April 6, 2011

Barbecue chicken without the grill, without the allergies

I enjoy feeding my family more than I ever thought I would.  There is something about creating a nourishing meal and seeing my family dig in that gives me satisfaction and pride.  But as much as I like cooking and baking, there are days when I really need a break!  These are the same days when I envy folks who have the choice to simply drive to a restaurant and find something their kids can and will eat without any fear of bringing on an allergic reaction.

I recently took the plunge and ordered a 6-quart slow cooker for the family. If you're not familiar with slow cookers or Crock Pots (the most well-known brand), you simply put all your ingredients in the ceramic liner pot, put on the cover, set to low, and your food is done after several hours.  (Okay, there might be a couple more steps in the middle depending on the recipe but, still, SO simple!)  Stirring is actually discouraged in the first few hours because a lot of the cooking heat is lost each time the cover is removed.  I love a cooking tool that is trying to keep me out of the kitchen!  The low-heat, no-fuss cooking allows me to safely leave the food to cook while the kids and I run about the house or around town doing our daily activities.

I have used the slow cooker a few times in the last three weeks.  Most recently I made about six pounds of barbecue chicken for a big party.  I used Trader Joe's Bold and Smoky Kansas City Barbecue Sauce, which is free of the top 8 allergens and also free of high fructose corn syrup.  A review by BBQ Sauce Reviews Blog lists its ingredients and pretty much sums up how I feel about this sauce:

Easy Barbecue Chicken

2-6 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs
2 medium red onions, chopped
1-2 bottles of your favorite barbecue sauce

  1. Layer onions, chicken, and sauce in slow cooker.  Add enough barbecue sauce so that the chicken is barely completely covered. 
  2. Cook on low heat for 5 hours.  Avoid uncovering the pot (and losing precious cooking heat) during this time if possible.
  3. At 5 hours, your food should be fully or mostly cooked.  There will be quite a bit of liquid in the pot (juice and sauce combined). Take out chicken pieces to cut or shred them into bite-size pieces.
  4. Ladle out a lot of the excess juice, reserving it in a bowl.
  5. Put cut chicken back in slow cooker.  Add more barbecue sauce.  Add back some of the excess juices so that chicken can continue to baste.
  6. Continue to cook on low until you are ready to serve. 
The chicken tastes great over rice or on hamburger buns.  Make a big batch and freeze leftovers for an easy meal down the road.  I paired our barbecue chicken with cornbread using Dana Saly's blue-ribbon vegan cornbread recipe .  The only change I made to the recipe was to slather one tablespoon each of Earth Balance and maple syrup on top of the finished cornbread as it cooled down.

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