The Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Greetings again from my kitchen. If you missed my first “Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen” post (check it out here), you may be wondering why a psychologist is sharing a recipe on her blog about mental health.  To review, it’s quite simple: food affects mood. A growing body of research has been showing that what we eat affects how we feel, both physically and emotionally.

In my first “Lazy Psychologist” post, I self-disclosed that I am terribly lazy in the kitchen, in large part because I get easily overwhelmed looking at a complicated list of ingredients and instructions. It’s as if my Ph.D. floats out the window and I regress to the intelligence level of my cats, Baxter and Hazel (see below). Given my easily-triggered state of being overwhelmed in the kitchen, I am always looking for  the easiest ways to feed myself as healthfully as possible. An important disclaimer for all of my recipe posts: I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or physician, so don’t take my recipe posts as golden advice based on the most recent nutrition science. In sharing some of my personal recipes, my goal is to inspire you to find easy ways to incorporate healthy eating as one way to cultivate healthy mood.

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Baxter: Adorable but not a talented cook

Hazel: Also adorable but not skilled in the kitchen

Hazel: Also adorable but not skilled in the kitchen

Today’s recipe: Slow-cooker chicken tikka masala. Before we get to the vast tastiness of this recipe, a few thoughts about using a slow-cooker. I’m fairly new to preparing meals with a slow-cooker, having only bought mine a year ago. Now, I don’t know how to live without it. I have come to think of the slow-cooker as a very good friend for a very lazy chef. I have a 7-quart slow-cooker so I can make a ton of food all at once, meaning it makes enough servings for several meals. This is big points for a lazy chef! All of the food goes in one cooker, which means fewer dishes. Boom! Even more points for a lazy chef! A few months ago, I discovered that you can buy slow-cooker liners, meaning I don’t even have to scour the crock pot. Yes yes yes! Because I am lazy, I look for slow-cooker recipes where you cook a complete meal, veggies and all, in one pot. Cooking up a bunch of different dishes and trying to coordinate the timing makes me want to run away and sell coconuts on the beach with my cats, Baxter and Hazel (see above).

Now, on to the recipe. I was inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn’s Emma Christensen, and have added some of my own touches along the way. I love South Asian spices, which is good news, apparently. Some of the spices common to South Asian food, like tumeric and cumin, have been shown to have beneficial health effects. This recipe has enough ingredients to almost push my “too many ingredients are overwhelming” buttons, so I tend to make it on the weekend and then nosh on the leftovers throughout the week. The results are worth it!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 large yellow onion, diced (Lazy Hint: you can coarsely chop it into big chunks and it will be just fine.)

2 teaspoons oil (I use sunflower or coconut)

3-5 small-ish red potatoes

1 tablespoon garlic, minced (Lazy Hint: I buy chopped garlic in a jar, because chopping garlic feels like sooooo much work.)

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated (Lazy Hint: You can also buy this in a jar! Amazingly, I usually manage to peel and grate a piece of ginger without overtaxing myself.)

2 tablespoons tomato pasteIMG_3001

2 tablespoons garam masala

2 teaspoons tumeric

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (this will add just a little bit of mild heat. If you can’t do spicy at all, just get canned tomatoes without green chilies)

3/4 cup coconut milk (you can use heavy cream instead)

2 cups brown rice, cooked

Instructions:

Combine the garam masala, turmeric, paprika, and salt in a small bowl, and put aside.

Cut the chicken into large bite-sized chunks, and put in the cooker.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet or wok. Sauté the diced onion for 4 minutes until just tender. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the rest of the spices and salt and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the can of tomatoes (including juice) and tomato paste.IMG_3004

(Lazy tip: you can skip this step and just toss the diced onion, spices, etc., into the cooker. Sautéing the onions beforehand just brings out more flavor.)

Pour the onion mixture over the chicken in the cooker.

Cut the potatoes into large chunks and layer on top of onion mixture in cooker.IMG_3006

Cover the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on “Low” or 4 hours on “High.”

With 15 minutes left on the cooker, stir in the coconut milk or cream and leave to cook the remaining time uncovered.

Serve over brown rice. Enjoy!

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(Lazy tip: If you’re feeling too lazy to cook rice, I respect that. This dish tastes great on its own. If you’re feeling the opposite of lazy and want to pump up your veggie intake, you can “rice” some cauliflower to sauté and substitute for rice.)

A few recipe notes:

I’ve made this with chicken breasts when I didn’t have chicken thighs. It works fine but white  meat comes out a little drier. I’ve found this to be true with most dishes cooked in the slow cooker.

Learn from my mistakes: do not get overly ambitious about including extra veggies and add cauliflower florets at the beginning of the cook cycle. You will end up with a dish that tastes and smells strongly of overcooked cauliflower because the dish will be full of…you guessed it…overcooked cauliflower.

I’ve safely eaten leftovers of this dish at least 5 days after cooking it. This dish also freezes well.

Happy healthy eating,

Dr. Jen