Slow Cooker Pesto Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Layered Dinner

We're home from BlogHer, safe and sound. We had an absolute ball---thank you so much for your well wishes. 

The live blogging transcript of the Food Blogging During a Recession is here, thanks to Chefdruck Musings. 

I wrote a tiny bit about our trip on Totally Together Journal, and Alanna did a Food Blogger recap on BlogHer.

On the plane ride home, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and now I want to move to a sustainable farm. 

Like, NOW. Take me. Teach me. 

I want to know more! 

For the time being, we're going to hit up our local produce stand, farmer's market, and look into CSA delivery

I can't wait to learn as much as I can about growing vegetables, and want the kids to grow up knowing where food comes from.

On that note, I made a completely organic (except for the chicken, because it was Foster Farms and already in the freezer and I'm a die-hard cheapskate and couldn't not eat it) dinner.

 In the slow cooker. 

Slow cooking is known for fast, friendly meals, but that doesn't mean that the food needs to be processed or not healthy. 

I've made TONS of healthy food in the slow cooker, and you can too.

once in a while, Buffalo Chicken Wing soup is okay, though. right...?

The Ingredients.
serves 4.

for the pesto:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
4 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil
2 tablespoons pinenuts, or walnuts, or sunflower seeds
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 chicken thighs, or breast halves
sliced mozzarella cheese (I used string cheese!)
aluminum foil or parchment paper
4 small sweet potatoes, washed well, skin on

The Directions.

I used a 6 quart slow cooker. In a food processor or blender, combine the ingredients for your pesto. 

When liquidy, taste. 

If you need to add more citrus or salt or pepper, do so now.

In the bottom of a large slow cooker, arrange your chicken pieces. 

Mine were still frozen. 

Layer on slices of mozzarella cheese. 

Pour pesto evenly on top. 

Cover with a layer of foil or parchment paper.

 Scrub sweet potatoes well, prick with a fork, and lay them on top of the paper or foil. 

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 4-5. 

If your chicken is frozen it will take a bit longer.

If you're using fresh chicken, and your sweet potatoes are quite large, you may choose to swap layers, and put the sweet potatoes on the bottom. 

Newer slow cookers cook from the sides as well as from the bottom, but some people swear the stuff on the bottom cooks faster.

Carefully remove the sweet potatoes with tongs, and remove foil or parchment. 

The steam that comes out will be quite hot, keep small children away.

The Verdict.

We all loved this meal. 

My kids put cinnamon on their sweet potatoes, and enjoyed eating the skin--for the first time. 

I was thrilled. 

The chicken was fully cooked, and the pesto had a good bite from the garlic that was balanced by the citrus. 

I used limes instead of lemons, and enjoyed the limey flavor. 

Lots of pesto calls for gobs of Parmesean cheese, which I opted to not use to 

1) keep it a bit lighter and 

2) to save a trip to the store. 

I served it alongside some leftover Quinoa Salad from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

This was a great dinner.

somewhat related recipes:

Layered Dinner

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at July 29, 2009

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What they say about this article

  1. My slow cooker is in the mail.. I can't wait.

    I left an award for you on my blog.

  2. That sounds fantastic. I love pesto. Interesting combination with the sweet potatoes.

  3. I listened to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on audiobook and it was great. My mom listened to it as well after I recommended it to her. My mom has a lot more going on in her garden than I do right now, but I'm fighting with a yard that hasn't been tended to in over a decade.

    Her book was really inspiring to me, but my boyfriend warned me that farming isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's really hard work, and he knows from growing up with a dad who was a hippie farmer on Maui and still is.

    My motto is to do the best you can with what you have. Buy locally what you can, buy organically what you can, and try to build as much as you can around that without buying other things. Then, once you have to go beyond them try to do other good things for the planet as well.

  4. We live on a homestead and while it is hard work, it is very rewarding. There are days where I am near tears with frustration and there are days when I am rejoicing over food preservation or new chicks or baby goats being born.

    Right now, it is more tears of frustration. But it is also short-lived. I blame last month's tornado.

  5. That meal sounds great! I love my crock pot but I've never even thought to cook multiple things in layers like that. I will definitely be trying that in the near future!

  6. Thanks Stephanie, I will definitely be trying this recipe... It sounds great... Glad you had such a great time at the Blogger convention.


  7. That book changed how I buy food. I grow some things in a small garden and do a lot of canning and freezing. I loved everything about her year of self-supplication and her family's support. An all time favorite read.

  8. Anonymous7/30/2009

    I read AVM 2 years ago and it changed how I thought about food I went from playing with a small vegetable garden to growing with a plan for sustaining us through the winter. We are in our second year as CSA members and buy local as much as possible. Between the farm and my garden, we have all the produce we need (except tropical fruits, our “luxury” items). The variety is amazing and we enjoy trying new fruits and veggies. You can find local farm markets, CSA etc at

    I gotta give a shout out to your blog. Without utilizing my slow cooker the last year, I‘d have burned out and given up. Thanks Steph!

    BTW – Can’t wait to try this recipe. Started making lots of pesto this summer and it has become a favorite in our house.

  9. Anonymous7/30/2009

    I'm not sure where you are in the Bay Area, but we use the CSA from Live Earth Farm in Watsonville. Really, really good food. The strawberries are to die for.

  10. The meal sounds great! Gotta try it next week. Thanks.

  11. Anonymous7/30/2009

    If you or someone in your home is eating a gluten-free diet, you can get a free coupon for one of Betty Crocker's new Gluten-Free Dessert Mixes ($4 value). Here's how to get yours:

    Call General Mills Consumer Services number at 1-800-446-1898 and select option #4 on the main menu.

    Tell the customer service representative on the line that you are interested in the free gluten-free baking coupons.

    You'll be asked a few questions regarding your household's consumption of gluten and then you'll be asked for your address so they can send you the free coupon.

  12. I, too, loved 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. It was great and so inspirational. I would love to do something like that but I know that my family would starve to death:) So, we bought into a CSA again this year instead. It runs on a different model - you get a credit and buy what you want instead of just getting standard share. It's been great and we have less of a problem with dead veggies in the fridge than we did last year.

    Thanks again for all the great recipes you post. It's a great reminder to use the crockpot all year long. I just did another pot of black beans so that we could freeze some to take along with us on vacation.

  13. Anonymous7/30/2009

    Thought I would let you know that Betty Crocker is giving away a Gluten-Free Desert Mix coupon when you call General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-446-1898 and select option 4 on the main menu. You’ll be connected with a live customer service rep who will ask a few questions about your family’s gluten intake, and get your name and address to mail out your coupon.

    I already called and my coupon will arrive in 3-4 weeks.


  14. Shana O.7/30/2009

    Stephanie, I totally recommend CSA deliveries. We've been getting one from Farm Fresh To You ( quite some time now and have really liked it. Especially that it's delivered right to our door instead of having to go pick it up somewhere -- perhaps a bit less eco-friendly, but it's the only feasible way for us with our schedules! Anyway, I think we can get one time discounts since we're already members thru their referral system, so let me know if you're interested in them. We referred Eric's boss, and she's been really happy w/ them, too.

  15. yum, this looks great. We love chicken, we love pesto, and we love sweet potatoes. I don't see how we can go wrong with this recipe. :)

    And just to add to the "or or or" list, we usually use roasted edamame (aka toasted soy nuts) instead of pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflower seeds. Very yummy.

  16. Anonymous7/31/2009

    So, I have never been able to enjoy pesto because I am allergic to pinenuts, walnuts, and just about any other nut. I never thought to use sunflower seeds! Thanks for the great idea!


  17. I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for this blog. I'm pregnant with my sixth child at the moment and I have all my energy in the morning and early afternoon. By dinner time I'm exhausted and I don't want to cook.

    Now I'm having so much fun with your recipes, I'm making dinner in the morning/afternoon when I have energy and then it's pretty much done by dinner time! You're saving my family from frozen pizza, corn dogs, and fast food.

    Thank you so much! I've pre-ordered your book and plan to give copies as Christmas presents, too.

  18. Steph,
    Thank you so much for the link love! I am honored. Your panel was great - I got so many great money saving tips from you and the other participants. I'm particularly excited to find a CSA.

    I just started Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and was shocked by how much gas is used to get us our food. We need a major wake up call to change.

  19. Your blog is awesome! Thanks for sharing so many great recipes!

  20. I love doing layered dinners in my crock! And sweet potatoes - yum! I am going to try this one this weekend (dairy free for us) as I have some basil begging to be pesto.

    Thanks for all you share...

    One thing that is fun for my kids is I have my kiddos "in charge" of growing our sprouts. They love sprouts (especially broccoli ones) and are the rinser/drainers of our weekly sprout growing. You just need a canning jar, some clean netting/hose and sprout seeds. They are fun to watch!

  21. This one looks great, Stephanie! I love pesto chicken, but have never made it myself. I've always eaten it out, but your recipe looks plenty easy. I'll put in a sweet potatoes for me and white for hubby and try to be sure their sizing will ensure adequate cooking of both.

    So glad your BlogHer time was great! Will check out the link to learn more. :-)

    I haven't read that book yet, but I will now. Thanks.


  22. Glad you had a great time at the Convention and that you're back safe and sound.

    Very happy you're excited about embarking on another adventure and really pleased that you'll be passing it along to your kids.

    I grew up on a pretty self-sufficient family farm and most recently have come off a decade long stint of living on a sailboat outfitted for cruising and also fairly self-sufficient; at least energy-wise.

  23. Anonymous8/02/2009

    Hello, I'm trying this recipe this week! How much cheese do you use?

    Thank you for this blog--many wonderful recipes!--Becky

  24. Hi Becky, I actually used string cheese because I didn't have any lump mozzarella in the house. I'd just slice some up and lay it over the top of the chicken---no real measurements needed.

    xoxo steph

  25. Anonymous8/02/2009

    fyi - the "year ago today" link keeps taking me to the recipe for Spanish Braised Chicken (both yesterday and today) regardless of what the text says (today I think is actually a no-noodle lasagna) - anyway, maybe it's just a subliminal message that I need to be making the Spanish Braised Chicken pronto(!):-) But, thought you might like to know in case the techies can change the linkage...

  26. My friend Lindsay found this site and suggested it to me. We recently found out that my husband has Celiac and that my little boy might possibly have it as well. I have found it some what difficult coming up with new ideas for gluten free dinners. I just wanted to say thank you for having a sight like this and for having ideas for people like me! Thanks.
    Melissa Thomas

  27. Thank you so much for this blog! I am such a huge fan!

  28. Anonymous8/03/2009

    I recently finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and felt the exact same way you did! I would love to live that lifestyle, especially after learning so much from the book. I'd love to know how your CSA adventure pans out.

  29. OMG! A whole blog devoted to CROCK POT?! I love it. You are now on my bookmarks. I can't wait to have some time to explore your site. Of course, The Boy is waking up from his nap, NOW, so I will have to save the exploration for another moment.

  30. Thank you for this wonderful recipe Steph! It's dinner tonight as if you couldn't tell by the frequent stops on the blog

  31. Janessa26 at yahoo dot com8/06/2009

    Have you ever made stuffed peppers in the crock pot? I couldn't find them anywhere on your site but I thought I remember you doing that last year.

  32. Hi Janessa,

    yup, I did! They came out really well. Here's the link: Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers Recipe.

    xoxo steph

  33. Thanks for your recipe. I'm learning quite a bit from your blog. I never thought about using tinfoil! Today as I was working on my cookbook on Indian Crockpot Cooking, I made rice palau in the crockpot for the first time. And I just posted an amazing lentil dish on my site if you want to swap recipes.
    Thanks again...Like your site.

  34. Oooh...I never thought to layer it up with the tinfoil. Brilliant! And now my mind is reeling...the possibilities are endless!!

  35. MMmmm This was delicious!! I used both thighs and chicken breasts and they both turned out so tender! great combo, pesto chicken and sweet potatoes!

  36. Anonymous8/10/2009

    hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

  37. Hi! I have just discovered your blog through anothers bloggers comments. I am floored! And so excited to see all these great slow cooker recipes. I am just beginning to explore the realm of slow cooking and am also a very average cook. I don't like cooking, but the slow cooker is helping.

    But then... I read that all your recipes are gluten free!!!!! WOWOWOWOW!! Fantastic! I couldn't ask for a better site SO well suited to me and my family! Thank you so much! My partner and I can eat gluten but are completely and utterly wheat intolerant. The words 'gluten free' are like gold to our ears!

    I look forward to discovering 365 days + of recipes. Thank you!

    PS. tonight I am trying out a roast for the first time and am using your beef roast recipe. :):)

  38. I made this for my family, and they loved it. Even my 2 year old.
    Great blog. I've got several recipes on deck for the next couple of weeks that I cannot wait to try.

  39. Oh thank you thank you!! I LOVE your blog, since I HATE cooking! I made this this afternoon in my 3 quart crockpot. I used 3 frozen chicken breasts since that was all I could fit--dumped them right out of the bag. Poured on a jar of pesto, & sprinkled a cup of shredded mozzarella that I had in the freezer. Added the foil, and as many sweet potatoes as I could fit in my little crock and four and a half hours later . . . tada! My kids ate it! I cooked up some penne at the last minute and tossed it with the "sauce" that was left in the crockpot, and my 9 year old said that she liked it even though it looked yucky. Every part of it was a huge hit. The chicken was juicy & yummy & we all loved the sweet potatoes. What a brilliant idea to do them on top. It was 90 outside today and I was so glad to not have to turn on my oven to get such a yummy dinner! It was fabulous. Thanks!

  40. I LOVED animal, vegetable, miracle

    Awesome book

    The zuchini orzo is a huge hit in this house

  41. Anonymous8/15/2009

    I actually slow cooked this in a dutch oven in my oven and it was phenomenal! Thanks for sharing.

  42. Made this fab dish for a girlfriends' dinner tonight, Steph! I did overcook it a tad. I had some huge chicken breasts and they were frozen, so I thought they'd take longer to cook than they did. But, it didn't do any harm to taste, just presentation as they were falling apart some. My fault, but they were still wonderful. It was a basil night because one girlfriend brought lemon basil ice cream, which we had with my three-minute chocolate cake. :-) Anyway, thanks for the great recipe!


  43. Just have to say that the tin foil layering is now my most very favorite crock pot trick. I use it all the time now! With my husband's new job he has a very long commute and I currently pick him up and drop him off at the train which is a 45 minute round trip. This makes having dinner on the table rather tricky because I'm not home to make it last minute. I have been using this web site at least 3 times a week now and have been totally rocking the dinner scene. Thank you, again!!!

  44. Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious and a huge hit! Even my two year old loved it! Thanks!!

  45. Stephanie, exactly the same thing happened to me! My son was diagnosed with celiac when he was 18 months old (lots of vomiting!). We've been gluten free since late 2007. Thank you so much for your blog, I"ll be discussing it at our next celiac support group meeting. Your book is on my wish list too!!

    Even though you've been tested, keep an eye out on the family; 6 months after my son was diagnosed I broke out in a nasty rash which turned out to be dermatitis herpetiformis (the skin version of celiac). No GI symptoms at all. These things come at you fast!!!Keep up the good work!!

  46. I LOVE this idea! How delicious! And I would have never thought to layer in the slow cooker, chicken and then sweet potatoes? Great idea.

  47. The meal sounds great! Gotta try it next week.

    Thanks for sharing

  48. Really yummy. I loved how tender the sweet potatoes were, and loved that my WHOLE dinner was done in one dish, at the same time. I was so full from just the chicken and potato, I didn't really need anything else to eat. And I use parmesan because that is all I had in the house and it worked just fine.

  49. Should there be any liquid at the bottom of the Crock Pot? I'm afraid the chicken will burn or get dried out.

  50. Hi Brenda, the pesto provides the needed liquid, and the chicken creates it's own juice. The layer of foil also will help keep the chicken moist and the steam near the meat instead of evaporating.


  51. Hi Stephanie ... I have to sing your praises, too. I've recently been using this website to make dinner since I'm gone 3-4 afternoons/week. It's wonderful since we've been trying to eat less take-out. So far, I've rounded up 4 or 5 recipes that even the picky people in the family like. ;-)

    One question on this recipe: If I put cheese on top of the chicken, doesn't the foil stick to it???

  52. Basil Question:
    Is that 2 cups loose or packed? How many "bunches" are we talkin' about here? :)

  53. nanettechols5/20/2012

    I've got too much meet and bone to accommodate the potatoes cause I'm using Turkey legs (really good sub in many of your chicken recipes as they are cheaper and great slow cooked). I hope this still comes out without the foil and sweet potato top. Going to bake the sweets in the oven (cooled off outside enough to use the oven). Thanks for all your recipes.