Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

Healthier Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic--and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic–and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic--and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole wasn’t something I grew up with. In fact, I had already graduated from college the first time I remember eating it! My husband made it for me when we were dating. 🙂 What a guy, I know. In my recent quest for simplifying the dinner routine, I’ve been putting some easy meals on our menu plan that I can prep on the weekend and stick in the oven after getting home from work. Casseroles are an easy choice for this–but so many have tons of butter, weird gloppy cans of soup, and other things I prefer not to eat (regularly).

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic--and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

SO I decided to make-over this lovely little dish, healthify it per se. There are tons of recipes online–I didn’t use one in particular, just my memory and the plethora of versions on Allrecipes. Usually they call for some cooked chicken, sour cream, a can of condensed cream of chicken soup, poppy seeds, Ritz crackers, and butter. Good and all, but lots of sodium, MSG, and fat. Okay once in awhile but not all the time, please. Especially since I’ll be serving this to my cute little boy (and his daddy)! I know this isn’t the healthiest dinner–but it’s better than the original! And still pretty easy: I made a quick homemade condensed cream of chicken soup using simple pantry ingredients: butter, flour, chicken broth, milk, and seasoning… then I subbed some of the sour cream for greek yogurt, added herbs for color and flavor, and a bed of rice to bulk it up. We eat so many dinners with rice that this addition was only natural! I think quinoa, farro, or some other grain would be equally tasty.

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic--and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

Since this casserole doesn’t include any veggies, be sure to add some on the side. I steamed some frozen broccoli in the microwave, tbh. Part of me didn’t want to take pictures of this dish with my frozen broccoli since it’s pretty obvious (and do you see my leftover naan too? Had to fill up the plate somehow, ha!). BUT guys… this is #reallife. And there’s nothing wrong with frozen veggies! 🙂 Better frozen, than none at all, I say. Green beans, broccoli, carrots… all would be great here! Salad–whether fresh or bagged–would be great too. These days, making a salad from scratch is the last thing I want to do after work. I can’t tell you how many heads of lettuce I’ve tossed (and I hate that). I didn’t mean to digress into this–and this is for ME TOO–get your veggies as you can… frozen, fresh, canned. Enjoy! 🙂

Comforting and homey, poppy seed chicken casserole is a classic--and for good reason! This makeover recipe is a *little* healthier thanks to a (simple) homemade cream of chicken soup and the addition of greek yogurt instead of all that sour cream.

one year ago: Kale and Brown Rice Gratin
two years ago: Crockpot Barbacoa 
three years ago: Baked Caramel Apple Mini Doughnuts
four years ago: Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup
five years ago: Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
six years ago: Pumpkin Spread
seven years ago: Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

Healthier Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients:

for homemade condensed cream of chicken soup from A Pinch of Healthy

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk, slightly warmed or at room temperature if possible (I’ve used anything from whole to skim – it thickens best with whole but anything is fine, really!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dried herbs like oregano, basil, parsley, etc. if desired

for casserole

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 3 cups liquid – I used half chicken broth and half water
  • 2 cups chopped or shredded chicken – use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, or just bake/poach/cook some chicken
  • 10 ounces greek yogurt
  • 6 ounces sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • fresh or dried herbs, like rosemary, oregano, basil, etc. if desired
  • 1 sleeve buttery crackers – like Ritz, approximately 32 crackers
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Begin by preparing rice according to package directions. I like to make rice with half chicken broth and half water for extra flavor.

Then, start making the homemade condensed cream of chicken soup. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute, stirring continually. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, cooking until mixture begins to thicken – about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic powder, pepper, and herbs. Remove from heat and set aside.

Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish, or any similar size casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, sour cream, greek yogurt, and prepared homemade cream of chicken soup. Stir together then mix in poppy seeds and herbs, if desired. I like to use a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and some oregano.

When rice is cooked, spread in the bottom of prepared baking dish. Top with chicken mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together cracker crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over casserole.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Enjoy!

Note:

Casserole can be prepared in advance. Just wait until you’re ready to bake to add the cracker topping.

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Cozy up to fall with this hearty and cheesy side dish. Kale and Brown Rice Gratin... filling enough for a meatless dinner, but fancy enough for a holiday side dish. The best of both worlds!
Main Dishes, Other, Recipes, Rice, Sides, Vegetables

Kale and Brown Rice Gratin

Cozy up to fall with this hearty and cheesy side dish. Kale and Brown Rice Gratin… filling enough for a meatless dinner, but fancy enough for a holiday side dish. The best of both worlds!

Cozy up to fall with this hearty and cheesy side dish. Kale and Brown Rice Gratin... filling enough for a meatless dinner, but fancy enough for a holiday side dish. The best of both worlds!

Every year, I have this huge internal debate with myself… fall vs. spring, which season is best? I love the chill that comes in the air with fall mornings (especially after a hot summer), but the warm afternoons of spring are delightful too (especially after a cold winter). Both seasons are great for running and long walks with Ben [and now our lil baby!!]… and both seasons bring a plethora of amazing recipes.

Spring means lots of new produce and the first farmer’s market and going to purchase herbs and tomatoes to plant in the backyard. But fall means cozy recipes, cheesy recipes, roasted root veggies, and evenings tucked under my favorite soft blankets.

So I simply cannot decide… each fall I think I love fall the best, and each spring I think I love spring the best. It is so tough, ya know? THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not alone…

Cozy up to fall with this hearty and cheesy side dish. Kale and Brown Rice Gratin... filling enough for a meatless dinner, but fancy enough for a holiday side dish. The best of both worlds!

All that to say… I’m going to embrace the fall now that it is here and STOP THE DEBATE. Because this election has enough of that drama. Did I just say that? Whoops… 🙂

Moving on… And what better way to do that than with a cheesy side dish made with kale, caramelized onions, garlic, and brown rice? This dish is absolutely fabulous, and is a great way to introduce kale to the skeptics. Are there still any kale skeptics out there? Probably.

Anyways, this delicious dish has a few steps, but it can basically be summed up in this way: make rice. Caramelize onions, add garlic and kale. Make a cheese sauce [don’t forget to use room temp milk/cream… mucho easier that way, trust me, I know!]. Stir together and bake til ooey gooey. Enjoy!

Cozy up to fall with this hearty and cheesy side dish. Kale and Brown Rice Gratin... filling enough for a meatless dinner, but fancy enough for a holiday side dish. The best of both worlds!

Like I said before, this dish is hearty enough for a meatless meal, but it is also perfecto for a holiday side dish. Anyway you serve it you’ll be sure to love it! Have a great day, friends!

one year ago: Crockpot Barbacoa
two years ago: Baked Caramel Apple Mini Doughnuts
three years ago: Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup
four years ago: Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
five years ago: Pumpkin Spread
six years ago: Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

Kale and Brown Rice Gratin

  • Servings: 6
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from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, cut in half then into thin slices [or other sweet onion]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chopped kale, packed [original recipe used lacinato but I just used curly kale – this is about 1/2 a bunch]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, cream, or half and half – at room temperature [you can use skim milk, but this is used to make a cheese sauce so you may want to use something fattier  – when I use skim milk in this, I use half skim milk, half half and half]
  • white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese, divided [you could also use ALL fontina, ALL gouda, or half fontina or gouda and half mozzarella/white cheddar/etc.]

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce heat to low and cover, cooking for about 30-40 minutes until rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

While rice cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, then season with salt and pepper. Stir together to combine, then cook for 25-30 minutes, until onions are caramelized and very soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant, then top with kale. Cover skillet with a lid for a minute or so to let kale wilt a bit, then remove lid, season kale with salt and pepper, and stir together. Cook for another 2-3 minutes then transfer kale and onion mixture to a large bowl.

In the same skillet set over medium-low heat, melt butter and then whisk flour into melted butter. Cook for a minute, then slowly pour in room temperature milk/cream. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps, then season with white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook until thick — mixture should be able to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently! Remove from heat and stir in half of each type of cheese until incorporated.

Meanwhile, grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add cooked rice to kale mixture in large bowl, stirring to combine. Fold in cheese sauce and stir again. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting to serve. Enjoy!

Beans, Main Dishes, Recipes

Baked Burritos with Pinto Beans + Kale

These fabulous savory bean and rice burritos are made even more delicious by the addition of hearty kale and gooey Monterey Jack cheese. You’ll be sure to love them–a great family meal!

These fabulous savory bean and rice burritos are made even more delicious by the addition of hearty kale and gooey Monterey Jack cheese. You'll be sure to love them--a great family meal!

Are you ready for a knock-your-socks off vegetarian burrito recipe? If so, you’ve come to the right place! And if not–or if vegetarian fare isn’t your thing–please stay, because I know you’ll enjoy it anyway! 🙂 Or you can just add some shredded chicken to the burrito filling. Don’t worry, I’ll be none the wiser. Haha. Now onto the good stuff! These burritos! Mmmm… they are your classic vegetarian burrito–rich and hearty beans and rice… but with a twist! This veggie burrito adds some flavorful and fresh kale to the mix, along with an awesome blend of savory seasonings [garlic, onion, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin] for a fabulous burrito like none other. You will simply be amazed by how good this burrito filling is! Divine! 🙂

These fabulous savory bean and rice burritos are made even more delicious by the addition of hearty kale and gooey Monterey Jack cheese. You'll be sure to love them--a great family meal!

Now, I won’t lie. There are quite a few ingredients and steps below for this recipe, and it takes about an hour from start to finish. Obviously I made this pre-baby. Gah. But, it’s still totally doable for a family meal because this is the sort of meal you can make in steps and keep in the fridge [or freezer] to eat all week long. Basically, you begin by making some rice–with garlic and broth instead of water for added yumminess. Then you saute up some onion, add your seasonings and kale, and let that cook down a bit. Then you mix everything together and add cheese and tortillas… bake, and voila! Dinner is served. Yum.

These fabulous savory bean and rice burritos are made even more delicious by the addition of hearty kale and gooey Monterey Jack cheese. You'll be sure to love them--a great family meal!

I mention this in the recipe notes below, but what I wanna emphasize is that this makes a TON of burrito filling, so YAY! Lots of work=lots of meals. Hooray. When I made this for us, we ate burritos a few times during the week, adding the filling to tortillas as desired. Then we froze the rest for another time. America’s Test Kitchen, the author of this recipe in their amazing vegetarian cookbook [go check it out! I borrowed it from my library but I want a copy for home now.] suggests that this serves six. Well, maybe our tortillas were wayyyy smaller, but we got at least 10 burritos, if not MORE out of the recipe as written below. Your mileage may vary, but that’s how it went for us. I definitely loved this dish and so did Ben. I think I’m going to make a batch before I go back to work after Labor Day [tear] for quick weeknight dinners in my new working mama life. Hope y’all enjoy!

one year ago: Zucchini Apple Walnut Muffins
two years ago: Baked Honey Chicken Nuggets with Homemade Chick-Fil-A Sauce
three years ago: Churro Cheesecake Bars
four years ago: Pesto Potato Salad
five years ago: Salmon with Lemon, Tarragon, and Garlic Sauce
six years ago: Summer Mexican Soup

Baked Burritos with Pinto Beans + Kale

  • Servings: 6+
  • Print

from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced + more for topping if desired
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bunch kale or swiss chard, stemmed and leaves chopped into thin ribbons
  • 1 – 15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 6 burrito sized flour tortillas
  • 10 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • sour cream, salsa, etc. – for serving as desired

Directions:

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine 1 1/4 cups broth, rice, half of the garlic, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, until rice is tender and broth has been absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add in tomato paste, chipotle chile pepper, cumin, oregano, remaining garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir everything together for a minute, then add kale and 1/2 cup broth. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, until kale has softened.

In a bowl, combine half of the beans and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Mash with a potato masher until coarse, then fold into kale mixture along with remaining beans and lime juice. Cook, stirring continually, for a few minutes until liquid is mostly evaporated. Stir in rice.

Turn oven on to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Next, assemble burritos. Warm tortillas in the microwave, then divide mixture between tortillas, adding a little cheese inside of each tortilla before rolling into burritos. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet, then sprinkle with a little more cheese. Broil until cheese melts and begins to brown, about 3-5 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, etc. as desired.

Notes:

The prepared burrito filling also freezes well, on its own or in pre-made burritos ready for the oven. To heat later, microwave defrosted burrito filling until hot then prepare burritos with cheese and broil as directed above. Pre-made and frozen burritos can be heated from frozen in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until hot.

The cookbook suggests this recipe serves 6. However, we got at least 10 burritos out of this amount of filling. Our tortillas may have been smaller and/or filled less, so your mileage may vary.

 

Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet

In 30 minutes you can have a deliciously wonderful dinner on the table! Take your go to easy dinner components–rice, chicken, and veggies–then toss them in a [slightly spicy] ranch sauce… and sit back and enjoy! 

Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet: In 30 minutes you can have a deliciously wonderful dinner on the table! Take your go to easy dinner components--rice, chicken, and veggies--then toss them in a [slightly spicy] ranch sauce... and sit back and enjoy!

If healthier skillet meals and casseroles are my favorite things ever now [minimal dishes, no real need for a side dish cause you have the protein + veggies + starch all in one happy mix], I can only imagine how valuable they’ll be once Baby Volde arrives in May! 🙂 I’m planning on doing some freezer cooking before his arrival, but those meals will eventually be depleted and when I go back to work having these sort of tasty yet healthy meals on hand will be key to my happiness. I’m sure of it! So I’m making certain I find some good recipes now so I’m ready then. If this Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet doesn’t fit the bill for easy, yummy, and delicious while still being healthy, then I don’t know what would!

Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet: In 30 minutes you can have a deliciously wonderful dinner on the table! Take your go to easy dinner components--rice, chicken, and veggies--then toss them in a [slightly spicy] ranch sauce... and sit back and enjoy!

This meal is SO good, you guys. If you’ve ever looked around my blog or know me in real life, you know that I’m a Mexican/Southwestern/Tex Mex food addict. I could go for tacos, black bean and rice bowls, carnitas, enchiladas, or quesadillas just about any day. It’s not any one thing about that kind of cuisine–the spices, or the cheese, or the toppings, but all of that at once. And this dish, though it’s not “Mexican” at all, it reminds me of a Mexican/Southwestern/Tex Mex-influenced meal thanks to the combo of chicken, black beans, rice, and tomatoes, plus all the yummy toppings! Cheese! Sour cream! Cilantro! Scallions! Yum!

Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet: In 30 minutes you can have a deliciously wonderful dinner on the table! Take your go to easy dinner components--rice, chicken, and veggies--then toss them in a [slightly spicy] ranch sauce... and sit back and enjoy!

Seriously, this stuff is ahhhmazingly good! Plus it has veggies, so that makes it good for you! Ha. 🙂 But it does, right?!? Don’t be put off by the “spicy” label on this recipe. It’s really only lightly spicy… the cheese and ranch combo cools things down, and if your family doesn’t do spice, then omit the crushed red pepper and cayenne and use regular diced tomatoes instead of fire-roasted. No matter how you make it, everyone will certainly love it! Though I’m a fan of making this dish with leftover roasted chicken, you can certainly make it with other proteins like ground turkey, chorizo, or even leftover shredded pulled pork for a new flavor profile. Now I have a new dinner idea for later this week because I just so happen to have a bunch of leftover pulled pork in the freezer! Score! 🙂 Enjoy!

one year ago: Chocolate Coffee Bundt Cake
two years ago: Strawberry Yogurt
three years ago: Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad
four years ago: Extraordinary Grilled Cheese
five years ago: The Best Egg Salad

Spicy Ranch Chicken Rice Skillet

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

adapted from Well Plated

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups white rice
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups bell pepper, chopped [I used a mix of red, yellow, and orange]
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can no-salt fire-roasted tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes [depending on your preferred level of spice]
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 2-3 tablespoons homemade ranch seasoning [or one small package from the grocery store]
  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup water or additional chicken broth, if necessary
  • shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
  • cilantro, for serving
  • chopped scallions, for serving
  • sour cream, for serving

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragarent. Reduce heat to low and stir in black beans, tomatoes, and chicken. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of ranch seasoning. Stir to combine, then add red pepper, cayenne, and black pepper to taste. Add additional ranch seasoning to taste. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes or until hot.

When rice is cooked, stir into veggie and chicken mixture. Add up to 1/2 cup additional chicken broth/water if it is too thick to stir. Serve with cheddar cheese, cilantro, and scallions. For a creamy treat, stir in a bit of sour cream. Enjoy!

Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

Simple Teriyaki Chicken #CareToFarm15

About a month ago, I had a fun opportunity to travel to eastern North Carolina–Greenville, to be specific–with a group of bloggers for #CareToFarm15. Phibro Animal Health sponsored this incredible opportunity to learn more about our food industry! I must admit, initially when I received the email invite I was hesitant.

What a sweet welcome to Greenville! đź’— #CaretoFarm15 #visitNC

A post shared by Sarah K. // The Pajama Chef (@thepajamachef) on

Taking time off work is a commitment, and going to a large scale chicken hatchery and farm is a LITTLE out of my comfort zone. But I wanted to go, with an open mind, to learn more about large scale poultry production–even though I suspected I might get some hateful/angry animal activist comments on this blog post or other social media posts. I think eating local and organic is a good thing to aspire to, but with meat and poultry, that’s not usually possible for us budget-wise. And because of this trip, I have become convinced that eating all local/organic isn’t what is best for the world food system either. So what did I think? Read on to find out–and to get a recipe for an easy chicken dish that I love… because yes, I can still eat chicken [and feel good about it] after this trip. 🙂 Spoiler alert: despite my hesitancy, this trip was AMAZING. So educational, enjoyable, and eye-opening.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

We started out our stay in Greenville with a leisurely drive through the North Carolina countryside–cotton fields galore–to dinner in Kinston at Chef & the Farmer. Yup, you may have heard of this restaurant or its lovely chef, Vivian Howard. She even has her own show on PBS! The food here was incredible. We started off with lots of starters, including this pizza with beef bacon [did you even know that’s a thing??! Mmm!] and fried okra with RANCH ICE CREAM for dipping. Ohhh yeah!

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!For my meal, I chose a lovely pasta dish made with cabbage and beef sausage… a basil limeade [mmm!]…. and buttermilk pie with a blackberry lime sauce. Every bite was awesome!

If you ever have the chance to visit Chef & the Farmer, do it. But plan ahead–I guess they tend to be booked about three months in advance! It is truly a delicious experience. 🙂

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

While we ate, we heard from some of our hosts, including  Warren Harper [Phibro’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing], Ray Abner [Director of the US Poultry Business Unit and Global Strategic Accounts], and veterinarian Dr. Leah Dorman about Phibro as a company, animal health, and what to expect the next day.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

Bright and early the next morning we headed out to Sanderson Farms and one of their partner farms, Three Sons Poultry to get an education in chickens!

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

On our drive, we learned a little about the history of Sanderson Farms. Though I had never heard of them before, they are the third largest poultry company in the US, behind Tyson and Pilgrim. Nationally, they produce over 60 million pounds of chicken per week [that’s 9 million birds!]. I know that might sound atrocious, but read on.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

We first visited the hatchery and had to get all dolled up [HA] to protect the eggs. Bio-security is a major part of the poultry industry. Before entering the building [even the office portion], we had to disinfect our shoes and wear booties. Before entering the hatchery, we had to gown up in these awesome blue suits, plastic shoe covers, and hairnets. Should this be my new daily attire?! 🙂 The same thing was required later on at the chicken farm–but also included disinfecting our bus’ tires and our shoes with bleach powder. Crazy stuff–but necessary for healthy animals!

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

I expected the hatchery to be cold, dirty, busy, and impersonal… but truly, it wasn’t. And the baby chicks were adorable. 🙂 Though it was definitely an agricultural facility it was efficient and clean. SO clean in fact that I would be more likely to eat off the floor at the hatchery than off the floor in the kitchen at work. #truestory [Not that I actually would eat off the floor pretty much anywhere but my home but still…]

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

When the eggs arrive at the hatchery, they’re kept in crates on trays in a cozy [but gigantic] incubator. Think industrial size refrigerators, but larger. Once they hatch, they are moved to another part of the hatchery to receive vaccinations. The reason for these vaccinations, though scary-sounding [and honestly, a little frightening to look at since they are pink in color] is to grow healthy chicks. Something I never thought about before is that even though this is a big company, they have excellent motivation for healthy chickens in the long run. They want to treat their chicks well and they have veterinarians on staff to ensure that happens. Think about it… veterinarians are trained to keep animals healthy, and continue to do so… even when their purpose is something we might not want to think about… becoming our food. Mind=blown!

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

Plus, avian influenza is nothing to joke around about–for the animals OR for people. I now firmly believe that these vaccines are necessary and good, even though the thought of them might make some uncomfortable. The lasting impact on our food system if there is a large outbreak of disease is crippling. For instance, the drought in 2012 still affects beef prices today–and our trip almost didn’t happen due to the bird flu/egg shortage epidemic of this summer. Sanderson Farms’ head veterinarian, Phil Stayer was incredibly patient with us bloggers as we tried to understand the procedures at the hatchery as well as the rationale behind vaccinations and other health protocols. Hearing the perspectives of several veterinarians on this trip was really priceless.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

While we were there, I even got to hold a baby chick that was hatched just that day! Their timetable for hatching is super precise and regimented 365 days per year. Did you know that chicks grow in the egg for 21 days, are hatched and vaccinated, and then live at the farm for six weeks before being processed? Pretty quick turnaround, and the great part about all this is that speed results in an improvement to the gene pool–AND early realizations of problems. After hanging out with just hatched chicks, we headed over to Three Sons Poultry, a family-owned chicken farm.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

Three Sons Poultry is part of Sanderson Farms’ integrated poultry system. This is basically a contract growing system, beneficial to both parties. The family farm is guaranteed a market for their product and a steady income, along with support for their business from the parent company. Along with that support, they are required to follow certain guidelines and pass inspections to ensure the health of the chickens.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

The above photo shows a chicken house. A farm can have up to four houses occupied at once–with roughly 20,000-25,000 chickens inhabiting each house. Though that sounds like a lot, these houses are HUGE and the chickens have plenty of space to grow. They are technically “cage free” but not “free range” meaning they can’t go outside… but that is to keep them healthier and as free from antibiotics as possible. Diseases can spread easily so every possible precaution is taken to keep these animals safe. The chickens only receive antibiotics if they are sick, and even then, there is a waiting period between their last dose and their processing to ensure that all traces of medication are gone.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

Here you can see the farmer from Three Sons Poultry [I’ll update when I can get his name… he and his wife were SO nice!] with veterinarian Leah Dorman. Though it’s hard to see, there is so much space in the house but the chickens tend to huddle together along the walls and the feeding mechanisms [which move up throughout the chicken’s life]. He doesn’t have to wear all the bio-security gear [except plastic shoe covers] due to his constant work/presence on the farm.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

From beginning to end of these chickens’ lives, they are well cared for and protected. There are some parts of  the process that are unsettling to someone from outside the industry but all in all, what the men and women of Phibro, Sanderson Farms, Three Sons Poultry, and all the other players in the game do is for the good of the chickens. I was a little scared I’d come away from this trip wanting to be a vegetarian, but it’s actually been the opposite. Learning about the process makes me appreciate it more, and I learned tons of fun facts…  probably the biggest one was that in the US, it is illegal to inject hormones into poultry. Illegal! No poultry is free from all hormones because there are naturally occurring hormones in all living things but no one adds anything… growth is due to feed [and it takes 1.7 pounds of feed for 1 pound of chicken growth]. So you can rest assured that whether or not you buy the fancy local, organic, ____ [insert whatever adjective you prefer here] or the basic grocery store label, your chicken does not have growth hormones and will not affect your family! The labels and whatever they say [or don’t say] are just advertising.

After visiting Three Sons Poultry, we relaxed over lunch at The Peach House. My bacon, cheddar, and tomato quiche was the best! I want to remake it at home! Their desserts were the bomb… and the souvenir glass mugs they generously gave us were so cute too.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

An afternoon to recharge at the hotel and it was time to eat again! This time, dinner was at the Plum Tree Bistro. The husband-and-wife team running the restaurant were sooo sweet, and our group had a great family meal together. And of course, since LOBSTER was an option I had to partake. I think this was the first time I have ever had lobster without my dad [normally he works for the lobster and I just get to enjoy] but this time, we were just given lobster tail so it wasn’t too challenging. 🙂

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

Over our meal [and my awesomely melty strawberry rhubarb cobbler], we heard more from the Phibro and Sanderson Farms folks I already mentioned and Sanderson Farms’ Marketing Product Specialist LaDonna Byrd about their work and their passion for chickens. And guys… it’s about wayyy more than the money. For many of these individuals, their travels to poverty-stricken areas of the world [and for some, their faith] motivates them to work to improve food sustainability, access, and efficiency. As they have seen people struggling to get their next meal, they want to make our food system better–through animal health and food efficiency.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

This doesn’t just affect them at work, but in their personal lives. Several talked about their work with nonprofits and/or missions organizations through church [and we even discovered some personal church-related connections… fun!]. Others talked about their own food purchases. They buy the Sanderson Farms chicken to serve to their families [psst: Publix grocery stores sells Sanderson Farms under their private label. Just look for the codes P-32182 or P-18557.  These numbers are pre-printed in the USDA inspection seal on all Publix film and bags.] They also do not buy the most expensive, fanciest eggs because they aren’t sustainable for our planet. Demand and supply are so interlinked that if we cause more demand for things like fancy brown eggs, that’s what will be created… at the expense of everything else. And the average person around the world [and in America!] cannot afford that. Then what will they eat? How can we buy the best when many struggle to survive on $1 per day? Efficiency, like it or not, is key to helping end hunger–in America and across the globe. And companies like Phibro and Sanderson Farms are the ones working towards that end.

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

And now… like I promised… a chicken dish to celebrate all things chicken! I wish I could share this meal with my new chicken friends but sharing it on the internet will have to do. This simple teriyaki chicken meal is made in your crockpot for maximum ease, maximum tenderness, and maximum deliciousness!

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

I freak out about leaving my crockpot on during the workday because of the potential for fire or a short circuit, so I use it regularly on the weekends for an easy [but tasty] meal that provides lots of leftovers for a busy week ahead. This meal is no exception! Though this crockpot recipe is a wee bit more labor intensive than “dump ‘n go,” it’s not too bad at all and the taste of that homemade sauce is well worth it! Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading this monster of a post. 🙂 I’m a librarian… what can I say? I’m thorough and wanted to share what I learned with others!

FYI… If you have ANY questions, please comment or email me [pajamachef AT gmail dot com] and I’ll try to answer them or get the answers for you from the wonderful folks I met. Any errors in this blog post are my own. For my blog, all first-time commenters go to moderation so please don’t think I am blocking comments on this possibly controversial subject… I want to have good dialogue but I am not going to argue with anyone. Hateful, profane, or mean-spirited comments may be deleted. Thank you for understanding! 

one year ago: Cranberry Mint Relish
two years ago: Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
three years ago: Carnitas
four years ago: Thai Seared Shrimp with Tomato, Basil, and Coconut
five years ago: Balsamic Roasted Chickpeas

Simple Teriyaki Chicken

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

A recipe for simple teriyaki crockpot chicken and a review of #CareToFarm15 - read on to learn more about our food industry!

from The Comfort of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • cooked rice, for serving
  • sesame seeds, for serving
  • green onions, for serving

Directions:

Place chicken in the bottom of a crockpot. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Pour over chicken, turning chicken to coat. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

When chicken is cooked, gently remove to a cutting board. Pour sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water then pour into sauce, reducing heat to low. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

While sauce is thickening, chop chicken into chunks. When sauce is thick, stir in chicken. Allow to heat thoroughly, then serve over hot cooked rice, adding sesame seeds and green onions as desired. Enjoy!

As I hope you can tell, this trip was a wonderful experience–fun AND educational. It was great to meet all these lovely ladies as well as everyone from Phibro and Sanderson Farms.

Disclosure: My travel and accommodations were paid for by Phibro Animal Health. I was not required to write about my experience but chose to so that others could learn too. I was not compensated in any other way for this post or the trip itself. As always, all opinions [and errors!] are my own.