Cooking,  Other Writings

Eat Local America: Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

This recipe for Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches is the fourth post in the 2013 Eat Local America! Challenge series. Each year Minnesota co-ops celebrate the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available August by promoting a month of local eating. Minnesota Locavore and readers around the state are taking the challenge to eat meals made from local ingredients. Stop back all month long for recipes, local products and tips for jump starting your month of local food. 

For years I’ve followed the DIY blog Young House Love and watched the writers over there transform room after room. What I seemed to miss in among the gorgeous before and after photos are the things no one tells you about remodeling projects. This weekend Greg and I got a full-blown education when we started finishing our basement.

Basement Remodel

First lesson: When the sign says “Please excuse our dust,” they really aren’t kidding.

Despite our well-intentioned efforts to keep the construction zone in the basement, by Saturday afternoon a coat of fine dust was on every surface of our house. I sanded drywall joint compound for the better part of Friday but didn’t realize how much was sucked up the stairs and into the other spaces of our house. At first it stressed us both out, now we’re more in the stage of “Meh. This projects going to take a while” and into tracing messages or funny faces in the dust.

Second lesson: Everything takes longer and costs more than you think.

Most of our friends and family know that Greg’s accountant side rarely misses a detail when it comes to planning projects. He’s definitely in the “measure twice ten times, cut once” crowd. But despite his best intentions and budgeting, there were unexpected bumps. Our house is 6 years old, which we thought meant straight walls and nice even surfaces to start from. Not so much. Until we measured the existing basement walls and floors, we had no idea the concrete had a 1/4″ slope in the area we were framing. Everything slowed down to compensate.

Or how we didn’t realize we budgeted for flooring last spring at the sale price of $2.00 per square foot, only to find out the same floor is now $1.50 per square foot more. In the middle of the weekend we scraped our original in-floor heating plan + tile plan to a straight laminate. I spent hours on Pinterest looking for a new style, only to realize we’re back to not knowing what we want/need/can afford to slap on the floor.

An update picture of the basement - closet/future bathroom framed in and drywall ready for priming
An update picture of the basement – closet/future bathroom framed in and drywall ready for priming

Third lesson: DIY is exhausting.

Maybe it’s because most of my DIY experience comes from watching HGTV instead of actually doing DIY projects, but I had no idea how tiring home construction can be. Holding up boards to be screwed in place and sanding drywall uses a much different set of muscles than the ones I use to hold the TV remote. Saturday morning my arms and shoulders squawked about the overuse. My parents were here to help us this weekend and they both left tired as well. Today there’s more sanding to do downstairs but Greg and I are both content to find other things to work on while our bodies take the day off.

Kadejan Shredded Chicken

Fourth lesson: Get ready for a good appetite.

When your body is doing as much work as we did on the basement this weekend, it’s important to feed it well. Stopping for a bag of Cheetos and a Diet Coke on a morning break is not the fuel to keep me going all afternoon. Instead we had a weekend of easy, fast meals that got us back to work quickly without dragging us down with junk food calories.

The slow cooker is perfect for these kinds of project days. Prep it in the morning and forget about it during a full day of work. Then when you’re ready to wrap up for the day there’s a local meal, ready when you do anything if it meant not having to do anymore work.

This recipe for slow-cooker BBQ chicken fit both of our needs this weekend: a hot meal at the end of a long day and the Eat Local America! Challenge. The chicken thighs came from Kadejan in Glenwood, MN. The rhubarb ketchup is our homemade recipe. And the BBQ sauce is Wee Willy’s an Afton, MN company. Slow-cooked all day long and then shredded for sandwiches.

When we wrapped up for the day it was nice to sit around and enjoy these sandwiches with a cold bottle of local beer and some homemade cabbage coleslaw. That’s the best lesson we learned about home construction. There’s no better feeling than wrapping up a long day of work with a great meal.

Slow Cooker Shredded BBQ Sandwiches

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two

Note: For this recipe I substituted the 1/2 cup of ketchup for 1 cup of my homemade rhubarb ketchup. You can use 1/2 cup regular ketchup mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of all spice as well. I also substituting a few of the other spices and the apple cider vinegar for 1/2 cup of Wee Willy’s BBQ sauce. I’ve also successfully used this recipe with 4 pounds of round steak instead of chicken for shredded BBQ beef sandwiches.


2 C. of onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 chicken thighs (boneless is easier to shred later)
1 C. of rhubarb ketchup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 C. of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
hamburger buns


1. Place chopped onion and garlic in the bottom of a 3.5-4 quart slow cooker. Place the chicken on top of the garlic and onions. Cover with remaining ingredients except buns.

2. Cook on low 7-8 hours (high 3-4 hours) or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Remove chicken from slow-cooker and save juice/sauce.  Shred using 2 forks and remove any bones if using bone-in chicken thighs. Place chicken back into slow cooker and stir to evenly coat with remaining sauce.

3. Cover and set on ‘warm’ setting for 5-10 minutes to re-heat chicken. Serve on hamburger buns.

One Comment

  • Jess

    I am seriously impressed by the DIY skills you guys are displaying here! Can’t wait to see the finished product.

    The sandwiches look yummy! I bought a slow cooker a few months ago and have used it a few times. I can’t wait to use it on a more regular basis, especially in the fall & winter months. Thus far, pulled chicken is my favorite thing to make. It is so good!

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