5:30 am: Awake. Day’s schedule rolls out in mind’s eye. Every minute planned: Kids to camp; me to work; kids from camp; errands; eat dinner; kids to little league; everybody to bed. That part about ‘eat dinner’ is the day’s joke. How will that nutritious, healthy, kid-friendly dinner appear on the table when we return from errands? Magic? I need a fast, easy meal, preferably one I can prepare ahead of time.

5:31 am: Cupboard’s contents march across mind’s view. Meager; it’s a short parade. But there is that chicken. Days earlier Linda at Wisconsinmade.com gave me a frozen chicken to cook and sample. A new artisan has joined Wisconsinmade.com. She raises hormone-free, all natural, free-range chickens on her small, Wisconsin farm, and we’ve begun offering them for sale in our gourmet food store. The chicken has been thawing in the ‘fridge and should be ready to cook now. The artisan suggested I cook it with few seasonings so that we will taste the chicken’s own sweet, delicious flavor. In a household that is seasoning adverse, this request is easy to honor.

5:32 am: Decide to cook the whole chicken in the crock pot. Crock pots are not only for winter stews. In a hot summer, crock pot cooking is a great way to cook a family dinner of meat and vegetables without also heating the kitchen.

8:00 am: Leave the house while chicken cooks in crock pot with red and green sweet peppers, onion, garlic, and thyme. Now I’ve got time to get everything else done in the day. Even the dinner’s rice is on standby in the rice cooker set to deliver cooked rice at 6:00 pm.

Fast forward: 6:00 pm. Delicious, healthy dinner of chicken, vegetables, and rice magically appears on table. The chicken is outstanding; sweet and flavorful, just as the artisan promised. Will use left-overs for chicken salad dinner. Click on “Continue reading…” for the recipes for crock pot chicken and apple, walnut, chicken salad.

Easy crock pot chicken – I made this recipe up; that’s how you can be sure it IS easy.

  • 1 whole chicken -thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 onion (or 1 small), chopped coarsely
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water containing dissolved bullion
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme

(I had thought I would throw in sliced zucchini and mushrooms and a sprig of fresh rosemary 1/2 hour before serving but didn’t have time. No matter, this lightly-seasoned chicken was delicious as is.)

In morning, put chopped vegetables in the crock pot and stir them in the Tablespoon of olive oil. Place washed chicken on top. Pour in chicken broth. Sprinkle white pepper and thyme on top of chicken. Turn crock pot on low. Cook 6-8 hours, depending on size of chicken.

Apple Walnut ChickenSalad – This recipe comes from folks who know how to cook: the chefs at Bluephies Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. You can find the recipe in the Bluephies cookbook: Bluephies New American Cooking. They write:

You can use the leftovers from the Herb Roasted Chicken recipe in this salad. Top a plate of mixed greens with it, or slather it on multi-grain or wheat bread for a yummy salad.

  • Meat from one 2-3 pound roasted chicken, but no skin
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese (blue cheese will work)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 apple, with skin, diced
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch pepper

Put chicken, celery, red onion, garlic, cheese, walnuts, apple, and basil in a medium-sized bowl. Toss to combine completely.

Combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, green onions, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the chicken mixture. (I used half the mayonnaise mixture.) Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Makes enough for 8-10 sandwiches.

Of course roasted chicken, crock pot chicken or chicken salad can be prepared with regular, grocery store chicken. But after eating this artisan’s chicken and the free-range chickens my Wisconsin farmer friends raise on their farm I have to say I can taste the difference. Meat from free-range chickens is never rubbery in texture. The flavor is sweet and succulent. Yes, these chickens cost more, but I figure I’m paying for quality. I don’t have to prepare these chickens with extra sauces or marinades to give them flavor, so maybe I actually come out even in cost. But the main incentive is that my children like the taste. I love to hear them say, “This is yummy.” and watch them eat their dinner without having to encourage them. That’s the real pay-off. Now the Wisconsin, Amish farmer who gave me the free-range, all-natural chicken I prepared yesterday is offering her fresh-frozen, whole chickens through Wisconsinmade.com.

Other Wisconsin chefs also offer their all-natural, farm-raised chicken which is not only as I described above, but is already pre-seasoned and ready for any dinner, -be it fancy or family.