Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pot Pies with Quinoa

I'm trying to get a grip on healthier and 'cleaner' (mostly cleaner) eating (it's January, hello!), and although I hardly ever buy prepackaged foods at the grocery store and we've been eating brown rice for, like, twelve years or something, I know I need to change a lot of things about my diet.

That doesn't mean I'm going completely crunchy, okay?

It just means I am more concerned than ever about the food I've (and my loved ones, of course) been eating and how it's been grown and processed.  (And it's not just one book I read or one show I watched…it's been coming at me from a lot of different directions for a long time.)  I'm really concerned about GMOs, and all of the food that is raised and grown with harmful chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.  And how very, very sick our country is.  And…I hate to admit it... how bad I have felt physically for the last year.  (I have not been diagnosed with anything, by the way, and I am not on any kind of medication for anything, but I just haven't felt good.)

But I'm going to be honest, I got thoroughly disgusted at the grocery store the other day on my venture out to find healthy, organic replacements for my pantry and I wound up having a small breakdown right in front of the honey crisp apples in the produce section.  I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and scream.  (Which I did later, at my house where I scared no one but my husband.)  Eating healthy and organic is EXPENSIVE.  And I'm on a budget.

But, I'm trying to make small changes in my life.  You know, replace stuff with better stuff.  I still plan to blog some fattening goodies, so don't judge me, pretty please!  I am, however, trying new foods, products, recipes and methods.   One website I found recently that has been a great source of encouragement is The Gracious Pantry.  In particular, watch her video on how to get started with clean eating.  I felt encouraged after I watched it and not hopeless.  Start slow.  Make small changes here and there, because big drastic changes can overwhelm you and cause you to quit.  (See what I have already learned?  Go me!)

So anyway, here is a recipe that I came up with to be especially kid friendly, but with some really good things like veggies, grain, and protein.  My four year old grandson tore into this like a ravenous beast. (After a good amount of coaxing to get him to try it in the first place.) I know it's not super "clean."  I had some evil prepackaged pie crusts in my fridge left over from the holidays that I wanted to get rid of.  But there are some good things in it and the taste was really, really good.

Read my notes for some tips and tricks and other options to make it even cleaner and healthier.

My notes:

--First of all, I got my frozen broccoli at Sam's. Why do I buy frozen broccoli and not fresh?  Because inevitably, when I buy fresh broccoli with the good intentions of making something the next day, I get side tracked and wind up cleaning out a hairy, gray mass from my vegetable drawer a week later. ( I loved the short ingredient list on the back of their packages.)

--I chopped my chicken very fine and because I did this, I was able to get by using just one chicken breast.  The ones I buy, although not organic, are twice the cost of regular ones because they are hormone free, antibiotic free, etc., and I have to ration them out.  This is a super great trick for making your meat go further.

--I also chopped the broccoli up very fine so my grandson would not bite into a small tree and freak out.

--This is not traditional Alfredo, but Alfredo "inspired" and super easy because you just add everything to the skillet.  There is not enough sauce to drench the filling, but just enough to add flavor.

--The quinoa bulks it up and makes it all go further.  I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa and I love that it doesn't have to be pre-rinsed because that's one less thing I have to do.

--My ramekins held one cup.  You could use whatever size you want.

--This filling is delicious eaten straight out of the skillet and piled into a bowl.  I did that yesterday in fact.  No need to make the actual pot pie if you don't want to.

--You can add more chicken or broccoli or less or more onions and garlic and the universe probably won't explode.

--A healthy alternative to the pie crust would be to put a crumb topping of, say, whole wheat panko and maybe some chopped almonds?  Or sprinkle with a little more parmesan cheese.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pot Pies with Quinoa

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (or equivalent from a jar)
1 grilled chicken breast, very finely chopped
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, cooked and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked quinoa
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 refrigerator pie crust, left out at room temperature for 15 minutes
1/2 tablespoon heavy cream

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil.  Add the onion and cook until transparent.  Add garlic and stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chicken and broccoli and cook until mixture is hot.  

Place the butter in the skillet and stir as it melts.  When the butter is melted, pour in the heavy cream and continue cooking until mixture is bubbly and hot.  Turn off heat.  Stir in the cheese until melted.  Add the quinoa, and toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can stop here and eat this mixture from a bowl.  Or you can proceed and make quick individual pot pies.

Fill 4-6 small ramekins or casserole dishes (or even oven safe mugs or bowls) (how many you use will depend on their size) with the chicken mixture.   Unroll the pie dough and cut out 6 rounds the same size as the top of the ramekins.  Set directly on top of the filling, then brush lightly with about 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream.  Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until pie crust in golden brown on top.

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