Friday, January 27, 2012

Thinking Outside the Jar

Your grocery store is full of opportunities for consumers to get in on this convenience trend that is on the tip of everyone's tongue.  That is the number one response that I get 100% of the time from clients or the groups I talk to when asked 'What affects what you eat or cook the most?'  Easy, quick, and delicious -- all wrapped in a pretty little bow, or a paper bag advertising the drive thru restaurant that just got the remaining cash in your wallet.

Shopping through your market, you are overwhelmed with pre-packaged, boxed, canned, frozen, etc. One that I would consider pretty darn convenient would be the jarred pasta sauce.  I would be guilty of using these a time or two.  A simple jar of marinara as a base for my spissskettii (spaghetti- I still pronounce it the same way I did when I was 5 years old). While I was coming up with this next recipe, I contemplated to use a lighter version of an Alfredo sauce.  I am one to read a food label in the middle of the aisle, half of which was lined with hundreds of varieties of the jarred stuff, not fearing the shopping buggies that could clip my heels at any moment.  When I flipped the jar to the back side I stood there jaw-dropped at the amount of sodium was in that little 10-ounce container.  While it was still a little high, but reasonable, on the calorie/fat side (about 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams saturated fat for 1/4 of a cup) there were 440mg of sodium in just one serving.  That means in the entire jar there were over 2,000 mg! That is the amount that the American Heart Association recommends in an entire day.  Whew...that jar went back on the shelf. I left the store feeling a bit defeated in thinking my 'quick and easy' casserole wasn't going to be either of those things.  I was going to have to make an Alfredo sauce from scratch.  Scratch -- now there is a word that may be foreign to three-quarters of the American population.  It shouldn't be that way.  Aside from the salt control you posses (BTW, your cardiovascular system will thank you) another plus is that homemade versions (to me, at least) taste much fresher than the jarred, and there is a plethora of ways to get creative with a homemade sauce making it more unique to your taste. There are many pasta sauce recipes out there that require minimum work, like the one to follow for my Chicken Casserole.  Matched with a shredded rotisserie chicken and convenient vegetables (frozen broccoli, pre-sliced mushrooms and jarred roasted red peppers) you won’t be missing out on that quick and easy train with a simple homemade sauce.

Veggie-Chicken Bread Pudding

3 tbsp butter, divided
Cooking spray
2 leeks, chopped (white and light green parts, only)
1 (8-ounce) package pre-sliced Bella mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard (powder)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (1%) low-fat milk
1 cup (4 oz) reduced fat cheddar
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 (12 oz) package (steamable) frozen broccoli florets, steamed according to pkg directions
1/2 cup fire roasted red bell peppers, chopped
4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 1 pound)
3 cups Sourdough Bread
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large stockpot coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add leeks, pepper, salt, and mushrooms; saut√© 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add wine; cook 1 minute. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Gradually add flour, garlic powder, and mustard powder to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly (mixture will be thick) with a whisk. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; stirring frequently. Remove from heat.  Add cheddar cheese and sour cream , stirring with a whisk until cheese melts. Combine the mushroom mixture, chicken, broccoli, and red bell pepper; stir until blended. Pour into a 13-X-9 baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Melt remaining 2 T butter in the microwave.  Mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl; drizzle with melted butter; toss to combine.  Spread cubed bread mixture evenly over dish. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove casserole from oven; let stand 15 minutes.

Nutrition Information: Serves 10; 1 cup each
Calories: 352; Fat: 8.6 g; Carbohydrate: 45 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 25 g

Amber Massey RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

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