Improvising the challenge of homemade over store bought

When it comes right down to it, purely homemade tends to taste so much better than premade, packaged, and store bought.

The majority of products are geared towards those of us who are alone such as canned meals to plop into a saucepan and heat up on a stove top. Or frozen boxed meals that pop into a microwave for five minutes, ding, and it is ready to eat.

Of course, the products are pushed upon those wishing to lose weight and thereby become healthier. Atkins, Weight Watchers, and Lean Cuisine are the big three in this regard.

Unfortunately – and this is my personal opinion on many products I try – the taste, smell, and texture are questionable. The ingredient list is usually long, but instead of food edibles, it is chemicals.

Do I use products geared towards convenience? Of course! Whether it is time constraints, a spur-of-the-moment idea, or simply clueless as to what to make, these products help with these issues.

Take, for example, Campbell’s Soups. The creamed varieties, especially, are easily used to blend ingredients into a hearty, tasty, and fulfilling dish.

Some time ago an ad link popped up on Facebook and referred to a recipe called “Angel Chicken.” Basically it is a crockpot recipe with Campbell’s Golden Mushroom soup, a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, cream cheese, and white wine cooked for four to five hours and served over angel hair pasta.

A simple recipe, and I was willing to give it a try... that is until I went grocery shopping. Pricing out a 10.5 ounce can of the soup at various stores, ranged from $1.50 to $2.19, and I became, well, indignant about it.

I went home, got online and looked up the ingredient list for the soup. Salt and sugar were the first two ingredients, and the listing of preservatives and chemical additives was longer than the natural ingredients.

Breaking down the basic ingredients, the beef broth already has salt in it. Then came tomato sauce, white wine, a roux of butter and flour, water, and mushrooms. No need for sugar or additional salt.

Whenever I see mushrooms on sale, I will buy a couple of boxes and dehydrate them for future usage, so I had those on hand as well as the other ingredients.

The task to make a complete meal now turned into a two-fold project: making the soup and then making the chicken recipe.

The idea of deconstructing the processed soup and then recreating it from scratch is a pretty exciting concept.

As the soup cooking process commenced, the smell in the kitchen was heavenly. If the entire recipe tasted as good as it smelled, this would be one heck of an accomplishment.

Unknowingly, I had run out of angel hair pasta, so I served the chicken, mushrooms, and sauce over linguine instead. It was amazing, simply amazing!

More work than opening a little can of soup? Oh yes, but so, so worth all the effort. So, sorry Campbell’s, but mine is better.

Golden Mushroom Chicken

Ingredients: 8 Tbsp. butter; 8 Tbsp. flour; 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened; 1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth plus ½ can water; ¼ cup white wine; 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce; ½ tsp. garlic powder; 1 tsp. each crushed, dried basil, thyme and marjoram; ¼ tsp. ground black pepper; 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat; 1 lb. sliced white mushrooms 1 ½ lbs. angel hair pasta (linguine can be substituted)

Preparation:

In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Add cream cheese and stir until cream cheese begins to combine with the roux.

Add beef broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, garlic powder, herbs and black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for five minutes.

Set six-quart crockpot on low. Place in chicken breasts, mushrooms on top of chicken, and pour the sauce over all. Cover and cook for five to six hours; until chicken is moist and tender.

Prepare pasta by the package directions; place chicken breast on a serving of pasta and spoon sauce over all.

Makes eight servings.

With holiday meals being planned out, think about taking some time to figure out how to avoid using processed products.

Yes, it is more work, but the smiles on family and guests faces will be quite worth it all.

Then again, maybe you want to develop your cooking skills or begin learning, so start from scratch!

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