Alright, friends. I’ve FINALLY made the winning recipe from the Fit-mas Giveaway that I ran before Christmas. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this post. I asked for suggestions of classic recipes to “clean up,” randomly selected 2 winners, and sent them some goodies in return for their ideas.)
The dish? Chicken wings. Glorious, flavorful, fall-off-the-bone chicken wings.
I’m a Texas-raised girl, so clearly I LOVE football. With the Super Bowl being less than 2 weeks today, I wanted to figure out a way to make my #1 favorite game day appetizer — chicken wings — in a way that doesn’t sabotage my fitness goals. That means avoiding the butter, oils, flour, extra sugar, and no frying. Ryan had the bright idea to make our own pizza and wings to eat while watching the playoff games last night (he’s a genius), so I got to create my own healthier version of chicken wings last night. I honestly thought this one would take a few tries before I’d make a batch that was blog-worthy (considering it was my first attempt at wings), but somehow, I nailed it on the first try. Bonus: it’s super easy.
How on earth can you make crispy, juicy, delectable wings without all of that extra crap?
Answer: combine the powers of your oven AND a crock pot. Winner winner, chicken wings for dinner!
Here’s the trick: if you lightly season and broil the wings for a few minutes before throwing them in a slow cooker, it crisps the skin just enough to give your wings a faux-fried, crunchy texture. Cooking them in the slow cooker results in perfect, flavorful, fall-of-the-bone wings that you can’t get at your local pizza delivery joint. It’s the best of both worlds. If you’re hosting or attending a Super Bowl party next weekend, bring these wings. Seriously.
NOTE: There are a million wing flavors out there — honey barbecue, spicy buffalo, etc. — I could probably come up with hundreds of permutations of this recipe, but per Ryan’s request, we went with spicy barbecue and used Sweet Baby Ray’s because it’s his favorite. (I know, it’s not the healthiest sauce and contains HFCS, but we can’t all be perfect and I haven’t found an acceptable alternative for this one yet. The wings are still healthier than Domino’s, anyway.) If you have a favorite wing flavor, GET CREATIVE and make your own sauce blend. The most important part of this recipe is the cooking method. Experiment with your own marinade, do a taste test before adding the chicken in, then proceed with the oven/slow cooker combo. Perfection.
ANOTHER NOTE: You can easily double/triple/quadruple this recipe if you need to. I only made 8 because I thought this would be a “test run” and wanted to have a few left in case I screwed it up the first time around.
Slow Cooker Spicy Barbeque Chicken Wings
Nutritional Overview (per wing)
Serves: 8 wings
Cook time: 3 hours, 15 minutes (15min active, 3hrs in slow cooker)
- 8 chicken wing drumettes (skin on)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4c. Frank’s Red Hot sauce
- 2 tbsp. Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce (or your favorite brand)
- 2 tbsp. Trader Joe’s Carolina Gold barbecue sauce (or your favorite brand)
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)
- Line a baking sheet with foil and turn on your oven’s broiler
- Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper
- Broil for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until the chicken skin starts to turn a lightly browned color. I left my oven door open and kept an eye on them (I tend to forget that I’m broiling things, which never turns out pretty)
- While your wings are broiling, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour into a lined slow cooker set to low heat. If you haven’t invested in slow cooker liners yet, GO BUY A BOX. They’re by the Ziploc bags/Saran wrap/etc. at your local grocery store. These things are amazing and virtually eliminate the need for clean-up
- Transfer wings to the slow cooker. Using kitchen tongs (or a fork, a spoon, your hands, whatever), roll them around in the sauce to coat well. Cover and walk away — your slow cooker does the rest of the work for you!
- About an hour into cooking, I turned the heat to high because I didn’t want to wait to eat these. (Yes, I know — I’m impatient.) An hour after that, I turned it back to low because I was worried that they’d overcook. So, I did the first hour on low, second hour on high, third hour on low. I doubt this matters much and really just goes to show that I usually don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen when I come up with a new recipe, but I want to document exactly how I made these because they were a true masterpiece. I bet 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low would work, too. Just base the cooking time and heat setting on your patience level. :o)
- Remove from slow cooker. Optional: Transfer wings back to your foil-lined baking sheet and broil for a few more minutes on each side. This will give them a little extra crisp, but if you’re satisfied with how they look when you take them out of the slow cooker, skip this part and just dig in.
For real, look at how cleanly the meat came off of these things! They almost fell apart. Amazing.
Strategies for Grocery Shopping
Buying groceries is my least favorite chore in the book. I’d honestly rather scrub toilets. Sadly, cooking is my passion, and you can’t cook without doing a little grocery shopping. Here are a few easy tricks that I use every time I shop to save money, help me keep my sanity, and make the trip a little more bearable.
Plan Ahead: Make a Detailed List
Each week, I draw up a granular meal plan and list out all of the ingredients that I need in a shopping list. I won’t go to the store until my meal plan and shopping list are 100% complete. I put all of the items that I need and a corresponding quantity under headings (Produce, Dairy, Meat, Other, etc.) so that I know exactly what I need in each region of the store. This helps me keep a laser focus on only getting what I need for the upcoming week, which means less stuff goes bad and I don’t throw as much spoiled food away. Money saver! I used to be terrible about over-buying, but Sunday meal prep and planning ahead changed all of that. Here’s what I put together yesterday morning and took with me to the store:
I spent a few minutes building out the detailed plan, built a list of necessary ingredients for each recipe that weren’t already in my kitchen, and headed to the store on a mission. Writing everything out and taking inventory takes a few minutes, but it’s well worth the time and effort.
Stick to the Outside Perimeter
AVOID THE AISLES (if you can)! The outer perimeter is where you want to do most of your shopping. Grocery stores tend to stock produce, meats, and other whole foods on the outer edges of the store, while the aisles are filled with the boxed/processed foods which (for the most part) are not ideal for a healthy diet. Of course, you’ll need to get a few items from the inner section, such as olive oil, spices, oats, etc., but stick to the aforementioned list and only grab what you need when you head down an inner aisle.
The Power of Reading Labels
If you’re reading this blog, you can read a label on a box of food. For the 15-20% of things that I buy with a label and multiple ingredients (salsa, beef jerky, protein powder, ketchup, Greek yogurt, etc.), I always READ THE INGREDIENTS. If there is anything in the list that I can’t easily pronounce or don’t recognize as “food,” the likelihood of my body recognizing the unknown ingredient as something digestible is pretty low. I’ve found that foods containing a short ingredient list make me feel a whole lot better when I eat them, and my waistline has continued to shrink ever since I cut out all of the extra crap. Reading labels is my top “secret weapon” when I brave the grocery store, and it’s how I decide which product I’d rather spend my money on. I don’t care about which brand had a better commercial or which box has a prettier picture on it — I care about what it’s ACTUALLY made out of. Big-name labels tend to shove a lot of “filler” ingredients into their products, and they know that most people won’t put forth the effort to read what all actually makes up what we eat. 99% of the time, they’re right. Nobody reads the fine print, even though it’s often the most important part. Check out this comparison of Kraft Mac and Cheese versus a brand sold in the UK:
If I had to buy a packaged mac and cheese, I’d pick the one on the right. The short, easy-to-comprehend ingredient list tells me it’s higher in quality and lower in extra crap. When I get confused at the grocery store or can’t decide which item to buy, I go back to that old trick — reading — to help me make my choice. Read the ingredients, check the nutrition facts, and move on from there. Works every time.
Multiple Stops? No Problem
Yesterday, Ryan and I knocked out our grocery shopping between HEB and the new Whole Foods at The Domain, which, by the way, is less than half a mile from our doorstep. It’s heavenly, but it will drain you of all of your money if you’re not careful. We went twice in 48 hours this weekend and spent about $120 in those 2 trips alone. Obviously, Whole Foods is pricy, and I’m not okay with coughing up $350 for my grocery bill every single week. For cost efficiency, I’m vowing to buy what I can at HEB first and will limit myself to going to Whole Foods ONLY when I need fancy ingredients, like the gluten-free thin pizza crusts and stevia-sweetened sodas that we bought for yesterday’s pizza/wing night. HEB has all of the main ingredients that I need, and I did just fine with my grocery shopping before Whole Foods opened. You can cook and eat healthily without using specialized, fancy ingredients in every single meal. It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Get what you can at the cheaper store, then move on to the pricier one to cross of the rest of your list (if necessary).
Prep What You Can When You Get Home
I always get straight to washing, chopping, marinating, and cooking immediately when I come home after grocery shopping. I know my produce is fresh, my meat is all thawed, and I’m already pulling everything out of my bags — so I don’t bother packing it into the pantry. This really cuts down the amount of time I have to spend making dinners later in the week. Doing what you can in advance will save time during the evenings and make your life a little bit easier throughout the week.
Planning and forethought are the two main ingredients that you need for a healthier diet. If you’re willing to put a little effort into the choices that you make around food, your body and overall health will reap the benefits.