Take care when storing, reheating chicken dish
Q: We have a whole pan of 20 baked chicken breasts left from a dinner. The sauce has sour cream, cream soup, some kind of fruit juice and cheese. They are delicious, and we'd like to save them for one of the family dinners during the holidays. Can this be frozen until then, or do we have to eat them all right away? A: It will be safe to freeze a dish like this, but I don't know how well the sauce will hold up after freezing and thawing. It might separate and weep. However, you could go ahead and freeze it. If the sauce does curdle, you might be able to pour it off and whisk it with some additional cream to smooth it again. If it doesn't smooth out, you could make a simple cream sauce or other gravy to serve with the chicken pieces. They will already be flavored. It sounded like you had a fairly large pan-full. If you expect to be able to use the whole amount, and your freezer is large enough to handle the whole large pan without warming, you can freeze it as one pan. Be sure to wrap and seal it well. But if you won't eat it all at once, divide it into smaller containers. If putting a large pan in the freezer will warm the surrounding foods, then you must divide it and put the smaller pans in one or two at a time. Don't stack two not-yet-frozen pans on top of each other. They'll insulate each other and that will keep them from freezing quickly. Otherwise you risk making not only this dish but the rest of the food in there either unsafe or frost-burnt.Q: What are "jam bits"? I got a recipe from a friend for pumpkin bread that calls for jam bits. The bread was delicious, and seemed to have bits of fruit in it. I couldn't tell what kind of fruit it was, sort of sweet-tart, so I asked her for the recipe. Now I still don't know what the fruit was! A: Jam bits are a commercial product, not a whole fruit. They are used in commercial cookies, muffins, cakes and scones instead of just raisins or chopped dried fruit. The pieces are all the same size, and they don't stick together as much as chopped dried fruit. It's easier to pour or measure them out than try to chop dried apricots or other sticky fruit. So it's easier for the baker to get the same amount of fruit/bits in each cookie or scone. The only place I've seen them for sale is the King Arthur's Flour catalog (kingarthurflour.com), which sells them as Jammy Bits, but they may well be available from other sources. King Arthur's Flour sells raspberry and blueberry jammy bits, and a crunchy lemon bit. Basically, they are something between a fruit gummy and super-thick jam. They are made with fruit purée, sugar, pectin and probably some fruit acid. They can put a bright, fresh flavor into a pectin base and have soft, somewhat chewy bits of flavor. Often small fruits get tough or hard before they get dry enough to not mold, and large pieces of dried fruit are sticky and hard to chop. You end up dipping the knife or scissors in hot water after every piece and they still stick. If you don't have or don't want to buy jam bits, you can easily substitute raisins or any other dried fruit. Chop large pieces into raisin-size bits before you measure them. And dredge them in a bit of flour before you mix them into the batter, so they don't all sink to the bottom of the pan. Use whatever dried fruit pairs well with the rest of the bread or scone flavoring.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at the Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.