Chicken in a Basil Cream Sauce

On December 16, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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This is a rather simple and quick dinner that people will think took a long time to make. The total preparation and cooking time is about 30-40 minutes. What is nice about the dish is the blend of the Parmesan Cheese and chopped Basil. Fresh basil is definitely required for this dish as it is a key ingredient and probably wouldn’t work very will with a dried herb substitute.

Chicken in a Basil Cream Sauce
Serves 4

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (4 ounce) jar sliced pimento peppers, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place milk and bread crumbs in separate, shallow bowls. In skillet, heat butter or margarine to medium heat. Dip chicken in milk, then coat with crumbs. Cook in butter or margarine, on both sides, until juices run clear (about 10 minutes). Remove and keep warm.

2. Add broth to skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir to loosen browned bits from pan. Stir in cream and pimentos; boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat.

3. Add Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir sauce and cook until heated through. Pour mixture over chicken and serve.

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Food Inc.’s Impact on Our Food Buying Decisions

On December 6, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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My wife and I watched a very interesting and, by seeing how my Sunday went, potentially life-changing film called “Food, Inc.” It’s basically a documentary that tries to cover the steps of where our food comes from. It’s not as graphic or gory as some documentaries I have watched on the subject of animal cruelty and factory farming. Sure it has a little of that and there are some tear-filled moments, but this film is less sensational and more informational.

After a long discussion with Stephanie about what changes we could make in our family’s diet we decided to do a bit of research. Fortunately, our diet is filled with a lot of home cooking with fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. Plus we buy a lot of organic products. Very little of our consumption is processed foods and we had already eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from our diets a few years ago after Stephanie watched an episode of Oprah featuring Doctor Oz.

What you learn in Food, Inc. is that “organic”, “natural”, “anti-biotic free” are labels that while good are simply scratching the surface and factory farming has bastardized many of the terms. So what do you look for?

Here is an article I highly recommend everyone to read: Avoiding Factory Farm Foods.

Read it and then come back to this article if you care to see what changes we did.

A few easy decisions involved changing our diary choices. We bought a lot of Organic but only milk from the Organic Valley brand. They are very well respected and a very easy decision when buying diary products so we are now exclusively using their products. Sure there are some other labels out there that are just as good, but Organic Valley is pretty much everywhere we shop.

We eat a lot of meat, mainly boneless, skinless chicken which is probably 70-80% of our meat choice. Stephanie doesn’t eat seafood and I eat very little of it. The other 20-30% is mainly beef and a little pork.

Our beef and pork are all bought from Costco. Well, I should say WERE bought from Costco. We’ve decided to go exclusively with a farm that we bought some meat from at last summer’s Birmingham Farmer’s Market – John Henry’s. It’s a local farm that raises pasture beef and pork. They do home delivery in our area. I used to bulk buy from Costco and individually freeze the meat with our Food Saver. Now I’ll just buy bulk from John Henry’s Farm and freeze.

Chicken can also be purchased from John Henry’s but I wanted to see if we could find it more easily since it’s a larger, more frequent part of our diet.

Organic Valley’s meat brand is Organic Prairie that sells prairie raised animals. Problem is it’s very hard to find (Whole Foods Rochester Hills and a Co-op in Ann Arbor) and the cost is exorbitant. For example, frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts run about $5 per chicken breast. Trader Joe’s frozen all-natural boneless, skinless chicken breasts I used to buy are about $2.75 per chicken breast. Of course the Trader Joe’s chicken is not free-range raised. The best route to buy free-range chicken is to buy from a local farm like my local farmer’s market meat seller, John Henry’s, which charges only $5.29 a pound (or about $3.50 per chicken breast.)

Fortunately, I went back to Trader Joe’s this evening and bought some of their individually wrapped packaged Organic Chicken. It’s about $4 per chicken breast ($7.49/lb.) The difference between the All-Natural I used to buy and the Organic is tremendous. Here is how the label reads on the Organic package:

“These certified organic birds eat organic feed their entire lives – their corn and soy based diet is free of antibiotics and animal by-products. They’re free range, raised in spacious, naturally lit houses and large, fenced outdoor pens, where they are free to roam.”

If you read the article I mentioned above, you’ll know the last sentence is very important and major difference from other suppliers. For instance, I went to Whole Foods’ website and it says nothing of the sort, only the following is mentioned:

Poultry

* No antibiotics — ever
* No animal byproducts in feed
* No beak trimming for broiler chickens and game hens
* Appropriate beak trimming for turkeys allowed when necessary*
* Appropriate litter provided for comfort and to satisfy natural foraging instincts

So there you have it, our changes after a day of research. I’m sure we’ll do some more looking into things with other products, but this at least gives us some good information to ‘vote with our dollars.’

Please share any brands, products, farms, etc. that you do to improve how and what you eat.

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Deb’s Chicken Pot Pie

On December 6, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Facebook is a great resource for talking food with friends and family. Fortunately, I have a good network of fellow home cooks. One such friend is Deb Tighe who kept talking about a chicken pot pie she was making over and over again. She was in a bit of a food rut, but thank god because if it wasn’t for her rut and Facebook status posts about it I would’ve never made this delicious pot pie.

Most pot pies I have had are a bit over done in the ingredients department, they are often over flavored. Other recipes are a bit too simple and well bland. This recipe has a very nice balance of flavor letting you enjoy every ingredient.

I did make a few minor tweaks to Deb’s original recipe (my changes are in the recipe here.) I added a small amount of Thyme and Oregano and also pre-boiled the potatoes so they would be fully cooked.

Enjoy and thanks again to Deb for an excellent recipe!

Deb’s Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 8 (2 pies)

1 10 oz. package frozen mixed vegetables
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. chopped onions
1 potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp dried Thyme
1/4 tsp dried Oregano
1 3/4 c. chicken broth
2/3 c. milk
3 c. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 pie crusts (9 in.)

Boil potatoes in hot water for about 8 minutes to soften. In a large skillet, melt butter and add onions, potato, flour, salt, thyme, oregano and pepper. Stir and cook until bubbly, remove from heat. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Stir constantly and heat to boiling. Boil one minute while stirring. Stir in veggies and shredded chicken.

Prepare bottom pie crust and pour chicken mixture into crust. Add top crust and crimp edges or pie. Prick top of crust. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Chicken pot pies can also be frozen before baking for use later. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator and bake as directed above.

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