Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homemade Chicken Nuggets {gluten-free}

Many days being gluten-free and dairy-free is frustrating.  Add to that no sugar, no high-glycemic flours, and not too much rice because it's been discovered to contain high levels of arsenic and I'm growing a delicate little life inside my own....and shew! it can be quite the challenge.  So I spend a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting trying to figure out new things for us to eat and how to make this diet work seamlessly for our family.  I produce many, many flops.  But, every once in a while...success!

I didn't feel the least bit deprived as I plowed through a plate full of these for dinner the other night, and in some ways I think they tasted even better for all the many hours I've labored in the kitchen to no avail.  These turned out so crispy and crunchy on the outside and wonderfully juicy and tender on the inside.  Thanks to A Farmgirl's Dabbles for the idea to marinate them in pickle juice and buttermilk (though I subbed goat milk yogurt), because I think that was a huge part of the success.  I joked with Steven that now our children would love me cause I could actually make them some kind of tasty "kid food", not just healthy, sugar-free stuff.  He assured me they would love me anyway ;)  But y'all, even if you aren't gluten-free, I think you'd really like these!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets {gluten-free}
Inspired by A Farmgirl's Dabbles
Yield: 12 servings

2 pounds chicken breasts
1/3 cup pickle juice
1/3 cup plain goat's milk yogurt (or cow's milk yogurt or buttermilk)
10 cups cornflakes cereal (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or oil of choice)
4 eggs  
1 1/2 cups potato starch (or cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cut chicken into small, bite-size pieces, place in a flat dish, and marinate with pickle juice and plain yogurt, in the fridge, for 1 - 2 hours.

Place cornflakes in a large ziploc bag and crush - using your hands or the base of a bottle of oil - until achieving tiny uniform bits (but stop before turning into powder).  Mix with 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, then stir in 1/4 cup oil until evenly distributed.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to the potato starch and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

In three separate, shallow bowls place potato starch, the beaten eggs, and some of the crushed cornflakes mixture.  Refill as needed.  Coat each piece of chicken first with potato starch, then dip in egg, then coat evenly with crushed cornflakes.  On a wire cooling rack atop a baking sheet, place each coated chicken piece, sprinkle lightly with more salt, and bake for 12 minutes or until done.

*This ain't a quick and easy dinner.  However, this list of ingredients makes quite an abundance.  I suggest you either make less at one time, enlist the help of your family and make it a fun activity, or just put in the work and reap the benefits of many leftovers :)

*These taste the best when fresh from the oven.  I'm still experimenting with how long to cook these so that when warmed up as leftovers they still retain their juicy inside.  Will update when I've figured it out!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Monterrey Beans & Rice

My parents used to make this dish when I was growing up and even though I never liked it much as a kid, it really grew on me as I hit adulthood.  When Steven and I got married it was one of my go-to recipes and a regular in our dinner rotation.  Since then, I've had to adjust the ingredients a bit because I can no longer have the cheese it originally called for.  Even though I really miss the original flavor with the cheese in it, we still like it quite a bit without it.  It's surprisingly unique and loaded with nutritious peppers, onions, tomatoes, red kidney beans and topped off with salty, crumbled bacon.  Makes excellent leftovers too!    

Monterrey Beans & Rice
Adapted from More-With-Less
Yield: 5 - 6 servings
Time: 45 minutes - 1 hour

1-3 Tablespoons bacon grease
3 cups cooked red kidney beans
1 pound tomatoes (about 2 cups diced)
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces or 6-12 slices bacon
optional: 1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
to serve: 2 cups brown rice (uncooked)

Start your rice first since it takes the longest to cook.  

Next, cook up your bacon slices according to your preferred method.  A couple years ago I discovered cooking bacon in the oven on a baking sheet and have never looked back.  It's so much easier this way!  My method is similar to this one here, except I do a slightly higher temperature and use parchment paper.  I reserve several tablespoons of bacon grease for cooking the veggie and bean mixture because it adds extra flavor :)

Dice the tomatoes, then cut the onions and peppers into very thin slices and halve.  You can also dice them up like the tomatoes so they blend in better, especially if you're feeding any veggie-averse folks :)

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onions in bacon grease until translucent.  Add the diced tomatoes, kidney beans, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes.  Add the green pepper and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the peppers are cooked to your liking.  I like to leave them with a slight crunch, especially since we eat this as leftovers that get re-heated.

Just after adding the peppers, tear the cooked bacon slices into small pieces and toss into the pan.  I like using lots of bacon in mine because it adds more flavor and protein, but the original recipe with the cheese in it only calls for two pieces.  You can decide what you prefer :)  If you're trying the cheese: simply stir it in at this point so it gets all melted and mixed around well.

Serve over brown rice.

If you use canned tomatoes with salt added, be sure to add a little less salt to your recipe!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Vanilla PB Banana Smoothie (dairy-free)

Before I quit eating sugar two years ago, I used to add around 1/4 cup of sugar to my fruit smoothies.  Yes, that much.  You should have seen me doctor-up my morning coffee.  I had a serious sweet tooth.  As much as my tastebuds have changed since then, I still really don't like a fruit smoothie without the added sugar... unless it's got a ripe banana in it.

What's great about this concoction is it's completely fruit-sweetened and the modest amount of protein and hearty fat from the coconut milk and peanut butter help slow down the sugar spike and provide some good nutrients.  I used to use a scoop of rice protein powder in this to make a completely balanced meal with plenty of protein to balance the sweet banana, but I recently learned that many of the protein powders on the market have been found to contain harmful levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium and arsenic.  With more digging I discovered that even my carefully-selected protein powder, free of GMOs and pesticides and chemical processing, was still found to contain questionable levels of lead in just a one scoop serving.  Knowing that research is continually finding links between heavy metals (and other environmental toxins) and chronic disease, this didn't sit well with me, so I've cut the extra protein out of this and won't be using protein powder anymore.  While it's probably impossible to avoid all heavy metal exposure in this modern world of ours, reducing intake by cutting out protein powder is one helpful choice I can make.  In this smoothie, most people wouldn't even need it anyway!  It's still a very sustaining snack or light breakfast, and for those that need dairy-free or gluten-free, it's an extremely tasty option!

I freeze my coconut milk and bananas and use a "just add water" approach so that everything can be kept stocked in my kitchen without worry that an ingredient will spoil before getting used up.  This has been huge for us because when you're trying to use fresh ingredients and cook from scratch, most everything has to be planned and used up quickly.  That means if you didn't plan well you may be up a creek without a....anything to eat.  It's a lifesaver to know there's always a snack that can be pulled out and whipped up in just a couple minutes!  Plus, the frozen milk and bananas give the smoothie a slushy and refreshing twist which we love, especially in the warmer months.  

Vanilla Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (dairy-free)
Yield: 1 serving

3/4 cup water
1 frozen banana
4 large ice cubes (or 1/2 cup water frozen into cubes)
3 large frozen cubes of full-fat coconut milk (or about 1/3 cup)
1 heaping Tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

A little prep work: Stock your freezer with frozen bananas, frozen milk cubes, and ice cubes.  I peel my bananas, split them in half and freeze in a large ziploc bag.  Splitting in half rather than multiple chunks makes it easiest to keep track of how many pieces to grab for a smoothie - two.  I use an ice cube tray to freeze my coconut milk, then transfer into a large ziploc bag.  Each well in my ice tray is about 2 tablespoons.  I measured so I'd know how much I was putting in each smoothie, you can do the same or just wing it :)    

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and puree on highest speed until all frozen chunks are broken down.  Because the mixture is thick and does not have a lot of liquid, use a tamper (i.e that stick that comes with some blenders to help you push food down into the blade) to assist in pushing the frozen ingredients down to get completely blended.  Alternatively, if needed, add more water so the mixture will puree (however this will yield a thinner, less slushy consistency).

Our ice-maker has been broken for ages so we use the old-school trays.  That means our ice cubes are the really large square ones.  I'm taking a guess here, but you may need two ice cubes (or one and a half) for each of my one listed if you have typical-sized ice-maker ice.

Also, I sometimes increase the peanut butter in this to beef up on calories when I need a bigger snack or I'm eating this for breakfast.  You could use more milk and less water as another idea, but I usually start with the PB.