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Easy Winter Chicken Casserole

Slow cookers or the old fashioned term, crockpots are seeing a resurgence in modern cooking. This recipe is really easy  (fool-safe), will boost your immune system and ward away winter chills and infections. The best part is you come home from a busy day to the house filled with the delicious aromas of tonight's dinner already cooked for you!

Nutrients are destroyed when food is cooked too fast or at high temperatures so using a slow cooker makes the food easier to digest, highly nutritious and quick to prepare when you have little time. I make this at least once a month for chilly nights. It tastes amazing with the chicken literally falling off the bone and makes enough to feed the whole family or keep in the fridge as leftovers for the next few days/nights as I do.


  • 1 whole organic chicken - not just free range as they are still fed grains that are sprayed and genetically modified soy to fatten them up, ask your local butcher, markets or Coles/Woolworths sell them now at reasonable prices. Using a whole chicken means you have the bones and ligaments as well as the chicken meat which provide numerous minerals and nutrients - always preferrable!
  • 1/4 cup of pearl barley - very warming and adds extra low glycaemic carbohydrate for winter in the form of whole grains, contains gluten so if coeliac substitute with millet, rice or sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup of quinoa - South American seed that is now grown in Australia, is gluten free, high in protein like lysine as well as calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Choose whichever colour appeals to you - white, red (higher iron content), black and rinse with water before use.
  • 1 strip of Kombu seaweed - high in minerals, especially iodine which is low in Australian soils (Hence the high level of hypothyroidism in Australia), helps remove heavy metals and toxins from the body
  • Fresh sprig or 1 tsp dried thyme - adds flavour to chicken, anti-bacterial for lungs and all winter respiratory infections
  • 1/2 Japanese pumpkin - easier to cut and more flavour than Butternut or Gray pumpkin, lots of betacarotene for your eyes and all body cells
  • 1 brown onion - onions are perfect antidote for any coughs and colds - you'll realise how potent they are when you chop it up! 
  • 1Tb of apple cider vinegar - the acid helps breakdown the bones and meat to secrete the minerals we need making it easier to digest. Apple cider vinegar is naturally fermented so it still retains its natural antimicrobial and healing properties
  • Any other vegetables you like or have in the fridge to use up - carrots, celery, parsnips, etc. As there are already carbohydrates with the barley and quinoa, I would not suggest adding potatoes but you could substitute instead
  • 1 bunch of parsley - add at the end once taken off the heat as so delicate to add extra minerals especially iron
  • Miso paste - stir in 1 Tb to crockpot if serving all for dinner or 1 tsp to individual plates if going to keep some and reheat at a later date as it is destroyed by cooking. Adds flavour, salt and minerals. Easily digested as traditionally fermented. Use whichever type you like but the lighter the colour, the cooler the effect so dark brown barley miso is generally for very cold climates. If you skip the miso, the add sea salt and pepper!
Rinse barley and quinoa with water quickly by swirling in pot and throwing excess water out. Place in crockpot and chop Kombu seaweed into 2cm strips with scissors into pot. Rinse chicken and place whole into pot. Throw in thyme, chopped pumpkin into 3-4cm chunks, diced onion, apple cider vinegar and add enough filtered water to cover chicken. Cook on low heat with lid on for at least 8 hours but sometimes I leave it for 12 hours and it has been fine so long as there is enough water, it never dries out. 

Remove from heat and gently cut up the chicken in the crockpot into quarters - should just fall away from the bony carcass by now. Mix 1 Tb of miso paste in cup with hot water and stir into crockpot if serving it all for dinner or 1 tsp to individual plates if going to keep some and reheat at a later date as it is destroyed by cooking. Also stir in 1 bunch of chopped parsley for extra fresh greens. You could even add spinach or baby spinach here instead as the heat in the casserole will wilt it perfectly without needing extra cooking. You can experiment with your own flavours eg adding lemon rind/halves, lentils, etc

The beauty of slow cookers or crockpots is their ease to use without slaving over a hot oven or when you are time poor with all the nutrition still kept in tact and easily digestible. Most come with a small recipe book so you can experiment with tagines, breakfast porridge, soups, stews, desserts and curries. They sell them at Kmart, Target, David Jones and all major department stores from $60. Winter bargain!


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