Slowcooker Cheesy Ranch Chicken

I’ve been going through a salad phase lately and was recently looking to make a big batch of protein to top my salads.  At the same time, I wanted to find a family friendly recipe that could be used in versatile ways.  My three year old loves salads and my one and a half year old has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.  I started looking at chicken with ranch recipes, hoping to appease our Midwestern tastebuds.

I found a few recipes that I liked and decided to switch things around and make one that I thought my family would enjoy most.  The result was that we ate one batch for three days straight and then made another double batch by request of everyone in our house.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.  It’s not the prettiest shredded chicken.  Let me promise you, this is a crowd pleaser!

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My husband commented that the chicken tasted really decadent, and while it does have a lovely combo of cheese going on, it isn’t as decadent as it tastes.  It is delicious topped on salads, in wraps or burritos, or simply for dinner with some veggies and rice on the side.

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prep and then does it’s thing in the slow cooker while you are doing your own thing.

I threw down a bed of romaine and added diced tomatoes, red onion, a variety of beans, and corn.  When I make salads I chop up a variety of veggies and keep them in the fridge so I have quick options for dinners or lunches during the week.  You can also grab a microwaveable pack of rice and add a bit to your salads or wraps too.

The fun thing about salads is that you can change the fixings and feel like you are having a different meal every night.

Slowcooker Creamy Ranch Chicken:

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)

2 packets ranch dressing mix

1- 8 ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Directions:

Spray the inside of your slow cooker and then place chicken breasts in the bottom.  Pour broth or water on top of chicken and sprinkle one packet of ranch on top.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove lid and discard most of the liquid, leaving a few tablespoons inside.  Shred the chicken and then add cream cheese and another packet of ranch to the slow cooker.  Let cook for 30 minutes and then remove lid and stir ingredients.  Add the cheese and stir again.  Put lid back on and keep on warm until everything is well mixed and you are ready to eat.

Note:  I added the second packet of ranch because when you discard the juices, much of the mix is also removed.  Since most of the liquid is removed before the rest of the ingredients are added, it might not be necessary to use broth, as it doesn’t add a lot of flavor.  The liquid simply keeps the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you are concerned about sodium intake, it might be helpful for you to skip the broth.

We also served this at a party as a dip.  Try it with crackers, pieces of tortilla, bread, or veggies.  A few people even made mini quesadillas.

Healthy Eating On The Road

Over the past few weeks we have logged a lot of mileage in the car (over 2,000 miles in one week!).  Road tripping can be both fun and stressful.  Eating on the road can make the equation even worse.

Whether you are training for a race or trying to watch your waistline, meals during road trips can be overwhelming.  It can often feel like healthy options are few and far between.  But the good news is that most of the time, you can find something to appease your appetite while remaining mostly guilt free.

At the gas station:  I am not a fan of fast food.  I rarely eat it.  Instead, I often scour the gas station and find some treats to make a “road picnic.”  Nuts, cheese, meat, and fruit are my staples.  Almost all gas stations sell string cheese by the single stick; often in various cheese flavors.  Small packs of heart healthy nut combinations are a quick way to get some healthy fats.  Most gas stations usually have single bananas, apples, or oranges.  Many modern gas stations now offer cups of fruit such as strawberries, grapes, and pineapple.

Look for things like small packages of Smart Food popcorn where you get a delicious cheesy flavor and plenty of food without a ton of calories or fat.  Another favorite of mine is That’s It Bars.  Mary now loves these too.  They aren’t cheap but they are made of only fruit and come in at 100 calories.  You feel like you are eating a granola bar, but in a far healthier version.  Our one year old can eat a full bar on her own.  It’s rather impressive.

Get your sparkle on.  Sparkling water is found just about anywhere these days.  Simply put, it is carbonated water often found in various flavors.  With zero calories and no sodium, it is a great choice on the road and at home.  It gives you those bubbles you might crave from a soda, minus the sugar and additives.  This is a great option for keeping you hydrated on the go.  LaCroix has been my go to for years!

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Compare your fast food options.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend reading food labels and comparing your foods, especially when it comes to sodium intake.  Modern technology makes this easier than ever.  While on the road, you often get advance notification of what fast food options are coming up.  When we are trying to decide where to eat, we pull up nutrition facts and compare our options.

Not surprisingly, some of the seemingly “healthier” options on menus are laden in preservatives and fat/calories.  Many salads often pack on many more calories than sandwich options.  What often appears to be a guilt free chicken option, often is much less healthy than going for a simple hamburger.

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http://www.nutritionwonderland.com  Would you know that a simple hamburger has fewer calories than a grilled chicken sandwich, or a snack wrap?

Make yourself an informed consumer and read the nutrition facts before you even get there.  If you know that the burger you are craving packs on an extra 700 calories, before you get in line and are tempted, you are far less likely to overindulge.  Knowing ahead of time that a simple hamburger or a salad with half of the dressing will keep everything on track, will allow you to order with confidence and avoid questioning your decisions.

What are your tips for eating healthy on the road?