Creamy Chicken and Noodles

I recently purchased a 6-quart slow cooker to replace a 4-quart one that was too small for our family.  I found a good home for my old slow cooker with my friend, Cherry.  I promised her a few recipes to go along with it.  Here is the first one.

First, let me say that the slow cooker is a bit like magic.  When I worked full-time, I used to say that I needed a wife--someone at home who could shop and cook while I was at work so we could all come home to a hot meal.  Well, having a slow cooker is a bit like that.  I use it a lot in the winter to make hearty dishes like soups, stews and roasts.  The beauty of the thing is that you can assemble your ingredients in the morning (or at night, if that is when you have the time--just store the crock in your fridge until the morning), turn it on to the low setting and walk out the door.  Voila!  Return nine or ten hours later to a hot meal.  

Nowadays, I don't hold a job, so I assemble my ingredients at lunchtime and cook it on the high heat setting.  Dinner is ready in about 5 hours. 

When you cook with a crock pot, cooking times are more forgiving.  If the recipe says cook for eight hours on low, and you get home ten hours later (oops!), chances are that it your dinner will still be fine.  Another advantage is that meat cooked at low heat for a long period of time becomes meltingly tender.  And it's easy to make extra (if your slow cooker is big enough) to have leftovers later in the week.

This is a classic slow cooker dish from the Better Homes and Gardens Crookery Cooking cookbook.  I like it because it is kid-friendly.  It's doesn't have big flavors, it's more of a comfort food kind of meal.  But, you can always spike it up by using more fresh herbs, adding a couple of tablespoons of dry sherry at the end, and passing shredded cheese at the table.  If the sauce is too thin, add a couple of tablespoons of all-purpose flour near the end of the cooking time to thicken it.

Creamy Chicken and Noodles
(Serves 6)

2 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
2 Tblsp chopped parsley (I use more - about 1/4 cup)
1 bay leaf
2 lbs of chicken thighs, skins removed
2 cans of low-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
10 ounces wide egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas

In a 4 quart crock pot, combine the carrots, onion, celery, parsley and bay leaf.  Put the chicken pieces on top.  In a bowl stir together the soup, water, thyme and pepper.  Pour the soup mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours (or on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours).  Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board.  Let them cool slightly, then chop into bite sized pieces.  Discard any bones and return the chicken pieces to the crock pot.  Fish out the bay leaf and discard.  (This is a good time to check the sauce's seasonings and consistency and make adjustments).

Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions.  Drain.  

Add the frozen peas to the crock pot.  Serve the chicken mixture over the noodles.  Stir gently to combine.