As my husband and I have renewed our commitment to truly take a day of rest every week, meals have continued to throw a wrench in our plans. Coming home after church to cook lunch and clean up afterwards simply doesn’t feel restful to us. The whole process takes an hour at best (often much longer), when all we really want to do is grab a bite and fall into bed for a nap.
Thus, we have regularly succumbed to the let’s-go-out-to-lunch-just-this-once-because-we-don’t-feel-like-cooking line. On one hand, it’s not a terrible decision because we do have an eating out budget, and we stick to it. On the other hand, it’s so much nicer to plan on eating out, look forward to it, and then enjoy the experience–even if it’s just Chipotle (that dining out budget is pretty small!). That’s a completely different scenario than “I didn’t plan” or “I’m too tired to cook” or “I’m just feeling lazy today,” although those are perfectly legitimate reasons to use occasionally. But not every Sunday!
In my search for a solution, I have tried planning to eat leftovers on Sundays. It always sounds like a good idea (no cooking, almost no clean-up), but it rarely works well for us. I like having leftovers on Monday for J to take to work, and if we eat all the leftovers on Sunday, well, there’s nothing left. I had also given up on crockpot recipes. Most are not gluten-free and are terribly unhealthy, calling for lots of canned soups (which contain preservatives, MSG, and gobs of refined salt) and almost no vegetables.
Then, one day, I stumbled upon Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa on Kimi Harris’s blog, The Nourishing Gourmet. Intrigued, I decided to give it a shot. I have prepared it twice now, once for a “normal” day and once for Sunday (which was yesterday). I cannot possibly tell you how wonderful it was to come home to a hot, tasty meal after church. We walked in, I stirred the dish, shredded the chicken, and we were ready to eat. Just like that. It was heavenly. Clean up was a breeze, and we even had plenty of leftovers for my dinner last night and both of our lunches today. I couldn’t be happier. For now, this is going on our menu plan for every Sunday. No, I don’t like that much repetition, but until I can find something else to add to the rotation, I’m sticking with this dish. It works too well to cast aside.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be the same every time I make it. I throw in whatever extra vegetables I have lying around to create some variety. The first time I made it, I used white wine, rosemary, butter and cream (hubby needs the calories), and some finely diced yellow squash that needed to be eaten. For yesterday’s meal, I tried the apple cider vinegar, thyme, cream, no butter and no onion (I forgot), and I tossed in the last few leaves of kale I had in the fridge, the last of my frozen peas, and a cup or so of straggling green beans that were about to turn. With these variations, it didn’t even feel like the same dish. In other words, this is a base recipe, the kind that morphs to accommodate virtually anything you have left in the fridge at the end of the week. Experiment with it and see what you love.
To make this easy for Sunday lunch, I prepare this on Saturday night. I put the quinoa in a bowl of water with a splash of kefir to soak overnight. This step isn’t necessary, although it’s helpful for nutritional purposes (improves digestion and mineral absorption). Then I add all the other ingredients to the basin of my crockpot, cover, and put it in the fridge. When I wake up on Sunday morning, I drain and rinse the quinoa and add it to the crockpot. I turn it on to high, and it’s done 5 hours later, which is about when we arrive home. If you want, though, you can make this anytime of day or night, and you don’t need to start a day early.
Crockpot Quinoa and Chicken
(slightly adapted from the recipe at The Nourishing Gourmet)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (preferably soaked overnight in water and a splash of kefir, yogurt, or apple cider vinegar)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or another favorite cut
5 carrots, chopped
5 celery, sliced
assorted vegetables (try green beans, green peas, summer squash, kale, spinach, broccoli, etc)
3 cloves garlic, peeled (you can mince them or just add them whole)
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (water works in a pinch)
2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar plus 1/2 cup water
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary or thyme (2 teaspoons if dried)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream (raw is best)
Place all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove the chicken and shred. Return to the pot, stir, and you’re ready to eat.