and poultry cook in its own juices making them tender and very flavourful; they are easy to use; it is very versatile you can make many types of food, and it’s very practical as you can prepare a delicious and nutritious food in just minutes and let it cook alone.
In this instructable you’ll learn how to take advantage of all that in a single batch!
The best part is that prep time for this outstanding meal took me 20 minutes. (And I was taking pictures, so you should make it even quicker!) And yes, it requires planning in advance to let it cook at least 3 hours, but I rather plan and have my afternoon free, than trying to cook at the last minute and spend more than 1 hour in the kitchen. That’s why I love my slow cooker.
The menu I chose to show you today is delicious and very nutritious. It is high in fibre and protein and the dessert tastes amazing without having refined sugar or flour. All the ingredients are fresh, (I hate the slow cooker recipes that ask for lots of canned food). It is also gluten free (if you chose the correct oats and ham).
We are going to make a lentil and veggie soup, stuffed chicken and pouched pears. But I’ll give you all the tips you’ll need to customize the menu to what your own family is used to eat.
Disclaimer: read your slow cooker manual, although slow cookers work the same way, everyone is responsible of knowing the capabilities and details of their own kitchen equipment. I’ve cooked with this method dozens of times and I’ve never had a problem. Cooking chicken or other meats in the slow cooker is somewhat controversial. Thousands of people (including me) cook them without problem, but that’s a personal decision. Try this method at your own risk, it can be addictive!
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
For the stuffed chicken:
- Two boneless skinless chicken breast
- Marbled or mozzarella cheese.
For the lentil soup:
- One carrot
- Two celery sticks
- 3/4 cup lentils
- 2 1/4 cup water
For the pouched pears
- 3 tbsp old fashioned oats
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 pears
To plate the chicken:
- 1/2 romaine lettuce
- Chipotle sauce (or your favourite one)
*The quantities specified above are perfect for a family of 3 or 2 adults and 2 kids. My slow cooker is a 6 quart slow cooker, and everything fits nicely. Remember than when making meals with several courses the portions are smaller.
Step 2: Make the Soup
Wash the lentils, let them soak for one minute in a bowl, if you see little pieces floating discard them.
While the lentils are soaking, peel the carrot. Then dice the carrot and celery sticks.
Put all the lentils, carrots, celery and water in a camping mug, or a small ceramic pot. Just make sure it fits inside your slow cooker and that it’s oven safe (without plastic parts). The heat inside a slow cooker isn’t much, so as long as it’s oven safe that’s enough.
Add a little bit of salt. Once it’s done you can taste it and add more salt of needed.
Now cover the top of the mug with tin foil.
You can substitute the lentils with split peas, beans or chickpeas. And the veggies with whatever your family likes. You can even add frozen ones.
You can also make a small batch of your favourite soup recipe, as long as it’s cooking time is similar to the other things you’ll put in the slow cooker.
Step 3: Make the Stuffed Chicken
Cut lengthwise each chicken breast, you should have three pieces from each chicken breast.
Put one piece inside a plastic bag and bang it with a rolling pin. Carefully so it doesn’t break. You will end up with a larger and thinner piece of chicken.
Put a ham slice on top of the chicken, then a pice of cheese.
Roll the chicken to cover the cheese.
Place three rolls in a large piece of tin foil, (make sure the tin foil isn’t pierced). Then add salt and pepper.
Now wrap the tin foil. Fold each side upwards. Make sure the tin foil is big enough to cover everything. The chicken shouldn’t be snug inside the tin foil packet.
You should end up with a FLAT packet per chicken breast. This is important because we’ll need to pile things over these two packets later.
You can replace the chicken with beef; replace the stuffing with veggies, salami, or even nuts; or make something different like salmon or other fish with herbs or veggies.
Step 4: Make the Pears
Cut the pears in halves. Then use the knife to remove the seeds.
Mix the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Place the pear over a big piece of tin foil.
Put the oats mixture over the pear.
Now to wrap this one bring all the tin foil upwards (pointing the ceiling) then twist the end as shown in the image.
This is the perfect desert to cook with this method because the oats absorb the extra moisture created while the pear cooks. It also helps that we won't remove the skin, so all the juices remain inside the pear. Follow these instructions and it won´t leak. That’s why they will be placed on top of the chicken.
Oats, brown sugar and cinnamon will be perfect with apples too. Or make the same recipe with peaches. If I’m making peaches I like to add cardamom and ginger to the oats.
For a more festive desert serve with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.
Step 5: The Correct Way to Place Different Food Inside the Slow Cooker
The first food you have to put in your slow cooker is the soup. It shouldn’t have anything on top, because it will make steam and it needs to get out. That’s why we put the tin foil, to guide the extra moisture to the bottom of the slow cooker and avoid mixing flavours.
On the remaining space place the main dish, I put one packet of poultry on top of the other. This one is going to leak a little bit too, but by placing it on the bottom it won’t matter.
Then at the very top place the dessert.
Cover the slow cooker and cook for 3 - 3:30 hours on high or 7 - 8 on low. The magic of this specific menu I chose, is that everything will cook at the same time. If you’ve cooked lentils or other legumes, use that time as a reference.
Step 6: Tips!!!
-Avoid using very strong spices, like cumin or curry. Or recipes where the meat cooks in a sauce. You can add them later, once the slow cooker has done its magic.
-If you want to make a dish that must be cooked with a sauce (like pulled pork) You can place two mugs inside the slow cooker, one for the soup, and the other for the main dish.
-For a different dessert, you can use a recipe for cake in a mug and place an oven safe mug, covered with tin foil, in the slow cooker. But don’t cook it with other food that would take longer, or the cake can get burnt.
-For the soup, don’t overflow the pot, leave at least 1.5 inches on top to give it space to boil.
Have fun creating your own menus and enjoy all the exra time now you'll have!
Runner Up in the
Slow Cooker Challenge