Do you get weather notifications on your phone? I’m not sure whether I love them or hate them.
Because when you live in a state like Maine, where we get a lot of weather, there can be a lot of notifications – especially during the winter.
Anyway, the other day my phone buzzed to warn me about a storm that was gonna hit the next day.
And the first thought that came to my mind was: “Good! I have an excuse to stay home and fire up the slow cooker and make something delicious.”
I decided to try something I’ve never made before, at least in a “healthy” way … chicken and dumplings.
Because to me, it’s kind of the perfect snow-day food: It’s hearty, warm, comforting, and it makes the house smell amazing when it’s cooking.
Healthy Slow-Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken and dumplings was a Sunday staple during winters when I was growing up.
Most of my memories with this dish involve coming into a nice warm house at dusk, after goofing around outside in the snow. When I was a kid, maybe we’d been (shhhh, don’t tell anyone) making snow forts and snow tunnels, or playing king (or queen) of the hill. Or, when I was a grown-up kid, it was after tromping through the woods with the dogs.
Either way, when I burst back into the house, I was cold, happy, tired – and hungry. The smell of the chicken stew cooking was … well … “homey.” And then cutting the ladle through the dumplings on top, to dish it out into a bowl … well, that’s comfort food right there.
Gluten-Free or Not …
My first impulse was to make this a gluten-free dish, but I decided not to because … well, because I didn’t want to. How about that? But next time I make it – and I definitely will, because it’s super easy to throw together – I’m definitely going to go the gluten-free route with the dumplings to see how they turn out.
All that you have to do to make this gluten-free is to sub out a gluten-free flour (like Bob’s Red Mill) for the whole wheat white flour I used this time. I liked the whole wheat white flour OK, but I think the gluten-free flour might make a fluffier dumpling.
Now, you can certainly add more or less of the veggie ingredients if you want – chopped green beans would be delicious. Or you could add in some cubed potatoes. I used what was on-hand.
Because this recipe uses whole foods and not a can of some weird variety of creamed soup, you might want to stir in a thickening agent near the end of the cook time, just before you add the dumplings to the slow cooker.
If you want to thicken it up, take a quarter-cup of broth out of the slow cooker and mix in a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, agar-agar, or whatever you normally use to thicken recipes. Then, stir the mixture back into the stew before dropping the dumpling batter on top.
No worries: the dumplings might look a little “gloopy” before/during/after cooking, because most of the cooking happens underneath. They’ll still taste great!
Give this a try and let me know what you think! It stores well for 3 days in the fridge, making it perfect for leftovers (my favorite).
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1.25 lb boneless chicken breast
- 2 cups frozen peas and carrots
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 1 tsp thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp cornstarch or agar-agar (optional, for thickener)
- 1.25 cups whole wheat white flour
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 cup butter, cubed, room temperature
- 2/3 cup milk (I used plain coconut milk, but any unsweetened milk should work)
- 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Put all of the stew ingredients except the cornstarch into the slow cooker. Depending on your cooker, it should take between 4 and 6 hours on high or 6 and 8 hours on low. Mine cooked really quickly!
- Remove the chicken breasts from the slow cooker and shred them using two forks. Then, remove a quarter-cup or so of broth from the slow cooker. Set aside and return meat to the slow cooker.
- Next, stir optional thickener (cornstarch, agar-agar, or whatever you prefer) into the broth until smooth, and then stir the mixture back into stew. Cover crockpot and turn to high.
- Combine flour, baking powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
- Cut in the butter using two forks, a pastry cutter, or your hands until it begins to form a coarse, grainy mixture.
- Add the milk and cheese, and – being careful not to overwork – combine until the lumps are gone.
- Working quickly so the heat doesn't escape, remove the cover from the slow cooker and drop the dumpling batter by teaspoons on top of the stew mixture.
- Cover and let cook another 30 to 60 minutes, until dumplings are done. They will still seem "gloopy" on top, but that's OK!
- Serve and enjoy!
- You can make this gluten-free by using gluten-free flour, like Bob's Red Mill.
- For the milk, you can use your choice: dairy, almond, coconut, or whatever – just make sure it's unsweetened.
- Likewise, if you avoid dairy, you can use coconut oil instead of the butter and omit the cheese.