Best of Series- Healthy Copy-Cat Recipe: Panera Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Glancing over my recent blog posts have made me realize a couple of things. First, it appears as though Im not cooking anymore (which isn’t true) AND it appears I am not working out anymore (which also isn’t true). Ahem. Let’s remedy that shall we? Last night, the hubs had a TON of work to do and I really wanted to surprise him with his all-time favorite soup. It just so happens that this soup comes from Panera Bread and was not available on the night I wanted to pick it up. BOO!   However, I was bound and determined to get this man some soup soooo I decided I would re-create it. When I started looking for “copy-cat” recipes online I was mildly horrified that most of the recipes were calling for two sticks of butter AND heavy cream. Really? Since I didn’t want the Weight Watchers points value for this soup to be in the double digits I decided to create my own healthy version. So, here we go with my Healthy Copy-Cat Recipe of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup- Inspired by Panera.

Here is what you need:
~2 chicken breasts diced or shredded (I used part of a rotisserie chicken to save time)
~1 carton of chicken stock and 2 cups of water
~2 cups skim or 1% milk
~1/2 cup flour
~1 box of quick cooking Long Grain and Wild Rice Blend w seasoning packet
~chopped celery
~chopped carrots
~chopped onion
~6 tablespoons of light butter, salt, pepper, and garlic

The Recipe itself is pretty simple. You will need a soup pot and a sauce pan. In the soup pot use a tiny bit of olive oil to sauté and soften your veggies along with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Once the veggies after softened toss in your chicken, stock, water, and bring to a boil. At this point you will toss in the rice (reserve the season packet for later) and cover the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.

While the soup pot comes together you will melt your butter in your sauce pan.

Add your season packet to the butter and allow it to come to a light bubble.

Gradually add in your flour/salt/pepper mixture as you would when making mac and cheese. Whisk in the skim milk a little at a time and allow the “cream mixture” to thicken.

Once the sauce has thickened add it to the soup pot. Allow the soup to cook through 10-15 minutes.

The end result is pretty tasty and the hubs was pumped to learn he can have his favorite soup any night of the week! And for all you WW pals- youll be writing down 8 for this one. ;)

Have you ever created a restaurant favorite at home?

Best Of Series- Meeting Our Meat: Making the Switch

I accidentally sparked a little debate with some friends recently when I mentioned that the hubs and I were planning to make the switch to natural, locally grown, meats.  Most were just interested in learning the logistics of the switch, others expressed excitement and shared their own experience, but some were adamantly opposed. Im always interested in hearing all views on a subject so I prompted a discussion on their specific issues surrounding the switch to local and natural meat sources.  The three talking points I heard most were:

Isn’t that expensive? We just dont have that in the budget!

Isn’t that going to be a pain? How will you get it?

Is the meat safe?

The hubs and I had researched this option a few months back but never “took the plunge” for whatever reason. After my heart-to-heart with a friend the other night I KNEW this change was going to be a huge part of my eating for health movement (more on that soon!). However, there was still a lot we did not understand about the process so Saturday morning we were off to a local farm for a tour, some Q&A, and a good time!

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“Our Father’s Farm” is located about an hour from where we live so we made a quick breakfast of Kashi waffles, almond butter, and fruit before heading out. I also grabbed an Honest Tea for the road. (Trying to curb this diet soda addiction is rough ya’ll!)

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It was a BEAUTIFUL day and we were at the farm before we knew it. This beautiful lady was there to greet us.

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This particular farm was hosting a community outreach event Saturday so there were lots of other curious families along with many tried and true fans milling about.

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We met the amazing family who owned the farm (they truly made an impression on us with their work ethic, sincerity, and knowledge) and visited their small on-site store to check out what they offer.

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This specific farm offers quite a few different things. We were particularly interested in the beef and chicken when we arrived. However, they also had a variety of organic baking ingredients, dairy, and other offerings.  Additionally, we  learned that this farm takes “orders” during the week and makes weekly deliveries to a local health food store in town for pick-up. Very cool! When asking about veggies, pork, goat cheese, and other items we were directed to talk with some other local farmers who were at the event. It seems many of them have delivery OR community market options. And if you’ve never been to your community market then picking up your meat would be a great excuse to check out some other awesome local finds. After getting loaded up with information we poked around the farm a bit before gathering with the group for a tour.

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The hubs and I tried goat’s milk AND raw dairy (cow’s milk) for the first time. I am still on the fence (and not at all knowledgeable) about raw dairy so I won’t expound on it here. I will say I expected a much different taste and truly it tasted like “regular” whole milk but fresher…which it was. ;)

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We traveled around the farm learning all about the natural fertilization techniques. It’s amazing to see how everything even down to the worms (worm tea for fertilizer) work together to keep the land naturally fertilized. Absolutely no hormones, additives, or unnatural foods are used on ANY of the animals. It was also neat to see how well the animals were cared for. Yes, they are raised for food BUT they are nurtured, cared for, and living naturally until that time comes rather than being crammed into dirty pens and treated in who knows what manner just to maximize profit. These animals had tons of space to roam, plenty to eat, and a happy farm to mature on. I am not here to argue against a vegetarian diet but rather to inform “meat eaters” that there is another way out there. :) The chickens were an awesome example of this.

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The chicks hang out in the warmth until they are a few weeks old and ready to move on. At that time their “coop” is moved into a giant field where they are free to roam as they wish. Most stayed in the fenced in area but a few brave little guys made their way out to run around. The chicks are protected by a MASSIVE Pyrenees pup who chases away natural predators like foxes and possums.

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This coop is moved every 2-3 days so these little chickens can help to naturally fertilize the fields. Pretty awesome right?  On that same premise the “laying hens” are kept with the dairy cows in order to maximize the cow’s waste for fertilization purposes. Ive never seen laying hens or cows this close before so it was definitely an experience.

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The land for the cows and chickens went on and on and on. They had plenty of room to roam and more than enough to eat. Ideally, certain fields are left un-grazed during the warm months so the cows can continue to eat naturally from the earth when the colder months arrive. Everything seemed to work in an amazing cycle  as the animals are taken from one location to another to allow the earth to replenish. It was truly something to see. Also truly something to see was the egg demonstration where a fresh from the coop egg was cracked next to a “good quality” grocery store egg. Ahem. Ill never eat another grocery store egg as long as I live. It was THAT different.

The beef cows were set up the same way (only without the presence of the hens).

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Ive always had some “sad feelings” for lack of a better phrase in regards to eating meat. I don’t think that will ever totally go away. However, connecting to the process really helped me to understand it better and appreciate it more. I also left the experience more confident than ever that switching to a local farmer is the right choice for us. We bought a few items to get started with this week and left the farm all smiles!

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Thank you to Our Father’s Farm for a wonderful open house and informative Saturday morning!!

After visiting the farm I feel better able to address some of the misgivings my friends had expressed.

1. Isn’t that expensive? We just dont have that in the budget!

Believe me when I tell you the hubs and I are on a pretty strict budget ourselves. Obviously prices will vary by location but this was our experience.

Grocery Store Price for 1 pound of good quality but non organic ground beef:  $5.80 Organic Grocery Store Price: $8.50 Farm: $6.50

Percentage wise this increase was pretty on par with the rest of the beef products as well. The steak, roast, etc prices were obviously all more than the “regular” grocery store cost but less than the “organic” grocery store costs. Also, in terms of pricing overall it was MUCH less expensive than what we had anticipated. If you already buy steaks or chops  from the butcher case then the farm option would be cheaper.  The hubs and I made room int he grocery budget by eliminating sodas in our home and joining a CSA co-op type group for produce.

Isn’t that going to be a pain? How will you get it?

This was the most pleasant surprise of all. In many areas getting these local natural meats is really easy. Obviously we cant drive out to the farm every week. However, after researching several (4-5) local options I have found that community markets, home delivery, city delivery (w weekly pick-up), and of course visiting the farms are all ways to get the meat. If you had a large freezer you could get by with a monthly delivery. Since we do not we will be placing weekly orders. IF you get in a pinch and need meat right then you can always visit a local butcher for an all natural option. Youll pay more but it covers the “what if” aspect of farm ordering.

3. Is the meat safe?

Yes! Just because a farm is using natural methods that doesnt mean they are not accountable to make sure certain standards are met. Id argue, it’s ultimately safer due to the all natural diet of the animals, the excellent conditions they are raised in, and the integrity of the work of the farmers harvesting them.

 

I encourage anyone to visit your local farms for more information. :)

What are your feelings on locally raised meat?

 

 

 

 

 

Hitting The Road

It is official! The house sitter is here, bags are packed, and we are vacation bound in just over 12 hours! Eeep! I am almost embarrassingly excited for some time away. We have a couple stops on the old vacation agenda- 1/2 of the trip will be spent in Tampa ala beaches, sangria and relaxation while the other 1/2 of the trip will be spent in Orlando ala Disney, time with friends, and shopping!

DSCN0113s IMG_2611 (400x400)I am planning to really focus on healthy choices this vacation. Obviously vacation is meant for relaxing at a little indulgence but it is not meant to derail months of progress. Soooooo, I have an 80/20 plan in place to enjoy vacation without overdoing it! 80% of my eating will be as close to “on plan” and “clean” as possible leaving 20% for some vacation favorites. I lao have workout gear packed and ready to go!! I am planning to resume weigh ins upon returning home and I certainly don’t want that first one to be a disaster!

And, just so you aren’t left hanging the Running In Pink Project “Best Of” Series should be posting while I am away. Stop by and revisit some of the most visited (and just personal favorite) Running In Pink Project blogs!

Catch you in Sunny FL!

 

PS- Keep up with my vacation via Instagram- HERE