Yes, it looks like a colorless crockpot full of mush, but trust me…it’s delicious, versatile, and makes a great leftover! Perhaps even more importantly, my husband likes it!
I love slow cooker meals because they’re flexible. I can throw dinner together early in the day or the night before, then spend the rest of the afternoon interacting with my kids…or wasting time on the computer…just being honest here
The only “hard” part about this recipe is remembering to soak the lentils and brown rice the night before, because it requires me to think about dinner a full 24-hours before I’m actually going to eat it. It’s worth it to plan ahead, though, because it helps to make the rice and beans more digestible so that my family will be able to absorb more of the nutrients when we’re eating.
Plus, when I soak the rice and beans directly in the crockpot, then the rest of the prep goes that much faster. At lunchtime the next day, almost all of the soaking water has been absorbed, so I simply start throwing the remaining ingredients into the crockpot.
Flexible Italian Chicken Dip is also completely flexible because of what you put into it. Don’t have spinach? Skip it. Want to add bell peppers, broccoli, or extra carrots? Rock on. Throw in whatever veggies you have on hand. My basic template is to use a few handfuls of baby spinach, 1-2 grated carrots, most of a chopped onion, and a can of undrained diced tomatoes. But feel free to experiment and add any lonely refrigerator veggies that you just want to get rid of.
Next comes the chicken. In an attempt to be more frugal with my grocery budget, I once tried skipping the chicken and making this a meatless meal…I don’t recommend it. Even though it doesn’t seem like there’s very much meat compared to the other ingredients, the chicken still adds a lot of flavor to this dish and really ties everything together. Now I only stretch my frugal bone by using whatever leftover chicken I happen to have in the fridge. Typically, this is going to be the leftovers from a roaster chicken we ate earlier in the week.
Now the seasonings, and they can be adjusted however your family prefers. I like using italian seasoning, but I’ve also tried taco seasoning to create a Mexican-style dish. It was good! And per my husband’s repeated requests, I plan on experimenting to create a “hot wing” version at some point…
Finally, add the chicken broth. Bone broth is super nutritious, which is why I love slipping broth into my recipes anywhere I can. I almost always have homemade chicken broth in my freezer so I can thaw out what I need and add it to the crockpot. Or, if I’m feeling lazy, I throw the frozen chunks of broth directly into the crockpot. They will melt eventually.
Don’t forget to mix in the cheese before eating. Mozzarella is creamy (and stringy) and good for italian flavors, but this is another ingredient where you can be a little creative and use whatever you have on-hand. Monterey Jack or cheddar would probably be yummy if you’re trying a mexican twist.
Italian Chicken Dip can be scooped up with tortilla chips (my family’s favorite method) or simply eaten with a spoon. It makes a very hearty, protein and veggie-packed family dinner, but it can also serve a crowd as an appetizer dip to share at a potluck.
On another note, this recipe really taught me to respect salt. Before I started eating “real food,” I followed the conventional wisdom and kept my salt intake to a minimum. I knew how much sodium there was in most processed foods, so I rarely added additional salt to my recipes. The first time I made the Italian Chicken Dip, I added a paltry 1/2 tsp of salt. Bleh. It was bland.
I knew my family would rebel when faced with a bland bean dish, so out of desperation I added more salt. It tasted a little better, so I added still more. It tasted even better, so I added yet another dose of salt. The flavor had perked up quite a bit by now, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. I was truly amazed at how the salt was able to bring out the flavor and save the dish. It was literally the first time in my life I had actually tasted that kind of transformation with salt.
I know this might sound silly to some people, but that salt experience helped me to understood Matthew 5:13 in a whole new way:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
As a Christ follower, Jesus tells me that I’m supposed to “perk up” the flavor of the world. Life should be better for everyone around me because I choose to let God work through me. I pray that God helps me to be a salty person who perks up the world for everyone around me. I do not want to be a boring, bland, unsalted Christian.
One last note on the salt: I always leave my homemade chicken broth unsalted so that I can season it however I want when I use it, that’s why 2 teaspoons of salt works great for us in this recipe. However, if you salt your broth while making it (or if you use store-bought broth), then I definitely recommend holding off on the salt until you taste it at the end. Then season to taste!
- ¾ cup Dry Lentils
- ½ cup Brown Rice
- 1 cup Water
- 1 can (about 15 oz or 2 cups) Diced Tomatoes, undrained
- 1 small Onion, chopped
- 1-2 grated Carrots
- 2-3 handfuls of Baby Spinach
- 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
- 2 cups cooked Chicken, shredded or diced
- 3 cups Chicken Broth
- 3 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 2 tsp Salt (if your broth is already salted, then wait until the end and season to taste)
- ¼ tsp Pepper
- 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, grated
- Mix brown rice, lentils, and water in the crockpot the night before you plan to eat it. Leave the crockpot off and leave it soaking overnight.
- Add the vegetables, garlic, chicken, seasoning, and broth. Mix together well.
- Set crockpot to high for about 4 hours.
- Before serving, stir in cheese until melted. Eat with tortilla chips or spoons, your choice!