Italian Chicken with Garden Vegetables
If you know me at all, you know that I love to grow things: children, vegetables and flowers. Gardening is a passion and a source of true joy for me. It started with food and spread to flowers. I almost didn't have a vegetable garden this year because we got a late freeze that killed all my plants, and then we immediately left for two weeks to Costa Rica. We had one week at home before we left for another two weeks, and I swore I wasn't doing it all over again. This year would be my first in 11 years without a garden. Those who heard me say it just rolled their eyes because they knew I couldn't resist putting in another vegetable garden in mid-June before we left on the second trip. It's coming in beautifully and, as always, the first summer fruits of the garden for me are squash and zucchini.
Besides tomatoes, most gardeners grow zucchini, yellow squash, or both, and they usually produce far more than any family can eat. Fresh squash and zucchini from my very own garden! I made these! Let's eat them all! After a few weeks, we start throwing them to the chickens, who, after about week two, also turn up their beaks at them. However, I have an arsenal of zucchini recipes that I love to make to use them up. This recipe is one that I make in the summer, and then in the dead of winter I can enjoy produce from my summer garden in the form of a freezer meal. In January, zucchini and squash seem so fresh, so decadent, and so summery. They remind us of warm weather and sunshine. The school year is always so crazy busy, especially after school, and most nights of the week are non-stop driving kids to their activities. I love to make freezer meals in the summer that I can use in the winter for a fast dinner. One of my favorites is Italian Chicken with Summer Vegetables.
I love Italian food, which can be too heavy during warm months, but pure comfort food in the cold months. This recipe is light enough to eat in the summer, but still gives you that Italian flavor you crave, and hearty enough in the winter to warm you up. Even better, it’s in the slow cooker, so you don’t heat up the kitchen or yourself, and the dirty dishes are minimal. It takes just a couple of minutes to throw together. At dinner time all you have to do is make your pasta. I make this meal a few times in the summer, and make 6-9 batches for the freezer, which means we eat this about once a month.
I have four ways I serve this, depending on the needs of those at the table.
Option 1: Serve it as a soup. This is how I eat it, since I can't have pasta. I keep bags of frozen cauliflower on hand at all times, and I'll heat up a cup or so, chop it into very small pieces and add it to my soup as a faux pasta. If the pieces are small, they soak up the flavor of the sauce and don't taste like cauliflower. If the chunks are too big, they taste exactly like cauliflower. Depending on what you like, this may or may not be a good thing. I prefer my faux pasta to be small, like macaroni size. This option also goes along very well with eating it in the summertime, as it is very light.
Option 2: Serve it as a soup with some pasta in it. I like to use bite-size pasta shapes, like bowtie or fusilli. Penne is a bit too big for me, but use what you like.
Option 3: Serve it as a sauce on top of a bed of pasta. This is a heartier option that works better for the winter months, in my opinion.
Option 4: For a vegetarian option, try cannellini beans instead of chicken, but you’ll need to add more broth if you are cooking them in the slow cooker. If you are using canned canellinni beans, just heat everything on the stove for a super fast supper.
Serve it with a side of crusty bread or salad, and you have a seriously fine meal.
This can be gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and mostly allergen free, unless you have issues with nightshades (tomatoes) or sulphers (onions and garlic). It can be low fat, low carb, low calorie, Whole30, paleo, GAPS, or any number of options, depending on whether you use the pasta and cheese, or not.
Chicken with Summer Vegetables
3 cups each zucchini and yellow squash (about 3 pounds total) cut into 1/2 thick wedges, bite size (don’t cut too thin or they’ll be mushy)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
2-6 large cloves minced garlic (I love garlic, so I go for 6)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp oregano
2 pounds boneless/skinless thighs (I prefer thighs in the crockpot bc they keep a better texture, but you can use breasts if you want)
2 cans mushrooms, drained, or 1 cup fresh, sliced (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes, or 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced
Grated Parmesan cheese
Rotini, bowtie or fusilli pasta, something with shape that will hold the sauce
Add everything but the pasta to the slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours (or whatever works with your slow cooker. Anything more than 5 hours in mine and the chicken gets dry and stringy).
Stir well and pull the chicken apart in large chunks. before serving.
To make it a freezer meal, add everything but the pasta to a heavy-duty gallon size Ziploc freezer bag and pop in the freezer. I lay them flat on jelly roll pans while they freeze so they will lie flat or stack nicely when frozen.
How do you like to use your zucchini and squash?
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