Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Slow Cooked Chicken Two Ways

Tortilla loaded with chicken, cabbage, avocado, sour cream, etc.
DIY Taco in the Works

Recipes for Tacos and Chicken with Pasta

Slow cookers. Gotta love a device that cooks dinner for you. It’s even better when it cooks two dinners at once, and they’re both comfort foods. With my friend Jenn’s help, a couple years back I multiplexed my slow cooking with a Turkey Chili and Soup idea. Tacos (Jenn’s original idea) and chicken with pasta are this year’s double dinners. Like the super-simple originals, just a few ingredients go into the slow cooker, and other dinner preparation is minimal. This leaves plenty of time for other fun activities on cold winter nights.

Taco with Fillings next to dish of Chicken in Tomato Sauce
Another DIY Taco
My pasta of choice is spaghetti squash, which takes about an hour to prepare in the oven. If you’re adventurous, you can try microwaving it in much less time. See my post on preparing spaghetti squash for details.  Or use any other pasta that you prefer. Adjust the taco fixin’s to include your favorites. Cabbage, avocado, and parsley are in season, but sliced cherry tomatoes and cilantro are possibilities.

Closeup of Chicken over Spaghetti squash "pasta"
Next Dinner: Tomato-y Chicken over Pasta
The flavor of your sauce depends upon the flavor of the salsa and tomato sauce that you put into the slow cooker. I used my own home-canned salsa and chunky tomato sauce, which contain onions, garlic, and jalapenos. So I just added some Italian seasoning. If you like, you can add other dried seasonings, sundried tomatoes in olive oil, and/or a few chopped garlic cloves and an onion to the pot before cooking. Please leave a comment if you have more ideas for slow cooking two meals at once.

Serving Dishes of All you Need to make a Perfect Taco
The Taco Bar is Open!
Slow Cooked Chicken for Tacos and Pasta
serves about 8

The Chicken:
2½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. mixed Italian herbs
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 pint (16 oz.) chunky salsa
1 pint (16 oz.) chunky tomato sauce

Make a layer of chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with herbs and garlic. Pour in salsa and tomato sauce. Be sure that all chicken is covered with sauce.

Turn slow cooker on to high and cook 4 – 6 hours. After it’s cooked, it’s tastiest to keep in warming in the pot until dinner.

Taco with Fillings topped with Salsa
One More Taco
Tacos for Two:
1 large slow cooked chicken breast with sauce
Parsley or Cilantro
Green onions
Cheese if desired
Sour cream or yogurt
Lemon or lime wedges
Corn tortillas (I used blue corn & flaxseed)

Shred chicken breast and add enough tomato sauce to moisten it well. Chop cabbage finely. Chop cilantro and green onions. Slice or cube avocados. Grate cheese if using. Spoon yogurt and salsa into serving dishes if desired.

Set up a self-serve “taco bar” by piling the prepared toppings and lemon or lime wedges onto a serving platter or two.

Heat skillet on high and heat up tacos one at a time, heating both sides until taco is hot and flexible. Call diners to make their own!

Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Pasta for Four - Six:
Remaining Chicken breasts with Tomato Sauce
3½ lb. spaghetti squash, or any pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)
Parsley (optional garnish)
Hot sauce (optional garnish)

Allow one hour to cook spaghetti squash in oven, about 20 minutes to microwave. For details, see my how to cook spaghetti squash post. Or prepare your favorite pasta according to directions.

While squash or pasta is cooking, heat up chicken and sauce if they’ve been refrigerated. Cut large chicken breasts in half.

Serve chicken and tomato sauce over spaghetti squash or pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley if desired, or add a couple of shakes of hot sauce. Or layer squash, chicken, and sauce in a container to be microwaved for a hearty lunch.

Travel Container Layered with Spaghetti Squash, Chicken, and Tomato Sauce
How to Pack a Yummy Lunch

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