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I discovered salsa chicken last year when my boys were going through a high-maintenance phase.  For six months, they melted the minute we got home from daycare. They cried and clung to me and needed lots of hugs and books while they waited for dinner (which of course kept me from making dinner.)  By the time I got everyone to the table I could barely think, let alone be patient, nurturing and kind.

salsa chicken quesadilla
Aidan enjoys salsa chicken in a quesadilla.

This is why every parent needs a recipe like salsa chicken. Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, whether you work at home or away, you need a go-to meal for the days you know are going to be hectic.  Salsa chicken is my go-to meal.  With a little forethought and some preparation in the morning (or night before), I can have a hot, nutritious dinner on the table within ten minutes of walking through the door.  Beautiful!

Salsa Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (2 large chicken breasts)

1/2 – 3/4 cup salsa (1/4 of a 16 ounce jar) or Ro-tel* (see oxalate note)

In the morning (or at lunch), put the chicken in a crock pot. Pour the salsa over the chicken and cook on high for 5 – 6 hours or on low for 8 – 11 hours*.  Serve salsa chicken with corn tortillas or long/short-grained white rice, or use it as a substitute for beef in taco salads.

Yield:  4 adult servings (this recipe doubles easily!)

Note: Cooking times vary depending on the size of your crock pot, how hot it gets, and how tightly your lid fits.

Oxalate Note: Picante salsa has 4.5 mg. oxalate per 2 tablespoons.  Most brands of salsa should be similar in oxalate content as long as they only contain tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chilies, and cilantro (or other low and medium oxalate ingredients).  Our favorite variety has pineapple!   An alternative idea is to use 1/2 cup chopped chilies and tomatoes (such as Ro-tel). As far as I know, Ro-tel has not been tested yet, but chiles are low oxalate (Old Elpaso chopped green chilies have 4.8 mg./2 tablespoons) and most varieties of tomatoes are medium oxalate (Hunts canned tomatoes are 7.1 mg./half cup), so this should be okay as long as you only use about 1/2 cup.

Ten Minutes from Door to Table:

Step 1: The night before, I place the chicken and salsa on the second shelf of my refrigerator along with a glass dish full of corn and all the fixings for a Mexican burrito bar–corn tortillas (or wheat ones for those family members not on a low oxalate diet), shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, kidney beans, avocado etc.

Step 2: In the morning, I put the salsa and chicken in the crock pot and turn it on.

Step 3: When we walk through the door at night, my boys put away their jackets and shoes while I stick the corn in the microwave.  We wash hands, then the boys put the burrito fixings on the table (with occasional help from mommy), while I put the chicken in a serving dish and finish the corn.  We set the table together, and “Ta-dah” dinner is served!

Pineapple Salsa Chicken: Add a 15 ounce can of pineapple tidbits, drained, to the chicken and salsa before cooking.  Serve this over rice instead of in a tortillas as it tends to be very juicy.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Serving salsa chicken as part of a burrito bar should give most picky eaters something nutritious to eat.  Aidan likes to make his salsa chicken into a burrito with the works, but Cameron prefers to eat the chicken, cheese and tortilla separate with plain yogurt for dipping. You may also reduce the salsa content to please picky eaters.  My friend Maria drains the salsa “juice” into the crock pot with the chicken, reserving the chunky parts to add later at the table.  This gives the chicken the yummy flavor of the salsa, but keeps the offending peppers and onions out—a good family compromise.

Other Diets:  Salsa chicken may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free and controlled carbohydrate diets.

I was looking through my grandma’s old cookbooks and came across a cultural gem, Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers–Vegetables, published in1963.  It’s a wonderful snapshot of how America used to eat vegetables–usually in small portions with lots of cheese, mushroom soup, cream sauce, and buttered bread crumbs (according to over 2000 home economics teachers!)  Hard-boiled eggs were also a common ingredient in these recipes, which intrigued me since I had never eaten hard-boiled eggs in a casserole.  I had to try it!

Cameron eats his Eggs and Peas with Onion Cream Sauce

The verdict?  Hard-boiled eggs chopped over asparagus, peas or zucchini is really tasty although I could do without the mushroom soup and oxalate-filled crumb toppings.  I decided to experiment a little and came up with this yummy, low oxalate casserole. The onion in the sauce takes a little extra work, but it’s so good, it’s worth it.  Especially since the rest of the dish is so easy (skip the white sauce step and it’s ultra easy!).

My picky eaters dissected this dish, but after a slow start (Cameron would only eat the peas at first and Aidan ate everything else on his plate but the casserole), both boys agreed to try the eggs and cheese part and loved it.  They both ended up eating healthy-sized portions and wolfed it down the second time I served it.

Eggs and Peas with Onion Cream Sauce

1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup water
8 ounces frozen green peas* (about 1 cup)
8 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shelled
1/2 cup heavy cream, sour cream OR plain yogurt (see note)
1 tablespoon butter AND one tablespoon cornstarch (optional, see note)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 ounces Swiss cheese

Place the sliced onion in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil and boil for five minutes until most of the water has evaporated.  Meanwhile put the peas in a 2-quart casserole.  Slice the hard-boiled eggs and place over the peas.  When the onion is tender, place it in a food processor or blender (with left-over water) and puree.  Melt the butter in the warm saucepan and add the cornstarch.  Mix well and cook for about 10 seconds.   Add the cold milk, stir well, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often.  When the white sauce boils and thickens, add cream, salt, pepper, and onion puree.  Stir the sauce well then pour over sliced eggs.  Sprinkle the casserole with Swiss cheese, then place it under the broiler for about 3 -4 minutes until it is browned.  Serve immediately.

Yeild: 4 main dish servings or 8 side dish servings

Note: If you don’t want to bother making a white sauce, replace the cream with sour cream or plain yogurt, reduce the milk to 1/4 cup, and leave out the butter and cornstarch.  When making your sauce, simply mix the sour cream, milk, onion puree, salt and pepper in the warm sauce pan, then pour over the egg mixture.  You will have to broil the casserole a little longer, but it’s still quite yummy (especially with sour cream) and only a little runny.

*Oxalate Note: Green peas are a “lower medium” oxalate vegetable with 5.7 mg. oxalate per 1/2 cup.  All other ingredients are low oxalate or very low oxalate.

Variations:  This is also good with steamed asparagus or sauteed mushrooms  instead of peas.  I haven’t tried it with sauteed zucchini yet, but that’s next on my list.

Other Diets: This recipe may also be appropriate for gluten-free (make sure the sour cream is GF), vegetarian, and controlled carbohydrate dieters.