Sometimes what a fast paced life needs is just a little bit of slow...in the form of a slowcooker, of course. There is nothing like coming home from a long, busy day and opening the door to the welcoming, wafting aroma of a hearty dinner.
In this case, chicken and sweet Italian sausage simmered with red and green bell peppers, red onion, yellow squash, eggplant, garlic, spinach, mushrooms, fresh basil and a good jarred marinara sauce into a stew-like delight that I served over gluten-free spaghetti. Kimber enjoyed hers over spaghetti squash, but you could just as easily simply serve it in bowls as a veggie-hearty Italian stew.
When it comes to slow cooking, I like to take a few extra steps to ensure good depth of flavor. It might take a little bit longer to brown the chicken and sausage before loading them into the crock, but the difference in the end is worth it.
Think of the difference between roasted chicken and boiled chicken...THAT'S the difference...I like to call it oomph. Then, too, I deglaze the pan with the marinara sauce and a little water to get every single smidgen of goodness into the slowcooker and, eventually, into your mouth!
So here's the recipe for a vitamin-rich, hearty, colorful, e a s y one-pot wonder of a dinner. What more do you need? Oh yeah...a glass of good red wine would be very nice.
Slow Cooker Italian Sausage, Chicken & Veggie Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 sweet Italian sausage links
- salt and pepper, to taste
- granulated garlic, to taste
- 1 small red pepper, seeded, 1/2" dice
- 1 small green pepper, seeded, 1/2" dice
- 1/2 large red onion, cut into slivers approx 1/4" wide
- 1 small yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and across into 1/4" slices
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cups spinach, torn
- 1 large eggplant, cubed
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
- 2 teaspoons oregano, dried
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, your favorite store-bought brand
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Season chicken with salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste. Brown the chicken breasts and sausages until just cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Leave the drippings in the skillet and set aside.
Add the veggies to a large slow cooker. Slice the chicken across the grain, slice the sausages into 1 1/2" pieces and mix into the veggies in the crock. Any juices that may have accumulated from slicing the meats, add them to the skillet.
To the skillet, add the marinara sauce to the pan juices, add water and tomato paste and stir up all the brown bits over low heat. Pour over the meats and veggies in the crock and mix gently.
Cover and turn heat to high for an hour. After the hour, turn the slow cooker down to low and cook for another 5 hours. When ready to serve, mix the water and cornstarch together and stir gently but thoroughly into the meats and veggies to thicken the sauce. Serve as is as a stew or over pasta or spaghetti squash.
One dish dinner, baby!
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