Alice Smith

September is National Chicken Month and a great time to try some new entrees based on nutrient rich chicken. The average American eats about 83 pounds of chicken a month in a variety of forms. Nearly all restaurants serve chicken in some form including fried, baked, breaded, and barbequed.

Chicken can be used in soup, casseroles, pot pies, salads and entrees. At the store you can purchase whole chickens, halves, cut up with or without the bone, just breasts, thighs, drumsticks or wings. Most grocers sell roasted chickens as well as the fresh meat and freezer cases contain an assortment of prepared chicken dishes including breaded nuggets, pot pies, patties ready for sandwiches.

You can also purchase canned chicken, ready to eat or use in casseroles in cans or easy to use pouches with a longer shelf life.

Americans seem to like their chicken, with about half of all restaurant orders including a chicken dish. Several chains of restaurants feature chicken as their main item such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chick-Filet. Americans are not alone, chicken is the most widely used form of poultry throughout the world. Nearly every child eagerly agrees to eating chicken.

Chicken is well known as a lean protein and is low in fat and low in sodium. Chicken breasts provide zero grams of carbohydrate, so they are a low-carb food. The estimated glycemic load of chicken breast (skinless, boneless, and raw) is zero. Since chicken breasts are so versatile they are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.

But chicken calories can be tricky. The size of the chicken breast will affect the calorie count. A single serving of chicken breast is about three ounces or the size of the palm of your hand.

Many commercially packaged chicken breasts are much larger than that. So if you eat a single breast, you’re probably eating more than a single serving.

And, of course, if you keep the skin on your chicken breast, the fat and calorie count will be much higher. A whole chicken breast with skin provides 366 calories

Chicken breast is an excellent source of low-fat protein. Protein helps your body to maintain muscle mass and helps you to build muscle if you are participating in a strength program.

Chicken breast is also a very good source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and niacin. Depending on the cooking method you choose, chicken breasts are also naturally low in sodium. Chicken is high in Vitamin B — which is linked to promoting psychological health. This essential nutrient also helps fight off anxiety, stress, and even memory loss.

When seasoned properly, chicken is simply scrumptious. People all over the world have their own ways to prepare poultry, so whether you’re in the mood for chicken fried rice, chicken marsala, or some crispy fried chicken, your taste buds are in for a treat.

It is always important to consistently follow certain safe food handling practices, whether making a meal for yourself or your family. That’s because all raw agricultural products – whether it’s vegetables, fruit, meat, or poultry – could contain bacteria that might make someone sick. But, there are steps people can take in the home to reduce their risk.

Four simple words – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill – can serve as reminders to always handle and cook food safely to reduce the risk of illness to you and your family. Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, including frozen and fresh products. Hands should be washed before handling food and between handling different food items.

Wash cutting boards between preparing different cuts of raw meat or poultry and use different cutting boards for protein foods and fruits and vegetables.

Do not rinse raw poultry in your sink – it will not remove bacteria. In fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops or onto ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Cook poultry thoroughly. Poultry products, including ground poultry, should always be cooked to at least 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking.

The color of cooked poultry is not a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults and persons with impaired immune systems.

If served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

Make poultry products the last items you select at the store. Once home, the products must be refrigerated or frozen promptly.

After cooking, refrigerate any uneaten poultry within two hours. Leftovers will remain safe to eat for two to three days. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below.

Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator, not on the countertop, or in cold water.

When barbecuing poultry outdoors, keep refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked poultry on the same plate used to transport raw chicken to the grill.

Always marinate poultry in the refrigerator, up to two days. Marinade in which raw poultry has been soaking should never be used on cooked poultry, unless it is boiled first.

While the weather is nice to grilling chicken with your favorite marinade or barbeque sauce, here is a recipe to enjoy on cooler days. Chicken Finger Manicotti is also diabetic friendly! Cook 1 package manicotti shells (14 shells) according to directions. Heat oven to 350º. Spread a small amount of 1 jar (30-ounce) spaghetti sauce over the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon garlic powder over 24 ounces (1½ pounds) chicken tenders. Put chicken tender into manicotti shell. Place stuffed shells in baking pan. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with 1½ cups light shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover baking pan with foil. Bake for 1 hour.