There’s no doubt that slow cookers are a boon for braising meats and making hearty chilis during the long, cold months of winter, but don’t pack yours away as soon as the weather warms up. As spring approaches, a slow cooker is still a great way to cook nearly effortless meals, and clean up is a breeze. In summer, the slow cooker is a lifesaver when it’s too hot to turn on the oven or stand over a hot stove. On really sizzling summer days, I’ve even plugged my slow cooker in outdoors and let a meal cook for friends while we all sipped iced drinks in an umbrella’s cool shade.
This slow cooker recipe for Chicken with Quinoa and Spring Vegetables is light but hearty. As the chicken gently cooks for hours it becomes extremely tender and juicy, but it’s the quinoa that’s the real surprise in this dish.
You might wonder why anyone would bother making quinoa in a slow cooker when it’s so easy to make on the stove (I know I did). But then I cooked this dish and discovered how slow cooking the tiny pearls of quinoa with lots of broth brought out even more flavor. When the cooking time is complete, the quinoa and chicken mixture will be sticky, as most of the liquid will have cooked off. But when you stir in more chicken broth a little bit at a time, the mixture takes on a silky texture almost like a fine risotto. You can adjust the amount of extra broth you add so that your finished dish is just the way you like it.
After you add the pesto (you can use prepared pesto, or make your own) and thawed frozen peas to the slow cooker, heat a pan over medium heat and sauté shredded carrots (I bought them shredded to save time) for two minutes, then add chopped asparagus and sauté for two more minutes. Lightly cooking these spring vegetables on the stove keeps their flavors and colors bright. After you plate your dish, add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top of each to bring all of the flavors together with a little unexpected richness.
Watch the video below to see how easy it is to make this dish!
Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa with Spring Vegetables
Total Time: 3 hrs. 56 min.
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cooking Time: 3 hrs. 36 min.
Yield: 8 servings, about 1 cup each
1½ cups dry quinoa
1 lb. raw chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch cubes
7 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth, divided use
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried basil (or chives or parsley)
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
6 tsp. prepared pesto sauce
3 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups shredded (or grated) carrots
1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place quinoa, chicken, 4 cups broth, garlic, and basil in a 3-quart slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Mix well and cover; cook on low for 3 to 3½ hours, or until chicken is not pink and quinoa is tender. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
2. Remove lid. Add remaining 3 cups broth, 1 cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of risotto. You may not need to add all of the broth.
3. Add pesto sauce, peas, and lemon juice; mix well and cover. Set aside.
4. Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Add carrots; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until carrots are tender-crisp.
6. Add asparagus; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until asparagus is tender-crisp.
7. Fold carrot mixture into quinoa mixture; mix well.
8. Top each serving with 1 Tbsp. cheese.
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